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1 Hearken to me, ye that follow righteousness. The Prophet now exhorts the Jews not to despair because they are few in number; for they had been cut down and diminished to such a degree that they appeared to be on the eve of being reduced to nothing, while there was little or no hope of any to succeed them. He therefore reminds them of their origin, that they may know that, though they are a small remnant, God can increase and multiply them; and he bids them contemplate their father Abraham, who, though he was a single individual, grew to a vast number, and received from God a numerous posterity. Hence they might infer that God, who, in so short a period, had multiplied their fathers, would in future multiply them also; because his power has not been diminished, and his will has not been changed.
Look to the rock of your hewing. (21) Some are of opinion that Abraham is called a “Rock,” because, as Paul declares, “he was strong in faith.” (Romans 4:20.) Others assign a totally opposite meaning to this metaphor; for they think that he is called a “Rock,” because he was worn out by age, and that Sarah is called a Pit, because she was barren. But both, in my opinion, are in the wrong; for it is a simple metaphor, taken from quarries, and declares that they have descended from Abraham and Sarah, as stones are cut out of a “rock” and a “pit.” Amidst the ruin of the nation it was highly necessary that the godly should be supported by this doctrine and admonition. God had promised that the seed of Abraham should be “as the stars of heaven,” (Genesis 15:5,) and as “the sand of the sea.” (Genesis 22:17.) This promise had apparently failed amidst that desolation in which they who were left hardly differed at all from a few clusters when the vintage was ended.
But since they had already known by experience how powerful was the strength of God to create a vast people out of nothing, the Prophet bids them cherish favorable hopes, that they may not be ungrateful to God; and he addresses his discourse directly to believers, to whom this was a sore temptation. He does not speak to all, but to those only who could rely on the promise, that is, to those whom he calls “followers of righteousness;” for the country abounded with unbelievers and hypocrites, who had formerly revolted from the practice of piety; and so much the more laudable was the steadfastness of those who did not cease to follow what was right. Wherever “righteousness” is practiced, there God is listened to; and wherever unbelief reigns, reliance cannot be placed on any promise. (22) Although therefore they boasted that they were the children of Abraham, yet all were not capable of receiving this doctrine.
Ye that seek Jehovah. He explains the method of “following righteousness” to consist in “seeking the Lord;” for they who make an outward shew of “righteousness,” and do not aim at this end, must have wandered during their whole life. These two things, therefore, must be joined together; namely, the practice of righteousness and seeking God.
(21) “ Regardez a la pierre dont vous avez este coupez.” “Look to the stone whence you were hewn.”
(22) “ On ne sauroit recevoir promesse queleonque.” “No promise whatever can be believed.”
2. For I called him alone. This application plainly shews what was the design of this exhortation of the Prophet. It was to encourage the hearts of believers to cherish the hope of a better condition. He says that he “called him one or alone,” not only because he had none along with him, when he was called out of his country, but because the Lord suffered him to dwell in the land of Canaan without children up to a worn out old age, so that he had no hope of having children, especially because Sarah (Genesis 16:2) also was barren; and when at length, as a solace for their childless condition, one son was given to them, not long afterwards he appeared to be led forth to slaughter. Yet the Lord increased and enriched him with a great number of children.
How needful this consolation was to the Jews has been remarked by me a little before, and may be easily learned from their condition, which history plainly declares to have been wretched and unhappy. To us also, in the present day, amidst this distracted condition of the Church, it is highly necessary, that we may not be discouraged because our number is small, and that we may hope that God will increase his Church by unexpected methods. We behold a very clear and striking testimony of this in the blessing by which the Lord increased, even to extreme old age, the posterity of Abraham, who was childless and solitary. That promise relates not to the Jews only, but to other nations; and on this account also he“
was no longer called Abram, but Abraham.” (Genesis 17:5.)
3. Surely Jehovah will comfort Zion. The Prophet shews that in the person of Abraham there was exhibited an example which applies to all ages; for, as the Lord suddenly produced from one man so numerous an offspring, so he will also people his Church by wonderful and unknown methods, and not once only, but whenever she shall be thought to be childless and solitary. In like manner, Paul, after having spoken of the faith of Abraham and praised his excellence, applies that doctrine to each of us, that“
he believed in hope against hope, and that his mind was not driven hither and thither, but that he was fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able also to perform, though it appeared to be incredible and at variance with all reason.” (Romans 4:18.)
He will comfort all her desolations. This may be explained to mean, “The Lord will comfort his Church, not only when she shall be in a flourishing condition, but likewise when she shall be desolate and reduced to solitude; “ for she must have been laid desolate, and her frightful ruins must have brought her to the verge of destruction, before she felt the aid which is here described.
And will make her desert like a place of delights. The Prophet here alludes to a passage in the writings of Moses, in which he relates that man was at first placed in “the garden of Eden,” (Genesis 2:15,) that is, in “a place of delights,” from which he was driven out by his own fault. (Genesis 3:24.) Now we, who have been deprived of that blessing which he bestowed on our first parent, are exiles throughout the whole world, and are deprived of that paradise. Accordingly, whenever great calamities happen, and the order of events is overturned, and everything is thrown into wretched desolation and ruin, let us know that we are punished for our unbelief and for our heinous sins; and let us remember that sentence which was pronounced on our first parent, or rather on all mankind; and that in every part of life, but especially when we see the condition of the Church ruined and overturned. The earth, which otherwise would abound in blessings of every kind, has been reduced to solitude through our fault; and the Church, which would flourish everywhere, has been ruined and laid desolate.
