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Isaiah 64:10

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Thy holy cities are a wilderness - It is to be remembered that this is supposed to be spoken near the close of the exile in Babylon. In accordance with the usual custom in this book, Isaiah throws himself forward by prophetic anticipation into that future period, and describes the scene as if it were passing before his eyes (see the Introduction, Section 7). He uses language such as the exiles would use; he puts arguments into their mouths which it would be proper for them to use; he describes the feelings which they would then have. The phrase, ‹thy holy cities,‘ may either mean the cities of the holy land - which belonged to God, and were ‹holy,‘ as they pertained to his people; or it may mean, as many critics have supposed, the different parts of Jerusalem. A part of Jerusalem was built on Mount Zion, and was called the ‹upper city,‘ in contradistinction from that built on Mount Acra, which was called the ‹lower city.‘ But I think it more probable that the prophet refers to the cities throughout the land that were laid waste.

Are a wilderness - They were uninhabited, and were lying in ruins.

Zion is a wilderness - On the name ‹Zion,‘ see the notes at Isaiah 1:8. The idea here is, that Jerusalem was laid waste. Its temple was burned; its palaces destroyed; its houses uninhabited. This is to be regarded as being uttered at the close of the exile, after Jerusalem had been lying in ruins for seventy years - a time during which any forsaken city would be in a condition which might not improperly be called a desert. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, he burned the temple, broke down the wall, and consumed all the palaces with fire (2 Chronicles 36:19). We have only to conceive what must have been the state of the city seventy years after this, to see the force of the description here.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The people of God, in affliction, confess and bewail their sins, owning themselves unworthy of his mercy. Sin is that abominable thing which the Lord hates. Our deeds, whatever they may seem to be, if we think to merit by them at God's hand, are as rags, and will not cover us; filthy rags, and will but defile us. Even our few good works in which there is real excellence, as fruits of the Spirit, are so defective and defiled as done by us, that they need to be washed in the fountain open for sin and uncleanness. It bodes ill when prayer is kept back. To pray, is by faith to take hold of the promises the Lord has made of his good-will to us, and to plead them; to take hold of him, earnestly begging him not to leave us; or soliciting his return. They brought their troubles upon themselves by their own folly. Sinners are blasted, and then carried away, by the wind of their own iniquity; it withers and then ruins them. When they made themselves as an unclean thing, no wonder that God loathed them. Foolish and careless as we are, poor and despised, yet still Thou art our Father. It is the wrath of a Father we are under, who will be reconciled; and the relief our case requires is expected only from him. They refer themselves to God. They do not say, "Lord, rebuke us not," for that may be necessary; but, "Not in thy displeasure." They state their lamentable condition. See what ruin sin brings upon a people; and an outward profession of holiness will be no defence against it. God's people presume not to tell him what he shall say, but their prayer is, Speak for the comfort and relief of thy people. How few call upon the Lord with their whole hearts, or stir themselves to lay hold upon him! God may delay for a time to answer our prayers, but he will, in the end, answer those who call on his name and hope in his mercy.
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