Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
Isaiah is outside, near the altar in front of the temple. The doors are
supposed to open, and the veil hiding the Holy of Holies to be
withdrawn, unfolding to his view a vision of God represented as an
Eastern monarch, attended by seraphim as His ministers of state
and with a robe and flowing train (a badge of dignity in the East),
which filled the temple. This assertion that he had seen God was,
according to tradition (not sanctioned by
the pretext for sawing him asunder in Manasseh's reign
Visions often occur in the other prophets: in Isaiah there is only this
one, and it is marked by characteristic clearness and simplicity.
1. In . . . year . . . Uzziah died--Either literal death, or
civil when he ceased as a leper to exercise his functions as king
754 B.C. [CALMET] 758
(Common Chronology). This is not the first beginning of Isaiah's
prophecies, but his inauguration to a higher degree of the prophetic
&c., implies the tone of one who had already experience of the people's
Lord--here Adonai, Jehovah in
Jesus Christ is meant as speaking in
Isaiah could only have "seen" the Son, not the divine essence
The words in
are attributed by Paul
(Ac 28:25, 26)
to the Holy Ghost. Thus the Trinity in unity is implied; as also
by the thrice "Holy"
Isaiah mentions the robes, temple, and seraphim, but not the form of
God Himself. Whatever it was, it was different from the usual Shekinah:
that was on the mercy seat, this on a throne; that a cloud and fire, of
this no form is specified: over that were the cherubim, over this the
seraphim; that had no clothing, this had a flowing robe and train.
2. stood--not necessarily the posture of standing; rather,
were in attendance on Him [MAURER],
hovering on expanded wings.
the--not in the Hebrew.
seraphim--nowhere else applied to God's attendant angels; but to
the fiery flying (not winged, but rapidly moving) serpents, which
bit the Israelites
called so from the poisonous inflammation caused by their bites.
Seraph is to burn; implying the burning zeal, dazzling
(2Ki 2:11; 6:17;
and serpent-like rapidity of the seraphim in God's service.
Perhaps Satan's form as a serpent (nachash) in his
appearance to man has some connection with his original form as a
seraph of light. The head of the serpent was the symbol of
wisdom in Egypt (compare
The seraphim, with six wings and one face, can hardly be identified
with the cherubim, which had four wings (in the temple only two)
and four faces
The "face" and "feet" imply a human form; something of a serpentine
form (perhaps a basilisk's head, as in the temples of Thebes) may have
been mixed with it: so the cherub was compounded of various animal
forms. However, seraph may come from a root meaning "princely," applied
to Michael [MAURER]; just as cherub comes from a
root (changing m into b), meaning "noble."
twain--Two wings alone of the six were kept ready for instant flight
in God's service; two veiled their faces as unworthy to look on the holy
God, or pry into His secret counsels which they fulfilled
Job 4:18; 15:15);
two covered their feet, or rather the whole of the lower parts
of their persons--a practice usual in the presence of Eastern monarchs,
in token of reverence (compare
their bodies). Man's service a fortiori consists in reverent
waiting on, still more than in active service for, God.
The Trinity is implied (on "Lord," see on
God's holiness is the keynote of Isaiah's whole prophecies.
whole earth--the Hebrew more emphatically,
the fulness of the whole earth is His glory
(Ps 24:1; 72:19).
4. posts of . . . door--rather, foundations of the thresholds.
smoke--the Shekinah cloud
The same effect was produced on others by the presence of God
(Jud 6:22; 13:22;
Job 42:5, 6;
lips--appropriate to the context which describes the praises of the
lips, sung in alternate responses
(Ex 15:20, 21;
by the seraphim: also appropriate to the office of speaking as
the prophet of God, about to be committed to Isaiah
seen--not strictly Jehovah Himself
but the symbol of His presence.
6. unto me--The seraph had been in the temple, Isaiah
outside of it.
live coal--literally, "a hot stone," used, as in some countries in
our days, to roast meat with, for example, the meat of the sacrifices.
