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Isaiah 64:6 [study!]

American Standard Version (ASV 1901) [2]
— For we are all become as one that is unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as a polluted garment: and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
King James Version (KJV 1769)
— But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
— For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
— But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
— And we are all become as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have carried us away;
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
— But we have become as one unclean, all of us, And, as a garment polluted, were all our righteous doings,—And so we faded like a leaf, all of us, And, our iniquity, as a wind, carried us away;
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
— And we are as unclean—all of us, And as a garment passing away, all our righteous acts; And we fade as a leaf—all of us. And our iniquities as wind do take us away.
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
— And we are all become as one unclean, and all our justices as the rag of a menstruous woman: and we have all fallen as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) [2]
— But we are al as an vncleane thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy ragges, and we all doe fade as a leafe, and our iniquities like the wind haue taken vs away.
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
— and we are all become as unclean, and all our righteousness as a filthy rag: and we have fallen as leaves because of our iniquities; thus the wind shall carry us [away].
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008) [2] [3]
— But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Strong's Numbers & Hebrew NamesHebrew Old TestamentColor-Code/Key Word Studies
But we are x1961
(1961) Complement
הָיָה
hayah
{haw-yaw'}
A primitive root (compare H1933); to exist, that is, be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary).
all x3605
(3605) Complement
כֹּל
kol
{kole}
From H3634; properly the whole; hence all, any or every (in the singular only, but often in a plural sense).
as an unclean 2931
{2931} Prime
טָמֵא
tame'
{taw-may'}
From H2930; foul in a religious sense.
[thing], and all x3605
(3605) Complement
כֹּל
kol
{kole}
From H3634; properly the whole; hence all, any or every (in the singular only, but often in a plural sense).
our righteousnesses 6666
{6666} Prime
צְדָקָה
ts@daqah
{tsed-aw-kaw'}
From H6663; rightness (abstractly), subjectively (rectitude), objectively (justice), morally (virtue) or figuratively (prosperity).
[are] as filthy 5708
{5708} Prime
עֵד
`ed
{ayd}
From an unused root meaning to set a period (compare H5710 and H5749); the menstrual flux (as periodical); by implication (in plural) soiling.
rags; 899
{0899} Prime
בֶּגֶד
beged
{behg'-ed}
From H0898; a covering, that is, clothing; also treachery or pillage.
and we all x3605
(3605) Complement
כֹּל
kol
{kole}
From H3634; properly the whole; hence all, any or every (in the singular only, but often in a plural sense).
do fade 5034
{5034} Prime
נָבֵל
nabel
{naw-bale'}
A primitive root; to wilt; generally to fall away, fail, faint; figuratively to be foolish or (morally) wicked; causatively to despise, disgrace.
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
z8676
<8676> Grammar
Qere Reading

Where the translators of the Authorised Version followed the kethiv reading rather than the qere.
y1101
[1101] Standard
בּלל
balal
{baw-lal'}
A primitive root; to overflow (specifically with oil); by implication to mix; also (denominative from H1098) to fodder.
z8686
<8686> Grammar
Stem - Hiphil (See H8818)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 4046
as a leaf; 5929
{5929} Prime
עָלֶה
`aleh
{aw-leh'}
From H5927; a leaf (as coming up on a tree); collectively foliage.
and our iniquities, 5771
{5771} Prime
עָוֹן
`avon
{aw-vone'}
From H5753; perversity, that is, (moral) evil.
like the wind, 7307
{7307} Prime
רוּחַ
ruwach
{roo'-akh}
From H7306; wind; by resemblance breath, that is, a sensible (or even violent) exhalation; figuratively life, anger, unsubstantiality; by extension a region of the sky; by resemblance spirit, but only of a rational being (including its expression and functions).
have taken us away. 5375
{5375} Prime
נָשָׂא
nasa'
{naw-saw'}
A primitive root; to lift, in a great variety of applications, literally and figuratively, absolutely and relatively.
z8799
<8799> Grammar
Stem - Qal (See H8851)
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811)
Count - 19885
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary

Isaiah 64:6

_ _ unclean thing — legally unclean, as a leper. True of Israel, everywhere now cut off by unbelief and by God’s judgments from the congregation of the saints.

