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Isaiah 59:1–15a Iniquities Separate the Wicked from God
Isaiah employs a variety of powerful symbols, put forward in several skillfully written parallelisms, to describe the extreme wickedness of the people. Furthermore, he presents a diversity of words and phrases to describe the evil condition of the people—“iniquities,” “sins,” “defiled,” “lies,” “wickedness,” no “righteousness,” “mischief,” “violence,” “evil,” “shed innocent blood,” “thoughts of iniquity,” lack of “justice,” and “crooked.”
hand of the Lord is not shortened/nor His ear too dull. See also 50:2. The Lord does not lack power to save people, but their sinful ways have separated them from Him.
your iniquities have caused a separation between you and your God and your sins have hidden His face from you. Note that it is the sinners that causes the separation between God and themselves!
Isaiah 59:3–4, 7
The people are sinful to a high degree; even their body parts participate in evil—“palms,” “fingers,” “lips,” “tongue,” womb (“conceive,” “give birth”), “feet,” and brain (“thoughts”).
venomous snake/spiders. Evil persons have descended so low that they are compared to vile creatures—venomous snakes and spiders (we recall that Satan is called the “old serpent,” [Revelation 12:9; 20:2]) that kill others and themselves (“Whoever eats their eggs will die”).
Their webs will not become garments. Rather than being clothed by God, sinners try to cover their sins with spider’s webs, which do not truly function as garments. Instead, the webs end up binding and restricting the sinners and leave them vulnerable to the spider’s poisonous bite.
road of peace/no justice in their roadways. The paths of the wicked are opposite to “the highway of the upright” (Proverbs 16:17), “the Way of Holiness” (35:8), and a “highway for our God” (40:3).
have made their pathways crooked. The pathways of the sinful are twisted and perverted, in contrast to the straight and narrow path of the righteous.
In verses 1–8, the prophet Isaiah puts forward scathing words against the wicked; now in these last verses of this section, the wicked speak and react to Isaiah’s words. Regrettably, the wicked are fully aware of the magnitude of their iniquities—“our transgressions are with us, and our iniquities—we know them” (59:12). They admit to “transgressing and lying against the Lord and turning away from following [their] God”; they also speak “oppression and revolt” as well as “conceiving and uttering lying words” (59:13). Regarding truth, it “has stumbled in the public square,” and “truth is lacking” among them (59:14–15).
we . . . behold darkness/walk in gloom. Such is the way of the wicked, moving about in mortality in partial or total spiritual darkness.
We grope for the wall like the blind. The wicked compare themselves to blind persons, but here blindness refers to spiritual blindness. We stumble at noon . . . like dead men. The “healthy” refers to spiritually complete souls, but the wicked stumble (even though it is noon), and they are like dead men, devoid of spiritual life. This fulfills the curse pronounced on the wicked in Deuteronomy 28:28–29.
We all growl like bears/we moan like doves. Sinners’ anguished laments are sometimes like the loud roars of angry bears and at other times like the sad moaning of doves.
transgressions/sins/iniquities. These sinners were guilty of the full spectrum of crimes and offenses, against both God and other mortals.
truth has stumbled in the public square. Integrity has totally collapsed, even in the “public square,” where people are usually inclined to put forward their best appearance.
Isaiah 15:15b–21 Salvation for the Righteous, Vengeance for the Wicked
Combining both excellent Hebrew poetry (parallelisms) and a variety of symbols, Isaiah skillfully introduces the power and might of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Isaiah speaks of the Redeemer’s “salvation,” “righteousness,” and “glory,” (59:16, 19); in fact, He is so glorious that His light is compared to “the rising of the sun” (59:19), and He is so powerful, that He is comparable to a “surging river” (59:19). On the one hand, our Redeemer has power to vanquish “His adversaries” (59:18); and on the other hand, He has power to save Zion’s inhabitants (59:20) and to remove all their sins. And importantly, our Redeemer is a God who makes covenants (59:21).
This section is bound to the previous one: “The Lord saw it [the great wickedness of the previous section], and it was displeasing in His eyes” (59:15).
there was no man/not one to intervene. No mortal had the power to save humankind, so God sent a Redeemer. His own arm brought Him salvation. The Hebrew zroa‘ (“arm”) signifies power; the Redeemer’s power would bring salvation—humans lack the power to obtain salvation on their own.
Note the chiasmus: salvation/righteousness/ /righteousness/salvation.
righteousness as a breastplate/helmet of salvation. The Redeemer is portrayed as a warrior, clothed with a “breastplate” and “helmet,” but not an ordinary warrior, for the Redeemer’s breastplate is His “righteousness,” and His helmet is His “salvation.” God’s Saints should be similarly clothed: “Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness. . . . And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit” (Doctrine and Covenants 27:16, 18; see also Ephesians 6:11–17).
from the west/from the rising of the sun. People from the east and the west, representing the entirety of the land, will fear God and His holy name. the Spirit of the Lord drives on. The Lord’s Spirit has control over the elements, including “surging” rivers, weather, gravity, and more.
come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression. This last phrase defines Zion—Zion consists of those who fully repent, or those “who turn from transgression.” Compare “for this is Zion—the pure in heart” (Doctrine and Covenants 97:21).
My covenant with them. God is a covenant maker. What is the covenant spoken of here? Paul paraphrased this verse and explained, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16–17). Paul paraphrases verses 20–21 and explains that the covenant is when God will “take away their sins” (Romans 11:26–27). My Spirit. The Holy Ghost (see Hebrews 10:15).
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