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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 54

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


This chapter, probably closely connected in sense with the preceding, and growing out of the great truths there revealed respecting the work of the Messiah, contains a promise of the enlargement, the moral renovation, and the future glory of the kingdom of God, especially under the Messiah. Like the preceding and succeeding chapters, it may have been primarily designed to give consolation to the exiles in Babylon, but it was consolation to be derived from what would occur in distant times under the Messiah, and in the spread of the true religion. Few and feeble as they were then; oppressed and captive; despised and apparently forsaken, they were permitted to look forward to future days, and had the assurance of a vast increase from the Gentile world, and of permanent glory. The design of the whole chapter is consolatory, and is a promise of what would certainly result from the purpose of sending the Messiah to die for the world.

The chapter may be regarded as divided into the following portions:

I. An address to the people of God, or to Jerusalem, regarded as then feeble, and promising great enlargement Isaiah 54:1-6.

1. Promise of a great increase, under a two-fold image; first, Of a woman who had been barren, and who subsequently had many children Isaiah 54:1; and, secondly, Of a tent that was to be enlarged, in order to accommodate those who were to dwell in it Isaiah 54:2-3.

2. The foundation of this promise or assurance, that Yahweh was the husband and protector of his people Isaiah 54:4-6.

II. The covenant which Yahweh had made with his people was firm and immovableIsaiah 54:7; Isaiah 54:7, Isaiah 54:10.

1. He had indeed forsaken them for a little while, but it was only to gather them again with eternal and unchanging favor Isaiah 54:7-8.

2. His covenant with them would be as arm as that which he had made with Noah, and which he had so steadily observed Isaiah 54:9.

3. It would be even more firm than the hills Isaiah 54:10. They would depart, and the mountains would be removed; but his covenant with his people would be unshaken and eternal.

III. A direct address to his people, as if agitated and tossed on a heaving sea, promising future stability and glory Isaiah 54:11-14.

1. They were then like a ship on the stormy ocean, and without comfort.

2. Yet there would be a firm foundation laid. These agitations would cease, and she would have stability.

3. The future condition of his people would be glorious. His church would rise on the foundation - the foundation of sapphires - like a splendid palace made of precious stones Isaiah 54:11-12.

4. All her children would be taught of Yahweh, and their peace and prosperity be great Isaiah 54:13.

5. She would be far from oppression and from fear Isaiah 54:14.

IV. She would be safe from all her foes. No weapon that should be formed against her would prosper. All they who made any attack on her were under his control, and God would defend her from all their assaults Isaiah 54:15-17.

Verse 1

Sing, O barren - That is, shout for joy, lift up the voice of exultation and praise. The ‘barren’ here denotes the church of God under the Old Testament, confined within the narrow limits of the Jewish nation, and still more so in respect to the very small number of true believers, and which seemed sometimes to be deserted of God, her husband (Lowth). It is here represented under the image of a female who had been destitute of children, and who now has occasion to rejoice on the reconciliation of her husband (Isaiah 54:6; Lowth), and on the accession of the Gentiles to her family. The Chaldee renders it, ‘Rejoice, O Jerusalem, who hast been as a sterile woman that did not bear.’ The church is often in the Bible compared to a female, and the connection between God and his people is often compared with that between husband and wife (compare Isaiah 62:5; Ezekiel 16:0; Revelation 21:2-9; Revelation 22:17).

Thou that didst not bear - Either referring to the fact that the church was confined within the narrow limits of Judea; or that there had been in it a small number of true believers; or addressed to it in Babylon when it was oppressed, and perhaps constantly diminishing in number. I think it probable that it refers to the latter; and that the idea is, that she saw her sons destroyed in the siege and destruction of Jerusalem, and that she was not augmented by any accessions while in Babylon, but would have great occasion for rejoicing on her return, and in her future increase under the Messiah by the accession of the Gentiles.

Break forth into singing - (Compare Isaiah 14:7; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13).

