Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
C.—THE THIRD PORTAL
We have already shown above, in the general introduction to the threefold entrance, that Isaiah would not place this account of his call at the head because he felt the need of preparing his readers for it. At the same time he brings it about that this, not merely elevated, but holy, and even holiest of all dramas, is put in the place that becomes a holiest of all, that is to say, not without, but within; not in aditu, but in adyto. As in the temple, the court of the priests and the holy place, with the altar of incense, constituted the approach to the holiest of all, so, too, here Isaiah puts two entrances in front of that history that really transposes us into the inmost sanctuary, that explains to us how it was possible that Isaiah, the son of Amoz, should be admitted to the vision of God, and had the boldness to offer himself as God’s messenger. If one were not governed by the illusion that only chap. 1. can be an introduction, it would never enter his mind that chap. 6. is the account of a second call to a merely special mission. DELITZSCH remarks: “What UMBREIT says, that chap. 6. makes the impression on every unprejudiced mind of being the inaugural vision of the Prophet cannot in fact be denied. Only the position that chap. 6. has in the book wields a contrary influence against this impression as long as it does not admit of being understood in some other way. But the impression remains (as with 1:7–9) and even reappears.” Well, then, we bring the impression that chap. 6. makes (of being the account of the inauguration) into the most harmonious relation to the place it holds in the book, by explaining it as the third, the most elevated and holiest entrance to the prophecies of Isaiah. Concerning the time of its composition not much need be said. That Isaiah wrote chapter 6. no one denies. Whether, then, he wrote it immediately after he had the vision, or later, is indifferent. From the nature of things the former is more probable. At all events he assigned the chapter its present position when he made up his book.
THE SOLEMN INAUGURATION OF THE PROPHET
1 IN the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, 2high and lifted up, and 1his train filled the the temple. Above 2 it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain 3he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And 3one cried unto another, and said,
Holy! holy! holy! is the LORD of hosts:
4The whole earth is full of his glory.
4And the 5posts of the 6door moved at the voice of 7him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. 5Then said I, Woe is me! for I am 8undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
6Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, 9having 10a live coal in his hand, which7 he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he 11laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin 12purged.
8Also I heard the voice of the LORD, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, 13Here am I; send me. 9And he said, Go, and tell this people,
Hear ye 14indeed, but understand not;
And see ye 1516indeed, but perceive not.
10Make the heart of this people fat,
And make their ears heavy, and 17shut their eyes,
Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.
11Then said I, LORD, how long? And he answered,
Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant,
And the houses without man,
And the land be 18utterly desolate;
12And the LORD 19have removed men far away,
20And there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.
13But yet in it shall be a tenth,
2122 And it shall return, and shall be eaten:
As a 23teil tree, and as an oak, 24whose 25substance is in them, when they cast their leaves.
So the 26holy seed shall be the substance thereof.
TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL
Isa 6:1. The prophet designates the Lord as אדני (with the sign of the accusat., but without the article as a proper noun). Both אָדוֹן 1:24; 3:1; 10:16, 33; 19:4) and אֲרֹנָי (3:17, 18; 4:4; 6:1, 8, 11; 7:14, 29; 8:7; 9:7, 16; 10:12; 11:11; 21:6, 8, 16; 29:13; 30:20; 37:24; 38:16) occur only in the first part of Isaiah.—רם ונשׂא is used by Isa. 2:13, 14, and 57:15, where the Lord Himself is so named.—שׁולים the hem, the broad folded train of which the hems are the ends. The word (used mostly of the priestly garments, Exod. 28:33, 34; 39:24, 25, 26; comp. Jer. 13:22, 26; Nah. 3:5) does not again occur in Isaiah.
Isa 6:3. מְלֹא (is not infin., which is always מְלֹאת, but) is substantive, written oftener מְלוֹא. Comp. 8:8; 31:4; 34:1; 42:10.
Isa 6:7. Piel כִּפֶּר and Pual כֻּפַּר in 22:14; 27:9; 28:18; 47:11.
Isa 6:8. לָנוּ after יֵלֵךְ, is grammatically considered Dat. commodi. Who will do us a service by going? is the sense.
Isa 6:10. The verb שָׁמֵן, pinguem esse, is found in the Kal. only Deut. 32:15, and Jer. 5:28; beside the present the Hiph. occurs only Neh. 9:25, with the meaning “to become fat.” The ears shall become heavy, hard of hearing, deaf. כָּבֵד (Kal) is used in this sense 59:1. Also the word is used of the eyes (Gen. 48:10) and of the tongue (Exod. 9:10 [כְּכַד adj.]). Comp. Zech. 7:11 (Hiph.). The Hiph. occurs more frequently of making heavy, i.e., hardening the heart: Exod. 8:11, 28; 9:34; 10:10. הָשַׁע is the Hiph. imperat. from שָׁעַע oblinere, to besmear, plaster over (comp. 29:9; 32:3). רָפָא is always used transitively. It must therefore be thought of as joined to the general, ideal subject, which the notion of the verb of itself suggests. As is well known, especially verbs that designate a trade or an occupation in some art are wont to be so used. Therefore may a verb that signifies the healing art be readily so construed. Isaiah resorts to this mode of speech not seldom; 7:24; 8:4; 21:9; 34:11. One might fall on the conjecture by comparison of 53:5, that as there so here it ought to read נִרְפָּא.
Isa 6:11. As to particulars, it is to be noted that אֲשֶׁר אִם עַד “until” (comp. beside Gen. 28:15; Num. 32:17) involves a conditional sentence; the end does not come, except that before, etc.—In the root שָׁאָה the meaning “to be desert” developes out of the meaning “to make a noise, to rage;” comp. 17:12 sq.; 37:26, and substantive שָׁאוֹן 5:14; 13, 4; 24:8; 25:5; 66:6.—מאין יושׁב comp. on 5:9.—מאין אדם comp. Jer. 32:43; 33:10, 12. The expression occurs beside here only in the second comforting discourse of Jeremiah.
Isa 6:12. The Piel רִחַק is used by Isaiah again only 26:15; 29:13. On the contrary Kal. occurs in the second part: 46:13; 49, 19; 54:14; 59:9, 11. The Hiph. does not occur in Isaiah at all.
עֲזוּבָה properly the forsaken one, fem. But this feminine here must be taken as the collective genus, so that the word signifies the forsaken (the forsakenness, desolation). Comp. 17:2, 9.