Joy and gladness. He means that the change shall be so great that the Church will no longer groan or complain; for, so long as the Church was oppressed by a harsh captivity, nothing could be heard in her but mouming and lamentation. Now restored, she shall rejoice and render thanksgiving to God. Thus we are also exhorted to gratitude, that we may burst out into praise and thanksgiving to God, when we have had experience of his goodness.
4. Attend to me, my people. There are good reasons why the Lord so frequently demands that he shall be heard. We know by experience how slow we are to hear him, especially in adversity; and even when we would have great need of consolation, we reject it by our impatience, and faint. Each of us, therefore, the sorer are the afflictions which press upon him, ought to endeavor more earnestly to enlarge his heart, and in this way to arouse himself, and to shake off his slothfulness, that he may receive consolation. What is here demanded is attention, to sustain our hearts by patience, till the season of grace be fully come.
For the law shall go forth from me. The meaning is, that the Lord will again reign, and will arouse his Church to call on his name. Though the word Law is equivalent to the edict which God shall order to be proclaimed, when he shall be pleased to gather his Church, yet at the same time he describes his manner of reigning; namely, by his “Law” and byhis doctrine. Hence we see that wherever doctrine is rejected, God’s government is not found, that is, is not recognised by men. By judgment he means the order and administration of government, by which he shall restore his kingdom.
For a light of the peoples, He says that this will be “for a light of the peoples,” because, when God begins to reign, miserable men (23) are rescued from darkness and enlightened by the doctrine of the word.
I will reveal. This vero ארגיע (argiang) is variously expounded by commentators, because רגע ( ragang) has various significations. Sometimes it signifies to “cut” and “open,” and sometimes “to be at rest.” Some therefore explain it, “I will cause to rest,” that is, “I will establish;” and that meaning is not inappropriate. Most of the Jewish writers explain it differently, but I shall not relate their crooked and harsh interpretations. I rather approve of this translation, “I will manifest judgment,” or, “I will cause judgment to break forth,” or, which means the same thing, “I will reveal;” because I think that it agrees better with the former clause. Repetitions, we know, are very customary among the Hebrew writers. Although, therefore, he employs different words, still the meaning is the same. Having formerly said that “the law shall go forth from him,” he now says that “he will reveal judgment.”
(23) “ Les hommes miserables de nature.” “Men who are by nature miserable.”
5. My righteousness is near. He confirms the former doctrine. The “righteousness” of the Lord has relation to men, who know by experience that he is “righteous.” While the people were oppressed by cruel bondage, they knew, indeed, that they were justly punished for their sins; but they might wonder that they were so much forsaken, because the worship of God ceased, and his name was blasphemed by wicked men, who pursued their wicked career without punishment. In order, therefore, to bring them some consolation, he promises that God will speedily assist them, so that all shall acknowledge that he is faithful and just. By the word “righteous” the Prophet does not mean that he renders to every one a “righteous” reward, but that he yields the best protection, and dispenses the largest kindness to his people, that he faithfully performs his promises to all believers, when he delivers them and does not suffer them to be finally overwhelmed.
This appears more clearly from the following clause, in which, for the purpose of explanation, he adds, My salvation hath gone forth; for the “righteousness” of God shone brightly in the deliverance of the people. Now, the captivity in which the Jews were held in Babylon was a kind of death, in consequence of which that deliverance is here called “Salvation.”
My arms shall judge the peoples. By “arms” he means the wide exercise of his power. That figure of speech which describes God under forms of expression drawn from the human frame occurs frequently in Scripture. Because God’s government appeared to be confined within narrow limits, or rather was not at all visible, on this account he mentions arms, by which he means that he will spread his kingdom far and wide.
6. Lift up your eyes toward heaven. When we see so great changes in the world, we are apt to think that the Church comes within the influence of the sanhe violent motion; and therefore we need to have our minds elevated above the ordinary course of nature; otherwise, the salvation of the Church will appear to hang on a thread, and to be carried hither and thither by the billows and tempests. Yet, we may see both in heaven and in earth how wisely God regulates all things, with what fatherly kindness he upholds and defends his workmanship and the frame of the world, and with what equity he provides for all his creatures. But in a remarkable manner he deigns to watch over his Church, as he has separated her from the ordinary rank.
And look upon the earth beneath. Both of the views now stated are here embraced by the Prophet; for he bids believers turn their eyes upwards and downwards, so as to perceive both in heaven and in earth the wonderful providence of God, by which he so beautifully preserves the order and harmony which he at first established. But he adds that, though heaven and earth hasten to decay, it is impossible that the Church shall fail, the stability of which is founded on God; as if he had said, “A thousand times rather shall leaven mingle with the earth than the promise on which your salvation rests shall fail of its accomplishment.”-
My salvation shall endure for ever. First of all, he mentions “salvation,” and next he speaks of “righteousness,” on which it rests as on a solid foundation. Whenever, therefore, dangers shall press upon us on every hand, let us learn to betake ourselves to this place of refuge. And with this sentiment agree the words of the Psalmist,“
The heavens shall wax old and vanish away; but thou, Lord, art always the same, and thy years are not changed.” (Psalms 102:26)
Both passages remind us that the grace of God, which he displays in the preservation of his Church, surpasses all his other works. Everything that is contained in heaven and earth is frail and fading; but God’s salvation, by which he guards the Church, is eternal, and therefore cannot be liable to these dangers.
