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The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

The Wickedness of Judah


Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth;

for the L ord has spoken:

I reared children and brought them up,

but they have rebelled against me.


The ox knows its owner,

and the donkey its master’s crib;

but Israel does not know,

my people do not understand.



Ah, sinful nation,

people laden with iniquity,

offspring who do evil,

children who deal corruptly,

who have forsaken the L ord,

who have despised the Holy One of Israel,

who are utterly estranged!



Why do you seek further beatings?

Why do you continue to rebel?

The whole head is sick,

and the whole heart faint.


From the sole of the foot even to the head,

there is no soundness in it,

but bruises and sores

and bleeding wounds;

they have not been drained, or bound up,

or softened with oil.



Your country lies desolate,

your cities are burned with fire;

in your very presence

aliens devour your land;

it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.


And daughter Zion is left

like a booth in a vineyard,

like a shelter in a cucumber field,

like a besieged city.


If the L ord of hosts

had not left us a few survivors,

we would have been like Sodom,

and become like Gomorrah.



Hear the word of the L ord,

you rulers of Sodom!

Listen to the teaching of our God,

you people of Gomorrah!


What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?

says the L ord;

I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams

and the fat of fed beasts;

I do not delight in the blood of bulls,

or of lambs, or of goats.



When you come to appear before me,

who asked this from your hand?

Trample my courts no more;


bringing offerings is futile;

incense is an abomination to me.

New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation—

I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity.


Your new moons and your appointed festivals

my soul hates;

they have become a burden to me,

I am weary of bearing them.


When you stretch out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even though you make many prayers,

I will not listen;

your hands are full of blood.


Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;

remove the evil of your doings

from before my eyes;

cease to do evil,


learn to do good;

seek justice,

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.



Come now, let us argue it out,

says the L ord:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be like snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool.


If you are willing and obedient,

you shall eat the good of the land;


but if you refuse and rebel,

you shall be devoured by the sword;

for the mouth of the L ord has spoken.


The Degenerate City


How the faithful city

has become a whore!

She that was full of justice,

righteousness lodged in her—

but now murderers!


Your silver has become dross,

your wine is mixed with water.


Your princes are rebels

and companions of thieves.

Everyone loves a bribe

and runs after gifts.

They do not defend the orphan,

and the widow’s cause does not come before them.



Therefore says the Sovereign, the L ord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel:

Ah, I will pour out my wrath on my enemies,

and avenge myself on my foes!


I will turn my hand against you;

I will smelt away your dross as with lye

and remove all your alloy.


And I will restore your judges as at the first,

and your counselors as at the beginning.

Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,

the faithful city.



Zion shall be redeemed by justice,

and those in her who repent, by righteousness.


But rebels and sinners shall be destroyed together,

and those who forsake the L ord shall be consumed.


For you shall be ashamed of the oaks

in which you delighted;

and you shall blush for the gardens

that you have chosen.


For you shall be like an oak

whose leaf withers,

and like a garden without water.


The strong shall become like tinder,

and their work like a spark;

they and their work shall burn together,

with no one to quench them.


4. Ah sinful nation! 1414     This comes very near the rendering of the Septuagint, οὐαὶ ἔθνος ἁμαρτωλὸν Though he held already reproved their crime with sufficient severity, yet, for the purpose of exposing it still more, he adds an exclamation, by which he expresses still more strongly his abhorrence of such base ingratitude and wickedness. Some are of opinion that the particle הוי (hoi) denotes grief; Jerome renders it vae (Wo to); but for my part I reckon it sufficient to say that it is an exclamation, suggested partly by astonishment, and partly by sorrow. For we burst into loud cries, when the disgracefulness of the action is such as cannot be expressed in plain terms, or when we want words to correspond to the depth of our grief Where we have rendered wicked nation, the Greeks have translated ἁμαρτωλὸν that is, a sinner; and such is likewise the rendering of the Vulgate. But the Hebrew word denotes those who are given up to crime; and the Prophet unquestionably charges them with abandoned wickedness.

A people laden with iniquity The force of the metaphor ought to be observed; for not only does he mean that they are sunk in their iniquity, as in a deep mire, but he likewise brings a charge against them, that they sin, not through mistake or thoughtlessness, as frequently happens with those who are easily led astray, but that they follow out their rebellion with a firm purpose of mind; as if he had said that they were the slaves of sin, or sold to act wickedly.