For more are the children of the desolate - The ‘desolate’ here refers to Jerusalem, or the church. By the ‘married woman,’ Rosenmuller supposes the prophet means other nations which flourished and increased like a married woman. Grotius supposes that he means other cities which were inhabited, and that Jerusalem would surpass them all in her prosperity and in numbers. But the phrase seems to have somewhat of a proverbial cast, and probably the idea is that there would be a great increase, a much greater increase than she had any reason to apprehend. As if a promise was made to a barren female that she should have more children than those who were married usually had, so Jerusalem and the church would be greatly enlarged, far beyond what usually occurred among nations. The fulfillment of this is to be looked for in the accession of the Gentiles Isaiah 54:3. ‘The conversion of the Gentiles is all along considered by the prophet as a new accession of adopted children, admitted into the original church of God, and united with it’ (Lowth). See the same idea presented at greater length in Isaiah 49:20-22.

Verse 2

Enlarge the place of thy tent - The same idea occurs in Isaiah 49:19-20 (see the notes at that chapter). The curtains of thy habitations. The word ‘curtain’ does not quite express the sense here. It is commonly with us used to denote the cloth hanging round. a bed or at a window, which may be spread or drawn aside at pleasure, or the hanging in theaters to conceal the stage from the spectators. The word here, however, denotes the canopy or cloth used in a tent; and the idea is, that the boundaries of the church were to be greatly enlarged, in order to accommodate the vast accession from the pagan world.

Spare not - Do not be parsimonious in the provision of the materials for greatly enlarging the tent to dwell in.

Lengthen thy cords - (See the note at Isaiah 33:20).

Verse 3

For thou shalt break forth - (See the notes at Isaiah 49:19-20).

And make the desolate cities - (See the notes at Isaiah 44:26).

Verse 4

Fear not ... - (See Isaiah 41:10, note, Isaiah 41:14, note).

Neither shalt thou be confounded - All these words mean substantially the same thing; and the design of the prophet is to affirm, in the strongest possible manner, that the church of God should be abundantly prospered and enlarged. The image of the female that was barren is kept up, and the idea is, that there should be no occasion of the shame which she felt who had no children.

For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth - In the abundant increase and glory of future times, the circumstances of shame which attended their early history shall be forgotten. The ‘youth’ of the Jewish people refers doubtless to the bondage of Egypt, and the trials and calamities which came upon them there. So great should be their future prosperity and glory, that all this should be forgotten.

The reproach of thy widowhood - The captivity at Babylon, when they were like a woman bereft of her husband and children (see the notes at Isaiah 49:21).

Verse 5

For thy Maker is thine husband - Both these words, ‘maker’ and ‘husband,’ in the Hebrew are in the plural number. But the form is evidently the pluralis excellentiae - a form denoting majesty and honor (see 1 Samuel 19:13, 1 Samuel 19:16; Psalms 149:2; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 30:3; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Hosea 12:1). Here it refers to ‘Yahweh of hosts,’ necessarily in the singular, as Yahweh is one Deuteronomy 6:4. No argument can be drawn from this phrase to prove that there is a distinction of persons in the Godhead, as the form is so often used evidently with a singular signification. That the words here properly have a singular signification was the evident understanding of the ancient interpreters. Thus Jerome Quia dominabitur tui qui fecit te - ‘Because he shall rule ever thee who made thee’ So the Septuagint, Ὅτι κύριος ὁ ποιῶν σε, κ.τ.λ. Hoti kurios ho poiōn se, etc. ‘For the Lord who made thee, the Lord of Sabaoth,’ etc. So the Chaldee and the Syriac. Lowth renders it, ‘For thy husband is thy Maker.’ The word rendered ‘husband,’ from בעל ba‛al, denotes properly the lord, maker, or ruler of anyone; or the owner of anything. It often, however, means, to be a husband Deuteronomy 21:13; Deuteronomy 24:1; Isaiah 62:5; Malachi 2:11, and is evidently used in that sense here. The idea is, that Yahweh would sustain to his people the relation of a husband; that he who had made them, who had originated all their laws and institutions, and moulded them as a people (see the note at Isaiah 43:1), would now take his church under his protection and care (see the notes at Isaiah 62:5).

And thy Redeemer - (See Notes on Isaiah 43:1-3.)

The God of the whole earth - He shall no more be regarded as uniquely the God of the Jewish people, but shall be acknowledged as the only true God, the God that rules over all the world. This refers undoubtedly to the times of the gospel, when he should be acknowledged as the God of the Gentiles as well as the Jews (see Romans 3:29).

Verse 6

For the Lord hath called thee - This is designed to confirm and illustrate the sentiment in the previous verse. God there says that he would be a husband to his people. Here he says, that although he had for a time apparently forsaken them, as a husband who had forsaken his wife, and although they were cast down and dejected like a woman who had thus been forsaken, yet he would now restore them to favor.