7. Hearken to me. Because wicked men, when they enjoy prosperity, laugh at our faith, and ridicule our distresses and afflictions, on this account the Prophet exhorts believers to patience, that they may not dread their reproaches or be dismayed by their slanders. The reason assigned is, that their prosperity shall not be of long duration. Whatever may be their insolent boasting, they are already pronounced (verse 8) to be the food of moths and worms; while God holds in his hand the salvation of believers, from which they appear to be thrown to the greatest possible distance. Here we ought again to observe the repetition of the word Hearken. This is now the third time that the Lord demands a “hearing;” because, when we tremble with anxiety on account of our distresses, it is with the greatest difficulty that we rely on his promises, and therefore we need to be often roused and stimulated, till we have conquered every difficulty.
Ye that know righteousness, Here he does not address unbelievers, but those who “know righteousness;” because, though they do not intentionally reject the word of God, yet they often shut the door against his “righteousness,” so that it does not reach them, when, under the influence of adversity, they shut their ears and almost despair. In order therefore that they may receive the promises, and that they may admit consolation, the Prophet stirs up and arouses them.
A people in whose heart is my law. We must attend to the train of thought. First, he describes what kind of people the Lord wishes to have, namely, “those who know righteousness;” and next he explains what is the nature of this knowledge, that is, when the people have “the law” fixed and deeply rooted in their hearts. Without the word of the Lord there call be no “righteousness.” No laws of men, however well framed, will lead us to true righteousness, of which they may indeed give us a feeble idea, but which they never can justly describe. At the same time, he shews in what manner we ought to make progress in the law of the Lord; namely, by embracing it with the heart; for the seat of the law is not in the brain, but in the heart, that, being imbued with heavenly doctrine, we may be altogether renewed.
8. But my righteousness shall continually endure. Because the believing servants of God must endure many reproaches and slanders from the enemies of the word, the Prophet exhorts and encourages them to bear it courageously. It frequently happens that we are more deeply moved by the contumely and insults of men than by fire and sword; but we ought to reckon it praise and glory to be the object of their contempt and abhorrence. True valor springs from this consideration, that, although the world reject us as “filth and offscourings,” (1 Corinthians 4:13,) God holds us in estimation; because we maintain the same cause with himself. Let us with Moses, therefore, “prefer the reproach of Christ to the treasures of the Egyptians.” (Hebrews 11:26.) Let us rejoice with the Apostles, who“
departed from the council glad and joyful, because they were accounted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:41.)
And my salvation for ever and ever. Because the death of wicked men would yield to us small consolation, if we were not saved, he shews what will be our condition, namely, that we shall never be left destitute of “God’s righteousness and salvation.” But the comparison may appear to be inappropriate, when he contrasts the destruction of the wicked with his righteousness. Far more clearly and suitably it might have been thus expressed: “though the reprobate indulge in mirth, yet they shall speedily perish; but believers, though they appear to be dead, shall live.” Again, because he makes no mention of us, and commends only the eternity of God’s righteousness, it may be objected, that to us who are almost overwhelmed this is of no avail. But by these words the Prophet instructs us, that in our afflictions we ought to seek consolation from the thought, that our health and salvation are, as it were, shut up in God; for, so long as men trust or rely on themselves, they cannot cherish any good hope that does not speedily decay; and therefore we ought to turn our hearts to God, whose “mercy endureth from everlasting to everlasting on them that fear him,” as David says, “and his righteousness to children’s children.” (Psalms 103:17.)
Because salvation is founded on the goodness of God, Isaiah reminds us of it, that men may be reduced to nothing, and that confidence may be placed in God alone. The meaning may be thus summed up, “ Salvation is in God, that by it he may preserve, not himself, but us; righteousness is in God, that he may display it for our defense and preservation.” Accordingly, from the eternity of God’s “salvation and righteousness” we ought to infer that the servants of God cannot possibly perish; which agrees with the passage quoted a little before from David,“
Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. The children of thy servants shall dwell, and their posterity shall be established for ever.” (Psalms 102:27.)
Thus we see how he applies this eternity to the children of God, who do not subsist in themselves, but in God, and have the foundation of their salvation in him.
9. Awake, awake. Here the Prophet instructs us, that, when God cheers us by his promises, we ought also to pray earnestly that he would perform what he has promised. He does not comfort us in order to render us slothful, but that we may be inflamed with a stronger desire to pray, and may continually exercise our faith. The Prophet speaks according to our feelings; for we think that God is asleep, so long as he does not come to the relief of our wants; and the Lord indulges us so far as to permit us to speak and pray according to the feeling of our weakness. Believers therefore entreat the Lord to “awake,” not that they imagine him to be idle or asleep in heaven; (24) but, on the contrary, they confess their own sluggishness and ignorance, in not being able to form any conception of God, so long as they are not awaro of receiving his assistance. But yet, though the flesh imagine that he is asleep, or that he disregards our calamities, faith rises higher and lays hold on his eternal power.
Put on strength, O arm of Jehovah. He is said to “awake” and “put on strength,” when he exhibits testimonies of his power, because otherwise we think that he is idle or asleep. Meanwhile, the Prophet, by addressing the arm of God which was concealed, holds it out to the view of believers as actually present, that they may be convinced that there is no other reason why they are so bitterly and painfully afflicted by their enemies than because God has withdrawn his aid. The cause of the delay has been already shewn, that they had estranged themselves from God.
In ancient days. By the term “ancient days” he shews that we ought to bear in remembrance all that the Lord did long ago for the salvation of his people. Though he appears to pause and to take no more care about us, still he is the same God who formerly governed his Church; and therefore he can never forsake or abandon those whom he takes under his protection.
In ages long ago past. This repetition tells us still more clearly, that we ought to consider not only those things which have happened lately, but those which happened long ago; for we ought to stretch our minds even to the most remote ages, that they may rise above temptations, which otherwise might easily overwhelm us.
