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In this chapter there is commenced a most glowing and beautiful description of the ‘golden age’ under the Messiah. The description is continued to the close of Isaiah 62:1-23.62.12. It is adorned with the highest ornaments of poetry; the future glory of the church is displayed under the most splendid colors, and with every variety of imagery. It is designed to set forth the glory of that time when the Gentries shall be gathered into the church, and when the whole world shall become tributary to the Messiah, and be illuminated with the light of Christian truth. The main design of the chapter is to foretell the conversion of the pagan world, and the happy and peaceful times which shall exist when that has occurred. In doing this, the highest beauties of prophetic imagery are introduced, and the powers of the inspired prophet seem to have been taxed to the utmost to convey a just view of the glory of the scene. That it refers to the time of the Messiah no one can doubt who reads it. And that it refers to events which have not yet fully occurred is, I think, equally clear, and will be made apparent in the notes. In accordance with the usual mede in Isaiah (see the Introduction, Section 7, 4), the prophet throws himself into the midst of the future scene Isaiah 60:1, and the events are described as passing in vision before his eyes. He sees the light as already shining, and the glory of Yahweh as actually arisen upon the church; he sees the Gentiles flocking to the Redeemer, and bringing their most valued and precious objects, and laying them at his feet.
The chapter may, for convenience, be regarded as consisting of three parts:
I. An invocation to the church to arise, and to enjoy and diffuse the light which had risen upon her Isaiah 60:1-23.60.2, the earth elsewhere was enveloped in deep darkness, but the light of Messiah’s reign and of truth was with her.
II. The declaration that the Gentile world would be converted to the true religion, and would participate in the blessings of the reign of the Messiah.
1. The assurance that this event would occur Isaiah 60:3.
2. The church directed to look around, and behold the multitudes that were flocking to her Isaiah 60:4.
3. Specifications of those who would come and participate in the benefits of the reign of the Messiah.
(1) The abundance of the sea would come.
(2) The wealth of the Gentiles Isaiah 60:5.
(3) The camels and dromedaries from Midian, Ephah, and all they who resided in Sheba would come with their gold and incense Isaiah 60:6.
(4) The flocks of Kedar, and the rams of Nebaioth would be offered Isaiah 60:7.
(5) The multitude would be so great as to excite astonishment: and lead to the inquiry who they were. They would come like clouds; they would fly for safety as doves do to their windows in an approaching tempest Isaiah 60:8.
(6) The distant islands - the pagan coasts, would wait for the gospel; and the commerce of the world be made tributary to the spread of truth Isaiah 60:9.
(7) The sons of strangers would be employed in defending Zion, and kings would become the servants of the churchIsaiah 60:10; Isaiah 60:10.
4. So great would be the anxiety to embrace the provisions of mercy, and so numerous the converts from the Pagan world, that the gates of Zion would never be closed day or night Isaiah 60:11.
5. The nation that refused this homage would be certainly destroyed Isaiah 60:12.
6. Then follows a beautiful poetical description of the conversion of the Pagan world, and of the fact that the most valued and valuable objects of the Gentiles would be consecrated to the church, under the image of bringing the beautiful trees of Lebanon to adorn the grounds around the temple Isaiah 60:13-23.60.14.
7. Zion would be made an eternal excellency Isaiah 60:15.
8. There would thus be furnished the fullest proof of the faithfulness of God, and of the fact that Yahweh was the Redeemer and Saviour of his people.
III. The happy state of the church in those times.
1. It would be an age when peace and justice would characterize the rulers Isaiah 60:17.
2. Violence, contention, wasting, would be known no more Isaiah 60:18.
3. There would be uninterrupted prosperity, and the constant reign of truth Isaiah 60:19-23.60.20.
4. The people would be all holy Isaiah 60:21.
5. Their numbers would be greatly augmented, as if a small one should become a strong nation Isaiah 60:22.
Arise - This is evidently addressed to the church, or to Zion regarded as the seat of the church. It is represented as having been in a state of affliction and calamity (compare the notes at Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 52:1-23.52.2). She is now called on to arise from the dust, and to impart to others the rich privileges which were conferred on her.
Shine - (אורי 'ôrı̂y). Lowth renders this, ‘Be thou enlightened.’ Margin, ‘Be enlightened, for thy light cometh.’ Noyes, ‘Enjoy light.’ Septuagint Φωτίζου φωτίζου Phōtizou phōtizou - ‘Be enlightened; be enlightened, O Jerusalem.’ Herder renders it, ‘Be light.’ Vitringa regards the expression as equivalent to this, ‘pass into a state of light. That is, enjoy light thyself, and impart it freely to others, Gesenius renders it, ‘Shine, be bright; that is, be surrounded and resplendent with light.’ The idea probably is this, ‘rise now from a state of obscurity and darkness. Enter into light; enter into times of prosperity.’ It is not so much a command to impart light to others as it is to be encompassed with light and glory. It is the language of prophecy rather than of command; a call rather to participate in the light that was shining than to impart it to others. The Septuagint and the Chaldee here add the name ‘Jerusalem,’ and regard it as addressed directly to her.
Thy light is come - On the word ‘light,’ see the notes at Isaiah 58:8, Isaiah 58:10. The light here referred to is evidently that of the gospel; and when the prophet says that that light ‘is come,’ he throws himself into future times, and sees in vision the Messiah as having already come, and as pouring the light of salvation on a darkened church and world (compare the notes at Isaiah 9:2).
And the glory of the Lord - There is refer once here, doubtless, to the Shechinah or visible splendor which usuallv accompanied the manifestations of God to his people (see the notes at Isaiah 4:5). As Yahweh manifested himself in visible glory to the Israelites during their journey to the promised land, so he would manifest himself in the times of the Messiah as the glorious protector and guide of his people. The divine character and perfections would be manifested like the sun rising over a darkened world.
Is risen upon thee - As the sun rises. The word used here (זרח zârach) is commonly applied to the rising of the sun Genesis 32:31; Exodus 22:2; 2 Samuel 23:4; Psalms 104:22. The comparison of the gospel to the sun rising upon a dark world is exceedingly beautiful, and often occurs in the Bible (compare Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78, margin.)
Upon thee - Upon thee, in contradistinction from other nations and people. The gospel shed its first beams of glory on Jerusalem.
