Isaiah 58 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Isaiah 58)

Verse 2

[2] Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.

Yet — They cover all their wickedness with a profession of religion.

Delight — There are many men who take some pleasure in knowing God's will and word, and yet do not conform their lives to it.

As — As if they were a righteous people.

Forsook — As if they were not guilty of any apostacy from God, or disobedience to God's precepts.

Ask — As if they resolved to observe them.

In approaching — In coming to my temple to hear my word, and to offer sacrifices.

Verse 3

[3] Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.

Afflicted — Defrauded our appetites with fasting, of which this phrase is used, Leviticus 16:29.

Ye find — Either you indulge yourselves in sensuality, as they did, Isaiah 22:13. But this does not agree with that afflicting of their souls which they now professed, and which God acknowledges; or you pursue and satisfy your own desires: though you abstain from bodily food, you do not mortify your sinful inclinations.

Exact — Your money, got by your labour, and lent to others, either for their need or your own advantage, which you require either with usury, or at least with rigour, when either the general law of charity, or God's particular law, commanded the release, or at least the forbearance of them.

Verse 4

[4] Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

Behold — Your fasting days, wherein you ought in a special manner to implore the mercy of God, and to shew compassion to men, you employ in injuring or quarrelling with your brethren, your servants or debtors, or in contriving mischief against them.

Heard — In strife and debate. By way of ostentation.

Verse 5

[5] Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

Chosen — Approve of, accept, or delight in, by a metonymy, because we delight in what we freely chuse.

For a day — This may be understood, either for a man to take a certain time to afflict his soul in, and that either from even to even, Leviticus 23:32, or from morning to evening, or for a little time.

Wilt thou call — Canst thou suppose it to be so? A fast - It being such an one as has nothing in it, but the dumb signs of a fast, nothing of deep humiliation appearing in it, or, real reformation proceeding from it.

Acceptable day — A day that God will approve of.

Verse 6

[6] Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?

The bands — The cruel obligations of usury and oppression.

Verse 7

[7] Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

Cast out — And thereby become wanderers, having no abiding place.

To thy house — That thou be hospitable, and make thy house a shelter to them that have none of their own left.

Hide not — That seek no occasion to excuse thyself.

Thy own flesh — Some confine this to our own kindred; but we can look on no man, but there we contemplate our own flesh, and therefore it is barbarous, not only to tear, but not to love and succour him. Therefore feed him as thou wouldest feed thyself, or be fed; shelter him as thou wouldest shelter thyself, or be sheltered; clothe him as thou wouldest clothe thyself, or be clothed; if in any of these respects thou wert in his circumstances.

Verse 8

[8] Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.

Thy light — Happiness and prosperity.

Break forth — It shall not only appear, but break forth, dart itself forth, notwithstanding all difficulties, as the sun breaks, and pierces through a cloud.

Thy health — Another metaphor to express the same thing.

Righteousness — The reward of thy righteousness.

Before thee — As the morning-star goes before the sun.

The glory — His glorious power and providence.

Thy rereward — Thus the angel of his presence secured the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.

Verse 9

[9] Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;

Answer — He will give an effectual demonstration, that he hears thee.

Here l am — A phrase that notes a person to be ready at hand to help.

Take away — From among you.

The yoke — All those pressures and grievances before mentioned.

Putting forth — Done by way of scoff, or disdainful insulting.

Vanity — Any kind of evil words.

Verse 10

[10] And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:

Draw out — Or, open, as when we open a store, to satisfy the wants of the needy.

Thy soul — Thy affection, thy pity and compassion.

Thy darkness — In the very darkness of the affliction itself thou shalt have comfort.

Verse 11

[11] And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

Guide thee — Like a shepherd. And he adds continually to shew that his conduct and blessing shall not be momentary, or of a short continuance, but all along as it was to Israel in the wilderness.

Satisfy — Thou shalt have plenty, when others are in scarcity.

Make fat — This may be spoken in opposition to the sad effects of famine, whereby the flesh is consumed away, that it cannot be seen, and the bones that were not seen, stick out.

A garden — If thou relieve the poor, thou shalt never be poor, but as a well-watered garden, always flourishing.

Fail not — Heb. deceive not, a metaphor which farther notes also the continuance of this flourishing state, which will not be like a land-flood, or brooks, that will soon be dried up with drought. Thou shalt be fed with a spring of blessing, that will never fail.

Verse 12

[12] And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

They shall be of thee — Thy posterity.

Waste places — Cities which have lain long waste; that shall continue for many generations to come.

The breach — Breach is put for breaches, which was made by God's judgment breaking in upon them in suffering the walls of their towns and cities to be demolished.

Paths — Those paths that led from city to city, which being now laid desolate, and uninhabited, were grown over with grass, and weeds.

To dwell in — These accommodations being recovered, their ancient cities might be fit to be re-inhabited.

Verse 13

[13] If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:

If — If thou take no unnecessary journeys, or do any servile works on the sabbath-day.

A delight — Performing the duties of it with chearfulness, delighting in the ordinances of it.

Holy — Dedicated to God, consecrated to his service.

Verse 14

[14] Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

In the Lord — In his goodness and faithfulness to thee, and in the assurance of his love and favour.

To ride — Thou shalt be above the reach of danger.

Feed thee — Thou shalt enjoy the good of the land of Canaan, which God promised as an heritage to Jacob, and his seed, Genesis 35:12.