Isaiah 57:20
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
But the wicked are like the tossing sea, For it cannot be quiet, And its waters toss up refuse and mud.

King James Bible
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

Darby Bible Translation
But the wicked are like the troubled sea, which cannot rest, and whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

World English Bible
But the wicked are like the troubled sea; for it can't rest, and its waters cast up mire and dirt.

Young's Literal Translation
And the wicked are as the driven out sea, For to rest it is not able, And its waters cast out filth and mire.

Isaiah 57:20 Parallel
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

But the wicked - All who are transgressors of the law and who remain unpardoned. The design of this is to contrast their condition with that of those who should enjoy peace. The proposition is, therefore, of the most general character. All the wicked are like the troubled sea. Whether prosperous or otherwise; rich or poor; bond or free; old or young; whether in Christian, in civilized, or in barbarous lands; whether living in palaces, in caves, or in tents; whether in the splendor of cities, or in the solitude of deserts; All are like the troubled sea.

Are like the troubled sea - The agitated (נגרשׁ nigrâsh), ever-moving and restless sea. The sea is always in motion, and never entirely calm. Often also it lashes into foam, and heaves with wild commotion.

When it cannot rest - Lowth renders this, 'For it never can be at rest.' The Hebrew is stronger than our translation. It means that there is no possibility of its being at rest; it is unable to be still (יוּכל לא השׁקט כי kı̂y hasheqēṭ lo' yûkal). The Septuagint renders it, 'But the wicked are tossed like waves (κλυδωνισθήσονται kludōnisthēsontai), and are not able to be at rest.' The idea, as it seems to me, is not exactly that which seems to be conveyed by our translation, that the wicked are like the sea, occasionally agitated by a storm and driven by wild commotion, but that, like the ocean, there is never any peace, as there is no peace to the restless waters of the mighty deep.

Whose waters - They who have stood on the shores of the ocean and seen the waves - especially in a storm - foam, and roll, and dash on the beach, will be able to appreciate the force of this beautiful figure, and cannot but have a vivid image before them of the unsettled and agitated bosoms of the guilty. The figure which is used here to denote the want of peace in the bosom of a wicked man, is likewise beautifully employed by Ovid:

Cumque sit hibernis agitatum fluctibus aequor,

Pectora sunt ipso turbidiora mari.

Trist. i. x. 33

The agitation and commotion of the sinner here referred to, relates to such things as the following:

1. There is no permanent happiness or enjoyment. There is no calmness of soul in the contemplation of the divine perfections, and of the glories of the future world. There is no substantial and permanent peace furnished by wealth, business, pleasure; by the pride, pomp, and flattery of the world. All leave the soul unsatisfied, or dissatisfied; all leave is unprotected against the rebukes of conscience, and the fear of hell.

2. Raging passions. The sinner is under their influence. and they may be compared to the wild and tumultuous waves of the ocean. Thus the bosoms of the wicked are agitated with the conflicting passions of pride, envy, malice, lust, ambition, and revenge. These leave no peace in the soul; they make peace impossible. People may learn in some degree to control them by the influence of philosophy; or a pride of character and respect to their reputation may enable them in some degree to restrain them; but they are like the smothered fires of the volcano, or like the momentary calm of the ocean that a gust of wind may soon lash into foam. To restrain them is not to subdue them, for no man can tell how soon he may be excited by anger, or how soon the smothered fires of lus may burn.

3. Conscience. Nothing more resembles an agitated ocean casting up mire and dirt, than a soul agitated by the recollections of past guilt. A deep dark cloud in a tempest overhangs the deep; the lightnings play and the thunder rolls along the sky, and the waves heave with wild commotion. So it is with the bosom of the sinner. Though there may be a temporary suspension of the rebukes of conscience, yet there is no permanent peace. The soul cannot rest; and in some way or other the recollections of guilt will be excited, and the bosom thrown into turbid and wild agitation.

