Isaiah 64:10
Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.
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(10) Thy holy cities . . .—There is no other instance of the plural, and this probably led the LXX. and Vulg. to substitute the singular. It probably rests on the thought that the whole land was holy (Zechariah 2:12), and that this attribute extended, therefore, to all its cities, especially to those which were connected with historical memories. Possibly, however, Zion and Jerusalem—the former identified with the Temple, the latter with the people of Jehovah—are thought of as two distinct cities, locally united. The “wilderness” is, as elsewhere, rather open pasture-land than a sandy desert.

Isaiah 64:10-12. Thy holy cities — Zion and Jerusalem, mentioned immediately after; or other cities also in the land of Judea besides these two; called holy, because God had his synagogues in them, in which he was worshipped, Psalm 74:8. Zion is a wilderness, &c. — Utterly waste: not only the ordinary cities, but Zion and Jerusalem themselves are in a state of ruin and desolation. Our holy and beautiful house — Our temple. Not only our principal cities, but even our temple, which we thought sacred and inviolable, in which we gloried, because it was thine, and our fathers’ house, and ours: the place where thy holy service was performed, and thy glory and presence were wont to be manifested. Where our fathers praised thee — They do not presume to mention themselves, having been every way so very abominable; but put the Lord in mind of their fathers, many of whom were his faithful servants, having praised him there. Is burned up with fire — This relates to the burning of the temple by the Romans, who made an entire destruction of it, according to our Saviour’s prediction, Matthew 24:2. And all our pleasant things are laid waste — Not only the pleasant land, but all that was magnificent, ornamental, or desirable in Jerusalem, or any other city, town, or place. Wilt thou refrain, or, contain, thyself for, or, at, these things — Wilt thou behold them unmoved, as an indifferent spectator? Wilt thou neither show thy compassion toward thy servants, nor thy resentment toward thine enemies? Wilt thou hold thy peace — Wilt thou be as one that regards not? And afflict us very sore — And persist to afflict us in thy continued hot displeasure?

64:6-12 The people of God, in affliction, confess and bewail their sins, owning themselves unworthy of his mercy. Sin is that abominable thing which the Lord hates. Our deeds, whatever they may seem to be, if we think to merit by them at God's hand, are as rags, and will not cover us; filthy rags, and will but defile us. Even our few good works in which there is real excellence, as fruits of the Spirit, are so defective and defiled as done by us, that they need to be washed in the fountain open for sin and uncleanness. It bodes ill when prayer is kept back. To pray, is by faith to take hold of the promises the Lord has made of his good-will to us, and to plead them; to take hold of him, earnestly begging him not to leave us; or soliciting his return. They brought their troubles upon themselves by their own folly. Sinners are blasted, and then carried away, by the wind of their own iniquity; it withers and then ruins them. When they made themselves as an unclean thing, no wonder that God loathed them. Foolish and careless as we are, poor and despised, yet still Thou art our Father. It is the wrath of a Father we are under, who will be reconciled; and the relief our case requires is expected only from him. They refer themselves to God. They do not say, Lord, rebuke us not, for that may be necessary; but, Not in thy displeasure. They state their lamentable condition. See what ruin sin brings upon a people; and an outward profession of holiness will be no defence against it. God's people presume not to tell him what he shall say, but their prayer is, Speak for the comfort and relief of thy people. How few call upon the Lord with their whole hearts, or stir themselves to lay hold upon him! God may delay for a time to answer our prayers, but he will, in the end, answer those who call on his name and hope in his mercy.Thy holy cities are a wilderness - It is to be remembered that this is supposed to be spoken near the close of the exile in Babylon. In accordance with the usual custom in this book, Isaiah throws himself forward by prophetic anticipation into that future period, and describes the scene as if it were passing before his eyes (see the Introduction, Section 7). He uses language such as the exiles would use; he puts arguments into their mouths which it would be proper for them to use; he describes the feelings which they would then have. The phrase, 'thy holy cities,' may either mean the cities of the holy land - which belonged to God, and were 'holy,' as they pertained to his people; or it may mean, as many critics have supposed, the different parts of Jerusalem. A part of Jerusalem was built on Mount Zion, and was called the 'upper city,' in contradistinction from that built on Mount Acra, which was called the 'lower city.' But I think it more probable that the prophet refers to the cities throughout the land that were laid waste.

Are a wilderness - They were uninhabited, and were lying in ruins.

Zion is a wilderness - On the name 'Zion,' see the notes at Isaiah 1:8. The idea here is, that Jerusalem was laid waste. Its temple was burned; its palaces destroyed; its houses uninhabited. This is to be regarded as being uttered at the close of the exile, after Jerusalem had been lying in ruins for seventy years - a time during which any forsaken city would be in a condition which might not improperly be called a desert. When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, he burned the temple, broke down the wall, and consumed all the palaces with fire (2 Chronicles 36:19). We have only to conceive what must have been the state of the city seventy years after this, to see the force of the description here.

