I S A I A H.
In this chapter, I. Those to whom God sends are justly charged with bringing all the troubles they were in upon themselves, by their own wilfulness and obstinacy, it being made to appear that God was able and ready to help them if they had been fit for deliverance, ver. 1-3. II. He by whom God sends produces his commission (ver. 4), alleges his own readiness to submit to all the services and sufferings he was called to in the execution of it (ver. 5, 6), and assures himself that God, who sent him, would stand by him and bear him out against all opposition, ver. 7-9. III. The message that is sent is life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse, comfort to desponding saints and terror to presuming sinners, ver. 10, 11. Now all this seems to have a double reference, 1. To the unbelieving Jews in Babylon, who quarrelled with God for his dealings with them, and to the prophet Isaiah, who, though dead long before the captivity, yet, prophesying so plainly and fully of it, saw fit to produce his credentials, to justify what he had said. 2. To the unbelieving Jews in our Saviour’s time, whose own fault it was that they were rejected, Christ having preached much to them, and suffered much from them, and being herein borne up by a divine power. The “contents” of this chapter, in our Bibles, give this sense of it, very concisely, thus:–“Christ shows that the dereliction of the Jews is not to be imputed to him, by his ability to save, by his obedience in that work, and by his confidence in divine assistance.” The prophet concludes with an exhortation to trust in God and not in ourselves.
B. C. 706.
1 Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away. 2 Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. 3 I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.
Those who have professed to be the people of God, and yet seem to be dealt severely with, are apt to complain of God, and to lay the fault upon him, as if he had been hard with them. But, in answer to their murmurings, we have here,
I. A challenge given them to prove, or produce any evidence, that the quarrel began on God’s side, v. 1. They could not say that he had done them any wrong or had acted arbitrarily. 1. He had been a husband to them; and husbands were then allowed a power to put away their wives upon any little disgust: if their wives found not favour in their eyes, they made nothing of giving them a bill of divorce, Deut. 24:1; Matt. 19:7. But they could not say that God had dealt so with them. It is true they were now separated from him, and had abode many days without ephod, altar, or sacrifice; but whose fault was that? They could not say that God had given their mother a bill of divorce; let them produce it if they can, for a bill of divorce was given into the hand of her that was divorced.
2. He had been a father to them; and fathers had then a power to sell their children for slaves to their creditors, in satisfaction for the debts they were not otherwise able to pay. Now it is true the Jews were sold to the Babylonians then, and afterwards to the Romans; but did God sell them for payment of his debts? No, he was not indebted to any of those to whom they were sold, or, if he had sold them, he did not increase his wealth by their price, Ps. 44:12. When God chastens his children, it is neither for his pleasure (Heb. 12:10) nor for his profit. All that are saved are saved by a prerogative of grace, but those that perish are cut off by an act of divine holiness and justice, not of absolute sovereignty.
II. A charge exhibited against them, showing them that they were themselves the authors of their own ruin: “Behold, for your iniquities, for the pleasure of them and the gratification of your own base lusts, you have sold yourselves, for your iniquities you are sold; not as children are sold by their parents, to pay their debts, but as malefactors are sold by the judges, to punish them for their crimes. You sold yourselves to work wickedness, and therefore God justly sold you into the hands of your enemies, 2 Chron. 12:5, 8. It is for your transgressions that your mother is put away, for her whoredoms and adulteries,” which were always allowed to be a just cause of divorce. The Jews were sent into Babylon for their idolatry, a sin which broke the marriage covenant, and were at last rejected for crucifying the Lord of glory; these were the iniquities for which they were sold and put away.
III. The confirmation of this challenge and this charge.
1. It is plain that it was owing to themselves that they were cast off; for God came and offered them his favour, offered them his helping hand, either to prevent their trouble or to deliver them out of it, but they slighted him and all the tenders of his grace. “Do you lay it upon me?” (says God); “tell me, then, wherefore, when I came, was there no man to meet me, when I called, was there none to answer me?” v. 2. God came to them by his servants the prophets, demanding the fruits of his vineyard (Matt. 21:34); he sent them his messengers, rising up betimes and sending them (Jer. 35:15); he called to them to leave their sins, and so prevent their own ruin: but was there no man, or next to none, that had any regard to the warnings which the prophets gave them, none that answered the calls of God, or complied with the messages he sent them; and this was it for which they were sold and put away. Because they mocked the messengers of the Lord, therefore, God brought upon them the king of the Chaldeans, 2 Chron. 36:16, 17. Last of all he sent unto them his Son. He came to his own, but his own received him not; he called them to himself, but there were none that answered; he would have gathered Jerusalem’s children together, but they would not; they knew not, because they would not know, the things that belonged to their peace, nor the day of their visitation, and for that transgression it was that they were put away and their house was left desolate, Matt. 21:41; Matt.23:37, 38; Luke 19:41, 42. When God calls men to happiness, and they will not answer, they are justly left to be miserable.
2. It is plain that it was not owing to a want of power in God, for he is almighty, and could have recovered them from so great a death; nor was it owing to a want of power in Christ, for he is able to save to the uttermost. The unbelieving Jews in Babylon thought they were not delivered because their God was not able to deliver them; and those in Christ’s time were ready to ask, in scorn, Can this man save us? For himself he cannot save. “But” (says God) “is my hand shortened at all, or is it weakened?” Can any limits be set to Omnipotence? Cannot he redeem who is the great Redeemer? Has he no power to deliver whose all power is? To put to silence, and for ever to put to shame, their doubts concerning his power, he here gives unquestionable proofs of it.
(1.) He can, when he pleases, dry up the seas, and make the rivers a wilderness. He did so for Israel when he redeemed them out of Egypt, and he can do so again for their redemption out of Babylon. It is done at his rebuke, as easily as with a word’s speaking. He can so dry up the rivers as to leave the fish to die for want of water, and to putrefy. When God turned the waters of Egypt into blood he slew the fish, Ps. 105:29. The expression our Saviour sometimes used concerning the power of faith, that it will remove mountains and plant sycamores in the sea, is not unlike this; if their faith could do that, no doubt their faith would save them, and therefore they were inexcusable if they perished in unbelief.
(2.) He can, when he pleases, eclipse the lights of heaven, clothe then with blackness, and make sackcloth their covering (v. 3) by thick and dark clouds interposing, which he balances, Job 36:32; Job 37:16.
– Matthew Henry Commentary