1The just have perished,
but no one takes it to heart;
The steadfast are swept away,
while no one understands.
Yet the just are taken away from the presence of evil,
2#Despite their sad fate, the just will ultimately attain peace (most likely in this world); cf. v. 13. and enter into peace;
They rest upon their couches,
the sincere, who walk in integrity.#a. [57:2] Wis 3:1–3.
An Idolatrous People#In this courtroom imagery, the idolaters are summoned before the judge (v. 3), their crimes are graphically described (vv. 4–11), their guilt is established, and condemnation is carried out (vv. 12–13b). In contrast to this, v. 13c describes the inheritance of God’s land and holy mountain given to those who place their confidence in God instead of in idols.
3But you, draw near,
you children of a sorceress,
offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute!#Language of sexual infidelity is often used in a figurative way to describe idolatry. Cf. Ez 16:15–22; Hos 2:4–7; Col 3:5.
4Against whom do you make sport,
against whom do you open wide your mouth,
and stick out your tongue?
Are you not rebellious children,
5You who burn with lust among the oaks,
under every green tree;
You who immolate children in the wadies,
among the clefts of the rocks?#Child sacrifice is also attested in 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:31; Ez 16:20; 20:28, 31; 23:37–39. #b. [57:5] Dt 12:2; 2 Kgs 17:10; Jer 7:31; 19:5; Ez 20:28, 31.
6Among the smooth stones#Smooth stones: the Hebrew word for this expression has the same consonants as the word for “portion”; instead of making the Lord their portion (cf. Ps 16:5), the people adored slabs of stone which they took from the streambeds in valleys and set up as idols; cf. Jer 3:9. Therefore, it is implied, they will be swept away as by a sudden torrent of waters carrying them down the rocky-bottomed gorge to destruction and death without burial. of the wadi is your portion,
they, they are your allotment;
Indeed, you poured out a drink offering to them,
and brought up grain offerings.
With these things, should I be appeased?
7Upon a towering and lofty mountain
you set up your bed,
and there you went up to offer sacrifice.#c. [57:7] Jer 2:20; Ez 6:13; Hos 4:13.
8Behind the door and the doorpost
you set up your symbol.
Yes, deserting me, you carried up your bedding;
and spread it wide.
You entered an agreement with them,
you loved their couch, you gazed upon nakedness.#Nakedness: literally in Hebrew, “hand.” In this context, it may euphemistically refer to a phallus.
9You approached the king#The king: in Hebrew, the word for king is melek, similar in sound to the Canaanite god Molech, to whom children were offered as a sacrifice in pagan ritual. The expression “your ambassadors” could be a figurative expression for the children whose death served as an offering to this deity. with oil,
and multiplied your perfumes;
You sent your ambassadors far away,
down even to deepest Sheol.
10Though worn out with the length of your journey,
you never said, “It is hopeless”;
You found your strength revived,
and so you did not weaken.
11Whom did you dread and fear,
that you told lies,
And me you did not remember
nor take to heart?
Am I to keep silent and conceal,
while you show no fear of me?
12I will proclaim your justice#Justice: here used sarcastically. The activity described in these verses is far from the justice which God demands of those who are aligned with the covenant (cf. 56:1, 4, 6). In the larger context of Third Isaiah and the whole of the Isaian tradition, justice is a key theological motif. The justice to which God calls Israel will eventually come to its fulfillment in an act of divine intervention (cf. 60:21; 61:3c). Until then, the people of God must strive to live in the ways of justice and right judgment (56:1).
and your works;
but they shall not help you.
13#In v. 6, the smooth stones of the valley are the portion which the unfaithful will receive as their due reward (cf. note on v. 6); while in v. 13c, an inheritance of the land and possession of God’s holy mountain will be the portion of the upright. When you cry out,
let your collection of idols save you.
All these the wind shall carry off,
a mere breath shall bear them away;
But whoever takes refuge in me shall inherit the land,
and possess my holy mountain.
The Way to Peace for God’s People
14And I say:
Build up, build up, prepare the way,
remove every obstacle from my people’s way.#The way…my people’s way: the language and imagery are reminiscent of 40:1–2, but in this context, when the people have already returned, the physical road through the desert is replaced by the spiritual way that leads to redemption. #d. [57:14] Is 40:3–4.
15#The God of Israel is presented in both a transcendent and an immanent manner. God’s holiness is the transcendent quality; the immanence is shown in the choice of dwelling among the downtrodden and humble. For thus says the high and lofty One,
the One who dwells forever, whose name is holy:
I dwell in a high and holy place,
but also with the contrite and lowly of spirit,
To revive the spirit of the lowly,
to revive the heart of the crushed.
16For I will not accuse forever,
nor always be angry;
For without me their spirit fails,
the life breath that I have given.#e. [57:16] Gn 2:7.
17Because of their wicked avarice I grew angry;
I struck them, hiding myself from them in wrath.
But they turned back, following the way
of their own heart.#f. [57:17] Is 56:11.
18I saw their ways,
but I will heal them.
I will lead them and restore full comfort to them
and to those who mourn for them,#g. [57:18] Is 61:2.
19creating words of comfort.#Creating words of comfort: lit., “fruit of the lips,” perhaps referring to praise and thanksgiving for the divine healing; cf. Hos 14:3.
Peace! Peace to those who are far and near,
says the Lord; and I will heal them.
20But the wicked are like the tossing sea
which cannot be still,
Its waters cast up mire and mud.#h. [57:20] Jon 2:3–7.
21There is no peace for the wicked!
says my God.#i. [57:21] Is 48:22.