Hath called thee - That is, will have called thee to himself - referring to the future times when prosperity should be restored to them.

As a woman forsaken - Forsaken by her husband on account of her offence.

And grieved in spirit - Because she was thus forsaken.

And a wife of youth - The Septuagint renders this very strangely, ‘The Lord hath not called thee as a wife forsaken and disconsolate; nor as a wife that hath been hated from her youth;’ showing conclusively that the translator here did not understand the meaning of the passage, and vainly endeavored to supply a signification by the insertion of thee negatives, and by endeavoring to make a meaning. The idea is that of a wife wedded in youth; a wife toward whom there was early and tender love, though she was afterward rejected. God had loved the Hebrew people as his people in the early days of their history. Yet for their idolatry he had seen occasion afterward to cast them off, and to doom them to a long and painful exile. But he would yet love them with all the former ardor of affection, and would greatly increase and prosper them.

When thou wast refused - Or, that hath been rejected. Lowth, ‘But afterward rejected.’ It may be rendered, ‘Although (כי kı̂y has often the sense of although) thou wert rejected,’ or ‘although she was rejected.’ The idea is, that she had been married in youth, but had been afterward put away.

Verse 7

For a small moment - The Chaldee and Syriac render this, ‘In a little anger.’ Lowth has adopted this, but without sufficient authority. The Hebrew means, ‘For a little moment;’ a very short time. The reference here is probably to the captivity at Babylon, when they were apparently forsaken by Yahweh. Though to them this appeared long, yet compared with their subsequent prosperity, it was but an instant of time. Though this had probably a primary reference to the captivity then, yet there can be no impropriety in applying it to other similar cases. It contains an important principle; that is, that though God appears to forsake his people, yet it will be comparatively but for a moment. He will remember his covenant, and however long their trials may seem to be, yet compared with the subsequent mercies and the favors which shall result from them, they will seem to be but as the sorrows of the briefest point of duration (compare 2 Corinthians 4:17).

But with great mercies - The contrast here is not that of duration but of magnitude. The forsaking was ‘little,’ the mercies would be ‘great.’ It would be mercy that they would be recalled at all after all their faults and crimes; and the mercy which would be bestowed in the enlargement of their numbers would be inexpressibly great.

Will I gather thee - Will I collect thee from thy dispersions, and gather thee to myself as my own people.

Verse 8

In a little wrath - The Syriac renders this, ‘In great wrath.’ The Vulgate, ‘In a moment of indignation.’ The Septuagint, ‘In a little wrath.’ (Noyes renders it in accordance with the view of Rosenmuller, ‘In overflowing wrath.’ This variety of interpretation has arisen from the various meanings affixed to the unusual word שׁצף shetsep. This word occurs nowhere else in the Bible. Gesenius supposes that it is used for the sake of paronomasia with קצף qetsep, ‘wrath,’ instead of שׁטף sheṭep. This word frequently occurs, and means a gushing out, an overflowing, an inundation, a flood Nehemiah 1:8; Job 38:25; Psalms 32:6; Proverbs 27:4. According to this it would mean, ‘in my overflowing anger,’ in accordance with the expression in Proverbs 27:4, ‘anger is outrageous,’ more correctly in the margin, ‘An overflowing.’ The parallelism, however, seems to demand the sense of short or momentary, as it stands opposed to ‘everlasting.’ But it is not possible to demonstrate that the Hebrew word has this signification. Rosenmuller agrees with Gesenius in the opinion that it should be rendered ‘In overflowing wrath;’ and perhaps as the parallelism of the word ‘everlasting’ will be sufficiently secured by the phrase ‘for a moment,’ the probability is in favor of this interpretation. Then it will mean that the wrath, though it was but for a moment, was overflowing. It was like a deluge; and all their institutions, their city, their temple, their valued possessions, were swept away.

I hid my face from thee - This is expressive of displeasure (see the note at Isaiah 53:3; compare Job 13:24; Job 34:29; Psalms 30:7; Psalms 44:24; Isaiah 8:17). Here it refers to the displeasure which he had manifested in the punishment which he brought on them in Babylon.

For a moment - (See the note at Isaiah 54:7). This stands opposed to the ‘everlasting kindness’ which he would show to them.