Isa 6:13. לבער comp. 4:4.—אֵלָה is terebinth (1:30) and אַלּוֹן oak (2:13; 44:14). Both are extremely lasting trees, that become very old and grow steadily in size. Comp. GESEN. Thes. p. 51; Job 14:7–9—שַׁלֶּכֶת occurs again only 1 Chr. 26:16, where a שַעַר שַלֶּכֶת is spoken of. Is this the gate of casting out (probably only an opening in the wall through which things were thrown out) then the word here is dejectio, prostratio (comp. Jer. 9:18). Instead of בָּם we look for מֵהֶם according to our mode of expression. But the Hebrew in his way of representation sees, as it were, the idea of the whole tree before him still, and in or on this ideal tree he distinguishes the stump still present and the (in reality severed) trunk. This is that use of בְּ that may be called partitive. Comp. at 10:22.—אַשֶׁר and בָּם belong together.—זרע קדשׁ (comp. 1:4; Ezr. 9:2) signifies the still-existing principle of holy life. The suffix in מַּצַּבְתָּהּ (מַצֶּבֶת only here in Isaiah, מַצֵבָה 19:19) refers to עשׂיריה.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
1. Isaiah describes in plain and simple language, by which the grandeur of the contents is only made the more conspicuous, how, in the year that King Uzziah died he saw the Lord sitting on a high, elevated throne. The train of His garments filled the temple (Isa 6:1). Seraphim surrounded Him, each having three pairs of wings: one covered the countenance, one the feet, and with the third they flew (Isa 6:2). One cried to the other the thrice-holy (Isa 6:3), a cry whose power shook the threshold. But the house was full of smoke (Isa 6:4). The majestic vision awakes in the Prophet the feeling of his sinfulness, and the fear that he shall be destroyed, because he, as a sinful man, has seen the Lord (Isa 6:5). But one of the Seraphs reconciles him with a glowing coal that he has taken from the altar (Isa 6:6, 7). Thereupon the Prophet hears the voice of the Lord himself, who asks: whom shall I send? Isaiah offers himself as messenger (Isa 6:8). He is accepted and his commission is imparted to him. But this commission is of an extraordinary character. For it is not so much told him what he shall announce, but what shall be the immediate consequence of his announcement. That is to say, he shall speak to the people, but with the (express) consciousness that not only will it be of no use, but that the people will become only the more hardened (Isa 6:9, 10). The Prophet, without regarding the difficulty for himself in the matter, only inquires, because the fate of his people distresses him, how long this anger of the Lord against His people is to last (Isa 6:11a.). This answer is: until all is destroyed (Isa 6:11b.), the land devoid of men (Isa 6:12), and not more than a tenth part of the inhabitants remain in it, that shall be dealt with as a tree that was felled for burning. For such becomes a prey to the flames to the very stump that remains in the ground. So there will remain of Israel but the remnant of a remnant (Isa 6:13). The structure of the chapter is extremely simple: Isa 6:1–4 describe the scene of the transaction; Isa 6:5–7 the terror of the Prophet and the allaying of it; Isa 6:8–13 his call to the prophetic functions and the commission imparted to him.
2. In the year—filled with smoke.
Isa 6:1-4. The year that Uzziah died was the year 758 B. C. JEROME (in the Epist. 18 ad Damas.) remarks that this was the same year “quo Romulus, Romani imperii conditor, natus est,” that Romulus was born. The theocracy declines: the world-power springs up. It is asked whether the event took place before or after the death of Uzziah. Without doubt the event took place before the death, but the record of it was made after it. For if both occurred before Uzziah’s death there would have been no mention made of it. If both occurred after the death of the king, then the event would belong to the period of Jotham’s rule, and one would justly look for the name of this king. Thus what has been just stated remains the only possible answer to the above question. Our passage then agrees very well with 1:1, for then Isaiah had prophesied already under Uzziah. Moreover, 14:28 (“in the year King Uzziah died”) supports this explanation, for there it is presumed in the whole context that Uzziah still lives. The opinion of those Rabbis, who, following the lead of the Chaldee, understand the passage to refer to the civil death of Uzziah, i.e., to his becoming a leper, is justly pronounced by GESENIUS a rabbinical caprice.
How did Isaiah see the Lord? In reality? or only in the idea, i.e. in fancy, so that, then, the grand painting were only the poetic clothing of a purely subjective, inward transaction? The latter is the opinion of rationalistic expositors. For example, KNOBEL says: “At all events there happened a moment in Isaiah’s life, when the seer, in holy, divine enthusiasm, soared aloft to Jehovah and heard the Lord’s call to the prophetic office. This event of his God-inspired inward man he portrays in the passage before us, and amplifies it with free, poetic art, more, completely than he experienced it.” But one must be, just a rationalist, to hold that such a transaction cannot possibly be an historical fact, and therefore that it must be declared to be unreal. At the same time one must resolve to pronounce what the Prophet professes to do a pious fraud. For that he would only give a poem is neither intimated in the narrative itself, nor does the character of the entire book suggest it. The Prophets are historians, even where they write poetry. The Prophet speaks here as an historian. Did he represent as an outward calling what was only inward, he would have arrogated an honor that did not become him, and this very arrogance would have deprived him of all claim to credibility. For countless ones have received an inward call. But precisely this outward call, just that which Isaiah here beheld, heard and spoke, is so extraordinary, that only privileged men can boast that they have experienced the like. Of Jeremiah (chap. 1) and Ezekiel (chaps. 1.–3) similar things are told. These men, as Isaiah himself, would be guilty of wicked presumption did they invent a glorious, outward call. We must therefore hold the narrative of Isaiah to be historical.
But if real, was it a physical or spiritual reality? That is to say, did Isaiah behold all this with the eyes of the body or the eyes of the spirit (ἐν πνεύματι)? With the eyes of the body these things are not to be seen. Spiritual corporality can only be taken notice of by the opened inward sense (2 Kings 6:17). Therefore something, real of course, but only inward, can be meant here, a spiritual beholding of spiritual reality (1 Kings 22:17 sqq.; Ezek. 8 sqq.; Dan. 7:13 sqq.; Rev. 1:10 sqq., etc.).
To this is joined the inquiry: In which temple did Isaiah see the Lord? In the earthly, at Jerusalem, or in the heavenly, the pattern of the former? It is no reason against the former, that Isaiah was no priest, and therefore dared not go into the temple. Amos, also, was no priest, and yet saw the Lord in the temple (Isa 9:1). The Prophet did not need to be in the temple bodily in order to see what was present in the temple. Comp. Ezek. 8:3—But in the earthly temple the throne of the Lord was the ark of the covenant. On this account it is expressly called ישֵׁב הַכְּרֻבִים “dwelling between the cherubim” (2 Sam. 6:2; 2 Kings 19:15; Isa. 37:16; Ps. 80:2; 99:1; 1 Chr. 13:16). Why should Isaiah, if he saw the Lord in the earthly temple, not have named the ark of the covenant? The expression “throne high and elevated” does not appear to point to the ark of the covenant. For it cannot be said that it is high and lifted up. We shall therefore have to place the vision in the upper, heavenly sanctuary (the original of the Tabernacle in the first place, Exod. 25:9, 40; 26:30; 27:8, and afterwards of the temple). Thither Isaiah was transferred in spirit.
