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SUGGESTIONS TO TEACHERS. In Bible classes it may be well to refer to the small seeming discrepancies between the Assyrian inscriptions and the dates of the Bible, and show how they may be reconciled. But dwell chiefly on the slightness of this variation, and how wonderfully the accuracy of the Bible history is confirmed.
The Introduction you use will depend on whether you place this sickness before or after • the great attack and overthrow of the Assyrian army. It is not a matter of great importance in the Sunday school. Note the three different books in which this lesson is recorded.
SUBJECT, — LESSONS FROM THE PRAYER OF HEZEKIAH.
I. HEZEKIAH'S SICKNESS (ver. I). Show some of the lessons of which sickness is the best teacher.
II. HEZEKIAH'S PRAYER (vers. 2, 3). Bring out the characteristics of true prayer as shown in this example.
III. THE ANSWER TO HIS PRAYER (vers. 4-11).
Illustration. God answers immediately, but the answer may not reach us for some time, because we are not ready to receive it. A son asks his father for an education, and the father answers immediately. But it may be months before he can go to school, and years before he obtains the education asked for. Another illustration is given in Dan. 10: 12-14, where God heard immediately, but the answer did not come for months.
NOTE (2), means were used here, as commanded in Jas. 5:16. God did the healing, but we are always to do our part. It is contrary to Bible teaching and example to pray and then use no means. Sending for the doctor is no mark of unbelief, but of faith, if joined with prayer for God's blessing and power.
NOTE (3) the aids to his faith in the miracle of the dial, showing that the God who could do that wonder was also able to fulfil his promise to heal.
Illustration from Jacob's Wagons (see Gen. 45:16–27). Jacob could not believe that his son Joseph was alive till he saw the wagons Joseph sent. Every daily mercy is a proof of God's love. Every answer to prayer in smaller things is a proof that God answers in greater things.
NOTE (4) Hezekiah's hymn of praise, as given in Isa. 38: 9-20.
IV. HEZEKIAH'S TRIAL. (1) What was the wrong? (2) The motives of the king in yielding. (3) The pride and ambition out of which his wrong conduct grew. (4) The punishment.
This trial was to show what was in Hezekiah's heart (2 Chron. 32: 31), and make him a nore perfect man.
Men often fail after high experiences. As Peter denied the Lord just after the Lord's Supper, and the scene in the garden.
LESSON X. — DEC. 6.
THE SINFUL NATION. — Isa. 1:1-18. GOLDEN TEXT. - Cease to do evil; learn to do well. — Isa. 1: 16, 17.
ISAIAH. — The family of Isaiah is unknown, except that his father's name was Amoz. According to ver. I, he prophesied under Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. If he began in the last year of Uzziah, B.C. 759 (Isa. 6: 1), and continued to the end of Hezekiah's reign, B.C. 698, he would have prophesied over 60 years, and he must have been between So and 90 years old at his death. A Jewish tradition makes him survive Hezekiah several years, and suffer martyrdom under Manasseh by being sawn to death. — Isaiah's character stands before us as one of almost superhuman elevation. When we think of him during those 60 years, discharging so many varied offices, expostulating, reproving, expounding, comforting, doing all with deepest resignation and unfaltering faith towards God, and with serene dignity towards men, we seem to be contemplating one who, while retaining all purely human sympathies, has a portion of seraphic nature communicated to him. — Cook.
BOOK OF ISAIAH. - It seems to be implied in the book itself that some portion of it is to be allotted to each of the four reigns with which Isaiah was contemporary. This, combined with the indications of time contained in 6:1; 7:1; 14:28; 36: 1, leads to the following general distribution of his prophecies: (1) In the reign of Uzziah (chaps. 1-5); (2) in the reign of Jotham (chap. 6); (3) in the reign of Ahaz (chaps. 7–14: 27; (4) in the first half of Hezekiah's reign (chap. 14: 28 to chap. 35); (5) in the second half of Hezekiah's reign (chaps. 36–66). — Cook. It is more than probable that it was issued at different times, and the different parts gathered into one book in the later years of the prophet.
