Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.The glory of the Lord, Isaiah 6:1-4. Isaiah is terrified, Isaiah 6:5; is confirmed for his message, Isaiah 6:6-8. The people’s obstinacy unto desolation, Isaiah 6:9-12. A remnant shall be saved, Isaiah 6:13.
I saw in a vision or ecstasy. The Lord; either,
1. God the Son, who frequently appeared to the patriarchs and prophets, and that sometimes in the form of a man. Or rather,
2. The Divine Majesty as he subsisteth in three persons, as may be gathered both from the plural number us, used of this Lord, Isaiah 6:8, and comparing other scriptures; for God the Father is described as sitting upon a throne, Daniel 7:9,13, and elsewhere; and the glory of God here manifested is said to be Christ’s glory, John 12:41, and the words of the Lord here following are said to be spoken by the Holy Ghost, Acts 28:25. Sitting upon a throne, in the posture of a judge, to hear causes, and give sentence. Lifted up towards the roof of the temple.
His train; or, as the word properly signifies, and is here rendered by divers, the skirts or borders of him, or of it, to wit, his royal and judicial robe; for he is represented as a judge.
Filled the temple; his glorious robes reached down to the bottom of the temple, and were spread abroad in the temple, which was an evidence of a more than ordinary majesty. The temple may be here taken either,
1. Largely, and so it includes the courts as well as the house, as that word is oft used; or,
2. Strictly, for the house itself, or for that part of the temple in which this vision was exhibited, which may seem to have been the porch, for that was much higher than the other parts.
Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.Above it stood, as ministers attending upon their Lord, and waiting to receive and execute his commands,
the seraphims; certain holy and blessed angels, thus called from fire and burning, which this word properly signifies; to represent either,
1. Their nature, which is bright and glorious, subtile, and pure, and spiritual, like fire; or,
2. Their property, of fervent zeal for God’s service and glory; or,
3. Their office and present employment, which was to execute God’s vengeance upon the Jews, and to burn them up like dross.
Covered his face, out of profound reverence, as being so sensible of the infinite distance between God and him, that he durst not presume to look directly upon him, and judged himself neither able nor worthy to behold the brightness of his glory.
Covered his feet; either,
1. His secret parts, which sometimes come under that name, as Deu 28:57 Isaiah 7:20 36:12; of which see more in my Latin Synopsis upon Exodus 4:25. And so this is done for our instruction, to teach us modesty and chastity. Or,
2. Their feet properly so called, as that word is generally used; from which use we should not depart without necessity, which, with submission, seems not to be in this place. And so this may signify a sense of their own natural, though not moral infirmity, and a desire that God would not too severely examine all their ways and actions, which the feet commonly signify, because though they did not swerve from God’s commands, yet they were not worthy of the acceptation, nor suitable to the dignity of so glorious a Majesty.
Did fly; which signifies their great forwardness and expedition in executing God’s commands. Compare Daniel 9:21.
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.One cried unto another; singing in consort the praises of their Lord.
Holy, holy, holy: this is repeated thrice, either,
1. To intimate the Trinity of persons united in the Divine essence; or,
2. That he was most eminently and unquestionably holy in his present work of judgment, and in all his ways; such repetitions being very frequent in Scripture, for the greater assurance of the thing, as Jeremiah 7:4 Ezekiel 21:9.
The whole earth; not only Canaan, to which the Jews did vainly and arrogantly confine the presence of God, but all the world; which seems to have a respect to the conversion of the Gentiles, which did accompany the plenary and last execution of this judgment here threatened against the Jewish nation, Isaiah 6:10, as is evident by comparing this with Matthew 13:14,15 Ac 28:26,27, and other places of the New Testament.
Full of his glory; of the effects and demonstrations of his glorious holiness, as well as of his power, and wisdom, and goodness.
And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.The posts of the door, together with the door itself, as if the door was to be removed, and the temple thereby to be exposed to the view and rapine of profane persons. Such violent motions were commonly tokens of God’s anger.
Him that cried, to wit, the angel, which cried; Isaiah 4:3.
Filled with smoke; which elsewhere is a token of God’s presence and acceptance, as Exodus 40:34 1 Kings 8:10, but here of his anger, as Psalm 18:8, and elsewhere.
Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; 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.I am a man of unclean lips; I am a great sinner, as many other ways, so particularly by my lips, which being in a special manner consecrated to God by my prophetical office, should have been entirely devoted to him; but, alas! my speeches, either to God in prayer, or from God in preaching and prophesying to the people, have been mixed and defiled with so much irreverence, dulness, distraction of thoughts and affections, carnal fear, and many other infirmities, that I dread the thoughts of appearing before thy judgment-seat, which I see erected in this place. For Isaiah had been a prophet before this time, Isaiah 1:1, and was now called, not in general to his prophetical office, but to the delivery of this special message.
I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; I am an unclean branch of an unclean tree; and besides my own uncleanness, I have both by my omissions and commissions involved myself in the guilt of their sins, and therefore may justly fear to partake with them in their plagues.
Mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts; the sight of this glorious and holy God gives me cause to fear that he is come to judgment against me, together with others. Whilst sinners are secure and presumptuous, the holiest persons have ever been filled with great reverence, and ofttimes with doubts and fears, at any extraordinary manifestation of God’s presence. See Genesis 16:13 17:3 Judges 13:22.
Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, by God’s command, having a live coal; both a token and an instrument of purification, as the next verse explains it.
From off the altar of burnt-offering, which stood in the court of the priests near the porch, and which had always coals of fire upon it, Leviticus 6:12,13. Hence he took it, to show that men are to expect purification and expiation of sin only by such means as God hath appointed, and particularly by Christ, whom that altar did manifestly represent, Hebrews 13:10.
And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.He laid it upon my mouth slightly, so as only to touch my lips, and not to burn them; which God could easily effect.
Thy sin purged; this is a sign that I have pardoned and purged the uncleanness of thy lips, and do own and accept time as a fit minister for my service.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.Whom shall I send, and who will go for us, to deliver the following message? The change of the number,
us, is very remarkable; and both being meant of one and the same Lord, do sufficiently intimate a plurality of persons in the Godhead.
Here am I; send me: God’s last and great favour to him did both encourage and oblige him to be forward in God’s service.
And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.This people; not
my people, for I disown them, as they have rejected me.
Understand not, perceive not: the Hebrew words are imperative; yet they are not to be taken as a command what the people ought to do, but only as a signification and prediction. what by their own wickedness, and by God’s just judgment, they did and would do, as is manifest by Matthew 13:14 Acts 28:26, where they are so rendered. And imperative words among the Hebrews are frequently put for the future, as is well known to the learned. The sense is, Because you have so long heard my words, and seen my works, to no purpose, and have hardened your hearts, and will not learn nor reform, I will punish you in your own kind, your sin shall be your punishment. I will still continue my word and works to you, not in mercy, and for your good, but to aggravate your sin and condemnation; for I will blind your minds, and withdraw my Spirit, so that you shall be as unable, as now you are unwilling, to understand or perceive any thing that may do you good.
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.Fat, i.e. stupid and senseless; for the fat which is in the body is without sense; and fatness in the heart makes it dull and heavy. Thus this phrase is used Psalm 119:70. And this seems best to agree with the following words. This making of their hearts fat is here ascribed to the prophet, as it is ascribed to God in the repetition of this prophecy, John 12:40, because God inflicted this judgment upon them by the ministry of the prophet, partly by way of prediction, foretelling that this would be the effect of his preaching; and partly by way of judicial operation, withdrawing the light and help of his Spirit, and giving them up to the power and arts of Satan, and to their own mistakes and lusts, whereby they are easily and commonly led to turn God’s word, as they do other things, into occasions of sin.
Make their ears heavy; make them dull of hearing, as Isaiah 59:1 Zechariah 7:11, as sometimes the ears are made by an excessive noise.
Shut their eyes, Heb. daub their eyes, as the word is used also Isaiah 44:18.
Lest they see; that they may not be able, as before they were not willing, to see.
Convert; turn from their sinful practices unto God.
Be healed of sin, which is the disease of the soul, by remission and sanctification, and of all the deadly effects of sin.
Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate,Lord, how long? an abrupt speech, arising from the prophet’s great passion and astonishment. How long shall this dreadful judgment last?
Until the land be utterly desolate; until this land be totally destroyed, first by the Babylonians, and afterward by the Romans.
And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.Have removed men far away; have caused this people to be carried away captive into far countries.
And there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land; till houses and lands be generally forsaken of their owners, either because fled away from the sword into strange lands, or because they went into captivity.
But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.A tenth; a small remnant reserved, that number being put indefinitely, as is very usual.
Shall return, to wit, on, of the Babylonish captivity, into their own land.
Shall be eaten; that remnant shall be devoured and destroyed a second time by the kings of Syria, and afterwards more effectually by the Romans.
As a teil tree, and as an oak, or, yet as, &c.; or, nevertheless as, &c.; such particles being frequently understood in the Hebrew, as hath been noted again and again. So the sense of the following words of the verse seems to be this, Although the Jewish nation shall undergo a second and a greater desolation by the Romans, yet there shall be another remnant, not such a one as that which came out of Babylon, which for the most part were corrupt and degenerate, as appears by the sacred histories and prophecies relating to that time; but a holy seed, a number of elect and godly Israelites, who shall afterwards look upon him whom they pierced, and mourn over him, as is said, Zechariah 12:10, and by me be received to mercy. Whose substance is in them, when they east their leaves; who, when their leaves are withered and east, as it is in winter, have a substance, or subsistence, or support within themselves, to wit, a vital principle, which preserves life in the root and body of the tree, and in due time sends it forth into all the branches. But others take the Hebrew word shallecheth for the proper name of a place, to wit, a causeway which led from the palace to the temple, 1 Chronicles 26:16; and so the place is and may be rendered thus, as a teil tree, (or, an elm,) and as an oak, (the singular number for the plural, as is very frequent,) as the elms and the oaks which are at or by Shallecheth (on both sides of which way such trees were planted, to beautify and to support that causeway, as some have observed) have subsistence or support in them; either,
1. For themselves; they stand fast and firm, when other trees are blown down: or,
2. For the way which they uphold.
The substance thereof; or rather, the support (as the same word seems to be taken in the next foregoing; clause) thereof, to wit, of the land or people, which, were it not for the sake of these elect persons, should be totally and finally rooted out; or, of that tenth part, which shall be delivered and preserved for the sake of that holy seed, those true-hearted Israelites which are among them.