For behold - Lo, darkness covers the earth. This is designed to turn the attention to the fact that all the rest of the world would be enveloped in deep spiritual night.
Darkness - (See the notes at Isaiah 45:7).
Shall cover the earth - Shall envelope the whole world except where it is illuminated by the gospel. It is needless to say that this was the fact when the Messiah came, and that it is still extensively true also.
And gross darkness - Lowth renders this, ‘A thick vapor.’ Herder. ‘Deep obscurity.’ Septuagint, Γνόφος Gnophos - Cloud, shade, tempest. The Hebrew word (ערפל ‛ărâpel) usually denotes thick cloud, cloudy darkness, gloom; and is often applied to the thick clouds of a tempest Exodus 20:18; Deuteronomy 4:11; Psalms 18:10. It is a word of intenser meaning than that which is rendered ‘darkness’ (השׁך chôshek) and the idea here is, that the nations would be enveloped in a cloud of ignorance and sin so dense and obscure that no light could penetrate it - a description strikingly applicable to the whole pagan world.
But the Lord shall arise upon thee - Like the sun. That is, Yahweh would manifest his perfections to them in a glorious manner.
Shall be seen upon thee - There is more emphatic meaning in the original here than is conveyed in our translation. The Hebrew word (יראה yērâ'eh) does not mean merely that that glory would be visible, but that it would be conspicuous. It would be so bright and luminous that it would be seen afar - like a cloud or column of glory standing over Jerusalem that would be conspicuous to far distant people.
And the Gentiles shall come - So splendid shall be that glory, that it will attract the distant nations, and they shall come and participate in the blessings of the gospel. This contains the main statement which it is the design of this chapter to illustrate. The prophet had frequently made this statement before in general terms (compare Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 49:22; Isaiah 54:3); but he here goes into a more particular account, and more fully describes the blessings which would result from this accession to the true church.
And kings - (Compare Isaiah 49:7, note; Isaiah 49:23, note; Isaiah 52:15, note).
To the brightness of thy rising - This does not mean that the church was to arise with the splendor of the sun; but ‘thy rising’ means the rising upon her - called her rising, because it would shed its beams on her. It is correctly rendered by Lowth - ‘The brightness of thy sunrising;’ by Noyes and Herder. ‘The brightness that riseth upon thee.’
Lift up thine eyes - Jerusalem is here addressed as a female with eyes cast down from grief. She is directed to lift them up, and to see the great multitudes that were flocking to her. Wherever she could turn her eyes, she would behold them hastening to come to her. In this verse and the following verses, the prophet goes into a particular statement of what he referred to in general terms in Isaiah 60:3. The first thing which be specifies is, that the dispersed sons and daughters of the Jewish people would be gathered back.
Thy sons shall come from far - They who have been driven into exile into distant lands shall again return. This is in accordance with the predictions so often made in Isaiah, that the scattered sons of the Jewish people would be again collected (see the notes at Isaiah 49:17-23.49.18.)
And thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side - The Septuagint renders this, ‘And thy daughters shall be borne upon the shoulders’ (ἐπ ̓ ὤμων ἀρθήσονται ep' ōmōn arthēsontai). Lowth also says, that one manuscript reads it ‘upon shoulders,’ and another has both ‘shoulder’ and ‘side.’ The translation of the Septuagint, and these different readings of the manuscripts have probably been caused by the supposed improbability of the fact, that children were nursed or carried on the side (compare Isaiah 49:22). But Sir John Chardin says that it is the general custom in the East to carry the children astride upon the hip, with the arms around the body. The word, however, which is rendered ‘nursed’ in our translation (תאמנה tē'âmanâh from אמן 'âman), means, properly, “to stay, to sustain, support; to bear or carry a child” Numbers 11:12; hence, “to be faithful, firm.” It is not certain that it is in any instance used in the sense of nursing; but it more probably means here, they shall be borne. It implies that the church would evince deep solicitude for the education and welfare of the young - as a mother does for her children; and that it would be one of the blessings of those times that that solicitude should be felt and manifested.
Then shalt thou see - Lowth renders this, ‘Then shalt thou fear and overflow with joy;’ and supposes that it refers to the agitation and anxiety of mind attending the scene, and to the joy consequent on the numerous conversions. His authority for this change is, that forty manuscripts (two of them ancient) have תיראי, ‘thou shalt fear,’ instead of תראי tı̂re'ı̂y, ‘thou shalt see.’ But though the change is of a single letter, there is not sufficient authority to make it, nor does the sense require it. The Vulgate, Septuagint, Chaldee, Syiac, Arabic, and Castellio, all render it in accordance with the present reading of the Hebrew text. The idea is, that Jerusalem would look with deep interest on the great multitude that would be converted to her, and that the effect would be to cause the heart to overflow with joy.
And flow together - This translation, it is believed, by no means conveys the true sense of the passage. Indeed, it is difficult to make sense of the translation. It is true that the Hebrew word נהר nâhar, means “to flow, to flow together”; whence the word נהר nâhâr, ‘river.’ But it may be used in the sense of flowing, or overflowing with joy; or it may seem to shine, to be bright, the same as נוּר nûr (Gesenius); and thence to be cheered, to rejoice, as when the countenance is bright and cheerful (compare Job 3:4). Taylor (Hebrew Concordance) renders it, ‘And be enlightened, or have the light flow upon thee.’ The true idea is, doubtless, that of rejoicing; denoting the happiness which will always exist in the church when many are seen to come and give themselves to God.
And thine heart shall fear - The heart shall be ruffled, agitated, deeply excited by the view of the numbers that are converted, and by the evidence thus furnished of the divine favor and presence. The effect of numerous simultaneous conversions in a revival of religion, is always to produce awe and reverence. There is a conviction that God is near, and that this is his work; and a deep veneration produced by the demonstrations of his power which does not exist in other circumstances. This effect is described also by Jeremiah, Jeremiah 33:9 : ‘And they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I shall procure unto her’ (Jerusalem).
And be enlarged - Shall be swelled or filled with joy.
