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6

Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of injustice,

to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

7

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them,

and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

8

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;

your vindicator shall go before you,

the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

9

Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;

you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

 

If you remove the yoke from among you,

the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

10

if you offer your food to the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness

and your gloom be like the noonday.


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6. Is not this the fast which I have chosen? The Prophet shows what are the real duties of piety, and what God chiefly recommends to us; namely, to relieve those who are wretched and pressed with a heavy burden. But the Prophet appears to abolish fasting universally, when, in place of it, he enumerates those works which are most highly acceptable to God. I reply, fasting is approved when it is accompanied by that love which we owe to our fellow­men; and therefore the Prophet directs that we shall be tried by this principle, that our consciences be entire and pure, that we exercise mutual kindness towards each other; for if this order prevail, then fasting, which shall be added to it, will be pleasing and acceptable to God. But here he does not at all mention purity of heart. I reply, it is described by works, as by its fruits, from which it is easily seen what kind of heart we have. Next, he enumerates the duties of the Second Table, under which, as we have elsewhere seen, by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, he includes the whole observation of the Law; for it would not be enough to assist our neighbor by kind offices, if at the same time we despised God. But we must observe the Prophet’s design; because the love which we owe to our neighbors cannot be sincerely cultivated, unless when we love them in God. In order to make trial of our fear of God, he demands these as more immediate signs, if we live justly, inoffensively, and kindly with each other. Besides, he was not satisfied with outward appearance; and indeed the love of our neighbor does not thrive where the Spirit of God does not reign; and therefore Paul includes it in the enumeration of “the works of the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22) Thus when the observation of the Law is spoken of, not only outward works, but likewise the dispositions of the heart, must be taken into the account.

To loose wicked bindings. Some explain it to mean “sinful thoughts,” by which the hearts of men are entangled. But Isaiah appears to me to have had another object in view, namely, that hypocrites are exceedingly cruel in distressing the poor, and lay heavy burdens upon them. He therefore calls them “bonds,” or “bindings,” or, as we commonly say, “oppressions.” Of the same import is what he adds, to undo the heavy burdens, under the weight of which the poor groan and are overwhelmed. he again adds, “to let the oppressed go free,” and expresses the same thing in a variety of words. Thus the Prophet does not define what is meant by “fasting,” but shows what the Lord requires in the first place and chiefly, and in what manner our obedience can be approved by him, and what ought to be the dispositions of those who endeavor to fast in a right manner.

7. Is it not to break thy bread to the hungry? He goes on to describe the duties of love of our neighbor, which he had described briefly in the preceding verse; for, having formerly said that we must abstain from every act of injustice, he now shows that we ought to exercise kindness towards the wretched, and those who need our assistance. Uprightness and righteousness are divided into two parts; first, that we should injure nobody; and secondly, that we should bestow our wealth and abundance on the poor and needy. And these two ought to be joined together; for it is not enough to abstain from acts of injustice, if thou refuse thy assistance to the needy; nor will it be of much avail to render thine aid to the needy, if at the same time thou rob some of that which thou bestowest on others. Thou must not relieve thy neighbors by plunder or theft.; and if thou hast committed any act of injustice, or cruelty, or extortion, thou must not, by a pretended compensation, call on God to receive a share of the plunder. These two parts, therefore, must be held together, provided only that we have our love of our neighbor approved and accepted by God.

By commanding them to “break bread to the hungry, 122122     Grotius says that “the bread in those countries was such as could be easily ‘broken,’ [like the thin cakes which are still common in the East]; and that to ‘break,’ consequently, meant to ‘impart,’ or to distribute. The phraseology is borrowed from the breaking of the bread which is distributed by the head of a family to the domestics at his table.” — Rosenmuller. he intended to take away every excuse from covetous and greedy men, who allege that they have a right to keep possession of that which is their own. “This is mine, and therefore I may keep it for myself. Why should I make common property of that which God has given me?“ He replies, “It is indeed thine, but on this condition, that thou share it with the hungry and thirsty, not that thou eat it thyself alone.” And indeed this is the dictate of common sense, that the hungry are deprived of their just right, if their hunger is not relieved. That sad spectacle extorts compassion even from the cruel and barbarous. He next enumerates various kinds, which commonly bend hearts of iron to συμπάθειαν fellow­feeling or compassion; that the savage disposition of those who are not moved by feeling for a brother’s poverty and necessity may be the less excusable. At length he concludes —

And that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh. Here we ought to observe the term flesh, by which he means all men universally, not one of whom we can behold, without seeing, as in a mirror, “our own flesh.” It is therefore a proof of the greatest inhumanity, to despise those in whom we are constrained to recognize our own likeness.

8. Then shall break forth as the dawn 123123     “As the pillar of the dawn bursts through the clouds.” ­ Jarchi. thy light. The Prophet shows that God is not too rigorous, and does not demand from us more than what is proper; and that hypocrites complain of him without cause, when they accuse him of excessive severity. When their works are condemned, they murmur, and reply that God can never be satisfied, that they do not know what they should do, or what course they should follow. He replies that he demands nothing else than a pure and honest heart, that is, an upright conscience; that if they have this, God will graciously receive them, and will bear testimony to their holiness, and will bestow every kind of blessing on those whose faults he justly chastises; and lastly, that there is no reason why they should murmur at him as excessively stern and harsh, because they will find him to be kind and bountiful when they shall lay down all hypocrisy, and devote themselves sincerely to his service.

