Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 57:20

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But the wicked - All who are transgressors of the law and who remain unpardoned. The design of this is to contrast their condition with that of those who should enjoy peace. The proposition is, therefore, of the most general character. All the wicked are like the troubled sea. Whether prosperous or otherwise; rich or poor; bond or free; old or young; whether in Christian, in civilized, or in barbarous lands; whether living in palaces, in caves, or in tents; whether in the splendor of cities, or in the solitude of deserts; All are like the troubled sea.

Are like the troubled sea - The agitated (נגרשׁ nigrâsh ), ever-moving and restless sea. The sea is always in motion, and never entirely calm. Often also it lashes into foam, and heaves with wild commotion.

When it cannot rest - Lowth renders this, ‹For it never can be at rest.‘ The Hebrew is stronger than our translation. It means that there is no possibility of its being at rest; it is unable to be still (יוּכל לא השׁקט כי kı̂y hasheqēṭ lo' yûkal ). The Septuagint renders it, ‹But the wicked are tossed like waves ( κλυδωνισθήσονται kludōnisthēsontai ), and are not able to be at rest.‘ The idea, as it seems to me, is not exactly that which seems to be conveyed by our translation, that the wicked are like the sea, occasionally agitated by a storm and driven by wild commotion, but that, like the ocean, there is never any peace, as there is no peace to the restless waters of the mighty deep.

Whose waters - They who have stood on the shores of the ocean and seen the waves - especially in a storm - foam, and roll, and dash on the beach, will be able to appreciate the force of this beautiful figure, and cannot but have a vivid image before them of the unsettled and agitated bosoms of the guilty. The figure which is used here to denote the want of peace in the bosom of a wicked man, is likewise beautifully employed by Ovid:

Cumque sit hibernis agitatum fluctibus aequor,

Pectora sunt ipso turbidiora mari.

Trist. i. x. 33

The agitation and commotion of the sinner here referred to, relates to such things as the following:

1. There is no permanent happiness or enjoyment. There is no calmness of soul in the contemplation of the divine perfections, and of the glories of the future world. There is no substantial and permanent peace furnished by wealth, business, pleasure; by the pride, pomp, and flattery of the world. All leave the soul unsatisfied, or dissatisfied; all leave is unprotected against the rebukes of conscience, and the fear of hell.

2. Raging passions. The sinner is under their influence. and they may be compared to the wild and tumultuous waves of the ocean. Thus the bosoms of the wicked are agitated with the conflicting passions of pride, envy, malice, lust, ambition, and revenge. These leave no peace in the soul; they make peace impossible. People may learn in some degree to control them by the influence of philosophy; or a pride of character and respect to their reputation may enable them in some degree to restrain them; but they are like the smothered fires of the volcano, or like the momentary calm of the ocean that a gust of wind may soon lash into foam. To restrain them is not to subdue them, for no man can tell how soon he may be excited by anger, or how soon the smothered fires of lus may burn.

3. Conscience. Nothing more resembles an agitated ocean casting up mire and dirt, than a soul agitated by the recollections of past guilt. A deep dark cloud in a tempest overhangs the deep; the lightnings play and the thunder rolls along the sky, and the waves heave with wild commotion. So it is with the bosom of the sinner. Though there may be a temporary suspension of the rebukes of conscience, yet there is no permanent peace. The soul cannot rest; and in some way or other the recollections of guilt will be excited, and the bosom thrown into turbid and wild agitation.

4. The fear of judgment and of hell. Many a sinner has no rest, day or night, from the fear of future wrath. His troubled mind looks onward, and he sees nothing to anticipate but the wrath of God, and the horrors of an eternal hell. How invaluable then is religion! All these commotions are stilled by the voice of pardoning mercy, as the billows of the deep were hushed by the voice of Jesus. How much do we owe to religion! Had it not been for this, there had been no peace in this world. Every bosom would have been agitated with tumultuous passion; every heart would have quailed with the fear of hell. How diligently should we seek the influence of religion! We all have raging passions to be subdued. We all have consciences that may be troubled with the recollections of past guilt. We are all traveling to the bar of God, and have reason to apprehend the storms of vengeance. We all must soon lie down on beds of death, and in all these scenes there is nothing that can give permanent and solid peace but the religion of the Redeemer. Oh! that stills all the agitation of a troubled soul; lays every billow of tumultuous passion to rest; calms the conflicts of a guilty bosom; reveals God reconciled through a Redeemer to our souls, and removes all the anticipated terrors of a bed of death and of the approach to the judgment bar. Peacefully the Christian can die - not as the troubled sinner, who leaves the world with a bosom agitated like the stormy ocean but as peacefully as the gentle ripple dies away on the beach.

How blest the righteous when they die,

When holy souls retire to rest I

How mildly beams the closing eye,

How gently heaves the expiring breast!