Because the abundance of the sea - Margin, ‘Noise of the sea shall be turned unto thee.’ Lowth and Noyes render it, ‘The riches of the sea.’ So the Septuagint, Πλοῦτος θαλάσσης Ploutos thalassēs. The Chaldee renders it, ‘There shall be transferred to thee the wealth of the west’ (מערבא עיתר ‛ôtar ma‛arebâ'). The Hebrew word המון hămôn properly denotes a noise or sound; as of rain, of the raging of the ocean, or of a multitude of people. Then it denotes a multitude or crowd of people itself Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 33:3; Daniel 10:6; a host or army Judges 4:7; Daniel 11:11-27.11.13; a multitude of waters Jeremiah 10:13; Jeremiah 51:16. It then denotes a multitude of possessions; a vast amount of wealth Psalms 37:16; Ecclesiastes 5:9. Here it may refer either to the multitude of the people that dwelt on the islands of the sea, or to their wealth that would be brought and devoted to Zion. As various kinds of property are immediately specified, it seems most natural to refer it to that; and then the idea is, that the wealth possessed by lands beyond the sea, or surrounded by the sea, would be devoted to the church of God. It will be remembered, that nearly all the wealth that was imported by Solomon and others to Judea came from beyond sea, and that it was natural to speak of such places as abounding in riches. The idea is, that the wealth of all those distant lands would be consecrated to the church - an idea denoting its great prosperity and glory when all lands should come under the influence of the truth.
Shall be converted - Hebrew, ‘Shall be turned.’ Instead of being employed in idolatry and sin; in purposes of pleasure and mere magnificence, it shall be turned to a different purpose.
The forces of the Gentiles - Margin, ‘wealth.’ The margin has undoubtedly the correct interpretation. The word used here (חיל chayil, construct חיל chēyil), usually, indeed, denotes strength, might, valor; an army, forces, host; but it also means riches, wealth Genesis 24:29; Deuteronomy 8:17-5.8.18; Ruth 4:11; Job 20:15. The Septuagint renders the passage, ‘The riches of the sea, and of the nations, and of the people will come over to thee.’ The sense is, that the wealth of the pagan world would be consecrated to the service of the church. To some extent, this has been the case, No small part of the great wealth of the Roman empire was I devoted to the service of the Christian church; and the wealth of what was then Pagan Europe, and of what was then Pagan and unknown America, has been, to a considerable extent, devoted to the Redeemer. The time will come when the wealth of India, of China, of Africa, and of the entire world, shall be devoted to the service of God, in a manner far more decided than has yet occurred in the most favored Christian lands.
The multitude of camels - Lowth renders this, ‘An inundation of camels.’ The Hebrew word properly denotes an inundation or overflowing of waters, but it is not improperly applied to a numerous caravan or company of animals. The camel is a well-known useful animal that constitutes the principal beast of burden in Arabia, and that may, indeed, be said to constitute its wealth. It is frequently spoken of as ‘the ship of the desert.’ The description here is strictly applicable to Arabia; and, undoubtedly, the prophet meant to say, that that country would be blessed with the true religion, and that her merchandise and wealth would become tributary to the church of God.
Shall cover thee - Shall come in such multitudes as to fill thee. and to be spread out all over thee. Thus we speak of a land being covered with flocks and herds.
The dromedaries - The dromedary is a species of camel that is found principally in Arabia, with one bunch or protuberance on its back, in distinction from the Bactrian camel, which has two bunches (Webster). ‘It is found,’ says Dr. Shaw, ‘in Barbary, though much more rarely there than in the Levant. It is chiefly remarkable for its prodigious swiftness; the Arabs affirming that it will run over as much ground in one day as one of their best horses will perform in eight or ten. The Shiekh who conducted us to Mount Sinai rode upon a camel of this kind, and would frequently divert us with an instance of its great abilities. For he would depart from our caravan, reconnoitre another just in view, and return to us again in less than a quarter of an hour. It differeth from the common camel in being of a finer and rounder shape, and in having on its back a lesser bunch or protuberance.’ (Shaw’s Travels, p. 240.) Hence, in Jeremiah 2:23, the prophet speaks of the ‘swift dromedary.’ The idea here is, that these fleet animals, so valuable to the inhabitants of Arabia, would come bringing their merchandise for the service of the church of God; that is, the wealth of Midian and Ephah would be devoted to him.
Midian - Midian was the fourth son of Abraham and Keturah Genesis 25:2, and was the father of the Midianites. The Midianites are frequently mentioned in the Scriptures (Genesis 37:28-1.37.36; Numbers 25:17; Numbers 31:2; Judges 6:7-7.6.16; Judges 7:23, Judges 7:25, et al.) As early as the time of Jacob they were employed in traffic, and were associated with the Ishmaelites in this business, for it was to a company of these people that Joseph was sold by his brethren Genesis 37:28. ‘The original and appropriate district of the Midianites seems to have been on the east side of the Elanitic branch of the Red Sea, where the Arabian geographers place the city of Madian. But they appear to have spread themselves northward, probably along the desert coast of Mount Seir, to the vicinity of the Moabites; and on the other side, also, they covered a territory extending to the neighborhood of Mount Sinai’ (Robinson’s Calmet). Generally, the names Midianites and Ishmaelites seem to have been nearly synonymous.
Ephah - Ephah was the oldest son of Midian Genesis 25:4, and dwelt in Arabia Petraea, and gave name to the city of Ephah, called here by the Septuagint, Γαιφά Gaipha (Goepha). This city, and the small extent of country around it, constituted a part of Midian on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, to which the territories of Midian extended. It abounded in dromedaries and camels Judges 6:6.
All they from Sheba shall come - Sheba is celebrated in the Scriptures chiefly as the place from where the Queen of that country came to visit Solomon 1Ki 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1. That it abounded in wealth, may be inferred from the train which accompanied her, and from the presents with which she came to Solomon. ‘And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and much fine gold, and precious stones’ 1 Kings 10:2. Whether it was the same country as Seba has been a matter of uncertainty (compare the notes at Isaiah 43:3). It is elsewhere Psalms 72:10 mentioned as a place from where presents should be brought to Solomon:
The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents;
The kings of Sheba and Seha shall offer gifts.
