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Bible Commentaries

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 25


For the general design and scope of this chapter, see the Analysis to Isaiah 24:0. It is a song of praise to God for the anticipated deliverance of his people from the bondage in Babylon. The desolation of Jerusalem and Judah had been described in Isaiah 24:0; that chapter had closed with an intimation that Yahweh would again reign in glory on Mount Zion Isaiah 24:23; and in view of this future deliverance the prophet breaks out into this beautiful song of praise. It was not unusual for the prophets to express, by anticipation, such songs of praise as would be celebrated by the people in times of signal deliverance (see the notes at Isaiah 12:1-23.12.6) This song of praise is one of the most beautiful that is to be found in the writings of Isaiah. The essential idea is that which was hinted at in Isaiah 24:23, that Yahweh would reign with a glory that would obscure the brightness of the sun and the moon on Mount Zion. Filled with the idea, the prophet fixes the eye on those future glories, and declares what shall occur under that reign. He sees Yahweh reigning there for a long series of years; and during that reign he sees Isaiah 25:6 that he would provide a way by which the darkness might be removed from all nations Isaiah 25:7; that he would originate that plan by which death would be swallowed up in victory Isaiah 25:8; and that there he would execute a plan by which all his enemies would be laid low Isaiah 25:9-23.25.12. The hymn is designed, therefore, to celebrate the faithfulness of God in fulfilling his ancient promises, and delivering his people from their long captivity by the destruction of Babylon Isaiah 25:1-23.25.5; and the future glories that would shine forth under the reign of Yahweh on Mount Zion, including the arrangements of redeeming mercy for the world.

Verse 1

O Lord, thou art my God - The prophet speaks, not in his own name, but in the name of the people that would be delivered from bondage. The sense is, that Yahweh had manifested himself as their covenant-keeping God; and that in view of his faithfulness in keeping his promises, they now had demonstration that he was their God.

I will exalt thee - A form of expression often used to denote praise Psalms 118:28; Psalms 145:1, meaning that the worshipper would exalt God in the view of his own mind, or would regard him as above all other beings and objects.

For thou hast done wonderful things - On the meaning of the Hebrew, פלא pel' - ‘wonderful,’ see the note at Isaiah 9:6.

Thy counsels of old - Which were formed and revealed long since. The counsels referred to are those respecting the delivery of his people from bondage, which had been expressed even long before their captivity commenced, and which would be now completely and triumphantly fulfilled.

Are faithfulness - Have been brought to pass; do not fail.

And truth - Hebrew, אמן 'omen - whence our word Amen. Septuagint, Γένοιτο Genoito - ‘Let it be.’ The word denotes that the purposes of God were firm, and would certainly be fulfilled.

Verse 2

For thou hast made - This is supposed to be uttered by the Jews who should return from Babylon, and therefore refers to what would have been seen by them. In their time it would have occurred that God had made of the city an heap.

Of a city - I suppose the whole scope of the passage requires us to understand this of Babylon. There has been, however, a great variety of interpretation of this passage. Grotius supposed that Samaria was intended. Calvin that the word is used collectively, and that various cities are intended. Piscator that Rome, the seat of antichrist, was intended. Jerome says that the Jews generally understand it of Rome. Aben Ezra and Kimchi, however, understand it to refer to many cities which they say will be destroyed in the times of Gog and Magog. Nearly all these opinions may be seen subjected to an examination, and shown to be unfounded, in Vitringa.

An heap - It is reduced to ruins (see the notes at Isaiah 13:0; Isaiah 14:0) The ruin of Babylon commenced when it was taken by Cyrus, and the Jews were set at liberty; it was not completed until many centuries after. The form of the Hebrew here is, ‘Thou hast placed from a city to a ruin:’ that is, thou hast changed it from being a city to a pile of ruins.

Of a defensed city - A city fortified, and made strong against the approach of an enemy. How true this was of Babylon may be seen in the description prefixed to Isaiah 13:0.

A palace - This word properly signifies the residence of a prince or monarch Jeremiah 30:18; Amos 1:4, Amos 1:7, Amos 1:10, Amos 1:12. Here it is applied to Babylon on account of its splendor, as if it were a vast palace, the residence of princes.

