Isaiah 50:1 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Isa 50:1-3. The third oracle meets another doubt which must have occurred to the exiles, viz., that the covenant relation between Jehovah and Israel has been broken beyond possibility of renewal. In Isa 50:1 this fear is dispelled by the help of two analogies from common life.
Where is the bill … whom I have put away?] (better, as R.V., wherewith I have put her away). No such document exists. Although Jehovah has had good reason to adopt this extreme measure (Jer 3:8), He has not done it, but has left the way open for a reconciliation. The effect of the “bill of divorcement” was to make the separation absolute and final; the woman was free to marry another, but could not after that be received back by her former husband (Deu 24:1-4). (A specimen of the form of words used by later Jews is given in Dalman’s Aramäische Dialektproben, p. 5.) In Mohammedan law a man may divorce his wife twice and take her back without any ceremony, but a third divorce (or a triple divorce conveyed in one sentence) is final, unless the woman have contracted a fresh marriage in the interval and been released from it either by divorce or the death of the husband ( Koran, Sura 2:229 f.; see Lane, Modern Egyptians, chap. 3). Both the Mosaic and the Mohammedan laws accord to a husband the unrestricted right of divorce, and for this reason the Jewish custom was pronounced by our Lord to be inconsistent with the true idea of marriage and a concession to the weakness of human nature (Mat 19:3 ff.; Mar 10:2 ff.).
which of my creditors is it &c.] i.e. “what creditor of mine is there to whom” &c.? The selling of children into slavery in payment of a debt is another practice tolerated, though hardly approved, by the Law (Exo 21:7; cf. 2Ki 4:1; Neh 5:5). Since it is inconceivable that Jehovah should have a creditor, so it is impossible that He should have surrendered His rights over His own children.
Behold, for your iniquities &c. ] This is the true explanation of the slavery of the children and the divorce of the mother, and this cause is removed by the offer of forgiveness (Isa 40:2). It is remarkable that the prophet does not, like Hosea and Ezekiel, directly attribute sin to the ideal mother of the nation, but only to the individual Israelites, to whom this whole expostulation is addressed (cf. Hos 2:2).
For have you sold yourselves render with R.V. were ye sold (so again ch. Isa 52:3). The phrase is frequently used in the Book of Judges of the delivering of Israel into the power of its enemies (Jdg 2:14 &c.).
(i) Isa 49:14-21. In an apostrophe to Jerusalem the prophet announces the speedy return of her population and the rebuilding of her waste places. The poetry of the passage is singularly beautiful, and charged with tender emotion. Zion, the idealised city, is the wife of Jehovah, and the mother of her inhabitants. Although she now thinks of herself as rejected and barren ( Isa 49:14), she is assured of the unchanging love of her God ( Isa 49:15-16) which will soon be manifested in her restoration to the joy of motherhood (17 20). The ecstasy of amazement and delight with which she recognises and welcomes her children ( Isa 49:21) is finely opposed to the opening picture of her desolation and despondency. Note also the contrast between the whole conception and the fate of the “virgin daughter of Babylon” (Isa 47:8-9).
(1) Isa 49:22-23. On a signal from Jehovah the nations shall bring home the scattered children of Zion; nay, their kings and queens shall esteem it an honour to foster the newly-formed community.
(2) Isa 49:24-26. No earthly power can interpose between Jehovah and the deliverance of His people; Israel is His lawful prey, and none shall pluck them from Him (see the notes below). In thus representing the deliverance as effected by force, the prophet no doubt has in view the one nation that would not obey the signal of Isa 49:22.
(3) Isa 50:1-3. Lastly, there exists no legal impediment to the redemption of Israel; Jehovah has issued no sentence of formal rejection against His people, nor has anyone acquired the rights of a creditor over them ( Isa 49:1). He therefore expresses surprise that there is so little response to the promise of salvation, so little faith in His almighty power.
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".