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Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024
the Fourth Week after Easter
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 55

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


This chapter is closely connected in sense with the preceding chapter. It flows from the doctrines stated in Isaiah 53:1-12, and is designed to state what would follow from the coming of the Messiah. It would result from that work that the most free and full invitations would be extended to all people to return to God, and to obtain his favor. There would be such ample provision made for the salvation of human beings, that the most liberal invitations could be extended to sinners. The main idea in the chapter, I conceive to be, that the effect of the work of the Redeemer would be to lay the foundation for a universal invitation to people to come and be saved. So ample would be the merits of his death Isaiah 53:1-12, that all might come and partake of eternal life. To state this, I suppose to be the main design of this chapter. It may be regarded as comprising the following parts:

I. A universal invitation to come and embrace the provisions of mercy.

1. All were invited to come, even they who were the most poor and needy, who had no money, as freely as to running waters and streams Isaiah 55:1.

2. They were now regarded as spending their money and their labor for that which produced no permanent satisfaction - descriptive of the world in its vain efforts to find enjoyment Isaiah 55:2.

3. If they would come to God they should live, and he would make with them an eternal covenantIsaiah 55:3; Isaiah 55:3.

II. To encourage them to this, the assurance is presented that God had given the Messiah to be a leader of the people, and that under him distant nations should embrace the truth and be saved Isaiah 55:4-5.

III. In view of the fullness of the provisions of mercy, and of the fact that a great leader had been provided, all are encouraged to come and seek God. This invitation is pressed on their attention by several considerations:

1. Yahweh might now be found, and he was ready to pardon abundantly all sinners who were disposed to forsake the error of their way and to return to him Isaiah 55:6-7.

2. God shows that his plans were high above those of people, and his thoughts more elevated than theirs, and his counsels should stand. The rain descended on the earth and accomplished his great plans, and so it would be with his word. His promises would be fulfilled, and his designs would take effect, and there was, therefore, every encouragement to come, and partake of his favor and his grace Isaiah 55:8-11.

3. There should be rich and abundant blessings attending their return to God, and universal rejoicing from their embracing the religion of the Redeemer, and becoming interested in his mercy and salvationIsaiah 55:12-13; Isaiah 55:12-13.

There is not to be found in the Bible a chapter more replete with rich invitations than this, nor perhaps is there anywhere to be found one of more exquisite beauty. To the end of the world it will stand as the fullest conceivable demonstration that God intended that the offers of salvation should be made to all people, and that he designs that his gospel shall accomplish the great plans which he had in view when he devised the scheme of redemption. While this precious chapter remains in the book of God, no sinner need despair of salvation who is disposed to return to him; no one can plead that he is too great a sinner to be saved; no one can maintain successfully that the provisions of mercy are limited in their nature or their applicability to any portion of the race; and no minister of the gospel need be desponding about the success of the work in which he is engaged. The gospel shall just as certainly produce the effect which God intended as the rain which comes down in fertilizing showers upon the dry and thirsty earth.

Verse 1

Ho - (הוי hôy). This word here is designed to call attention to the subject as one of importance.

Every one that thirsteth - The word ‘thirst’ often indicates intense desire, and is thus applied to the sense of want which sinners often have, and to their anxious wishes for salvation. It is not improbable that the Savior had this passage in his eye when he pronounced the blessing on those who hunger and thirst after righteousness Matthew 5:6. No needs are so keen, none so imperiously demand supply, as those of hunger and thirst. They occur daily; and when long continued, as in the case of those who are shipwrecked, and doomed to wander months or years over burning sands with scarcely any drink or food, nothing is more distressing. Hence, the figure is often used to denote any intense desire for anything, and especially an ardent desire for salvation (see Psalms 42:2; Psalms 63:1; Psalms 143:6; John 7:37). The invitation here is made to all. ‘Everyone’ (כל kôl) is entreated to come. It is not offered to the elect only, or to the rich, the great, the noble; but it is made to all. It is impossible to conceive of language more universal in its nature than this; and while this stands in the Word of God, the invitation may be made to all, and should be made to all, and must be made to all. It proves that provision is made for all. Can God invite to a salvation which has not been provided? Can he ask a man to partake of a banquet which has no existence? Can he ask a man to drink of waters when there are none? Can he tantalize the hopes and mock the miseries of people by inviting them to enter a heaven where they would be unwelcome, or to dwell in mansions which have never been provided? (compare Matthew 11:28; Mark 16:15; John 7:37; Revelation 22:17).