It is usually mentioned as a place in which gold and incense abounded. ‘To him shall be given the gold of Sheba Psalms 72:15; ‘To what purpose cometh there to me incense from Sheba’ Jeremiah 6:20; ‘The merchants of Sheba were thy merchants’ Ezekiel 27:22. According to Bruce, it was situated in Abyssinia in Ethiopa, and this has been the common opinion. It was south of Egypt, and the contact between Sheba and Jerusalem was not difficult; and probably a constant traffic was maintained between the two countries. In the time of the Mamclukes, before the conquest of Egypt and Arabia by Selim, a caravan constantly set out from Abyssinia for Jerusalem (compare the notes at Isaiah 45:14).
They shall bring gold and incense - That this country abounded in incense, see the passages of Scripture referred to above. On the meaning of the wood ‘incense,’ see the notes at Isaiah 1:13. The idea is, that they would bring the most valuable productions of their country and devote them to God - perhaps designed to show that the wealth of Africa should yet be consecrated to the cause of the true religion.
And they shall show forth - These distant lands shall join in the worship of Yahweh.
All the flocks of Kedar - On the word ‘Kedar,’ see the notes at Isaiah 21:16. The Kedarenians were a wandering tribe that frequently changed their residence, though it is probable they usually dwelt in the south part of Arabia Deserta, or the north of Arabia Petraea. They are mentioned as dwelling in beautiful tents Song of Solomon 1:5 : ‘I am black, but comely as the tents of Kedar,’ see Psalms 120:5; compare Isaiah 21:16-23.21.17; Isaiah 42:11. The language here also means that that which constituted their principal wealth would come and enrich Jerusalem, or the church of God.
The rams of Nebaioth - Nebaioth was also a son of Ishmael Genesis 25:13; 1 Chronicles 1:29, and was the father of the Nabatheans. They were a people of Arabia Petraea, and lived principally by plunder, trade, and the keeping of flocks. The country of Nabathea extended, it is supposed, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea, and embraced Petra, the capital of Arabia Deserts, and also Medaba. It is not possible, however, to fix the exact boundaries of the various tribes of Arabians. The general idea is, that their most valuable possessions would be devoted to God.
Shall minister unto thee - That is, by coming up as an acceptable sacrifice on the altar.
They shall come up with acceptance on mine altar - It is by no means necessary to understand this literally. The Jews were accustomed to express their ideas of worship by sacrifices, and the prophet naturally employed that language. The sense is, that the conversion of the wandering tribes of Arabia would be as certain and as signal as if the numerous flocks of Kedar and Nebaioth should be devoted to Yahweh in sacrifice. All that was valuable there would be employed in his service; the people would come with their most precious offerings and consecrate them to God. It is evident that this remains to be fulfilled. Paul, indeed, preached in Arabia Galatians 1:17; and, doubtless, there were some conversions to Christianity there. But, as a people, they never have been converted to the true God; and in all ages they have been the victims of either idolatry or superstition. The time will come, however, when Arabia, so interesting as settled by the descendants of Abraham; so interesting in the bold, active, and energetic character of its tribes; so interesting as using a language that is one of the most refined and far-spoken of the earth; and so interesting as being, in some parts at least, among the most fertile and beautiful of the earth, shall be converted to God. Probably the most balmy, pure, and pleasant climate of the world is the southern part of Arabia Felix - the country of Yemen; and when the Arabs shall bring their energy of character to the service of the true God, and the gospel shall be preached in their language to all their tribes, no one can predict the effect which this shall have on the entire conversion of the world.
And I will glorify - I will honor my glorious house, that is, the temple. Lowth, ‘And my beauteous house I will yet beautify.’ The idea is, that he would adorn the temple by bringing the distant nations, with their most valuable possessions, to worship there. That is, the true religion would yet appear glorious when the nation should acknowledge it and submit to its requirements.
Who are these that fly as a cloud? - In multitudes so numerous, that they appear as a dense cloud. The prophet, in vision, sees a vast multitude coming to Jerusalem, or hastening to embrace the true religion - so numerous as to excite surprise, and to lead to the question, Who can they be? (compare Isaiah 49:21.) It is not uncommon to compare a multitude of persons to a cloud. Thus Livy (xxxv. 49), Rex contra peditum equitumque nubes jactat. Thus in Hebrews 12:1, the number of witnesses who are said to encompass Christians is compared to a cloud (νέφος μαρτύρων nephos marturōn). So Virgil (Geor. iv. 60) compares a swarm of bees to a cloud - obscuramque trahi vento mirabere nubem. The Chaldee understands this of swift clouds, and takes the point of the comparison to be the velocity with which they would come. ‘Who are these that come publicly (בגלי bigelay) as swift clouds?’ But the comparison relates probably to the number, rather than to the swiftness with which they would come. Converts would be multiplied in such numbers, that they would seem to be like dense clouds making their way to Zion. This strikingly expresses the fact of the numerous conversions among the Gentiles, and is a most beautiful description of a revival of religion.
And as the doves to their windows - Lowth renders this, ‘Like doves upon the wing’ - supposing with Houbigant, that there is a slight error in the Hebrew text. The Septuagint renders it, Σὺν νοσσοῖς Sun nossois - ‘With their young.’ But the true idea is contained in the common version. Doves fly to their houses, or to their windows, in an approaching storm. In like manner converts would hasten to Zion from the pagan world. They would come in great numbers, and would feel that if there they would be safe. Morier, in his “Second Journey,” p. 140, has well illustrated this passage - ‘In the environs of the city’ (Ispahan), says he, ‘to the westward, near Zainderood, are many pigeon-houses, erected at a distance from habitations, for the purpose of collecting pigeon’s dung for manure; They are large, round towers, rather broader at the bottom than at the top, crowned by conical spiracles, through which the pigeons descend. Their interior resembles a honey-comb, pierced with a thousand holes, each of which forms a snug retreat for a nest. The extraordinary flights of pigeons which I have seen upon one of these buildings affords, perhaps, a good illustration of Isaiah 60:8. Their great numbers, and the compactness of their mass, literally looked like a cloud at a distance, and obscured the sun in their passage.’ The prediction here has already, in part at least, been fulfilled. The rapid conversions in file time of the apostles accorded with this prediction. In numerous revivals of religion, also, has there been a fulfillment of it; and we are yet to anticipate a far more striking and glorious completion of it in the conversion of the pagan world to the Christian faith.
Surely the isles - On the meaning of the word ‘isles’ in Isaiah, see the notes at Isaiah 41:1.
