on Ephesians 5 :14
Wherefore he saith - It is a matter of doubt and controversy whence this saying is derived. Some think it taken from Isaiah 26:19 : Thy dead men shall live; with my dead body shall they arise; Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, etc. Others think that it is taken from Isaiah 60:1-3 : Arise, shine; for thy light is come, etc. But these passages neither give the words nor the meaning of the apostle. Epiphanius supposed them to be taken from an ancient prophecy of Elijah, long since lost: Syncellus and Euthalius think they were taken from an apocryphal work attributed to Jeremiah the prophet: others, that they made part of a hymn then used in the Christian Church; for that there were, in the apostle's time, hymns and spiritual songs, as well as psalms, we learn from himself, in Ephesians 5:19, and from Colossians 3:16. The hymn is supposed to have begun thus: -
Εγειραι ὁ καθευδων,
Και αναστα εκ των νεκρων,
Επιφαυσει σοι ὁ Χριστος.
Awake, O thou who sleepest,
And from the dead arise thou,
And Christ shall shine upon thee.
See Rosenmuller, Wolf, and others. But it seems more natural to understand the words he saith as referring to the light, i.e. the Gospel, mentioned Ephesians 5:13. And the διο λεγει should be translated, Wherefore It saith, Awake thou, etc. that is: This is the general, the strong, commanding voice of the Gospel in every part - Receive instruction; leave thy sins, which are leading thee to perdition; believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will enlighten and save thee.
As a man asleep neither knows nor does any thing that can be called good or useful, so the Gentiles and all others, while without the knowledge of Christianity, had not only no proper knowledge of vice and virtue, but they had no correct notion of the true God.
As the dead can perform no function of life, so the Gentiles and the unconverted were incapable of performing any thing worthy either of life or being. But though they were asleep - in a state of complete spiritual torpor, yet they might be awoke by the voice of the Gospel; and though dead to all goodness, and to every function of the spiritual life, yet, as their animal life was whole in them, and perception and reason were still left, they were capable of hearing the Gospel, and under that influence which always accompanies it when faithfully preached, they could discern its excellency, and find it to be the power of God to their salvation. And they are addressed by the apostle as possessing this capacity; and, on their using it properly, have the promise that Christ shall enlighten them.
on Ephesians 5 :14
Wherefore he saith - Margin, or "it." Διὸ λέγει Dio legei. The meaning may be, either that the Lord says, or the Scripture. Much difficulty has been experienced in endeavoring to ascertain "where" this is said. It is agreed on all hands that it is not found, in so many words, in the Old Testament. Some have supposed that the allusion is to Isaiah 26:19, "Thy dead men shall live - awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, for thy dew is as the dew of herbs," etc. But the objections to this are obvious and conclusive.
(1) this is not a quotation of that place, nor has it a "resemblance" to it, except in the word "awake."
(2) the passage in Isaiah refers to a different matter, and has a different sense altogether; see the notes on the passage.
To make it refer to those to whom the gospel comes, is most forced and unnatural. Others have supposed that the reference is to Isaiah 60:1-3, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come," etc. But the objection to this is not less decisive.
(1) it is "not" a quotation of that passage, and the resemblance is very remote, if it can be seen at all.
(2) "that" is addressed to the church, calling on her to let her light shine; "this," to awake and arise from the dead, with the assurance that Christ would give them light. The exhortation here is to Christians, to "avoid the vices of the pagan around them;" the exhortation in Isaiah is to the church, to "rejoice and exult" in view of the fact that the day of triumph had come, and that the pagan were to be converted, and to come in multitudes and devote themselves to God. In the "design" of the two passages there is no resemblance. Some have supposed that the words are taken from some book among the Hebrews which is now lost. Epiphanius supposed that it was a quotation from a prophecy of Elijah; Syncellus and Euthalius, from some writing of Jeremiah; Hippolytus, from the writing of some now unknown prophet. Jerome supposed it was taken from some apocryphal writings. Grotius supposes that it refers to the word "light" in Ephesians 5:13, and that the sense is," That light says; that is, that a man who is pervaded by that light, let him so say to another." Heumann, and after him Storr, Michaelis, and Jennings (Jewish Ant. 2:252), suppose that the reference is to a song or hymn that was sung by the early Christians, beginning in this manner, arid that the meaning is, "Wherefore, as it is said in the hymns which we sing,
'Awake, thou that sleepest;
Arise from the dead;
Christ shall give thee light.'