When he adds, a seed of evil-doers, he means a wicked seed. Others, with greater ingenuity, consider this passage to mean, that they are declared to be unworthy of holding a place among the children of Abraham, because they are bastards, and not related to him; as they are elsewhere called the seed of Canaan, and are reproached with being uncircumcised, (Jeremiah 9:26,) as if they had been the descendants of heathens and foreigners. But it is customary with the Hebrews to employ the phrase, “children of the good” for “good children,” a mode of expression which has been imitated by the Greeks. 1515     Vigerus remarks, that παῖδες, when construed with the genitives of nouns, denoting artists, nations, or any particular condition or profession of men, is put for the nouns themselves; and he adduces the following instances, ῥητόρων, ἰατρῶν φιλοσόφων, γραφέων παιδες, which is far more elegant than ῥήτορες etc.; and in like manner, Κελτῶν παῖδες, sons of the Celts, or, Gauls, that is, Gauls; δυστήνων παῖδες, sons of the wretched, that is, the wretchedEd

Degenerate children. The word משחיתים (mashchithim) literally means corrupting, and accordingly translators supply the word themselves, or, their pursuits. But I reckon that degenerate is a more appropriate rendering; for the Prophet means that they are so depraved as to be altogether unlike their parents. The four epithets which are here bestowed by him on his nation are far from being honorable, and are widely different from the opinion which they had formed about themselves. For this is the manner in which we must arouse hypocrites; and the more they flatter themselves, and the farther they are from being regulated by the fear of God, so much the more ought we to wield against them the thunderbolts of words. On such persons a milder form of instruction would produce no effect, and an ordinary exhortation would not move them. It is necessary, also, to remove that false conviction of their holiness, righteousness, and wisdom, which they commonly employ as a disguise, and as the ground of idle boasting.

For they have forsaken the Lord He assigns the reason why he reproves them with such sharpness and severity. It is, that they may not complain, as they are wont to do, of being treated with excessive harshness and rigour. And first he upbraids them with that which is the source of all evils, their revolt from God; for, as it is the highest perfection of righteousness to cleave to God, agreeably to those words of Moses, Now, Israel, what doth thy God require from thee but that thou shouldst cleave to him? 1616     Our Author, quoting from memory, has mingled two passages: And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul? (Deuteronomy 10:12.) Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave and swear by his name. (Deuteronomy 10:20.) — Ed. so, when we have revolted from him, we are utterly ruined. The design of the Prophet is, not to convince the Jews that they are guilty of a single crime, but to show that they are wholly apostates.

The following words, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel, whether the word be rendered provoke, or despise, the latter of which I prefer, are undoubtedly added in order to place their sin in a still stronger light; for it was shamefully base to treat with contempt the favor of him who had chosen them alone out of all the nations to be adopted into his family. This is also the reason why he calls himself the Holy One of Israel; because, by admitting them to alliance with him, he had at the same time adorned them with his holiness; for wherever this name occurs it is ascribed to him on account of the effect. What barbarous pride was there in despising so great an honor! If any one choose rather to render the word provoke, the meaning will be, that they rejected God, as if they expressly intended to provoke his anger; which shows how detestable their apostasy is.

They are gone away backward The meaning is, that when the Lord laid down to them a fixed way and rule of living, they were hurried along by their sinful passions; but he confirms the statement which he had just now made, that their licentiousness was so unbridled that they utterly revolted from God, and deliberately turned aside from that course to which their life ought to have been directed.

5. Why should ye be stricken any more? Some render it, Upon what? or, On what part? and interpret the passage as if the Lord had said that he had not another scourge left; because so various are the methods by which he has attempted to bring them back to the path of duty, that no other way of chastising them remains to be tried. But I prefer to render it Why? because this corresponds to the Hebrew word, and agrees better with the context. It is equivalent to phrases in daily use, To what purpose? For what object? 1717     A quel propos? Pour quelle fin? He means that the Jews have proceeded to such a pitch of wickedness and crimes, that it is impossible to believe that chastisements will do them any good; for when desperate men have been hardened, we know that they will rather be broken to shreds than submit to correction. He complains of their prodigious obstinacy, like a physician who should declare that every remedy had been tried, and that his skill was now exhausted.

At the same time he charges them with extreme malice; for when ungodly men are not even humbled by punishments, they have arrived at the very height of wickedness; as if the Lord had said, “I see that I should do you no good if I were to chastise you;” for although chastisements and afflictions are the remedies which God employs for curing our vices, yet, when they are found to be of no advantage to us, we are past hope. True, indeed, God does not on that account cease to punish us, but, on the contrary, his wrath against us is the more enflamed; for such obstinacy God abhors above all things else. But he justly says that his labor is lost when he does not succeed in bringing us to repentance, and that it is useless to apply remedies to those who cannot be cured. Thus he does not fail to double their chastisements and afflictions, and to try the very utmost of what can be done, and he is even compelled to take this course until he absolutely ruin and destroy them. But in all this he does not discharge the office of a physician; but what he laments is, that the chastisements which he inflicts will be of no avail to his people.