Shall wait for me - (See the notes at Isaiah 41:4).
And the ships of Tarshish - (See the notes at Isaiah 2:16). The main idea here is clear. These ships were the principal vessels known to the Hebrews as employed in foreign commerce, and the prophet employs the name to denote ships in general that sailed to distant ports. They will be employed in importing the most valuable productions of distant climes to Zion, and in collecting those who should be converted to God; that is, the commerce of the world would be made tributary to religion, and the ships that sail to distant lands would be employed in advancing the cause of salvation.
First - Among the first, in the first rank; they shall be among the most active and useful agents in diffusing the knowledge of the truth. Twenty-five manuscripts and the Syriac read it, ‘As at the first.’ Jarchi and Kimchi suppose it means, as at the first; that is, as in the time of Solomon. But the idea is, that the ships which trade to the most distant regions will be among the principal instrumentalities employed in the conversion of the pagan world to Christianity. To some extent this has already been done. The servants of God have been borne already to almost every pagan land; and the time may come when it shall be deemed an essential object of those engaged in foreign commerce to diffuse a knowledge of civilization, and of the arts of life; of science, and of pure religion.
To bring thy sons from far - Those who shall be converted from distant lands - as if they were to come personally and worship at Jerusalem (see the notes at Isaiah 49:22).
Unto the name of the Lord thy God - Lowth renders this, ‘Because of the name.’ So the Septuagint, Διὰ τὸ ὄνομα dia to onoma, etc. The idea is, that all this wealth would be devoted to Yahweh, and employed in his service.
Because he hath glorified thee - He has honored thee by imparting to thee the true religion, and making me the means of diffusing it around the world.
And the sons of strangers - They who have been devoted to a foreign and a false religion shall become devoted to the true religion, and engage in the service of the true God.
Shall build up thy walls - Jerusalem is represented as a ruined city. Her walls had been thrown down, and were lying prostrate. In restoring her to her former magnificence, strangers and foreigners would lend their cheerful aid. The idea is, that they would become tributary to the church, and esteem it a privilege to be engaged in any service, however laborious, that would promote its best interests.
And their kings - (See the notes at Isaiah 49:23).
For in my wrath I smote thee - Referring to the calamities which he had, from time to time, brought on Jerusalem (see Isaiah 57:17).
But in my favor - (See the notes at Isaiah 54:8).
Therefore thy gates shall be open continually - The main idea here is, probably, that the accession from the pagan world, and the consequent influx of converts, would be so great, that there would be a necessity that the gates should never be closed. It is possible, also, that the prophet meant to describe that time as a period of security and peace. The gates of cities were closed in time of war, and at night, to guard them from danger. But in those times, such would be the prevalence of peace, and such would be the purposes for which the multitude of strangers would come from all parts of the world, that the gates might be left open, and the city unguarded at all times. The sense is -
1. That there will be immense multitudes that shall enter the true church from the pagan world.
2. That the gospel will be constantly and unceasingly offered to people. The doors of the church shall at no time be closed. By day and by night, at all seasons and in all places, people may come and obtain salvation. None shall be excluded because the gates shall be closed upon them; none because they are strangers and have come from distant lands; none because there will be no room; none because the conflux shall be so great that the provisions of mercy will be exhausted.
3. It will be a time of safety when the world shall be brought under the influence and the dominion of the Prince of Peace. There will be no need of closing the gates of cities, or of building walls around them. There will be no need to guard against hostile armies or the intrusions of hordes of banditti. There will be no need of guarding against the fraud, oppressions, and dishonest arts of other people. If the principles of the true religion everywhere prevailed, there would be no need of wails to cities, or gates, or bars; no need of ramparts, of ships of war, and of fortifications; no need of bolts and locks and iron chests to guard our property. No true Christian needs to guard himself or his property against another true Christian. No lock, no bolt, no wall, no gate, no iron safe has been made in order to guard against a man who is the sincere friend of the Redeemer. They are made to guard against wicked people; and when universal truth and righteousness prevail, they may be suffered to rust and rot for want of use. Should the principles of Christianity be everywhere diffused, the walls of all cities might be suffered to fall down; their gates to stand open until they should decay; ships of war to lie in the dock until they should sink to the bottom, forts and fleets to be dismantled; and the whole business of making locks and shackles, and of building prisons and manufacturing instruments of war, would come to an end.
That men may bring unto thee - So many shall be coming with the wealth of the Gentiles, that the gates shall be continually open.
The forces of the Gentiles - The wealth of the pagan (see the notes at Isaiah 60:5).
And that their kings may be brought - Lowth renders this, ‘That their kings may come pompously attended.’ Noyes, ‘May come with their retinues.’ The Chaldee renders it, ‘And their kings be brought bound,’ or in chains. But the Hebrew word used here (נהוּגים nehûgı̂ym) denotes simply that they would be led or conducted in any way; and the idea is, that they would be induced, by the force of truth, to come and devote themselves to the service of God, They might be expected, indeed, to come, as Lowth says, pompously attended, but this idea is not in t the Hebrew text.
For the nation and kingdom - Perhaps this is given as a reason for What is said in the previous verse - that kings and their subjects should come to Zion and embrace the true religion, because if it were not done they would perish. This is certainly one reason why sinners hasten to embrace the Saviour; and when this truth becomes deeply impressed on a community, it is one of the means of a revival of religion. An apprehension of danger; a certain anticipation of ruin if the gospel is not embraced; a conviction that ‘there is salvation in no other,’ is often a means of leading people to seek the Saviour.
That will not serve thee - That will not become the servant of the church of God: that is, that will not promote its interests, obey its laws, and maintain the true religion.
Shall perish - This is applied particularly here to a ‘nation’ and a ‘kingdom.’ The idea is, that no nation can flourish that does not obey the law of God, or where the worship of the true God is not maintained. History is full of affecting illustrations of this. The ancient republics and kingdoms fell because they had not the true religion. The kingdoms of Babylon, Assyria, Macedonia, and Egypt; the Roman empire, and all the ancient monarchies and republics, soon fell to ruin because they had not the salutary restraints of the true religion, and lacked the protection of the true God. France east off the government of God in the Revolution, and was drenched in blood. It is a maxim of universal truth, that the nation which does not admit the influence of the laws and the government of God must be destroyed. No empire is strong enough to wage successful war with the great Yahweh; and sooner or later, notwithstanding all that human policy can do, corruption, sensuality, luxury, pride, and far-spreading vice, will expose a nation to his displeasure, and bring down the heavy arm of his vengeance.
