|<< Isaiah 56 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
This chapter, to Isaiah 56:9, is evidently a continuation of the same general subject which is discussed in the previous chapters, and is closely connected with the great truths communicated in Isaiah 52:13-15, and Isaiah 53:1-12, respecting the work of the Messiah. The general design of the prophet seems to be to state the happy results which would follow his coming. In Isaiah 54, he states that that work would render the establishment and perpetuity of the church certain. In Isaiah 55:1-13, he states that it would lay the foundation for the offer of the gospel to all people, and that it should certainly be successful on the earth and finally triumph, and produce great and important changes. In this chapter Isaiah 56:1-9 the same idea is presented in another form, that no one would be excluded from the offer of salvation, and that strangers and foreigners would become connected, with equal privileges, with the people of God. At Isaiah 56:9, a new subject is introduced - the invasion of the land of Judea by foreign armies and the consequent punishment of the wicked and idolatrous part of the nation. This subject is continued in the following chapter. The following analysis will present a view of the design and scope of this.
I. The kingdom of God was near. The great work of man's redemption, to which the prophet referred, would not be long delayed, and those who were expecting the coming of the Messiah should be holy Isaiah 56:1.
II. The blessedness of those who should be admitted to the privileges connected with the kingdom of God, and the coming of the Messiah.
1. Who they would be.
(1) The man who kept the Sabbath Isaiah 56:2-4.
(2) The stranger and foreigner Isaiah 56:3-6.
(3) The eunuch Isaiah 56:3-4.
2. The privileges of thus being admitted to the favor and friendship of God.
(1) They should be brought to his holy mountain.
(2) They should be made joyful in the house of prayer.
(3) Their offerings should be accepted.
(4) These favors should be extended to all people Isaiah 56:7-8.
III. A prophecy respecting the invasion of the land on account of the crimes of the nation.
1. The invasion is represented under the image of wild beasts coming to devour Isaiah 56:9.
2. The cause of this.
(1) The indolence and unfaithfulness of the watchmen.
(2) Their selfishness, avarice, and covetousness.
(3) Their revelry and intemperance Isaiah 56:10-12.
1Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
Thus saith the Lord - That is, in view of the fact that the kingdom of God was to come at no distant period. Yahweh states what was necessary to prepare themselves for it, and what was the character which he demanded of those who were disposed to embrace its offers, and who would be admitted to its privileges.
Keep ye judgment - Margin, 'Equity.' Break off your sins, and be holy. A somewhat similar declaration was made by John the Baptist when he announced the coming of the Messiah: 'Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand' Matthew 3:2. The general idea is, that it was not only appropriate that the prospect of his coming and his near approach should lead them to a holy life, but it was necessary in order that they might escape his indignation.
My salvation is near to come - It is to be borne in mind that this was regarded as addressed to the Jews in exile in Babylon, and there is probably a primary reference in the words to the deliverance which they were about to experience from their long and painful captivity. But at the same time the language is appropriate to the coming of the kingdom of God under the Messiah, and the whole scope of the passage requires us to understand it of that event. Language similar to this occurs frequently in the New Testament, where the sacred writers seem to have had this passage in their eye (see Matthew 3:2; Luke 21:31; Romans 13:11; compare Isaiah 62:1-11). It is to be regarded, therefore, as having a reference to the future coming of the Messiah - perhaps as designed to describe the series of deliverances which were to close the painful bondage in Babylon, and to bring the people of God to perfect freedom, and to the full fruition of his favor. Though the actual coming of the Messiah at the time of the exile was at a period comparatively remote, yet the commencement of the great work of their deliverance was near at hand. They were soon to be rescued, and this rescue was to be but the first in the train of deliverances that would result in the entire redemption of the people of God, and was to be the public pledge that all that he had promised of the redemption of the world should be certainly effected.
To be revealed - To be made known; to be publicly manifested.
2Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
Blessed is the man - Hebrew, 'The blessings of the man' (see Psalm 1:1). The sense is, 'happy is the man.' The word here rendered 'man' (אנושׁ 'ĕnôsh) usually denotes a man in humble life or in a subordinate rank, in contradistinction from אישׁ 'ı̂ysh, a man in elevated rank. As the object of the prophet here is particularly to say, that the 'stranger' and the 'eunuch' would be admitted to these privileges, it is possible that he designedly used a word denoting one in bumble life. The particular blessing to which he refers is specified in Isaiah 56:7-8.