You will yet grow more faithless It is a confirmation of the former statement, and therefore I separate it from the former clause, though there are some who put them together. It is as if he had said, “Still you will not cease to practice treachery; yea, you will add to your crimes; for I perceive that you rush to the commission of iniquity as if you had leagued and banded yourselves for that purpose, so that we can no longer hope that you will slacken in your course.” The design of God is to exhibit their incorrigible disposition, that they may be left without excuse.

The whole head is sick. Others translate it every head, and suppose that those terms denote the princes and nobles of the nation. I rather agree with the opinion of those who render it the whole head; for I consider it to be a plain comparison taken from the human body, to this effect, that the body is so severely afflicted that there is no hope of returning health. He points out two principal parts on which the health of the body depends, and thus shows the extent of the disease which, he tells us, has infected this wretched people to such a degree that they are wasting away; that the disease exists not in a single member, or in the extremities of the body, but that the heart itself has been wounded, and the head is severely afflicted; in short, that the vital parts, as they are called, are so much injured and corrupted that it is impossible to heal them.

But here also commentators differ; for some of them view this state of disease as referring to sins, and others to punishments. Those who view it as referring to sins interpret it thus: “You are like a rotten and stinking body, in which no part is sound or healthy. Crimes of the worst description prevail amongst you, by the infection of which every thing is corrupted and debased.” But I choose rather to interpret it as referring to punishments; for unquestionably God still proceeds with this complaint, that the nation is so obstinate as to be incapable of being cured by any chastisements, because, though it has been beaten almost to death, or at least has been maimed and frightfully torn by repeated blows, still it is not reformed. Such too is the import of —

6. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it Here he proceeds with the same comparison, and repeats the same statement; for certainly those who explain the former part of the verse, as referring to punishments, do not sufficiently consider the remaining part of the context. If we shall admit that a nation corrupted by vices is compared to a diseased body, what is the meaning of the words which immediately follow, that the wounds have not been bound up or mollified with ointment? It is plain that the Prophet speaks of afflictions by which the nation had almost wasted away, and that he adduces this long-continued weakness as a proof of hardened impenitence. He calls it a putrifying sore, from which diseased matter is continually flowing, as if some concealed fountain were perpetually sending forth an additional supply of venom. By this comparison he shows that the wound is incurable, because that supply cannot be stopped. All this is prodigiously heightened by affirming that no remedies have been applied; for the three metaphors which he joins together — they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment — have all the same meaning that the nation, without any hope of relief, without comfort, without remedy, is reduced to such a state of distress, that in such punishments the utmost severity of God is openly displayed.

7. Your country is desolate Literally, it is desolation; and thus Isaiah goes on to speak more fully and plainly of what he had already said figuratively about chastisements, that the country has been reduced to a frightful state of devastation: for I choose to interpret all those statements as relating to past occurrences, because the Prophet does not threaten the vengeance of God, but describes those heavy calamities which have already happened. He upbraids them with indolence and stupidity in remaining unmoved by their afflictions.

Like the destruction of strangers 1818     In the English version it runs, as overthrown by strangers; and the marginal reading, adhering more closely to the Hebrew idiom, is, as the overthrow of strangers. The interpretation rejected by Calvin has been approved by some able critics; and Lowth, distrusting the philological views given by his predecessors, has resorted to a conjectural alteration of the Hebrew text: — “This reading, though confirmed by all the ancient versions, gives us no good sense; for your land is devoured by strangers, and is desolate as if overthrown by strangers, is a mere tautology, or, what is as bad, an identical comparison. Aben Ezra thought that the word, in its present form, might be taken for the same with זרם, an inundation. Schultens is of the same opinion, (see Taylor’s Concord;) and Schindler, in his Lexicon, explains it in the same manner, and so, says Kimchi, some explain it.” After enumerating the attempts of Abendana “to reconcile it to grammatical analogy,” he adds, “but I rather suppose the true reading to be זרם, and have translated it accordingly: the word זרים, in the line above, seems to have caught the transcriber’s eye, and to have led him into this mistake.” — Notes on Isaiah. — Ed . This is added for the sake of heightening the picture; for the opinion that זרים (zarim) is here put for זרם (zerem), an inundation, is farfetched. That word might no doubt be applied to enemies, but it is better to take it as literally denoting foreigners. The calamity is more grievous when it is brought on by men who are unknown, and who have come from a distant country, who lay waste with far greater recklessness and cruelty than neighboring tribes. Such men destroy cities, burn houses, buildings, and villages, and spread desolation all around. In short, they rush forward with barbarous ferocity, bent on murders and conflagrations, and are more eager to inflict damage than to make gain. But neighbors, when they have subdued a country, can retain possession of it by having a garrison, and as soon as a revolt is attempted, or an insurrection takes place, can send additional troops; and therefore they are not so cruel; nor do they lay waste a country from which they hope to derive some advantage. It is therefore no ordinary calamity, but the most shocking of all calamities, that is here described.

