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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Isaiah Chapter 56

Isaiah 56:1

isa 56:1

The note of admonition struck in the foregoing prophecy is continued here, the sabbatical duties being enforced with especial emphasis as part of the general righteousness of life. "Thus saith Jehovah, Keep ye right, and do righteousness: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to reveal itself. Blessed is the mortal that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth fast hold thereon; who keepeth the Sabbath, that he doth not desecrate it, and keepeth his hand from doing any kind of evil." Jehovah and Israel have both an objective standard in the covenant relation into which they have entered: משׁפּט (right) is practice answering to this; ישׁוּעה (salvation) the performance promised by God; צדקה (righteousness) on both sides such personal activity as is in accordance with the covenant relation, or what is the same thing, with the purpose and plan of salvation. The nearer the full realization on the part of Jehovah of what He has promised, the more faithful ought Israel to be in everything to which it is bound by its relation to Jehovah. זאת (this) points, as in Psa 7:4, to what follows; and so also does בּהּ, which points back to זאת. Instead of שׁמור or לשׁמר we have here שׁמר, the זאת being described personally instead of objectively. שּׁבּת is used as a masculine in Isa 56:2, Isa 56:6 (cf., Isa 58:13), although the word is not formed after the same manner as קטּל, but is rather contracted from שׁבּתת (a festive time, possibly with עת = עדת understood), and therefore was originally a feminine; and it is so personified in the language employed in the worship of the synagogue.

(Note: According to b. Sabbath 119a, R. Chanina dressed himself on Friday evening in his sabbath-clothes, and said, "Come, and let us go to meet Queen Sabbath." And so did also Jannai, saying, "Come, O bride; come, O bride." Hence the customary song with which the Sabbath was greeted had נקבּלה שׁבּת פּני כּלּה לקראת דודי לכה as it commencement and refrain.)

Isaiah 56:3

isa 56:3

The אשרי (blessed) of Isa 56:2 is now extended to those who might imagine that they had no right to console themselves with the promises which it contained. "And let not the foreigner, who hath not joined himself to Jehovah, speak thus: Assuredly Jehovah will cut me off from His people; and let not the eunuch say, I am only a dry tree." As נלוה is not pointed as a participle (נלוה), but as a 3rd pers. pres., the ה of הנּלוה is equivalent to אשׁר, as in Jos 10:24; Gen 18:21; Gen 21:3; Gen 46:27; Kg1 11:9 (Ges. 109). By the eunuchs we are to understand those of Israelitish descent, as the attributive clause is not repeated in their case. Heathen, who professed the religion of Jehovah, and had attached themselves to Israel, might be afraid lest, when Israel should be restored to its native land, according to the promise, as a holy and glorious community with a thoroughly priestly character, Jehovah would no longer tolerate them, i.e., would forbid their receiving full citizenship. יבדּילני has the connecting vowel , as in Gen 19:19; Gen 29:32, instead of the usual ē. And the Israelitish eunuchs, who had been mutilated against their will, that they might serve at heathen courts or in the houses of foreign lords, and therefore had not been unfaithful to Jehovah, might be afraid lest, as unfruitful trees, they should be pronounced unworthy of standing in the congregation of Jehovah. There was more ground for the anxiety of the latter than for that of the former. For the law in Deu 23:4-7 merely prohibits Ammonites and Moabites for all time to come from reception into the congregation, on account of their unbrotherly conduct towards the Israelites as they came out of Egypt, whilst that in Deu 23:8-9 prohibits the reception of Edomites and Egyptians to the third generation; so that there was no prohibition as to other allies - such, for example, as the Babylonians. On the other hand, the law in Deu 23:2 expressly declares, as an expression of the horror of God at any such mutilation of nature, and for the purpose of precluding it, that no kind of emasculated person is to enter the congregation of Jehovah. But prophecy breaks through these limits of the law.

