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Injustice and Oppression to Be Punished


See, the L ord’s hand is not too short to save,

nor his ear too dull to hear.


Rather, your iniquities have been barriers

between you and your God,

and your sins have hidden his face from you

so that he does not hear.


For your hands are defiled with blood,

and your fingers with iniquity;

your lips have spoken lies,

your tongue mutters wickedness.


No one brings suit justly,

no one goes to law honestly;

they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies,

conceiving mischief and begetting iniquity.


They hatch adders’ eggs,

and weave the spider’s web;

whoever eats their eggs dies,

and the crushed egg hatches out a viper.


Their webs cannot serve as clothing;

they cannot cover themselves with what they make.

Their works are works of iniquity,

and deeds of violence are in their hands.


Their feet run to evil,

and they rush to shed innocent blood;

their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity,

desolation and destruction are in their highways.


The way of peace they do not know,

and there is no justice in their paths.

Their roads they have made crooked;

no one who walks in them knows peace.



Therefore justice is far from us,

and righteousness does not reach us;

we wait for light, and lo! there is darkness;

and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.


We grope like the blind along a wall,

groping like those who have no eyes;

we stumble at noon as in the twilight,

among the vigorous as though we were dead.


We all growl like bears;

like doves we moan mournfully.

We wait for justice, but there is none;

for salvation, but it is far from us.


For our transgressions before you are many,

and our sins testify against us.

Our transgressions indeed are with us,

and we know our iniquities:


transgressing, and denying the L ord,

and turning away from following our God,

talking oppression and revolt,

conceiving lying words and uttering them from the heart.


Justice is turned back,

and righteousness stands at a distance;

for truth stumbles in the public square,

and uprightness cannot enter.


Truth is lacking,

and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.


The L ord saw it, and it displeased him

that there was no justice.


He saw that there was no one,

and was appalled that there was no one to intervene;

so his own arm brought him victory,

and his righteousness upheld him.


He put on righteousness like a breastplate,

and a helmet of salvation on his head;

he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,

and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle.


According to their deeds, so will he repay;

wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies;

to the coastlands he will render requital.


So those in the west shall fear the name of the L ord,

and those in the east, his glory;

for he will come like a pent-up stream

that the wind of the L ord drives on.



And he will come to Zion as Redeemer,

to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the L ord.

21 And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the L ord: my spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouths of your children, or out of the mouths of your children’s children, says the L ord, from now on and forever.


15. Truth faileth. Hence it clearly appears that Isaiah, in the preceding verse, did not speak of punishments; for, without interrupting the stream of his discourse, he proceeds to show that the people ought not to complain of the severity of chastisements, since they have so grievously offended and provoked God. He therefore confirms what he formerly said, that “truth hath fallen, that there is no place for equity;” and he enlarges this statement the more, by adding that he who hath withdrawn from evil hath become a prey. 143143     “If you render the Hebrew words thus, ‘Withdrawing from evil, he maketh himself a prey,’ that is, ‘Whosoever shuns vices, exposes himself as a prey to the wicked,’ you will have a meaning which leaves nothing to desire.” ­ Rosenmuller. Almost all the Jewish expositors, reading the two clauses consecutively, explain them thus: — “Truth hath failed, and, by departing from evil, hath been made a prey.” Why they adopt that meaning, I do not see.

Jerome’s exposition, which I follow, is much more correct; and appropriate; and a similar mode of expression is frequently employed in the Scriptures. Job is said to have been

“an upright and perfect man, fearing
God, and departing from evil.” (Job 1:1)

Solomon also says,

“The fool is confident, but the righteous man looketh well to himself, and departeth from evil.” (Proverbs 14:16)

The Prophet means that all uprightness was so greatly abhorred, that the true worshippers of God, if any remained, were not permitted to be safe. As if he had said, “Whoever wishes to live among men must vie with them in wickedness,” 144144     “Doit neeessairement estre aussi mechant qu’eux.” “Must unavoidably be as wicked as they are.” according to the common proverb, “Among wolves we must howl; but he who wishes to live innocently shall be torn in pieces, as a sheep is torn by wolves.” Finally, he describes the utmost pitch of wickedness; for he shows that “truth hath failed,” so that no good man is allowed to remain among them; because every one that abstains front acts of injustice “lays himself open to be a prey.”

