No Healing Till Houses Are Without Man
“And I began to hear the voice of Jehovah saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I proceeded to say: ‘Here I am! Send me.’”—Isa. 6:8.
1, 2. (a) How did the prophet Amos date the time of his prophecy? (b) What other prophet referred to the same notable event as did Amos, and in connection with what movement of the earth?
HOW many houses were destroyed the record of the earthquake does not state. But the earthquake was so notable that the time of its occurrence was used to date an important prophecy of the ninth century B.C.E. The prophet opens his inspired book saying: “The words of Amos, who happened to be among the sheep raisers from Tekoa, which he visioned concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah the king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, the king of Israel, two years before the earthquake.” (Amos 1:1) This would locate the earthquake about the year 809 B.C.E. However, it made such an impression that it was called to mind three centuries later (in 519 B.C.E.) and it was used in God’s prophecy through Zechariah to make a comparison with another movement of the earth, in these words:
2 “And his feet will actually stand in that day upon the mountain of the olive trees, which is in front of Jerusalem, on the east; and the mountain of the olive trees must be split at its middle, from the sunrising and to the west. There will be a very great valley; and half of the mountain will actually be moved to the north, and half of it to the south. And you people will certainly flee to the valley of my mountains; because the valley of the mountains will reach all the way to Azel. And you will have to flee, just as you fled because of the earthquake in the days of Uzziah the king of Judah.”—Zech. 14:4, 5.
3. How is an earthquake in the days of King Uzziah described in the Antiquities of the Jews, by Joseph ben Matthias?
3 Six centuries after that prophecy, Joseph ben Matthias, the Jewish historian of our first century, wrote his Antiquities of the Jews and graphically described the earthquake of King Uzziah’s days, in Book 9, Chapter 10, paragraph 4, saying:
. . . Accordingly when a remarkable day was come, and a general festival was to be celebrated, he put on the holy garment, and went into the temple to offer incense to God upon the golden altar. But Azariah the high priest, who had eighty priests with him, affirmed that it was not lawful for him to offer sacrifice: and that none besides the posterity of Aaron were permitted so to do. And when they cried out, that he must go out of the temple, and not transgress against God, he was wroth with them and threatened to kill them, unless they would hold their peace. In the mean time a great earthquake shook the ground, and a rent was made in the temple, and the bright rays of the sun shone through it; and fell upon the king’s face, insomuch that the leprosy seized upon him immediately. And before the city, at a place called Eroge, half the mountain broke off from the rest on the west, and rolled itself four furlongs, and stood still at the east mountain: till the roads, as well as the king’s gardens, were spoiled by the obstruction. Now as soon as the priests saw that the king’s face was infected with leprosy, they told him of the calamity he was under, and commanded that he should go out of the city as a polluted person. Hereupon he was so confounded, that he did as he was commanded; and underwent this terrible and miserable punishment for a presumptuous intention, and for that impiety against God which was implied therein. So he abode out of the city for some time, and lived a private life, while his son Jotham took the government. He died with grief and anxiety, at what had happened to him; when he had lived sixty-eight years, and reigned fifty-two; and his body was buried in his own garden.
4. (a) Does Joseph’s timing of the earthquake agree with that given by Amos? (b) Does the Bible itself mention an earthquake at the time of Uzziah’s invasion of the temple, but what does it indicate about some earthquake?
4 As King Uzziah died from leprosy in the year 774 B.C.E, the time of the earthquake as indicated by the Jewish historian Joseph does not agree with that given by the prophet Amos, unless there were two earthquakes. The Bible’s own account of what happened to King Uzziah when he invaded the holy compartment of the temple of Jerusalem is given in 2 Chronicles 26:16-23 and; 2 Kings 15:1-7. It mentions no occurring of an earthquake on that occasion. Nevertheless, the reign of King Uzziah was historically marked by a notable earthquake deserving of repeated mention. But the extent of damage to private houses and other properties the Bible does not say. Yet there must have been considerable damage if the people fled from their homes because of the earthquake.