Of strangers - Foreigners; a term often given to the inhabitants of foreign lands, and especially to the Babylonians (see the note at Isaiah 1:7; compare Ezekiel 28:7; Joel 3:17). It means that this was, by way of eminence, The city of the foreigners; the capital of the whole Pagan world; the city where foreigners congregated and dwelt.

It shall never be built - (See the notes at Isaiah 13:19-23.13.22)

Verse 3

The strong people - The reference here is not probably to the Babylonians, but to the surrounding nations. The deliverance of the Jews, and the destruction of Babylon, would be such striking events that they would lead the surrounding nations to acknowledge that it was the hand of God.

The city of the terrible nations - The word ‘city’ here is taken probably in a collective sense, to denote the cities or the strong places of the surrounding nations which would be brought thus to tremble before God. The destruction of a city so proud and wicked as Babylon would alarm them, and would lead them to fear that they might share the same fate, especially as many of them had been associated in oppressing the now delivered people of the land of Judea.

Verse 4

For thou hast been a strength to the poor - Thou hast sustained and upheld them in their trials, and hast delivered them. God is often spoken of as the strength of his people. Isaiah 26:4 : ‘In the Lord Yahweh is everlasting strength.’ Psalms 27:1 : ‘The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?’ Psalms 28:8; Psalms 29:11; Psalms 31:2; Psalms 46:1; Isaiah 45:24. By the ‘poor’ and the ‘needy’ here undoubtedly are mean; the captive Jews who had been stripped of their wealth, and carried from their homes, and confined in Babylon.

A refuge - A place of safety; a retreat; a protection. God is often spoken of as such a refuge; Deuteronomy 33:27 : ‘The eternal God is thy refuge.’ 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 9:9; Psalms 14:6; Psalms 46:1, Psalms 46:7, Psalms 46:11; Psalms 57:1; Psalms 59:16)

From the storm - This word (זרם zerem) usually denotes a tempest of wind and rain. Here it is put for calamity and affliction. The figure is common in all languages.

A shadow from the heat - (See Isaiah 4:6, note; Isaiah 16:3, note; compare Isaiah 32:2.)

When the blast of the terrible ones - Of the fierce, mighty, invading enemies. When they sweep down all before them as a furious tempest does.

Is as a storm against the wall - For ‘wall’ here (קיר qiyr), Lowth proposes to read קוּר qûr, from קרר qârar, to be cold or cool, and supposes that this means a winters storm. In this interpretation also Vitringa and Cappellus coincide. But there is no need of supposing an error in the text. The idea is, probably, that of a fierce driving storm that would prostrate walls and houses; meaning a violent tempest, and intending to describe in a striking manner the severity of the calamities that had come upon the nation.

Verse 5

Thou shalt bring down the noise - The tumult; the sound which they make in entering into battle; or the note of triumph, and the sound of revelry. The phrase may refer either to their shout of exultation over their vanquished foes; or to the usual sound of revelry; or to the hum of business in a vast city.

Of strangers - Of foreigners (see the note at Isaiah 25:2).

As the heat in a dry place - The parallelism here requires that we should suppose the phrase ‘with the shadow of a cloud’ to be supplied in this hemistich, as it is obscurely expressed in our translation by the word ‘even,’ and it would then read thus:

As the beat in a dry place (by the shadow of a cloud),

The noise of the strangers shalt thou humble;

As the heat by the shadow of a cloud,

The exultation of the formidable ones shalt thou bring low.

The idea thus is plain. Heat pours down intensely on the earth, and if unabated would wither up every green thing, and dry up every stream and fountain. But a cloud intervenes, and checks the burning rays of the sun. So the wrath of the ‘terrible ones,’ the anger of the Babylonians, raged against the Jews. But the mercy of God interposed. It was like the intervening of a cloud to shut out the burning rays of the sun. It stayed the fury of their wrath, “and rendered them impotent to do injury, just as the intense burning rays of the sun are completely checked by an interposing cloud.