Art thou not it that crushed the proud one? (25) The numerous testimonies of grace which God had displayed in various ages are here collected by the Prophet, so that, if a few are not enough, the vast number of them may altogether confirm the faith of the Church. But, since it would be too tedious to draw up an entire catalogue, he brings forward that singular and most remarkable of all such events, namely, that the people were once delivered from Egypt in a miraculous manner, for I have no doubt that by Rahab (26) he means proud and cruel Egypt; as it is also said,“
I will mention Rahab and Babylon among my friends.” (Psalms 87:4.)
In like manner Ezekiel calls the king of Egypt “a Dragon.”“
Behold, I am against thee,O Pharaoh, king of Egypt, the great dragon, who dwellest in the midst of thy rivers.” (Ezekiel 29:3.)
It is sufficiently evident, and is universally admitted, that the Prophet here calls to remembrance the miraculous deliverance of the people from Egypt. “If at that time the pride of Egypt was tamed and subdued, if the dragon was put to flight, why should we not hope for the same thing?”
By putting the question, if it be the same arm, he argues from the nature of God; for this could not be affirmed respecting the “arm” of man, whose strength, though it be great, is diminished and fails through time? Milo, who had been very strong, when he became old and looked at his arms, groaned because the strength which he possessed at an earlier period had now left him. But it is not so with God, whose strength no lapse of time can diminish. These words ought to be read ἐμφατικῶς emphatically, “Art thou not it?“ For he shews that the Lord is the same as he formerly was, because he remains unchangeable.
(24) “ Non pas qu’ils le pensent oisif ni endormi au ciel.”
(25) “Here is a noble mixture of lively figures; the Prophet first addressing himself to the Lord, as if he were fast asleep, tired with fatigue and labor; then painting him in a martial posture, dressing himself in arms, and putting on his accoutrements; then raising his courage by a narration of his former valorous performances, Art not thou that Arm which cut off the Egyptian Rahab, when with all the strength of his kingdom he pursued the naked Israelites to the further banks of the Red Sea? Certainly thou art the same, not at all decayed in strength, but able to do as much for thy people now, as for their fathers then.” — White.
(26) “ Par Rahab, que nous avons traduit l’orgueilleuse.” “By Rahab, which we have translated The proud.”
10. Which dried up the sea. Though Isaiah does not relate all the miracles which God performed when he brought out his people from the bondage of Egypt, yet he intended to include in a few words all that are related by Moses, that the Jews, having been briefly addressed, might consider the various ways in which the Lord had demonstrated his power. The drying up of the Red Sea is mentioned, not only on account of the extraordinary excellence of the miracle, but because the numerous miracles which preceeded it were directed to this end, that the people, rescued from unjust violence and tyranny, might pass into the promised land. Accordingly, the Prophet expressly mentions that a way was opened up for the redeemed. From this example we ought to consider what God will be to us, so as to draw this conclusion, that in future God will always be like himself, as is evident from the context.
11 Therefore the redeemed by Jehovah shall return. He now describes more plainly what he had briefly remarked; for, after having related the magnificent works of God, by which he formerly displayed his power in Egypt, in order to deliver his people, he concludes that neither the sea, nor the lofty rocks, nor the whirlpools, nor even hell itself, can prevent him from leading forth his people out of Babylon. And in order to confirm it more fully, and to apply that example, he calls them “redeemed,” that they may know that, when God calls himself the deliverer of his people, this belongs to them, and that they may not doubt that, in delivering them, he will produce such an example as had been already exhibited; for the reason is the same.
Shall come to Zion. Namely, to that place where he wished that men should call on his name, that the temple may be rebuilt and the pure worship of God restored; for, since the Jews, during the Babylonish captivity, ought to expect the same aid as had been obtained by their fathers, because God was in like manner the Redeemer of the children also, they were superior to the fathers in one respect, that God had at that time chosen Mount Zion, in which he had promised that his rest would be eternal. (Psalms 132:14.) But since the work of God, which Isaiah promises, was worthy of admiration, on this account, he exhorts the people to praise and thanksgiving.
With a song. רנה (rinnah) may indeed be taken simply for “rejoicing;” but, as it frequently denotes the praise which is rendered to God when we acknowledge his benefits, I prefer to take it in that sense in this passage. (27) The meaning is, that there will be a great and unexpected change, so that they shall have very abundant ground of joy and thanksgiving. When he says that joy shall be on their head, he alludes to the chaplets of flowers with which they were wont to adorn themselves at banquets. He adds that “they shall obtain joy,” which denotes that their enjoyment shall be solid and lasting. Lastly, for the purpose of amplification, he adds that all sorrow shall be banished, that they may not dread what frequently happens, that joy, by a sudden change, shall give place to mourning. (Proverbs 14:13.) Yet the Prophet instructs them, though they groan and are sorrowful, to wait patiently for that issue which he promises.
(27) “ J’aime mieux le prendre pour cantique en cest endroit-ci.” “I prefer to take it for a song in this passage.”
12. I, I am. Here the Lord not only promises grace and salvation to the Jews, but remonstrates with them for refusing to believe him, and for valuing his power less than they ought. It is exceedingly base to tremble at the threatenings of men to such a degree as to care nothing about God’s assistance; for he displays his power for this purpose, that he may at least fortify; us against every attack. Accordingly, by an excessive fear of men we betray contempt of God.