The Seraphim are not mentioned anywhere else in the whole Old and New Testaments except here. The word שְׂרָכּים is found Numbers 21:6, but as qualifying נְחָשִׁים (God sent among the people burning, fiery serpents). The singular שָׂרָף occurs, too, Num. 21:8; Deut. 8:15; Isa. 14:29; 30:6, but always in the sense of “serpent.” In Num. 21:8, it is synonym of נָחָשׁ. For it is said there; make thee a שׂרף, serpent, and set it on a pole. And then Isa 6:9, it proceeds: and Moses made a נְחַשׁ נְחשֶׁת and set it on a pole. Again Deut. 8:15נָהָשׁ שָׂרָף are found joined. In both places in Isaiah, we read שָׂרָף מְעוֹכֵּף. Therefore, שָׂרָף evidently means the serpent, but only by an originally predicate description becoming the designation of the chief conception. For originally שָׂרָף means “the burner,” from שָׂרַף “to burn, burn up.” The burning smart of a wound occasioned this designation. It is, moreover, not impossible that the burning fire is designated by the word שָׂרַף because it moves itself serpent fashion. And in so far the roots ἕρπειν, serpere and שָׂרָף may agree; and an original connection between שָׂרָף and serpens might exist, only the meaning “to crawl,” would not be the medium of this connection. For only the burning fire is thought of as crawling; but the serpent is called שָׂרָף, not because it creeps, but because it burns. On these grounds I do not believe that the angel name שָׂרָף has anything to do with the serpent. According to our passage indeed, the Seraphim have human form, for they have a countenance, they have feet (Isa 6:2) and hands (Isa 6:6). But, GESENIUS, before this has shown that the Seraph has nothing whatever to do with the Egyptian Serapis, by the proof that this name has sprung from the names Osiris and Apis (Osar-Api). Comp. Thesaur. p. 1342. GESENIUS, with whom recently HERM. SCHULTZ agrees, takes the word in the meaning of the Arabic scharaph (nobilitas), schariph (sheriff , princeps), comp. Dan. 10:13; 8:25; which, however, hardly agrees with the use of the Hebrew שׂרף given above. That the Seraphim belong to the highest rank of the angel world, appears from their relation to God and His throne as it is described in our chapter. For they appear here in immediate nearness to the divine throne, and beside them no others are named. That the Seraphim are essentially identical with the Cherubim, has been maintained already by MAIMONIDES (in the מורה הנבוכים3:6). HENDEWERK, has tried to prove the identity in the dissertation De Seraphim a Cherubim in Bibliis non diversis,Königsberg, 1836. So, too, STICKEL in the Stud. u. Krit. 1840 Heft. II. BOEHMER also takes this view (HERZOG’SR. Encycl. IV. p. 24). Of course the passage Rev. 4:8 seems to favor this view strongly. For there we find ascribed to Cherubim on the one hand the animal forms of Ezekiel, (1 and 10), and on the other the six wings and the Trishagion (thrice holy) of the Seraphim. It appears to me that the forms of John combine in themselves the traits of the Cherubim and Seraphim, and if it is said that the Seraphim of Isaiah differ from the Cherubim of Ezekiel so, too, do the Johannic Cherubim differ from those of Ezekiel, and the Seraphim of Isaiah are the mediating member. After all the question is an open one. If it is asked; why are the Seraphim called “the burning ones?” PHILO answers: “because they devour the unformedness of matter, bring it into form and order, and thereby render it a Cosmos.” BOEHMER,among others, calls them “fire beings, that burn up everything unholy.” LANGE (in the Art. Zorn Gottes, HERZOG’SR. Encycl. XVIII. p. 662 sq.), distinguishes the revelation of wrath against universal human sinfulness and sin and the revelation of wrath against the conscious revolt against the revelation of salvation in law and gospel. The first degree seems to him symbolized by God’s dominion over His Cherubim (Gen. 3:24; Ps. 18:11–15; 104:4), the second by His appearance between the Seraphim (Isa. 6). “That the Seraphim represent a vision of the judgment of fire, in which, with the hardening of the people, the temple must burn up, is expressed also in the meaning of the word “the consumers.” When Isaiah received the call to preach the hardening of the people, he saw, also, in spirit the temple occupied by the fire angels of God, and filled with smoke.” Apart from the distinction between Seraphim and Cherubim, which I do not think has sufficient motive, it only seems to me that their meaning is too narrowly construed in the above. They do not merely serve as a revelation of the wrath of God. They belong, since there was a world, to the immediate organs of the divine revelation in the world generally. They are ever with God, and “rest neither day nor night,” and when they ceaselessly offer praise, honor, and thanksgiving to Him that lives from everlasting to everlasting, and when they thereby give the tone, as it were, to the song of praise of the four and twenty elders (Rev. 4:8 sqq.), so it is seen plainly, that they have not only a mission in relation to the wicked, but also in relation to the pious, even to God Himself. It does not decide the matter of their significance in general, that they appear just here in a moment when wrath is revealed, and that a Seraph burns away the sin of the Prophet. However, this is not the place to penetrate deeper into these mysteries (μυστήρια).
The Seraphim stood ממעל לו, “above him. By a very frequent usage עמד is joined with עַל so that by this preposition the one standing is represented, so to speak, as covering up the one before whom he stands, from the eyes of the spectator standing opposite; Gen. 18:8; 24:30; Exod. 18:13; Jud. 3:19; 6:31; 2 Kings 23:3; Jer. 36:21; 2 Chr. 23:13. Even standing before Jehovah is designated by this preposition Job 1:6; 1 Kings 22:19; Zech. 4:14; 6:5.—But in our passage it is not merely said עָלָיו, but ממעל לו. This expression is so strong that we can do nothing else than represent the Seraphim to ourselves as hovering about the LORD, “and with two he flew,” so that they stood, not indeed above his head, but relatively above him. Each Seraph had six wings. The imperfects manifestly serve to indicate a continuous circumstance that is an essential part of the scene, whereas the perfects וקרא and ואמר, “and cried and said,” express an incident that forms part of the transaction. For what the Seraphim did with their wings went on continuously and does not belong to the transaction. But the crying out belongs to the transaction, yet does not go on continuously, but is only an incident that serves to finish the picture. We cannot suppose that the crying out continued while the Prophet, and the Seraph and the LORD talked. TARG. JONATHAN happily translates Isa 6:2b., “duabus velabat,” etc. “With two (wings) each one veiled his face that he might not see, and with two he veiled his body, that he might not be seen.”
It must not be concluded from זה אל זה that there were only two Seraphim, but that there were two choirs, say one on either side. Alternative song is founded in the essence of communion. It is the musical expression of the διαλογισμοί that move the congregation. Therefore it is found in the heavenly congregation as well as in the earthly. But the Seraphim sing “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah Sabaoth; fullness of the whole earth is His glory.” Thus they praise Him here as the Holy One, because in what follows (Isa 6:9 sq.), He makes known in what degree His holiness shall react against unholy Israel. DELITZSCH calls attention to the fact that Isaiah cherished his whole life through, a deep, indelible impression of that holiness of the LORD that confronted him here so mightily in word and aspect. Fourteen times in the first part does he use the expression קדושׁ ישׂראל, “Holy One of Israel,” which is, as it were, the concentrated expression of that impression; fifteen times in the second (comp. at 1:4), whereas the expression occurs beside only thrice in the Psalms, (71:22; 78:41; 89:19), twice in Jer. (50:29; 51:5), and once in 2 Kings 19:22 parallel with Isa. 37:23.