Fire was a symbol of purification, as it takes the dross out of metals
(Mal 3:2, 3).
the altar--of burnt offering, in the court of the priests before the
temple. The fire on it was at first kindled by God
and was kept continually burning.
7. mouth . . . lips--(See on
The mouth was touched because it was the part to be used by
the prophet when inaugurated. So "tongues of fire" rested
on the disciples
(Ac 2:3, 4)
when they were being set apart to speak in various languages of
iniquity--conscious unworthiness of acting as God's messenger.
purged--literally, "covered," that is, expiated, not by any physical
effect of fire to cleanse from sin, but in relation to the
altar sacrifices, of which Messiah, who here commissions Isaiah, was
in His death to be the antitype: it is implied hereby that it is only by
sacrifice sin can be pardoned.
8. I . . . us--The change of number indicates the Trinity (compare
Ge 1:26; 11:7).
Though not a sure argument for the doctrine, for the plural
may indicate merely majesty, it accords with that truth
Whom . . . who--implying that few would be willing to bear the
self-denial which the delivering of such an unwelcome message to the
Jews would require on the part of the messenger (compare
Here am I--prompt zeal, now that he has been specially qualified for
1Sa 3:10, 11;
9. Hear . . . indeed--Hebrew, "In hearing hear," that is,
Though ye hear the prophet's warnings again and again, ye are
doomed, because of your perverse will
not to understand. Light enough is given in revelation to guide
those sincerely seeking to know, in order that they may
do, God's will; darkness enough is left to confound the wilfully
So in Jesus' use of parables
see . . . indeed--rather, "though ye see again and
again," yet, &c.
10. Make . . . fat--
"Render them the more hardened by thy warnings" [MAURER]. This effect is the fruit, not of the
truth in itself, but of the corrupt state of their hearts,
to which God here judicially gives them over
GESENIUS takes the imperatives as futures.
"Proclaim truths, the result of which proclamation will
be their becoming the more hardened"
but this does not so well as the former set forth God as
designedly giving up sinners to judicial hardening
In the first member of the sentence, the order is, the heart, ears,
eyes; in the latter, the reverse order, the eyes, ears,
heart. It is from the heart that corruption flows into the
ears and eyes
(Mr 7:21, 22);
but through the eyes and ears healing reaches the heart
the words are quoted in the indicative, "is waxed gross"
(so the Septuagint), not the imperative, "make fat";
God's word as to the future is as certain as if it were already
fulfilled. To see with one's eyes will not convince a will that
is opposed to the truth (compare
Joh 11:45, 46; 12:10, 11).
"One must love divine things in order to understand them"
be healed--of their spiritual malady, sin
11. how long--will this wretched condition of the nation being hardened
to its destruction continue?
--fulfilled primarily at the Babylonish captivity, and more fully at
the dispersion under the Roman Titus.
forsaking--abandonment of dwellings by their inhabitants
13. and it shall return, and . . . be eaten--Rather,
"but it shall be again given over to be consumed": if even a
tenth survive the first destruction, it shall be destroyed by a second
Eze 5:1-5, 12),
[MAURER and HORSLEY]. In
English Version, "return" refers to the poor remnant left in the
land at the Babylonish captivity
(2Ki 24:14; 25:12),
which afterwards fled to Egypt in fear
and subsequently returned thence along with others who had fled
to Moab and Edom
(Jer 40:11, 12),
and suffered under further divine judgments.
tell--rather, "terebinth" or "turpentine tree"
substance . . . when . . . cast . . .
leaves--rather, "As a terebinth or oak in which, when
they are cast down (not 'cast their leaves,'
the trunk or stock remains, so the holy seed
shall be the stock of that land." The seeds of vitality still
exist in both the land and the scattered people of Judea, waiting for
the returning spring of God's favor
(Ro 11:5, 23-29).
According to Isaiah, not all Israel, but the elect remnant
alone, is destined to salvation. God shows unchangeable severity
towards sin, but covenant faithfulness in preserving a remnant, and to
it Isaiah bequeaths the prophetic legacy of the second part of his book
(the fortieth through sixty-sixth chapters).