And Jehovah saw. This relates to the consolation of the people; for he declares that, although they have grievously offended, so that it may appear as if there were no room for pardon, still the Lord will have regard to his people, and, although he has inflicted very severe chastisements, will at length remember his covenant, so as to bring incredible relief by healing their wounds. He speaks here of a future period, and promises that one day, after calamities so numerous and diversified, the Lord will aid the people that are left; for the Jews would have lost heart, and would have been altogether discouraged, if the Lord had not brought that consolation.

Thus men commonly rush forward, and throw themselves headlong into opposite vices; for, when they are reproved, they either grow obstinate and harden themselves, or are terrified and fall into despair. We must therefore observe carefully this order which the Prophet followed. First, it was necessary to reprove the Jews, that, being affected and laid low by repentance, they might cease to find fault with God; and, secondly, a mitigation of punishments, accompanied by salvation, is promised, that they might not be discouraged, but expect assistance from the Lord, who is unwilling that his Church should perish, and punishes his people for a time, in order that he may not suffer them to be ruined and destroyed.

Yet if any one prefer to limit this dislike or displeasure of God to the “judgment,” because he had good reason for abhorring a wicked people, I have no objection; as if he had said that God saw nothing in that people but what was ground of hatred. Hence it follows, that there was no other motive that prompted him to yield assistance, than because their affairs were utterly desperate.

16. He saw that there was no man. Isaiah continues the same subject, but expresses more, and relates more fully what he had briefly noticed; for what he said in the preceding verse, that “it displeased the Lord that there was no judgment,” might have been obscure. In this passage he repeats that the Lord saw that “there was no man” 145145     “And now, when God repents on account of the evil which he has brought on the people, he sees that there is not a righteous man to stand in the gap. (Ezekiel 22:30)” ­ Jarchi.
“Rosenmuller, Umbrett, and others, follow Jarchi in supposing איש (ish) to be emphatic and to signify a man of the right sort, a man equal to the occasion. This explanation derives some color from the analogy of Jeremiah 5:1; but even there, and still more here, the strength of the expression is increased rather than diminished by taking this phrase in the simple sense of nobody. What was wanted was not merely a qualified man, but any man whatever, to maintain the cause of Israel and Jehovah.” ­ Alexander
to render assistance to the Church, and that he wondered. He makes use of the verb ישתומם (yishtomem) in the Hithpahel conjugation, 146146     The verb אשתומם (yishtomem) denotes a man who stands, and wonders, and remains silent through his wonder.” ­ Jarchi for the purpose of denoting that the Lord was the cause of his own astonishment; as if he had said, “He made himself astonished.”

He wondered that none came forward. Some think that מפגיע (maphgiang) means an intercessor; but I think that the meaning is this, that there was none who endeavored to relieve their affliction, that there was no physician who applied his hand to this wound, and that for this reason God “wondered.” The reason why he attributes to God this astonishment may be easily understood. By this rebuke he intended to put the Jews to shame, that they might not, according to their custom, resort to hypocritical pretenses for concealing their sins; and, because it was incredible and monstrous that there was not found in a holy and elect people any one that opposed injustice, he represents God as astonished at such a novelty, that the Jews may at length be ashamed and repent. Was it possible that there could be greater obstinacy of which they ought to be ashamed, since by their wickedness they moved God to astonishment?

At the same time he rebukes their hypocrisy, if they pretend to have eminent piety and holiness, when God, after a diligent search, did not find even one upright man. He likewise praises and magnifies the unspeakable mercy of God, in condescending to rescue, as if from the depths of hell, a people whose condition was so desperate; for the Jews were undoubtedly reminded by these words in what manner they ought to hope for redemption; namely, because God is pleased to rise up miraculously to save what was lost. Besides, by the word “wonder” he describes also God’s fatherly care. It is certain that God is not liable to those passions, so as to wonder at anything as new or uncommon; but he accommodates himself to us, in order that, being deeply moved by a conviction of our evils, we may view our condition with horror. Thus, when he says that “the Lord saw,” he means that there is no help in our own industry; when he says that the Lord “wonders,” he means that we are excessively dull and stupid, because we neither perceive nor care for the evils of our condition; and yet that our indifference does not prevent the Lord from rendering assistance to his Church.

