Holy, holy, holy - This hymn performed by the seraphim, divided into two choirs, the one singing responsively to the other, which Gregory Nazian., Carm. 18, very elegantly calls Συμφωνον, αντιφωνον, αγγελων στασιν, is formed upon the practice of alternate singing, which prevailed in the Jewish Church from the time of Moses, whose ode at the Red Sea was thus performed, (see Exodus 15:20, Exodus 15:21;), to that of Ezra, under whom the priests and Levites sung alternately,
"O praise Jehovah, for he is gracious;
For his mercy endureth for ever;"
Ezra 3:11. See De Sac. Poes. Hebr. Prael. xix., at the beginning.
And one cried to another - Hebrew ‹This cried to this.‘ That is, they cried to each other in alternate responses. One cried ‹holy;‘ the second repeated it; then the third; and then they probably united in the grand chorus, ‹Full is all the earth of his glory.‘ This was an ancient mode of singing or recitative among the Hebrews; see Exodus 15:20-21, where Miriam is represented as going before in the dance with a timbrel, and the other females as following her, and “answering,” or responding to her, Psalm 136:1; compare Lowth, “on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews,” Lect. xix.
Holy, holy, holy - The “repetition” of a name, or of an expression, three times, was quite common among the Jews. Thus, in Jeremiah 7:4, the Jews are represented by the prophet as saying, ‹the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these. Thus, Jeremiah 22:29: ‹O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord;‘ Ezekiel 21:27: ‹I will overturn, overturn, overturn;‘ see also 1 Samuel 18:23: ‹O my son Absalom! my son, my son;‘ see also the repetition of the form of benediction among the Jews, Numbers 6:24-26:
Jehovah bless thee and keep thee;
Jehovah make his face to shine upon thee,
And be gracious unto thee;
Jehovah lift up his countenance upon thee,
And give thee peace.
In like manner, the number “seven” is used by the Hebrews to denote a great, indefinite number; then a full or complete number; and then perfectness, completion. Thus, in Revelation 1:4; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5, the phrase, ‹the seven spirits of God,‘ occurs as applicable to the Holy Spirit, denoting his fullness, completeness, perfection. The Hebrews usually expressed the superlative degree by the repetition of a word. Thus, Genesis 14:10: ‹The vale of Siddim, pits, pits of of clay,‘ that is, was full of pits; see Nordheimer‘s “Heb. Gram.” Section 822-824. The form was used, therefore, among the Jews, to denote “emphasis;” and the expression means in itself no more than ‹thrice holy;‘ that is, supremely holy. Most commentators, however, have supposed that there is here a reference to the doctrine of the Trinity. It is not probable that the Jews so understood it; but applying to the expressions the fuller revelations of the New Testament, it cannot be doubted that the words will express that. Assuming that that doctrine is true, it cannot be doubted, think, that the seraphs laid the foundation of their praise in that doctrine. That there was a distinct reference to the second person of the Trinity, is clear from what John says, John 12:41. No “argument” can be drawn directly from this in favor of the doctrine of the Trinity, for the repetition of such phrases thrice in other places, is merely “emphatic,” denoting the superlative degree. But when the doctrine is “proved” from other places, it may be presumed that the heavenly beings were apprized of it, and that the foundation of their ascriptions of praise was laid in that. The Chaldee has rendered this, ‹Holy in the highest heavens, the house of his majesty; holy upon the earth, the work of his power; holy forever, and ever, and ever, is the Lord of hosts.‘ The whole expression is a most sublime ascription of praise to the living God, and should teach us in what manner to approach him.
The Lord of hosts - see the note at Isaiah 1:9.
The whole earth - Margin, ‹The earth is the fulness of his glory.‘ All things which he has made on the earth express his glory. His wisdom and goodness, his power and holiness, are seen every where. The whole earth, with all its mountains, seas, streams, trees, animals, and people, lay the foundation of his praise. In accordance with this, the Psalmist, in a most beautiful composition, calls upon all things to praise him; see Psalm 148:1-14.
Praise the Lord from the earth,
Ye dragons, and all deeps:
Fire and hail; snow and vapors;
Stormy wind fulfilling his word:
Mountains, and all hills;
Fruitful trees, and all cedars;
Beasts, and all cattle;
Creeping things, and flying fowl.
Graciously the Lord responded, “I have pardoned according to thy word.” And then He imparted to Moses, in the form of a prophecy, a knowledge of His purpose concerning the final triumph of Israel. “As truly as I live,” He declared, “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord.” Verses 20, 21. God's glory, His character, His merciful kindness and tender love—that which Moses had pleaded in behalf of Israel—were to be revealed to all mankind. And this promise of Jehovah was made doubly sure; it was confirmed by an oath. As surely as God lives and reigns, His glory should be declared “among the heathen, His wonders among all people.” Psalm 96:3. PK 313.1
It was concerning the future fulfillment of this prophecy that Isaiah had heard the shining seraphim singing before the throne, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:3. The prophet, confident of the certainty of these words, himself afterward boldly declared of those who were bowing down to the images of wood and stone, “They shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.” Isaiah 35:2. PK 313.2
Today this prophecy is meeting rapid fulfillment. The missionary activities of the church of God on earth are bearing rich fruitage, and soon the gospel message will have been proclaimed to all nations. “To the praise of the glory of His grace,” men and women from every kindred, tongue, and people are being made “accepted in the Beloved,” “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 1:6; 2:7. “Blessed be the Lord God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be His glorious name forever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory.” Psalm 72:18, 19. PK 313.3Read in context »
Had Israel been true to her trust, all the nations of earth would have shared in her blessings. But the hearts of those to whom had been entrusted a knowledge of saving truth, were untouched by the needs of those around them. As God's purpose was lost sight of, the heathen came to be looked upon as beyond the pale of His mercy. The light of truth was withheld, and darkness prevailed. The nations were overspread with a veil of ignorance; the love of God was little known; error and superstition flourished. PK 371.1
Such was the prospect that greeted Isaiah when he was called to the prophetic mission; yet he was not discouraged, for ringing in his ears was the triumphal chorus of the angels surrounding the throne of God, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:3. And his faith was strengthened by visions of glorious conquests by the church of God, when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9. “The face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations,” was finally to be destroyed. Isaiah 25:7. The Spirit of God was to be poured out upon all flesh. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness were to be numbered among the Israel of God. “They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses,” said the prophet. “One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” Isaiah 44:4, 5. PK 371.2
To the prophet was given a revelation of the beneficent design of God in scattering impenitent Judah among the nations of earth. “My people shall know My name,” the Lord declared; “they shall know in that day that I am He that doth speak.” Isaiah 52:6. And not only were they themselves to learn the lesson of obedience and trust; in their places of exile they were also to impart to others a knowledge of the living God. Many from among the sons of the strangers were to learn to love Him as their Creator and their Redeemer; they were to begin the observance of His holy Sabbath day as a memorial of His creative power; and when He should make “bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations,” to deliver His people from captivity, “all the ends of the earth” should see of the salvation of God. Verse 10. Many of these converts from heathenism would wish to unite themselves fully with the Israelites and accompany them on the return journey to Judea. None of these were to say, “The Lord hath utterly separated me from His people” (Isaiah 56:3), for the word of God through His prophet to those who should yield themselves to Him and observe His law was that they should thenceforth be numbered among spiritual Israel—His church on earth. PK 371.3Read in context »