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Isaiah 59:1 Behold, Yahweh’s hand is not shortened that it can’t save; neither His ear heavy, that it can’t hear- The context is that although their ears were "heavy", God's ears were not heavy to them, if they would pray in repentance (s.w. Is. 6:10). Again Isaiah is answering all the possible excuses given by the exiles for not repenting and returning to the land. In Is. 50:2 the idea of Yahweh's hand being shortened is used as an excuse not to respond to God's call to quit Babylon for Zion. The idea was that His ability to act, His hand, was somehow limited or 'reaped down'. They assumed the fact they had been reaped in the harvest of judgment meant that their God had been (Is. 17:5; Jer. 9:22; Hos. 8:7; 10:13). They simply refused to accept the repeated prophetic message that it was the God of Israel who brought judgment upon Israel. They treated Him as the surrounding peoples treated their gods- always saving them in trouble, and if they didn't, then the god had died with them.

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He will not hear-
God's apparent silence and inaction was not because His hand was shortened, i.e. He was unable to act or limited in possibility. The limitation of possibility was because of their sins. His ear was not intrinsically deaf (:1), instead He would not hear because of their sins at the same time as their prayers. Their prayers were "hindered" in the sense of 1 Pet. 3:7.

Is. 30:20 describes the reestablished Kingdom as a time when Judah's repentant eyes would "see" the God who had taught them through the sufferings of defeat and exile (see note there). Their eyes would no longer be blinded, they would see and perceive the 'hidden' God who had tried to teach them through all their afflictions. Meaning will finally be attached to event, and the problem of evil resolved finally. God had as it were 'hidden' Himself during the exile (Is. 45:15; Mic. 3:4); but now He would be revealed to them. Just as Cain was exiled to the east of Eden (which I have suggested was the eretz promised to Abraham) and been hidden from God's eyes in his exile (Gen. 4:14; Dt. 31:17,18; 32:20 s.w.), so with Judah. The hidden things belong to God and only some are now revealed to us, but in the day of exile's end, all those things, the meaning attached to the events, will at last be revealed (Dt. 29:29 s.w.). Then there will be no need for Jeremiah's Lamentations and struggles about the exile, all developed in the story of the suffering Job, who felt God hidden from him (s.w. Job 3:23; 13:24) just as God was to hide His face from Zion at the time of the Babylonian invasion (Jer. 33:5) and exile (Ez. 39:23,24). Therefore all human attempts to see the hidden God were doomed to failure, as Job was finally taught (Job 34:29 s.w.). But the glorious truth of Is. 30:20 is that finally, the Divine teacher will not be hidden any more and our eyes shall see Him and His ways, as Job did at the end (Job 42:5). And yet Isaiah and his family / school of prophets did look or see the hand of the God who was hiding Himself from Judah (s.w. Is. 8:17). At the restoration, there was to be no need for Judah to feel that their way was "hid from Yahweh" (Is. 40:27 s.w.) any more, as it had been during the exile "for a little moment" when God hid His face (Is. 54:8). Their eyes would see / perceive. But tragically, the exiles didn't; God reflected that "I hid me... and he went on proudly in the way of his heart" (Is. 57:17). Their sins continued to hide His face from them (Is. 59:2; 64:7).

Isaiah 59:3 For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness-
The lies spoken may well have been to God, in dishonestly proclaiming they were His covenant people when instead they were involved in child sacrifice and perhaps other murders related to their idolatry. Their defilement with blood meant they were ritually unclean, and this unable to serve Him. In the same breath as they proclaimed His covenant, they were muttering words of wickedness.

Isaiah 59:4 None sues in righteousness, and none pleads in truth-
AV "None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth". The prophetic intention was that Zion would be 'called' the city of "righteousness" (Is. 1:26 s.w.). But the individual Jews were not interested in appealing for justice and truth. The day when the earth would be governed in "righteousness and... truth" was not going to come whilst Judah themselves didn't love the things of the Kingdom and refused to live the Kingdom life themselves (s.w. Ps. 96:13). It was Messiah who was to be girded with "righteousness and... truth" (s.w. Is. 11:5). But not one candidate of the various potentials had acted like this. The prophecies were therefore reapplied and deferred to the Lord Jesus.