_ _ righteousness — plural, “uncleanness” extended to every particular act of theirs, even to their prayers and praises. True of the best doings of the unregenerate (Philippians 3:6-8; Titus 1:15; Hebrews 11:6).

_ _ filthy rags — literally, a “menstruous rag” (Leviticus 15:33; Leviticus 20:18; Lamentations 1:17).

_ _ fade ... leaf — (Psalms 90:5, Psalms 90:6).

Matthew Henry's Commentary

Isaiah 64:6-12

_ _ As we have the Lamentations of Jeremiah, so here we have the Lamentations of Isaiah; the subject of both is the same — the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans and the sin of Israel that brought that destruction — only with this difference, Isaiah sees it at a distance and laments it by the Spirit of prophecy, Jeremiah saw it accomplished. In these verses,

_ _ I. The people of God in their affliction confess and bewail their sins, thereby justifying God in their afflictions, owning themselves unworthy of his mercy, and thereby both improving their troubles and preparing for deliverance. Now that they were under divine rebukes for sin they had nothing to trust to but the mere mercy of God and the continuance of that; for among themselves there is none to help, none to uphold, none to stand in the gap and make intercession, for they are all polluted with sin and therefore unworthy to intercede, all careless and remiss in duty and therefore unable and unfit to intercede.

_ _ 1. There was a general corruption of manners among them (Isaiah 64:6): We are all as an unclean thing, or as an unclean person, as one overspread with a leprosy, who was to be shut out of the camp. The body of the people were like one under a ceremonial pollution, who was not admitted into the courts of the tabernacle, or like one labouring under some loathsome disease, from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot nothing but wounds and bruises, Isaiah 1:6. We have all by sin become not only obnoxious to God's justice, but odious to his holiness; for sin is that abominable thing which the Lord hates, and cannot endure to look upon. Even all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. (1.) “The best of our persons are so; we are all so corrupt and polluted that even those among us who pass for righteous men, in comparison with what our fathers were who rejoiced and wrought righteousness (Isaiah 64:5), are but as filthy rags, fit to be case to the dunghill. The best of them is as a brier.” (2.) “The best of our performances are so. There is not only a general corruption of manners, but a general defection in the exercises of devotion too; those which pass for the sacrifices of righteousness, when they come to be enquired into, are the torn, and the lame, and the sick, and therefore are provoking to God, as nauseous as filthy rags.” Our performances, though they be ever so plausible, if we depend upon them as our righteousness and think to merit by them at God's hand, are as filthy rags — rags, and will not cover us — filthy rags, and will but defile us. True penitents cast away their idols as filthy rags (Isaiah 30:22), odious in their sight; here they acknowledge even their righteousness to be so in God's sight if he should deal with them in strict justice. Our best duties are so defective, and so far short of the rule, that they are as rags, and so full of sin and corruption cleaving to them that they are as filthy rags. When we would do good evil is present with us; and the iniquity of our holy things would be our ruin if we were under the law.

_ _ 2. There was a general coldness of devotion among them, Isaiah 64:7. The measure was filled by the abounding iniquity of the people, and nothing was done to empty it. (1.) Prayer was in a manner neglected: “There is none that calls on thy name, none that seeks to thee for grace to reform us and take away sin, or for mercy to relieve us and take away the judgments which our sins have brought upon us.” Therefore people are so bad, because they do not pray; compare Psalms 14:3, Psalms 14:4, They have altogether become filthy, for they call not upon the Lord. It bodes ill to a people when prayer is restrained among them. (2.) It was very negligently performed. If there was here and there one that called on God's name, it was with a great deal of indifferency: There is none that stirs up himself to take hold of God. Note, [1.] To pray is to take hold of God, by faith to take hold of the promises and the declarations God has made of his good-will to us and to plead them with him, — to take hold of him as of one who is about to depart from us, earnestly begging of him not to leave us, or of one that has departed, soliciting his return, — to take hold of him as he that wrestles takes hold of him he wrestles with; for the seed of Jacob wrestle with him and so prevail. But when we take hold of God it is as the boatman with his hook takes hold on the shore, as if he would pull the shore to him, but really it is to pull himself to the shore; so we pray, not to bring God to our mind, but to bring ourselves to him. [2.] Those that would take hold of God in prayer so as to prevail with him must stir up themselves to do it; all that is within us must be employed in the duty (and all little enough), our thoughts fixed and our affections flaming. In order hereunto all that is within us must be engaged and summoned into the service; we must stir up the gift that is in us by an actual consideration of the importance of the work that is before us and a close application of mind to it; but how can we expect that God should come to us in ways of mercy when there are none that do this, when those that profess to be intercessors are mere triflers?