But why this thrice repeated קָדוֹשׁ?. There are, to be sure, examples of such repetition that only aim at rhetorical emphasis (Jer. 7:4; Ezek. 21:32; Nah. 1:2). In fact CALVIN and VITRINGA construe the thrice holy in this sense, while, yet, they expressly say that they would not exclude a deeper significance. HERM. SCHULTZ, (Alttest. Theol. I. p. 345) says: “the choir rests on a song and counter song, combined in the double choir, therefore the threeness of the Holy.” But here we stand before the holiest of all of the Godhead, that is opened up for a moment, and receive a glimpse into the βάθη τοῦ θεοῦ (1 Cor. 2:10, “the deep things of God”). The Christian consciousness, from the remotest period, has not been able to resist the impression that this thrice-holy is a reflex of the triune being of the Godhead. And in the New Testament sphere this impression is the more justified because the evangelist John (12:41) says expressly Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus when he heard the words of Isa 6:10. In that John says nothing extraordinary. Rather he quite accords with Peter who says (1 Pet. 1:11) that the Spirit that swayed in the Prophets of the Old Testament was the Spirit of Christ; and with Paul, who says (1 Cor. 10:4) it was Christ that as a spiritual rock led Israel through the wilderness. This is only the confirmation of what we have long known as the significance of the Son, viz.: that He is the medium, and therefore also the mediator of all and every revelation.
In regard to the second clause of Isa 6:3, the question arises, first of all, what is subject? Is מְלֹּא subject, then earth is the principal notion, and it is said here what fills it. Is כְּבוֹדוֹ subject, then the glory of God is the principal notion and it is declared here how comprehensive it is. The latter alone corresponds with the context. But the further inquiry arises: whether כְּבוֹד, “glory,” is to be taken in an active or a passive sense, i. e., as praise, or as majesty, glory. The two cannot be essentially disconnected. For as God’s glory is everywhere, so in a certain sense also it is everywhere praised. For its very enemies even must involuntarily do it honor (Ps. 8:2, 3). And I do not see why in our passage one should separate the two. Does it not then become those who sing unceasingly the praise of God in His immediate presence to declare that, not only they, but the entire creation continually proclaims the praise of the Lord? But it says only “all the earth.” Of course: for this song of praise sounds here primarily for one man and for men. It is just in respect to these that the truth is declared, on the one hand comforting, on the other appalling, that the glory of the LORD is everywhere, and everywhere it makes itself known and felt. Comp. 40:5; Hab. 3:3; Num. 14:21; Ps. 72:19.
Isa 6:4. אַמָּה signifies in Hebrew primarily the elbow-socket (Armgelenk-Mutter), i. e., the depression resembling the box screw (Schraubenmutter), in which the arm turns itself, the elbow. The word has this meaning, too, in the noted passage 2 Sam. 8:1, where it is said that David took from the Philistines אֶת־מֶתֶג הָאַמָּה. The bridle of the elbow is the contrast of מֶתֶג שְׂפָתַיִםIsa. 37:29, “the bridle of the lips,” a bridle attached to the elbows. The meaning of 2 Sam. 8:1 is that the Israelites had the bridle of the Philistines, no longer in their mouths indeed, yet still on their arms, so that they were hindered from the free use of them. Therefore אַמָּה is the elbow, from which the meaning “ell” is derived. Accordingly אמות הספים are the elbows of the sills. The sills are compared to the arms and the joints in the angle are the arm joints or elbows. Because the sills, and in fact both the upper and lower, and as well as the side beams, are joined together in these, therefore they are the centre of motion, and every shock felt in such a centre must be communicated to all the radii. אַמָּה occurs only here in this meaning. סִפִים (only here in Isaiah) are the sills, and primarily the under sills. For the upper sill is called מַשְׁקוֹף and the side posts מְזוּזוֹת (Exod. 12:7, 22, 23). But in our passage סִפִים as denominatio a potiori stands for all parts of the door-way. The verb נוּעַ occurs only in the first part of Isa. 7:2; 19:1; 24:20; 29:9; 37:22.—קול הקורא (comp. 40:3) is primarily “the voice of the caller.” But in what precedes it speaks, not of one, but of many criers. Thus we know that קורא is to be taken collectively and as concr. pro abst.
The house filled with smoke.—It was then not full of smoke from the commencement, and still less did a cloud of smoke conceal the Lord as Exod. 40:34; 1 Kings 8:10. For (Isa 6:1) Isaiah saw the Lord. It has been said, the smoke came from the altar of incense (Isa 6:6) and symbolized the seraphic praise. There may appear some truth in that from a comparison of Rev. 5:8; 8:3 sq. But it seems to me that the smoke has still another meaning. In so far as it constitutes an antithesis to the light in which the Lord dwells, it seems to me, wherever it occurs in connection with the appearance of the divine glory, to signify the reverse side of the same, the severity, the wrath of God. Thus here, too, the smoke, with whose appearance is connected immediately in Isa 6:5 the Prophet’s confession of sin and mortal fear, introduces the words of condemnation which the Lord afterward speaks to the Prophet as the manifestation of His holy indignation. Comp. 4:5; 9:17; 14:31; 34:10; 51:6; 65:5.
3. Then said I——is purged.
Isa 6:5-7. After the Prophet had heard the Seraphim praise the holiness of the Lord, after he had beheld them themselves in the splendor of their holiness, and also had seen its consequence, the wrath, imaged in the smoke, he is seized with the feeling of his own sinfulness. Every creature that beholds or comes in contact with an immediate trace of the divine Being, has a sense of not being able to exist under the burden of the absolute majesty (Gen. 16:13; 32:31; Exod. 33:20; Jud. 6:22 sq.; 13:22; 1 Sam. 6:19 sq.; 2 Sam. 6:7). This sense must have made itself felt in the Prophet in the highest degree, seeing he beheld the divine Being in a greater proximity and clearness, than, since Moses at least, ever a man did. He cries, therefore: woe is me (comp. 1:4), I am lost (15:1; Hos. 4:6; 10:7, 15), for a man of unclean lips am I, and among a people of unclean lips do I dwell! That he emphasizes just the unclean lips comes from the fact that he had just heard the Seraphim bring an offer of praise with clean lips. In contrast with these circumcised lips he becomes conscious how his are uncircumcised (Exod. 6:12); in contrast with these calves of the lips (Hos. 14:3) and with this fruit of the lips (Prov. 18:20; Isa. 57:19; Heb. 13:15) he feels that he is quite unfit for such an offering, both in respect to his own person, and in respect to that totality to which he belongs; in fact that this unfitness, when he has gone with it into the jurisdiction of the highest King (33:22; 41:21; 43:15; 44:6) must bring upon him the sentence of death. “Such is the confession which the contrite Prophet makes; on this confession follows the forgiveness of sins, which is confirmed by a heavenly sacrament, and is extended to him by a seraphic absolution.”—DELITZSCH.
