Isaiah 6:1

(1) In the year that king Uzziah died.--Probably before his death. Had it been after it, the first year of king Jotham would have been the more natural formula. The chapter gives us the narrative of the solemn call of Isaiah to the office of a prophet. It does not follow that it was written at that time, and we may even believe that, if the prophet were the editor of his own discourses, he may have designedly placed the narrative in this position that men might see what he himself saw, that all that was found in the preceding chapters was but the development of what he had then heard, and yet, at the same time, a representation of the evils which made the judgments he was commissioned to declare necessary. On the relation of the call to the prophet's previous life, see Introduction.

The date is obviously given as important, and we are led to connect it with the crisis in the prophet's life of which it tells. He had lived through the last twenty years or so of Uzziah's reign. There was the show of outward material prosperity. There was the reality of much inward corruption. The king who had profaned the holiness of the Temple had either just died or was dragging out the dregs of his leprous life in seclusion (2Chronicles 26:21). The question, What was to be the future of his people? must have been much in the prophet's thoughts. The earthquake that had terrified Jerusalem had left on his mind a vague sense of impending judgment. It is significant that Isaiah's first work as a writer was to write the history of Uzziah's reign (2Chronicles 26:22). (See Introduction.)

I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne.--Isaiah had found himself in 'the court of the Temple, probably in that of the priests. He had seen the incense-clouds rising from the censer of the priest, and had heard the hymns and hallelujahs of the Levites. Suddenly he passes, as St. Paul afterwards passed, under the influence of like surroundings (Acts 22:17), into a state of ecstatic trance, and as though the veil of the Temple was withdrawn, he saw the vision of the glory of the Lord, as Moses (Exodus 24:10) and Micaiah of old had seen it (1Kings 22:19), as in more recent times it had appeared to Amos (9:1). The King of kings was seated on His throne, and on the right hand and on the left were the angel-armies of the host of heaven, chanting their hymns of praise.

His train filled the temple.--The word for "temple" is that which expresses its character as the palace of the great King. (Comp. Psalm 11:4; Psalm 29:9; Habakkuk 2:20.) The "train" answers to the skirts of the glory of the Lord, who clothes Himself with light as with a garment (Exodus 33:22-23). It is noticeable (1) that the versions (LXX., Targum, Vulg.) suppress the train, apparently as being too anthropomorphic, and (2) that to the mind of St. John this was a vision of the glory of the Christ (John 12:41).

Verses 1-4. - THE VISION OF GOD SEEN BY ISAIAH. It is thought by some that this vision, and its sequel, constitute the original call of Isaiah to the prophetical office, and in order of time precede all the other contents of the book. But the position of the "vision" in the book is strongly against this view. Prophets who relate their original call naturally place it in the forefront of their narrative (Jeremiah 1:10; Ezekiel 1:1). It is quite possible, as Bishop Lowth says, that this was "a new designation, to introduce more solemnly a general declaration of the whole course of God's dispensations in regard to his people, and the fates of the nations." The vision itself may profitably be compared with Ezekiel's first vision, which it much resembles (Ezekiel 1:4-28). Verse 1. - In the year that King Uzziah died. The year B.C. 759, probably. We cannot determine from the phrase used whether the vision was seen before or after Uzziah's death. I saw also; rather, then it was that I saw (comp. Exodus 16:6). The Lord. Not "Jehovah," as in vers. 3 and 5, but "Adonay," for greater reverence. Sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up. The imagery is, of course, taken from the practice of earthly kings. Elaborate thrones were affected by the great monarchs of Egypt and Assyria (Lepsius, 'Deutmaler,' pt. 3. pls. 2, 76, 100, 121; Layard, 'Nineveh and Babylon,' p. 150). Solomon's throne was perhaps even grander than any of these (see 1 Kings 10:18-20). It was placed at the summit of "six steps," so that its occupant was "high and lifted up" above all his courtiers. His train. Not his train of attendants, but "the skirts of his robe." Flowing robes were commonly worn by great monarchs. Filled the temple; or, the palace. The same word is used in Hebrew for both. Dr. Kay supposes the prophet to be "in vision gazing on the actual temple - to see its veils drawn aside, and instead of the Shechinah enthroned on the cherubim, to behold the King of glory, enthroned on high, the fringes of his royal robe filling the temple, so that no human priest could minister there." But, as Mr. Cheyne observes, "palace is more in harmony with the picture than temple." It is the heavenly palace of the King of kings into which the prophet's gaze is allowed to penetrate.

