Isaiah 58:5
Parallel Verses
New American Standard Bible
"Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD?

King James Bible
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?

Darby Bible Translation
Is such the fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul, that he should bow down his head as a bulrush, and spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and a day acceptable to Jehovah?

World English Bible
Is such the fast that I have chosen? the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Yahweh?

Young's Literal Translation
Like this is the fast that I choose? The day of a man's afflicting his soul? To bow as a reed his head, And sackcloth and ashes spread out? This dost thou call a fast, And a desirable day -- to Jehovah?

Isaiah 58:5 Parallel
Barnes' Notes on the Bible

Is it such a fast that I have chosen? - Is this such a mode of fasting as I have appointed and as Iapprove?

A day for a man to afflict his soul? - Margin, 'To afflict his soul for a day.' The reading in the text is the more correct; and the idea is, that the pain and inconvenience experienced by the abstinence from food was not the end in view in fasting. This seems to have been the mistake which they made, that they supposed there was something meritorious in the very pain incurred by such abstinence. Is there not danger of this now? Do we not often feel that there is something meritorious in the very inconveniences which we suffer in our acts of self denial? The important idea in the passage before us is, that the pain and inconvenience which we may endure by the most rigid fasting are not meritorious in the sight of God. They are not that at which he aims by the appointment of fasting. He aims at justice, truth, benevolence, holiness Isaiah 58:6-7; and he esteems the act of fasting to be of value only as it will be the means of leading us to reflect on our faults, and to amend our lives.

Is it to bow down his head - A bulrush is the large reed that grows in marshy places. It is, says Johnson, without knots or joints. In the midst of water it grows luxuriantly, yet the stalk is not solid or compact like wood, and, being unsupported by joints, it easily bends over under its own weight. it thus becomes the emblem of a man bowed down with grief. Here it refers to the sanctimoniousness of a hypocrite when fasting - a man without real feeling who puts on an air of affected solemnity, and 'appears to others to fast.' Against that the Saviour warned his disciples, and directed them, when they fasted, to do it in their ordinary dress, and to maintain an aspect of cheerfulness Matthew 6:17-18. The hypocrites in the time of Isaiah seemed to have supposed that the object was gained if they assumed this affected seriousness. How much danger is there of this now! How often do even Christians assume, on all the more solemn occasions of religious observance, a forced sanctimoniousness of manner; a demure and dejected air; nay, an appearance of melancholy - which is often understood by the worm to be misanthropy, and which easily slides into misanthropy! Against this we should guard. Nothing more injures the cause of religion than sanctimoniousness, gloom, reserve, coldness, and the conduct and deportment which, whether right or wrong, will be construed by those around us as misanthropy. Be it not forgotten that the seriousness which religion produces is always consistent with cheerfulness, and is always accompanied by benevolence; and the moment we feel that our religious acts consist in merely bowing down the head like a bulrush, that moment we may be sure we shall do injury to all with whom we come in contact.

And to spread sackcloth and ashes under him - On the meaning of the word 'sackcloth,' see the notes at Isaiah 3:24. It was commonly worn around the loins in times of fasting and of any public or private calamity. It was also customary to sit on sackcloth, or to spread it under one either to lie on, or to kneel on in times of prayer, as an expression of humiliation. Thus in Esther 4:3, it is said. 'and many lay on sackcloth and ashes:' or, as it is in the margin, 'sackcloth and ashes were laid under many;' (compare 1 Kings 21:27). A passage in Josephus strongly confirms this, in which he describes the deep concern of the Jews for the danger of Herod Agrippa, after having been stricken suddenly with a violent disorder in the theater of Caesarea. 'Upon the news of his danger, immediately the multitude, with their wives and children, "sitting upon sackcloth according to their country rites," prayed for the king; all places were filled with wailing and lamentation; while the king, who lay in an upper room, beholding the people below thus falling prostrate on the ground, could not himself refrain from tears' (Antiq. xix. 8. 2). We wear crape - but for a somewhat different object. With us it is a mere sign of grief; but the wearing of sackcloth or sitting on it was not a mere sign of grief, but was regarded as tending to produce humiliation and mortification. Ashes also were a symbol of grief and sorrow. The wearing of sackcloth was usually accompanied with ashes Daniel 9:3; Esther 4:1, Esther 4:3. Penitents, or those in affliction, either sat down on the ground in dust and ashes Job 2:8; Job 42:6; Jonah 3:6; or they put ashes on their head 2 Samuel 13:19; Lamentations 3:16; or they mingled ashes with their food Psalm 102:9. The Greeks and the Romans had also the same custom of strewing themselves with ashes in mourning. Thus Homer (Iliad, xviii. 22), speaking of Achilles bewailing the death of Patroclus, says:

Cast on the ground, with furious hands he spread

The scorching ashes o'er his graceful head,

His purple garments, and his golden hairs;

Those he deforms, and these he tears.

Laertes (Odys. xxiv. 315), shows his grief in the same manner:

Deep from his soul he sighed, and sorrowing spread

A cloud of ashes on his hoary head.

So Virgil (AEn. x. 844), speaking of the father of Lausus, who was brought to him wounded, says:

Canitiem immundo deformat pulvere.


Isaiah 58:5 Parallel Commentaries

Prayer Essential to God
"Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. 14th verse: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."--Isaiah 58:9. It must never be forgotten that Almighty God rules this world. He is not an absentee God. His hand is ever on the throttle of human affairs. He is everywhere present in the concerns
Edward M. Bounds—The Weapon of Prayer

Evidences of Regeneration.
I. Introductory remarks. 1. In ascertaining what are, and what are not, evidences of regeneration, we must constantly keep in mind what is not, and what is regeneration; what is not, and what is implied in it. 2. We must constantly recognize the fact, that saints and sinners have precisely similar constitutions and constitutional susceptibilities, and therefore that many things are common to both. What is common to both cannot, of course, he an evidence of regeneration. 3. That no state of the sensibility
Charles Grandison Finney—Systematic Theology

A Work of Reform
The work of Sabbath reform to be accomplished in the last days is foretold in the prophecy of Isaiah: "Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed. Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the Sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil." "The sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, and to love the name of the Lord,
Ellen Gould White—The Great Controversy

The Voice of Stern Rebuke
[This chapter is based on 1 Kings 17:8-24; 28:1-19.] For a time Elijah remained hidden in the mountains by the brook Cherith. There for many months he was miraculously provided with food. Later on, when, because of the continued drought, the brook became dry, God bade His servant find refuge in a heathen land. "Arise," He bade him, "get thee to Zarephath, [known in New Testament times as Sarepta], which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee."
Ellen Gould White—The Story of Prophets and Kings

Cross References
Matthew 6:16
"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

Leviticus 16:31
"It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.

1 Kings 21:27
It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently.

Ezra 8:21
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.

Isaiah 49:8
Thus says the LORD, "In a favorable time I have answered You, And in a day of salvation I have helped You; And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages;

Isaiah 61:2
To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn,

Zechariah 7:5
"Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted?

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