Hence it is evident how sinful it is to be agitated by the terrors of men, when God calls us to repose. And indeed it is amazing ingratitude in men, who, when they hear that God is on their side, derive no hope from his magnificent promises, so as to venture boldly to exclaim, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31.) The consequence is, that when dangers arise, they are terrified and confounded, and attribute far more to the power of mortal man in attacking than to the power of God in defending. Justly, therefore, does he upbraid the Jews with not fortifying themselves by these promises, and with not rendering themselves invincible against every danger; for God is treated with the highest dishonor when we doubt his truth, that is, when we are so completely overcome by human terrors that we cannot rest on his promises.
The repetition, I, I, is highly emphatic. He who promises consolation is the God of truth, against whom neither the strength nor the contrivances of men will be of any avail. When thou distrustest him, it follows that thou dost not consider who he is.
That thou shoudest be afraid of a man. He describes how frail, fading, transitory: and unsubstantial is the condition of men, in order to exhibit more fully their criminal stupidity in preferring a shadow and smoke to God. He shews that men, so long as they are mindful of God, cannot be struck down by fear. Consequently, when we are stunned by dangers that assail us, it follows that we have forgotten God; and therefore he adds, —
13. And hast forgotten Jehovah thy Maker. It is not enough to imagine that there is some God, but we ought to acknowledge and embrace him as ours. When he calls him “Maker,” this must not be understood to refer to universal creation, but to spiritual regeneration, as we have already explained under other passages. In this sense Paul calls us ( τὸ ποίημα) “the workmanship of God,” (Ephesians 2:10,) because he hath created us to every good work. Thus, if we remember our creation and adoption, these beginnings may encourage us to hope for continued progress, that we may not be ungrateful to God, when he has proved his veracity by undoubted experience.
Who hath stretched out the heavens and founded the earth. To the special kindness which God had exercised towards his people he likewise adds his boundless power which he contrasts with the weakness of men, whom he formerly compared to withered grass. (Isaiah 40:7.) He demonstrates that power by his works, so that they who do not perceive it must be exceedingly stupid; for we cannot tum our eyes in any direction without perceiving very abundant testimonies of divine goodness and power, which, however, are briefly described by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, when he says that it is “He who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth.” It is therefore the greatest folly and indolence to forget him, for so numerous are the signs and testimonies which recall him to the remembrance of men.
And hast dreaded continually. He follows out the same comparison. “What are men,” says he, “that thou shouldst dread them, if thou compare them to God, who promises thee his assistance?” Assuredly, God is grievously blasphemed, if we refuse to believe that he is more powerful to preserve than enemies are to destroy us; and therefore the Lord bids us consider who and what he is, how vast and extensive is his power, that we may not dread the fury of a mortal man, who vanishes like a whirlwind or like smoke.
14. The exile hasteneth to be loosed. This verse is expounded in various ways; for some think that it refers to Cyrus, and take the word, צעה (tzoeh) (28) in a transitive sense, and explain it to mean, “Causing to migrate.” (29) But it is more customary to interpret it as meaning one who is imprisoned and oppressed, or an exile who wanders about without any settled abode. Now, the Jews were not only exiles but captives, so that they were not at liberty to return to their native land; and therefore I explain it as referring to the Jews.
But still there are two senses in which it may be understood, either that the Prophet reproves their excessive haste, in impatiently desiring to return, or that the Prophet means that their return to their native country is immediately at hand, that they may not sink under the discouragement of long delay; as if he had said, that the time when they must prepare for departure will speedily arrive. The second of these expositions has been more generally approved; and I adopt it the more readily, because it agrees best with the context.
But it may appear strange that he should say that the people will quickly return, since their captivity was of long duration. Yet with good reason does God say that that event will come quickly which he delays till a fit season; for, although to us it may appear to be long, yet, being appropriate and suitable, the time is short. And indeed it was a short time, if we look at the condition of that monarchy, which was so vast and strong that it appeared as if it could never be destroyed. Thus, what appears to be long in the promises of God will appear to be short, provided that we do not refuse to lift up our eyes to heaven. This meaning is confirmed by what immediately follows.
That he may not die in a pit. Such then is God’s haste to come early to deliver his people; that they may come forth safely out of the dungeon. The Lord does not promise to his people some sudden assistance, that he may only bring them out of prison, but also that, after having been delivered, they may be the objects of his kindness; for he promises everything necessary for their food and support, that they may be convinced that God will always take care of them; and he is wont not only to assist his people for a moment, but to remain with them continually.
(28) “ Que nons avons traduit banni .” “Which we have translated banished.”
(29) That is, they treat it as the Kal participle of an active verb, signifying “Banishing,” and not as the participle of a passive or neuter verb, signifying “Banished,” or “Wandering.” — Ed.
15. And I am Jehovah thy God. Again the Lord declares his power; for so great is the unbelief and sluggishness of men, that, although it is frequently declared, yet the very smallest temptation shews that they are not fully convinced of it. They quickly fall back upon themselves, when they are hard pressed by afflictions; and when they hear that anything is in the power of God, they do not think that it belongs to them.
Who divide the sea. He does not speak in general terms, but brings forward the instance which he had often mentioned before; for, by once redeeming the fathers, he held out to posterity the hope of eternal salvation. Justly, therefore, does he exclaim that he is the same God who long ago “divided the sea;” and next he magnifies the miracle by saying that its roaring billows were stilled at his command. (Exodus 14:21.) We ought to know, therefore, that there are no raging billows which God cannot allay and calm in order to deliver his Church. “It is he who,” by his power, “stills the sea and makes it calm,” (Job 26:12,) though it rage furiously; and he likewise drives and swells its waves, when he thinks fit; though literally, as I have remarked, the Prophet alludes to the history of the deliverance from Egypt. (30)
Jehovah of hosts. The Lord is adorned with this title, that we may know how extensive is his power; and he exhibits that power as often as he is pleased to render assistance to his Church.