UNITY OF AUTHORSHIP. — Writers of “the higher criticism” have in late years undertaken to show that chaps. 40-66 were written by another unknown prophet, and not by Isaiah. They argued from (1) the change in literary style; (2) the vision of the more distant future, as if “no prophet could have prevision of the distant future”; (3) the references which seem to imply that he was writing in the midst of the captivity at Babylon, when Jerusalem was a ruin and the temple burned. In answer it is replied (1) that for 2400 years after Isaiah's death but one person is known to have expressed a doubt as to Isaiah's authorship of the whole book. (2) There is an acknowledged unity in the whole book. (3) The literary style does not differ more than would be expected of a man of genius writing in periods 60 years apart. (4) God can reveal the future to his prophets. (5) The references to the captivity are all prophetic, seen in a vision as if present. Canon Cook and Prof. Birks take strong ground against the theory of two Isaiahs. — The reasoning of those who argue for two Isaiahs has not commended itself to at least as great a number of scholars of equal authority, and seems to have been prompted by the desire to escape from the conclusions with reference to the inspiration of prophecy which are inevitable if Isaiah was the author of these prophecies. — Todd.
PLACE IN BIBLE HISTORY. – The Bible history of the time of Isaiah is found in 2 Kings, chaps. 11-21; 2 Chron., chaps. 26–33. That corresponding to this lesson in 2 Kings, chap. 16; 2 Chron., chap. 28.
CONTEMPORARY PROPHETS. - Hosea was contemporary in Israel with Isaiah, and Nahum and Micah in Judah. Probably also Joel in Judah, and Amos and Jonah in Israel, may have been still living, old men, in the early days of Isaiah.
CONTEMPORARY HISTORY. — Rome founded, B.C. 753. Rise of Corinth, 745. Syracuse founded, 734. End of the kingdom of Israel, 721. Numa Pompilius at Rome, 716-673. Rise of the Babylonian empire into power.
TIME OF THIS LESSON. — During the reign of Ahaz, B.C. 742–726, probably about 738. PLACE. — The kingdom of Judah.
INTRODUCTION. The first chapter of Isaiah is probably a general introduction to the first series of visions (chaps. 1-12), which was begun in the last years of Uzziah, B.C. 759, and was completed in the third or fourth year of Ahaz (738). It is like the preface to a modern book, which is usually written after the book is completed. It gives a general view of the state of the nation, and an earnest call to repentance.
1. The 1 vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
1 Num. 12:6.
EXPLANATORY. 1. The Title. - Ver. 1. See Introduction above. The first verse is plainly a common title of the whole book. This title implies the divine authority of the whole book. - Birks. The vision was essentially one and the same throughout. — Cook.
1. The vision of Isaiah. In imparting his will to his messengers, Jehovah impressed vividly upon their minds the images of the things which they were to divulge. Their mental vision had presented to it matters invisible to the eye of sense, but possessing all the reality and distinctness of outward objects. The term is here employed to denote, not the act of seeing on the part of the prophet, but the things which he saw, -- the prophetic matter revealed to him, together with all the other inspired matter contained in the book. — Henderson,
2. iHear, O heavens, and give ear, 0 earth ; for the LORD hath spoken : I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
3. 2 The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel 3 doth not know, my people 4 doth not consider.
4. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil doers, children that are corrupters : they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
1 Deut. 32:1. Jer. 2: 12; 6:19. Ezek. 36:4. Mic. 1:2.
? Jer. 8:7.
II. The Character of the People. - Vers. 2-6. 2. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, 0 earth. Heaven and earth, angels and men, all created things are called upon to listen, (1) because what the Lord speaks, it is worthy that the universe should hear. (2) In astonishment at the conduct of the Jews. Heaven and earth wonder at this marvel. (3) “As witnesses before whom the Lord would make good his claim of right.” (4) Because what is said is concerning matters of universal interest. All should know God's character and methods of dealing revealed in the message. For the Lord. Jehovah, the self-existing, eternal God. In the English version LORD in capitals marks the Hebrew Fehovah. The Lord hath spoken That is, the message is divine, and not merely words of the prophet. I have nourished and brought up children. The Hebrew verbs (“ nourished” and “ brought up”) express the correlated ideas to cause to grow up and to lift high in greatness. From a single forefather the Lord had built up a great nation. — Cowles. They are represented as being weak, and ignorant, and helpless as children when he took them under his fatherly protection and care. - Barnes. All they had, or were, or could hope to be was received from God their Father. And they. With emphasis on the pronoun. Even they so greatly favored and blessed. Have rebelled against me. Not merely in a general sense by sinning, but in a special sense by violating that peculiar covenant which bound God to his people. — Alexander. Essentially this very sin of cold ingratitude and rebellion against God's authority, charged here upon Israel, lies at the door of all ungodly, unrepenting sinners in every age and in every land, with only the difference of greater guilt in the case of the more enlightened. For, who of us all hath not been nourished and brought up as a child by our great Father above? — Cowles.