The altar, which is mentioned, we must think of as an altar of incense, since any other kind of offering than incense in the heavenly sanctuary is inconceivable, and the glowing coals also indicate an altar of incense. From this altar one of the Seraphim took with the tongs a רִצְפָה “hot coal.” That he took it with the tongs, not only corresponds to the usage of the earthly sanctuary (Exod. 25:38; Num. 4:9; 1 Kings 7:49), but has in any case also its internal reasons, as that even in the sphere of heavenly corporal existence such distinctions occur, or that the touching with the tongs has a symbolical meaning.
רִצְפָה (comp. רֶשֶׁףHab. 3:5; Song of Solomon 8:6) is something aglow, whether coal or stone. The word occurs only here [in Isaiah.—TR.] In the earthly sanctuary the burning of incense was performed by taking coals from the altar of burnt-offering and pouring them on the altar of incense, and then upon these was scattered the incense (Lev. 16:12; comp. 10:1). In the heavenly sanctuary there was no altar of burnt-offering. At all events רִצְפָה designates the glowing body on which the incense was cast in order to burn it. With such a glowing body, therefore, the Seraph touched the lips of the Prophet in order to reconcile him. The Prophet’s lips are touched with fire therefore, and that with the same holy fire out of which proceeds the cloud of smoke. Thus from the place that occasioned in him before the painful feeling of his uncleanness, must the holy fire penetrate and burn out the entire man. It must burn up all uncleanness. The Seraph shows himself here right properly as שָׂרָף, as burner. As water has primarily generating and fructifying power, but secondarily also a judging and destroying power (comp. creation, the flood, and Baptism), so fire has primarily devouring, and thereby judging, purifying, and secondarily warming and illuminating power. Omnia purgat edax ignis, vitiumque metallis excoquit, says OVIDFast. iv. 785. Τὸ πῦρ καθαίρει, τὸ ὕδωρ ἁγνὶζειPLUT.quœst. rom. 1). Comp. Num. 31:23; HERZOG’SR. Encycl. IX. p. 717 sq.—As here the touching takes place for the purpose of atonement, so Jer. 1:9 it is for the purpose of inspiration; in Dan. 8:17 sq.; 10:8 sqq.; Rev. 1:17, it is for the purpose of imparting strength.
4. Also I heard—and be healed.
Isa 6:8-10. The Lord Himself now begins to speak. Having seen Him (Isa 6:1), Isaiah now hears Him. “I heard” corresponds to the “and I saw” (Isa 6:1). It is worthy of notice that the Lord asks: whom shall I send? that He, therefore, as it were, calls for volunteers. So we read, too, 1 Kings 22:20, that the Lord in an assembly of heaven, portrayed very much as the one here, asks: “Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead?” There it appears, Isa 6:23 (from the circumstance that Micaiah would have been a deceiver, if a real transaction were reported in Isa 6:19–22) that this prophet only narrates a fictitious vision. But anyway the representation remains that the Lord not only gives His servants and messengers command and commission according to His own election, but also proposes the undertaking of a commission to the voluntary determination. Now when the Lord in our passage, as was said, calls for volunteers, as it were, this is not to be explained by the greater difficulty or danger of the mission. For Isaiah’s mission was not as difficult and dangerous as that of Moses or Jeremiah. Now Moses resists the commission all he can (Exod. 3), though he was an אִישׁ חַיִל, “able man,” as few were. LUTHER says of him (on the call of Moses, Exod. 3): “Moses begins, as it were, a wrangling and disputing with God, and will not accept this office.” Jeremiah refuses because he feels himself really too young and made of too tender stuff. Ezekiel, too, appears inwardly at least to have had no relish for undertaking the commission. For he is exhorted not to be disobedient (Ezek. 2:8), and, though he does not express them, his doubts and fears are disarmed (Ezek. 2:6–3:9). Jonah, the most rebellious and self-willed of all Prophets, actually flees from the Lord. All these, who would not, are not even asked if they will, but they must. Isaiah, who will, is asked. It appears, therefore, that the manner of the calling is regulated according to the individuals. Where the Lord in His chosen and prepared instruments (Jer. 1:5) observes also the subjective readiness of mind, He affords it the opportunity to manifest itself by the question: “who will.” That the Lord, by this question, would not draw out something concealed from Himself is manifest. For how can a thing be unknown to the Lord? There was, in fact, no one there but Isaiah that could have replied to His question. For, it could only be a man that could be in question for the undertaking of the prophetic office in Israel. No such person except Isaiah was present. The question is therefore a form by which the Lord honors the רוּחַ נְדִיבָה, “free spirit” (Ps. 51:14 (12)), that He knew was present in the Prophet, in that He gave it opportunity to manifest itself.
Who are the many for whom the service is to be done? The plural is here as little as Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7 mere form (Plur.-majest). It is rather, as DELITZSCH expresses it, communicatively intended. Jehovah includes the whole assembly. He honors thereby the assembled ones, by taking for granted that His interest is theirs and their interest His. Isaiah at once replies: “Behold, here am I; send me.” This prompt offer quite corresponds with the strong and bold spirit of Isaiah. There is no need of assuming that he had already been called, and had already been in office for a time. He, the mighty man, is at once conscious that this is his affair. He feels that he can do it, and he will do it, too. We find here not a trace of fear or other consideration. It was, however, no proud self-sufficiency that led the Prophet. He has just been reconciled in fact as a sinner. The flame that blazes in him and impels him must have been a pure flame. He feels himself strong in Him that makes him mighty (Phil. 4:13; Isa. 40:29 sq.). This “here am I; send me” is, however, so grand, in fact, when one reflects on the examples of other prophets mentioned already, it is so unique in its way, that one understands wherefore Isaiah would not put this history of his calling quite in the beginning of his book, but rather makes it the third portal of his prophetic building. He feared this intrepid ready-mindedness would be found incomprehensible. He puts in advance of it therefore two other entrances, that the reader may learn thereby to know him and thus come prepared to this scene of his calling. And, in fact, he that has read chapters 1–4 must confess that here “is a Prophet” (Ezek. 2:5; 33:33), a man that had the stuff in him, and the right to say, “Here am I; send me.”