They trust in vanity, and speak lies- "Vanity" is the usual term for idols. Idolatry is a worship of nothingness, and again this is the essence of so much in the empty, contentless world of today. This is the modern day idolatry. And it is manifest in 'speaking lies'. A lack of attention to truth and disinterest in truth and ultimate reality leads to personal dishonesty, a speaking of lies.

They conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity- There is a theme in Isaiah of conceiving, suffering pain in labour- but bringing forth in vain (Is. 26:18; 33:11; 59:4).  And so did Hezekiah, in that he and his children turned away from true faith (Is. 39:7). In Isaiah's immediate context, the application would have been to the sense that the remnant had come to the birth but there was not strength to bring forth (Is. 37:3); apart from a few individuals, there was no bringing forth of a significant repentant remnant who would be the basis for the restored Kingdom. It felt like they were still under the curse of bringing forth in pain but in vain. The pain in vain at the time of the Assyrian invasion led to Micah offering a reworked version of all this; they were to be in pain at the hands of the Babylonians, but would bring forth in Babylon in that they would there repent, and the spiritually reborn remnant would emerge and their captors therefore judged (Mic. 4:10). But that possibility also didn't work out.  And so this idea of bringing forth but not in vain, but rather finding meaning in the resurrection of Messiah and all in Him, came to be reapplied to the birth of the Lord Jesus from the grave in resurrection; and it would characterize the establishment of the Kingdom age in Zion (Is. 65:24).

These words are quoted in Romans 3. Eliphaz thought there were only a few very sinful people in the world (Job 15:35); but His words are quoted by the Spirit in Is. 59:4 concerning the whole nation of Israel; and this whole passage in Is. 59:4-8 in turn is quoted in Rom. 3:15-17 concerning the whole human race. This same path of progressive realization of our sinfulness must be trodden by each faithful individual, as well as on a communal level. 

Isaiah 59:5 They hatch adders’ eggs, and weave the spider’s web: he who eats of their eggs dies; and that which is crushed breaks out into a viper-
GNB "The evil plots you make are as deadly as the eggs of a poisonous snake. Crush an egg, out comes a snake!". The people in view appear to be teachers or leaders, because they have people who as it were eat their eggs.

Isaiah 59:6 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-
GNB "But your plots will do you no good—they are as useless as clothing made of cobwebs!". Their acts of violence would not ultimately be covered before God by carefully spun webs of excuses and self justification.

Isaiah 59:7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their paths-
See on :4. This is quoting Prov. 1:16. Again we note the parallel between thoughts and paths; the path of a man's life is a reflection of his thoughts. And our thought patterns are the absolutely essential core of all spirituality and relationship with God. There is clearly the accusation that the restored exiles were guilty of plotting murder, and they did shed innocent blood. The reference may not be solely to child sacrifices, and the sacrifice of other vulnerable individuals; but to actual plans to kill the prophets such as Isaiah.

Isaiah 59:8 The way of peace they don’t know; there is no justice in their goings: they have made them crooked paths; whoever goes therein does not know peace-
These people were false teachers, because they had others who would walk in their ways; hence GNB "no one who walks that path will ever be safe". The leadership of the exiles was deeply corrupt, as we find implied between the lines of Ezra, Nehemiah and Malachi.