But with everlasting kindness - This is true:

1. Of the church at large under the Messiah. It is the object of the unchanging affection and favor of God.

2. Of each individual Christian. He will make him blessed in an eternal heaven.

Verse 9

For this is as the waters of Noah unto me - As it was in the time of the flood of waters, so shall it be now. ‘I then solemnly promised that the waters should not again drown the earth, and I have kept that promise. I now promise with equal solemnity that I will bestow perpetual favor on my true people, and will shed upon them eternal and unchanging blessings.’ ‘The waters of Noah,’ here mean evidently the flood that came upon the world in his time, and from which he and his family were saved. Lowth, on the authority of one manuscript and of the Vulgate, Syriac, Symmachus, and Theodotion, reads this, ‘In the days of Noah? But the authority is not sufficient to change the Hebrew text, and the sense is as clear as if it were changed.

As I have sworn - Genesis 8:21-22. God appeals to this not only because the oath and promise had been made, but because it had been kept.

That I would not be wroth - The idea seems here to be that no calamities should spread over the whole church, and sweep it away, as the waters swept over the world in the time of Noah, or as desolation swept over Jerusalem and the whole land of Canaan in the time of the exile at Babylon. There would be indeed persecutions and calamities, but the church would be safe amidst all these trials. The period would never arrive when God would forsake the church, and when he would leave it to perish. One has only to recollect how God has guarded the church, even during the most dangerous periods, to see how remarkably this has been fulfilled. His covenant has been as sure as that which was made with Noah, and it will be as secure and firm to the end of time.

Verse 10

For the mountains shall depart - (See the notes at Isaiah 51:6).

The covenant of my peace - That is, the covenant by which I promise peace and prosperity to thee.

Verse 11

O thou afflicted - In the previous verses, Yahweh had merely promised protection, and had in general terms assured them of his favor. Here he shows that they should not only be defended, but that his church would rise with great beauty, and be ornamented like a most splendid palace or temple. This is to be regarded as addressed primarily to the exiles in Babylon near to the close of their seventy years’ captivity. But nothing forbids us to apply it to the church in all similar circumstances when persecuted, and when she is like a ship rolling on the heaving billows of the ocean.

Tossed with tempest - Lowth, ‘Beaten with the storm.’ The idea is that of a ship that is driven by the tempest; or any object that is tossed about with a whirlwind (סערה so‛ărâh). See Jonah 1:11-13; Hosea 13:3; Hebrews 3:14. The figure is especially striking in an Oriental country. Tempests and whirlwinds there, are much more violent than they are with us, and nothing there can stand before them (see Harmer’s Obs. vol. i. p. 92ff Ed. Loud. 1808).

And not comforted - They were far away from all the comforts which they had enjoyed in their own land, and they were apparently forsaken by God.

Behold, I will lay thy stones - It is not uncommon in the Scriptures to compare the prosperity of the church to a splendid temple or palace. In the book of Tobit (Tobit 13:16, 17) a description of Jerusalem occurs, which has all the appearance of having been copied from this, or at least shows that the writer had this passage in his eye. ‘For Jerusalem shall be built up with sapphires, and emeralds, and precious stones; thy walls, and battlements, and towers, of pure gold. And the streets of Jerusalem shall be paved with beryl, and carbuncle, and stones of Ophir.’ And in the book of Revelation Revelation 21:18-21, a similar description occurs of the New Jerusalem. Possibly John had his eye upon this passage in Isaiah, though he has greatly amplified the description. The passage here undoubtedly contains a figurative description of the future prosperity and glory of the church of God. Lowth remarks on it, justly, ‘These seem to be general images to express beauty, magnificence, purity, strength, and solidity, agreeably to the ideas of eastern nations; and to have never been intended to be strictly scrutinized or minutely and particularly explained, as if they had each of them some precise moral and spiritual meaning.’ The phrase ‘I will lay thy stones,’ refers to the work of masonry in laying down the foundation of a building, or the stones of which a building is composed, in mortar or cement. Literally, ‘I cause to lie down.’ The word here used (רבץ râbâts) is usually appropriated to an animal that crouches or lies down.

