The good tidings of Jehovah’s purpose to bring back the exiles and to restore Jerusalem produced many repercussions among different classes of hearers. In the opening verses of today’s portion the prophet replies to the questionings of two special groups: (1) non-Jews, who had joined themselves to Israel (56:3a, 6-8, and (2) eunuchs, who feared God (56:3b-5). Might they also participate in the promise deliverance? The Lord’s answer is that if they fulfilled the conditions of the covenant, they would be welcome to a full share in its blessings. In 56:9 – 57:14 the prophet rebukes two other groups: the leaders of the community in Jerusalem (56:9-12), and those who were openly practicing idolatry (57:1-14). There follows a striking description of the kind of persons with whom God will dwell, and of his purposes of grace towards his people (57:15-21).
- What were the spiritual conditions on which the Lord would recognize a man, whether a Jew or not, as being one of his own people? See 56:1-8. How does this anticipate the New Testament offer of the gospel to all, and how does it fall short of it? With verse 7, cf. Matt. 21:13; and with verse 8, cf. John 10:16.
- What do these two chapters, and more particularly 57:15-21, teach us about God?
- Consider the sad picture in 56:9 – 57:14 of a community whose leaders were unworthy, and whose members were forsaking the Lord for idols. What warnings for ourselves can be found in it?
- 56:3b-5. In the new community, physical and racial disabilities would be no longer be a ground of exclusion. Cf. Deut. 23:1, 3-8.
- 56:10. ‘Watchmen’: i.e., the leaders of the community, also called ‘shepherds’ (verse 11). They loved ease, gain, and drunken carnivals.
- 57:3. A reference to their idolatrous practices; so also in verses 7, 8.
- 57:11. ‘You went on fearlessly, in faithlessness, giving no thought to me, in your indifference. Is it not so? I said no word, I hid my face from you, and on you went, fearing me not’. (Moffatt).