The branch of the terrible ones - This is a very unhappy translation. The word זמיר zâmiyr is indeed used to denote a branch, or bough, as derived from זמר zâmar, “to prune a vine;” but it also has the I sense of “a song;” a song of praise, or a song of exultation, from a second signification of זמר zâmar, “to sing; perhaps” from the song with which the work of the vineyard was usually accompanied. See the verb used in this sense in Judges 5:3; Psalms 9:12; Psalms 30:5; Psalms 47:7; and the word which occurs here (zamir) used in the sense of a song in Psalms 119:54; 2 Samuel 23:1; Job 35:10. Here it is undoubtedly used in the sense of a song, meaning either a shout of victory or of revelry; and the idea of the prophet is, that this would be brought low by the destruction of Babylon, and by the return of the captive Jews to their own land.

Verse 6

And in this mountain - In mount Zion, that is, in Jerusalem. The following verses undoubtedly refer to the times of the Messiah. Several of the expressions used here are quoted in the New Testament, showing that the reference is to the Messiah, and to the fact that his kingdom would commence in Jerusalem. and then extend to all people.

Shall the Lord of hosts - (See the note at Isaiah 1:9.)

Make unto all people - Provide for all people. He shall adapt the provisions of salvation not only to the Jews, but to people everywhere. This is one of the truths on which Isaiah loved to dwell, and which in fact constitutes one of the peculiarities of his prophecy. It is one of the chief glories of the gospel, that it is unto all people. See Isaiah 57:7; Daniel 5:19; Daniel 7:14; compare Luke 2:10 : ‘I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be unto all people’

A feast - A feast, or entertainment, was usually observed, as it is now, on occasion of a great victory, or any other signal success. It is, therefore, emblematic of an occasion of joy. Here it is used in the twofold sense of an occasion of joy, and of an abundance of provisions for the necessities of those who should be entertained. This feast was to be prepared on mount Zion - in the provision which would be made in Jerusalem by the Messiah for the spiritual needs of the whole world. The arrangements for salvation arc often represented under the image of an ample and rich entertainment (see Luke 14:16; Revelation 19:19; Matthew 13:11).

Of fat things - Of rich delicacies. Fat things and marrow are often used as synonymous with a sumptuous entertainment, and are made emblematic Of the abundant provisions of divine mercy (see Isaiah 55:2; Psalms 63:5; Psalms 36:8 : ‘I shall be satisfied with the fatness of thy house. ‘)

A feast of wines on the lees - The word which is used here (שׁמרים shemâriym) is derived from שׁמר shâmar, to keep, preserve, retain, and is applied usually to the lees or dregs of wine, because they retain the strength and color of the wine which is left to stand on them. It is also in this place applied to wine which has been kept on the lees, and is therefore synonymous with old wine; or wine of a rich color and flavor. This fact, that the color and strength of wine are retained by its being suffered to remain without being poured from one vessel into another, is more fully expressed in Jeremiah 48:11 :

Moab hath been at ease from his youth,

And he hath settled on his lees,

And hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel,

Neither hath he gone into captivity;

Therefore his taste remaineth in him,

And his scent is not changed.

Compare Zephaniah 1:12. It is well known that wines, unless retained for a considerable time on the lees, lose their flavor and strength, and are much less valuable (compare the notes at John 2:10; notes at John 1:11).

Of fat things full of marrow - Marrow is also an emblem of richness, or the delicacy of the entertainment Psalms 63:5.

Of wines on the lees well refined - The word rendered ‘well refined’ (מזקקים mezuqqāqiym) is usually applied to the purifying of metals in a furnace 1 Chronicles 28:18; 1 Chronicles 29:4; Job 28:1. When applied to wine, it denotes that which has been suffered to remain on the lees until it was entirely refined and purified by fermentation, and had become perfectly clear.

Verse 7

And he will destroy - Hebrew, ‘He will swallow up,’ that is, he will abolish, remove, or take away.

In this mountain the face of the covering - In mount Zion, or in Jerusalem. This would be done in Jerusalem, or on the mountains of which Jerusalem was a part, where the great transactions of the plan of redemption would be accomplished. The word ‘face’ here is used as it is frequently among the Hebrews, where the face of a thing denotes its aspect. or appearance, and then the thing itself. Thus ‘the face of God’ is put for God himself; the ‘face of the earth’ for the earth itself; and the ‘face of the vail’ means the veil itself, or the appearance of the veil. To cover the head or the face was a common mode of expressing grief (see 2Sa 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:5; Esther 6:12). It is probable that the expression here is taken from this custom, and the veil over the nations here is to be understood as expressive of the ignorance, superstition, crime, and wretchedness that covered the earth.