_ _ II. They acknowledge their afflictions to be the fruit and product of their own sins and God's wrath. 1. They brought their troubles upon themselves by their own folly: “We are all as an unclean thing, and therefore we do all fade away as a leaf (Isaiah 64:6), we not only wither and lose our beauty, but we fall and drop off” (so the word signifies) “as leaves in autumn; our profession of religion withers, and we grow dry and sapless; our prosperity withers and comes to nothing; we fall to the ground, as despicable and contemptible; and then our iniquities like the wind have taken us away and hurried us into captivity, as the winds in autumn blow off, and then blow away, the faded withered leaves,” Psalms 1:3, Psalms 1:4. Sinners are blasted, and then carried away, by the malignant and violent wind of their own iniquity; it withers them and then ruins them. 2. God brought their troubles upon them by his wrath (Isaiah 64:7): Thou hast hidden thy face from us; hast been displeased with us and refused to afford us any succour. When they made themselves as an unclean thing no wonder that God turned his face away from them, as loathing them. Yet this was not all: Thou hast consumed us because of our iniquities. This is the same complaint with that (Psalms 90:7, Psalms 90:8), We are consumed by thy anger; thou hast melted us, so the word is. God had put them in the furnace, not to consume them as dross, but to melt them as gold, that they might be refined and new-cast.

_ _ III. They claim relation to God as their God, and humbly plead it with him, and in consideration of it cheerfully refer themselves to him (Isaiah 64:8): “But now, O Lord! thou art our Father: though we have conducted ourselves very undutifully and ungratefully towards thee, yet still we have owned thee as our Father; and, though thou hast corrected us, yet thou hast not cast us off. Foolish and careless as we are, poor and despised and trampled upon as we are by our enemies, yet still thou art our Father; to thee therefore we return in our repentance, as the prodigal arose and came to his father; to thee we address ourselves by prayer; from whom should we expect relief and succour but from our Father? It is the wrath of a Father that we are under, who will be reconciled and not keep his anger for ever.” God is their Father, 1. By creation; he gave them their being, formed them into a people, shaped them as he pleased: “We are the clay and thou our potter, therefore we will not quarrel with thee, however thou art pleased to deal with us, Jeremiah 18:6. Nay, therefore we will hope that thou wilt deal well with us, that thou who madest us wilt new-make us, new-form us, though we have unmade and deformed ourselves: We are all as an unclean thing, but we are all the work of thy hands, therefore do away our uncleanness, that we may be fit for thy use, the use we were made for. We are the work of thy hands, therefore forsake us not,Psalms 138:8. 2. By covenant; this is pleaded (Isaiah 64:9): “Behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people, all the people thou hast in the world, that make open profession of thy name. We are called thy people, our neighbours look upon us as such, and therefore what we suffer reflects upon thee, and the relief that our case requires is expected from thee. We are thy people; and should not a people seek unto their God? Isaiah 8:19. We are thine; save us,Psalms 119:94. Note, When we are under providential rebukes from God it is good to keep fast hold of our covenant-relation to him.