Come ye to the waters - Water, floods, overflowing streams, or copious showers, are often used in the Scriptures to denote abundant blessings from God, and especially the blessings which would exist under the Messiah (see Isaiah 35:6; Isaiah 43:20; Isaiah 44:3).

And he that hath no money - The poor; they who would be unable to purchase salvation if it were to be sold. The idea here is the absolute freeness of the offer of salvation. No man can excuse himself for not being a Christian because he is poor; no man who is rich can ever boast that he has bought salvation, or that he has obtained it on more easy terms because he had property.

Come ye, buy and eat - (Compare Matthew 13:44-46). That is, procure it without paying a price. The word rendered here ‘buy’ (שׁבר shâbar), properly means to break, then to purchase etc. (grain), as that which is broken in a mill (Gesenius), or that which breaks hunger; compare Eng. breakfast (Castell.)

Buy wine - (יין yayin). Wine was commonly used in their feasts, and indeed was an article of common drink (see the notes at Isaiah 25:6). Here it is emblematic of the blessings of salvation spoken of as a feast made for people. Wine is usually spoken of as that which exhilarates, or makes glad the heart Judges 9:13; 2 Samuel 13:28; Psalms 104:15, and it is possible that the image here may be designed specifically to denote that the blessings of salvation make people happy, or dissipate the sorrows of life, and cheer them in their troubles and woes.

And milk - Milk, in the Scriptures, is used to denote that which nourishes, or is nutritious Deuteronomy 32:14; Judges 4:1; Judges 5:25; Isa 7:22; 1 Corinthians 9:7. It is mentioned as used with wine in Song of Solomon 5:1, ‘I have drunk my wine with my milk;’ and with honey Song of Solomon 4:11, ‘Honey and milk are under my tongue.’ The sense here is, that the blessings of the gospel are suited to nourish and support the soul as well as to make it glad and cheerful.

Without money ... - None are so poor that they cannot procure it; none are so rich that they can purchase it with gold. If obtained at all by the poor or the rich, it must be without money and without price. If the poor are willing to accept of it as a gift, they are welcome; and if the rich will not accept of it as a gift, they cannot obtain it. What a debt of gratitude we owe to God, who has thus placed it within the reach of all: How cheerfully and thankfully should we accept float as a gift which no wealth, however princely, could purchase, and which, being purchased by the merits of the Redeemer, is put within the reach of the humblest child of Adam!

Verse 2

Wherefore do ye spend money - Margin, ‘Weigh.’ That is, in Hebrew, ‘weigh silver.’ Before money was coined, the precious metals were weighed, and hence, to make a payment is represented as weighing out silver Genesis 23:16.

For that which is not bread - The idea here is, that people are endeavoring to purchase happiness, and are disappointed. Bread is the support of life; it is therefore emblematic of whatever contributes to support and comfort. And in regard to the pursuit of happiness in the pleasures of life, and in ambition, vanity, and vice, people are as much disappointed, as he would be who should spend his money, and procure nothing that would sustain life.

And your labor for that which satisfieth not - You toil, and expend the avails of your labor for that which does not produce satisfaction. What a striking description of the condition of the world! The immortal mind will not be satisfied with wealth, pleasure, or honor. It never has been. Where is the man who is satisfied with his wealth, and who says it is enough? Where is there one who is satisfied with pleasure, and vanity, and gaiety? There is a void in the heart which these things do not, cannot fill. There is a consciousness that the soul was made for higher and nobler purposes, and that nothing but God can meet its boundless desires. Where is the man who has ever been satisfied with ambition? Alexander wept on the throne of the world; and though Diocletian and Charles V descended voluntarily from the throne to private life, it was because there was nothing in royalty to satisfy the soul, and not because they found happiness enough there. There never was a more simple and true description of this whole world than in this expression of Isaiah, that people are spending their money and their labor for that which satisfieth not.

