Exegesis of Isaiah 6

In Isaiah chapter 6 we have the account of Isiah’s commission from the Lord after his experience with the Lord in a vision. It is probable that after having little success in his ministry God gave this vision to Isaiah to bring encouragement to him and further confirmation of his ministry. After having the vision Isaiah certainly would be more excited and zealous to preserve as a prophet of God.

Is. 6:1   In the year that  King Uzziah died I  saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train  of his robe filled the temple.  2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had  six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Is. 6:4   And  the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and  the house was filled with smoke.  5 And I said: “Woe is me!  For I am lost;  for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the  King, the LORD of hosts!”
Is. 6:6   Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  7 And he  touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Is. 6:8   And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for  us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”  9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people:
“‘Keep on hearing,  but do not understand;
keep on seeing,  but do not perceive.’
10      Make the heart of this people  dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
11     Then I said,  “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until  cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
12     and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
13      And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned  again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump  remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed  is its stump.

– ESV

Verses 1-4:

“In the year that King Uzziah died.” The king of Israel has died, but Israel’s God, Yahweh, the Lord still lives. This is important because while God allowed Israel to have human kings to be in rule, the one true and eternal king of Israel is God himself. “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne.” Literally, “Adonai” which is to say that Isaiah saw the Lord Jesus Christ, this is also explained in John 12:41. Notice the position of the Lord, “upon a throne,” the position of a judge. This is to show the Lord’s position and authority, as well it is proof of the divinity of Jesus, that after his resurrection he sat down at the right hand of God where he was before (John 17:5). “High and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.” This throne is so high that it is above all other competition, it is the greatest throne. It is also so vast that it fills the whole temple, God is beyond human form, and his glory fills every space around him. “Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” From these angels we can learn that even beings as great and holy as they are, it is nothing compared to God and his greatness and holiness. With two wings they cover their face; even as angels they cannot fully endure God’s glory and light, they are overwhelmed. With two wings they also cover their feet out of worship, and with the two other wings they fly, ready to serve the Lord. The Lord is to be approached with reverence, fear, and honor. “And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts.’ ” Literally this is, “holy-one, holy-one, holy-one, Yahweh [of] host.” The use of the Hebrew word “qdush” (holy-one) three times in a row could be interpreted as proof of three persons in one essence of the Godhead. However, in Scripture the number three often denotes perfection, this is perfect holiness. Also Hebrews often said something three times for emphasis, again showing that God is perfectly and utterly holy. “‘The whole earth is full of his glory!’” The Jews thought that the glory of God was or should be confined only to their land. But here we can see that the glory of God should fill all of the earth. In the old covenant his glory filled the temple, but in the latter days the whole earth shall be full of his glory. “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called.” This is to show the power of the one speaking and to confirm it is the Lord, for no mortal being could make foundations shake from their voice. “And the house was filled with smoke.” This is the same sign that God used when Moses entered into the tabernacle, this was again to confirm to Isaiah that this is God.

Verses 5-7:

“And I said: ‘Woe is me!’” This is a powerful statement from Isaiah, he is so terrified by what he is seeing that he believes he will be destroyed. The reason for his terror is this, “For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.” When God is revealed to us in his fullness we then know truly who we are. This is true humility and knowledge of sin. It is interesting to note that Isaiah mentions his lips as being unclean. This could be because as a prophet his most value and holy part of his body are his lips. Yet now after seeing the Lord he realizes that even the most sacred part of his body is polluted. “For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts!” Isaiah is declaring that he is seeing Yahweh himself, yet another proof of Jesus’ divinity, since the first mention of the king was “Adonai” and now we are speaking of “Yahweh.” “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’” Here we can see the action of God for those who humble themselves before him and mourn for their sin, he has compassion on them and cleanses them. We can also see that some action must be done by God in order to atone for sin. In this case a coal was placed on Isaiah’s lips, yet it is only a symbol for the real atonement for sin, Jesus Christ.

Verses 8-13:

In the remaining verses there is a conversation between God and Isaiah. In the vision God is in search for a messenger to send, and Isaiah accepts by saying, “Here am I! Send me.” Verses 9-12 of this passage are quoted a few times in the New Testament, they are four judgments of God against Israel:
1. That most of the people to hear his preaching would not understand or see the message. (verse 9)
2. Those who do not accept or understand the message will be made worse by it instead of better. (verse 10)
3. It will be this way until cities are destroyed and there is famine in the land. (verse 11)
4. The Lord will remove people and misplace people. (verse 12)
Verse 13 concludes the chapter by stating that for the sake of the “holy seed” the Jewish nation would be saved from complete destruction. Since the blessing of the seed, that is Christ must come from it (Isaiah 65:8).

– Aaron Smith, February 2014

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