Isaiah 59:9 Vindication remains far removed from us and deliverance does not reach us: we look for light, but behold, darkness; for brightness, but we walk in obscurity-
The hope of Zion's light and the brightness of her Kingdom morning was precluded by the behaviour of the Jews and their idolatry. The restored Kingdom could have come then, but it didn't- because of them. So much potential was wasted; and :11 also laments this. But we can also read this as not just Isaiah's lament that the window of deliverance had been removed from them; but also as the cynical words of the exiles. Passages like Ezekiel 18 imply a certain bitterness of Israel towards their God, considering that He had dealt with them unfairly, and inappropriately punished them for the sins of their fathers. Despite Yahweh having enabled their exit from Babylon, they complained: “Vindication remains far removed from us and deliverance does not reach us” (Is. 59:9). This was an awful spurning of the great salvation enabled for them. They remonstrated against God’s message of deliverance from captivity: “Can prey be taken from a warrior? Or can prisoners of a tyrant be rescued?” (Is. 49:24). They thought their salvation was too hard even for God. They made the same mistake as all who reason that their situation or personality is too far gone for God to redeem. For the ‘salvation’ of the exiles in Babylon is alluded to in the New Testament as a prototype of our salvation in Christ. The good news of potential deliverance from Babylon is quoted as the good news of salvation from sin (Is. 52:7-10 = Mk. 1:15; Mt. 10:7,8; Rom. 10:15; Eph. 6:15; Is. 61:1,2 = Lk. 4:16-21). Time and again in the restoration prophecies we encounter statements intended to answer the skepticism felt by the exiles about the promises of redemption from Babylon (Is. 40:27-31; Is. 42:22; Is. 43:22; Is. 46:12; Is. 48:4,8; Is. 49:14).

Isaiah 59:10 We grope for the wall like the blind; yes, we grope as those who have no eyes: we stumble at noonday as in the twilight; among those who are lusty we are as dead men-
Darkness at noon was what happened at the crucifixion; this was the judgment upon Israel for their attitudes, because the killing of their own King and Messiah was the ultimate climax and final term of all their sinful behaviour. The apostate Jews have been condemned earlier in this chapter; the words we now are reading in :9-14 are now as it were spoken by them. Perhaps they are an imagination of the kinds of words these people would speak and the feelings they would feel in their day of final condemnation; recognizing in every detail their sins, but tragically too late. The time for such confession is now. All their human strength, appearing as "lusty", was now as death itself. Their stumbling at noonday was the curse for disobedience to the covenant (s.w. Lev. 26:37).

Isaiah 59:11 We roar all like bears, and moan bitterly like doves-
Perhaps suggesting both men and women were in lamentation. This is the weeping and gnashing of teeth of the condemned, roaring like the waves who cannot pass over the bound set for them at the beach (s.w. Jer. 5:22), unable to enter the kingdom. One moment they will be roaring, the next moaning quietly; the same word is used of how they had muttered or uttered false words (:13). By doing so, they were living out their own condemnation.

We look for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us- The salvation and justice of the restored Kingdom was precluded by the behaviour of the Jews and their idolatry. The reestablished Kingdom could have come then, but it didn't- because of them. So much potential was wasted; and :9 also laments this. But this is also the picture of the condemned Jews at the last day, desperately wanting salvation, but finding it now too far from them.

Isaiah 59:12 For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and as for our iniquities, we know them-
The confession of sin in :12-15 was perhaps God's fantasy about His people's repentance, the kind of thing we see in Hosea's fantasy about Gomer's return to him. Or it could have been Isaiah's pro forma expression of repentance which he intended Judah to make. Or as suggested previously on these verses, this is the recognition of sin by the condemned but all too late. They realize all too late that their sins have not been taken away from them, for they had refused the sin bearer. Their own sins testified at the day of judgment "before You" and called for their own condemnation.

Isaiah 59:13 transgressing and denying Yahweh, and turning away from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood-
We see the common Biblical parallel between thoughts and words; hence GNB "Our thoughts are false; our words are lies". "Uttering" is the word used in :11 for how the condemned will mutter or moan in condemnation; but by muttering false words in their hearts, they were living out their own condemnation experience.

Isaiah 59:14 Justice is turned away backward, and righteousness stands afar off-
This contrasts with the frequent statements that Yahweh's truth righteousness was "near" in the sense that His restored Kingdom could so soon have been established. But now it was far away, because the window of opportunity was now closed because of their impenitence. Thus GNB "Justice is driven away, and right cannot come near".

