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Isaiah 57:6

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Among the smooth stones of the stream "Among the smooth stones of the valley" - The Jews were extremely addicted to the practice of many superstitious and idolatrous rites, which the prophet here inveighs against with great vehemence. Of the worship of rude stones consecrated, there are many testimonials of the ancients. They were called βαιτυλοι and βαιτυλια· probably from the stone which Jacob erected at Beth-el, pouring oil upon the top of it. This practice was very common in different ages and places. Arnobius, lib. i., gives an account of his own practice in this respect before he became a Christian: Si quando conspexeram lubricatum lapidem, et ex olivi unguine sordidatum; tanquam inesset vis praesens, adulabar, affabar, et beneficia poscebam nihil sentiente de trunco. "When I have met with a smooth stone, smeared with oil, supposing a spiritual power to be connected with it, I worshipped it, paid my addresses to it, and requested blessings," etc. Clemens Alex., Strom. lib. vii., speaks of a worshipper of every smooth stone in a proverbial way, to denote one given up to superstition. And accordingly Theophrastus has marked this as one strong feature in the character of the superstitious man: Και των λιπαρων λιθων των εν ταις τριοδοις παριων, εκ της ληκυθου ελαιου καταχειν, και επι γονατα πεσων και προσκυνησας απαλλαττεσθαι . "Passing by the anointed stones in the streets, he takes out his phial of oil, and pours it on them; and having fallen on his knees, and made his adorations, he departs. "Kimchi says: "When they found a beautiful polished stone in a brook or river, they paid Divine adoration to it." This idolatry is still prevalent among the Hindoos. The stone which is the object of their adoration is called salgram. They are found about eighty miles from the source of the river Sown, in the viceroyalty of Bahar, on the coast of Bengal. Ayeen Akbery vol. 2 p. 29.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Among the smooth stones of the streams - In the original here, there is a paronomasia, which cannot be fully retained in our English version. There has been also considerable diversity of opinion in regard to the sense of the passage, from the ambiguity of the words in the original. Jerome (the Vulgate) renders it, In partibus torrentis pars tua - ‹Thy portion is in the parts of the torrent.‘ The Septuagint translates it ‹This is thy portion; this is thy lot. The word rendered in our version, ‹smooth stones‘ (חלק chēleq ), means properly smoothness, hence, barrenness or bare place; and supposes that the idea is, their lot was in the bare places of the valley, that is, in the open (not wooded) places where they worshipped idols - an interpretation not very consistent with the fact that groves were commonly selected as the place where they worshipped idols. It seems to me, therefore, that the idea of smoothness here, whether of the valley or of the stones, is not the idea intended. Indeed, in no place, it is believed, does the word mean ‹smooth stones;‘ and it is difficult to conceive what was the exact idea which our translators intended to convey, or why they supposed that such worship was celebrated among the smooth or much-worn stones of the running stream. The true idea can probably be obtained by reverting to the primitive sense of the word as derived from the verb. The verb חלק châlaq means:

1. To smooth.

2. To divide, to distribute, to appropriate - as the dividing of spoil, etc.

Hence, the noun also means dividing, or portion, as that which is divided - whether an inheritance, or whether the dividings of spoil after battle. Retaining this idea, the literal sense, as I conceive, would be this in which also something of the paronomasia will be retained: ‹Among the dividings of the valley is thy dividing,‘ that is, thy portion In the places where the valley divides, is thy lot. Thy lot is there instead of the place which God appointed. There you worship; there you pour out your libations to the false gods; and there you must partake of the protection and favor which the gods whom you worship can give. You have chosen that as your inheritance, and by the results of that you must abide.

Of the stream - The word rendered here ‹stream‘ (נחל nachal ), means either a stream, or a rivulet of water Numbers 34:5; Jeremiah 7:18. It was common also in the worship of the true God (see Genesis 35:14). Among the Hebrews it consisted of wine and oil Exodus 29:40; Numbers 15:5-7; Leviticus 23:13.

Thou hast offered a meat-offering - On the word used here (מנחה minchāh ) see the notes at Isaiah 1:13; Isaiah 43:23. The word ‹meat‘ formerly denoted in the English language food in general, and was not confined as it is now to animal food. Hence, the word ‹meat-offering‘ is so often used in the Scriptures when a sacrifice is intended which was not a bloody sacrifice. The mincha was in fact an offering of meal, fine flour, etc., mingled with oil Leviticus 14:10; Numbers 7:13, and was distinguished expressly from the bloody sacrifice. The word ‹meal-offering‘ would much more appropriately express the sense of the original than ‹meat-offering.‘ This was a common offering made to idols as well as to the true God, and was designed as an expression of thankfulness.

Should I receive comfort in these? - It is implied that God could not behold them but with displeasure, and that for them he would punish them. The Vulgate and the Septuagint express it well as: ‹On account of these things shall I not be enraged?‘

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The Lord here calls apostates and hypocrites to appear before him. When reproved for their sins, and threatened with judgments, they ridiculed the word of God. The Jews were guilty of idolatry before the captivity; but not after that affliction. Their zeal in the worship of false gods, may shame our indifference in the worship of the true God. The service of sin is disgraceful slavery; those who thus debase themselves to hell, will justly have their portion there. Men incline to a religion that inflames their unholy passions. They are led to do any evil, however great or vile, if they think it will atone for crimes, or purchase indulgence for some favourite lust. This explains idolatry, whether pagan, Jewish, or antichristian. But those who set up anything instead of God, for their hope and confidence, never will come to a right end. Those who forsake the only right way, wander in a thousand by-paths. The pleasures of sin soon tire, but never satisfy. Those who care not for the word of God and his providences, show they have no fear of God. Sin profits not; it ruins and destroys.
Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 2, 180

Christ gives to all the invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). If all will wear Christ's yoke, if all will learn in His school the lessons that He teaches, there will be sufficient means to establish gospel medical missionary work in many places. 2SM 180.1

Let none say, “I will engage in this work for a stipulated sum. If I do not receive this sum, I will not do the work.” Those who say this show that they are not wearing Christ's yoke; they are not learning His meekness and lowliness.... 2SM 180.2

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