Therefore his arm brought (or, made) salvation to him. By these words he means that we ought not to despair, although we receive no assistance from men. Yet, reducing to nothing every other assistance, he pronounces the salvation of his own nation, and consequently of all mankind, to be owing, from first to last, to God’s undeserved goodness and absolute power. Thus, in like manner as, by asserting that God is abundantly sufficient for himself, and has power and strength sufficient to redeem the Jews, he stretches out his hand to the feeble; so, by saying that men can do nothing to promote their salvation, he abases all pride, that, being stripped of confidence in their works, they may approach to God. And we must observe this design of the Prophet; for, in reading the Prophets and Apostles, we must not merely consider what they say, but for what purpose, and with what design. Here, therefore, we ought chiefly to observe the design of the Prophet, that in God alone is there sufficient power for accomplishing our salvation, that we may not look hither and thither; for we are too much disposed to lean on external aids; but that we ought to place the hope of salvation nowhere else than on the arm of God, and that the true foundation of the Church is in his righteousness, and that they do wrong who depend on anything else; since God has borrowed nothing from any but himself.

The usefulness of this doctrine is still more extensive; for, although all remedies often fail us, yet the Lord will find sufficient assistance in his own arm. Whenever, therefore, we are destitute of men’s assistance, and are overwhelmed by calamities of every kind, and see nothing before us but ruin, let us betake ourselves to this doctrine, and let us rest assured that God is sufficiently powerful to defend us; and, since he has no need of the assistance of others, let us learn to rely firmly and confidently on his aid.

Yet we must keep in remembrance the universal doctrine, namely, that the redemption of the Church is a wonderful blessing bestowed by God alone, that we may not ascribe anything to the strength or industry of men. With abhorrence we ought to regard the pride of those who claim for themselves any part of that praise which belongs to God, since in him alone is found both the cause and the effect of our salvation.

And his righteousness, it upheld him. Here arm denotes power and strength, and righteousness denotes the integrity which he displays in procuring the salvation of his people, when he is their protector, and delivers them from destruction. 147147     “De mort.” “From death.” When he says that “the arm of God brought to him salvation,” this must not be limited to God, and ought not to be taken passively, as if God saved himself, but, actively; so that this salvation refers to the Church, which he has delivered from the bands of enemies.

17. And he put on righteousness as a coat of mail. Here he equips God with his armor, for the purpose both of confirming more and more the confidence of believers, and of stripping all men of all confidence in their own strength. The meaning of the verse amounts to this, that God is in want of nothing for discomfiting his enemies and gaining the victory; because from his righteousness, power, and grace, and from his ardent love of his people, he will make for himself πανοπλίαν complete armor. And this is again worthy of remark; for, although we acknowledge that God is sufficiently powerful, yet we are not satisfied with it, but at. the same time seek other help. Thus our minds are always inclined to unbelief, so that they fasten on inferior means, and are greatly entangled by them.

In order to correct this vice, Isaiah presents this lively description; as if he had said, “Know ye that God has in his hand all the safeguards of your salvation, and will be in want of nothing to deliver you in spite of enemies and bring you back to your native country; and therefore there is no reason why you should tremble.” Besides, there is nothing to which we are more prone than to imagine that we bestow something on God, and thus to claim for ourselves some part of the praise which ought to remain undivided with him.

When he clothes God with vengeance, and with indignation as a cloak, this relates to enemies, against whom God is said to be enraged for the sake of his people; and thus, the more that Satan labors and makes every effort against us, so much the more does God kindle with zeal, and so much the more powerfully does he rise up, to render assistance to us. Although, therefore, Satan and all the reprobate do not rest, but raise up obstacles of every kind to prevent our salvation, and even exert themselves furiously to destroy us, yet, by his power alone, God will defeat all their efforts.

18. As if on account of recompenses. He confirms the statement of the preceding verse; for he shows what will be the nature of that vengeance with which he had clothed the Lord; namely, that he is prepared to render recompense to his enemies. We must attend to the reason why the Prophet describes the Lord as thus armed, indignant, and ready for vengeance. It is, because the salvation of the Church is connected with the destruction of the wicked; and therefore God must be armed against the enemies who wish to destroy us.

Hence we see God’s infinite love toward us, who loves us so ardently that he bears hostility to our enemies, and declares that he will render recompense to them. So strong is his affection to his little flock, that he sets a higher value on them than on the whole world. This is the reason why he says that he will render recompense to the islands, that is, to countries beyond the sea and far off; for, in order to deliver his people, he overthrew monarchies that were powerful, and that appeared to be invincible. But, although here he mentions none but mortal men, still we must begin with Satan, who is their head.