3. The ox knoweth his owner. The unthinking brutes, even those of lowest degree, as the ox and ass, still know their masters that feed them and the crib out of which they eat, and acquire a certain attachment for them. — Lange. But Israel doth not know. Not realize; are practically ignorant of God as their Master and owner. Even if they could not rise to the level of their high calling and live as the children of God, they might at least recognize that their food and temporal blessings came from him; that he could give victory and success, and every worldly good. But even this they failed to recognize, and worshipped idols. They were densely ignorant of the source of every good. My people. Who of all others should consider, having had such an experience in the past, and being bound by an everlasting covenant. Doth not consider. That is, attend to God's word. They are unreasonable, unthinking as to their obligations and their best good.
4. Ah sinful nation. So different from the holy people it was called to be (Ex. 19:6). Laden with iniquity. Their sins were a burden upon their lives, their hopes, their prosperity, their consciences. There was in them none of the elastic freedom of the righteous. They were like slaves crushed with the burden of their sins. A seed of evil doers. The children of bad parents; children becoming evermore, age after age, worse than their fathers by a perpetual degeneracy. -- Cowles. Children that are corrupters. Or, “that corrupt themselves” (Deut. 4: 16, 25; 31 : 29). It is a strong word, implying that they had violated the order of the moral world or the fundamental provisions of the divine law. — Cook. They were sources of infection to others. — Birks.
In three phrases now the bad fruits are declared that the bad tree has borne. — Lange. They have forsaken the Lord. By disobeying his commands, and neglecting his worship, and breaking his covenant. And in thus forsaking the Lord they also forsook his protection and blessing. They have provoked. They have scorned, and disdainfully rejected, and so blasphemed (Num. 14:11, 23; 16:30; Deut. 31 : 20). — Cook. The Holy One of Israel. One essential characteristic of God; holy in his nature, holy in his laws, holy in his dealings, seeking holiness in his children. To anger. To holy indignation at their sin, manifested in their punishment. They are gone away backward. Instead of going
5. 1 Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more : the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
6. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores : 2 they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
7. 3 Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire : your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
8. And the daughter of Zion is left 4 as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, 5 as a besieged city.
9. 6 Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as 7 Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
* Isa. 9:13. Jer. 2: 30; 5:3.
? Jer. 8:22. 3 Deut. 28: 51, 52. Job 27: 18. Lam. 2:6.
Jer. 4: 17.
on and up to perfect character, to communion with God, and the redemption of the world, they turned backward and downward toward idolatry, sin, ignorance, and uselessness.
5. Why should we be stricken any more ?' Smitten, punished. What is the use of going on in a way that leads only to punishment and sorrow?' Ye will revolt more and more. That is, go farther and farther morally from God. Afflictions only harden you.
The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. This does not mean “the whole head, the whole heart,” but “every head, every heart.” — Lange. The nation is here compared to a sick person. The two noblest parts of the human body are here selected to represent the body politic. — E. Henderson, D.D. The head the source of ideas, the heart the source of feelings and motives, the fountains of thought and life, were both defiled.
6. From the sole of the foot, etc. The disease of sin is universal; princes and people were all infected. Wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. “Swordwounds, and livid wales, and festering scourge-wounds." The abscesses of the last had not been pressed out to get rid of the suppuration; and the gaping sword-wounds had not been bound up with bandage; and the coagulated blood in stripe-bruises had not been mollified with ointment or oil. Priests and prophets and people resorted to measures of worldly policy (Hos. 5:13), which did not touch the cause of the malady. - Cook. Nothing less than repentance and return to God could heal them. This is a vivid picture of the moral state of the nation under Ahaz (see 2 Chron. 28:1-4, 19–25). It is a picture of the state into which unrepented sin brings the human soul.
III. The Fruits of this Character. - Vers. 7-9. 7. Your country is desolate, etc. In punishment for their sins these desolations had been allowed to come from the neighboring nations. The Syrians smote them with great slaughter, and carried away a multitude of them as captives (2 Chron. 28:5). Pekah, king of Israel, had repeated the same destruction (2 Chron. 28:5-8). The Philistines had invaded the land (2 Chron. 28: 18), and a heavy tribute was paid to Assyria (2 Chron. 28: 20, 21). How changed from the times of Solomon !