For truth is fallen in the street, and uprightness can’t enter- As just noted, the righteousness which was to enter Zion by the highway prepared in Is. 40 was not going to enter. There was an open, public, unashamed rejection of God's "truth", His covenant. GNB "Truth stumbles in the public square, and honesty finds no place there". The street or square may refer to the place of judgment, the law court. The injustice there meant that the Kingdom prophecy of Zech. 8:16 was disallowed of fulfilment.

Isaiah 59:15 Yes, truth is lacking; and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey-
LXX "And truth has been taken away, and they have turned aside their mind from understanding". Those who 'don't understand' do so not simply because of intellectual failure, but because they do not want to understand. "He who departs from evil" is the term used about Job (s.w. Job 1:8; 2:3); and he too became a "prey" to evil. Job represents not only the exiles, but the righteous remnant amongst them who departed from evil but suffered all the same.


Yahweh saw it, and it displeased Him that there was no justice- The lack of justice and honesty might seem relatively small issues compared to the murder and gross idolatry mentioned as going on at the time. But the prophets often make clear that it is attitudes to justice which reflect the essence of a person's spirituality.

In the Lord Jesus we see a heart that more than bled for the salvation of others. He didn’t live out His perfect life in isolation from others, withdrawn from society, insulated from the world’s pain. Is. 59:15-20 speaks of how He came to perceive that really there was nobody apart from Him who could bring about such great salvation to the world: "And the Lord saw it, and it displeased [s.w. grieved] him that there was no judgment. 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. 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" . So many of these phrases and ideas are picked up in the New Testament and applied to the Lord Jesus in His time of dying. It was His grief that inspired Him.

Scripture repeatedly speaks as if God notices things and is then hurt by what He sees (Jonah 3:10; Gen. 29:31; Ex. 3:4; Dt. 32:19; 2 Kings 14:26; 2 Chron. 12:7; Ez. 23:13; Is. 59:15 cp. Lk. 7:13). If He knew in advance what they were going to do, this language is hard for me to understand. But God is therefore hurt and 'surprised' at sin- He saw Israel as the firstripe grapes, but they were worshipping Baal even then (Hos. 9:9). Thus God can allow Himself to feel an element of surprise- and this was a shock to Jeremiah, who queried: "Why are You like a man who is caught by surprise...?" (Jer. 14:9).

Isaiah 59:16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor-
None of the potential Messiah figures worked out; and it seems about nobody responded to the prophetic call for the exiles to repent. God was 'desolated' ["wondered"]about this, so great were His hopes for some response. And yet God wished to try to save them anyway by His dramatic intervention, which was to come to full term in the person and work of His own son. LXX suggests this was by His pure mercy and grace alone: "so he defended them with his arm, and stablished them with his mercy".

Therefore His own arm brought salvation to Him; and His righteousness, it upheld Him- see on Ex. 2:11,12. The arm of Yahweh, the practical articulation of His power, is ultimately the Lord Jesus.  God sent His prophets to appeal to Israel for repentance. They could have lead to repentance. But Israel would not. The marriage feast was totally ready and waiting for the Jewish people; they could have had it. But they didn’t want it, and so the course of human history was extended. Therefore finally God sent His Son. The Lord Jesus Himself was amazed that no other man had achieved the work which He had to; and therefore He clad Himself with zeal and performed it (Is. 41:28; 50:2; 59:16 cp. Rev. 5:3,4). God knew that salvation in the end would have to be through the death of His Son. But there were other possible scenarios for the repentance and salvation of mankind, which no man achieved. And so, as in the parable of the servants sent to get fruit from the vineyard, there was left no other way but the death of God’s only Son. There is a clear parallel between Is. 59:16 and Is. 63:5. The same words are used, but there is one difference. In Is. 59:16, "His righteousness, it upheld Him", but in Is. 63:5 it was God's fury which upheld / sustained Him. The Messianic arm of Yahweh which brought salvation did so only because as Son of Man, the Lord Jesus is the only human who can rightly judge sin on behalf of God's anger. His necessary anger / wrath in judging sin is therefore part of the wider nexus of the absolutely legitimate salvation He achieved through the Lord Jesus.