There is no truth of more vital interest to this nation (America) than this; no declaration in any ancient writing expressive of the course of events in this world, that hangs with note portentous interest over this republic, than that ‘the nation that will not serve god shall perish.’ As a nation, we have nothing else to depend on but our pubic virtue, our intelligence, our respect for the laws of heaven. Our defense is not to be in standing armies - but in God, as our living and everwatchful protector and friend. Our hope is not in a vast navy, in strong ramparts, in frowning battlements, but in the favor of the Most High. No martial array, no strong fortresses, no line-of-battle-ships, can save a nation that has cast off the government of God, and that is distinguished for the violation of treaties and for oppression, bribery, and corruption. The nation that violates the Sabbath; that tramples on the rights of unoffending men and women; that disregards the most solemn compacts; and that voluntarily opens upon itself the floodgates of infidelity and vice, must expect to meet with the displeasure of the Almighty. And it is as true of an individual as it is of a nation. Of any human or angelic being; of any association or combination of human beings or angels that does not obey God, it is true that they shall be utterly destroyed.
The glory of Lebanon - The ‘glory of Lebanon,’ here means the trees that grew on Lebanon (see the notes at Isaiah 35:2).
Shall come unto thee - That is, thy beauty and glory will be as great as if those valuable trees were brought and planted around the temple.
The fir-tree - (See the notes at Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:13).
The box - (See also the notes at Isaiah 41:19).
To beautify the place of my sanctuary - The site of the temple, as if they were planted around it, and as if the magnificence of Lebanon was transferred there at once. The idea is, that the most valuable and glorious objects in distant nations would be consecrated to the service of the true God.
And I will make the place of my feet glorious - Lowth renders this, ‘I will glorify the place whereon I rest my feet;’ and he supposes thai the ark is meant as the place on which God rested his feet as a footstool. In support of this, he appeals to Psalms 99:5, ‘Worship at his footstool;’ and 1 Chronicles 28:2. So Rosenmuller understands it, and appeals further to Psalms 132:7. Doubtless the main idea is, that the temple was regarded as the sacred dwelling-place of God - and that he means to say, that every place in his temple, even where, to keep up the figure, he rested his feet when he sat on the throne, would be filled with magnificence and glory.
The sons of them that afflicted thee - In the previous verses the prophet had said that strangers and foreigners would become tributary to the true religion. Here, to give variety and interest to the description, he says, that even the descendants of those who had oppressed them would become tributary to them, and acknowledge them as favored by Yahweh.
Shall come bending unto thee - Shall come to time in a posture of humiliation and respect, In regard to the fulfillment of this, we may observe:
1. That there was a partial fulfillment of it in the conquest of Babylon. The sons, the descendants of those who had destroyed Jerusalem, and led the Jews into captivity, were constrained to acknowledge them, and, under Cyrus, to reconduct them to the land of their fathers (see the notes at Isaiah 14:1-23.14.2).
2. It has often occurred, in times of persecution, that the immediate descendants of the persecutors, and that too by means of the persecution, became converted to the true religion, and acknowledged the God of those whom they bad persecuted to be the true God.
3. It often occurs in times when there is no open and public persecution. Many of those now in the church are the children or descendants of those who had been the enemies of the gospel. They themselves did all that could be done, by their lives and examples, to train up their children in opposition to it. But the sovereign mercy of God interposed, and from such he selected heralds of salvation and preachers of righteousness to a lost world, or such as should become shining lights in the more obscure walks of the Christian life.
And all they that despised thee - There shall yet be a universal acknowledgment of the true religion even in those nations that have spurned the gospel. This does not mean that all who have ever despised the true religion shall be converted and saved, but that there shall be a universal acknowledgement that it is of God, and that the church is under his care. See an explanation of this sentiment in the notes at Isaiah 45:23.
At the soles of thy feet - In a posture of the utmost reverence and submission (see Revelation 3:9; compare the notes at Isaiah 49:23).
And they shall call thee - They shall honor thee as the favored of the Lord; as the abode of the true God (see Isaiah 2:3).
The Zion ... - The Zion, or the royal court where the holy God that is worshipped in Israel dwells.
Whereas thou hast been forsaken - Hebrew, ‘Instead of (תחת tachath) thy being forsaken,’ that is, thy subsequent prosperity shall come in the place of thy being formerly forsaken. The forsaking here refers to the various calamities, persecutions, and trials, which she had been called to endure.
So that no man went through thee - When the country was desolate and abandoned, so that no caravan passed from one part of it to another, or made it a thoroughfare in going to other lands (compare Lamentations 1:4; see the notes at Isaiah 34:10).
I will make thee an eternal excellency - Lowth, ‘An everlasting boast.’ Noyes, ‘Glory.’ I will make you forever honored or exalted, so that you shall no more be desolate and abased.
A joy of many generations - A subject of joy from generation to generation; that is, one age after another.
Thou shalt suck the milk of the Gentiles - This expression means, ‘Whatever is valuable and rich which they possess shall contribute to your welfare.’ The idea is the same substantially which occurs in the previous parts of the chapter, that the riches of the pagan world would become tributary to the advancement of the true religion.
And thou shall suck the breast of kings - The Chaldee renders this, ‘And thou shalt be satisfied with the riches of the people, and shalt delight thyself with the spoil of kings.’ The phrase to suck ‘the breast of kings is unusual; but the sense is simple and plain, that kings and their wealth should be made to contribute to sustain the church. See the sentiment explained in the notes at Isaiah 49:23.
And thou shalt know - By the protection which shall be extended to thee, and by the accession which shall be made to thee, thou shalt have full proof that Yahweh is thy protector and friend. The conversion of the pagan world shall demonstrate that Yahweh is the friend of his church and people.