(30) “ A l’histoire de la deliverance d’Egypte.”
16. And I have put my words in thy mouth. He again retums to the doctrine which he had formerly stated, namely, that the Lord comforts his Church: “I, I am he that comforteth you,” (ver. 12.) So he now says that he put into the mouth of the prophets what they should say. Hence we may infer that these words do not proceed from men, who often prove false, but from “God, who cannot lie.” (Titus 1:2.) The Lord speaks to all the prophets, first to Isaiah, and then to the rest in their order; but at last we must come to Christ. These things must not be limited either to Isaiah or to Christ, but must be extended to all the prophets. The Lord wishes that believers should hear the consolation from the prophets, as if he were present and addressed them, and even declares that he speaks openly by their mouth.
Hence also we ought to conclude that none ought to come forward to comfort the Church but they who speak from the mouth of the Lord; for they who alter their own dreams, though they take shelter under the name of God, ought to be rejected. But; we must understand the Prophet’s meaning; for, seeing that he shows that the consciences of men always tremble, till the Lord confirm them, he instructs us to abide by this principle, that it is God who speaks by the prophets; for otherwise consciences will always remain in doubt and uncertainty. Yet the mode of expression is highly emphatic, when he repeats the commandments of God, by which he was encouraged to the execution of his office.
And in the shadow of my hand. Though he had already said this, yet the repetition is not superfluous, that we may fully believe that God will always assist his ministers, so that, relying on his immediate aid, they may be raised by him above all obstructions. Now, in order to being covered with that shadow of the Lord, two things are necessary; first, that they are certain that what they utter is the word of God, and secondly, that they do so by God’s command. They who rashly put themselves forward may indeed boast of the name of God, but in vain; for when they come to fight in earnest, they will faint. And if we have the testimony of conscience, we have no reason for entertaining doubts as to God’s protection and aid, by which he will enable us to gain the victory. Next comes the object of the embassy.
That I may plant the heavens; that is, that I may restore everything to its proper order. There are, indeed, various interpretations of these words; but the true meaning appears to me to be this, that heaven and earth are said to be restored by the doctrine of salvation; because “in Christ,” as Paul says, “are collected all things that are either in heaven or in earth.” (Ephesians 1:10.) Since the fall of the first man we see nothing but frightful confusion, which troubles even the dumb creatures, and makes them suffer, in some respects, the punishment of our sins; and, consequently, that confusion cannot be repaired but by Christ. Since therefore the whole face of the world is disfigured by frightful desolation, there are good grounds for saying that godly teachers renovate the world, as if God formed heaven and earth anew by their hand. And hence it is evident how great is the heinousness of our guilt, which has been followed by such dreadful confusion in the nature of things. Thus, “the heavens” are said to be “planted and the earth to be founded,” when the Lord establishes his Church by the word; and he does this by the agency of ministers, whom he directs by his Spirit, and protects against hidden enemies and various dangers, that they may effectually accomplish what he has enjoined.
That I may say to Zion, Thou art my people. At length he shews that this aims at something higher than the visible form of the world, which shall quickly perish; namely, to excite and nourish in the hearts of believers the hope of a heavenly life. The true stability of the Church, the restoration of the world, consists in this, that the elect be gathered into the unity of faith, so that, with one consent, all may lift their hearts to God, who also invites them sweetly and gently by these words, “I am thy God.” And hence we see how highly God values the salvation of the Church, since he not only prefers it to the whole world, but even shews that the stability of the world depends upon it. We must likewise observe what is the word which the Lord enjoins to be proclaimed; for it not only lays down a rule of life, but also gives a testimony of our adoption, in which our salvation chiefly consists.
17. Awake, awake. The Church was about to endure grievous calamities, and therefore he fortifies her by consolation, and meets a doubt which might arise, that the Jews, being now oppressed by tyrants, saw no fulfillment of these promises. The meaning therefore is, that the Church, though afflicted and tossed in various ways, will nevertheless be set up again, so as to regain her full vigor. By the word “Awake” he recalls her, as it were, from death and the grave; as if he had said, that no ruins shall be so dismal, no desolations shall be so horrible, as to be capable of hindering God from effecting this restoration. And this consolation was highly necessary; for when grief seizes our hearts, we think that the promises do not at all belong to us; and therefore we ought frequently to call to remembrance, and to place constantly before our eyes, that it is God who speaks, and who addresses men who are not in a prosperous or flourishing condition, but fallen and dead, and whom notwithstanding he can raise up and uphold by his word; for this doctrine of salvation is intended not for those who retain their original condition, but for those who are dead and ruined.
Who hast drunk from the hand of Jehovah the cup of his wrath. There are two senses in which the term, “cup of wrath,” may be understood; for sometimes the Lord is said to put into our hands a “cup of wrath,” when he strikes us with some kind of giddiness, or deranges our intellect; as we see that affliction sometimes takes away men’s understanding; but sometimes it is used in a simpler sense, to denote the sharp and heavy punishments by which the Lord severely chastises his people. This is evidently the meaning in which it must be taken here, as appears from the addition of the pronoun His. Nor is this inconsistent with what he says, that the Church was stupified and drunk; for he shews that this happened in consequence of the Lord having severely chastised her. It is an ordinary metaphor by which the chastisement which God inflicts on his people is called a “potion,” (31) or a certain measure which he assigns to each. But whenever it relates to the elect, this term “cup” serves to express the moderation of the divine judgment; that the Lord, though he punish his people severely, still observes a limit. (32)
Pressing out the dregs of the cup of distress (or of trembling.) I consider the word תרעלה (targnelah) to denote “anguish” or “trembling,” by which men are nearly struck dead, when they are weighed down by heavy calamities. Such persons may be called “drunk,” as having exhausted all that is in the cup, because nothing can be added to their affliction and distress.