Hearken diligently unto me - The idea is, that by attending to his words and embracing his offers, they would find that without money or price which they were vainly seeking at so much expense and with so much toil.

And eat ... - The prophet here returns to the image in the former verse. They were invited to partake of that which would nourish the soul, and which would fill it with joy.

And let your soul delight itself in fatness - ‘Fatness in the Scriptures is used to denote the richest food Genesis 27:28-39; Job 36:16; Psalms 65:11, and hence, is an emblem of the rich and abundant blessings resulting from the favor of God Psalms 36:9; Psalms 63:5.

Verse 3

Hear, and your soul shall live - That is, if you attend to my command and embrace my promises, you shall live. Religion in the Scriptures is often represented as life John 5:40; John 6:33; John 8:13; John 20:31; Romans 5:17-18; Romans 6:4; Romans 8:6; 1 John 5:12; Revelation 2:7-10. It stands opposed to the death of sin - to spiritual and eternal death.

And I will make an everlasting covenant with you - On the word ‘covenant,’ see the notes at Isaiah 28:18; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8. Here it means that God would bind himself to be their God, their protector, and their friend. This covenant would be made with all who would come to him. It would not be with the nation of the Jews, as such, or with any community, as such, but it would be with all who should embrace the offers of life and salvation.

Even the sure mercies of David - I will confirm to you, and fulfill in you, the solemn promises made to David. The transaction here referred to is that which is celebrated in Psalms 89:2-4 :

For I have said, mercy shall be built up forever;

Thy faithfulness hast thou established in the very heavens.

I have made a covenant with my chosen,

I have sworn unto David my servant,

Thy seed will I establish forever,

And build up thy throne to all generations.

A kingdom had thus been promised to David, and he had been assured that the true religion should flourish among those who were to succeed him in Israel. The prophet here says that this solemn promise. would be fulfilled in those who should embrace the Messiah, and that God would ratify with them this covenant. The word rendered here ‘mercies’ (חסד chesed), properly means kindness, goodwill, pity, compassion; then goodness, mercy, grace. The word rendered ‘sure,’ denotes that which is established, or confirmed; that in which confidence may be placed. The whole expression denotes that the covenant made with David was one which promised great favors, and was one which was not to be abrogated, but which was to be perpetual. With all who embraced the Messiah, God would enter into such an unchanging and unwavering covenant - a covenant which was not to be revoked.

Verse 4

Behold, I have given him - This is evidently the language of God respecting the Messiah, or of David as representing the Messiah. Rosenmuller supposes that the name David here is used to designate the Messiah, and in support of this appeals to Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5. An examination of these passages will show that they all refer to the Messiah by the name of David; and it is morally certain that in the passage before us, the name David Isaiah 55:3 suggested the Messiah. It seems to me that this is to be regarded as a direct address respecting the Messiah, and that the object of the speaker here is to state a reason why he should be embraced. That reason was that God had constituted him as a leader. The Chaldee renders this, ‘Lo, I have constituted him as a prince to the people, a king and ruler over all kingdoms.’ Kimchi says that it means that the Messiah would be a monitor or a mediator between people and him who would accuse them. Grotius supposes that Jeremiah is intended here; but in that opinion he is destined undoubtedly to stand forever alone. The almost unbroken interpretation, from the earliest times, is that which refers it directly to the Messiah.

For a witness to the people - Noyes renders this, ‘A ruler.’ Rosenmuller, ‘A monitor,’ - one whose office it was publicly to admonish, or reprove others in the presence of witnesses. Jerome renders it, ‘A witness.’ The Septuagint, Μαρτύριον Marturion - ‘A testimony.’ The Chaldee (רב rab), ‘A prince.’ The Hebrew word (עד ēd) means properly “a witness” Proverbs 19:5-9; then testimony, witness borne Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; then a prince, chief, lawgiver, commander. Compare the use of the verb in 2 Kings 17:13; Psalms 50:7; Psalms 81:9; Lamentations 2:13. The parallelism requires us to understand it in this sense here - as one who stood forth to bear solemn testimony in regard to God to his law, and claims, and plans; and one who, therefore, was designated to be the instructor, guide, and teacher of people.