Hence we ought to learn that, when God begins to punish us, if we do not repent, he does not immediately desist, but multiplies the chastisements, and continually follows them up with other afflictions. We ought therefore to abstain from such obstinacy, if we do not wish to draw down upon ourselves the same punishments, or at least to deserve the same reproach which was brought against the Jews, that though they had received sharp warnings, and had felt the hand of God, still they could not be corrected or reformed.

Moreover, we ought not to wonder that we are visited with so great an amount and variety of afflictions, of which we see no end or limit, for by our obstinacy we fight with God and with his stripes. It must therefore happen with us as with wincing and unruly horses, which, the more obstinate and refractory they are, have the whip and spur applied to them with greater severity. In the present day there are many who almost accuse God of cruelty, as if he always treated us with harshness, and as if he ought to chastise us more gently; but they do not take into account our shocking crimes. If those crimes were duly weighed by them, they would assuredly acknowledge that, amidst the utmost severity, the forbearance of God is wonderful; and that we may not think that in this case the Lord was too severe, we must take into consideration the vices which he afterwards enumerates.

Here an objection will be started. Why does Isaiah declare that the nation endured such a variety of afflictions, while we have already mentioned that he began to prophesy under Uzziah, 1919     Called also Azariah, 2 Kings 15:1. — Ed. during whose reign the kingdom of Judah was in a prosperous condition? (2 Chronicles 26:5-15.) For although, towards the end of his life, the kingdom of Israel met with some disasters, still this did not affect the kingdom of Judah. Accordingly, the Jews think that these words relate to the reign of Jotham, (2 Kings 15:32,) and not of Uzziah. Their opinion appears at first sight to have little weight; and yet, when the whole matter is examined, it is not destitute of probability; for we know that the prophets did not always attend to chronological arrangement in collecting their prophecies; and it is possible that this discourse of Isaiah was placed first in order for no other reason but because it contains a summary view of that doctrine which is afterwards to be delivered.

Others think that they can easily get rid of the difficulty by interpreting the whole passage as a description of vice, and not of punishments; but what is said about the burning of cities and about the desolation of the country cannot easily be disposed of in that manner. If it is supposed that the Prophet speaks of the future and not the present condition of that kingdom, and that in the name of God he foretells approaching calamities, though they did not behold them with their eyes, I do not greatly object to that view, though it is probable that he treats of events which were known to them. It is a real narrative, and not a prediction, though in the next verse I acknowledge he announces the approaching result.

8. And the daughter of Zion shall be left 2020     Residua manebit. as a cottage in a vineyard He alludes to a custom which exists in France, that the vinekeepers rear a cottage for themselves when the grapes begin to ripen. His next comparison, which is closely allied to the former, is taken from a custom of that nation of protecting also gardens of cucumbers 2121     A lively French traveler, Tavernier, who flourished about the middle of the seventeenth century, in describing the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, gives the following account: — “There we see large beds of melons and of cucumbers, but especially of the latter, of which the inhabitants of the Levant are particularly fond. Most frequently they eat them without peeling, and afterwards drink a glass of water. Throughout the whole of Asia this is the ordinary food of the common people for three or four months. The whole family lives on it; and when a child asks for something to eat, instead of giving it bread, as in France and other places is the custom, in the Levant they offer it a cucumber, which it eats raw just as it has been fresh pulled. Cucumbers in the Levant have a peculiarly excellent flavour, and though they are eaten raw they never do any injury.” — Ed. by means of men who kept watch during the night. He next explains what he intended to convey by both comparisons.