Isaiah 56:4

isa 56:4

"For thus saith Jehovah to the circumcised, Those who keep my Sabbaths, and decide for that in which I take pleasure, and take fast hold of my covenant; I give to them in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters: I give such a man an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." The second condition after the sanctification of the Sabbath has reference to the regulation of life according to the revealed will of God; the third to fidelity with regard to the covenant of circumcision. יד also means a side, and hence a place (Deu 23:13); but in the passage before us, where ושׁם יד form a closely connected pair of words, to which וּמבּנות מבּנים is appended, it signifies the memorial, equivalent to מצּבת (2 Sam 18; 1:1-24:25; Sa1 15:12), as an index lifted up on high (Eze 21:24), which strikes the eye and arrests attention, pointing like a signpost to the person upon whom it is placed, like monumentum a monendo. They are assured that they will not be excluded from close fellowship with the church ("in my house and within my walls"), and also promised, as a superabundant compensation for the want of posterity, long life in the memory of future ages, by whom their long tried attachment to Jehovah and His people in circumstances of great temptation will not be forgotten.

Isaiah 56:6

isa 56:6

The fears of proselytes from among the heathen are also removed. "And the foreigners, who have joined themselves to Jehovah, to serve Him, and to love the name of Jehovah, to be His servants, whoever keepeth the Sabbath from desecrating it, and those who hold fast to my covenant, I bring them to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their whole-offerings and their slain-offerings are well-pleasing upon mine altar: for my house, a house of prayer shall it be called for all nations." The proselytes, who have attached themselves to Jehovah (על־הא),

(Note: The oriental reading, not in Isa 56:3, but here in Isa 56:6, is על־ה; the western, אל־ה. The Masora follows the western (מערבאי( nre), i.e., the Palestinian, and reckons this passage as one of the 31 על־ה in the Old Testament Scriptures.)

the God of Israel, with the pure intention of serving Him with love, are not to be left behind in the strange land. Jehovah will bring them along with His people to the holy mountain, upon which His temple rises once more; there will He cause them to rejoice, and all that they place upon His altar will find a most gracious acceptance. It is impossible that the prophet should be thinking here of the worship of the future without sacrifice, although in Isa 53:1-12 he predicts the self-sacrifice of the "Servant of Jehovah," which puts an end to all animals sacrifices. But here the temple is called "the house of prayer," from the prayer which is the soul of all worship. It will be called a house of prayer for all nations; and therefore its nature will correspond to its name. This ultimate intention is already indicated in Solomon's dedicatory prayer (Kg1 8:41-43); but our prophet was the first to give it this definite universal expression. Throughout this passage the spirit of the law is striving to liberate itself from its bondage. Nor is there anything to surprise us in the breaking down of the party wall, built up so absolutely between the eunuchs on the one hand and the congregation on the other, or the one partially erected between the heathen and the congregation of Israel; as we may see from Isa 66:21, where it is affirmed that Jehovah will even take priests and Levites out of the midst of the heathen whom Israel will bring back with it into its own land.

Isaiah 56:8

isa 56:8

The expression "saying of the Lord" (Ne'um Jehovah), which is so solemn an expression in itself, and which stands here at the head of the following declaration, is a proof that it contains not only something great, but something which needs a solemn confirmation because of its strangeness. Not only is there no ground for supposing that Gentiles who love Jehovah will be excluded from the congregation; but it is really Jehovah's intention to gather some out of the heathen, and add them to the assembled diaspora of Israel. "Word of the Lord, Jehovah: gathering the outcasts of Israel, I will also gather beyond itself to its gathered ones." We only find ה נאם at the commencement of the sentence, in this passage and Zac 12:1. The double name of God, Adonai Jehovah, also indicates something great. עליו (to it) refers to Israel, and לנקבּציו is an explanatory permutative, equivalent to על־נקבציו; or else על denotes the fact that the gathering will exceed the limits of Israel (cf., Gen 48:22), and ל the addition that will be made to the gathered ones of Israel. The meaning in either case remains the same. Jehovah here declares what Jesus says in Joh 10:16 : "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd:" "Jehovah one, and His name one," as it is expressed in Zac 14:9. Such as the views and hopes that have grown up out of the chastisement inflicted by their captivity. God has made it a preparatory school for New Testament times. It has been made subservient to the bursting of the fetters of the law, the liberation of the spirit of the law, and the establishment of friendship between Israel and the Gentile world as called to one common salvation.