Verse 8

He will swallow up - This image is probably taken from a whirlpool or maelstrom in the ocean that absorbs all that comes near it. It is, therefore, equivalent to saying he will destroy or remove Isaiah 25:7. In this place it means that be will abolish death; that is, he will cause it to cease from its ravages and triumphs. This passage is quoted by Paul in his argument respecting the resurrection of the dead 1 Corinthians 15:54. He does not, however, quote directly from the Hebrew, or from the Septuagint, but gives the substance of the passage. His quoting it is sufficient proof that it refers to the resurrection, and float its primary design is to set forth the achievements of the gospel - achievements that will be fully realized only when death shall cease its dominion, and when its reign shall be forever at an end.

Death - Vitringa supposes that by ‘death’ here is meant the wars and calamities with which the nation had been visited, and which would cease under the Messiah. In this interpretation Rosenmuller concurs. It is possible that the word may have this meaning in some instances; and it is possible that the calamities of the Jews may have suggested this to the prophet, but the primary sense of the word here, I think, is death in its proper signification, and the reference is to the triumphs of God through the Messiah in completely abolishing its reign, and introducing eternal life. This was designed, doubtless, to comfort the hearts of the Jews, by presenting in a single graphic description the gospel as adapted to overcome all evils, and even to remove the greatest calamity under which the race groans - death.

In victory - Hebrew, לנצח lānetsach. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:54, has translated this, Εἰς νῖκος Eis nikos - ‘Unto victory.’ The word νῖκος nikos (victory) is often the translation of the word (see 2 Samuel 2:26; Job 36:7; Lam: Lamentations 3:18; Amos 1:2; Amos 8:7); though here the Septuagint has rendered it ‘strong (or prevailing) death shall be swallowed up.’ The word may be derived from the Chaldee verb נצח netsach, to conquer, surpass; and then may denote victory. It often, however, has the sense of permanency, duration, completness, eternity; and may mean for ever, and then entirely or completely. This sense is not materially different from that of Paul, ‘unto victory.’ Death shall be completely, permanently, destroyed; that is, a complete victory shall be gained over it. The Syriac unites the two ideas of victory and perpetuity. ‘Death shall be swallowed up in victory forever.’ This will take place under the reign of the Messiah, and shall be completed only in the morning of the resurrection, when the power of death over the people of God shall be completely and forever subdued.

Will wipe away tears from off all faces - This is quoted in Revelation 21:4, as applicable to the gospel. The sense is, that Yahweh would devise a plan that would be suited to furnish perfect consolation to the afflicted; to comfort the broken-hearted; and that would in its final triumphs remove calamity and sorrow from people forever. The fullness of this plan will be seen only in heaven. In anticipation of heaven, however, the gospel now does much to alleviate human woes, and to wipe away tears from the mourner’s eyes. This passage is exquisitely beautiful. The poet Burns once said that he could never read it without being affected to tears. It may be added that nothing but the gospel will do this. No other religion can furnish such consolation; and no other religion is, therefore, adapted to man.

And the rebuke of his people - The reproach; the contempt; the opposition to them. This refers to some future period when the church shall be at peace, and when pure religion shall everywhere prevail. Hitherto the people of God have been scorned and persecuted, but the time will come when persecution shall cease, the true religion shall everywhere prevail, the church shall have rest, and its triumphs shall spread everywhere on the earth.

Verse 9

And it shall be said in that day - By the people of God. This shall be the language of exultation and joy which they shall use.

Lo, this is our God - This is the language of those who now see and hail their Deliverer. It implies that such deliverance, and such mercy could be bestowed only by God, and that the fact that such mercies had been bestowed was proof that he was their God.

We have waited for him - Amidst many trials, persecutions, and calamities, we have looked for the coming of our God to deliver us, and we will rejoice in the salvation that he brings.