19. Therefore they shall fear the name of Jehovah. He now testifies that this work of redemption shall be so splendid and illustrious, that the whole world shall wonder, behold, praise, and celebrate, and, struck with fear, shall render glory to God. It is uncertain whether he means the conversion of the Gentiles, or the terror with which God dismays his enemies. For my own part, I am more inclined to the former opinion, that, even to the utmost boundaries of the earth, the name of God shall be revered and honored, so that the Gentiles shall not only tremble, but shall serve and adore him with true repentance.

For 148148     “Whether כי (ki) be rendered when or for, the sense remains essentially the same, because the one implies the other. The only weighty reasons for preferring the latter are, first, its natural priority as being the usual and proper sense, and then the simplicity of structure which results from it as being more accordant with the genius and usage of the language.” ­ Alexander the enemy shall come as a river. As to the reason now assigned, commentators differ. But the true meaning, in my opinion, is, that the attack of the enemy shall be so furious that, like a rapid and impetuous torrent, it shall appear to sweep away and destroy everything, but that the Lord shall cause it instantly to subside and disappear. It is therefore intended to heighten the description of the divine power, by which the vast strength and dreadful fury of the enemies are repelled, receive a different direction, and fall to pieces.

A question now arises, “What redemption does the Prophet mean?” I reply, as I have already suggested on another passage, that these promises ought not to be limited, as is commonly done, to a single redemption; for the Jews refer it, exclusively to the deliverance from Babylon, while Christians refer it to Christ alone. For my part, I join both, so as to include the whole period after the return of the people along with that which followed down to the coming of Christ; for this prophecy was not fulfilled but in Christ, and what is said here cannot apply to any other. Never was the glory of God revealed to the whole world, nor were his enemies put to flight so as not to recover their strength, till Christ achieved a conquest and illustrious triumph over Satan, sin, and death.

20. And a Redeemer shall come to Zion. He again confirms what he formerly said, that the people shall be delivered, and that God will be the author of this blessing. He bids the people, therefore, be of good cheer in their captivity, which shall not be perpetual; and next, he exhorts them to place the hope of redemption in God alone, that they may fix their minds solely on his promises. By the name Zion he denotes here, as in other passages, captives and exiles; for however far they had been banished from their country, still they must have carried the temple in their hearts.

And to them who have turned away from iniquity. That the bastard children of Abraham may not apply indiscriminately to themselves what he has just now said, he proceeds to show to whom the redemption shall come, namely, to those only who have been truly consecrated to the Lord. It is certain that many returned from Babylon, who were not moved by any feeling of repentance, and yet who became partakers of the same blessing. But the Prophet speaks of the complete redemption which the elect alone enjoy; for, although the fruit of external redemption extends also to hypocrites, yet they have not embraced the blessing of God for salvation. The design of the Prophet is, to show that the punishment; of banishment will be advantageous, that God may gather his Church, after having purified it from filth and pollution; for we must always bear in remembrance what we saw elsewhere as to the diminution of the people.

In this way the Prophet exhorts the elect to the fear of God, that they may profit by his chastisements. Hence infer, that we cannot be reconciled to God through the blood of Christ, unless we first repent of our sins; not that salvation, which is founded on the pardon of sins, depends on our repentance; but repentance is joined to it in such a manner that it cannot be separated. They whom the Lord receives into favor are renewed by his Spirit in such a manner as to abhor their vices and change their manner of life.

Papists overturn the whole doctrine of salvation, by mingling and confounding pardon of sin with repentance; and not only they, but others also who wish to be thought more acute. 149149     “Et ce ne sont pas les ignorans seulement qui font cela, ains ceux qui veulent estre estimez les plus subtils entre eux.” “And it is not ignorant persons only who do this, but those who wish to be reckoned the most ingenious among them.” They acknowledge that a man is justified by free grace through Christ, but add, that it is because we are renewed by him. Thus they make our justification to depend partly on the pardon of sins and partly on repentance. But in this way our consciences will never be pacified; for we are very far from being perfectly renewed. These things must, therefore, be distinguished, so as to be neither separated nor confounded; and thus our salvation will rest; on a solid foundation.

Paul quotes this passage, (Romans 11:26) in order to show that there is still some remaining hope among the Jews; although from their unconquerable obstinacy it might be inferred that they were altogether cast off and doomed to eternal death. But because God is continually mindful of his covenant, and “his gifts and calling are without repentance,” (Romans 11:29) Paul justly concludes that it is impossible that there shall not at length be some remnant that come to Christ, and obtain that salvation which he has procured. Thus the Jews must at length be collected along with the Gentiles, that out of both “there may be one fold” under Christ. (John 10:16) It is of the deliverance from Babylon, however, that the Prophet treats. This is undoubtedly true; but we have said that he likewise includes the kingdom of Christ, and spiritual redemption, to which this prediction relates. Hence we have said that Paul infers that he could not be the redeemer of the world, without belonging to some Jews, whose fathers he had chosen, and to whom this promise was directly addressed.

