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46. Gods of Babylon

1Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth; their idols are upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: the things that ye carried about are made a load, a burden to the weary beast. 2They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity. 3Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, that have been borne by me from their birth, that have been carried from the womb; 4and even to old age I am he, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you; I have made, and I will bear; yea, I will carry, and will deliver. 5To whom will ye like me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? 6Such as lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, they hire a goldsmith, and he maketh it a god; they fall down, yea, they worship. 7They bear it upon the shoulder, they carry it, and set it in its place, and it standeth, from its place shall it not remove: yea, one may cry unto it, yet can it not answer, nor save him out of his trouble. 8Remember this, and show yourselves men; bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. 9Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me; 10declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done; saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure; 11calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country; yea, I have spoken, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed, I will also do it. 12Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness: 13I bring near my righteousness, it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry; and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.

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1. Bel hath bowed down. Isaiah continues the same subject; for we need not trouble ourselves about the division of chapters, which have not always been accurately divided; but we ought to examine the statements themselves, which agree with each other in the manner which I have pointed out. Yet if any prefer to view this as the commencement of a new discourse, because immediately afterwards he prophesies concerning the destruction of Babylon, I shall not greatly quarrel with him.

Nebo is cast down. “Bel” and “Nebo” were idols which were worshipped by the Babylonians, and probably were their chief patrons; as idolaters always have some particular gods, under whose protection, above all others, they consider themselves to be placed. It may be conjectured that this “Nebo” was a sort of inferior god that was added to the chief god “Bel,” as Mercury was to Jupiter. Under their names he includes also the rest of the idols, and declares that all the superstitions and false worship of the Gentiles shall be overthrown, when God shall lay low and triumph over their worshippers; because it shall then be manifest that he is the righteous avenger of his Church.

Their idols shall be on the beasts. The Babylonians having haughtily boasted of the protection of false gods, the Prophet rebukes that vain confidence, because the God of Israel will not only bring utter ruin on that wicked nation, but also will cast down and treat disdainfully their gods. The reason why he says that they shall be burdens of “beasts” is, that they shall be laid on waggons and removed from one place to another, and shall even be huddled together without any respect, as the waggoners think proper. This is what is meant by “being cast down,” for the robbers shall collect into a large heap those gods which formerly occupied an elevated station.

There can be no doubt, indeed, that this was fulfilled when the Persians and Medes took Babylon by storm; for when the monarchy was removed, these idols were taken away as a part of the booty. But Isaiah, though he predicted this, looked farther, that is, to the coming of Christ, who was to overtum and destroy all false worship; for, when his kingdom has been established, all idols immediately fall to the ground, and it is impossible that false religion and superstition can exist along with the knowledge of him. By his brightness he dispels all darkness, so as to leave no room for false gods or superstitions; for, as Paul says,

“What hath Christ to do with Belial? What hath light to do with darkness?”
(2 Corinthians 6:14,15.)

At the same time it ought to be observed, that the Prophet had his eye on the time when the Jews were held in captivity; for they saw the Babylonians offer incense to idols, and ascribe to them supreme power, as if the government of affairs depended on them; while the God of the Jews was treated with scorn, as if he could not defend his people, or as if he cared nothing about them. For this reason he shews that there will be so great a revolution, that the gods of the Babylonians, which were elevated so high, shall be laid low, and God, who appeared to he low, shall rise up and avenge his people.

2. They could not withdraw themselves from the burden. He ridicules the vanity of such gods as these, which have neither strength nor motion, and cannot defend or support themselves, and, in a word, who need the aid of beasts of burden to carry them. There is, therefore, an implied contrast between idols and the true God, who has no need of anything whatever. I interpret these words as applied to beasts, but the Prophet heightens the disgrace by saying that they were a heavy burden to the beasts themselves which would willingly have cast them off, and consequently that the false gods, besides being of no use to their worshippers, also wearied out the beasts.