8. And the daughter of Zion. Zion was the fortified part of Jerusalem, and the residence of the king, and hence the name was often applied to the whole city. “Daughter of Zion" means Jerusalem and its inhabitants. The fresh and youthful beauty of the city is included in the term “ daughter.” Is left. Not “forsaken,” but left over as a survivor. As a cottage in a vineyard. A temporary shelter for those who guard and care for the vineyard. As a lodge in a garden of cucumbers. Cucumbers form an important item in the summer food of the poor. — Tristram. The lodge was a rudely constructed hut, intended as a shelter for the keeper of the garden. So Jerusalem stood almost alone amid the surrounding desolation. A besieged city. The enemies had made incursions on every side, and Jerusalem was practically besieged.
9. Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us. It needed no less a power than his to preserve even a remnant. - Cowles. A very small remnant, etc. A faithful remnant still survived. The covenant of God could not fail, and a holy seed was kept alive in the land. But it was small and feeble, and the general corruption rivalled the cities of the plain. Like Sodom and Gomorrah in sin and guilt, they would, except for these righteous ones in their midst, have been made like them also in sudden and entire destruction. Birks.
10. Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers 1 of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah :
11. To what purpose is the multitude of your ? sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts ; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
12. When ye come 3 to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts ?
13. Bring no more 4 vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, 5 the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
14. Your 6 new moons and your 7 appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; 8 I am weary to bear them.
15. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you : 10 yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear : your hands are full of
1 Deut. 32: 32. Ezeki.
1 Deut. 32: 32. Ezek. 16:46. 21 Sam. 15:22. Ps. 50:8, 9. Prov. 15:8. Amos 5:21, 22.
34:23. - Matt. 15:19. Joel 1: 14; 2:15. 6 Num. 28: II. 7 Lev. 23:2.
Job 27:9. Ps. 134: 2. Prov. 1: 28. - 10 Ps. 66:18. 1 Tim. 2:8. 11 Isa. 59: 3.
5 Joel 1 : 1470
3 Ex. 23:17; 8 Isa. 43:24.
36:18. 1 Tim. 2: 8.
IV. False Efforts to Obtain Relief.- Vers. 10–15. 10. Hear the word of the Lord. Expositors correctly call attention to the fact that after ver. 9, the prophet supposes a reply on the part of the people to this effect; how have they deserved so hard a fate, seeing they had been so zealously diligent to observe all the ceremonies of the worship of Jehovah. To this it is replied that they are not unjustly become like Sodom and Gomorrah because for a long time they were inwardly like them. - Lange. Ye rulers of Sodom. That is, of the kingdom of Judah, which was like Sodom. What Sodom-judges and a Gomorrah-nation may be, can be learned from Ezek. 16:48 et seq. - Lange. The Jews say that Isaiah was slain on two accounts; one of which was, that he had called them princes of Sodom and people of Gomorrah. — Cook.
11-13. To what purpose. What will then avail with a holy God? Sacrifices ... burnt-offerings ... incense ... sabbaths, etc. These were all commanded of God, and were part of the original law obligatory upon the Jews. Why, then, are they condemned ? They in themselves are not condemned, but only the false use of them. They were used as mere forms, without the love and devotion of the heart, as magic rites, as substitutes for true religion and sincere obedience. It was a hollow, heartless, hypocritical use of good things that was condemned. So in Christ's time, prayer, and gifts to the poor and to God's treasury are commended; and yet the Pharisees were condemned for praying and giving to be seen of men, and as substitutes for obedience to God. So men, in these days, may make the forms of religion and some one phase of morality a substitute for loving service and true religion. - P. Is an abomination. Is hateful, or an object of abhorrence. I cannot away with. I cannot endure.
14. Your new moons. Observed as festivals (Num. 10:10; 28: 11-14) with sacrifices and blowing of silver trumpets. Their months always began with the new moon. Your appointed feasts. The Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, Day of Atonement, appointed by the law for a certain time of the year.
15. Spread forth your hands. In prayer. Your hands are full of blood. Of those they had murdered. The greater crime includes under it rapine, injustice, oppression, etc. The supposition is that these men come to God with their prayers, incense, and sacrifices, to avert from themselves the punishment they consciously deserve. They come with these offerings as an atonement for their horrible sin, as if they could buy an indulgence, or at least a dispensation from punishment, after the crimes by these acts of professed worship! But shall the Holy One of Israel disgrace his throne by becoming a party to such horrid crime? Will he take incense and sacrifice as a bribe to pervert judgment and justice? Never! — Cowles.
V. The True Way of Deliverance. — Vers. 16–18. It is comparatively easy to describe and condemn the symptoms of disease, whether of the body or the soul. The real difficulty is in finding a remedy. God does not leave us under condemnation, but shows the way to health and holiness.