With fair colors - This translation by no means conveys the idea of the original. The sense is not that the stones would have fair colors, but that the cement which would be used would be that which was commonly employed to make the most valued colors. The edifice which would be reared would be as costly and magnificent as if the very cement of the stones consisted of the most precious coloring matter; the purest vermilion. The word rendered here ‘fair colors’ (פוך pûk) denotes properly, seaweed, from which an alkaline paint was prepared; then paint itself, dye, fucus, and also that with which the Hebrew women tinged their eyelashes (stibium). This is composed of the powder of lead ore, and was drawn with a small wooden bodkin through the eyelids, and tinged the hair and the edges of the eyelids with a dark sooty color, and was esteemed to be a graceful ornament. This practice is of great antiquity.

It was practiced by Jezebel (see 2 Kings 9:30, where the same word is used as here); it was practiced among the Greeks and Romans (Xen. Cyr. i. 11); and it is still practiced in Africa (see Shaw’s Travels, pp. 294, 295). The word used here is rendered ‘paint,’ or ‘painted’ 2 Kings 9:30; Jeremiah 22:14; and ‘glistening stones’ 1 Chronicles 29:2. It does not occur elsewhere. In the passage in Chronicles it may mean the carbuncle, as it is rendered here by the Septuagint, (ἄνθρακα anthraka); but it here denotes, doubtless, the valued paint or dye which was used as an ornament. The description here is that the very stones should be laid in cement of this description, and is of course equivalent to saying that it would be in the most costly and magnificent manner. It may be added, however, that it would not be the mere fact that the stibium would constitute the cement that the prophet seems to refer to, but probably he also means to intimate that this would contribute greatly to the beauty of the city. The cement in which bricks or stones is laid in a building is partly visible, and the beauty of the structure would be augmented by having that which was regarded as constituting the highest ornament used for cement.

And thy foundations with sapphires - The sapphire is a well-known gem distinguished for its beauty and splendor. In hardness it is inferior to the diamond only. Its colors are blue, red, violet, green, white, or limpid.

Verse 12

And I will make thy windows - The word rendered here ‘windows’ is rendered by Jerome propugnacula - ‘fortresses,’ bulwarks, ramparts; and by the Septuagint, Επαλξεις Epalcheis - ‘Bulwarks,’ or rather, pinnacles on the walls. The Hebrew word שׁמשׁות shı̂mâshôt) is evidently derived from שׁמשׁ shemesh (the sun); and has some relation in signification to the sun, either as letting in light, or as having a radiated appearance like the sun. Gesenius renders it, ‘notched battlements, the same as sun, or rays of the sun.’ Faber (Hebrew Archaeol., p. 294) supposes that the name was given to the turrets or battlements here referred to, because they had some resemblance to the rays of the sun. I think it prob able that the prophet refers to some radiated ornament about a building, that had a resemblance to the sun, or to some gilded turrets on the walls of a city. I see no evidence in the ancient versions that the word refers to windows.

Of agates - Agates are a class of silicious, semi-pellucid gems, of many varieties, consisting of quarts-crystal flint, horn-stone, chalcedony, amethyst, jasper, cornelian, etc., variegated with dots, zones, filaments, ramifications, and various figures. They are esteemed the least valuable of all the precious stones. They are found in rocks, and are use, for seals, rings, etc. (Webster.) The Hebrew word כדכד kadekkod, from כדד kâdad, to beat, to pound, and then to strike fire, seems to denote a sparkling gem or ruby. It is not often used. It is rendered by Jerome, Jaspidem. The Septuagint, Ιασπιν Iaspin - ‘Jasper,’ a gem of a green color. It may be observed that it is not probable that such a stone would be used for a window, for the purpose of letting in light.

And thy gates - See Revelation 21:21 - ‘And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl.’ The gates of the city would be made of most precious stones.

Of carbuncles - The carbuncle is a beautiful gem of a deep red color, with a mixture of scarlet, called by the Greeks anthrax, found in the East Indies. It is usually about a quarter of an inch in length. When held up to the sun it loses its deep tinge, and becomes exactly the color of a burning coal (Webster). Hence, its name in Greek. The Hebrew name אקדח 'eqeddâch is derived from קדח qâdach, “to burn,” and denotes a flaming or sparkling gem. The word occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible.

