Isaiah 59:14
And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Truth is fallen in the street—i.e., the broad open place, or agora, of the city. The words point naturally to Jerusalem. If they refer to Babylon, we must assume, unless we deal with the language as altogether figurative, that the exiles had a quarter of their own, in which they had an agora for business and judicial proceedings.

Isaiah 59:14-15. And judgment is turned away backward — He speaks here of the sentences in courts of judicature, which were contrary to right and justice; as if he had said, God denies you justice, as you have denied it to others. And justice standeth afar off — Justice and judges are at a great distance from each other; for truth is fallen — Truth is cast to the ground, and justice trampled under foot; in the street — Even in public. And equity cannot enter — No such thing will be admitted in the courts. Yea, truth faileth — Truth is more than fallen, which he had said in the last verse; it faileth. If it had been only fallen, it might have recovered itself again: but its failing denotes the loss of its very vitals; as being everywhere neglected, in the court, in the city, in the country; in inferior as well as superior ranks; in the streets, in the gates, in the markets, in the fairs; in all public places of commerce: as if he had said, All things are amiss; neither judgment, nor justice, nor truth is to be found among us; but fraud and deceit; yet none are troubled on account of it. And he that departeth from evil — That separateth himself from evil things and evil persons, that will not be as vile as others; maketh himself a prey — Or, as משׁתוללis rendered in the margin, is accounted mad; is laughed at. Josephus tells us, that immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem, it was a matter of scorn to be religious. The translators reach the meaning of the word by prey: the wicked, like wild beasts, endeavouring to devour such as are not as bad as themselves: where wickedness rules, innocence is oppressed. For they that are simple and innocent are outwitted by the crafty and fraudulent, as not being willing, or rather, not daring to oppose fraud with fraud, but doing all things in sincerity. And the Lord saw it — Took notice of it; it was not hid from him. It is spoken of God after the manner of men. And it displeased him, &c. — As if he had said, If you would know why God is so angry with you, it is for such things as these; the Lord observes them, and they are great evils in his eyes.

59:9-15 If we shut our eyes against the light of Divine truth, it is just with God to hide from our eyes the things that belong to our peace. The sins of those who profess themselves God's people, are worse than the sins of others. And the sins of a nation bring public judgments, when not restrained by public justice. Men may murmur under calamities, but nothing will truly profit while they reject Christ and his gospel.And judgment is turned away backward - The word 'judgment' is not used, as in Isaiah 59:9, to denote the divine interposition to avenge and deliver them, but it is used in the sense of justice, or lust decisions between man and man. The verse contains a further confession of the evil of their course of life; and, among other things, they acknowledged that they had been unjust in their legal decisions. They had been influenced by partiality and by bribes; they had condemned the innocent, they had acquitted the guilty. Judgment had thus been lumped back by their sins when it seemed to be approaching and entering the city.

And justice standeth afar off - This is a beautiful figure. justice is represented as standing at a distance from the city. Deterred by their sins, it would not enter. They prevented its approach, and it was unknown among them.

For truth is fallen in the street - Or rather, perhaps, in the gate - the place where justice was administered. The language here is all taken from courts of justice, and the idea is, that there was no justice in their decisions, but that their courts were unprincipled and corrupt.

And equity cannot enter - It stood at a distance, and the impenetrable mass of guilt effectually prevented its approach to the capital.

14. Justice and righteousness are put away from our legal courts.

in the street—in the forum, the place of judicature, usually at the gate of the city (Zec 8:16).

cannot enter—is shut out from the forum, or courts of justice.

Judgment is turned away backward: he speaks here of the sentences and decrees in courts of judicature, which are carried quite contrary to right and justice. God denies you justice, as you have denied help to others.

Justice standeth afar off: it notes the same thing with the former, to show that justice and judges are far asunder.

Truth is fallen; a metaphor taken from a feeble person that wants support, without which he falls; thus truth hath none to support or patronize it: the same, only otherwise expressed, with Isaiah 59:16. Truth is cast upon the ground, and justice trampled under foot.

In the street, i.e. in public.

Equity cannot enter; no such thing will be admitted in their courts; all corrupt, so that all equity and justice is violently kept off by the authority of the great ones.