That doeth this - That is, this which the prophet soon specifies - keeping the Sabbath, and abstaining from evil.
And the son of man - Another form of expression denoting man.
That layeth hold on it - Hebrew, 'Binds himself fast to it;' or seizes upon it with strength. That is, he adheres firmly to the purpose, as a man seizes upon a thing with an intention not to let it go.
That keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it - Who sacredly observes the day of holy rest which God has appointed. The Sabbath was one of the special rites of the Jewish religion, and one of the most important of their institutions. Its observance entered essentially into the idea of their worship, and was designed to be the standing memorial or sign between God and the Jewish nation Exodus 31:13-17. At home, in their own nation, it kept up the constant sense of religion; abroad, when they traveled among strangers, it would serve to remind all of the special nature of their institutions, and be the public evidence that they were the worshippers of Yahweh. Hence, as this served to distinguish them from other people, it comes to be used here to signify the observance of the rites which pertained to the public worship of God; and evidently includes whatever was to be perpetual and unchanging in the public worship of the Creator. It is remarkable that the prophet does not pronounce a blessing on him who came to bloody altars with sacrifices, or him who burned incense, or him who conformed to the unique rites of the Jewish religion. These rites were to pass away, and the obligation to observe them was to cease; and in this indirect manner the sacred writer has given an intimation that there would be blessings on those who did not observe those rites, and that the period would arrive when the divine favor and mercy would descend on people in a different channel. In regard to the importance of the Sabbath, see the note at the close of Isaiah 58:1-14.
And keepeth his hand ... - That is, is an upright, holy, honest man. He not only worships God and keeps the Sabbath, but he is upright in the discharge of all the duties which he owes to his fellow-men. These two specifications are evidently designed to include all the influences of religion - the proper service and worship of God, and an upright and holy life. Never in fact are they separated, and the religion of the Bible was designed to secure the one as much as the other.
3Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
Neither let the son of the stranger - The foreigner who shall become a proselyte to the true religion.
That hath joined himself - That has embraced the true faith, and become a worshipper of the true God. It is evidently implied here that there would be such proselytes, and that the true religion would be extended so as to include and embrace them. The idea is, that they should be admitted to the same privileges with those who had been long recognized as the people of God.
The Lord hath utterly separated - Let him not esteem himself to be an outcast, or cut off from the privileges of the people of God. This language is used with reference to the opinion which prevailed among the Jews, that the Gentiles were excluded from the privileges of the people of God, and it is designed to intimate that hereafter all such barriers would be broken down. They who entered the church as proselytes from the pagan world, were not to come in with any sense of inferiority in regard to their rights among his people; but they were to feel that all the barriers which had heretofore existed were now broken down, and that all people were on a level. There is to be no assumption of superiority of one nation or rank over another; there is to be no sense of inferiority of one class in reference to another.
Neither let the eunuch say - This class of men was usually set over the harems of the East Esther 2:3, Esther 2:14-15; Esther 4:5; and they were employed also as high officers at court Esther 1:10, Esther 1:12, Esther 1:15; Daniel 1:3; Acts 8:27. The word is sometimes used to denote a minister of court; a court officer in general Genesis 37:6; Genesis 39:1. The Targum often renders the word by רבא rabbâ', "a prince."
Behold, I am a dry tree - A dry tree is an emblem of that which is barren, useless, unfruitful. By the law of Moses such persons could not be enrolled or numbered in the congregation of the Lord Deuteronomy 23:2. The sense here is, that they should not hereafter be subjected to the religious and civil disabilities to which they had been. These external barriers to the full privileges among the people of God, would be removed. All classes and ranks would be admitted to the same privileges; all would be on the same level (see Isaiah 56:5).
4For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs - Even the eunuchs, who have hitherto been excluded from the privileges of the people of God, and who have been regarded as a separated and degraded people, shall be admitted to the same privileges as others.
That keep my sabbaths - The word is used here in the plural, though the weekly Sabbath is probably particularly intended. It may be, however, that the word is used to represent religious observances in general (see the notes at Isaiah 56:2).
And choose the things that please me - Who will be willing to sacrifice their own pleasure and preferences to those things which I choose, and in which Idelight.