Like a besieged city This may be explained in two ways; either that the whole country will be wasted, with the solitary exception of the city, which shall be left standing like a cottage, or that the city itself will be destroyed. The former interpretation is adopted by the Jews, and they understand this passage to relate to the siege of Sennacherib; but I think that it has a wider signification, and embraces other calamities which followed afterwards. This may indeed refer to the neighboring country, from the misery and devastation of which it was impossible but that the city should sustain much damage; but I consider the Prophet’s meaning to be, that the evils of which he speaks shall reach even to the city itself, until, broken and ruined, it shall wear the aspect of a mean cottage

The daughter of Zion is the name here given to Jerusalem, in accordance with what is customary in Scripture to give the designation of daughter to any nation, in the same manner as the daughter of Babylon (Isaiah 47:1) and the daughter of Tyre (Psalm 45:12) are names given to the Tyrians and Babylonians. Zion is the name here employed rather than Jerusalem, on account of the dignity of the temple; and this figure of speech, by which a part is taken for the whole, is frequently employed.

9. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us Here he concludes what he had formerly declared concerning God’s chastisements, that the desolation which shall take place — or rather which is present, and which they now behold — may be compared to the destruction of Sodom, were it not that the Lord snatched as it were from the burning a very small remnant. And this verse confirms what I formerly said, that the Prophet’s description of the calamities which had already taken place is interwoven with those events which were immediately at hand, as if he had said, Be not deceived by flatteries; you would be in the same condition that Sodom and Gomorrah now are, were it not that God, in compassion on you, has preserved a remnant. This agrees with the words of Jeremiah,

It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed. (Lamentations 3:22.)

Hence we ought to observe two things. First, the Prophet here describes utter destruction; and yet, because God had to deal with his Church and his beloved people, that judgment is mitigated by special grace, so that out of the general ruin of the whole nation God rescues his people, whom he justly compares to a very small remnant. But if God punished the crimes of the Jews by such dreadful chastisements, let us consider that we may share the same fate if we imitate their rebellion: for God had set apart that nation for himself, and had distinguished them from the ordinary lot of other men. Why then should he spare us if we shall be hardened in our ungodliness and treachery? Or rather, what is likely to be the result of that mass and sink of crimes in which men throughout the whole world give way to their passions? Unquestionably it will be the same with the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, unless his vengeance shall be restrained by a regard to that gracious covenant in which he promised that the Church shall be eternal; and this threatening, which is truly awful and alarming, is applicable to all obstinate and incurable men, whose vices no punishments can destroy or weaken.

Again, we ought to observe that saying of Jeremiah, which I have already glanced at, that it must be attributed to the tender mercies of God that we are not altogether destroyed. (Lamentations 2:22.) For if We Shall Consider the vast amount Of wickedness which prevails among all classes, we shall wonder that even a single individual is left, and that all have not been removed from the land of the living; and in this way God withdraws his hand, (Ezekiel 20:22,) that there may be some Church preserved in the world. This is the reason assigned by Paul, who is the best interpreter of this passage, when, by quoting it, he represses the haughtiness of the Jews, that they may not boast of the mere name, as if it had been enough that they were descended from the fathers; for he reminds them that God could act towards them as he had formerly done towards the fathers, but that through his tender mercies a remnant shall be saved. (Romans 9:27.) And why? That the Church may not utterly perish; for it is through the favor which he bears towards it that the Lord, though our obstinacy lays him under the necessity of trying the severest judgments, still reserves some small seed. (Romans 9:29.) This statement ought to yield us powerful consolation even in those heaviest calamities in which we are apt to think that it is all over with the Church; that, though everything should go into confusion, and the world, as we say, be turned upside down, we may persevere with unshaken fortitude, and may rest assured that God will always be mindful of his Church.

A very small remnant This clause may be connected either with what goes before or with what follows, and accordingly some render it, We would have been almost like Sodom. But I prefer connecting it with the former clause, so as to deduce that the number which God had reserved out of the destruction is small. Some think that: כ (caph) is here used affirmatively, so as to express the matter more strongly; and I have no objection to that view, though we may take it in its natural and literal signification, as if he had said, “and that shall be a small number.” This declaration ought to be carefully observed; for if the Church does not spread far and wide, men are wont to despise her. Hence it comes that hypocrites are proud of their numbers; and weak men, terrified by the pompous display of those numbers, stagger. We also learn from it that we ought not to judge by the largeness of the number, unless we choose to prefer the chaff to the wheat, because the quantity is greater; but we ought to be satisfied with knowing that, though the number of the godly be small, still God acknowledges them as his chosen people; and we ought also to call to remembrance that consolatory saying,

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure
to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32.)

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