Isaiah 56:9

isa 56:9

It is a question whether Isa 56:9 forms the commencement of a fresh prophecy, or merely the second half of the prophecy contained in Isa 56:1-8. We decide, for our part, in favour of the former. If Isa 56:9. formed an antithetical second half to the promising first half in Isa 56:1-8, we should expect to find the prophets and leaders of Israel, whose licentiousness and want of principle are here so severely condemned, threatened with destruction in the heathen land, whilst true proselytes and even eunuchs were brought to the holy mountain. But we meet with this antithesis for the first time in Isa 57:13, where we evidently find ourselves in the midst of another prophetic address. And where can that address commence, if not at Isa 56:9, from which point onwards we have that hard, dull, sharp, and concise language of strong indignation, which recals to mind psalms written "in a thundering style" (Psalter, i. 80) and the reproachful addresses of Jeremiah, and which passes again in Isa 57:11. into the lofty crystalline language peculiar to our prophet's "book of consolation?" The new prophetic address commences, like Isa 55:1, with a summons. "All ye beasts of the field, come near! To devour, all ye beasts in the forest!" According to the accentuation before us (לכל mercha, כלח־יתו tiphchah), the beasts of the field are summoned to devour the beasts in the forest. This accentuation, however, is false, and must be exchanged for another which is supported by some MSS, viz., לכל tiphchah, כלח־יתו mercha, and ביער Beth raphatum. It is true that even with these accents we might still adhere to the view favoured by Jewish commentators, viz., that the beasts of the field are to be devoured by the beasts of the forest, if this view yielded any admissible sense (compare, for example, that supported by Meyer, "Ye enemies, devour the scattered ones of my congregation"), and had not against it the synonymous parallelism of שדי חיתו and ביער חיתו (Isa 43:20; Psa 104:11, Psa 104:20; cf., Gen 3:14). But there remains another view, according to which ביער כל־חיתו is a second vocative answering to שׂדי כל־חיתו. According to the Targum, what is to be devoured is the great body of heathen kings attacking Jerusalem; according to Jerome, Cyril, Stier, etc., the pasture and food provided by the grace of God. But what follows teaches us something different from this. Israel has prophets and shepherds, who are blind to every coming danger, and therefore fail to give warning of its approach, because they are sunken in selfishness and debauchery. It resembles a flock with a keeper, and therefore an easy prey (Eze 34:5); and the meaning of the appeal, which is certainly addressed to the nations of the world, the enemies of the people of God, is this: "Ye have only to draw near; ye can feed undisturbed, and devour as much as ye please." This is the explanation adopted by most of the more modern commentators. In Jer 12:9, which is founded upon this ("Assemble all ye beasts of the field, bring them hither to devour"), it is also Jerusalem which is assigned as food to the heathen. The parallel in Isa 56:9 is both synonymous and progressive. The writer seeks for rare forms, because he is about to depict a rare inversion of the proper state of things. חיתו (with the first syllable loosely closed) is the antiquated form of connection, which was admissible even with ביּער following (cf., Isa 5:11; Isa 9:1-2; Sa2 1:21). On אתיוּ (= אתוּ), see at Isa 21:12 (cf., Isa 21:14).