And all thy borders - All thy boundaries; or the whole circuit of thy walls. See Revelation 21:18 - ‘And the building of the wall of it was of jasper.’ The idea is, that the whole city would be built in the most splendid manner. Its foundations and all its stones would be laid in the most precious cement; its turrets, towers, battlements, gates, and the circuit of its walls, would be made of the most precious gems. In general, there can be no doubt that this is designed to represent the future glory of the church under the Redeemer, and perhaps also to furnish an emblematic representation of heaven (compare Revelation 21:2). Kimchi supposes that this may possibly be taken literally, and that Jerusalem may be yet such as is here described. Abarbanel supposes that it may refer to the time when the Oriental world, where these gems are principally found, shall be converted, and come and join in rebuilding the city and the temple.

But the whole description is one of great beauty as applicable to the church of God; to its glories on earth; and to its glory in heaven. Its future magnificence shall be as much greater than anything which has yet occurred in the history of the church, as a city built of gems would be more magnificent than Jerusalem was in the proudest days of its glory. The language used in this verse is in accordance with the Oriental manner. The style of speaking in the East to denote unexampled splendor is well illustrated in the well-known Oriental tale of Aladdin, who thus gives his instructions: ‘I leave the choice of materials to you, that is to say, porphyry, jasper, agate, lapis lazuli, and the finest marble of the most varied colors. But I expect that in the highest story of the palace, you shall build me a large hall with a dome, and four equal fronts; and that instead of layers of bricks, the walls be made of massy gold and silver, laid alternately: and that each front shall contain six windows, the lattices of all which, except one, which must be left unfinished and imperfect, shall be so enriched with art and symmetry, with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, that they shall exceed everything of the kind ever seen in the world’ (Pictorial Bible).

Verse 13

And all thy children - All that dwell in this splendid city; all that are the true friends of the Redeemer. It shall be a part of their future glory that they shall be all under divine instruction and guidance. See Jeremiah 31:34 - ‘And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them.’

And great shall be the peace of thy children - (See the notes at Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:6).

Verse 14

In righteousness shalt thou be established - This is language which is appropriately addressed to a city or commonwealth. The idea is, that it would not be built up by fraud, and rapine, and conquest, as many cities had been, but by the prevalence of justice.

Thou shalt be far from oppressions - That is, thou shalt be far from being oppressed by others. So the connection demands. The Hebrew would bear an active signification, so that it might be read, ‘be thou far from oppression,’ that is, be far from oppressing others. But the design of the prophet is rather to promise than to command; and the idea is, that they should have no occasion to fear the violence of others anymore.

For it shall not come near thee - This doubtless refers to the security, perpetuity, and prosperity of the church under the Messiah.

Verse 15

Behold, they shall surely gather together - The idea in this verse is, that the enemies of the people of God would indeed form alliances and compacts against them, but it would not be under the divine direction, and they would not be able to prevail against the church. The word rendered here ‘gather together’ (גור gûr) means properly ‘to turn aside from the way’; then to sojourn for a time; then to assemble against anyone. It seems here to refer to the gathering together of hostile forces to form an alliance, or to wage war. Great variety, however, has prevailed in the interpretation of the passage, but this seems to be the sense of it. Jerome renders it, ‘Lo, a foreigner shall come who was not with me, the stranger shall hereafter be joined to thee,’ and seems to understand it of the proselytes that should be made. This sense is found expressly in the Septuagint, ‘Lo, proselytes shall come to thee through me, and they shall sojourn with thee, and fly to thee’ The Chaldee renders it, ‘Lo, the captivity of thy people shall be surely gathered unto thee, and in the end the kings of the people which were assembled to afflict thee, O Jerusalem, shall fall in the midst of thee.’ But the above seems to be the correct sense. Alliances would be formed; compacts would be entered into; leagues would be made by the enemies of the people of God, and they would be assembled to destroy the church. This has often been done. Formidable confederations have been entered into for the purpose, and deep-laid plans have been devised to destroy the friends of the Most High. See Psalms 2:2 : ‘The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed.’ No small part of history is a record of the combinations and alliances which have been entered into for the purpose of driving the true religion from the world.

But not by me - Not under my direction, or by my command.