And their soul hath gone into captivity. This is a Hebrew mode of expression, by which he ridicules those gods which have neither “soul” nor understanding. He speaks ironically, therefore, against useless and dumb idols, when he says that they shall be carried into captivity along with their soul. But we must see if these things cannot be retorted on the true God, whose ark, by which he gave testimony of his presence, was taken by the Philistines; for in this way it appeared as if the Lord were a captive. (1 Samuel 4:11.) This objection may be easily answered; for, although the Lord intended that the ark should be a testimony of his presence, yet he forbade the Jews to fix their whole and exclusive attention upon it, but commanded them to raise their eyes to heaven, and there to seek and adore God. He wished to be always worshipped in a spiritual manner, (John 4:24,) and the ark was not adored instead of God, but was a symbol, by which the people were led upwards, as by the hand, to God. The Gentiles, on the other hand, fixed their attention on their idols, and attributed to them divine power.

It might even have been said that the Philistines were at length punished for their wickedness, and acknowledged that they had to deal with the true God. (1 Samuel 5:6.) But that would not have been a sufficient answer, because the Lord sometimes permitted his ark to be treated with derision, as is evident from other passages of the history. The true solution therefore is, that the Lord, though he holds intercourse with us by symbols and sacraments, yet wishes to be sought in heaven. To this must be added, that he had openly declared, by memorable predictions, that he was not dragged as a captive by conquerors, but that of his own accord he exposed his sanctuary to the sport of enemies, in order to punish the sins of his people. Nor could the Jews, when the Temple had been thrown down and bumt, and when the holy vessels were carried to Babylon, doubt that the same God whom they had worshipped was the author of this punishment, since he had so frequently threatened by his prophets what then happened.

3. Hear me. Here the Prophet beautifully points out the vast difference between the true God and idols. Having formerly said that the Babylonian gods must be drawn on waggons and carts, because they consist of dead matter, he now ascribes a widely different office to the God of Israel, namely, that he “carries” his people, like a mother, who carries the child in her womb, and afterwards carries it in her bosom. He addresses the Jews, that they may return an answer from their experience; for this ought to have powerfully affected them, when they actually felt that he bore them and their burdens. He, therefore, makes use of a highly appropriate contrast, and concludes from the preceding statements: “Acknowledge that I am the true God, and that I differ widely from idols, which are useless and dead weights; for you have known and experienced my power by constant benefits, which I have not ceased to confer upon you from the womb.” God is not only powerful in himself, but diffuses his power through all the creatures; so that we feel his strength and energy.

Who are carried from the womb. This is a very expressive metaphor, by which God compares himself to a mother who carries a child in her womb. He speaks of the past time, when he began to give them testimonies of his grace. Yet the words might be taken as meaning simply that God kindly nourished that people, like an infant taken from its mother’s womb, and carried it in his bosom, as the Psalmist says,

“I was cast upon thee from the womb, thou art my God from my mother’s belly.”
(Psalm 22:10.)

But as God did not only begin to act as the father and nurse of his people from the time when they were born, but also “begat them” (James 1:18) spiritually, I do not object to extending the words so far as to mean, that they were brought, as it were, out of the bowels of God into a new life and the hope of an eternal inheritance.

If it be objected, that God is everywhere called “a Father,” (Jeremiah 31:9; Malachi 1:6,) and that this title is more appropriate to him, I reply, that no figures of speech can describe God’s extraordinary affection towards us; for it is infinite and various; so that, if all that can be said or imagined about love were brought together into one, yet it would be surpassed by the greatness of the love of God. By no metaphor, therefore, can his incomparable goodness be described. If you understand it, simply to mean that God, from the time that he begat them, gently carried and nourished them in his bosom, this will agree admirably with what we find in the Song of Moses,

“He bore them, and carried them, as an eagle carrieth her young on her wings.” (Deuteronomy 32:11.)