A leader - Chaldee, ‘A king.’ The idea is, that he would sustain the relation of a sovereign. One of the important offices of the Messiah is that of king.

A commander - Or, rather, a lawgiver. He would originate the laws and institutions of his people.

Verse 5

Behold, thou shalt call ... - This is evidently an address to the Messiah, and is a promise that the Gentiles should be called by him to the fellowship of the gospel.

That thou knowest not - The phrase ‘thou knowest not,’ means a nation that had not been regarded as his own people.

And nations that knew not thee - The pagan nations that were strangers to thee.

Shall run unto thee - Indicating the haste and anxiety which they would have to partake of the benefits of the true religion.

Because of the Lord thy God - From respect to the God who had appointed the Messiah, and who had organized the Church.

For he hath glorified thee - John 16:5. God had glorified him by appointing him to be the Messiah; and he would glorify him in the future triumphs of the gospel, in the day of judgment, and in the eternal splendors of heaven.

Verse 6

Seek ye the Lord - The commencement of religion in the heart is often represented as seeking for God. or inquiring for his ways Deuteronomy 4:29; Job 5:8; Job 8:5; Psalms 9:10; Psalms 14:2; Psalms 27:8. This is to be regarded as addressed not to the Jewish exiles only or uniquely, but to all in view of the coming and work of the Messiah. That work would be so full and ample that an invitation could be extended to all to seek after God, and to return to him. It is implied here:

1. That people are by nature ignorant of God - since they are directed to ‘seek’ for him.

2. That if people will obtain his favor it must be sought. No man becomes his friend without desiring it; no one who does not earnestly seek for it.

3. That the invitation to seek God should be made to all. In this passage it is unlimited (compare Isaiah 55:7). Where there are sinners, there the invitation is to be offered.

4. That the knowledge of God is of inestimable value. He would not command people to seek that which was worthless; he would not urge it with so much earnestness as is here manifested if it were not of inexpressible importance.

While he may be found - It is implied here:

1. That God may now be found.

2. That the time will come when it will be impossible to obtain his favor.

The leading thought is, that under the Messiah the offer of salvation will be made to people fully and freely. But the period will come when it will be withdrawn. If God forsakes human beings; if he wholly withdraws his Spirit; if they have committed the sin which hath never forgiveness; or if they neglect or despise the provisions of mercy and die in their sins, it will be too late, and mercy cannot then be found. How unspeakably important, then, is it to seek for mercy at once - lest, slighted now, the offer should be withdrawn. or lest death should Overtake us, and we be removed to a world where mercy is unknown! How important is the present moment - for another moment may place us beyond the reach of pardon and of grace! How amazing the stupidity of men who suffer their present moments to pass away unimproved, and who, amidst the gaieties and the business of life, permit the day of salvation to pass by, and lose their souls! And how just is the condemnation of the sinner! If a man will not do so simple a thing as to ask for pardon, he ought to perish. The universe will approve the condemnation of such a man; and the voice of complaint can never be raised against that Holy Being who consigns such a sinner to hell.

Call ye upon him - That is, implore his mercy (see Romans 10:13; compare Joel 2:32). How easy are the terms of salvation! How just will be the condemnation of a sinner if he will not call upon God! Assuredly, if people will not breathe out one broken-hearted petition to the God of heaven that they may be saved, they have only to blame themselves if they are lost. The terms of salvation could be made no easier; and man can ask nothing more simple.

While he is near - In an important sense God is equally near to us at all times. But this figurative language is taken from the mode of speaking among people, and it denotes that there are influences more favorable for seeking him at some periods than others. Thus God comes near to us in the preaching of his word, when it is borne with power to the conscience; in his providences, when he strikes down a friend and comes into the very circle where we move, or the very dwelling where we abide; when he lays his hand upon us in sickness, he is near us by day and by night; in a revival of religion, or when a pious friend pleads with us, God is near to us then, and is calling us to his favor. These are favorable times for salvation; times which, if they are suffered to pass by unimproved, return no more; periods which will all soon be gone, and when they are gone, the sinner irrecoverably dies.