5, 6. What quivering of the temple took place in the year that King Uzziah died, as reported in Isaiah 6:1-4?
5 However, in the year that King Uzziah died the temple of Jehovah was shaken at its thresholds, likely after the death of the stricken King Uzziah. The prophet Isaiah observed this quivering at the temple, and he tells us about the occasion of its happening, in Isa chapter six, verses one to four, saying:
6 “In the year that King Uzziah died I, however, got to see Jehovah,* sitting on a throne lofty and lifted up, and his skirts were filling the temple. Seraphs were standing above him. Each one had six wings. With two he kept his face covered, and with two he kept his feet covered, and with two he would fly about. And this one called to that one and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of armies. The fullness of all the earth is his glory.’ And the pivots of the thresholds began to quiver at the voice of the one calling, and the house itself gradually filled with smoke.”
7. What contrast between Uzziah and Isaiah is there in connection with the king’s invasion of the temple and the prophet’s vision of the temple?
7 What a contrast is here shown between King Uzziah and the prophet Isaiah! King Uzziah presumptuously invaded territory forbidden to the king on his throne. He wanted to start off a new and closer connection between king and Jehovah God and to practice direct worship of God, and thus to set aside God’s appointed priesthood. As an impious intruder he saw the inside of the holy compartment of the temple, where golden lampstands, tables of the “bread of presence” and the golden altar of incense were located. But he did not see Jehovah’s face of approval and got no special commission from Him. In contrast with this, the prophet Isaiah did not brush aside Jehovah’s priesthood and trespass on a holy area, but he was given a vision of Jehovah in His holy temple. He suffered no bad effects from this but was honored with a commission from the God of his nation. The seraphs who attended the lofty and lifted-up throne of Jehovah covered their faces in order not to presume to look upon the enthroned God, but Isaiah was allowed to look at Jehovah in a vision.
8. (a) What caused the pivots of the temple thresholds to quiver, and how did Jehovah’s glory fill the house? (b) How do those whose spiritual vision is sharpened share a privilege like that of Isaiah?
8 The prophet Isaiah enjoyed a rare sacred privilege. This fact is set out in bold relief in that the seraphs said back and forth to one another in a responsive way: “Holy, holy, holy is Jehovah of armies. The fullness of all the earth is his glory.” That is to say, what fills the earth is the glory of Jehovah of armies. The weighty importance of this seraphic announcement was enough to cause the pivots of the temple thresholds to quiver. The glory of Jehovah of armies manifested itself by filling the house of worship with miraculous smoke. Today those God-fearing people are highly favored whose vision is sharpened by means of fulfilled prophecies of the Holy Bible. They see that Jehovah God has come to his spiritual temple. They are filled with awe at this.
9, 10. How was Isaiah affected by the vision, and why?
9 At what Isaiah saw and heard he felt very unholy, very unclean, and he was filled with fear. He tells us: “And I proceeded to say: ‘Woe to me! For I am as good as brought to silence, because a man unclean in lips I am, and in among a people unclean in lips I am dwelling; for my eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of armies, himself!’”—Isa. 6:5.
10 This was only a vision, and yet because the vision was inspired by Jehovah God, Isaiah had reason to fear that he would die, be brought down into the silence of death. He doubtless remembered when the prophet Moses asked to see Jehovah’s glory and that Jehovah God replied to Moses: “You are not able to see my face, because no man may see me and yet live.” (Ex. 33:20) And here Isaiah had seen “the King, Jehovah of armies, himself!”
11. (a) Why did Isaiah and his people have nothing to fear because of King Uzziah’s death? (b) What fact is it wonderful for us to realize today?