In Isa 6:9, 10 follows out of the mouth of the Lord Himself the commission that the Prophet must discharge. The manner of imparting this commission is directly the opposite of what is usual among men in like circumstances. One seeks, namely, in giving a servant or messenger a hard commission, to represent it, at least, at first, in the most advantageous light. This the Lord does not do. On the contrary, He plainly emphasizes just the hardest part. He acts as if the Prophet were to have nothing joyous to announce, but only judgment and hopeless hardening. Isaiah is called the evangelist of the Old Testament. But there is not a trace of it found here. It is not once said even that he shall warn, exhort, threaten. But, overleaping all intermediate members, only the sorrowful effect is emphasized, and that with such pointedness, that, what in truth can be only an unintended effect, appears as directly designed. It is as if the Lord would give the intrepid man that had said “here am I, send me,” to understand at once, that he would require all his boldness in order to carry through the commission he undertook. Grammatically the words offer almost no difficulty. The inff. absol. in Isa 6:9 cannot have an intensive meaning, as though the Lord had said: hear and see well, with effort, zeal and diligence. For then must they even attain to understanding. But the Lord would say: spite of the much, and ceaseless hearing they shall still understand nothing. This ceaseless but still fruitless hearing is only the correlative of that ceaseless but fruitless preaching, of which especially Jeremiah so often speaks (Jer. 7:13, 25; 11:7, etc.). Let it be noticed, too, that Jeremiah every where points, as the cause of this fruitless hearing, to the שְׁרִירוּת לֵב, “the hardness of heart,” and the stiffening of the neck (הִקִשׁוּ אֶת־עָרְפָםJer. 7:26). The Prophet never spoke to the people such words as we read in Isa 6:9. Therefore it cannot be the meaning of the Lord that He should so speak. But the Lord would say: Whatever thou mayest say to this people, say it not in the hope of being understood and regarded, but say it with the consciousness that thy words shall remain not understood and not regarded, although they might be understood and regarded, and that consequently they must serve to bring out the complete unfolding of that hardness of heart that exists in this people, and thereby be a testimony against this people and a basis of judgment. Thus Isa 6:10 it is not meant that the Prophet shall do what is the devil’s affair, that is, positively and directly lead men off to badness and godlessness. Rather the Lord can ever want only the reverse of this. If, then, it says: “harden the heart, deafen the ear, plaster up the eyes, that they may not see, nor hear, nor take notice and be converted to their salvation,” still this form of speech seems to me to be chosen for the sake of the Prophet. There is, namely, a great comfort for him in it. For what is sadder for a man of God than to see day after day and year after year pass away without any fruit of his labor, in fact with evidence that things grow rather worse than better? Is it not for such a case a mighty comfort to be able to say: that is precisely what the Lord predicted, yea, expressly indicated as His relative and previous intention. Thus one sees that He has not labored in vain, but that He has performed his task. And inasmuch as that judgment is still only a transition point, and by the wonderful wisdom of the Lord, shall become a forerunner of higher development of salvation, so the servant of God can say this for comfort, that even out of the judgment of hardening, that it is His part to provoke, salvation shall grow. God’s wrath, in fact, is never without love. The preliminary earthly judgments, as is well recognized, are to be regarded as chastenings, that have a becoming-better as their aim. And if a people like Israel suffers one judgment after another through thousands of years, and still never becomes better, until at last the Lord breaks in pieces the economy of the Old Testament, like one shivers an earthen vessel by throwing it on the ground, so just this destroying of the old covenant is the previous condition to the arising of a new one, that attains to what the old one could not. But the individuals themselves whose hardening and judgment is an example and beacon for the after-world? Here we touch on a difficult point. Will those whose fall was the riches of the world (Rom. 11:12) be eternally damned, or will their fall here below also for them become some time a means to their conversion and raising them up again? The answer to this appears to me to lie in Rom. 9–11 But here is not the place to go into it more particularly.—Heart, ear, eye (comp. 32:3, 4) are named as the representatives of the inward sense; the heart represents the will, eye and ear the knowing. The heart shall become fat and covered with grease, and thereby be made incapable of emotion.
After it is said what shall be done in regard to the three organs, it is said what shall be guarded against by such doing; and here a reversed order is observed in respect to the positive phrases. What must be guarded against is something immediate and something mediate. Immediately must seeing, hearing and observing be hindered; mediately the penitent conversion and being saved.
In the N. T. our passage is cited five times. In Matth. 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10 it is applied to the fact that Jesus always spoke to the people in parables. Thereby was the prophecy of our passage fulfilled. Jesus would manifestly say: Were I not to speak in parables, then they would understand nothing at all; my discourse would outwardly rebound, and not penetrate at all, and consequently effect no condition of responsibility on their part. But as I speak by parables, my discourse at least penetrates so far that a certain relative understanding, and consequently, too, a responsibility, is possible. But in as much as they oppose themselves to the realization of this possibility of understanding, they let it be known that evil has the upper hand in them: thus they pronounce in a measure their own judgment. Our passage is cited in John 12:40 as explaining why the Jews could not believe in Jesus spite of the signs He did. To this end our passage is construed in the same sense in which the Synoptists take it: even the signs of Jesus, no matter how near they come, still do not bring about faith, because the susceptibility is wanting. Finally in Acts 28:25 sqq. Paul makes use of our passage in order to prove generally the unsusceptibility of the Jewish nation to the preaching of the gospel.
5. Then said I——substance thereof.
Isa 6:11-13. The announcement of the judgment of hardening in Isa 6:9, 10 sounds quite absolute. Yet the Prophet hears underneath all that it is not so intended. It is impossible that the Lord should quite and forever reject His people, and abrogate the promises given to the fathers. He asks, therefore, “How long, Lord?” (comp. Ps. 6:4; 90:13; Hab. 2:6). He would say: What are to be quantitively and qualitatively the limits of that judgment of hardening? The answer is: First there must be an entire desolation and depopulating of the land; and when at last still a tenth of the inhabitants is in the land, that tenth part also must be decimated till nothing is left but the stump of a root or stem. That shall then be the seed of a holy future. The meaning of the words is perfectly clear.
The construction is as follows: and still there is in it (the land) a tenth part, and this is again decimated—after the manner of or in resemblance to the terebinth and oak, in which, when felled, a stump remains, its stump (of the tenth) is holy seed. Therefore a stump always remains, and that suffices to guarantee a new life and a new glorious future. This has been steadily verified in the people Israel, both in a corporeal and spiritual respect. After every overthrow, yea, after the most fearful visitations, that aimed at the very extinction of the people, a stump or stem was still always left in the ground. This people is even not to be destroyed. There is nothing tougher than the life of this everlasting Jew. And in spiritual respects it is just the same. Though every knee seems to bow to the old or the new Baal, yet the Lord has preserved always a fragment (7,000 it is called, 1 Kings 19:18) in faithfulness.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
On Isa 6:1. The question: why this vision in the year of Uzziah’s death? coincides evidently with the question: why an Isaiah any way, and why was he needed just at this time? If prophets were to be, then must prophecy at some time culminate; and that happened in Isaiah, the greatest of all the prophets that have written. Thence Isaiah can stand neither at the beginning, nor at the close. Not at the beginning, for he is far in advance of the elementary stadium; he represents the summit. Not at the close, for in the days of decline art cannot flourish. It needs quiet times for its development. Such a quiet time (relatively) was that of the four kings under whom Isaiah labored. CASPARI (Beitr. p. 218) says of the Uzziah-Jotham period, that for the kingdom of Judah it was 1) a time of great power and prosperity, 2) beside the time of Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 17:18, 20), it was the greatest period since its existence by the rending away of the Ten Tribes from the house of David, 3) the longest continued prosperity during its existence, 4) the last that it had till it fell, 5) the only period of prosperity during Isaiah’s prophetic ministry. But this period of prosperity was, so to speak, only the spring-time, the youth and formative period of the Isaiah prophecy. It was under Ahaz especially that it had to make trial of itself. The league with Assyria fastened the gaze of the Prophet on the Assyrian dominion, the Babylonian embassy in Hezekiah’s time (chap. 39) on that of Babylon. Although, even under Ahaz and Hezekiah, there were wars and great distress by means of the Syrians and the Ephraimites, as also by the Assyrians, still the destruction was graciously postponed.