10. holy cities—No city but Jerusalem is called "the holy city" (Isa 48:2; 52:1); the plural, therefore, refers to the upper and the lower parts of the same city Jerusalem [Vitringa]; or all Judea was holy to God, so its cities were deemed "holy" [Maurer]. But the parallelism favors Vitringa. Zion and Jerusalem (the one city) answering to "holy cities." Thy holy cities; either Zion and Jerusalem, being the cities they instance in: q.d. Thy holy cities, viz. Zion and Jerusalem: or rather, other cities also in the land of Judea besides those two; called holy, either,

1. Because they were built upon God’s inheritance, Isaiah 63:17. Or,

2. Because they were inhabited by the Jews, who were a holy people, Deu 7:6 Daniel 12:7. Or,

3. Because God had his synagogues in them, Psalm 74:8. For all which reasons also they are called thy cities.

A desolation; utterly waste; not only the ordinary cities, but even Jerusalem and Zion themselves; the one called the upper Jerusalem, or the city of David, because it was built upon Mount Zion; the other the lower city, because it lay under the hill of Zion in the valley: he particularizeth Zion and Jerusalem, though he had mentioned the other cities before, because the chiefest of the cities; it being usual, notwithstanding the mentioning of generals, in which all the particulars or individuals are included, to name the particular again; as, and from the hand of Saul, Psalm 18:1.

Thy holy cities are a wilderness,.... Meaning either Zion, the city of David, and Jerusalem; the one called the upper, the other the lower city; now uninhabited, and a mere wilderness: or else the other cities of Judea, in which were formerly synagogues for religious service, and in which dwelt many godly families where the worship of God was kept up; but now a desert, at least quite devoid of true religion and godliness.

Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation; which are either explanative of the holy cities in the preceding clauses, or are mentioned as distinct from them; the account proceeding from the lesser to the metropolitan cities, which fared no better than they did, but equally lay desolate; and which fulfilled the prophecy in Micah 3:12 and was the case of those cities, at the destruction of them by Titus; and to this day are in a ruinous condition in the hands of the Turks.

{l} Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation.

(l) Who were dedicated to your service, and to call on your Name.

10. Thy holy cities] is a phrase which does not occur elsewhere, and both LXX. and Vulg. substitute the sing. for the plur. It is not necessary, however, to follow them. If the land is holy (Zechariah 2:12) there is no reason why the epithet should not be applied to all its cities.

10, 11. The evidences of Jehovah’s displeasure are to be seen on every hand, in the desolation and ruin of the sacred places.

Verse 10. - Thy holy cities are a wilderness. Commonly Jerusalem stands alone as "the holy city" (Isaiah 48:2; Isaiah 56:1; Daniel 9:24; Nehemiah 11:1, 18); but here the epithet is applied to the cities of Judah generally. They were all in a certain sense "holy," as being comprised within the limits of "the holy land" (Zechariah 2:12) and "the holy border" (Psalm 78:54). Zion... Jerusalem (see the comment on Isaiah 62:1). Isaiah 64:10The re-erection of the ruins of the promised land requires the zeal of every one, and this state of ruin must not continue. It calls out the love and faithfulness of Jehovah. "The cities of Thy holiness have become a pasture-ground; Zion has become a pasture-ground, Jerusalem a desert. The house of our holiness and of our adorning, where our fathers praised Thee, is given up to the fire, and everything that was our delight given up to devastation. Wilt Thou restrain Thyself in spite of this, O Jehovah, be silent, and leave us to suffer the utmost?" Jerusalem by itself could not possibly be called "cities" (‛ârē), say with reference to the upper and lower cities (Vitringa). It is merely mentioned by name as the most prominent of the many cities which were all "holy cities," inasmuch as the whole of Canaan was the land of Jehovah (Isaiah 14:25), and His holy territory (Psalm 78:54). The word midbâr (pasture-land, heath, different from tsiyyâh, the pastureless desert, Isaiah 35:1) is repeated, for the purpose of showing that the same fate had fallen upon Zion-Jerusalem as upon the rest of the cities of the land. The climax of the terrible calamity was the fact, that the temple had also fallen a prey to the burning of the fire (compare for the fact, Jeremiah 52:13). The people call it "house of our holiness and of our glory." Jehovah's qōdesh and tiph'ereth have, as it were, transplanted heaven to earth in the temple (compare Isaiah 63:15 with Isaiah 60:7); and this earthly dwelling-place of God is Israel's possession, and therefore Israel's qōdesh and tiph'ereth. The relative clause describes what sublime historical reminiscences are attached to the temple: אשׁר is equivalent to שׁם אשׁר, as in Genesis 39:20; Numbers 20:13 (compare Psalm 84:4), Deuteronomy 8:15, etc. הללּך has chateph-pathach, into which, as a rule, the vocal sheva under the first of two similar letters is changed. Machămaddēnū (our delights) may possibly include favourite places, ornamental buildings, and pleasure grounds; but the parallel leads us rather to think primarily of things associated with the worship of God, in which the people found a holy delight. כל, contrary to the usual custom, is here followed by the singular of the predicate, as in Proverbs 16:2; Ezekiel 31:15 (cf., Genesis 9:29). Will Jehovah still put restraint upon Himself, and cause His merciful love to keep silence, על־זאת, with such a state of things as this, or notwithstanding this state of things (Job 10:7)? On התאפּק, see Isaiah 63:15; Isaiah 42:14. The suffering would indeed increase עד־מאד (to the utmost), if it caused the destruction of Israel, or should not be followed at last by Israel's restoration. Jehovah's compassion cannot any longer thus forcibly restrain itself; it must break forth, like Joseph's tears in the recognition scene (Genesis 45:1).
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