_ _ IV. They are importunate with God for the turning away of his anger and the pardoning of their sins (Isaiah 64:9): “Be not wroth very sore, O Lord! though we have deserved that thou shouldst, neither remember iniquity for ever against us.” They do not expressly pray for the removal of the judgment they were under; as to that, they refer themselves to God. But, 1. They pray that God would be reconciled to them, and then they can be easy whether the affliction be continued or removed: “Be not wroth to extremity, but let thy anger be mitigated by the clemency and compassion of a father.” They do not say, Lord, rebuke us not, for that may be necessary, but Not in thy anger, not in thy hot displeasure. It is but in a little wrath that God hides his face. 2. They pray that they may not be dealt with according to the desert of their sin: Neither remember iniquity for ever. Such is the evil of sin that it deserves to be remembered for ever; and this is that which they deprecate, that consequence of sin, which is for ever. Those make it to appear that they are truly humbled under the hand of God who are more afraid of the terror of God's wrath, and the fatal consequences of their own sin, than of any judgment whatsoever, looking upon these as the sting of death.

_ _ V. They lodge in the court of heaven a very melancholy representation, or memorial, of the lamentable condition they were in and the ruins they were groaning under. 1. Their own houses were in ruins, Isaiah 64:10. The cities of Judah were destroyed by the Chaldeans and the inhabitants of them were carried away, so that there was none to repair them or take any notice of them, which would in a few years make them look like perfect deserts: Thy holy cities are a wilderness. The cities of Judah are called holy cities, for the people were unto God a kingdom of priests. The cities had synagogues in them, in which God was served; and therefore they lamented the ruins of them, and insisted upon this in pleading with God for them, not so much that they were stately cities, rich or ancient ones, but that they were holy cities, cities in which God's name was known, professed, and called upon. “These cities are a wilderness; the beauty of them is sullied; they are neither inhabited nor visited, as formerly. They have burnt up all the synagogues of God in the land,Psalms 74:8. Nor was it only the smaller cities that were thus left as a wilderness unfrequented, but even “Zion is a wilderness; the city of David itself lies in ruins; Jerusalem, that was beautiful for situation and the joy of the whole earth, is now deformed, and has become the scorn and scandal of the whole earth; that noble city is a desolation, a heap of rubbish.” See what devastations sin brings upon a people; and an external profession of sanctity will be no fence against them; holy cities, if they become wicked cities, will be soonest of all turned into a wilderness, Amos 3:2. 2. God's house was in ruins, Isaiah 64:11. This they lament most of all, that the temple was burnt with fire; but, as soon as it was built, they were told what their sin would bring it to. 2 Chronicles 7:21, This house, which is high, shall be an astonishment. Observe how pathetically they bewail the ruins of the temple. (1.) It was their holy and beautiful house; it was a most sumptuous building, but the holiness of it was in their eye the greatest beauty of it, and consequently the profanation of it was the saddest part of its desolation and that which grieved them most, that the sacred services which used to be performed there were discontinued. (2.) It was the place where their fathers praised God with their sacrifices and songs; what a pity is it that that should lie in ashes which had been for so many ages the glory of their nation! It aggravated their present disuse of the songs of Zion that their fathers had so often praised God with them. They interest God in the cause when they plead that it was the house where he had been praised, and put him in mind too of his covenant with their fathers by taking notice of their fathers' praising him. (3.) With it all their pleasant things were laid waste, all their desires and delights, all those things which were employed by them in the service of God, which they had a great delight in; not only the furniture of the temple, the altars and table, but especially the sabbaths and new moons, and all their religious feasts, which they used to keep with gladness, their ministers and solemn assemblies, these were all a desolation. Note, God's people reckon their sacred things their most delectable things; rob them of holy ordinances and the means of grace, and you lay waste all their pleasant things. What have they more? Observe here how God and his people have their interest twisted and interchanged; when they speak of the cities for their own habitation they call them thy holy cities, for to God they were dedicated; when they speak of the temple wherein God dwelt they call it our beautiful house and its furniture our pleasant things, for they had heartily espoused it and all the interests of it. If thus we interest God in all our concerns by devoting them to his service, and interest ourselves in all his concerns by laying them near our hearts, we may with satisfaction leave both with him, for he will perfect both.