This is also denoted by another term, “pressing out.” The Church is here reminded that all the evils which befall her proceed from no other source than from the hand of God, that she may not think that they happen to her by chance, or that she is unjustly afflicted. The object which the Prophet has in view is, that the people may know that they are justly punished for their sins. No one can rise up till he first acknowledge that he has fallen, or be delivered from misery till he perceive that it is by his own fault that he is miserable. In short, there can be no room for consolations till they have been preceded by the doctrine of repentance.
Dregs, therefore, must not here be understood in the same sense as in Jeremiah 25:15, where the reprobate are spoken of, whom the Lord chokes and kills by his cup, but as denoting complete and righteous punishment, to which the Lord has been pleased to assign a limit. Thus, when the Lord has inflicted on us such punishment as he thought fit, and puts an end to our afflictions, he declares that the “dregs” are exhausted; as we have seen before at the fortieth chapter. (33)
(31) “He sets forth God like a physician, mixing a bitter potion for Jerusalem, putting as it were into one cup all the anger he had conceived against her, and standing by to see her take it off, that not a drop should be spilt, or any of the nauseous settlings left behind: a potion so strong that it made her tremble every limb of her, and so giddy that she stood in need of one to lead her: but such were her misfortunes that none of her inhabitants were able to support her; by all which the Prophet means that her afflictions should be so great as to turn her brain, and make her sink under the load of them.” — W’hite.
(32) “ Pource qu’il retient son bras.” “Because he restrains his arm.”
(33) The allusion appears to be to a different but analogous expression. See Com. on Isaiah, Vol. 3, pp. 201,202. — Ed.
18. There is no one to guide her. He describes the sorest calamity of the Church; for the heaviest and sorest of all undoubtedly is, that she receives no sympathy or consolation from her own children. This accumulated misery is described by him, in order that, though her condition be desperate, she may still expect consolation from God, who will never disappoint his servants, though they be sunk to the depth of hell. Although the Church has been forsaken by men, and even by those whom she nourished in her bosom and carried in her arms, yet she shall receive assistance from God. No affliction more severe can befall a mother than to be deserted by her children, who ought in their turn to have treated her with kindness. Such ingratitude and want of natural affection is certainly much liarder to bear than the violent and unbridled cruelty of enemies; for why does she give birth to children, and why does she bring them up, but in expectation of being supported by them in return? Since her children do not perform their duty, what remains but that she shall think that to have born and reared them has been of no advantage to her? Although therefore the Church has performed the duty of a mother, and has brought up her children to the age of maturity, yet the Prophet declares that she must not expect any assistance or consolation from ungrateful persons.
Yet his discourse conveys something more, and pronounces those children who have rendered no assistance to their mother to be bastards and reprobates, with the view of inducing her to bear the loss of them more patiently. It was sad and distressing for the Church to be deprived of all her offspring, and to be reduced to childlessness; though this has sometimes happened. But the Prophet reminds the mother that the children do not deserve that she should mourn for them, and that, on the contrary, she ought to desire additional offspring, as it is said by the Psalmist,“
The people that shall be created shall praise the Lord.” (Psalms 103:18.)
What is here described by the Prophet is entirely applicable to our own age; for many boast of being the children of the Church; but where is the man that cares about his mother’s distresses? Who is grieved for her ruin? Who is moved so deeply as to put his shoulders to her support? How many betray her, and, under presence of this title, persecute her more cruelly than open and avowed enemies? Accordingly, after all her calamities this is added as the copestone of her miseries. Moreover, they who wish to be regarded as holding the first rank in the Church, and who not only boast of being children, but vaunt of being called fathers, treacherously desert her when she implores their aid. We need not wonder, therefore, if God shall drive them out, in order to make way for the increase of his Church by lawful and dutiful children. (34)
(34) “ Afin de donner puis apres a son Eglise des enfans legitimes qui luy assistent.” “In order afterwards to give to his Church lawful children to assist her.”
19. These two things have happened to thee. Nearly the same thing was already asserted concerning Babylon,“
These two things shall befall thee suddenly in one day, childlessness and widowhood.” (Isaiah 47:9.)
But here Isaiah promises to the Church that there shall eventually be a different issue; for the Lord will rescue her from the deepest abyss. He threatens extreme wretchedness, that believers may gird themselves for patience, and not cease to send upwards prayers and supplications from the depth of their distresses. The general meaning is, that the Church shall be burdened with afflictions of every kind, so that she shall appear to be on the brink of utter ruin; because from without she shall endure very heavy calamities, and from within shall obtain no aid or sympathy from her own children. These are two very sore evils which the Prophet relates. But it appears as if the division were not quite appropriate; for, after having related one evil, that there is none to bewail her, he enumerates four kinds —
Desolation and destruction, and the sword and famine. Some explain it to mean that the Church is visited by famine within, and harassed by enemies without. But I interpret it differently, as I have already hinted; for it is very customary among Hebrew writers to put a question, when they wish absolutely to deny anything; and among them it is elegant, though in Greek or Latin authors it would be ungraceful. Isaiah therefore describes “two evils,” one external, for both by the devastations of “war” and by “famine” they will be brought to the verge of “destruction” and “desolation,” which he describes by these four classes; and another internal, because she is deprived of consolation, and “there is none to bewail her.” By putting the question, “Who shall bewail her?” he affirms that she shall have no consolation; and this verse agrees with the former, in which we have already explained the design which the Prophet has in view, in describing this highly calamitous and wretched condition of the Church.