And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off,.... Jarchi interprets this of the vengeance of God, and his righteousness in his judgments, not immediately executed; but it is to be understood of the want of judgment and justice being done among men; and therefore are represented as persons turned back, and standing afar off, rejected, neglected, and discouraged. The Targum renders it,

"they that do judgment are turned back, and they that do justice stand afar off;''

having none to take their parts, but everyone opposing them: this may respect both the want of judgment and justice in courts of judicature; no regard being had to right and wrong; no true judgment being given, or justice done, in any cause; but both banished from the bench: and also in the churches of Christ, or, however, under a profession of his name, where there is no judgment in doctrines, or discerning between truth and error; and no justice inflicted on delinquents according to the rules of Christ; no order nor discipline observed in his house; these are dismissed and discarded:

for truth is fallen in the street; where it used to be preached, exalted, established, and confirmed; but now thrown down and trampled upon, and few or none to help it up, and stand by it; and though it may have some secret well wishers, yet very few, if any, public advocates for it:

and equity cannot enter; either into civil courts, or Christian congregations; the doing of that which is just and right between man and man in things civil; and between Christian and Christian in things religious; or that which is right according to the word of God; can find no place, or cannot be admitted into assemblies that are called by his name. The Targum is,

"they that do truth stumble in the street; and they that exercise faith cannot be made manifest;''

such as are on the side of truth, in the service of it, cannot stand their ground through the violence of their opposers; and those that are faithful, and abide by the doctrine of faith, are forced to hide themselves, and cannot appear in the vindication of it.

And {m} judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.

(m) There is neither justice nor uprightness among men.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. The confession, following the same order as the indictment in Isaiah 59:3-4, proceeds from personal sins to public injustice.

judgment and justice (righteousness) are not the divine vindication of Israel’s right (as in Isaiah 59:9), but the fundamental civic virtues. These, by a bold personification, are conceived as eager to take their rightful place in the administration of justice, but as kept at a distance by the prevailing social corruption. For truth (the essential basis of righteousness) stumbleth in the broad place, and uprightness (R.V.) cannot enter. The “broad place” is probably the open space at the city gate where cases were decided by the judges (Jeremiah 5:1 &c.).

Verse 14. - Judgment is turned away backward. In conclusion, the crying sin of perversion of justice is admitted with much amplification.

(1) Right judgment is exactly inverted - the innocent are condemned, the guilty acquitted.

(2) Justice standeth afar off - too far off to be able to hear those who make appeal to it.

(3) Truth is fallen in the street; i.e. false witness prevails over true in the courts of justice.

(4) Equity cannot enter - is not admitted inside the courts, but waits without. Isaiah 59:14The confession of personal sins is followed by that of the sinful state of society. "And right is forced back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the market-place, and honesty finds no admission. And truth became missing, and he who avoids evil is outlawed." In connection with mishpât and tsedâqâh here, we have not to think of the manifestation of divine judgment and justice which is prevented from being realized; but the people are here continuing the confession of their own moral depravity. Right has been forced back from the place which it ought to occupy (hissı̄g is the word applied in the law to the removal of boundaries), and righteousness has to look from afar off at the unjust habits of the people, without being able to interpose. And why are right and righteousness - that united pair so pleasing to God and beneficial to man - thrust out of the nation, and why do they stand without? Because there is no truth or uprightness in the nation. Truth wanders about, and stands no longer in the midst of the nation; but upon the open street, the broad market-place, where justice is administered, and where she ought above all to stand upright and be preserved upright, she has stumbled and fallen down (cf., Isaiah 3:8); and honesty (nekhōchâh), which goes straight forward, would gladly enter the limits of the forum, but she cannot: people and judges alike form a barrier which keeps her back. The consequence of this is indicated in Isaiah 59:15: truth in its manifold practical forms has become a missing thing; and whoever avoids the existing voice is mishtōlēl (part. hithpoel, not hithpoal), one who is obliged to let himself be plundered and stripped (Psalm 76:6), to be made a shōlâl (Micah 1:8), Arab. maslûb, with a passive turn given to the reflective meaning, as in התחפּשׂ, to cause one's self to be spied out equals to disguise one's self, and as in the so-called niphal tolerativum (Ewald, 133, b, 2).

The third strophe of the prophecy commences at Isaiah 59:15 or Isaiah 59:16. It begins with threatening, and closes with promises; for the true nature of God is love, and every manifestation of wrath is merely one phase in its development. In consideration of the fact that this corrupt state of things furnishes no prospect of self-improvement, Jehovah has already equipped Himself for judicial interposition. "And Jehovah saw it, and it was displeasing in His eyes, that there was no right. And He saw that there was not a man anywhere, and was astonished that there was nowhere an intercessor: then His arm brought Him help, and His righteousness became His stay. And He put on righteousness as a coat of mail, and the helmet of salvation upon His head; and put on garments of vengeance as armour, and clothed Himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to the deeds, accordingly He will repay: burning wrath to His adversaries, punishment to His foes; the islands He will repay with chastisement." The prophet's language has now toilsomely worked its way through the underwood of keen reproach, of dark descriptions of character, and of mournful confession which has brought up the apostasy of the great mass in all the blacker colours before his mind, from the fact that the confession proceeds from those who are ready for salvation. And now, having come to the description of the approaching judgment, out of whose furnace the church of the future is to spring, it rises again like a palm-tree that has been violently hurled to the ground, and shakes its head as if restored to itself in the transforming ether of the future. Jehovah saw, and it excited His displeasure ("it was evil in His eyes," an antiquated phrase from the Pentateuch, e.g., Genesis 38:10) to see that right (which He loves, Isaiah 61:8; Psalm 37:28) had vanished form the life of His nation. He saw that there was no man there, no man possessing either the disposition or the power to stem this corruption (אישׁ as in Jeremiah 5:1, cf., 1 Samuel 4:9; 1 Kings 2:2, and the old Jewish saying, "Where there is no man, I strive to be a man"). He was astonished (the sight of such total depravity exciting in Him the highest degree of compassion and displeasure) that there was no מפגּיע, i.e., no one to step in between God and the people, and by his intercession to press this disastrous condition of the people upon the attention of God (see Isaiah 53:12); no one to form a wall against the coming ruin, and cover the rent with his body; no one to appease the wrath, like Aaron (Numbers 17:12-13) or Phinehas (Numbers 25:7).

