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Isaiah 57:9

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

And thou wentest to the king with ointment "And thou hast visited the king with a present of oil" - That is, the king of Assyria, or Egypt. Hosea, chap, Hosea 12:1, reproaches the Israelites for the same practice: -

"They make a covenant with Assyria,

And oil is carried to Egypt."

It is well known, that in all parts of the east, whoever visits a great person must carry him a present. "It is counted uncivil," says Maundreg, p. 26, "to visit in this country without an offering in hand. All great men expect it as a tribute due to their character and authority; and look upon themselves as affronted, and indeed defrauded, when the compliment is omitted." Hence שור shur, to visit a person, is equivalent to making him a present; and תשורה teshurah signifies a present made on such occasions; as our translators have rightly rendered it, 1 Samuel 9:7; on which Jarchi says Menachem exponit תשורה teshurah, quod significat oblationem sive manus, ut aliquis aspiciat faciem regis, aut alicuius magnatis. "Menachem expounds תשורה teshurah of an offering or gift which is presented in order to be admitted into the presence of the king or some great man."

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And thou wentest to the king - Margin, ‹Respectedst.‘ Jerome renders this, ‹Thou hast adorned thyself with royal ointment, and hast multiplied thy painting; and evidently understands it as a continuance of the sentiment in the previous verses as referring to the kind of decoration which harlots used. The Septuagint renders it, ‹Thou hast multiplied thy fornication with them, and hast done it with many who are far from thee.‘ The Chaldee renders it, ‹When thou didst keep the law thou wert prosperous in the kingdom; and when thou didst abound in good works, then thine armies were multiplied.‘ Lowth supposes that the king of Egypt or Assyria is intended, and that the prophet refers to the fact, that the Hebrews had sought an alliance with them, and in order to secure it, had carried a present of valuable unguents, after the manner of the East. Rosenmuller supposes, that by the king an idol was intended, and that the sense is, that they had anointed themselves with oil, and prepared perfumes, in order to be acceptable to the idol; that is, had decorated themselves as harlots did.

Grotius supposes that it means that they had imitated foreign kings, and copied the customs of other nations, and refers to the example of Ahaz 2 Kings 16:10. Others suppose that the word ‹king‘ is to be taken collectively, and that it means that they had sought the alliance, and imitated the customs of foreign nations in general. It is probable that the prophet refers to some such fact. On former occasions, they had sought the alliance of the king of Assyria (see Isaiah 7:1); and on one occasion, at least, they had meditated an alliance with the king of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2 ff.) The essential idea is, that they had proved unfaithful to Yahweh. This idea is presented here under the image of a female unfaithful to her husband, who had decorated and perfumed herself that she might allure others. Thus the Jews had forsaken God, and had endeavored to make themselves agreeable in the sight of other nations, and had courted their friendship and alliance. The word I ‹king,‘ according to this, refers not to idols, but to foreign princes, whose assistance had been sought.

And didst increase thy perfumes - That is, for the purpose of rendering thyself agreeable, after the manner of a licentious female (see Proverbs 7:17). The custom of perfuming the person was common in the East, and is still practiced there.

And didst send thy messengers - That is, to distant nations, for the purpose of securing their alliance.

And didst debase thyself even unto hell - On the meaning of the word ‹hell,‘ see the notes at Isaiah 5:14. The idea is, that they had sunk to the deepest possible debasement. In forsaking Yahweh; in seeking foreign alliances; in their anxiety to secure their aid when Yahweh was abundantly able and willing to protect them, they had sunk to the lowest degradation of character and condition. The sentiment is, that people degrade themselves when they do not put confidence in God, and when, distrusting his ability, they put reliance on any other aid than his. If people have God for their protector, why should they court the friendship of earthly princes and kings?

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The Lord here calls apostates and hypocrites to appear before him. When reproved for their sins, and threatened with judgments, they ridiculed the word of God. The Jews were guilty of idolatry before the captivity; but not after that affliction. Their zeal in the worship of false gods, may shame our indifference in the worship of the true God. The service of sin is disgraceful slavery; those who thus debase themselves to hell, will justly have their portion there. Men incline to a religion that inflames their unholy passions. They are led to do any evil, however great or vile, if they think it will atone for crimes, or purchase indulgence for some favourite lust. This explains idolatry, whether pagan, Jewish, or antichristian. But those who set up anything instead of God, for their hope and confidence, never will come to a right end. Those who forsake the only right way, wander in a thousand by-paths. The pleasures of sin soon tire, but never satisfy. Those who care not for the word of God and his providences, show they have no fear of God. Sin profits not; it ruins and destroys.
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