Verse 7

Let the wicked ... - In this verse we are told what is necessary in order to seek God and to return to him, and the encouragement which we have to do it. The first step is for the sinner to forsake his way. He must come to a solemn pause, and resolve to abandon all his transgressions. His evil course; his vices; his corrupt practices; and his dissipated companions, must be forsaken.

And the unrighteous man - Margin, “Man of iniquity.” This is a literal translation. The address is made to all people, for all are such.

His thoughts - The Hebrew word denotes all that is the object of thought; and the idea is, that the man must abandon his plans and purposes of life. The thoughts, in the sight of a holy God, are not less important than the external deportment; and no man can obtain his favor who is not ready to abandon his erroneous opinions, his pride and vanity, his plans of evil, and his purposes of life that are opposed to God.

And let him return unto the Lord - Man, in the Scriptures, is everywhere described as having wandered away from the true God. Religion consists in returning to him for pardon, for consolation, for protection, for support. The true penitent is desirous of returning to him, as the prodigal son returned to his father’s house; the man who loves sin chooses to remain at a distance from God.

And to our God - The God of his people; the God of the speaker here. It is the language of those who have found mercy. The idea is, that he who has bestowed mercy on us, will be ready to bestow it on others. ‘We have returned to God. We have had experience of his compassion, and we have such a conviction of his overflowing mercy, that we can assure all others that if they will return to our God, he will abundantly pardon them.’ The doctrine is, that they who have found favor have a deep conviction of the abounding compassion of God, and such a sense of the fullness of his mercy, that they are disposed to offer the assurance to all others, that they may also obtain full forgiveness. Compare Revelation 22:17 - ‘And let him that heareth say, Come.’

For he will abundantly pardon - Margin, as Hebrew, ‘Multiply to pardon.’ He abounds in forgiveness. This is the conviction of those who are pardoned; this is the promise of inestimable worth which is made to all who are willing to return to God. On the ground of this promise all may come to him, and none who come shall be sent empty away.

Verse 8

For my thoughts are not your thoughts - Interpreters have differed in regard to the connection of this verse with the preceding. It is evident, I think, that it is properly connected with the subject of pardon; and the sense must be, that the plans and purposes of God in regard to forgiveness are as far above those of people as the heavens are higher than the earth, Isaiah 55:9. But in what respects his plan of pardon differs from those of people, the prophet does not intimate, and can be understood only by the views which are presented in other parts of the Bible. The connection here would seem to demand some such view as the following:

1. People find it difficult to pardon at all. They harbor malice; they seek revenge; they are slow to forgive an injury. Not so with God. He harbors no malice; he has no desire of revenge; he has no reluctance to forgive.

2. It may refer to the number of offences. People, if they forgive once, are slow to forgive a second time, and still more reluctant to forgive a third time, and if the offence is often repeated they refuse to forgive altogether. Not so with God. No matter how often we have violated his law, yet be can multiply forgiveness in proportion to our faults.

3. The number of the offenders. People may pardon one or a few who injure them, but if the number is greatly increased, their compassions are closed, and they feel that the world is arrayed against them. Not so with God. No matter how numerous the offenders - though they embrace the inhabitants of the whole world - yet he can extend forgiveness to them all.

4. In regard to the aggravation of offences. People forgive a slight injury. However, if it is aggravated, they are slow to pardon. But not so with God. No matter bow aggravated the offence, he is ready to forgive. It may be added:

5. That his thoughts in regard to the mode of pardon are far above ours. The plan of forgiveness through a Redeemer - the scheme of pardon so fully illustrated in Isaiah 53:1-12, and on which the reasoning of the prophet here is based - is as far above any of the modes of pardon among people, as the heavens are above the earth. The scheme which contemplated the incarnation of the Son of God; which proffered forgiveness only through his substituted sufferings, and in virtue of his bitter death, was one which man could not have thought of, and which surpasses all the schemes and plans of people. In this respect, God’s ways are not, our ways, and his thoughts are not our thoughts.