What the fut. consec. affirms from ותּושׁע onwards, is not something to come, but something past, as distinguished form the coming events announced from Isaiah 59:18 onwards. Because the nation was so utterly and deeply corrupt, Jehovah had quipped Himself for judicial interposition. The equipment was already completed; only the taking of vengeance remained to be effected. Jehovah saw no man at His side who was either able or willing to help Him to His right in opposition to the prevailing abominations, or to support His cause. Then His own arm became His help, and His righteousness His support (cf., Isaiah 63:5); so that He did not desist from the judgment to which He felt Himself impelled, until He had procured the fullest satisfaction for the honour of His holiness (Isaiah 5:16). The armour which Jehovah puts on is now described. According to the scriptural view, Jehovah is never unclothed; but the free radiation of His own nature shapes itself into a garment of light. Light is the robe He wears (Psalm 104:2). When the prophet describes this garment of light as changed into a suit of armour, this must be understood in the same sense as when the apostle in Eph speaks of a Christian's panoply. Just as there the separate pieces of armour represent the manifold self-manifestations of the inward spiritual life so here the pieces of Jehovah's armour stand for the manifold self-manifestations of His holy nature, which consists of a mixture of wrath and love. He does not arm Himself from any outward armoury; but the armoury is His infinite wrath and His infinite love, and the might in which He manifests Himself in such and such a way to His creatures is His infinite will. He puts on righteousness as a coat of mail (שׁרין in half pause, as in 1 Kings 22:34 in full pause, for שׁריון, ō passing into the broader a, as is generally the case in יחפּץ, יחבשׁ; also in Genesis 43:14, שׁכלתי; Genesis 49:3, עז; Genesis 49:27, יטרף), so that His appearance on every side is righteousness; and on His head He sets the helmet of salvation: for the ultimate object for which He goes into the conflict is the redemption of the oppressed, salvation as the fruit of the victory gained by righteousness. And over the coat of mail He draws on clothes of vengeance as a tabard (lxx περιβόλαιον), and wraps Himself in zeal as in a war-cloak. The inexorable justice of God is compared to an impenetrable brazen coat of mail; His joyful salvation, to a helmet which glitters from afar; His vengeance, with its manifold inflictions of punishment, to the clothes worn above the coat of mail; and His wrathful zeal (קנאה from קנא), to be deep red) with the fiery-looking chlamys. No weapon is mentioned, neither the sword nor bow; for His own arm procures Him help, and this alone. But what will Jehovah do, when He has armed Himself thus with justice and salvation, vengeance and zeal? As Isaiah 59:18 affirms, He will carry out a severe and general retributive judgment. גּמוּל and גּמלה signify accomplishment of (on gâmal, see at Isaiah 3:9) a ῥῆμα μέσον; גּמלות, which may signify, according to the context, either manifestations of love or manifestations of wrath, and either retribution as looked at from the side of God, or forfeiture as regarded from the side of man, has the latter meaning here, viz., the works of men and the double-sided gemūl, i.e., repayment, and that in the infliction of punishment. כּעל, as if, as on account of, signifies, according to its Semitic use, in the measure (כּ) of that which is fitting (על); cf., Isaiah 63:7, uti par est propter. It is repeated with emphasis (like לכן in Isaiah 52:6); the second stands without rectum, as the correlate of the first. By the adversaries and enemies, we naturally understand, after what goes before, the rebellious Israelites. The prophet does not mention these, however, but "the islands," that is to say, the heathen world. He hides the special judgment upon Israel in the general judgment upon the nations. The very same fate falls upon Israel, the salt of the world which has lost its savour, as upon the whole of the ungodly world. The purified church will have its place in the midst of a world out of which the crying injustice has been swept away.

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