11 Jehovah was the real, although invisible, King of the kingdom of Judah. Hence, even though King Uzziah died in the year that the prophet Isaiah had this temple vision, Jehovah of armies remained King of Judah. So neither Isaiah nor the people had any reason to fear because of the death of such a powerful king as Uzziah had been, with such highly developed military equipment. (2 Chron. 26:1-9) How wonderful it is today to realize that Jehovah God is the King of the universe, the “King of eternity,” and that therefore we as his worshipers and servants have nothing to fear as regards rulership of our earth!—Rev. 15:3; Jer. 10:10.
CLEANSING NEEDED BEFORE COMMISSIONING
12, 13. Why did Isaiah feel in no condition to receive a commission from Jehovah, but how was this overcome?
12 The prophet Isaiah felt in no condition fit for him to get a commission from the King, Jehovah of armies, at his holy temple. He felt that a person who acted as the spokesman for such a holy and glorious King-God should have clean lips, whereas Isaiah’s lips were unclean in themselves. They were also soiled by the uncleanness of lips of the people among whom he lived and whose speech he heard. But if Isaiah thought that this was an unconquerable obstacle, he was made to see his mistake, for he tells us:
13 “At that, one of the seraphs flew to me, and in his hand there was a glowing coal that he had taken with tongs off the altar. And he proceeded to touch my mouth and to say: ‘Look! This has touched your lips, and your error has departed and your sin itself is atoned for.’”—Isa. 6:6, 7.
14. Why could the glowing coal cauterize away the uncleanness of Isaiah’s lips?
14 The seraph tonged the glowing coal from the copper altar of animal sacrifice in the priests’ court of the temple. When the glowing coal from the holy fire of the altar was put to Isaiah’s mouth, it figuratively burned away all uncleanness of his lips. Not the animal sacrifice upon the altar, nor its shed blood, but this glowing coal was what cleansed Isaiah’s lips, making him suitable to serve as Jehovah’s mouthpiece. God’s fire from heaven had originally lit the wood of that temple altar, in the days of the temple builder, King Solomon. (2 Chron. 7:1-3) So now the seraph could rightly say to Isaiah: “Your error has departed and your sin itself is atoned for.” Since God’s fire consumed sacrifices that were offered for cleansing away error and sin, well, then, the glowing coal from the same altar of sacrifice could consistently cauterize away the uncleanness of Isaiah’s lips.
15, 16. (a) Why had Jehovah waited, and what did he now say? (b) Why was this unmistakably an invitation for Isaiah to serve?
15 Jehovah God does not use unclean persons as his approved mouthpieces or prophets. Consequently, Jehovah waited till Isaiah was cleansed before offering him a commission of prophetic service. Thus Isaiah, with cleansed lips, now says in the right order of things: “And I began to hear the voice of Jehovah saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’”—Isa. 6:8.
16 Jehovah raised this question in the hearing of Isaiah, and with Isaiah being the only one beholding the vision. So this was unmistakably an invitation for Isaiah to answer the call to service as Jehovah’s messenger, the sent one.
17. By using the plural pronoun “us” in his question, to whom was Jehovah God referring?
17 When Jehovah asked, “Who will go for us?” he was not using an editorial “us” or using a plural personal pronoun in the sense of majesty and thus referring to himself with recognition of his own dignity. By switching from the singular personal pronoun “I” to the plural pronoun “us,” Jehovah was now including someone with himself, at least one other person. That other person was his only-begotten Son, Michael, who became the man Jesus Christ. That he is the one associated with Jehovah at the temple and included in the pronoun “us” is made certain for us in John 12:36-41,* which has reference to Jesus Christ. Thus Jehovah and his only-begotten Son are two distinct individuals, not a trinity!
18. (a) How did Isaiah respond to Jehovah’s question, and why? (b) For whom today is Isaiah thus a fine example?