Isaiah 56:10

isa 56:10

The prophet now proceeds with צפו (צפיו): the suffix refers to Israel, which was also the object to לאכל. "His watchmen are blind: they (are) all ignorant, they (are) all dumb dogs that cannot bark; raving, lying down, loving to slumber. And the dogs are mightily greedy, they know no satiety; and such are shepherds! They know no understanding; they have all turned to their own ways, every one for his own gain throughout his border." The "watchmen" are the prophets here, as everywhere else (Isa 52:8, cf., Isa 21:6, Hab 2:1; Jer 6:17; Eze 3:17). The prophet is like a watchman (tsōpheh) stationed upon his watch-tower (specula), whose duty it is, when he sees the sword come upon the land, to blow the shōphâr, and warn the people (Eze 33:1-9). But just as Jeremiah speaks of bad prophets among the captives (Jer 29), and the book of Ezekiel is full of reproaches at the existing neglect of the office of watchman and shepherd; so does the prophet here complain that the watchmen of the nation are blind, in direct opposition to both their title and their calling; they are all without either knowledge or the capacity for knowledge (vid., Isa 44:9; Isa 45:20). They ought to resemble watchful sheep-dogs (Job 30:1), which bark when the flock is threatened; but they are dumb, and cannot bark (nâbhach, root nab), and leave the flock to all its danger. Instead of being "seers" (chōzı̄m), they are ravers (hōzı̄m; cf., Isa 19:18, where we have a play upon החרס in ההרס). הזים, from הזה, to rave in sickness, n. act. hadhajan (which Kimchi compares to parlare in snno); hence the Targum נימים, lxx ἐνυπνιαζόμενοι A φανταζόμενοι, S ὁραματισταί, Jer. videntes vana. The predicates which follow are attached to the leading word hōzı̄m (raving), if not precisely as adjectives, yet as more minutely descriptive. Instead of watching, praying, wrestling, to render themselves susceptible of visions of divine revelations for the good of their people, and to keep themselves in readiness to receive them, they are idle, loving comfortable ease, talkers in their sleep. And the dogs, viz., those prophets who resemble the worst of them (see at Isa 40:8), are נפשׁ עזּי, of violent, unrestrained soul, insatiable. Their soul lives and moves in the lowest parts of their nature; it is nothing but selfish avarice, self-indulgent greediness, violent restlessness of passion, that revolves perpetually around itself. With the words "and these are shepherds," the range of the prophet's vision is extended to the leaders of the nation generally; for when the prophet adds as an exclamation, "And such (hi = tales) are shepherds!" he applies the glaring contrast between calling and conduct to the holders of both offices, that of teacher and that of ruler alike. For, apart from the accents, it would be quite at variance with the general use of the personal pronoun המה, to apply it to any other persons than those just described (viz., in any such sense as this: "And those, who ought to be shepherds, do not know"). Nor is it admissible to commence an adversative minor clause with והמה, as Knobel does, "whereas they are shepherds;" for, since the principal clause has הכלבים (dogs) as the subject, this would introduce a heterogeneous mixture of the two figures, shepherds' dogs and shepherds. We therefore take רעים והמה as an independent clause: "And it is upon men of such a kind, that the duty of watching and tending the nation devolves!" These רעים (for which the Targum reads רעים) are then still further described: they know not to understand, i.e., they are without spiritual capacity to pass an intelligible judgment (compare the opposite combination of the two verbs in Isa 32:4); instead of caring for the general good, they have all turned to their own way (ledarkâm), i.e., to their own selfish interests, every one bent upon his own advantage (בּצע from בּצע, abscindere, as we say, seinen Schnitt zu machen, to reap an advantage, lit., to make an incision). מקּצהוּ, from his utmost extremity (i.e., from that of his own station, including all its members), in other words, "throughout the length and breadth of his own circle;" qâtseh, the end, being regarded not as the terminal point, but as the circumference (as in Gen 19:4; Gen 47:21, and Jer 51:31).

Isaiah 56:12

isa 56:12

An office-bearer of the kind described is now introduced per mimesin as speaking. "Come here, I will fetch wine, and let us drink meth; and tomorrow shall be like today, great, excessively abundant." He gives a banquet, and promises the guests that the revelry shall be as great tomorrow as today, or rather much more glorious. מחר יום is the day of tomorrow, τὸ ἐπαύριον, for mâchâr is always without an article; hence et fiet uti hic (dies) dies crastinus, viz., magnus supra modum valde. יתר, or יתר (as it is to be pointed here according to Kimchi, Michlol 167b, and Wrterbuch), signifies superabundance; it is used here adverbially in the sense of extra-ordinarily, beyond all bounds (differing therefore from יותר, "more," or "singularly," in the book of Ecclesiastes).

Next: Isaiah Chapter 57