Bible Commentary

Isaiah 59

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Isaiah 59)

Verse 3

[3] For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

Perverseness — Perverse words are such as are contrary to God's word. Words every way contrary to God's will.

Verse 4

[4] None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.

None — None seek to redress these wrongs, and violences; they commit all rapines, and frauds with impunity.

Bring forth — These two words of conceiving, and bringing forth, denote their whole contrivance, and perfecting their wickedness.

Verse 5

[5] They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.

Cockatrice eggs — One kind put for any venomous creature, a proverbial speech signifying by these eggs mischievous designs, and by hatching them, their putting them in practice.

Web — Another proverbial speech whereby is taught, both how by their plots they weave nets, lay snares industriously with great pains and artifice. And also how their designs will come to nothing, as the spider's web is soon swept away.

Verse 6

[6] Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.

Webs — Their contrivances shall not be able to cover or defend them.

Verse 7

[7] Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.

Wasting — They meditate on little or nothing else.

Paths — In what way or work soever they are engaged, it all tends to ruin and destruction.

Verse 8

[8] The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.

The way of peace — They live in continual contentions, and discords.

Judgment — No justice, equity, faith, or integrity.

Verse 9

[9] Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.

Justice — Judgment, and so justice is here taken for deliverance. God doth not defend our right, nor revenge our wrong, because of these outrages, and acts of violence, injustice, and oppression.

Verse 10

[10] We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.

As dead men — He compares their captivity to men dead without hope of recovery.

Verse 11

[11] We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.

Mourn — Their oppressing governors made the wicked roar like bears, and the good mourn like doves.

Verse 12

[12] For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;

Transgressions — The word here signifies sins of an high nature, such as wherein there is much of man's will against light: rebellious sins.

Multiplied — They admit of no excuse; for they are acted before thee, and multiplied against thee, whereby thou art justly provoked to deny us all help.

Testify — As so many witnesses produced proves our guilt.

Are with us — Are still unforgiven.

We know — We are convinced of them.

Verse 13

[13] In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.

Lying — Transgressing here, and lying, seem to be one and the same thing, inasmuch as in their transgressing the law of God, they broke their solemn engagement to God upon mount Sinai.

Departing — Turning from God to idols.

Speaking — As it were, talking of little else one among another, but how to oppress their neighbours, and apostatize from God.

Uttering — That is, first contriving in their heart false accusations, false worship to the dishonour of God; laying the contrivances and uttering them.

From the heart — And when they dealt with men in ways of fraud, it was from the heart, but when they spake with God it was but from the lip.

Verse 14

[14] And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

Judgment — He speaks here of the sentences in courts of judicature.

Truth — Truth is cast to the ground, and justice trampled under foot, even in publick.

Equity — No such thing will be admitted in their courts.

Verse 15

[15] Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.

Faileth — All things are amiss, neither judgment or justice, or truth, is to be found among us.

A prey — Or, as some render it, is accounted mad, is laughed at. Josephus tells us, that immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem, it was matter of scorn to be religions. The translators reach the meaning of the word by prey: the wicked, like wild beasts, endeavouring to devour such as are not as bad as themselves: where wickedness rules, innocency is oppressed.

Verse 16

[16] And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.

No man — To appear in the behalf of equity.

His arm — He would do his work without help from any other.

Righteousness — His justice; seeing there could be no justice found among them, he would avenge the innocent himself.

Verse 17

[17] For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.

For — God, resolving to appear as a man of war, puts on his arms; he calls righteousness his breast-plate, to shew the justness of his cause, as also his faithfulness in making good his promises.

Vengeance — Or garments made of vengeance: as God is said to put on the former for their sakes, whom he would preserve, so he puts on these for their sakes, whom he will destroy, namely, his peoples enemies.

Zeal — For his own honour, and for his own people. The sum of all these expressions is, to describe both the cause and effect together; the cause was righteousness and zeal in God, the effect, salvation to his people, and vengeance on his enemies.

Verse 18

[18] According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries, recompence to his enemies; to the islands he will repay recompence.

Deeds — Heb. recompences or deserts. That is, he will recompence his adversaries with those effects of his fury that they have deserved.

Islands — To those remoter nations under the king of Babylon, that thought themselves secure.

Verse 19

[19] So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

Fear — Worship the Lord.

The west — The western part of the world.

His glory — The glorious God.

The rising of the sun — The eastern parts.

When — At what time soever the devil, or his instruments shall make violent irruptions upon the church.

A standard — God shall make known himself to take their part and defend them, by his spirit alone.

Verse 20

[20] And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.

The Redeemer — Christ, of whom the apostle expounds it, Romans 11:26, the prophets usually concluding their promises of temporal deliverances with the promises of spiritual, especially such, of which the temporal were evident types.

Verse 21

[21] As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.

My covenant — What I have promised, to them that turn from their iniquity.

My words — Which thou hast uttered by virtue of my spirit.

Of thy seed — A promise of the perpetual presence of his word and spirit with the prophets, apostles, and teachers of the church to all ages.

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