Isaiah 56:9 Commentary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
9. The apostrophe to the wild beasts is suggested by the following comparison of the people to an ill-guarded and therefore defenceless flock. That a new chastisement at the hands of the heathen is actually contemplated need not be assumed. A close parallel is found in Jer 12:9; cf. Eze 34:5; Eze 34:8.
This sombre and impassioned discourse is composed of three parts:
(1) All the wild beasts of the field and the forest are invited to come and devour the unprotected flock ( Isa 56:9). (2) For its rulers neglect their duty; they are inefficient as dumb dogs, they are slothful, greedy and sensual ( Isa 56:10-12). (3) In consequence of their incapacity the righteous perish, none regarding their fate (Isa 57:1-2).
ii. Isa 57:3-13 a. A bitter tirade against an insolent and aggressive paganising party, animated by a contemptuous hostility towards the true religion.
(1) This party, which is characterised as a bastard and hybrid race, the illegitimate offspring of an adulterer and a harlot, is summoned to the bar to hear the Divine sentence on their career of flagrant idolatry ( Isa 57:3-4). (2) The indictment follows, in the form of a recital of the varied heathen rites to which they were addicted ( Isa 57:5-9), and in which with infatuated perversity they still persist in spite of all the teachings of experience ( Isa 57:10-11). (3) Judgement is then pronounced; Jehovah will unmask the hypocrisy of their pretended righteousness, and leave them to the protection of the false deities whom they have so diligently served, but who shall be unable to save them (Isa 57:12-13).
iii. Isa 57:14-21. The prophet now turns with a message of comfort to the depressed and contrite people of God. The obstacles in the way of their salvation shall be removed ( Isa 57:14); Jehovah, whose condescension brings Him near to the lowly in heart, will at length avert His anger, and bring healing and peace ( Isa 57:15-19); only the wicked who persist in their impenitence are excluded from the promised blessing ( Isa 57:20-21).
Isa 56:9 to Isa 57:2. Denunciation of the worthless rulers of the Jewish community. The difficulty of supposing that this passage refers to the state of things in the Exile is obvious. Israel is compared to a flock in charge of its own shepherds; and these shepherds are responsible both for the internal disorders from which it suffers, and the outward dangers which threaten it. An invitation to the wild beasts (the heathen nations) to come and devour a people already “robbed and spoiled” (Isa 42:22) by foreign conquest, is almost inconceivable. It is of course possible, as many scholars hold, that the verses are extracted from a pre-exilic prophecy; but the description is at least as applicable to the conditions which existed after the return from Babylon. The books of Malachi and Nehemiah reveal incidentally a state of affairs which would go far to account for the dark picture here presented of the ruling classes in the restored community.
Consult other comments:
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".