This is the Lord - This is Yahweh. It is Yahweh that has brought this deliverance. None but he could do it. The plan of redeeming mercy comes from him, and to him is to be traced all the benefits which it confers on man.

Verse 10

For in this mountain - In mount Zion.

Shall the land of the Lord rest - “The hand” in the Scriptures is often used as the symbol of protection and defense. By the expression that the hand of Yahweh should REST on mount Zion, is meant probably that be would be its defender; his protection would not be withdrawn, but would be permanent there. For an illustration of the phrase, see a similar use of the word hand as denoting protection, in Ezra 7:6, Ezra 7:28; Ezra 8:18, Ezra 8:22, Ezra 8:31; Nehemiah 2:8.

And Moab - (For an account of Moab, see the notes at Isaiah 15:1-23.15.9; Isaiah 16:1-23.16.14.) Moab here seems to be used in a general sense to denote the enemies of God, a and the declaration that it would be trodden down seems designed to indicate that the foes of God and his people would all be destroyed (compare the notes at Isaiah 34:0)

Under him - The Chaldee renders this, ‘In his own place.’ The phrase has the sense of ‘in his place,’ in Exodus 16:29; 2 Samuel 2:23. Here it may mean that Moab, or the enemies of God, would be trodden down and destroyed in their own land.

As straw is trodden down for the dunghill - As straw is suffered to lie in the yard where cattle lie, to be trodden down by them for the purpose of making manure. Lowth renders this,

‘As the straw is threshed under the wheels of the car.’

The Septuagint renders it in the same way. Lowth supposes that there has been an error in transcribing the Hebrew text, and that the former reading was מדכבה instead of מדמנה. But there is not the slightest evidence from the MSS that any such mistake has occurred. Nor is it necessary to suppose it. The image is one that is not of unfrequent occurrence in the Scriptures, to denote the complete and disgraceful prostration of an enemy (see Psalms 83:10; 2 Kings 9:37; Jeremiah 8:2; Jeremiah 9:22; Jeremiah 16:4; Jeremiah 25:33).

Verse 11

And he shall spread forth his hands - The sense is, that Yahweh would stretch out his hands everywhere, prostrating his enemies, and the enemies of his people. Lowth, however, applies this to Moab, and supposes that it is designed to represent the action of one who is in danger of sinking, and who, in swimming, stretches out his hands to sustain himself. In order to this, he supposes that there should be a slight alteration of a single letter in the Hebrew. His main reason for suggesting this change is, that he cannot conceive how the act of the stretch out of the hands of a swimmer can be any illustration of the action of God in extending his hands ever Moab to destroy it. It must be admitted that the figure is one that is very unusual. Indeed it does not anywhere else occur. But it is the obvious meaning of the Hebrew text; it is so understood in the Vulgate, the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the figure is one that is net unintelligible. It is that of a swimmer who extends his hands and arms as far as possible, and who by force removes all that is in his way in passing through the water. So Yahweh would extend his hands over all Moab. He would not confine the desolation to any one place, but it would be complete and entire. He would subject all to himself, as easily as a swimmer makes his way through the waters.

With the spoils of their hands - The word rendered here ‘spoils’ ( ארבות 'ârebôth), Lowth renders, ‘The sudden gripe.’ The Chaldee renders it substantially in the same manner, ‘With the laying on of his hands,’ that is, with all his might. Kimchi also understands it of the gripe of the hands or the arms. The Septuagint renders it, ‘Upon whatsoever he lays his hands,’ that is, God shall humble the pride of Moab in respect to everything on which he shall lay his hands. The word properly and usually signifies snares, ambushes, craft; and then, by a natural metonymy, the plunder or spoils which he had obtained by snares and ambushes - which seems to be the sense here. It would all perish with Moab, and the land would thus be completely subdued.

Verse 12

And the fortress ... - Thy strong defenses shall be destroyed. This is spoken of Moab (compare the notes at Isaiah 15:1-23.15.9;Isaiah 16:1-23.16.14), and is designed to be emblematic of the enemies of the people of God (compare the notes at Isaiah 34:0) The repetition of the expressions ‘bring down,’ ‘lay low,’ and ‘bring to the ground,’ is designed to make the sentence emphatic, and to indicate that it would certainly be accomplished.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 25". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.