We should observe the particle then; for it means that hypocrites, on the contrary, are very far from the true worship of God, though they wish to be reckoned very holy persons. But he holds them to be fully convicted, when he shows from their works that they neither worship nor fear God. By the word light he means prosperity, as by the word “darkness” is meant a wretched and afflicted life; and this mode of expression occurs frequently in Scripture.

And thy health. By “health” he means prosperity and safety, as we shall afterwards see in another passage, because the wounds inflicted by the hand of God on account of their sins had brought the people so low that they wasted away like a sick man under terrible disease. No kind of disease is more severe than to be pursued by God’s righteous vengeance, or consumed under his curse.

Righteousness shall go before thy face. “Righteousness” may be taken in two senses, either for the testimony of “righteousness,” or for good order; because God will put an end to the confusion, and will restore everything to its proper place. Thus the former meaning amounts to this, “When God shall be pacified towards thee, the testimony of thy righteousness shall be visible before God and men, as if some herald went before thee.” There are some who prefer to expound the word “righteousness” as meaning just government, which is the gift of God, and a token of his kindness as a Father; and we have seen that this word is sometimes used in that sense by Hebrew writers. But the latter clause which follows, And the glory of Jehovah will gather thee, leads me to prefer the former exposition, “Thy righteousness shall go forth;“ that is, “All shall acknowledge thee to be holy and righteous, though formerly thou wast guilty and convicted. So shalt thou also be adorned with the glory of the Lord, though formerly thou wast loaded with reproaches.” For we are reproached and disgraced, while we suffer the punishment of our sins.

9. Then shalt thou call. Isaiah follows out what he had formerly begun, that everything shall prosper well with the Jews, if they shall be just and inoffensive and free from doing wrong to any one, so that it shall manifest their piety and religion. He pronounces what is said by Hosea, (Hosea 6:6) and repeated by Christ, that “mercy shall be preferred to sacrifice.” (Matthew 9:13; 12:7) Thus after having spoken of the duties which men owe to one another, and testified that it shall be well with those who shall perform those duties, he adds, “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord will listen to thee.” The chief part of our happiness is, if God listen to us; and, on the other hand, nothing could be more miserable than to have him for an enemy. In order to try our faith, he attributes to our prayers what he bestows willingly and by free grace; for if he always bestowed his blessings while we were asleep, the desire to pray would become utterly cold, and indeed would cease altogether; and so the kindness of God would be an encouragement to slothfulness. Although he anticipates us by his free grace, yet he wishes that our prayers for his blessings should be offered, and therefore he adds, Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Behold, here I am. This promise likewise contains an exhortation, that we may not lie idle. When he says that he is present, this indeed is not visible to our eyes; but he gives a practical declaration that he is near and reconciled to us.

If thou shalt take away from the midst of thee the yoke. In the latter part of the verse he again repeats that God will be reconciled to the Jews if they repent. Under the word “yoke” he includes all the annoyances that are offered to the poor; as if he had said, “If thou shalt cease to annoy thy brethren, and shalt abstain from all violence and deceit, the Lord will bestow upon thee every kind of blessing.”

And the pointing of the finger. 124124     “Grotius thus explains this clause, ‘If thou shalt cease to point at good men with “the disreputable finger,” (as Persius calls it,)and to mock at their simplicity.’ In like manner Juvenal says, (Sat. 10:52)
   Quum fortunic ipsi minaci
Mandaret ]aqueum, mediumque ostenderet unguem
.

   On this passage scholiasts observe, that it was an ancient custom, when any person was the object of scorn, or was treated with marked contempt or disgraceful reproach, to point at him by holding out the middle finger.” ­ Rosenmuller.
This includes every kind of attack; for we are said to “point the finger,” when we threaten our neighbors, or treat them cruelly, or offer any violence.

And speech of vanity, or unprofitable speech. This is the third class of acts of injustice, by which we injure our neighbor when we impose upon him by cunning and deceitful words or flatteries; for every iniquity consists either of concealed malice and deceit, or of open violence.

10. If thou shalt pour out thy soul to the hungry. He goes on to recommend the duties of that love which we owe to one another. The sum of the whole discourse is this, that in vain do men serve God, if they only offer to him trivial and bare ceremonies; and that this is not the right and proper worship of God, who rigidly commands and enjoins us to lead an upright and innocent life with our neighbors, willingly to give ourselves and our labors to them, and to be ready to assist, them readily and cheerfully, whenever it is necessary. We should observe the two parts of this duty which the Prophet has expressly described; for in the first place, he recommends to us the feeling of mercy and kindness; and, in the second place, he exhorts us to the work itself and the effect. It would not be enough to perform acts of kindness towards men, if our disposition towards them were not warm and affectionate. “If I give all my goods to the poor,” says Paul, “and have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3) To “pour out the soul,” therefore, is nothing else than to bewail their distresses, and to be as much affected by their own poverty as if we ourselves endured it; as, on the other hand, all who are limited and devoted to themselves are said to have a hard and seared heart, to “shut up their bowels,” (1 John 3:17) and to restrain their feelings. 125125     “Qui ferment les entrailles, et sont sans affection.” “Who shut up their bowels, and are without affection.” Another translation given by some commentators, “If thou shalt offer thy soul,” is unworthy of notice.

Thy light shall arise in darkness. Again, there follows the same promise, and under the same figure or metaphor. By “darkness” he denotes adversity, and by “light” prosperity; as if he had said to the people, “The Lord will cause all the miseries by which thou art now oppressed to cease, and sudden prosperity shall spring up.” He shows, therefore, that there is no reason why they should blame God for punishing them so severely; for they would immediately be delivered and enjoy prosperity if they sincerely worshipped and obeyed God.




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