Others have supposed that there is an allusion to a sentiment which prevailed among the Jews, respecting the significancy of blowing the trumpet on the first day of the month, or the feast of the new moon. Maimonides conjectures that that call of the trumpet, especially in the month Tisri, in which the great day of atonement occurred, was designed to signify a special call to repentance; meaning, "You who sleep, arouse from your slumbers; search and try yourselves; think on your Creator, repent, and attend to the salvation of the soul." "Burder," in Ros. Alt. u. neu. Morgenland, in loc. But all this is evidently conjecture. I see no evidence that Paul meant to make a quotation at all. Why may we not suppose that he speaks as an inspired man, and that he means to say, simply, that God now gives this command, or that God now speaks in this way? The sense then would be, "Be separate from sinners. Come out from among the pagan. Do not mingle with their abominations; do not name them. You are the children of light; and God says to you, awake from false security, rouse from the death of sin, and Christ shall enlighten you." Whatever be the origin of the sentiment in this verse, it is worthy of inspiration, and accords with all that is elsewhere said in the Scriptures.
(The grand objection to this view of our author is, that the apostle evidently introduces a citation. In the writings of Paul, the form διὸ λέγει dio legei is never used in any other sense. Whence then is the quotation taken? There is nothing absurd in supposing, with Scott and Guyse, that the apostle gives the general sense of the Old Testament prophecies con cerning the calling of the Gentiles. But Isaiah 60:1-3, bears a sufficiently close resemblance to the passage in Ephesians, to vindicate the very commonly received opinion, that the apostle quotes that prophecy, in which the subject is the increase of the Church by the accession of the pagan nations. The church is called to arise and shine, and the apostle reminds the converted Ephesians of their lofty vocation. It forms no very serious objection, that between the place in Isaiah and that in Ephesians, there are certain verbal discrepancies. No one will make much of this, who remembers, nat in a multitude of cases similar variations occur, the apostles contenting themselves with giving the sense of the places to which they refer. "Accordingly," says Dr. Dodridge, "the sense of tire passage before us is so fairly deducible from the words of Isaiah, that I do not see any necessity of having recourse to this supposition," namely, that the quotation was from an apocryphal book ascribed to Jeremiah.)
Awake thou that sleepest - Arouse from a state of slumber and false security. "Sleep and death" are striking representations of the state in which people are by nature. In "sleep" we are, though living, insensible to any danger that may be near; we are unconscious of what may he going on around us; we hear not the voice of our friends; we see not the beauty of the grove or the landscape; we are forgetful of our real character and condition. So With the sinner. It is as if his faculties were locked in a deep slumber. He hears not when God calls; he has no sense of danger; he is insensible to the beauties and glories of the heavenly world; he is forgetful of his true character and condition. To see all this, he must be first awakened; and hence this solemn command is addressed to man. He must rouse from this condition, or he cannot be saved. But can he awaken himself? Is it not the work of God to awaken a sinner? Can he rouse himself to a sense of his condition and danger? How do we do in other things? The man that is sleeping on the verge of a dangerous precipice we would approach, and say, "Awake, you are in danger." The child that is sleeping quietly in its bed, while the flames are bursting into the room, we would rouse, and say, "Awake, or you will perish." Why not use the same language to the sinner slumbering on the verge of ruin, in a deep sleep, while the flames of wrath are kindling around him? We have no difficulty in calling on sleepers elsewhere to awake when in danger; how can we have any difficulty when speaking to the sinner?
And arise from the dead - The state of the sinner, is often compared to death; see the notes on Ephesians 2:1. People are by nature dead in sins; yet they must rouse from this condition, or they will perish. How singular, it may be said, to call upon the dead to rise! How could they raise themselves up? Yet God speak thus to people, and commands them to rise from the death of sin. Therefore, learn:
(1) That people are not dead in sin in any such sense that they are not moral agents, or responsible.
on Ephesians 5 :14
5:14 Wherefore he - God. Saith - In the general tenor of his word, to all who are still in darkness. Awake thou that steepest - In ignorance of God and thyself; in stupid insensibility. And arise from the dead - From the death of sin. And Christ shall give thee light - Knowledge, holiness, happiness.