In a word, the intention of the Prophet is to shew, that the Jews, if they do not choose to forget their descent, cannot arrive at any other conclusion than that they were not begotten in vain, and that God, who has manifested himself to be both their Father and their Mother, will always assist them; and likewise, that they have known his power by uninterrupted experience, so that they ought not to pay homage to idols.

All the remnant of the house of Israel. By calling them a “remnant” he means, as we formerly remarked, that the greater part had been alienated from the Church by their revolt, so that the hope of deliverance belonged only to a very small number. On this account he demands from them a hearing; for unbelievers, not less than heathen nations, were utterly deaf to his voice. Now, although the people were so far from being in their unbroken strength, that the dispersion of them had left but a small number behind, yet God bids them consider how wonderfully they have been hitherto preserved, that they may not doubt that he will henceforth act towards them, as he has hitherto acted, the part of both father and mother. And when he demands that they shall listen to him, he shews that the true and indeed the only remedy for our distresses and calamities is, to hang on his mouth, and to be attentive to the promises of grace; for then shall we have sufficient courage to bear every affliction; but if not, the way is opened for despair, and we ought not to expect anything else than destruction.

4 And even to old age. Here I explain the copulative ו (vau) to mean therefore; and the reasoning ought to be carefully observed, for he argues thus, “I have begotten and brought you forth;” and again, “Even when you were little children, I carried you in my arms, and therefore I will be the guardian of your life till the end.” Thus also David reasons,

“Thou art he who brought me out of the womb; I trusted in thee while I hung on my mother’s breasts; I was cast upon thee from my birth; thou art my God from my mother’s womb.”
(Psalm 22:10.)

He therefore promises that he will always be a Father to the Jews; and hence we see that we ought to cherish assured confidence of salvation from the time that the Lord hath once begun it in us, for he wishes to continue his work till the end. “The Lord,” says David, “will complete what he hath begun;” and again,

“O Lord, thy loving-kindness is eternal, and thou wilt not forsake the works of thy hands.” (Psalm 138:8.)

I am the same. The Hebrew word הוא (hu) is, in my opinion, very emphatic, though some interpreters render it simply by the demonstrative pronoun He; 216216     “I (am) he.” (Eng. Ver.) This is the literal rendering. — Ed. but it means that God is always “the same” and like himself, not only in his essence, but with respect to us, so that we ourselves shall feel that he is the same. When he says, “Even to old age,” 217217     “‘When thou shalt be old, and thy strength shall fail, (for thou hast no merits or works of righteousness,) I am the same as to my mercy and kindness, to keep, and carry, and bear, and deliver;’ for the Prophet had said of the idol that it is carried about, and cannot rid itself of its own burden, and therefore God says here, ‘I am He who carry others and bear my own burden.’” — Jarchi. it might be thought absurd; for we ought to become full-grown men after having been carried by God from infancy. But if any one shall examine it properly, it will be found that we never make so great progress as not to need to be upheld by the strength of God, for otherwise the most perfect man would stumble every moment; as David also testifies,

“Forsake me not in the time of old age, withdraw not from me when my strength faileth.” (Psalm 71:9.)

I have made and will carry. He again argues in the same manner. God does not regard what we deserve, but continues his grace toward us; and therefore we ought to draw confidence from it, “Thou didst create us, not only that we might be human beings, but that we might be thy children; and therefore thou wilt continue till the end to exercise continually toward us the care of a father and of a mother.”

5. To whom will ye liken and compare me? Here the Prophet introduces the Lord as remonstrating with the Jews, because they distrusted and doubted his power, and, in a word, because they put him on a level with idols, and even placed idols above him. When they saw the Babylonians enjoy prosperity, they thought that their hope was gone, and that the remembrance of the covenant had faded away, and hardly believed that God was in heaven or took any concern about them. On this account the Lord complains that they ascribe some power to idols, and that thus they east his power into the shade. This subject was formerly discussed under the forty-second, forty-third, and following chapters; and therefore it is unnecessary to repeat observations in each word.