18 Isaiah was willing to go for Jehovah God and his only-begotten Son, and so Jehovah could send him on any particular mission. Appreciating now his cleanness of lip, and not desiring to let Jehovah go begging for someone to send, Isaiah responded to the opportunity. He tells us: “And I proceeded to say: ‘Here I am! Send me.’” (Isa. 6:8) The task on which Isaiah would be sent might be a disagreeable one, but Isaiah was willing to go, just to serve the interests of Jehovah and to benefit Jehovah’s people. Isaiah was willing to continue being an active prophet of Jehovah regardless of further hardship that this might bring upon him. The nation of Israel was Jehovah’s dedicated people, redeemed by Him and brought into a national covenant with him, and Isaiah, as a member of that nation, was a dedicated man. He desired to prove his dedication by doing Jehovah’s will and going on a mission for him. In this Isaiah was a fine example for Jehovah’s Christian witnesses of today. (Isa. 43:10-12) Knowing, like Isaiah, that they are sent by “the King, Jehovah of armies,” they can go forward on their mission with confidence, as having the highest authorization.
19. What did Jehovah’s commission to Isaiah state?
19 Isaiah’s offering of himself to go was at once accepted by Jehovah of armies. But now what was he to do or say, and to whom was he to be sent? Isaiah wrote down his commission from Jehovah, for he writes us: “And he went on to say: ‘Go, and you must say to this people, “Hear again and again, O men, but do not understand; and see again and again, but do not get any knowledge.” Make the heart of this people unreceptive, and make their very ears unresponsive, and paste their very eyes together, that they may not see with their eyes and with their ears they may not hear, and that their own heart may not understand and that they may not actually turn back and get healing for themselves.’”—Isa. 6:9, 10.
20. In what way was Isaiah to tell “this people” to see and not get knowledge and to hear and not understand?
20 Not to the Gentile nations, but to “this people,” his own people, Isaiah was to go. Was he actually to tell “this people” not to understand and not to get any knowledge? No! But by repeatedly going to “this people” and letting them “hear again and again,” he was to let the people show themselves as not understanding or not wanting to understand. He was likewise to let them see again and again with their eyes of observation and discernment and thus let them show themselves as not getting any knowledge. Not that Isaiah was a poor teacher and demonstrator, but, rather, that “this people” was too self-centered and selfish to understand and take in knowledge from even a good teacher.
21. (a) How, then, was Isaiah to make the heart of the people unreceptive? (b) Why was Isaiah to keep speaking out boldly?
21 Hence it would not be Isaiah who was making their hearts of appreciation unreceptive and their ears unresponsive or pasting their eyes shut so as to blind them. No, but by patient educational prophetic work among “this people,” he was to prove to them that they themselves had made their hearts of appreciation unreceptive and their ears unresponsive and that they themselves had pasted their own eyes shut with selfish ideas in order that they might not see the significance of what Isaiah was doing as Jehovah’s messenger and mouthpiece. Isaiah did not fail to speak out boldly, and he let the people hear the sound of his words. He needed to do this in order to prove something to them. What? That the reason why they did not hear with benefit to themselves was that they themselves had shut their own ears in an uninterested, unteachable way, thus taking no serious account of his words.
22. Why was there a failing of Isaiah’s efforts to turn the people back and a failure of their getting healed?
22 Jehovah forewarned Isaiah that, despite all his prophesying, preaching and teaching, he would fail to reach the hearts of “this people.” His continuous, patient efforts with them were to make them literally testify against themselves as having made their own hearts unreceptive. For this reason their hearts of appreciation would feel no strong emotion, for they would not understand the serious meaning of Isaiah’s words and deeds. True, he was trying to turn them back to God, but the failure of Isaiah’s efforts to turn them back was due to their willfully refusing to turn back. Isaiah would try to help them get healed of their lack of spirituality and lack of good relations with God, but they did not consider themselves to be spiritually sick and on bad terms with Jehovah. So they proudly declined to “get healing for themselves” and come into healthy relationship with their Ruler, “the King, Jehovah of armies.”
