The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 58

Isa 58:1

Background: Hezekiah's treaty with the king of Babylon brought stinging rebuke from Isaiah (Isa 39), as well as from Micah (Mic 3:12). This caused Hezekiah to repent immediately (Jer 26:18,19), and the threatened destruction of Jerusalem was stayed. Isa 58 (actually Isa 57:14 - Isa 58), with its Day of Atonement allusions, commemorates this royal and national repentance.

LIKE A TRUMPET: Ref the Shofar which sounded at the Feast of Trumpets 10 days earlier, and also to bring in the Day of Atonement itself.

DECLARE TO MY PEOPLE THEIR REBELLION AND... THEIR SINS: Yom Kippur was the outstanding day in the year when remembrance was made of sins committed.

Isa 58:3

Vv 3-6: Sustained allusions to fasting. The only prescribed fast of the LM was on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29,31). Cp Mat 9:9-18: Matthew's feast, and Pharisees' criticisms: re fasting and new garments.

WHY HAVE WE FASTED... AND YOU HAVE NOT SEEN IT?: Self-satisfaction with the externals of worship! But nothing was changed underneath the "veneer" (vv 4-7).

YET... YOU DO AS YOU PLEASE...: They had come to think that their physical acts of worship on this one day were sufficient, and they need not examine and change their spirits, nor their actions, for the other 364 days of the year!

Isa 58:5

FOR BOWING ONE'S HEAD LIKE A REED: "Let us not bend ourselves over so far that we can only see our own prostration" (Xd 92:203).

Isa 58:6

Isa 58:6,

Vv 6,7: "What if we shut up the bowels of our compassion towards those who suffer? What if with plenty in our hands, we think only of our own need, and our own comfort, and our schemes are shaped and burdened only and continually with our own cares and our own interests? What if we never help the heavy burdens under which so many around us are staggering to the grave? What if we practice a habit of absolute indifference to the yokes, and the oppressions and difficulties which are crushing to the earth our neighbours on every hand? Is it not obvious that in that case, we are in the exact position of Israel, 'delighting in Yahweh's ways' after a fashion, but to no profit, because He takes no pleasure in us?" (SC 27).

TO SET THE OPPRESSED FREE AND BREAK EVERY YOKE: The Year of Jubilee (with the release of slaves) began on the evening of the Day of Atonement (Lev 25:9). The year of deliverance from Sennacherib's hordes was the only Year of Jubilee mentioned in the Bible (2Ki 19:29). What God had done for them (Exodus, Sennacherib's destruction), they must now do for others!

Isa 58:7

"This eloquent passage surely applied the judicial pronouncement which dominates Christ's own picture of the Last Judgment... Mat 25:35,36" (WIsa 503).

Isa 58:8

THEN YOUR LIGHT WILL BREAK FORTH LIKE THE DAWN: In this context, the manifestation of the Shekinah Glory over the mercy seat (cp Isa 60:1; Psa 80:1).

THE GLORY OF THE LORD WILL BE YOUR REAR GUARD: Links this with the pillar of cloud and fire which guided and protected Israel in their deliverance from Egypt (Exo 14:19).

BREAK FORTH... RIGHTEOUSNESS... GLORY: These terms also appear together in a psalm for the Day of Atonement (Psa 85:9-11).

Isa 58:9

THEN YOU WILL CALL: The communal prayer of the nation whilst the High Priest was in the Most Holy on the Day of Atonement.

YOKE OF OPPRESSION... FINGER: "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them" (Mat 23:4).

Isa 58:10

YOUR LIGHT WILL RISE IN THE DARKNESS...: Another allusion to the Shekinah Glory shining forth on the Day of Atonement (cp v 8).

Isa 58:12

YOU WILL BE CALLED REPAIRER OF BROKEN WALLS...: Of course it is Yahweh who actually does all this, but the repentance of the nation will bring about such repairs and restorations!

Isa 58:14


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