In order that they may not estimate the power of God by the present condition of things, he bids them raise their minds higher. In like manner, when we see the Papists enjoy prosperity, if we should entertain doubts whether or not they possessed the true religion, we would need to be dissuaded by the same exhortation; for this would be to compare God with idols. And we ought carefully to observe this circumstance, the forgetfulness or disregard of which has led many commentators absurdly to weaken this statement, by supposing that the Prophet merely attacks superstitious persons who ascribe some divine power to wood or stone, because this degrades the glory of God by comparing him to dead things. But I have no doubt that he reproves that sinful and wicked conclusion by which the people, when they were weighed down by adversity, imagined that God was favorable to the Babylonians; for, if he had been favorable to them, it would follow that he approves of idolatry, and thus his honor would have been conveyed to dumb creatures. We may likewise draw from it a general doctrine that God is robbed of his glory, when he is compared to dumb and senseless things, as Paul also applies the passage appropriately. (Acts 17:29.)

6. Lavishing gold out of bags. The Prophet had formerly said this, and he now repeats it, in order to fix this doctrine more and more deeply on the hearts of men; for superstition has struck its roots so deeply in their hearts, that it cannot be torn out, unless the Lord entirely change our nature. Whatever we have heard about this madness quickly passes out of our minds; for we always carry about some seed of superstition, and there is nothing to which we are more prone than to fall into it. He says, therefore, that one person supplies the materials for manufacturing idols, and another gives them a shape; and that in this way it may be said that there are two fathers of such gods, that is, the rich man who lavishes out the gold or silver, and the workman who adds the shape and makes the idol. Thus he makes an open exposure of the madness of these who seek a deity in their purses and in the hand of their workmen; for what means so sudden a change, that they bow down before the metal, as soon as it has assumed a different shape, and a shape, too, which has been regulated by their own will or caprice? for it is exactly such a god as they have been pleased to manufacture at their own expense.

They even adore. The particle אף, (aph,) even, heightens the description of this madness; for there might perhaps be some room for repentance, if one who had been overtaken by a sudden mistake adored some false god; but these men obstinately persevere in their error. This word therefore draws attention more strongly to that obstinacy, and shews that they are altogether blinded. Excessively foolish, as I have said, is this stupidity, when men adore a god which they have made with their own hands.

7. They shall carry them on the shoulder. The picture is still more heightened by the description contained in this verse; for, since the idols have no feeling of any kind, they who fly to them to ask assistance must be not only very stupid but very obstinate.

8. Remember this. This verse may be explained in two ways, either that the Lord addresses the Jews, or that he addresses the Gentiles. Men who otherwise are not well instructed in the Law are led into mistakes, because they extinguish that knowledge which God kindles in their hearts; for there is no person who has not some seed of religion implanted in him by nature, but men choke it by their unbelief, or corrupt and debase it by their inventions. On this account we might extend it to the whole human race. But I am more disposed to adopt a different opinion, which is also demanded by the context; for the Prophet will soon afterwards add what does not apply to any but the Jews, whom he calls transgressors, because, having been vanquished by a slight temptation, they revolted from the true God, as if captivity ought to have obliterated from their hearts all the benefits which he had bestowed on them. Since, therefore, they had shaken off the true religion, he sharply rebukes their ingratitude in having been so easily led away to sinful inventions.

Return to the heart. 218218     “Bring (it) again to mind.” — Eng. Ver. By giving them this injunction he means that they are not of sound understanding. Others render it, “Recall.” This is feeble and inappropriate, and, a little before, he had bid them remember, and will immediately repeat the same thing. Now, therefore, he rather bids them “return to the heart,” because forgetfulness of God’s benefits was a sort of madness.

