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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.

29. For (or, that is) they shall be ashamed In the Hebrew the particle כי(ki) is employed, which properly denotes a cause, but frequently also denotes exposition. Now, since the Prophet does not here state anything new, but only explains the cause of the destruction which awaited the ungodly, to render כי (ki) by that is, appears to connect it better with the preceding word, כלה, (kalah,) consumed, They shall be consumed, that is, they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired; as if the Prophet had said that no evil will be more destructive to them than their own superstition. The idols, says he, which you call upon for your protection and safety will rather bring destruction upon you.

The word אלים, (elim,) oaks, 3131     “The word אילים (elim) has, in the singular number, אלה, (elah,) a kind of tree, called, in the German language, ulme.” — Jarchi. For the purpose of proving that by אולמא, Jarchi means the elm, his annotator, Breithaupt, adduces not only the German ulme, but the Italian olmo, the French orme, and the Latin ulmus. — Ed has been sometimes rendered Gods; 3232     Evidently supposing that it is the plural of אל, (el,) God, and overlooking the medial radical Yod, which is sometimes expressed, but oftener left out, in this word. — Ed but this meaning is set aside by the context; for immediately afterwards he adds the word groves: Ye shall be ashamed of the groves which you have chosen. Now, under the image both of trees and of groves, the Prophet, by a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, reproves every kind of false worship; for although among the Jews there were many forms of idolatry, the custom here mentioned, of choosing groves and forests for offering sacrifices, was the most common of all. Whether the word גנות (gannoth) in the second clause be translated groves or gardens, there can be no doubt that it means the altars and sacred buildings in which they performed their idolatrous worship. Although they did not intend openly to revolt from God, they invented new kinds of worship; and, as if one place had been more acceptable to God than another, they devoted it to his service, as we see done by the papists. Next follows a change of the person; for, in order to make the reproof more severe, those wicked men of whom he spoke in the third person are now directly addressed, Ye shall be ashamed

Which you have desired By the word desired he reproves the mad and burning eagerness with which wicked men follow their superstitions. They ought to have been earnestly devoted with their whole heart to the service of one Gods but they rush with blind violence to false worship, as if they were driven by brutish lust. In almost every human mind there naturally exists this disease, that they have forsaken the true God, and run mad in following idols; and hence Scripture frequently compares this madness to the loves of harlots, who shake off shame, as well as reason.

For the gardens that ye have chosen That the Prophet describes not only their excessive zeal, but their presumption, in corrupting the worship of God, is evident from this second clause, in which he says that they chose gardens, for this term is contrasted with the injunction of the law. Whatever may be the plausible appearances under which unbelievers endeavor to cloak their superstitions, still this saying remains true, that obedience is better than all sacrifices. (1 Samuel 15:22.) Accordingly, under the term willworship (ἐθελοθρησκεία) Paul includes (Colossians 2:23) all kinds of false worship which men contrive for themselves without the command of God. On this account God complains that the Jews have despised his word, and have delighted themselves with their own inventions; as if he had said, “It was your duty to obey, but you wished to have an unfettered choice, or rather an unbounded liberty.”

This single consideration is sufficient to condemn the inventions of men, that they have it not in their power to choose the manner of worshipping God, because to him alone belongs the right to command. God had at that time enjoined that sacrifices should not be offered to him anywhere else than at Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 12:13); the Jews thought that they pleased him in other places, and that false imagination deceived also the heathen nations. Would that it had gone no farther! But we see how the papists are involved in the same error, and, in short, experience shows that the disease has prevailed extensively in every age.

If it be objected that there was not so much importance in the place, that God ought to have regarded with such strong abhorrence the worship which was everywhere offered to him, — first, we ought to consider the reason why God chose that at that time there should be only one altar, which was, that it might be a bond of holy unity to an uncivilized nation, and that by means of it their religion might continue unchanged. Besides, granting that this spiritual reason were but of temporary force, we must hold by the principle that commandments were given in the smallest matters, that the Jews might be better trained to obedience; for since superstition conceals itself under the pretense of devotion, it is hardly possible but that men will flatter themselves with their own inventions. But since obedience is the mother of true religion, it follows that when men exercise their own fancy, it becomes the source of all superstitions.

It must also be added, that as Isaiah formerly complained of those crimes which were contrary to brotherly love and to the second table of the law, so he now complains of their having transgressed the first table. For since the whole perfection of righteousness consists in keeping the law, when the Prophets wish to reprove men for their sins, they speak sometimes of the first, and sometimes of the second, table of the law. But we ought always to observe the figurative mode of expression, when under one class they include the whole.

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