“HOW LONG, O JEHOVAH?”
23. At this point of Jehovah’s commission to him, how did Isaiah interrupt, and why?
23 Was the situation really to get into such a serious state as that? Isaiah was horrified. God forbid that the nation should get into such a bad, dangerous condition as that! Why, if “this people” did not get any healing, it would mean their death, and O what that would mean for them! Here Isaiah sort of objected to having things go so far, and he interrupted Jehovah’s speech, as he tells us: “At this I said: ‘How long, O Jehovah?’”—Isa. 6:11.
24. Was Isaiah asking how long he was to be sent and he had to go, or what?
24 By this question of partial protest, Isaiah was not asking, ‘O Jehovah, how long are you purposing to send me to this people, and how long must I keep going to this people?’ No, Isaiah was not thinking about himself, but was concerned about the people. His words, “How long, O Jehovah?” were asking how long Jehovah would let this bad spiritual state of “this people” keep on. Till the situation was beyond correcting? Till the unhealed condition of the people could not be cured with mild remedies? Till the worst came to the worst? O no, no! Do not let the people keep on in this bad state so long as to need drastic treatment!
25. How was Isaiah’s “How long?” like that of Asaph in Psalm 74:9-11?
25 The sense of Isaiah’s “How long?” was like that of the prophet Asaph, in Psalm 74:9-11, saying: “Our signs we have not seen; there is no prophet any more, and there is no one with us knowing how long. How long, O God, will the adversary keep reproaching? Will the enemy keep treating your name with disrespect forever? Why do you keep your hand, even your right hand, withdrawn from the midst of your bosom to make an end of us?”
26. Over what was Jeremiah’s question “How long?” in Jeremiah 4:14?
26 The prophet Jeremiah also protested with a “How long?” when he said to the nation of Judah: “Wash your heart clean of sheer badness, O Jerusalem, in order that you may be saved. How long will your erroneous thoughts lodge within you?”—Jer. 4:14.
27. (a) Why was what was implied in Jehovah’s commission unpleasant to Isaiah? (b) What would determine what kind of message Isaiah had to deliver?
27 Likewise, for Isaiah it was not a pleasant thought that his own people would be allowed to come to such a low spiritual level that finally God would need to take extreme action against them, to punish them in a manner most unusual and severe. How long, then, would the Israelites continue to make their hearts unreceptive and their ears unresponsive and paste their eyes shut and consequently refuse to turn back to God for spiritual healing? Surely not so long as to be beyond recovery and hence to come to ruin! So Isaiah recoiled at the thought and could not help breaking out with the question, “How long, O Jehovah?” Jehovah God foreknew, and his foreknowledge as revealed to Isaiah would make certain the kind of message that the prophet Isaiah would have to deliver against his own people. O, then, how long will they go on?
28. What did Jehovah say in answer to Isaiah’s question?
28 Isaiah’s exclamation of alarmed protest served as a leading question for Jehovah God. So in answer to Isaiah he continued with his statement, as Isaiah next tells us: “Then he said, ‘Until the cities actually crash in ruins, to be without an inhabitant, and the houses be without earthling man, and the ground itself is ruined into a desolation; and Jehovah actually removes earthling men far away, and the deserted condition does become very extensive in the midst of the land.’”—Isa. 6:11, 12.
29. (a) According to this, how far was the spiritual decline of the people to continue? (b) What message was Isaiah therefore obligated to declare, and why did he prove a faithful witness?
29 Alas, the spiritual decline of Isaiah’s people was thus bound to continue until the terrible consequences of their ungodly conduct came upon them according to what Jehovah God, in his own written covenant with the nation of Israel, foretold would come upon the stubborn covenant breakers. (Lev. 26:22-41; Deut. 28:49-68) Isaiah would therefore be obliged to declare a message of coming ruin, desolation and deportation to his own people. And this he actually did. He could not escape doing so, for this was a correct prediction of the future. It was Jehovah’s message to “this people,” and the prophet Isaiah had offered himself and had asked to be sent, saying: “Here I am! Send me.” He did not back down from this offer and request. He did not choose to do so, no matter how hard the message from Jehovah would be against his people. Accordingly, he proved to be a faithful witness of Jehovah.