20. Thy sons have fainted. He describes more fully the lamentable and wretched condition of the Church, when he says that her children he prostrate. A mother cannot be visited with any grief more bitter than to have her children slain before her eyes, and not one or two of them, but so great a number as to fill the roads with the slaughter.
As a wild bull in a net. The metaphor is taken from bears or other savage animals, by which he means that even the strongest of them have, as it were, been caught in snares.
Full of the indignation of Jehovah. By this expression he distinctly states that none of these events are accidental, lest they should suppose that any of them has happened by chance, or lest they should accuse the Lord of cruelty for having punished them severely; because his judgment is just and righteous. This is what he means, when he says that this punishment has proceeded from the rebuke of the Lord. Yet we must bear in mind his object which I have already mentioned, that believers ought not to throw away the hope of grace, though innumerable calamities prompt and urge them to despair.
21. Therefore now hear this. He now shews more plainly the reason why he spoke of the calamities of the Church. It was, that believers might be fully persuaded that they would obtain consolation from God, though they were reduced to the extremity of distress. But why does he call the Church wretched, since nothing is more happy than to be God’s people, and that happiness cannot be taken away by any tribulations?; Not without cause is it said,“
Blessed is the people whose God is Jehovah.” (Psalms 144:15.)
I reply, she is apparently “wretched,” and not in vain does the Lord address her by that name; for, as we have already said, he helps the wretched, and succors the destitute.
And drunken, not with wine. (35) When he calls her “drunken,” it ought to be observed that believers never endure so patiently the chastisements which are inflicted on them as not to be sometimes stupified; but, although stupified, they ought to remember that the Lord punishes them justly, and ought to believe that the Lord will assist them. He does not speak to robust or healthy men, but to those who are feeble, wretched, prostrate, and who resemble drunken persons, and says that he brings to them consolation. Finally, by this word he soothes the grief of the Church, and shews that he preserves a limit, by which he restrains the violence even of the greatest afflictions, and restores her when ruined, as if he were raising from the dead a rotten corpse.
(35) שכרת דבר אהד שלא מיין ( shekurath dabar ehad shello miyain). Drunken with something which is not wine.” — Jarchi.
22. Thus saith Jehovah. Not at random does the Prophet add to the name Jehovah three epithets, namely, that he is the Lord or Defender of his Church, that he is God, and lastly, that he is her Avenger. We ought always to consider what is the nature of our relation to God; for he addresses us in a familiar manner, in consequence of having once chosen us to be his people, by uniting himself to us in an everlasting covenant. This preface encouraged the Jews, in ancient times, not to hesitate to embrace what is here promised; and at the present day the same argument applies to a new people, who have been taken under God’s care and protection not less than they. The Lord declares himself to hold the office of an “Avenger,” in order that, when we shall be threatened with the most alarming dangers, and when it shall appear as if all were over with us, we may betake ourselves to this anchor, that God is the “Avenger” of his people; and this ought to support us, not only when we are assailed by outward enemies, but also when we are assailed by Satan.
Behold, I have taken from thy hand. He holds out the ground of hope; for it is only by temporary stripes that the Lord chastises his Church. Hence also the Jews ought to learn that all the calamities to which they were subjected were the just reward of their transgressions; for those calamities would never come to an end but by their being reconciled to God. The general meaning is, that the wrath of the Lord will be appeased, so that he will restrain and bring to a close the chastisements which he had formerly inflicted on his Church.
The cup of thy affliction, or, the cup of thy trembling. We have already spoken of the metaphor of “the cup;” and the explanation of it which we gave is fully confirmed by this passage, in which God calls it “the cup of his indignation,” though it had made the Church to tremble, as if she had been seized with giddiness. Yet it is the same word which he formerly used, תרעלה (targnelah,) which some translate “anguish,” and others “trembling.” By dregs, as I have said, he means the full measure of vengeance with which God is satisfied on account of his fatherly kindness.
23. And I will put it into the hand of thy oppressors. This is another part of the consolation, in which he promises that the Lord will not only deliver the Church from those heavy distresses, but will also lay upon her enemies the calamities with which she is afflicted. If therefore we are afflicted, (36) our condition will be speedily changed, and our enemies will be severely punished. Truly, as Paul says, it is righteous with God to render tribulation to them that trouble you, and to you who are troubled rest along with us, when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven, with the angels of his power, with flame of fire, to take vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:6.) Thus the temporary punishments which God inflicts on them are the beginnings of that eternal punishment to which they shall be finally condemned.
Who said to thy soul. In order to describe more fully the insolence and haughtiness of their enemies, such as we too experience every day in our adversaries, he quotes their words, by which they slandered and insulted the unhappy children of God. Impiety is always accompanied by pride and cruelty; for, as the true knowledge of God renders men gentle, so ignorance makes them ferocious and savage. They who are ignorant of God please themselves, and pour out unmeasured reproaches against God and those who truly worship him. This truly is most wretched and base; but since he frequently permits his name to be exposed to the insults of wicked men, let us not wonder that we are assailed on account of his name; for we are not more excellent than God, and our condition ought not to be better than that of the ancient Church. David employs a different metaphor, (Psalms 129:3,) when he says that the Church resembles a field which is cut and broken up by the plough; for he shews that frequently it is deeply furrowed and trodden upon, that we may not think that our condition is different.
(36) “ si nous sommes persecutez.” “If we are persecuted.”
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 51". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29