In that time, therefore, when the theocracy began to show its relations to the worldly powers in a decisive way, there appeared a prophet, who, thoroughly cultivated under the prosperous period of Uzziah and Jotham, could recognize the portentous characteristics of the time of Ahaz and Hezekiah, and see deep into the signs pregnant with the future; and who could reveal their meaning with such wisdom, power and art as are seen in the book of Isaiah. When Uzziah died, Isaiah was just old enough and far enough advanced in training to begin the prophetic career; under Ahaz he had attained manly maturity; and under Hezekiah, with glorified vision, like one near his death, he beheld the glories of redemption.
2. On Isa 6:1. Jerome inquires: how could Isaiah have seen the Lord, seeing John says (John 1:20) “No man hath seen God at any time,” and God Himself said to Moses: “Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live,” Exod. 33:20? He replies to the question: that not only the Godhead of the Father, but also that of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, are invisible to bodily eyes, because one essence is in the Trinity. But the eyes of the spirit are able to behold the Godhead according to the saying: “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,” Matt. 5:8. And Augustine cites this saying of Jerome approvingly, and comments on it (Epist. ad Fortunatianum) Addendo ergo, etc.: “Therefore by saying in addition, ‘but the eyes of the spirit,’ he makes vision of this sort totally different from every kind of bodily vision. But lest any might think he spoke of the present time, he subjoins the testimony of the Lord, wishing to show what he had called eyes of the spirit: by which testimony the promise is declared, not of a present, but of a future vision.”
3. On Isa 6:2. FOERSTER explains the fact of the Seraphim covering their feet with their wings as proof that they would confess that their holiness was imperfect and impure in comparison with the absolute holiness of God. For this he cites Job 4:18, “Behold, He put no trust in His servants; and His angels He charged with folly,” and 15:15, “Behold, He putteth no trust in His saints; yea, the heavens are not clean in His sight.”
4. It was even the opinion of many Rabbis that a trace of threeness of the divine essence was contained in the three times holy of the Seraphim. PETER GALATINUS (Italian, baptized Jew, Franciscan monk) in his Arcanis catholicae veritatis II. 1, has proved this especially of RABBI SIMON JOCHAI and JONATAN BEN UFIEL (the Targumist). Comp. RAYMUNDUS MARTINI in the pugio fidei, and especially JOH. MEYER in the Dissertatio theologica de mysterio sacrosanctae trinitatis ex solius V. Ti. libris demonstrato. Harderwich, 1712.
On the ground of this recognized reference to the Trinity, this song of the Seraphim has obtained great significance in Christian liturgies to the present time. “Its introduction into them has been ascribed to IGNATIUS, Bishop of Antioch († 116), and already in a letter of CLEMENT, Bishop of Rome († 100), there is found a hint of it. Pope SIXTUS I. († 130) is said to have adopted it into the Romish mass.” SCHOEBERLEIN, Schatz des liturg. Chor. und Gemeindegesangs I. p. 333. [On the Trishagion comp. a Bib. Encycl. or BINGHAM’S Antiquity of the Christian Church, Book 14:2 § 3, 4, and Book 15:3 § 10].
5. On Isa 6:4. If a typical meaning of the shaking of the door-posts is insisted on, it must be sought in that power of the revelation of divine glory that affects and moves everything, impressing both personal and impersonal creatures; and an example must be found in the events attending the death of Christ (Matth. 27:50 sq.).
6. On Isa 6:5. “God does not put angels into the pulpit, but poor, weak men. The angels do not know how sinful men are affected; but ministers of the Church, chosen from men, know that well.”—FOERSTER.
7. On Isa 6:8. VITRINGA remarks here that Christian expositors, GROTIUS excepted, explain the change from the singular to the plural number, in “whom shall I send, and who will go for us” as implying the Trinity. “CALVIN, too,” he says, “and PISCATOR, usually more cautious than others in observations of this sort, here plainly utter this sentiment.” [“This explanation is the only one that accounts for the difference of number in the verb and pronoun.”—J. A. ALEXANDER.—TR.]. The opinion of the Jews, however, is that God is represented metaphorically here, as taking counsel with His family, i. e. the angels. VITRINGA remarks also that SANCTIUS attributes to THOMAS and HUGO the important emphasis laid on the plural “for us,” which involves the meaning “who will go for us and not for himself.”
8. On Isa 6:9 and 10. What God says to the Prophet here rests on a law that may be called the law of the polarity of the will. For every thing here concerns the will, i. e., that will-do that is conditioned by the will-be (comp. my book, Der Gottmensch, p. 46 sqq.). As in electricity similar poles repel one another, and dissimilar attract, which depends on the principle of deep inward relationship and mutual completion, so in like manner it happens in spiritual life. The Lord says, John 8:37: “My word hath no place in you,” and again, Isa 6:43: “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my words;” which question he proceeds to answer himself (Isa 6:44): “ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do;” and immediately after He says, Isa 6:47: “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not because ye are not of God.”
Therefore where the word of God comes in contact with a heterogeneous pole, it is repelled. And not only that, but that negative pole becomes more intensely negative by the exercise of its negative power. And the stronger the power that provokes its energetic reaction, and the oftener this provocation occurs, so much the more is it strengthened in that negation till it becomes quite hardened. The magnet loses its power by disuse, whereas frequent use strengthens it. Thus we find that every where the most glorious, clearest, loveliest testimonies to divine truth are not received where the will is wanting to receive them, i. e., where, to speak biblically, the flesh is stronger than the spirit. Therefore must all prophets of the Lord be hated and persecuted in proportion as they announced the truth mightily and penetratingly; and that hate must attain its climax in opposing Him who was Himself the truth.
8. On Isa 6:13. “Paul, also, when he represents the rejection of the Jews in Rom. 11, calls the race, Isa 6:16, a holy root, and, Isa 6:23–25, severed branches that God will again graft in.” STARKE.
1. On Isa 6:3. The thrice holy of the Seraphim a revelation. 1. Of the holiness of God. 2. Of His glory. 3. Of the Trinity.
2. On Isa 6:5-8. The way of reconciliation to God prefigured by the example of the Prophet Isaiah. 1. The beginning of this way is the knowledge of sin: a. occasioned by the knowledge of the holiness of God, b. manifesting itself by the confession of sin, c. constraining one to cry for deliverance (woe is me). 2. The end of this way is the forgiveness of sins: a. made possible by the sacrifices to which the altar points, b. applied by the word and sacrament (the address of the angel and the live coal), c. appropriated by faith (the Prophet yields himself to the action of the angel).
3. On Isa 6:8. Installation address. Whom shall I send? etc. Herein lies: 1. The divine call to office. 2. The high importance of the office. 3. The joyful inspiration for the office. HAHN.
4. On Isa 6:9-13. The fruit of preaching. 1. It is gratifying only in a small portion of the hearers (Isa 6:13b; Matt. 22:14). 2. In most hearers it is rather mournful, because by preaching: a. they are only moved to the full unfolding of their enmity; b. they are made ripe for judgment (Isa 6:11–13 a).
