Bible Commentary

Isaiah 29

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Isaiah 29)

Verse 1

[1] Woe to Ariel, to Ariel, the city where David dwelt! add ye year to year; let them kill sacrifices.

The city — The royal city, and seat of David and his posterity.

Set them — Go on in killing sacrifices from time to time, one year after another, whereby you think to appease me, but all shall be in vain.

Verse 4

[4] And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.

And thou — Thou who now speakest so loftily, shall be humbled, and with a low voice, beg the favour of thine enemies.

As one — Who, that they might possess the people with a kind of reverence and horror, used to deliver their answers with a low voice, from some cave under the ground.

Verse 5

[5] Moreover the multitude of thy strangers shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the terrible ones shall be as chaff that passeth away: yea, it shall be at an instant suddenly.

Strangers — Whom thou hast hired to assist thee, as indeed they did, when the Chaldeans came against them.

Terrible ones — Thy great commanders, and stout soldiers.

It — This destruction of thy strangers, and terrible ones shall come to pass.

Verse 6

[6] Thou shalt be visited of the LORD of hosts with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.

Thou — Thou, O Jerusalem.

Fire — With dreadful judgments, which are frequently expressed by these metaphors.

Verse 8

[8] It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul hath appetite: so shall the multitude of all the nations be, that fight against mount Zion.

His soul — His appetite or desire is unsatisfied.

So — No less unsatisfied and insatiable; they shall be always thirsting after more of your blood.

Verse 9

[9] Stay yourselves, and wonder; cry ye out, and cry: they are drunken, but not with wine; they stagger, but not with strong drink.

Wonder — At the stupidity of this people.

Cry — Cry out again and again through astonishment.

They stagger — With giddiness or stupidity, which makes them like drunken men, insensible of their danger.

Verse 10

[10] For the LORD hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.

Dead sleep — Hardness of heart, and insensibleness of your danger.

Seers — Your magistrates and ministers.

Covered — With the veil of ignorance and stupidity.

Verse 12

[12] And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.

Of all — Of all, your prophets.

As a book — In which no man can read, while it is sealed up, as books then sometimes were, being made in the form of rolls.

Delivered — Unsealed and opened.

Verse 13

[13] Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

Draw near — Namely, in acts of worship.

With lips — With outward devotions.

But — They do not pay me that love, and fear, and obedience, which I require.

And — They worship me not in such a manner, as I have prescribed, but according to mens inventions, preferring the devices and traditions of their false prophets, before my institutions.

Verse 14

[14] Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.

Hid — Shall disappear and vanish.

Verse 15

[15] Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the LORD, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?

Seek deep — A metaphor from men, who use to dig deep into the earth, that they may hide any thing there.

To hide — Vainly imagining, that they can deceive, not only men, but God, by their external professions.

Who — Neither God nor man can discover us.

Verse 16

[16] Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

Surely — All your subtle devices, by which you turn yourselves into all shapes.

As clay — It is no more to me, than the clay is to the potter, who can alter and dispose it as he sees fit.

Verse 17

[17] Is it not yet a very little while, and Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field shall be esteemed as a forest?

As a forest — The forest of Lebanon, which was a barren mountain, shall by God's providence, become a fruitful and populous place; and these places which are now fruitful and populous, shall then become as barren and desolate, as that forest. This is a prophecy of the rejection of the Jews, and of the calling of the Gentiles.

Verse 18

[18] And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness.

Shall see — Being, by God's grace, brought out of gross, ignorance and wickedness, unto a clear and saving knowledge of the truth.

Verse 19

[19] The meek also shall increase their joy in the LORD, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Meek — The humble and meek believers.

Poor — Mean and despicable people, such as the Gentiles were in the opinion of the Jews, and such as the greatest part of the first Christians were.

Verse 20

[20] For the terrible one is brought to nought, and the scorner is consumed, and all that watch for iniquity are cut off:

That watch — That early and diligently apply themselves to the practice of wickedness.

Verse 21

[21] That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.

That make a man — That condemn a man, as if he was a great criminal.

For him — For God's faithful prophets and ministers.

The gate — There the people used to assemble, both upon civil and sacred accounts, and there prophets used to deliver their prophecies.

Turn — From his right.

The just — The faithful ministers of God.

Nought — Not for any great advantage, but for a trifle.

Verse 22

[22] Therefore thus saith the LORD, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob, Jacob shall not now be ashamed, neither shall his face now wax pale.

Redeemed — From manifold dangers, and especially from idolatry.

Jacob — The Israelites or posterity of Jacob, who had great cause to be ashamed, for their continued infidelity, shall at last be brought back to the God of their fathers, and to their Messiah.

Pale — Through fear of their enemies.

Verse 23

[23] But when he seeth his children, the work of mine hands, in the midst of him, they shall sanctify my name, and sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and shall fear the God of Israel.

He seeth — When the believing seed of Jacob shall see those children, whom they have begotten to God, by the gospel, even the Gentiles.

The work — The children, not of the flesh, but of the promise, whom I, by my almighty grace, have regenerated.

In the midst — Incorporated with the Jews, into one and the same body.

Shall sanctify — They shall glorify God, with them and for them.

Verse 24

[24] They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine.

That erred — Those Gentiles who erred from God's truth.

Murmured — They that murmured at God's faithful teachers, shall now receive God's truth in the love of it.

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