For brass I will bring gold - This commences the description of the happy times when the Gentiles should be led to embrace the true religion, and when the wealth of the world would be consecrated to the service of the true God. The idea is, that all things would be changed for the better. The golden age should come; and a change from the calamities to which reference had been made by the prophet, would take place as great as if, in all purposes of life, gold should be used where brass is commonly used; and silver where iron is commonly used; and brass where wood is used; and iron where stones are used. Calvin supposes, not improbably, that allusion is here made to the temple, and that, in describing the future glory of the church, the prophet says that the change would be as glorious as if, in all places where brass and iron and wood and stone had been used, gold and silver and brass and iron should be respectively used in their places. The Chaldee renders this, ‘Instead of the brass which they took away from thee, O Jerusalem, I will bring gold; and instead of the iron I will bring silver; and instead of the wood, brass; and instead of the stones, iron.’ Jarchi, Kimchi, and Grotius, accord with this interpretation. But it is probably designed as a poetical description of the glory of the future age, and of the great changes which would take place in human society under the influence of the gospel. No one can doubt that the gospel produces these changes; and that the changes of society caused by the gospel are as beautiful and striking as though gold and silver should be substituted for brass and iron, and brass and iron for wood and stone. Such changes shall yet take place everywhere on the earth; and the world shall ye be beautified, enriched, and adorned by the prevalence of the true religion.
I will also make thy officers peace - Thy officers shall be appointed to promote peace and shall secure it. The sense is, that wars would be ended, and that universal concord and harmony would prevail in the church under the guidance of those appointed to administer to its affairs (compare Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:6). The word ‘officers,’ here denotes those who should be appointed to superintend the affairs of the church (from פקד pâqad), to visit, review, superintend, oversee), and refers here to all who should be appointed to rule in the church. The word itself may be applicable either to civil magistrates or to the ministers of religion. The Septuagint renders it, Ἄρχοντα Archontas - ‘Rulers,’ and they translate the passage, ‘I will give thy rulers in peace’ ἐν εἰρήνη en eirēnē).
And thine exactors - They who should exact, or collect tribute or taxes. The word from which the noun used here is derived (נגשׂ nâgas'), means “to urge, impel, drive” - hence the noun ‘taskmaster’ - ἐργοδιώκτης ergodiōktēs (Exodus 3:7; Job 3:18); then to urge a debtor, to exact a debt; then to rule or have dominion; to appoint and exact taxes, etc. Here it refers to magistrates, and it means that they would be mild and equal in their exactions.
Righteousness - They shall not lay unequal or oppressive burdens; they shall not oppress in the collection of taxes. The idea is, that righteousness would prevail in every department of the church and the state.
Violence shall no more be heard in thy land - This is a most beautiful description of the peace and prosperity which would prevail in the times of the Messiah. If the gospel, in its purity, should prevail on earth, there would be no more scenes of violence and war. The battle-shout would be heard no more; the cry of violence, the clangor of arms would resound no more. The pure gospel of the Redeemer has never originated one war; never produced one scene of bloodshed; never once prompted to violence and strife. There has been no war in any age or in any land which the principles of the gospel, if acted on by both the contending nations, would not have prevented; there have been no scenes of bloodshed which would not have been avoided if that had been suffered to control the hearts of people. And no one who believes the Bible to be a revelation from God, can doubt that the time will come when the mad passions of kings and nations shall be subdued, and when wars shall cease to be known except in the melancholy and disgraceful records of past events (compare the notes at Isaiah 2:4).
Wasting - The waste of life and property; the burning of cities, towns, and villages; and the desolution which spreads over farms and plantations on the march of a victorious enemy.
Nor destruction - Hebrew, שׁבר sheber - ‘Breaking.’ The breaking or treading down caused by the march of a triumphant army.
In thy borders - Within thy bounds or limits. Thy whole country shall be peace and prosperity; that is, wherever the gospel shall spread there shall be security and peace.
But thou shalt call thy walls Salvation - Thou shalt live securely within thy walls, and shalt speak of them as furnishing protection or salvation. The time will come when the church shall have no reason to apprehend danger from abroad, and when all shall be peace within.
And thy gates Praise - Because, says Grotius, those who are appointed to watch at their gates shall announce the approach of no enemy, but shall, with the highest security, celebrate the praises of God. Praise would be celebrated in all the places of public concourse, and perfect protection would be ascribed to all her walls; that is, in the church there would be entire security, and everywhere the praises of God would be celebrated.
The sun shall be no more - A similar expression denoting the great prosperity and happiness of the church, occurs in Isaiah 30:26 (see the note at that place). The language here is exceedingly beautiful, and the idea is plain. It is designed to foretell the great glory which would exist in the church under the Messiah; a glory compared with which all that is furnished by the sun, moon, and stars would be as nothing. Expressions singular to this, and probably derived from this, are used by John in describing the lot of heaven. ‘And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof’ Revelation 21:23. ‘And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light’ Revelation 22:5. The idea is, the light and beauty of truth would be so great; the divine perfections shine forth so illustriously under the gospel, that the eye would be attracted to that light as superior to all the natural splendor of the sun and moon. All the wonders and beauties of the natural world would be lost in the superior brightness that would shine in the moral world.
Neither for brightness - In order to give light; or, with her brightness she shall not shine on the night.
Shall the moon give light unto thee - The beauty of the moon shall be lost in the superior effulgence of the rays of truth.
But the Lord shall be unto thee - He will furnish a revelation that will disclose far more of his perfections and his glory, and that will be far more valuable to thee as a light and guide, than all the splendor of the heavenly bodies.
And thy God thy glory - The honor of the church shall be that it has the true God for its protector. Its joys shall be found, not in the objects of nature - the beauty of created things - but in the glory of the divine perfections, and in the laws and plans of the Redeemer. His name, his attributes, his laws, his protecting care, constitute her main glory. It is an honor to the church to have such a God and Redeemer; an honor to share his favor, and to be under his everwatchful eye. The glory of the church is not her wealth, her numbers, her influence, nor the rank and talent of her ministers and members; it is the character of her sovereign Lord, and in his perfections it is right that she should exult and rejoice.