Or, the skirts thereof.
Heb. this cried to this.
Heb. His glory is the fulness of the whole earth.
Heb. cut off.
Heb. and in his hand a live coal
Heb. caused it to touch.
is covered up.
Heb. Behold me.
Or, without ceasing, etc., Heb. in hearing, etc.
Heb. in seeing.
Heb. desolate with desolation.
And great will be the desolation.
Or, when it is returned and hath been broused.
that shall again bum up.
of which in falling a stump remains,
Or, stock or stem.
a holy, seed is their stump.
make war on it.
II.—THE FIRST GRAND DIVISION
Israel’s Relation to Assyria as Representative of the World-Power generally in its Destructive Beginning and Prosperous Ending
Chapters 7–12 deal wholly with the relation of Israel to Assyria. They show how the way was opened for this relation by the unhappy league that Ahaz concluded with the king of Assyria for protection against Syria and Ephraim. The Prophet announces first that the fear of the Syrians and of Ephraim is groundless: but Assyria is to be feared. Taking with Assyria a comprehensive view of all later developments of the world-power, he announces to Israel a second exile, corresponding to that of Egypt as the first, but also a second return, corresponding to that glorious return in which Moses led them. This deliverance will be brought about by a Branch that is to be expected from the house of David, that shall spring as son of a virgin from the apparently dried up root of this house, and, in the might of the Spirit of God, will found a kingdom of peace that shall embrace and have dominion over all nature.
This prophetic cycle divides in three parts. In the first part (Isa 7:1–9:6) the Prophet opposes to the false reliance on the aid of Assyria against the apparent danger that threatened from Syria and Ephraim, the ideal figure of a child, that finds its type in the half-frightful, half-comforting phenomenon of the virgin’s son Immanuel, partly in the form of a son born to the Prophet himself: types that at the same time are earnest of a preliminary deliverance.
In the second part (Isa 9:7–10:4) the Prophet turns to the Israel of the Ten Tribes, with a short, as it were, passing word. Prompted by their proud words, as if it were a little thing for them to make good the loss so far sustained from Assyria, the Prophet announces to Ephraim that what they regarded as the end was only the first of many degrees of ruin that they were to suffer from Assyria.
In the third part (Isa 10:5–12:6) the Prophet turns against Assyria itself. Because it would not be the instrument of the Lord in the Lord’s sense, to it is announced its own destruction, but to Israel deliverance and return by the Messiah the Prince of Peace.
A.—THE PROPHETIC PERSPECTIVE OF THE TIME OF AHAZ
In the beginning of the reign of Ahaz Judah was seriously threatened by the league between Syria and Ephraim. Thereupon Isaiah received the commission from Jehovah to say to Ahaz that there was nothing to fear from Syria and Ephraim. Ahaz being summoned to ask for a sign as pledge of the truth of this announcement, refused to do so. In punishment a sign is given to him. He must hear that a virgin of the royal house, probably his daughter, is pregnant, and will bear a son. But this son of a virgin shall receive the exceeding comforting name, “Immanuel.” Before he will be able to distinguish between good and evil, the lands of Syria and Ephraim shall be forsaken and desert. But danger threatens from that side from which Ahaz hopes for help and deliverance—that is, from Assyria. For Assyria will turn the holy land into a desert. Shortly after, the Prophet announces that a son will be born to himself. He does not do this publicly, however, but to two reliable men. At the same time the Prophet must set up a public tablet with the inscription, Maher-shalal-hash-baz. When the boy was born, he received these words as his name. And it was revealed as the meaning of the words, that before the boy could say father and mother, the spoil of Damascus and Samaria would be carried away by the king of Assyria. By this second child, then, substantially the same thing was predicted as by the first, the son of the virgin. Both prophecies must in general have occurred in the same period, in the beginning of the reign of Ahaz (743 B. C). Only the announcement of Immanuel precedes somewhat that of Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Wherefore this double prediction of the same thing? It seems to me that the announcement of Immanuel was intended immediately for the royal family. For it was a sign involving punishment (comp. comment on 7:14). But the people, too, were mightily concerned in this affair. Therefore there was given to them a special sign by Maher-shalal. Such is the extent of the two prophecies at the beginning of Ahaz’s time. It is seen that each has for its central point the future birth of a child. From 8:5 on follows a series of short utterances, all of which relate to the same subjects. The words 8:5–8 are a warning directed primarily to Ephraim, not to despise the kingdom of Judah, nor to over-estimate the power of Syria and Ephraim, for Assyria will overflow the latter like a stream, and then, of course, Judah too. Isa 8:9–15 contains a threatening proclamation to the nations of that time that conspired against Judah, and a warning to Judah not to fear these conspiracies, but rather to let the Lord be the only subject of fear. Finally a conclusion follows (8:16–9:6) which sounds almost like the testament of the Prophet to his disciples. For, after a brief prayer to Jehovah to seal the law and testimony in the hearts of his disciples, he sets forth himself and his disciples as living signs and wonders that exhort men to have faith in Jehovah, warns against the temptation to superstitious divination, and exhorts to cleave to the law and testimony. For only therein, in the troublous days to come, may be found comfort and restoration.
And now that the prophet’s testament may be also a prophetic testament, prayer and exhortation merge into a prophetic vision. The gaze of the Prophet is directed to the remote future. Dark lies the future before him. But just in the quarter that the darkness is deepest, in the least regarded northern border of the holy land, he sees a bright light arise, which marvellously (one involuntarily calls to mind CORREGGIO’S painting of the Nativity) has its origin in the person of a child, that proves to be the promised Branch of David, and restorer of David’s kingdom to everlasting power and glory. If our conjecture is correct, that we have here the Prophet’s testament to his disciples, then we may well conceive why it is introduced just here. First, it has the same obscure prophetic background that was given by the perspective of the abandonment of Israel to the power of Assyria; and then, like both the chief prophecies described above, it makes the dispersion of that obscurity by the clear light of salvation proceed from the person of a child that is to be looked for.
We may accordingly sketch out the division of our section as follows:
I. The two chief prophecies concerning the birth of the virgin’s son and the Prophet’s son. 7:1–8:4.
1. The prophecy of the virgin’s son Immanuel. 7:1–25.
a) Isaiah and Ahaz at the conduit of the upper pool. 7:1–9.
b) Isaiah in the bosom of the royal family announcing a sign: the Virgin’s Son Immanuel. 7:10–25.
2. Isaiah giving the whole nation a sign by the birth of his son Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 8:1–4.
1. Those that despise Shiloah shall be punished by the waters of the Euphrates, 8:5–8.
2. Threatening against those that conspire against Judah, and against those that fear these conspiracies, 8:9–15.
3. The testament of the Prophet to his disciples, 8:16–9:6.
a) Prayer and exhortation merging into prophetic vision, 8:16–23 (9:1).
b) The light of the future proceeding from a child, that is to be born of the race of David, 9:1–16 (2–7).
In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.