Isaiah 59:17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; and He put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a mantle-
Yahweh's arm which was to bring salvation (:16) required that the saviour referred to act as a high priest; hence the usage of priestly language here for the breastplate.; indeed all the items of clothing here are described with words which are found in the description of the high priestly clothing in Ex. 28. The "garments" are s.w. Ex. 28:3,4. The "helmet" alludes therefore to the high priestly mitre; the "mantle" to the priestly "robe" (s.w.) of Ex. 28:4,31 etc. And yet the suffering servant had been named "Israel, he was representative of all God's people. And so these words are applied to us, in that we are "in Christ" and all that is true of Him is true of us- even His High Priestly work for sinners. Thus Paul’s description of the warrior of the Gospel in Ephesians 6 composites together various descriptions of Messiah’s clothing in the servant songs (Is. 11:5 = “loins girded with truth”; Is. 49:2 “mouth like a sharp sword”; Is. 52:7 “bring good tidings / publish salvation” = “the preparation of the Gospel of peace”; Is. 59:17 “breastplate of righteousness”; Is. 59:17 “helmet of salvation”). We are to be Christ to the world.

Isaiah 59:18 According to their deeds, accordingly He will repay, wrath to His adversaries, recompense to His enemies; to the islands He will repay recompense-
The adversaries and enemies of God's people are the enemies of God Himself and His Son. The salvation to be achieved by Yahweh's arm, His Son (:16,17) required the judgment of sin. Clothed as it were in high priestly clothing (:17), the priest-king-saviour will finally do justice- at the day of judgment. Their judgment will be according to what they did (Is. 59:18; 65:6); although Jer. 16:18 says that some will be recompensed double. By contrast, the exiles were not receiving punishment according as their deeds deserved, but less (Ezra 9:13). These different degrees of recompense suggest that Divine judgment is far more complex than a simple 'measure for measure'. The greater complexity is because He weighs motives and inflexions of meaning attached to actions which all require different judgments. And then on top of that, there is the credit He gives for forgiveness, and for the prayers and faith of others influencing the final outcome of judgment in any given case.

Isaiah 59:19 So shall they fear the name of Yahweh from the west, and His glory from the rising of the sun-
The judgments upon the surrounding nations were intended to bring forth repentance and acceptance of Israel's God, from east to west.

For He will come as a rushing stream, which the breath of Yahweh drives- AV "the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him". This elsewhere refers to the pole lifted up, the Lord Jesus, lifted up as crucified as the rallying point of faith in the midst of the stream of Divine judgments.

Isaiah 59:20 A Redeemer-
"A redeemer" [although the text is unclear] rather than "the redeemer" could suggest there were other potential redeemers which could have arisen before the Lord Jesus came. As Hosea ‘redeemed’ Gomer in His attempt to force through His fantasy for her (Hos. 3:1), so Yahweh is repeatedly described in Isaiah as Israel’s go’el , redeemer (Is. 41:14; Is. 43:14; Is. 44:6,24; Is. 47:4; Is. 48:17; Is. 49:7,26; Is. 54:5,8). The redeemer could redeem a close relative from slavery or repurchase property lost during hard times (Lev. 25:25,26, 47-55; Ruth 2:20; Ruth 3:9,12). The redeemer was also the avenger of blood (Num. 35:9-28; Josh. 20:3,9). All these ideas were relevant to Yahweh’s relationship to Judah in captivity. But the promised freedom didn’t come- even under Nehemiah, Judah was still a province within the Persian empire. And those who returned complained: “We are slaves this day in the land you gave…” (Neh. 9:36). The wonderful prophecies of freedom and redemption from slavery weren’t realized in practice, because of the selfishness of the more wealthy Jews. And how often is it that the freedom potentially enabled for those redeemed in Christ is in practice denied them by their autocratic and abusive brethren

Will come to Zion- No redeemer came to Zion as planned because the Jewish lack of repentance precluded it. So under inspiration, Paul changes this to "the redeemer shall come out of Zion" (Rom. 11:26), thereby combining the sense with that of Ps. 14:7.