4. The fear of judgment and of hell. Many a sinner has no rest, day or night, from the fear of future wrath. His troubled mind looks onward, and he sees nothing to anticipate but the wrath of God, and the horrors of an eternal hell. How invaluable then is religion! All these commotions are stilled by the voice of pardoning mercy, as the billows of the deep were hushed by the voice of Jesus. How much do we owe to religion! Had it not been for this, there had been no peace in this world. Every bosom would have been agitated with tumultuous passion; every heart would have quailed with the fear of hell. How diligently should we seek the influence of religion! We all have raging passions to be subdued. We all have consciences that may be troubled with the recollections of past guilt. We are all traveling to the bar of God, and have reason to apprehend the storms of vengeance. We all must soon lie down on beds of death, and in all these scenes there is nothing that can give permanent and solid peace but the religion of the Redeemer. Oh! that stills all the agitation of a troubled soul; lays every billow of tumultuous passion to rest; calms the conflicts of a guilty bosom; reveals God reconciled through a Redeemer to our souls, and removes all the anticipated terrors of a bed of death and of the approach to the judgment bar. Peacefully the Christian can die - not as the troubled sinner, who leaves the world with a bosom agitated like the stormy ocean but as peacefully as the gentle ripple dies away on the beach.

How blest the righteous when they die,

When holy souls retire to rest I


Isaiah 57:20 Parallel Commentaries

The Loftiness of God
ISAIAH lvii. 15. For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. This is a grand text; one of the grandest in the whole Old Testament; one of those the nearest to the spirit of the New. It is full of Gospel--of good news: but it is not the whole Gospel. It does not tell us the whole character
Charles Kingsley—The Good News of God

The Comforts Belonging to Mourners
Having already presented to your view the dark side of the text, I shall now show you the light side, They shall be comforted'. Where observe: 1 Mourning goes before comfort as the lancing of a wound precedes the cure. The Antinomian talks of comfort, but cries down mourning for sin. He is like a foolish patient who, having a pill prescribed him, licks the sugar but throws away the pill. The libertine is all for joy and comfort. He licks the sugar but throws away the bitter pill of repentance. If
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

I Will Pray with the Spirit and with the Understanding Also-
OR, A DISCOURSE TOUCHING PRAYER; WHEREIN IS BRIEFLY DISCOVERED, 1. WHAT PRAYER IS. 2. WHAT IT IS TO PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT. 3. WHAT IT IS TO PRAY WITH THE SPIRIT AND WITH THE UNDERSTANDING ALSO. WRITTEN IN PRISON, 1662. PUBLISHED, 1663. "For we know not what we should pray for as we ought:--the Spirit--helpeth our infirmities" (Rom 8:26). ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR. There is no subject of more solemn importance to human happiness than prayer. It is the only medium of intercourse with heaven. "It is
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3

The Coming Revival
"Wilt Thou not revive us again: that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?"--PS. lxxxv. 6. "O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years."--HAB. iii. 2. "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, Thou wilt revive me: Thy right hand shall save me."--PS. cxxxviii. 7. "I dwell with him that is of a humble and contrite heart, to revive the heart of the contrite ones."--ISA. lvii. 15. "Come, and let us return to the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us. He will revive us."--HOS. vi. 1, 2. The Coming
Andrew Murray—The Ministry of Intercession

Cross References
Jude 1:13
wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.

Job 18:5
"Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out, And the flame of his fire gives no light.

Isaiah 3:9
The expression of their faces bears witness against them, And they display their sin like Sodom; They do not even conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.

Isaiah 3:11
Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, For what he deserves will be done to him.

Isaiah 59:8
They do not know the way of peace, And there is no justice in their tracks; They have made their paths crooked, Whoever treads on them does not know peace.

Jeremiah 49:23
Concerning Damascus. "Hamath and Arpad are put to shame, For they have heard bad news; They are disheartened. There is anxiety by the sea, It cannot be calmed.

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