on Isaiah 8 :20
To the law and to the testimony "Unto the command, and unto the testimony" - "Is not תעודה teudah here the attested prophecy, Isaiah 8:1-4? and perhaps תורה torah the command, Isaiah 8:11-15? for it means sometimes a particular, and even a human, command; see Proverbs 6:20, and Proverbs 7:1, Proverbs 7:2, where it is ordered to be hid, that is, secretly kept." - Abp. Secker. So Deschamps, in his translation, or rather paraphrase, understands it: "Tenons nous a l'instrument authentique mis en depot par ordre du Seigneur," "Let us stick to the authentic instrument, laid up by the command of the Lord." If this be right, the sixteenth verse must be understood in the same manner.
Because there is no light in them "In which there is no obscurity" - שחר shachor, as an adjective, frequently signifies dark, obscure; and the noun שחר shachar signifies darkness, gloominess, Joel 2:2, if we may judge by the context: -
"A day of darkness and obscurity;
Of cloud, and of thick vapor;
As the gloom spread upon the mountains:
A people mighty and numerous."
Where the gloom, שחר shachar, seems to be the same with the cloud and thick vapor mentioned in the line preceding. See Lamentations 4:8, and Job 30:30. See this meaning of the word שחר shachar well supported in Christ. Muller. Sat. Observat. Philippians p. 53, Lugd. Bat. 1752. The morning seems to have been an idea wholly incongruous in the passage of Joel; and in this of Isaiah the words in which there is no morning (for so it ought to be rendered if שחר shachar in this place signifies, according to its usual sense, morning) seem to give no meaning at all. "It is because there is no light in them," says our translation. If there be any sense in these words, it is not the sense of the original; which cannot justly be so translated. Qui n'a rien d'obscur, "which has no obscurity." - Deschamps. The reading of the Septuagint and Syriac, שחד shochad, gift, affords no assistance towards the clearing up of any of this difficult place. R. D. Kimchi says this was the form of an oath: "By the law and by the testimony such and such things are so." Now if they had sworn this falsely, it is because there is no light, no illumination, שחר shachar, no scruple of conscience, in them.
on Isaiah 8 :20
To the law ... - To the revelation which God has given. This is a solemn call of the prophet to try everything by the revealed will of God; see Isaiah 8:16.
If they speak not - If the necromancers - those that pretended to have contact with the dead.
According to this word - According to what God has revealed. By this standard all their pretended revelations were to be tried. By this standard all doctrines are still to be tried.
It is because - There has been a great variety of criticism upon this verse, but our translation expresses, probably, the true idea. The word rendered here 'because,' אשׁר 'ăsher, commonly denotes 'which;' but it seems here to be used in the sense of the Syriac? "Dolath," or the Greek ὅτι hoti.
No light - Margin, 'Morning.' Hebrew שׁחר shāchar. The word usually means the morning light; the mingled light and darkness of the aurora; daybreak. It is an emblem of advancing knowledge, and perhaps, also, of prosperity or happiness after calamity, as the break of day succeeds the dark night. The meaning here may be, 'If their teachings do not accord with the law and the testimony, it is proof that they are totally ignorant, without even the twilight of true knowledge; that it is total darkness with them.' Or it may mean, 'If they do not speak according to this word, then no dawn will arise, that is, no prosperity will smile upon this people.' - Gesenius. Lowth understands it of obscurity, darkness:
'If they speak not according to this word,
In which there is no obscurity.'
But there is no evidence that the word is ever used in this sense. Others suppose that the Arabic sense of the word is to be retained here, deception, or magic. 'If they speak not according to this oracle, in which there is no deception.' But the word is not used in this sense in the Hebrew. The meaning is, probably, this: 'The law of God is the standard by which all professed communications from the invisible world are to be tested. If the necromancers deliver a doctrine which is not sustained by that, and not in accordance with the prophetic communications, it shows that they are in utter ignorance. There is not even the glimmering of the morning twilight; all is total night, and error, and obscurity with them, and they are not to be followed.'
on Isaiah 8 :20