Shall fall for thy sake - Hebrew, עליך âlaı̂yk - ‘Shall fall unto thee.’ Lowth, ‘Shall come over to thy side.’ The phrase seems to mean that they should ‘fall to them,’ that is, that they should lay aside their opposition, break up their alliances against the church, and come over to it. In proof of this interpretation, Rosenmuller appeals to the following places: 1 Chronicles 12:19-20; 2 Chronicles 15:9; Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 39:9. The passage, therefore, looks to the future conversion of the enemies of the church to the true faith. It has, doubtless, been partially fulfilled in the conversion of nations that have been leagued against the gospel of the Redeemer. There was a striking fulfillment in the times that succeeded the persecutions of Christians in the Roman empire. After all the power of the empire had been enlisted in ten successive persecutions to destroy the church, the very empire that had thus opposed the church was converted to the Christian faith. In a still more signal manner will this be fulfilled when all the powers of the earth now leagued against the gospel shall be brought under the influences of the true religion.

Verse 16

Behold, I have created the smith - The sense of this verse is, ‘Everything that can effect your welfare is under my control. The smith who manufactures the instruments of war or of torture is under me. His life, his strength, his skill, are all in my hands, and he can do nothing which I shall not deem it best to permit him to do. So with the enemy of the church himself - the waster who destroys. I bare made him, and he is wholly under my control and at my disposal.’ The smith who bloweth the coals, denotes the man who is engaged in forging instruments for war, or for any other purpose. Here it refers to him who should be engaged in forging instruments of battle to attack the church; and why should it not refer also to him who should be engaged in making instruments of torture - such as are used in times of persecution?

That bringeth forth an instrument for his work - Lowth, ‘According to his work.’ Noyes, ‘By his labor.’ The idea is, that he produces an instrument as the result of his work.

I have created the waster to destroy - I have formed every man who is engaged in spreading desolation by wars, and I have every such man under my control (see the notes at Isaiah 10:5-7; Isaiah 37:26-27; Isaiah 46:1-6). The sense here is, that as God had all such conquerors under his control, they could accomplish no more than he permitted them to do.

Verse 17

No weapon that is formed - No instrument of war, no sword, or spear; no instrument of persecution or torture that is made by the smith, Isaiah 54:16.

Shall prosper - On the meaning of this word, see the notes at Isaiah 52:13. The sense here is, that it shall not have final and ultimate prosperity. It might be permitted for a time to appear to prosper - as persecutors and oppressors have done; but there would not be final and complete success.

And every tongue - No one shall be able to injure you by words and accusations. If a controversy shall arise; if others reproach you and accuse you of imposture and deceit, you will be able ultimately to convince them of error, and, by manifestation of the truth, to condemn them. The language here is derived probably from courts of justice (see the notes at Isaiah 41:1); and the idea is, that truth and victory, in every strife of words, would be on the side of the church. To those who have watched the progress of discussions thus far on the subject of the true religion, it is needless to say that this has been triumphantly fulfilled. Argument, sophism, ridicule, have all been tried to overthrow the truth of the Christian religion. Appeals have been made to astronomy, geology, antiquities, history, and indeed to almost every department of science, and with the same want of success. Poetry has lent the charm of its numbers; the grave historian has interwoven with the thread of his narrative covert attacks and sly insinuations against the Bible; the earth has been explored to prove that’ He who made the world and revealed its age to Moses was mistaken in its age;’ and the records of Oriental nations, tracing their history up cycles of ages beyond the Scripture account of the creation of the world, have been appealed to, but thus far in all these contests ultimate victory has declared in favor of the Bible. And no matter from what quarter the attack has come, and no matter how much learning and talent have been evinced by the adversaries of the Bible, God has raised up some Watson, or Lardner, or Chalmers, or Buckland, or Cuvier, or Wiseman, to meet these charges, and to turn the scales in favor of the cause of truth. They who are desirous of examining the effects of the controversy of Christianity with science, and the results, can find them detailed with great learning and talent in Dr. Wiseman’s Lectures on the connection between Science and Revealed Religion, Andover, 1837.

This is the heritage - The inheritance which awaits those who serve God is truth and victory. It is not gold and the triumph of battle. It is not the laurel won in fields of blood. But it is, the protection of God in all times of trouble; his friendship in all periods of adversity; complete victory in all contests with error and false systems of religion; and preservation when foes rise up in any form and endeavor to destroy the church, and to blot out its existence and its name.

And their righteousness is of me - Or rather, ‘this is the righteousness, or the justification which they obtain of me; this is that which I impart to them as their justification.’ The idea is not that their righteousness is of him, but that this justification or vindication from him is a part of their inheritance and their portion.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 54". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/isaiah-54.html. 1870.
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