Blush. Others render it, “Act a manly part,” and derive the word from איש, (ish.) Others derive it from אשיש, (ashish,) which means “a foundation;” as if he had said, “Take courage, do not despair of my assistance.” But I rather agree with Jerome, who derives it from אש, (esh;) for it is more appropriate, when their disgrace has been exposed, to “be ashamed” than to assume manly courage; though I leave it to every person to form his own judgment. He therefore means that they blush for their madness, ingratitude, and wickedness, so as to return to God. 219219     “The verb התאששו (hithshteshu) is a ἅπαξ λεγόμενον, and admits of several different explanations. Joseph Kimchi derived it from אש (esh,) fire, and explained it to mean, ‘Be inflamed or reddened,’ that is, ‘blush.’ So the Vulgate, confundamini (be confounded.) The Targum and Jarchi understand it to mean, ‘Fortify or strengthen yourselves,’ and connect it with אששים, (ashishim,) foundations. (Isaiah 16:7.) Bochart derives it from איש, (ish,) a man, and identifies it with the ἀνδρίζεσθε, of 1 Corinthians 16:13.” — Alexander.

9. Remember the former things. This is an explanation of the preceding statement; for he expresses more fully what he formerly meant, that is, that God hath testified of himself by sufficiently numerous proofs, and hath shewed what is his nature and greatness; and that not merely for two or three days, or for a few years, but at all times; for he had continued his benefits, and had incessantly bestowed his grace upon them. Hence he infers that the manifestations of his divinity, being so clear, ought to prevent them from giving their hearts to another.

That I am God. In this passage the particle כי (ki) does not signify for, but that, and introduces a clause which explains what goes before. Besides, as we have formerly explained, God wishes not only that he may be acknowledged, but that he alone may be acknowledged; and therefore he wishes to be separated from all the gods which men have made for themselves, that we may fix our whole attention on him; because, if he admitted any companion, his throne would fall or shake; for either there is one God or there is none at all.

10. Declaring from the beginning. He now explains more fully in what manner he wishes the Jews to remember the past time, namely, that they were taught by constant predictions, as far as was necessary for their advantage. But from this preface he immediately makes a transition to the hope of deliverance.

My counsel shall stand. We ought not to wonder that he repeats this so frequently, because it is very hard to persuade men of the truth of it. The people were not only slow to believe, but even obstinate; and therefore he reminds them that they had learned long ago, and not on one occasion only, how safe it is to place their confidence in God. Nor is it only his foreknowledge that is here extolled by him, but he says that he has testified by his prophets what he had decreed. Even the prophecies would have no certainty or solidity, if the same God who declares that this or that thing shall happen had not the events themselves in his power. At the same time, he states that he speaks according to truth and brings forward his decrees in all the prophecies, that the Jews may not hesitate to place a firm reliance, as soon as the prophets have spoken. But as I have already explained these subjects more largely, I now give nothing more than a brief view of them.

11. Calling a bird or a thought from the east. After having spoken of God’s foreknowledge and power, the Prophet applies to his own purpose the general statement which he had made. He intended to comfort the Jews, and to shew that they were not led into captivity in such a manner as to leave no hope of deliverance; and therefore he adds a specific instance, and promises that Cyrus shall come, though it appeared to be incredible.

