on Isaiah 45 :19
I have not spoken tn secret, in a dark place of the earth - In opposition to the manner in which the heathen oracles gave their answers, which were generally delivered from some deep and obscure cavern. Such was the seat of the Cumean Sybil: -
Excisum Euboicae latus ingens rupis in antrum.
Virg. Aen. 6:42.
"A cave cut in the side of a huge rock."
Such was that of the famous oracle at Delphi; of which, says Strabo, lib. ix., φασι δ' ειναι το μαντειον αντρον κοιλον μετα βαθους, ου μαλα ευρυστομον. "The oracle is said to be a hollow cavern of considerable depth, with an opening not very wide." And Diodorus, giving an account of the origin of this oracle, says "that there was in that place a great chasm or cleft in the earth; in which very place is now situated what is called the Adytum of the temple." Αδυτον· σπηλαιον, η το αποκρυφον μερος του ἱερου. Mesych. "Adytum means a cavern, or the hidden part of the temple."
I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right "I am Jehovah, who speak truth, who give direct answers" - This also is said in opposition to the false and ambiguous answers given by the heathen oracles, of which there are many noted examples; none more so than that of the answer given to Croesus when he marehed against Cyrus, which piece of history has some connection with this part of Isaiah's prophecies. Let us hear Cicero's account of the Delphic answers in general, and of this in particular: Sed jam ad te venio,
O sancte Apollo, qui umbilicum certum terrarum obsides,
Unde superstitiosa primum saeva evasit vox fera.
Tuis enim oraculis Chrysippus totum volumen implevit, partim falsis, ut ego opinor; partim casu veris, ut fit in omni oratione saepissime; partim flexiloquis et obscuris, ut interpres egeat interprete, et sors ipsa ad sortes referenda sit; partim ambiguis, et quae ad dialecticum deferenda sint. Nam cum sors illa edita est opulentissimo regi Asiea, Croesus Halym penetrans magnam pervertet opum vim: hostium vim sese perversurum putavit; pervertit autem suam. Utrum igitur eorum accidisset, verum oraculum fuisset. De Divinat. 2:56. Mountainous countries, and those which abounded in chasms, caves, and grottos, were the places in which oracles were most frequent. The horror and gloom inspired by such places were useful to the lying priests in their system of deception. The terms in which those oracles were conceived, (they were always ambiguous, or equivocal, or false, or illusory), sometimes the turn of a phrase, or a peculiarity in idiom or construction which might be turned pro or con, contained the essence of the oracular declaration. Sometimes, in the multitude of guesses, one turned out to be true; at other times, so equivocal was the oracle, that, however the thing fell out, the declaration could be interpreted in that way, as in the above to Croesus, from the oracle at Delphi, which was: If Croeses march against Cyrus, he shall overthrow a great empire: he, supposing that this promised him success, fought, and lost his own, while he expected to destroy that of his enemy. Here the quack demon took refuge in his designed ambiguity. He predicted the destruction of a great empire, but did not say which it was; and therefore he was safe, howsoever the case fell out. Not one of the predictions of God's prophets is conceived in this way.
on Isaiah 45 :19
I have not spoken in secret - The word rendered 'secret' (סתר sı̂ther) denotes a hiding, or covering; and the phrase here means secretly, privately. He did not imitate the pagan oracles by uttering his predictions from dark and deep caverns, and encompassed with the circumstances of awful mystery, and with designed obscurity.
In a dark place of the earth - From a cave, or dark recess, in the manner of the pagan oracles. The pagan responses were usually given from some dark cavern or recess, doubtless the bettcr to impress with awe the minds of those who consulted the oracles, and to make them more ready to credit the revelations of the fancied god. Such was the seat of the Sybil, mentioned by Virgil, AEn. vi. 4:
Excisum Euhoicae latus ingens rupis in antrum
Such also was the famous oracle at Delphi. Strobe (ix.) says, 'The oracle is said to be a hollow cavern of considerable depth, with an opening not very wide.' Diodorus, giving an account of this oracle, says, 'that there was in that place a great chasm, or cleft in the earth; in which very place is now situated what is called the Adytum of the temple.' In contradistinction from all this, God says that he had spoken openly, and without these circumstances of designed obscurity and darkness. In the language here, there is a remarkable resemblance to what the Saviour said of himself, and it is not improbable that he had this passage in his mind: 'I spoke openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing' John 18:20. A similar declaration occurs in Deuteronomy 30:11 : 'This commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off.'
I said not to the seed of Jacob - The seed, or the race of Jacob, here means his people: and the idea is, that he had not commanded them to call upon him without his being ready to answer them.
Seek ye me in vain - The phrase, 'seek ye,' may refer to worship in general; or more properly to their calling upon him in times of calamity and trial. The sense is, that it had not been a vain or useless thing for them to serve him; that he had been their protector, and their friend; and that they had not gone to him, and spread out their needs for nothing. It is still true, that God does not command his people to seek him in vain (compare Deuteronomy 32:47). His service is always attended with a rich blessing to them; and they are his witnesses that he confers on them inexpressibly great and valuable rewards. It follows from this - first, that his people have abundant encouragement to go to him in all times of trial, persecution, and affliction; secondly, that they have encouragement to go to him in a low state of religion, to confess their sins, to supplicate his mercy, and to pray for the influences of his Holy Spirit, and the revival of his work; and, thirdly, that the service of God is always attended with rich reward. Idols do not benefit those wire serve them. The pursuit of pleasure, gain, and ambition, is often attended with no reward, and is never attended with any benefits that satisfy the needs of the undying mind; but the service of God meets all the needs of the soul; fills all its desires, and confers permanent and eternal rewards.
I the Lord speak righteousness - This stands in opposition to the pagan oracles, which often gave false, delusive, and unjust responses. But not so with God. He had not spoken, as they did, from deep and dark plates - fit emblems of the obscurity of their answers; he had not, as they had, commanded a service that was unprofitable and vain; and he had not, as they had, uttered oracles which were untrue and fitted to delude.
I declare things that are right - Lowth renders this, 'Who give direct answers;' and supposes it refers to the fact, that the pagan oracles often give ambiguous and deceitful responses. God never deceived. His responses were always true and unambiguous.
on Isaiah 45 :19
45:19 In secret - The Heathen idols deliver oracles in obscure cells and caverns: but I have delivered my oracles to Israel publickly and plainly. In vain - Serve and worship me for nought. As I appointed them work, so from time to time I have given them abundant recompence. Right - I require nothing of my people which is not highly just and good.