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1. A Rebellious Nation

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 3The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. 4Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

5Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. 7Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. 9Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.

10Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 11To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

16Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

21How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. 22Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: 23Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. 24Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:

25And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: 26And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. 27Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.

28And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed. 29For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. 30For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. 31And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.

15. When ye spread forth your hands The ancient custom of spreading forth the hands in prayer did not arise from superstition; nor did that practice, like many others, obtain currency through foolish and idle ambition; but because nature herself prompts men to declare, even by outward signs, that they betake themselves to God. Accordingly, since they cannot fly to him, they raise themselves by this sign. No injunction, certainly, respecting this sign, was given to the fathers; but they used it as men divinely inspired; and by this very sign all idolaters are convicted of gross blindness; for, while they declare by an outward attitude that they betake themselves to God, in reality they betake themselves to idols. In order to convict them more strongly, the Lord permitted the uninterrupted use of this custom to continue among them. The Prophet, therefore, does not condemn the spreading forth of the hands, but their hypocrisy; because they assumed the appearance of men who called on God, while in their heart they were wholly averse to him, as he elsewhere declares more fully that

“this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honors me, but have removed their heart far from me”
(Isaiah 29:13.)

The Lord saith that he is nigh, but it is
to those who call upon him in truth. (Psalm 145:18.)

Where hypocrisy is, there can be no true calling on God. And yet this passage does not contradict what is said elsewhere, “When they shall spread forth their hands, I will hear.” 2323     Our Author seems to allude to Isaiah 65:24, It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. This conjecture is confirmed by the remarks which immediately follow on the word call, as the leading word in the passage. It appears to have escaped his recollection, that in this instance the spreading forth of the hands is not mentioned, though it occurs in an analogous passage of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple — What prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, when he shall spread forth his hands in this house; then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling-place. 2 Chronicles 6:29, 30. — Ed. For in that passage the Lord speaks of that calling which proceeds from confidence in him. Faith is the mother of calling on God; and if that be absent, nothing is left but empty mockery.

Yea, when ye make many prayers He amplifies the former statement by threatening that he will be deaf to their cries, to whatever extent they may multiply prayers; as if he had said, “Though you be constant in prayer, that diligence will be of no avail to you.” For this also is a fault which belongs to hypocrites, that the more their prayers abound in words, they think that they are more holy, and will more easily obtain what they wish. Thus their idle talkativeness is indirectly rebuked.

Your hands are full of blood Here he begins to explain more fully the reason why he disapproves, and even disdainfully rejects, both their prayers and their sacrifices. It is because they are cruel and bloody, and stained with crimes of every sort, though they come into his presence with hypocritical display. Though he will afterwards add other kinds of crime, yet as he had mentioned the spreading forth of the hands, so he speaks of the hands, and says that in them they carry and hold out a testimony of their crimes, so that they need not wonder that he thrusts them back so harshly. For, on the other hand, the phrase, to lift up clean hands, was employed not only by prophets and apostles, (1 Timothy 2:8,) but even by profane authors, who were driven by mere instinct to reprove the stupidity of men; if it were not that God perhaps forced them to make this confession, in order that true religion might never be without some kind of attestation.

And yet the Prophet does not mean that they were robbers or murderers, but reproves the tricks and deceit by which they obtained possession of the property of others. God judges in a different manner from men; for the hidden tricks and wicked arts, by which wicked men are accustomed to deceive and take advantage of the more simple, are not taken into account by men; or if they are taken into account, they are at least extenuated, and are not estimated according to their just weight. But God, dragging forth to light those very men of dazzling reputation, who under specious pretenses had been in the habit of concealing their unjust practices, plainly declares that they are murderers. For in whatever way you kill a man, whether you cut his throat or take away his food and the necessaries of life, you are a murderer. Consequently, God does not speak of men who are openly wicked, or whose crimes have made them openly infamous, but of those who wished to be thought good men, and who kept up some kind of reputation.

This circumstance ought to be carefully observed; for on the same grounds must we now deal with wicked men, who oppress the poor and feeble by fraud and violence, or some kind of injustice, and yet cloak their wickedness by plausible disguise. But with whatever impudence they may exclaim that they do not resemble thieves or assassins we must reprove them with the same severity which the Prophet employed towards persons of the same stamp; for when we speak in the name of God, we must not judge according to the views and opinions of men, but must boldly declare the judgment which the Lord hath pronounced.


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