6:1-8 In this figurative vision, the temple is thrown open to view, even to the most holy place. The prophet, standing outside the temple, sees the Divine Presence seated on the mercy-seat, raised over the ark of the covenant, between the cherubim and seraphim, and the Divine glory filled the whole temple. See God upon his throne. This vision is explained, Joh 12:41, that Isaiah now saw Christ's glory, and spake of Him, which is a full proof that our Saviour is God. In Christ Jesus, God is seated on a throne of grace; and through him the way into the holiest is laid open. See God's temple, his church on earth, filled with his glory. His train, the skirts of his robes, filled the temple, the whole world, for it is all God's temple. And yet he dwells in every contrite heart. See the blessed attendants by whom his government is served. Above the throne stood the holy angels, called seraphim, which means burners; they burn in love to God, and zeal for his glory against sin. The seraphim showing their faces veiled, declares that they are ready to yield obedience to all God's commands, though they do not understand the secret reasons of his counsels, government, or promises. All vain-glory, ambition, ignorance, and pride, would be done away by one view of Christ in his glory. This awful vision of the Divine Majesty overwhelmed the prophet with a sense of his own vileness. We are undone if there is not a Mediator between us and this holy God. A glimpse of heavenly glory is enough to convince us that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Nor is there a man that would dare to speak to the Lord, if he saw the justice, holiness, and majesty of God, without discerning his glorious mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. The live coal may denote the assurance given to the prophet, of pardon, and acceptance in his work, through the atonement of Christ. Nothing is powerful to cleanse and comfort the soul, but what is taken from Christ's satisfaction and intercession. The taking away sin is necessary to our speaking with confidence and comfort, either to God in prayer, or from God in preaching; and those shall have their sin taken away who complain of it as a burden, and see themselves in danger of being undone by it. It is great comfort to those whom God sends, that they go for God, and may therefore speak in his name, assured that he will bear them out.In the year that King Uzziah died,.... Which was the fifty second year of his reign, and in the year 3246 from the creation of the world; and, according to Jerom (l), was the year in which Romulus, the founder of the Roman empire, was born: some understand this not of his proper death, but of his being stricken with leprosy, upon his attempt to burn incense in the temple; upon which he was shut up in a separate house, which was a kind of a civil death: so the Targum,

"in the year in which King Uzziah was smitten;''

that is, with leprosy; and so Jarchi and others interpret it, from the ancient writers; but the first sense is the best. Some, as Aben Ezra, would have this to be the beginning of the prophecy of Isaiah, because of the mission of the prophet in it; but others rightly observe, that this mission respects not the prophecy in general, but the particular reproof the prophet was sent to give to the Jews herein mentioned. The title of this chapter, in the Arabic version, is remarkable; according to which, this chapter contains the vision which Isaiah, the son of Amos, saw three years, or, as others affirm, thirty years, after prophecy was taken from him. He had prophesied about ten years before this, in the reign of Uzziah; and only this vision was in the reign of Jotham; the next prophecy was delivered out in the reign of Ahaz, Isaiah 7:1 and others in the time of Hezekiah; and the date of this vision is only mentioned, to observe the order of the visions, agreeably to Isaiah 1:1 and moreover it may be observed from hence, that kings must die as well as others; but the King of kings ever lives, he is the living God, and the everlasting King, as follows:

I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; not God essentially considered, whose essence is not to be seen; but personally, Father, Son, and Spirit, for all the three Persons appear in this vision, Isaiah 6:3 particularly Christ, as, is clear from John 12:41 who is the "Adonai", or Lord; he is Lord of all, of all men, even of the greatest among them, and of all the angels in heaven, and of the church of God, by his Father's gift, by his own purchase, in right of marriage, and through the conquest of his grace. This sight was not corporeal, but with the eyes of the understanding, in the vision of prophecy; and to have a sight of Christ as the Lord, and especially as our Lord, is very delightful and comfortable; for though he is a sovereign Lord, he is no tyrannical one, is very powerful to protect and defend, and has all fulness for supply; and particularly as "sitting upon a throne" as a king, for he having done his work as a priest, sits down on his throne as a king; and a lovely sight it is to see him enthroned at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and therefore is said to be "high and lifted up"; for this is to be understood not of his throne, as if that was high and lifted up in the highest heavens, as the Targum paraphrases it; but of himself, who is high and exalted above all creatures, as Aben Ezra observes; and this sense the accents determine for: the vision refers to the exaltation of Christ, after his humiliation here on earth; and to behold him crowned with glory and honour is very delightful, since he is exalted as our head and representative in our nature, and acts for us in this his exalted state; and we may be assured of being exalted also. It follows,

and his train filled the temple; either the material temple visionally seen, where his feet were, and his throne in heaven, as Jarchi interprets it; or heaven, as Kimchi, which is the Lord's holy temple, where his throne is, Psalm 11:4 or rather the human nature of Christ, the temple where the fulness of the Godhead dwells bodily, and which the train of divine perfections fill; though it may be best of all to understand it of the church, the temple of the living God; and "his train" may denote the effects of Christ's kingly and priestly offices, with which the Church was filled upon his exaltation; as the gifts and graces of his Spirit in an extraordinary manner on the day of Pentecost, and since in a more ordinary way; whereby men have been made ministers of the New Testament, and churches filled with them, and these made useful in filling the churches with members. The Targum is,

"and the temple was filled with the splendour of his glory;''

the "train" is the skirts, borders, or lower parts of the garments, in allusion to those of a king, or rather of the high priest, a type of Christ.

(l) Epist. Damaso, tom. 3. fol. 37. K.

Isaiah 5:30
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