But at the same time that this passage, refers primarily to the subject of pardon, and should be interpreted as having a main reference to that, it is also true of the ways of God in general. His ways are not our ways, and his thoughts are not ours in regard to his plans in the creation and government of the world. He has plans for accomplishing his purposes which are different from ours, and he secures our own welfare by schemes that cross our own. He disappoints our hopes; foils our expectations; crosses our designs; removes our property, or our friends; and thwarts our purposes in life. He leads us in a path which we bad not intended: and secures our ultimate happiness in modes which are contrary to all our designs and desires. It follows from this:

1. That we should form our plans with submission to the higher purposes of God.

2. We should resign ourselves to him when he chooses to thwart our plans, and to take away our comforts.

Verse 9

For as the heavens ... - This verse is designed merely to illustrate the idea in the former. There is as great a difference between the plans of God and those of people, as between the heavens and the earth. A similar comparison occurs in Psalms 103:11 -

For as the heaven is high alcove the earth,

So great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

Compare Psalms 57:10 -

For thy mercy is great unto the heavens,

And thy truth unto the clouds.

Also Psalms 89:2 -

Mercy shall be built up forever,

Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

The idea in all these passages is substantially the same - that the mercy and compassion of God are illimitable.

Verse 10

For as the rain cometh down - The meaning of this verse and the following is plain. This refers evidently, as the whole passage does, to the times which should succeed the coming of the Messiah. The hearts of people by nature are what the earth would be without the rains of heaven - barren and sterile. But God says that his truth shall certainly accomplish an effect similar to that produced by descending showers. The rain never descends in vain. It makes the earth fertile, beautiful, and lovely. So would it be with his truth in the moral world. The comparison of truth with descending rain or dews is exceedingly beautiful, and occurs not unfrequently in the Bible. See Deuteronomy 32:2 -

My doctrine shall drop as the rain,

My speech shall distil as the dew,

As the small rain upon the tender herb,

And as the showers upon the grass.

Compare 2 Samuel 23:4; Psalms 72:6; Isaiah 5:6; the note at Isaiah 44:3.

And the snow - This is a part of the emblem or symbol designed to denote the fertilizing effect of the truth of God. The snow, as well as the rain, accomplishes important purposes in rendering the earth fertile. It constitutes a covering that contributes to the warmth and preservation of plants and vegetation in the colder latitudes, and on the hills and mountains is accumulated in the winter months to fill the streams, or produce the overflowing of the rivers in the spring and the summer. This expression should not, however, be pressed ad unguem in the interpretation, as if it contained any special spiritual signification. It is a part of the general description of that which descends from heaven to render the earth fertile.

From heaven - From the clouds.

And returneth not thither - That is, not in the form in which they descend on the earth. They return not there as rain and snow. The main idea is, they do not return without accomplishing the effect which God intends.

And bud - Put forth its increase; causes it to sprout up, or germinate. The word ‘bud’ is applied rather to the small protuberance on the ends of limbs and branches, which contains the germ of the future leaf or flower. This word צמח tsâmach means rather “to germinate,” or to cause to vegetate in general. It is applied to the putting forth of vegetation. on the earth when the showers descend.

Verse 11

So shall my word be - All the truth which God reveals is as much adapted to produce an effect on the hard and sterile hearts of men as the rain is on the earth.

It shall not return unto me void - It shall not return to me without accomplishing that which I intend.

And it shall prosper - (See the note at Isaiah 52:13). This proves:

1. That God has a design in giving his Word to people. He has as distinct an intention in his Word as he has in sending down rain upon the earth.

2. That whatever is his design in giving the gospel, it shall be accomplished. It is never spoken in vain, and never fails to produce the effect which he intends. The gospel is no more preached in vain than the rain falls in vain. And though that often falls on barren rocks, or on arid sands; on extended plains where no vegetation is produced, or in the wilderness ‘where no man is,’ and seems to our eyes in vain, yet it is not so. God has a design in each drop that falls on sands or rocks, as really as in the copious shower that falls on fertile fields. And so the gospel often falls on the hard and barren hearts of men. It is addressed to the proud, the sensual, the avaricious, and the unbelieving, and seems to be spoken in vain, and to return void unto God. But it is not so. He has some design in it, and that will be accomplished. It is proof of the fullness of his mercy. It leaves people without excuse, and justifies himself. Or when long presented - apparently long in vain - it ultimately becomes successful, and sinners are at last brought to abandon their sins, and to turn unto God. It is indeed often rejected and despised. It falls on the ears of people apparently as the rain falls on the hard rock, and there are, so to speak, large fields where the gospel is preached as barren and unfruitful of any spiritual good as the extended desert is of vegetation, and the gospel seems to be preached to almost entire communities with as little effect as is produced when the rains fall on the deserts of Arabia, or of Africa. But there will be better and happier times. Though the gospel may not now produce all the good effects which we may desire, yet it will be ultimately successful to the full wish of the widest benevolence, and the whole world shall be filled with the knowledge and the love of God.