And take hold of my covenant - Hold fast, or steadily maintain my covenant. On the meaning of the word 'covenant,' see the notes at Isaiah 28:18; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 54:10.
5Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Will I give in mine house - That is, they shalt be admitted to all the privileges of entering my house of prayer, and of being regarded as my true worshippers, and this shall be to them a more invaluable privilege than would be any earthly advantages. The word 'house' here refers undoubtedly to the temple, regarded as emblematic of the place of public worship in all ages.
And within my walls - The walls of the city where God dwelt, referring primarily to the walls of Jerusalem. They should be permitted to dwell with God, and be admitted to all the privileges of others. All, of all classes and conditions, under the reign of the Messiah, should be regarded as on a level, and entitled to equal advantages. There should be no religious disabilities arising from caste, age, country, color, or rank of life. Those who had any physical defect should not on that account be excluded from his favor, or be regarded as not entitled to his offers of mercy. The lame, therefore, the halt, the blind; the man of color, the african, the red man of the woods; the Hindu and the Islander; all are to be regarded as alike invited to participate in the favor of God, and none are to be excluded from the 'house' erected to his praise, and from within the 'walls' of the holy city where he dwells.
A place - Hebrew, יד yâd - 'A hand.' The word is, however, used to denote 'a place' Deuteronomy 23:13; Numbers 2:17; Joshua 8:10. It is sometimes used in the sense of 'monument,' or 'trophy' 1 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 18:18, as if a monument were a handpointing out or showing anything. The word here denotes, however, a place, and means that the excluded foreigner and the eunuch should be admitted to a place in the temple of God; that is, should be admitted to the favor of God, and be permitted to dwell with him.
And a name - As it was regarded among the Hebrews as one of the highest honors to have a numerous posterity, the idea here is, that they should be admitted to the highest possible honor - the honor of being regarded as the children of God, and treated as his friends.
And I will give them an everlasting name - Their memory shall not perish. They shall be admitted to eternal and unchangeable honors - the everlasting honor of being treated as the friends of God.
6Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Also the sons of the stranger - (see the note at Isaiah 56:3). The conditions on which they should be admitted to the same privileges are specified, and are the following:
1. They were to 'join themselves to the Lord' (see the note at Isaiah 56:3).
2. This should be with a purpose to 'serve him.' Their aim and design should be to keep his commandments and to do his will.
3. They were to 'love the name of the Lord;' that is, to love Yahweh himself, for the 'name' of the Lord is often used as denoting the Lord himself.
4. They were to keep his sabbaths (see the notes at Isaiah 56:4).
5. They were to take hold of his covenant (see the notes at Isaiah 56:4).
On these conditions the sons of the foreigner were to be admitted to all the privileges of the children of God, and to be united with all who love and serve him.
7Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
Even them will I bring to my holy mountain - (See the notes at Isaiah 2:3). That is, they should be admitted to the fellowship and privileges of his people.
And make them joyful - In the participation of the privileges of the true religion, and in the service of God, they shall be made happy.
In my house of prayer - In the temple - here called the house of prayer. The language here is all derived from the worship of the Jews, though the meaning evidently is, that under the new dispensation, all nations would be admitted to the privileges of his people, and that the appropriate services of religion which they would offer would be acceptable to God.
Their burnt-offerings - That is, their worship shall be as acceptable as that of the ancient people of God. This evidently contemplates the future times of the Messiah, and the sense is, that in those times, the Gentiles would be admitted to the same privileges of the people of God, as the Jewish nation had been. It is true that proselytes were admitted to the privileges of religion among the Jews, and were permitted to offer burnt-offerings and sacrifices, nor can there be a doubt that they were then acceptable to God. But it is also true that there was a conviction that they were admitted as proselytes, and that there would be a superiority felt by the native-born Jews over the foreigners who were admitted to their society. Under the Jewish religion this distinction was inevitable, and it would involve, in spite of every effort to the contrary, much of the feeling of caste - a sense of superiority on the one hand, and of inferiority on the other; a conviction on the one part that they were the descendants of Abraham, and the inheritors of the ancient and venerable promises, and on the other that they had come in as foreigners, and had been admitted by special favor to these privileges. But all this was to be abolished under the Messiah. No one was to claim superiority on account of any supposed advantage from birth, or nation, or country; no one, however humble he might feel in respect to God and to his own deserts, was to admit into his bosom any sense of inferiority in regard to his origin, his country, his complexion, his former character. All were to have the same near access to God, and the offering of one was to be as acceptable as that of another.