And to those who turn from disobedience in Jacob, says Yahweh-  The LXX and Rom. 11:26 have "shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob". The ambiguity is because man's turning away from sin is also a gift from God, in this case that requested in Lam. 5:2. Repentance and not just forgiveness is given from God; this is His grace to the extreme. Those who turn from sin are turned from sin by the Lord. The blessing promised to Abraham was not only forgiveness of sins, but that the Lord Jesus would turn away Abraham's seed from their iniquities (Acts 3:26). Yet we only become Abraham's seed by repentance and baptism. Our repentance and desire not to sin is therefore confirmed after our baptism. Paul's citation of this is deliberately altered to teach the truth that the majority of Israel will not turn before He comes. To them He will come and turn ungodliness away from them (Rom. 11:26). But Israelite repentance is a condition for the Lord’s return.

Isaiah 59:21 As for Me, this is My covenant with them, says Yahweh. My Spirit which is on you, and My words which I have put in your mouth-
This would be achieved if they accepted the Spirit, part of the package offered in the new covenant. His words would be written in their hearts too. Having Divine words put in the mouth meant they were to be as Aaron and Moses before Pharaoh (s.w. Ex. 4:15); for it was also Moses who was covered in the shadow of Yahweh's hand as He passed by in the parallel passage in Is. 51:16. Remember that they were bidden flee Babylon before she fell to the Medes. The servant figure need not have feared the king of Babylon, he was intended to go to him and plead as Moses "let My people go". But the exiles feared men, perhaps one particular ruler of Persia or Babylon, whom they thought would not allow their restoration; see on Is. 51:12. They feared him rather than God, and so they didn't flee Babylon as asked.


Shall not depart out of your mouth, nor out of the mouth of your seed, nor out of the mouth of your seed’s seed, says Yahweh- The promise of the new covenant and the associated gift of the Spirit was that if they said "yes" to it, then they would be preserved eternally faithful. For the Messianic Kingdom would then begin. A connection between Joshua and Israel is developed here, which describes the new covenant which God will make with Israel in the Messianic Kingdom in terms evidently reminiscent of Joshua- as if the new covenant was made with him, thereby enabling him potentially to be part of a Messianic Kingdom even in his day:  “And as for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: my Spirit that is upon thee [“Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him” Dt. 34:9; Num. 27:18-23] , and my words which I have put in thy mouth [Dt. 18:18- God’s words were put in Joshua’s mouth], shall not depart out of thy mouth [“this book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth”, Josh. 1:8, s.w.], 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”.  See on Josh. 1:6. But these things were to come true in the greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus.

From henceforth and forever- The Spirit would abide in them for ever. In other words, the sense of Spiritual strength from God which Israel will have will not just diminish into nothing, it will not just fade away. I think this is one of the saddest aspects of our present spiritual experience. You see a keen young brother emerge from the waters of baptism, entering the new covenant, throw himself into the study and preaching of the word, he grows spiritually... and then he slips, slips and slips, until he slides down the slippery path into the world. We go to a Bible study, a Bible conference, we read the word of the new covenant together in intense fellowship. And then it all slips away, we lose the reality of our calling, we're strong for the next day, perhaps the day after, and then back to base level. But then we will spiritually run and not faint, walk in the new and living way and not be weary. This is surely one of the most wonderful aspects of the Kingdom life; constant growth, no regrets, no looking back over our shoulder, no sense of spiritual anti-climax. No more fading away spiritually, instead the energy of constant growth.