Verse 12

For ye shall go out with joy - This language is that which is properly applicable to the exiles in Babylon, but there can be no doubt that the prophet looks also to the future happier times of the Messiah (compare the notes at Isaiah 52:7).

The mountains and the hills - Language like this is common in Isaiah, where all nature is called on to rejoice, or where inanimate objects are represented as expressing their sympathy with the joy of the people of God (see the note at Isaiah 14:8; Isaiah 35:1-2, Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 42:10-11; Isaiah 44:23). Indeed, this imagery is common in all poetry. Thus, Virgil:

Ipsi laetitia voces ad sidera jactant,

Intonsi montes: ipsae jam carmina rupes,

Ipsa sonant arhusta.

Ec. v. 62ff.

The untill’d mountains strike the echoing sky;

And rocks and towers the triumph speed abroad.


Such language occurs especially in the poetry of the Orientals. Thus, when the god Ramar was going to the desert, says Roberts, it was said to him, ‘The trees will watch for you; they will say, He is come, he is come; and the white flowers will clap their hands. The leaves as they shake will say, Come, come, and the thorny places will be changed into gardens of flowers.’

And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands - To clap the hands is expressive of joy and rejoicing (compare 2 Kings 11:12; Psalms 47:1). Thus, in Psalms 98:8, it is said:

Let the floods clap their hands;

Let the hills be joyful together.

Among the Jews the language was sometimes used to express malignant joy at the calamity of others (compare Job 27:3; Job 34:37; Lamentations 2:15; Ezekiel 25:6). Here it is an expression of the universal rejoicing which would attend the extension of the kingdom of God on the earth.

Verse 13

Instead of the thorn - (Compare the notes at Isaiah 11:6-8; Isaiah 35:1-2; Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 42:20). The word rendered ‘thorn’ (נעצוּץ na‛ătsûts) occurs only here and in Isaiah 7:19. It evidently means a thorn, hedge, or thorny-bush.

Shall come up the fir tree - (ברושׁ berôsh; see the notes at Isaiah 14:8; Isaiah 37:24; Isaiah 60:13; Zechariah 11:2). A change would be produced in the moral condition of man as great as if in the natural world the rough and useless thorn should be succeeded by the beautiful and useful cypress (compare Isaiah 60:13).

And instead of the brier - The brier is everywhere an emblem of desolation, and of an uncultivated country (see Isaiah 5:6; Isaiah 7:23-24).

The myrtle-tree - (see the notes at Isaiah 41:19). The idea here is, that under the gospel the change would be as great in the moral world as if a field all overrun with briers should at once become thick set with myrtles.

And it shall be to the Lord - The reference here is to all that had been said in the chapter. The gift of the Messiah; the universal offer of the gospel; the bestowing of pardon; the turning of the wicked unto God; and the great and salutary changes produced by the gospel, would all be a memorial of the benevolence and glory of Yahweh.

For a name - It should tend to diffuse his name; to spread abroad a knowledge of himself.

An everlasting sign - On the meaning of the word rendered ‘sign,’ see the notes at Isaiah 7:14, Here it means that it would be an eternal memorial of the mercy and goodness of Yahweh.

That shall not be cut off - The gospel with its rich and varied blessings shall erect enduring monuments in the earth, to the praise and honor of God. It will be more enduring as a memorial of him than all altars and statues, and temples erected to celebrate and perpetuate idolatry; as wide-diffused as are his works of creation, and more fruitful of blessings than anything elsewhere conferred on man.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 55". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/isaiah-55.html. 1870.
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