For mine house - This passage is quoted by the Saviour Matthew 21:13, to show the impropriety of employing the temple as a place of traffic and exchange. In that passage he simply quotes the declaration that it should be 'a house of prayer.' There are two ideas in the passage as used by Isaiah; first, that the temple should be regarded as a house of prayer; and, secondly, that the privileges of that house should be extended to all people. The main design of the temple was that God might be there invoked, and the inestimable privilege of calling on him was to be extended to all the nations of the earth.
8The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
The Lord God - This verse is a continuation of the promise made in the previous verses, that those of other nations would be united to the ancient people of God. The sense is, that Yahweh would not only gather back to their country those who were scattered abroad in other lands, but would also call to the same privileges multitudes of those who were now aliens and strangers.
Which gathereth the outcasts of Israel - Who will collect again and restore to their own country those of the Jews who were scattered abroad - the exiles who were in distant lands.
Yet will I gather others to him - To Israel; that is, to the Jews (see John 10:16).
Besides those - Margin, 'To his gathered.' To those who are collected from their exile and restored to their own country, I will add many others of other nations. This completes the promise referred to in this and the previous chapters. The next verse introduces a new subject, and here a division should have been made in the chapters. The great truth is here fully expressed, that under the Messiah the pagan world would be admitted to the privileges of the people of God. The formidable and long-existing barriers between the nations would be broken down. No one nation would be permitted to come before God claiming any special privileges; none should regard themselves as in any sense inferior to any other portion of the world on account of their birth, their rank, their privileges by nature. Under this economy we are permitted to live - happy now in the assurance that though we were once regarded as strangers and foreigners, yet we are 'now fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God' Ephesians 2:19.
The whole world lies on a level before God in regard to its origin - for God 'has made of one blood all the nations of mankind to dwell on the face of all the earth' Acts 18:26. The whole race is on a level in regard to moral character - for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. And the whole race is on a level in regard to redemption - for the same Saviour died for all; the same heaven is offered to all; and the same eternal and most blessed God is ready to admit all to his favor, and to confer on all everlasting life. What thanks do 'we owe to the God of grace for the blessings of the eternal gospel; and how anxious should we be that the offers of salvation should in fact be made known to all people! The wide world may be saved, and there is not one of the human race so degraded in rank, or color, or ignorance, that he may not be admitted to the same heaven with Abraham and the prophets, and whose prayers and praises would not be as acceptable to God as those of the most magnificent monarch who ever wore a crown.
9All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.
All ye beasts of the field - This evidently commences a new subject, and refers to some invasion of the land of Judea. In the previous chapter, the prophet had comforted the people by the assurance of the coming of the Messiah, and by the fact that they should be enlarged by the accession of the Gentiles. He proceeds here to a more disagreeable part of the subject. The design is, to reprove particularly the sins of the rulers of the people, and to assure them that such conduct would incur the vengeance of heaven. The sins reproved are indolence and inattention to duty Isaiah 56:10-12; a spirit of self-indulgence and of slumber, avarice and selfishness, and luxury and intemperance. The vengeance here referred to, Lowth supposes to be the invasion of the land by the Chaldeans, and perhaps by the Romans. Grotius supposes that it refers to the Egyptians, and to bands of robbers from the Chaldeans, Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites. Vitringa strangely enough refers it to the barbarous nations which broke in upon the Christian church to lay it waste and destroy it during the decline of the Roman empire, particularly the Huns, Saracens, Turks, Turcomans, Tartars, etc. But the connection seems to demand that it should be understood of some events, not far distant from the time of the prophet, which would be a proper punishment of the crimes then existing. According to this interpretation, the reference here, I suppose, is to the invasion of the land by the Chaldeans. They would come as wild beasts, to spread terror and devastation before them. And so great were the national crimes, that the prophet calls on them to come and devour all before them. The comparison of invaders to wild beasts is not uncommon in the Scriptures. Thus Jeremiah 12:9 -
Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird,
The birds round about are against her;
Come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field,
Come to devour.
So Jeremiah 50:17 -
Israel is a scattered sheep;
The lions have driven him away;
First the king of Assyria hath devoured him,
And last this Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, hath broken his bones.
See also Isaiah 9:11.