So fades a summer cloud away;

So sinks the gale when storms are o‘er;

So gently shuts the eve of day;

So dies a wave along the shore.

- Barbauld

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The idols and their worshippers shall come to nothing; but those who trust in God's grace, shall be brought to the joys of heaven. With the Lord there is neither beginning of days, nor end of life, nor change of time. His name is holy, and all must know him as a holy God. He will have tender regard to those who bring their mind to their condition, and dread his wrath. He will make his abode with those whose hearts he has thus humbled, in order to revive and comfort them. When troubles last long, even good men are tempted to entertain hard thoughts of God. Therefore He will not contend for ever, for he will not forsake the work of his own hands, nor defeat the purchase of his Son's blood. Covetousness is a sin that particularly lays men under the Divine displeasure. See the sinfulness of sin. See also that troubles cannot reform men unless God's grace work in them. Peace shall be published, perfect peace. It is the fruit of preaching lips, and praying lips. Christ came and preached peace to Gentiles, as well as to the Jews; to after-ages, who were afar off in time, as well as to those of that age. But the wicked would not be healed by God's grace, therefore would not be healed by his comforts. Their ungoverned lusts and passions made them like the troubled sea. Also the terrors of conscience disturbed their enjoyments. God hath said it, and all the world cannot unsay it, That there is no peace to those who allow themselves in any sin. If we are recovered from such an awful state, it is only by the grace of God. And the influences of the Holy Spirit, and that new heart, from whence comes grateful praise, the fruit of our lips, are his gift. Salvation, with all its fruits, hopes, and comforts, is his work, and to him belongs all the glory. There is no peace for the wicked man; but let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon.
Ellen G. White
Reflecting Christ, 278.6

Every man's experience testifies to the truth of the words of Scripture: “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest.”... Sin has destroyed our peace.... The masterful passions of the heart no human power can control. We are as helpless here as were the disciples to quiet the raging storm. But He who spoke peace to the billows of Galilee, has spoken the word of peace for every soul. However fierce the tempest, those who turn to Jesus with the cry, “Lord, save us,” will find deliverance. His grace, which reconciles the soul to God, quiets the strife of human passion, and in His love the heart is at rest. “He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.... So he bringeth them unto their desired haven.”... RC 278.6

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Ellen G. White
SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4 (EGW), 1148

7, 9. Satan Assailed Christ, Provoked No Retaliation—Satan assailed Him [Christ] in every point, yet He sinned not in thought, word, or deed. He did no violence, neither was guile found in His mouth. Walking in the midst of sin, He was holy, harmless, undefiled. He was wrongfully accused, yet He opened not His mouth to justify Himself. How many now, when accused of that of which they are not guilty, feel that there is a time when forbearance ceases to be a virtue, and losing their temper, speak words which grieve the Holy Spirit (Manuscript 42, 1901)? 4BC 1148.1

11. See EGW on Zechariah 9:16. 4BC 1148.2

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 336

When Jesus was awakened to meet the storm, He was in perfect peace. There was no trace of fear in word or look, for no fear was in His heart. But He rested not in the possession of almighty power. It was not as the “Master of earth and sea and sky” that He reposed in quiet. That power He had laid down, and He says, “I can of Mine own self do nothing.” John 5:30. He trusted in the Father's might. It was in faith—faith in God's love and care—that Jesus rested, and the power of that word which stilled the storm was the power of God. DA 336.1

As Jesus rested by faith in the Father's care, so we are to rest in the care of our Saviour. If the disciples had trusted in Him, they would have been kept in peace. Their fear in the time of danger revealed their unbelief. In their efforts to save themselves, they forgot Jesus; and it was only when, in despair of self-dependence, they turned to Him that He could give them help. DA 336.2

How often the disciples’ experience is ours! When the tempests of temptation gather, and the fierce lightnings flash, and the waves sweep over us, we battle with the storm alone, forgetting that there is One who can help us. We trust to our own strength till our hope is lost, and we are ready to perish. Then we remember Jesus, and if we call upon Him to save us, we shall not cry in vain. Though He sorrowfully reproves our unbelief and self-confidence, He never fails to give us the help we need. Whether on the land or on the sea, if we have the Saviour in our hearts, there is no need of fear. Living faith in the Redeemer will smooth the sea of life, and will deliver us from danger in the way that He knows to be best. DA 336.3

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Ellen G. White
God's Amazing Grace, 101.1

The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest.... There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. Isaiah 57:20, 21. AG 101.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, 219


For His own name's sake, God will not permit the froward and the independent to carry out their unsanctified plans. He will visit them for their perversity of action. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” Isaiah 57:21. But in His judgments the Lord will remember mercy. He declares: 8T 219.1

“I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before Me, and the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid Me, and was wroth, and he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him: I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners. I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the Lord; and I will heal him.” Verses 16-19. 8T 219.2

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