The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 57

Isa 57:1

THE RIGHTEOUS PERISH: Hezekiah: "In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, 'This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover' " (Isa 38:1). Cp Abijah the son of Jeroboam, the only righteous of his family (1Ki 14:13), and Josiah (2Ki 22:15-20).

THE RIGHTEOUS ARE TAKEN AWAY TO BE SPARED FROM EVIL: (1) For the righteous individual, an evil may await that is so terrible it can make death look like a blessing in disguise -- if only we would know. Only the LORD knows for certain, and He "is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works" (Psa 145:17). Accordingly, we can believe and take comfort in the fact that all His choices are right. (2) Or poss "because of wickedness" (cp NET) -- ie, the wickedness of the nation. "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isa 53:6).

Isa 57:2

"For all his burning enthusiasm, Hezekiah had not been able to carry more than a fraction of the nation with him: 'The godly man is perished out of the land: and there is none upright among men' (Mic 7:2)" (WIsa 497).

Isa 57:3

OFFSPRING OF ADULTERERS: "An evil and adulterous generation" (Mat 16:4).

PROSTITUTES: Cp Jezebel, priestess of the Phoenician Baal.

Isa 57:5

YOU BURN WITH LUST: Heb "inflame yourselves". This verse alludes to the practice of ritual sex that accompanied pagan fertility rites.

YOU SACRIFICE YOUR CHILDREN: "It is even possible that Hezekiah only came to the throne because his older brothers died in this way (2Ki 16:3)" (WIsa 497). Child sacrifice: Jer 7:3; 32:35; Lev 18:21; 20:2-4; 2Ki 23:10.

Isa 57:6

THE SMOOTH STONES: Used, poss, for images of phallus -- sym the god's sexual prowess.

Isa 57:8

YOU UNCOVERED YOUR BED, YOU CLIMBED INTO IT AND OPENED IT WIDE: More graphically, "You have uncovered yourself, mounted your bed, and spread it wide" (Anchor Bible).

YOU LOOKED ON THEIR NAKEDNESS: "Gaze longingly on their genitals" (NET). The Heb is lit "[at] a hand you gaze." The term "hand," probably has the sense of "power, manhood" here, where it is used, as in Ugaritic, as a euphemism for the genitals (HAL).

Isa 57:9

YOU WENT TO MOLECH: To the idol, Moloch, not to the king (malak).

YOU SENT YOUR AMBASSADORS FAR AWAY: For example, to Egypt (Isa 30:1-5; 31:1).

Isa 57:12

YOUR WORKS... WILL NOT BENEFIT YOU: The failure of works to justify; salvation is to be acquired without price (Isa 55:1; cp 1Co 13:3).

Isa 57:13

THE WIND WILL CARRY ALL OF THEM OFF: As happened to the residue of Nebuchadnezzar's image in Dan 2:35.

THE MAN WHO MAKES ME HIS REFUGE: Hezekiah, with allusions to a Passover deliverance.

Isa 57:14

THE OBSTACLES: Cp Christ crucified (Isa 53), to the Jews a stumbling block (1Co 1:23). Yet believers glory in the cross (Gal 6:14)!

Isa 57:15

Vv 15-17: // Isa 6: the vision of Yahweh in the temple: high and lifted up, contrition, and purging of iniquity.

HE WHO LIVES FOREVER: The Most Holy, entered only on Day of Atonement.

Isa 57:17

Vv 17,18: "Hezekiah, dazzled by the allurements of an influential political alliance and egged on by his less godly advisors, signed a treaty of friendship and mutual aid with the men sent by the wily king of Babylon. Hezekiah should have known better" (WIsa 499): Isa 39.

Jesus' encounter with the rich young ruler (Barnabas?): " 'For the iniquity of his covetousness ('great possessions': Luke 18:23) for a little while (ie until Act 4:36) I grieved him (sw Mar 10:22)... and he went (away) sorrowful (sw Mar 10:22)... I have seen his ways (Luk 18:24), and I healed him, and exhorted him, and have given him true exhortation (Act 4:36 sw); peace upon peace to them that are far off (Gentiles: Eph 2:17... the gospel preached to Gentiles by Barnabas and Paul), and to them that are nigh (to Jews also)' (vv 17-19)" (WIsa 500).

Isa 57:19

PEACE, PEACE... AND I WILL HEAL THEM: " 'The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,' Hezekiah replied. For he thought, 'There will be peace and security in my lifetime' " (Isa 39:8).

Isa 57:20

THE WICKED ARE LIKE THE TOSSING SEA: The chaotic waters are perhaps intended to conjure up the picture -- familiar in Canaanite and Babylonian mythology -- of the god's (ie, in this case, Yahweh's) primordial victory over Leviathan the "god" of the sea: see Lesson, Leviathan -- esp "OT History".

THE WICKED: (1) Sennacherib, and/or (2) Merodach king of Babylon (Isa 39).

Isa 57:21

Cp Isa 48:22. These two similar references to the wicked divide the last portion of Isaiah (40-66) into three equal divisions of 9 chapters each (40-48; 49-57; 58-66).

Contrast with Isa 66:24: "the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me". Thus the three-fold division of this section of Isaiah: ending with wicked... wicked again... and finally, NO wicked! -- for they have all perished.

Thus, there is no peace for the wicked (Isa 48:22), and still no peace for the wicked (Isa 57:20,21)... until, finally, they all perish. Then, at last, they find "peace": the peace of death!
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