10His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
His watchmen - The prophet proceeds to specify the sins which had thus induced God to send the desolating armies of foreign nations. The first is specified in this verse, the apathy, indifference, and unfaithfulness, which prevailed among those who were appointed to guard their interests and defend the cause of truth. The word rendered 'his watchmen' (צפוּ tsophâv) is derived from צפה tsâphâh, "to look about; to view from a distance; to see afar." It is applied appropriately to those who were stationed on the walls of a city, or on a tower, in order that they might see the approach of an enemy 1 Samuel 14:16; 2 Samuel 13:34; 2 Samuel 18:24. It is then applied to prophets, who are as it were placed on an elevated post of observation, and who are able to cast the eye far into future scenes, and to predict future events (Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 3:17; the note at Isaiah 21:6-11; Isaiah 52:8; compare Isaiah 62:6). Here it refers undoubtedly to the public teachers of the Jews who had failed to perceive the crimes and dangers of the people; or who, if they had seen them, had neglected to warn them of the prevalence of sin, and of the dangers to which they were exposed.
Are blind - They have become willfully blind to the existence of idolatry and vice, or they are so corrupt in sentiment and practice, that they fail to notice the existence of the prevailing sins.
They are all ignorant - Hebrew, 'They do not know.' This may either mean that they were not possessed of the proper qualifications for the office of prophets, or that they were so immersed in sin themselves, and so indolent, that they did not observe the existence of the national sins. In either case, they were unfit for the station.
They are all dumb dogs - Dogs are appointed to guard a house or flock, and to give notice of the approach of a robber by night Job 30:1. They are thus an emblem of a prophet - appointed to announce danger. Generally in the Scriptures the dog is mentioned as the symbol of uncleanness, of vileness, of apostasy, of that which deserved the utmost contempt (Deuteronomy 23:18; 1 Samuel 24:14; 2 Samuel 9:8; Proverbs 26:11; Philippians 3:2; 2 Peter 2:22; Revelation 21:8; Revelation 22:15; compare Virg. Georg. i. 470). But here the dog is an emblem of vigilance. The phrase 'dumb dogs,' is applicable to prophets who from any cause failed to warn the nation of their guilt and danger.
They cannot bark - They cannot give warning of the danger which threatens. The reason why they could not do this the prophet immediately states. They loved to slumber - they delighted in indolence and repose.
Sleeping - Margin, 'Dreaming,' or 'Talking in their sleep.' The word הזים hoziym, is from הזה hâzâh, "to dream, to talk in one's dreams." It is kindred to חזה châzâh, "to see," and the primary idea seems to be that of nocturnal visions. The Septuagint renders it, Ενυπνιαξόμενοι κοίτην Enupniachomenoi koitēn - 'Sleeping in bed.' Aquila, φανταζόμενοι phantazomenoi - 'Having visions,' or phantasms. The idea is that probably of dreaming, or drowsing; a state of indolence and unfaithfulness to their high trust. Perhaps also there is included the idea of their being deluded by vain imaginations, and by false opinions, instead of being under the influence of truth. For it is commonly the case that false and unfaithful teachers of religion are not merely inactive; they act under the influence of deluding and delusive views - like people who are dreaming and who see nothing real. Such was probably the case with the false prophets in the time of Isaiah.
Lying down - As dogs do who are indolent. They are inactive, unfaithful, and delighting in ease.
Loving to slumber - Perhaps there was never a more graphic and striking description of an indolent and unfaithful ministry than this. Alas, that it should be too true of multitudes who bear the sacred office, and who are appointed to warn their fellow-men of danger! How many come still under the description of dumb dogs who cannot bark, and who love to slumber!' Some are afraid of giving offence; some have no deep sense of the importance of religious truth, and the actual danger of the ungodly; some embrace false opinions - led on by day-dreams and fictions of the imagination, as unreal, as vain, and as inconsistent, as are the incoherent expressions which are uttered in sleep; some engage in worldly projects, and fill up their time with the cares and plans of this life; and some are invincibly indolent. Nothing will rouse them; nothing induce them to forego the pleasures of sleep, and ease, and of an inactive life. The friends of God are unrebuked when they err; and an inactive and unfaithful ministry suffers the great enemy to come and bear away the soul to death, as an unfaithful mastiff would suffer the thief to approach the dwelling without warning the inmates. But the mastiff is usually more faithful than an indolent ministry. To the deep shame of man be it spoken, there are more ministers of religion who are indolent, inactive, and unfaithful, than there are of the canine race. Instinct prompts them to act the part which God intends; but alas, there are men - men in the ministry - whom neither instinct, nor conscience, nor reason, nor hope, nor fear, nor love, nor the command of God, nor the apprehension of eternal judgment, will rouse to put forth unwearied efforts to save souls from an eternal hell!
11Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.
Yea, they are greedy dogs - Margin, 'Strong of appetite.' Literally, 'Strong of soul' (עזי־נפשׁ ‛azēy-nephesh. Jerome renders it, Canes impudentissimi. So the Septuagint, Κύνες ἀναιδεῖς τῇ ψυχῇ Kunes anaideis tē psuchē - 'Dogs impudent in soul.' They were greedy and insatiable in that which the soul or the appetite demands. The idea here is, that the prophets to whom reference is here made were sensual, and disposed to gorge themselves; living only for carnal indulgence, insensible to the rights of others, and never satisfied.
And they are shepherds that cannot understand - Who are ignorant of the needs of the people, and who cannot be made to comprehend what is needed by them (see Isaiah 56:10).
They all look to their own way - That is, they are all selfish. The ministers of religion are set apart not to promote their own interests bug the welfare and salavation of others.
Every one for his gain - For his own private ends and emoluments.
From his quarter - Lowth, 'From the highest to the lowest.' So Rosenmuller. Septuagint, Κατὰ τὸ ἑαυτοῦ Kata to heautou - 'Each one according to his own purpose.' The Hebrew is literally, 'From his end,' or extremity. Genesis 19:4 : 'From every quarter' (מקצה mı̂qqâtseh) that is, from one end to the other; one and all, the whole. This seems to be the idea here, that one and all were given to selfishness, to covetousness, and to indulgence in luxury and sensuality.
12Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.
Come ye, say they - (compare the notes at Isaiah 22:13). That is, one says to another, 'I will fetch wine;' or as we would say, 'I will take another glass.' The object is to describe a drinking-bout, or carousal, when the glass is shoved around, and there is drinking to excess. The language denotes the state of exhilaration and excitement when sitting at the table, and already under the influence of wine. This is not designed to be descriptive of the people at large, but of the 'watchmen,' or public teachers of the nation, and it certainly shows a state of most lamentable degeneracy and corruption. Unhappily, however, it has not been confined to the times of Manasseh. There have been periods in the history of the Christian church, and there are still portions of that church, where the language used here with so much severity would be an appropriate description even of the Christian ministry; scenes where the professed heralds of salvation sit long at the wine, and join with the frivolous, the worldly, and the profane, in 'shoving round' the sparkling cup. No severer language is used in the prophets to describe and denounce any class of sinners than is appropriated to such people; at no time has the church more occasion to sit in the dust and to weep, than when her ministers 'rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; and continue until night, until wine inflame them Isaiah 5:11.
We will fill ourselves with strong drink - (See the notes at Isaiah 5:11).
And tomorrow ... - That is, indulgence of this kind was habitual. There was an intention to continue it. It was not that they had been once overtaken and had erred; but it was that they loved it, and meant to drink deeper and deeper. So now the guilt of ministers is greatly aggravated in the same way. It is not merely that they drink wine; it is not even that they on a single occasion drink too much, and say and do foolish and wicked things - liable as all are to this who indulge in drinking wine at all, and certainly as ministers will do it who indulge in the habit; it is that they mean to do it; they resolve not to abandon it, but purpose to persevere in the habit 'tomorrow.' Hence, such people refuse to join a Society of Temperance; hence, they oppose such societies as ultra and fanatical; and hence, by not joining them, they proclaim to the world, 'Come ye, and I will take another glass, and tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.' It is this settled purpose - this fixed resolution, stretching into future time, and embracing coming years, that is so offensive to God. And there is not on earth a condition of more public iniquity than when the ministers of religion take this bold and open stand, and resolve that they will not abandon intoxicating drinks, but will continue to drink 'tomorrow,' and ever onward. Hopeless is the work of reformation when the ministers of religion take this stand; and dark is the prospect for the church on earth, when the messengers of salvation cannot be induced to stand before the church of God as examples and advocates for temperance on the most strict and uncompromising principles.