30. (a) Did Isaiah keep going with Jehovah’s prophetic message till the houses were without man? (b) Did his obediently going prove to be in vain?
30 Isaiah kept prophesying until into the righteous reign of Hezekiah, the great-grandson of King Uzziah, or from about 775 to about 732 B.C.E., or about forty-three years. So he himself did not preach until Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by Babylonian armies in 607 B.C.E. and the whole land of Judah was left desolate, the houses without earthling man, and there was a removing of the surviving Jews from the land of Judah to the distant land of Babylonia, to languish there as exiles. A small number of low-ranking Jews was left in the land, but they were frightened off by fear of the vengeance of Babylon and fled down to Egypt, to die there. Thus, although Isaiah finished his prophetic work about 125 years before this national disaster, the hard message that Jehovah sent him to proclaim to his own people proved to be most painfully true. He had not been sent in vain. He had not gone obediently in vain.—2 Chron. 36:15-21; 2 Ki. 25:1-26.
A “HOLY SEED” LIKE A TREE STUMP
31. What did Jehovah add that made the message entrusted to Isaiah not a completely hopeless one?
31 However, the message that was entrusted to Isaiah at the temple of Jehovah was not completely hopeless, for Jehovah added these final words: “And there will still be in it a tenth, and it must again become something for burning down, like a big tree and like a massive tree in which, when there is a cutting down of them, there is a stump; a holy seed will be the stump of it.” (Isa. 6:13) This comforted Isaiah with the assurance that there would be found a holy remnant in among “this people.” Although the nation of Israel would have a repeated burning, like a big tree or a massive tree that has been cut down for fuel, there would remain a vital stump of the symbolic tree of Israel. At the scent of water this stump would sprout again and there would be a regrowth of the tree. This remnant or stump still rooted in the ground would be a seed or offspring that was holy to Jehovah.
32. (a) How did this consoling part of Isaiah’s message prove to be true? (b) What did this make possible concerning that same temple prophecy, and how did it also affect our day?
32 This consoling part of the message that Jehovah sent Isaiah to deliver also proved to be true. After seventy years of utter desolation of the land of Judah, a repentant God-fearing remnant of Jews did return from exile in Babylon in 537 B.C.E. They rebuilt Jehovah’s temple, at the same time rebuilding their city of Jerusalem. In this way the “holy seed” was used to restore the pure worship of Jehovah God in the land of Judah. (2 Chron. 36:20-23; Ezra 1:1 to 6:22) This restoring of the Jews to their God-given homeland made it possible for the second fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophecy as given to Isaiah at the temple to take place, and this in connection with a Greater Isaiah. Both of these historical fulfillments upon the people of natural Israel provided a prophetic picture of a third fulfillment of Isaiah’s temple prophecy in our own modern times. This let us now see.
As to the occurrence of the name Jehovah here, the footnote b on Isaiah 6:1 as given in Volume 4 of the New World Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, edition of 1958, says: “‘Jehovah,’ Syriac and about 100 Hebrew manuscripts; ‘the dignity of Jehovah,’ Targum, ‘the Lord,’ LXX; Doʹmi·nus, Vulgate A·do·nayʹ, Masoretic and Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. This is one of the 134 passages in which the Jewish Sopherim changed the primitive Hebrew text to read A·do·nayʹ instead of Yeho·wahʹ.”
See also the footnote on Isaiah 6:1 as given in Dr. Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Volume 4.
See page 754, Paragraph 7.
[Picture on page 748]
“Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?”
[Picture on page 751]
“Until the cities actually crash in ruins, to be without an inhabitant.”