The word עיט (ait,) which I have translated thought, is translated by the greater part of interpreters a bird; and this is the true signification of the word. But as we may learn from Daniel 2:14, that it sometimes denotes counsel, (for the insertion of a letter in the noun עיט is customary among the Chaldee writers,) I choose rather to follow this interpretation, which is approved by some Hebrew writers. Yet it is possible that he alludes to a bird, 220220     “By a bird of prey is here meant the Eagle; for the Greek word ἀετός is derived from עיט (ait.) There can be no doubt that he means Cyrus, who, in a former passage, (Isaiah 41:25,) is said to have been called by Jehovah ‘from the East,’ that is, from Persia, which lay to the east of Judea. In other passages also, (as in Jeremiah 49:22; Ezekiel 17:3,) kings and princes are compared to eagles, because, in the opinion of the ancients, the eagle is the king of birds. Thus also Cyrus is represented under the image of a ‘bird of prey,’ chiefly on account of the astonishing swiftness with which he rode in his expeditions from Persia into very distant countries, and on account of the violence with which he flew upon his enemies and seized them as his prey. There may also be an allusion to the circumstance, that Cyrus ordered a golden eagle, with outstretched wings, laid on a long spear, to be carried before him as his military standard; for so Xenophon describes it. Ην δὲ αὐτῷ σημεῖον ἀετὸς χρυσοῦς ἐπὶ δόρατος μακροῦ ἀνατεταμένος, καὶ νῦν δὲ τοῦτο ἔπι σημεῖον τῳ Περσῶν βασιλεῖ διαμένει ‘And his standard was a golden eagle stretched on a long spear, and even now this continues to be the standard of the king of Persia.’ (Xen. Cyrop. 7.)” — Rosenmuller. as if he had said that his purpose would be sudden; and I do not deny that he alludes to the swiftness of the approach of Cyrus.

The man of my counsel. When he again calls Cyrus “the man of his counsel,” this is a repetition very frequent among Hebrew writers; and hence also it is evident that, in the former clause, the noun עית (ait) is put for “thought” or “decree.” Now, he calls him “the man of counsel,” because he executes the Lord’s decree.

Yet if it be thought preferable to translate it bird, I do not debate about it. The metaphor is beautiful; for the approach of Cyrus was so sudden and unexpected, that he seemed to fly like “a bird.” He suddenly invaded Babylon and took it by storm, even when the Babylonians imagined that every entrance was closed against him. It may also be said, if this interpretation of the word be approved, that Isaiah alludes to auguries, to which the Babylonians were greatly addicted. Accustomed to practice judicial astrology, they observed the flight and chattering of birds, and looked upon this as a certain knowledge of future events; but the Lord threatens that he will send “a bird” which they had not foreseen. But I prefer the former exposition, namely, that he alludes to the swiftness of Cyrus, and declares that no roads shall be shut against him, and that no fortresses shall hinder him from entering immediately into Babylon.

When he says from the east, this not only relates to the certainty of the promise, but is intended to inform us that no distance or length of time can retard the work of God; and accordingly, in the second clause, it is added by way of explanation, from a distant country Let us learn from this what is the purpose to which we ought to apply all that we read in Scripture concerning the foreknowledge and power of God; for those statements are not made in order to keep us in suspense, but that we may apply them to our own use. Now, he makes an implied contrast between the counsel of God and our thoughts; for he delivers his people in such a manner that the reason of the deliverance cannot be comprehended by men. Thus, although that which God promises appears to be incredible, yet he says that he will easily open up a way, that we may not measure by our capacity his unsearchable counsels.

I have thought. Others render it I have formed; but in this passage it appears to be more appropriate to view יצר (yatzar) as signifying “to think.” He confirms what he formerly said, that this hath been determined by him, and therefore shall be steadfast and unalterable.

I have spoken, and will accomplish. These words mean, that he has predicted nothing in vain, and that this prediction, which he has commanded to be published, ought to be regarded as fulfilled. To establish our faith in himself was the object of the one clause, and in the other he connects his thoughts with the preached word. This ought to be carefully observed; for we are distracted by a variety of thoughts, and we doubt if God has spoken sincerely, and suspect that he is like us, that is, that he is a hypocrite or dissembler. But he declares that nothing proceeds from him but what he formerly determined in his counsel. 221221     “En son conseil.” so that the preaching of the word is nothing else than a sure testimony of his hidden counsel, which he commands to be revealed to us. As soon therefore as the Lord hath spoken any word, we ought; to be certain of its accomplishment.

12. Hear me. He again rebukes the Israelites, because they could not place confidence in God, or receive any consolation in adversity. That rebuke is indeed sharp and severe, but was well deserved by those whose hearts were not soothed by any promise, or by any invitation, however gracious, which God addressed to them.

