Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 64:6

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

As filthy rags - עדים iddim . Rab. Mosheh ben Maimon interpretatur עדים iddim, vestes quibus mulier se abstergit post congressum cum marito suo. Alii pannus menstruatus. Alii panni mulieris parientis. - And we ben made as unclene alle we: and as the cloth of the woman rooten blode flowing, all our rigtwisnesses. - Old MS. Bible. If preachers knew properly the meaning of this word, would they make such a liberal use of it in their public ministry? And why should any use a word, the meaning of which he does not understand? How many in the congregation blush for the incautious man and his "filthy rags!"

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

But we are all as an unclean thing - We are all polluted and defiled. The word used here (טמא ṭâmē' ), means properly that which is polluted and defiled in a Levitical sense; that is, which was regarded as polluted and abominable by the law of Moses Leviticus 5:2; Deuteronomy 14:19, and may refer to animals, people, or things; also in a moral sense Job 14:4. The sense is, that they regarded themselves as wholly polluted and depraved.

And all our righteousnesses - The plural form is used to denote the deeds which they had performed - meaning that pollution extended to every individual thing of the numerous acts which they had done. The sense is, that all their prayers, sacrifices, alms, praises, were mingled with pollution, and were worthy only of deep detestation and abhorrence.

As filthy rags - ‹Like a garment of stated times‘ (עדים ‛iddiym ) - from the obsolete root עדד ‛âdad “to number, to reckon, to determine,” e. g., time. No language could convey deeper abhorrenee of their deeds of righteousness than this reference - as it is undoubtedly - to the vestis menstruis polluta. ‹Non est ambigendum,‘ says Vitringa, ‹quin vestis עדים ‛iddiym notet linteum aut pannum immundum ex immunditie legali, eundemque foedum aspectu; cu-jusmodi fuerit imprimis vestis, pannus, aut linteum feminae menstruo profluvio laborantis; verisimile est, id potissimum hae phrasi designari. Sic accepit earr Alexandrinus, vertens, ὡς ῥάκος ἀποκαθη μένης hōs rakos apokathē menēs - ut pannus sedentis; proprie: ut pannus mulieris languidae et desidentis ex menstruo παθήματι pathēmati ‹ (Leviticus 15:33; compare Leviticus 20:18; Lamentations 1:17).

And we all do fade as a leaf - We are all withered away like the leaf of autumn. Our beauty is gone; our strength is fled (compare the notes at Isaiah 40:6-7; Isaiah 50:1-11:30). What a beautiful description this is of the state of man! Strength, vigor, comeliness, and beauty thus fade away, and, like the ‹sere and yellow leaf‘ of autumn, fall to the earth. The earth is thus strewed with that which was once comely like the leaves of spring, now falling and decaying like the faded verdure of the forest.

And our iniquities like the wind - As a tempest sweeps away the leaves of the forest, so have we been swept away by our sins.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
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.
Ellen G. White
Christ's Object Lessons, 311

This is what the transgressors of God's law have done ever since the day of Adam and Eve's disobedience. They have sewed together fig leaves to cover the nakedness caused by transgression. They have worn the garments of their own devising, by works of their own they have tried to cover their sins, and make themselves acceptable with God. COL 311.1

But this they can never do. Nothing can man devise to supply the place of his lost robe of innocence. No fig-leaf garment, no worldly citizen dress, can be worn by those who sit down with Christ and angels at the marriage supper of the Lamb. COL 311.2

Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us meet to appear in God's presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul. “I counsel thee,” He says, “to buy of Me ... white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.” Revelation 3:18. COL 311.3

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Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 174

There was no excuse for the blindness of Israel in regard to the work of regeneration. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah had written, “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” David had prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” And through Ezekiel the promise had been given, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes.” Isaiah 64:6; Psalm 51:10; Ezekiel 36:26, 27. DA 174.1

Nicodemus had read these scriptures with a clouded mind; but he now began to comprehend their meaning. He saw that the most rigid obedience to the mere letter of the law as applied to the outward life could entitle no man to enter the kingdom of heaven. In the estimation of men, his life had been just and honorable; but in the presence of Christ he felt that his heart was unclean, and his life unholy. DA 174.2

Nicodemus was being drawn to Christ. As the Saviour explained to him concerning the new birth, he longed to have this change wrought in himself. By what means could it be accomplished? Jesus answered the unspoken question: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” DA 174.3

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Ellen G. White
Faith and Works, 66

When you sit down at your table the food that you eat is an expression of Christ's love. And the listening to the truth of God's words from the desk is a message that is sent to proclaim unto us the words of life. FW 66.1

Who of you have been gathering all the doubts and questions that you could gather and heap up against this righteousness of Christ? Who has been doing this? What side are you on? FW 66.2

Have you been grasping the precious truths point after point as they have been presented? Or have you been thinking that you follow your own ideas and opinions and read and judge the Word of God by your opinions and theories? Or will you take your ideas and theories to the Word of God and let the living oracles reveal to you where the deficiencies and defects are in your ideas and theories? We cannot take a position that we will judge the Word of God because we believed thus and so. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). FW 66.3

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Ellen G. White
Lift Him Up, 237.2

Those who depend upon their own righteousness instead of relying upon the righteousness of Christ will lose the prize; they will be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary and found wanting. Let everyone who is striving for the precious boon of eternal life distrust his own strength, and, in much prayer, cast his helpless soul upon Christ. There is too little searching of the Word of God for definite direction in the way of life. The larger number of those who profess to believe on Christ have only superficial ideas as to what constitutes Christian character.... Do not deceive yourself with the idea that your own inherent righteousness will bring you into harmony with God. Do not fail to look upon yourself as a sinner in the sight of God. Do not fail to look upon Jesus lifted up upon the cross; and as you look, believe and live; for by faith in the atoning sacrifice you may be justified through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Believe that you are forgiven, that you are justified, not in transgression and disobedience, but in submission to the will of God. If through faith you lay hold of the righteousness of Christ, then be not careless of your thoughts, your words, your works. Study much, and pray that as Christ has shown you the way, He may by His grace keep you in the way. For we are “kept by the power of God through faith”; and even faith is not of ourselves, but it also is the gift of God. LHU 237.2

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