_ _ VI. They conclude with an affectionate expostulation, humbly arguing with God concerning their present desolations (Isaiah 64:12): “Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things? Or, Canst thou contain thyself at these things? Canst thou see thy temple ruined and not resent it, not revenge it? Has the jealous God forgotten to be jealous? Psalms 74:22, Arise, O God! plead thy own cause. Lord, thou art insulted, thou art blasphemed; and wilt thou hold thy peace and take no notice of it? Shall the highest affronts that can be done to Heaven pass unrebuked?” When we are abused we hold our peace, because vengeance does not belong to us, and because we have a God to refer our cause to. When God is injured in his honour it may justly be expected that he should speak in the vindication of it; his people prescribe not to him what he shall say, but their prayer is (as here) Psalms 83:1, Keep not thou silence, O God! and Psalms 109:1, “Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise! Speak for the conviction of thy enemies, speak for the comfort and relief of thy people; for wilt thou afflict us very grievously, or afflict us for ever?” It is a sore affliction to good people to see God's sanctuary laid waste and nothing done towards the raising of it out of its ruins. But God has said that he will not contend for ever, and therefore his people may depend upon it that their afflictions shall be neither to extremity nor to eternity, but light and for a moment.

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Isaiah 64:6

Unclean — Formerly there were some that feared thee; but now we are all as one polluted mass, nothing of good left in us by reason of an universal degeneracy. And all — The very best of us all are no better than the uncleanest things. Taken — Carried away to Babylon, as leaves hurried away by a boisterous wind.

Geneva Bible Translation Notes

Isaiah 64:6

But we are all as an unclean [thing], and all our (h) righteousnesses [are] as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

(h) We are justly punished and brought into captivity, because we have provoked you to anger, and though we would excuse ourselves, yet our righteousness, and best virtues are before you as vile cloths, or (as some read) like the menstruous cloths of a woman.

Cross-Reference Topical ResearchStrong's Concordance
are all:

Isaiah 6:5 Then said I, Woe [is] me! for I am undone; because I [am] a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.
Isaiah 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Job 14:4 Who can bring a clean [thing] out of an unclean? not one.
Job 15:14-16 What [is] man, that he should be clean? and [he which is] born of a woman, that he should be righteous? ... How much more abominable and filthy [is] man, which drinketh iniquity like water?
Job 25:4 How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean [that is] born of a woman?
Job 40:4 Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth.
Job 42:5-6 I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. ... Wherefore I abhor [myself], and repent in dust and ashes.
Psalms 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but [how] to perform that which is good I find not.
Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Ephesians 2:1-2 And you [hath he quickened], who were dead in trespasses and sins; ... Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another.

all our:

Isaiah 57:12 I will declare thy righteousness, and thy works; for they shall not profit thee.
Zechariah 3:3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:
Revelation 3:17-18 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: ... I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that] the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Revelation 7:13 And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they?

we all:

Isaiah 40:6-8 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh [is] grass, and all the goodliness thereof [is] as the flower of the field: ... The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
Psalms 90:5-6 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are [as] a sleep: in the morning [they are] like grass [which] groweth up. ... In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
James 1:10-11 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. ... For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
1 Peter 1:24-25 For all flesh [is] as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: ... But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

our iniquities:

Isaiah 57:13 When thou criest, let thy companies deliver thee; but the wind shall carry them all away; vanity shall take [them]: but he that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain;
Psalms 1:4 The ungodly [are] not so: but [are] like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Jeremiah 4:11-12 At that time shall it be said to this people and to Jerusalem, A dry wind of the high places in the wilderness toward the daughter of my people, not to fan, nor to cleanse, ... [Even] a full wind from those [places] shall come unto me: now also will I give sentence against them.
Hosea 4:19 The wind hath bound her up in her wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
Zechariah 5:8-11 And he said, This [is] wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. ... And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.
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Jb 14:4; 15:14; 25:4; 40:4; 42:5. Ps 1:4; 51:5; 90:5. Is 6:5; 40:6; 53:6; 57:12, 13. Jr 4:11. Ho 4:19. Zc 3:3; 5:8. Ro 7:18, 24. Ep 2:1. Php 3:9. Tit 3:3. Jm 1:10. 1P 1:24. Rv 3:17; 7:13.

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