We ought to observe the two epithets which he employs here, Hardened in heart and Far from righteousness By these expressions he means that poor distressed persons shut the door against God’s assistance on account of their obstinacy; because by murmuring or fretting they shake off the fear of God, and thus throw themselves into despair, so that they openly rage against God. He addresses the Jews, who, though they were almost overwhelmed, yet were swelled with pride and insolence, and, having thrown off the fear of God, rose to more and more outrageous madness; as frequently happens to many persons in the present day, whom distresses and afflictions render more rebellious. Accordingly, they refused to receive any medicine, any remedy for their distresses. If any one prefer to consider the word righteousness to be put for “the assistance of God,” as in the following verse, let him enjoy his opinion, which indeed is not inappropriate; because obstinate men, who refuse to believe the promises of God, drive God away from them, and reject his grace; for they do not suffer God to confer benefits upon them, though he offered to them his assistance.

13. I will bring near my righteousness. If that interpretation which I mentioned a little before be preferred, that those persons are called “far from righteousness” who are incapable of receiving the grace of God, the meaning will remain unaltered; but if we hold that the Jews were “far from righteousness,” because, like desperate men, they were wholly abandoned to crimes, there will be a beautiful contrast between the righteousness of men and the righteousness of God. Although therefore the Jews revolted and were estranged from all practice of godliness, yet God assures them that “his righteousness is near;” as if he had said that unbelief is indeed a very great obstacle, but yet that it is such an obstacle as cannot hinder God from at length manifesting the power of his truth. “For the unbelief of men,” as Paul says, “cannot make void the truth of God; and, though men are liars, God will always be true.” (Romans 3:3, 4.) And indeed, if he did not exceed the malice of men by his goodness, we should all perish without exception, for who is there that receives God, and makes use of his grace as he ought?

Accordingly, the only reason why he does not continue to bestow benefits upon us is, that we are estranged from “his righteousness;” and yet, though we are reluctant and make resistance, he approaches to us in order to display “his righteousness,” though we do not deserve it. Now, he does this in such a manner that unbelievers obtain no advantage at all from it; for the Prophet did not include wicked apostates, as if they should be partakers of the salvation which he promises, but he only says that God has at hand a method by which “his righteousness” shall be made manifest. But here we must consider what was the condition of the people to whom those things were spoken; for everything had been corrupted by unbelief, and there were very few who relied on the promises of God; and they who belonged to the number of the elect sometimes shewed that they were obstinate, so that they appeared to be infected by the same plague of impiety as the others. He therefore rebukes the whole nation, both to convict the reprobate and, at the same time, to chastise the elect and bring them back into the right path; but especially, as I have said, he attacks unbelievers, who professedly, as it were, rejected all hope of grace.

And my salvation shall not tarry. This makes still more plain what he meant by the word “righteousness,” that is, the assistance which the Lord promised to his people. Consequently, he means the same thing by the word “salvation” and the word “righteousness;” for the most remarkable instance of the “righteousness” of God is, when he preserves, guards, and delivers his people. It is not superfluous to say that it is not “retarded” or “delayed;” for he describes the greatness of his mercy by saying, that the Lord opens up a course for his justice, notwithstanding the reluctance and opposition of the people.

And I will place. The copulative ו (vau) is here used in order to express the cause, “For I will place.” This is an additional confirmation of the preceding statement, that, since the Lord has once determined to save Jerusalem, she cannot be deprived of that benefit.

And my glory in Jerusalem. He connects his “glory” with the “salvation” of believers, as Paul also uses the word “glory” to denote “mercy.” (Ephesians 1:6, and 3:16.) The glory of God is most illustriously displayed, when he rescues his people from destruction and restores them to liberty; for he wished that an indissoluble bond should connect the salvation of the Church with his righteousness.




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