Saith Jehovah. By these words, in the conclusion of the verse, he sets a seal to the excellent sentiment which he has expressed.

21. And I make this my covenant with them. Because it was difficult to believe what the Prophet has hitherto declared, therefore he endeavors, in various ways, to confirm the Jews, that they may rely with unshaken confidence on this promise of salvation, and may ascribe to God so much honor as to trust in his word. And we ought carefully to observe the word covenant, by which the Prophet points out the greatness and excellence of this promise; for the promises are more extensive, and may be regarded as the stones of the building, while the foundation of it is the covenant, which upholds the whole mass. He makes use of this word, therefore, that they might not think that it contained some matter of ordinary occurrence, and adds these confirmations, that, although the Lord did not immediately perform this, they might nevertheless expect it with firm and unshaken hope; and there appears to be an implied contrast, that believers may cheerfully look forward to the new covenant, which was to be established in the hand of Christ.

My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words. What is now added may be thought to be feeble and trivial, when he enjoins the Church to be satisfied with the “word” and “Spirit;“ as if this were a great happiness, to hang in suspense on nothing but God’s promises. Yet although the Prophet commends the value and excellence of doctrine, I have no doubt that still it is not separated from its effect. But because God regulates and dispenses his grace in such a manner, that, as long as believers remain in this world, he always trains them to patience, and does not in every instance answer their prayers, therefore he brings them back to doctrine; as if he had said, “Thou wilt indeed find that I am kind to thee in various ways; but. there is no happiness which will be of greater importance to thee, or which thou oughtest to desire more earnestly, than to feel that I am present by ‘the word’ and ‘the Spirit.’” Hence we infer that this is a most valuable treasure of the Church, that he has chosen for himself a habitation in it, to dwell in the hearts of believers by his Spirit, and next to preserve among them the doctrine of his gospel.

Shall not depart out of thy mouth. Finally, he foretells that the Lord will never forsake his people, but will always be present with them by “his Spirit” and by “the word.” The “Spirit” is joined with the word, because, without the efficacy of the Spirit, the preaching of the gospel would avail nothing, but would remain unfruitful. In like manner, “the word” must not be separated from “the Spirit,” as fanatics imagine, who, despising the word, glory in the name of the Spirit, and swell with vain confidence in their own imaginations. It is the spirit of Satan that is separated from the word, to which the Spirit of God is continually joined. Now, when he quickens outward doctrine, so that it strikes root in our hearts, our condition is happy even amidst many afflictions; and I have no doubt that the Prophet expressly declares that, although God deals kindly with his Church, still its life and salvation shall be laid up in faith. Thus the new people is distinguished from the ancient people; for, as the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, so, since he has risen from the dead, believing souls must be raised up along with him. But now he promises that the Church will never be deprived of this invaluable blessing, but will be guided by the Holy Spirit and sustained by heavenly doctrine; for it would be of little avail that the gospel should once be offered to us, and that the Spirit should be given to us, if he did not dwell with us.

Which I have put in thy mouth. The Prophet shows that God addresses us in such a manner that he chooses to employ the ministry and agency of men. He might indeed speak from heaven or send angels; but he has consulted our advantage the more by addressing and exhorting us through men like ourselves, that, by their voice and word, he may more gently draw us to himself. This order has therefore been established by him in the Church, that it is vain for those who reject his ministers to boast that they are willing to obey God; and therefore he commands us to seek the word and doctrine from the mouth of prophets and teachers, who teach in his name and by his authority, that we may not foolishly hunt after new revelations.

My words shall not depart. The phrase, “shall not depart,” is rendered by some in the imperative mood, for which it is well known that the future tense is sometimes used. But here a command or exhortation is not appropriate; for the Prophet promises that which God intends to fulfill. An exhortation may indeed be drawn from it, but the priority is due to the promise, which is to this effect, that the Lord will assist his Church, and will take care of it, so as never to allow it to be deprived of doctrine. To this, therefore, we ought always to look, when we are tempted by adversity, and when everything does not succeed according to our wish; for we must be supported and upheld by the word and the Spirit, of which the Lord declares that we shall never be left destitute.

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