Thy sun shall no more go down - There shall be no total and long night of calamity, error, and sin. This is designed to describe the flourishing and glorious state of the church. It, of course, does not mean that there should be no times of calamity, no period of ignorance, no scenes of persecution; but it means that there should not be total night. Truth should reign on the earth, and there never would be a time when the light of salvation would be extinct. There never would be a time like that when Jerusalem was wholly destroyed, and a long total night came over the land. There never would be a time when the Sun of righteousness would not shine, or when the world would be wholly deprived of the illumination of his beams. The church would be perpetual. It would live through all changes, and survive all revolutions, and to the end of time the light of salvation would shine upon a darkened world. Since the Messiah came the light of revelation has never been wholly withdrawn from the world, nor has there been a period in which total and absolute night has come over all the church of God. But the prophet, probably, referred to far more glorious times than have yet occurred. The period is coming when the light of salvation will shine upon the earth with unclouded and universal splendor, as if the sun having ascended to the meridian should stand there in a blaze of glory age after age; when there shall be no alternation of day and night when the light shall not be obscured by clouds; and when there shall be no eclipse of his glory.
Neither shall thy moon - This language is poetic, and means that there would be no such obscurity in the church as there would be in the world should the sun and moon be withdrawn. Light and beauty unobscured would fill the whole heavens, and the darkness of night would be henceforward unknown.
Withdraw itself - Hebrew, יאסף yē'âsēp - ‘Be collected,’ that is, shall not be withdrawn, or shall not wane. The Septuagint, Οὐκ ἐκλείψει Ouk ekleipsei - ‘Shall not be eclipsed,’ or shall not fail.
The days of thy mourning - (See the notes at Isaiah 25:8). The description here, therefore, is one of great glory and happiness in the church. That period will yet arrive; and no friend of God and of the happiness of man can think of that time without praying most sincerely that it may soon come, when the Sun of righteousness, in the fullness of his glory, shall ascend to the meridian, and stand there without one obscuring cloud, and pour the splendor of the noontide beams all over a darkened world. Some of the ideas in this chapter, descriptive of the glorious times of the gospel, have been beautifully versified by Pope in his Messiah:
Rise, crown’d with light, imperial Salem, rise!
Exalt thy tow’ry head, and lift thy eyes!
See a long race thy spacious courts adorn;
See future sons and daughters yet unborn,
In crowding ranks on every side arise,
Demanding life, impatient for the skies!
See barbarous nations at thy gates attend,
Walk in thy light, and in thy temple bend:
See thy bright altars throng’d with prostrate kings,
And heap’d with products of Sabcan springs!
For thee Idumea’s spicy forests blow,
And seeds of gold in Ophir’s mountains glow;
See heaven its sparkling portals wide display,
And break upon them in a flood of day!
No more the rising sun shall gild the morn,
Nor evening Cynthia fill her silver horn;
But lost, dissolved in thy superior rays,
One tide of glory, one unclouded blaze,
O’erflow thy courts; the light himself shall shine
Reveal’d, and God’s eternal day be thine!
The seas shall waste, the skies in smoke decay,
Rocks fall to dust, and mountains melt away;
But fix’d his word, his saving power remains;
Thy realm forever lasts, thine own Messiah reigns!
Thy people also shall be all righteous - (See the notes at Isaiah 4:2).
They shall inherit the land for ever - (See the notes at Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 54:3; compare Isaiah 65:9; Matthew 5:5).
The branch of my planting - On the meaning of the word branch, see the notes at Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 14:19. Here it means a scion or shoot which Yahweh had planted, and which had sprung up under his culture. Grotius supposes it means posterity. The idea seems to be, that they would inherit the land and all which would grow up under the culture of the hand of Yahweh.
The work of my hands - The language here is taken from the cultivation of the land of Canaan; but the sense is, that the church would inherit all that God had done for its welfare. Applied to the work of redemption, it means that the result of all the labors, self-denials, and sacrifices of the Redeemer, become the inheritance of the church. The comforts, joys, hopes, consolations of his people are the fruit of his self-denial, ‘the work of his hands,’ and they are permitted to enjoy it all - as if God should cultivate a fruitful field and give the avails entirely to them.
That I may be glorified - (See Isaiah 49:3; Isaiah 61:3; the notes at Isaiah 42:8; Isaiah 43:7). God would be glorified in having made so ample provision for their welfare, and in their being made happy by him. He is always glorified when others enjoy the fruits of his benevolence, and when they are made pure and happy as the result of his purposes and plans.
A little one shall become a thousand - There shall be a great increase, as if one, and that the smallest, should be multiplied to a thousand. The idea is, that the people, then small in number, would be greatly increased by the accession of the Gentile world. Lowth and Noyes render this, ‘The little one.’ Grotius, ‘The least one.’ So the Septuagint, Ο ὀλιγιστὸς Ho oligistos.
I the Lord will hasten it in his time - Noyes, ‘Its time.’ Lowth ‘Due time.’ Septuagint, ‘I will do it in the proper time’ (κατα καιρὸν kata kairon). The sense is, that this would be done at the proper time - called, in Galatians 4:4, ‘the fullness of time.’ There was a proper season when this was to be accomplished. There were important preparations to be made before it could be done. The nations, under the divine arrangement, were to be put into a proper position to receive the Messiah. He was not to come until:
1. The experiment had been fairly made to show how weak and feeble man was without a rerelation - to show that philosophy, and learning, and the policy of statesmen, could do nothing effectual for the salvation of men.
2. He was not to come until the world should be at peace, and until there would be facilities for the rapid propagation of religion in all lands.
3. Or was he to come until all that had been said in prophecy should be fulfilled - until all the circumstances should combine, which had been foretold as favorable to the introduction of the reign of the Messiah. But when that period should arrive, then the Lord would ‘hasten’ it.
There would be no unnecessary delay; none which the circumstances of the case did not call for. So it will be in the universal spread of the gospel referred to in this chapter. When the world shall be moulded into a proper state to welcome it; when the nations are prepared to receive it and profit by it; then the universal propagation shall be hastened, and a nation shall be born in a day (see the notes at Isaiah 66:8). Meantime, for the coming of that day we should pray and labor. By the diffusion of truth: by schools; by the spread of the Bible; by preaching; by the translation of the Word of God into every language: by establishing the press in all the strong points of Pagan influence; by placing missionaries in all the holds of power in the pagan world; and by training up many to enter into the harvest, the Christian world should prepare for the universal conversion of the world to God. In due time it shall be hastened. and ‘he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry’ Hebrews 10:37.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 60". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent