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1. Arise, be bright. He now shows what is the efficacy of that word of which he formerly (150) spoke; for he raises up a prostrate and afflicted Church, and restores her to her brightness; and, because he represents the person of God, he now declares his authority. For this reason he employs the form of command, that the word spoken might be more efficacious; as if, in the exercise of absolute power, he put the Church in possession of that happier condition which he had promised. The amount of what is said is, that believers may know that he does not scatter his words in the air, but speaks with effect.
He bids her “arise,” because he formerly told her to “lie down;” and these two words stand in contrast with each other. Of Babylon he formerly said, “Come down, sit in the dust.” (Isaiah 47:1) Of the Jews themselves he said, “My people shall sit in the dust.” On the other hand, he says, “Arise, arise, put on the garments of thy beauty.” (Isaiah 52:1) Thus, by what may be called the stretching out of his hand, he lifts up the Church again, that she who had formerly been prostrated, and covered all over with filth and pollution, may regain her seat of honor.
For thy brightness is come. That the darkness of afflictions may not overwhelm the Jews with despair, he says that the light which had been hidden would soon afterwards arise, alluding to the alternation of day and night. As if he had said, “The Lord, having compassion upon thee, will rescue thee out of this darkness in which thou liest; thou hast been sufficiently punished; it is time that thy condition should begin to be improved.” By the word brightness, therefore, he metaphorically denotes salvation and prosperity, as by “darkness” he formerly denoted a calamitous state of the Church.
The glory of Jehovah. He mentions at the same that this light will arise from no other quarter than from God’s smiling countenance, when he shall be pleased to display his grace; for everything goes well when the Lord shines upon us by his light; and, when he turns away from us, nothing that can befall us is more wretched and unhappy.
(150) “ Au chapitre precedent.” “In the preceding chapter.”
2. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth. He now exhibits in a stronger light, by means of comparison, that grace which he formerly mentioned; that we may form some idea how much God loves his elect, and how extraordinary is the privilege which he bestows upon them. The amount of what he says is, that, while we are weighed down by innumerable afflictions, and while the whole world, as it were, sinks under them, God will take care of his people., in order to enrich them with various benefits. He shows, therefore, that the light of grace and favor, which he mentioned, will not be indiscriminately enjoyed by all, but will be peculiar to the people of God.
We have said that the word “brightness” denotes a prosperous condition of the Church; but let us not judge of this condition from outward appearance; for the Prophet rises higher, and I have no doubt that his discourse relates to spiritual light and brightness. Otherwise that mode of expression which he afterwards employs, “The Gentiles shall walk to thy brightness,” (verse 3) would not be appropriate. Besides, this is clearly demonstrated by the connection between this chapter and the preceding; for he says that this covenant is continued in the word and Spirit. Finally, from the contrast it may easily be inferred that the happiness promised to the Church is different from that which consists in meat and drink, or tranquillity and peace, and other conveniences; and indeed never afterwards was there any period in which the darkness of afflictions overwhelmed all the Gentiles, while the Jews enjoyed peace and prosperity. Since, therefore, the condition of the Church is separated from the whole world, that benefit which Isaiah puts into the possession of the Church is spiritual, and the brightness which he promises is spiritual; and consequently, these things relate to the spiritual kingdom of Christ, when the light of the Gospel shone in every part of the world, and foreign nations were enlightened by it. To this also relates what follows, —
The Lord will arise upon thee; for although he shows that the favor of God will be visible by manifest tokens and effects, yet he does not leave out that which is of the greatest importance, that believers will truly feel that he is their Father, so as to expect salvation from him. Hence infer that we are overwhelmed by darkness till God shine upon us with the testimony of adoption by free grace. I speak of all mankind; for Isaiah informs us that this life-giving light proceeds from God alone, in order to declare that it is a special gift of God.
Secondly, it ought to be observed that the Church alone, that is, the elect of God, are partakers of this brightness. Hence it follows, that it is not a common or natural gift, but a gift by which the Lord relieves us from an ordinary defect of human nature. Thus also we perceive that there is no light or brightness but in the Church; for the rest of men, though they think that they enjoy light and brightness, are overwhelmed by darkness, from which they cannot be extricated in any other way than by the light of the Gospel.
And his glory shall be seen upon thee. He adds the word “glory,” because, after having embraced us by his favor, the Lord continues more and more to increase his acts of kindness toward us.
3. And the Gentiles shall walk. He confirms what we have already said, that there is no other light of men but when the Lord shines on them by his word. All indeed acknowledge this; but they do not set so high a value as they ought on this benefit, and imagine it to be something of an ordinary kind, which naturally belongs to all men. But he shows that this grace is supernatural, and therefore it ought to be distinguished from nature; which is clearly shown by the repetition of the words upon thee, in the preceding verse.
First, then, we ought to believe that this benefit comes from God alone; and secondly, that all are not indiscriminately partakers of it, but only the elect, on whom the Lord shines by undeserved favor, so as to take them out of the ordinary rank of men. This is done by Christ, who is called “the Sun of Righteousness,” because we are enlightened as if by his rays. (Malachi 4:2) Besides, the Prophet declares that this favor shall be spread far and wide by the Jews; which is also intimated by the words of the covenant,“
In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” (Genesis 22:18)
To thy brightness. If one nation only had enjoyed the light, it would have been of no advantage to the rest; but, so far as the doctrine of the Gospel has been spread throughout the whole world, Judea has held out the light to the Gentiles formerly blinded, in order to point out the way. By making the brightness peculiar to a single nation, he shows that in no other way could the world be enlightened, or come to share in this benefit, than by seeking light from that word which proceeded from the Jews, and was heard at Jerusalem, where the lamp of the Lord was kindled, and where the Sun of Righteousness arose, that from it he might diffuse his light to all the ends of the earth, as we have formerly seen, “Out of Zion shall go forth the Law.” (Isaiah 2:3) There is, therefore, no light but from the doctrine of the prophets; so that they who withdraw from it falsely boast of walking in the light.
And kings to the brightness of thy rising. He alludes to the dawn; for, as the morningstar begins the day in one quarter only of heaven, and immediately the sun enlightens the whole world, so the daybreak was first in Judea, from which the light arose and was afterwards diffused throughout the whole world; for there is no corner of the earth which the Lord has not enlightened by this light. He mentions “kings,” that they might not imagine that none but the common people would come to this light, but princes and nobles, who in other respects are greatly delighted with their high rank. But now he confers on the Church the very highest honor, that she shines with such brightness as to attract to herself nations and princes. He calls it “the light” of the Church; not that she has any light from herself, but borrows it from Christ, as the moon borrows from the sun.
4. Lift up thine eyes round about. By a variety of expressions he confirms that promise of the restoration of the Church which appeared to be altogether incredible. Nor was it easy to convince the Jews of this, while the state of their affairs was so wretched and confused. At that time the kingdom of Judah alone remained, and grew less every day, till it was utterly ruined; but when the people were led into captivity amidst that frightful dispersion and melancholy ruin, everything was so desperate that it appeared as if the Church were entirely ruined. It was therefore proper to confirm this doctrine by a variety of expressions, that hearts naturally prone to distrust might no longer doubt. For this reason he leads the Jews to look at the event as actually at hand, though it was at a great distance; that they might not hesitate any more than if it were already placed before their eyes.
He bids believers lift, up their eyes on high, that is, above human thought; for, so long as we fix them on the outward condition, we cannot obtain the fruit of these promises. He adds, “round about,” that they may fully believe that the nations will come, not from one quarter only, but from every direction, that they may be united in one body. And not only does he promise a remedy and an end of the dispersion which was yet to take place, as it is said elsewhere, “He will gather the dispersed of Israel,” (Psalms 147:2; Isaiah 56:8) but this gathering is more extensive; for it means that there will be a wonderful revolution in the world, so that they who formerly were strangers and dispersed shall be united in one body. Finally, it denotes the extension of the Church to the farthest boundaries of the earth. There is also an implied contrast, by which he points out the wretched and afflicted condition in which the world was, before it was gathered together under the direction of Christ.
Thy sons shall come from far. Some think that by “sons” are meant those who are stronger and more steadfast in faith, and by daughters those who are weaker. But I do not think that the Prophet intended to convey such ingenious distinctions; (151) and therefore I consider the plain meaning to be, that both sons and daughters shall run together to the Church; that is, that the Church shall have sons and daughters, not only at home but abroad, and in the most distant parts of the world; that the womb of the Church shall not be limited to any corner of the world, but shall be extended as far and wide as there shall be space throughout the whole world.
(151) “There is more probability in Knobel’s suggestion, that the Prophet made his picture true to nature by describing the sons as walking, and the daughters as being carried.” Alexander.
5. Then shalt thou see. These things appear, at first sight, to be somewhat inconsistent with each other, that formerly he spoke of the fact as present, and now foretells it as future. But formerly he spoke of the eyes of faith, which beholds those things which do not fall under the senses of men, and now he speaks of the actual event; or, at least, he intended by the present tense to point out the certainty; but now, in order that believers may continue to exercise patience, he limits the same statement. Besides, although those things which the Lord promises are concealed, for a time, from the eyes of men, yet believers perceive them by faith; so that they have a firm belief and expectation of the accomplishment of them, however incredible they may appear to others.
Thou shalt shine, or, thou shalt overflow. As the verb נהר ( nahar) signifies both “to shine” and “to overflow,” so it may be rendered either way. (152) We may refer it to that joy with which the Church is filled and overflows, when it is enlarged in this manner, or to the ornament with which it shines and dazzles. (153)
Thou shalt tremble. He now mentions “trembling,” and connects it with splendor or joy; and this may appear to be inconsistent with the meaning assigned to the former clause. But I have no doubt that he intended, by this word, to express the astonishment and even amazement with which the Church shall be seized, when she shall perceive that this strange and unexpected honor has been obtained by her, and that she has been elevated to so high a rank of honor. As if he had said, “The extent of the work will be so great as to exceed thy expectation.” It is not, therefore, the “trembling”’ which is produced by some danger or some melancholy event, but such as commonly arises in matters of great importance, which exceed the capacity of our understanding, when we are struck with amazement, and almost think that we dream, and this “trembling” agrees very well with joy.
(152) “As to נהר, ( nahar,) the difficulty is in choosing between its two admitted senses of ‘flowing,’ (Isaiah 2:2) and of ‘shining,’ (Psalms 34:5) The former is preferred by Jerome, who translates it afflues ; by Junius and Tremellius, who have conflues ; and by the English and Dutch versions, the latter of which refers it to the confluence of crowds produced by any strange occurrence. Vitringa makes it mean to flow out, and Lowth to overflow with joy. But all the latest writers of authority give the word the same sense as in Psalms 34:5, which is well expressed by Henderson in strong though homely English, thou shalt look and brighten up. ” — Alexander
(153) “ Qui la fait reluire.” “Which causes it to shine.”
6. A multitude of camels shall cover thee. The Prophet describes figuratively the glory of the Church, and accommodates his discourse to the time, and to the persons with whom he had to do. We must keep in remembrance what we have often said, that the prophets took into account the people whom they taught, and therefore mentioned customary transactions and wellknown ceremonies, that, under the figures of them, they might describe the spiritual worship of God. The Jews must be first instructed, and afterwards the Gentiles, to whom the truth of those things has come; as if he had said, that nations far distant shall come, with their wealth, into the power of God; for, when he foretells that the Church shall be enriched, this must not be understood as referring to the persons of men; but, on account of the unity of the Head and the members, what belongs to God and to Christ is transferred to the Church. Foolishly, therefore, do the Jews, under the pretense of this prophecy, devour with their insatiable avarice all the riches of the earth; and not less absurdly do the Papists torture these words to support their luxuries, wealth, and magnificence.
He mentions “camels, frankincense, gold., and sheep,” because he has in his eye what each country produces, in order to show that all will consecrate to God whatever they shall have in their power, and will offer themselves and all that they have as a sacrifice. Hence it ought to be inferred, that we cannot be truly converted to the Lord, without offering to him all our faculties; for these are “spiritual sacrifices,” (1 Peter 2:5) which he demands, and which cannot be refused to him, if our hearts be dedicated and consecrated to him in sincerity. (Romans 12:1) Wicked men abuse the gifts of God for luxury and intemperance, and corrupt them, as far as lies in their power, by unworthy profanation; but good men, by using them with a pure conscience, dedicate them to the Lord. No one, therefore, can belong to God without dedicating and devoting to him all that he has.
7. Kedar, Nebaioth. So far as relates to the countries which the Prophet here enumerates, it is unnecessary to explain in what place each of them is situated; but it ought to be observed, in passing, that he mentions here those countries which lay toward the East, and chiefly Arabia and neighboring places, which he describes under the names of “Kedar” and “Nebaioth.” The Papists have also abused this passage, in order to prove that kings came from the East to offer gifts to Christ; and, in so doing, they make themselves exceedingly ridiculous, seeing that the Prophet speaks of all ranks of men. But they heap up, without judgment, all passages of this kind, in which mention is made of “gold” or “frankincense,” as if the prophets meant those gifts which the magi offered. (Matthew 2:11) But in this passage there is no obscurity; for it means that everywhere men shall call upon God, and all foreigners shall assemble to worship him.
They shall ascend to the good pleasure of my altar. Others render the words, “They shall ascend with good pleasure on my altar,” and think (not altogether without reason, in my opinion) that it is a figure of speech by which words interchange their cases with each other, and that. the Prophet means that those sacrifices which shall be offered by the Gentiles will be acceptable to God. Others interpret רצון ( ratzon) as if it were an adjective, which does not agree with the correct use of the language; for רצון ( ratzon) signifies benevolence or favor. For this reason I consider the rendering which I have given to be preferable; namely, that “sacrifices shall ascend to the good pleasure of the altar;” and the meaning may be brought out in this manner, “They shall ascend to appease God; as it is for this purpose that an altar has been appointed, and sacrifices are offered, that God may be reconciled and favorable to men; and God also, according to his promise, accepts the sacrifices that have been offered on his altar;” for at that time the “altar” was the approach to obtain God’s favor.
Here the Prophet plainly expresses three things. First, when he says that “the sacrifices ascend,” he alludes to the ancient ceremony, which was formerly observed by them in sacrifices; for they lifted up the slain beasts; by which they meant that all men ought to raise their hearts on high, that they might not keep their eyes fixed on the earth or look only at the sacrifice which was offered. Secondly, the Prophet says that those sacrifices are acceptable to God, that they may be distinguished from the profane offerings of the Gentiles, which were unaccompanied by faith. Thirdly, he says, “On the altar,” which alone can “sanctify the offerings,” (Matthew 23:19;) for all that was offered anywhere else was unholy and detestable. Besides, this figure ought to lead us to the truth; for Christ is the altar of God, and on him we must offer, if we wish that God should accept our sacrifices.
And I will glorify the house of my glory. Under the glorification of the temple he declares the true restoration of the people; for the chief part of their happiness was, that the temple should stand, in which men called on God in a right manner; and we must begin with this, that God reigns amongst us, by which we are made truly happy. For this reason, when the Lord declares that the Church shall be restored, he mentions the temple, the glory of which he will restore; as if he had said, “My house is now exposed to the mockery of the Gentiles, but I will at length restore to it that glory of which it has now been deprived.” It is evident from Zechariah, Haggai, and Malachi, that this was not completed immediately after the return of the people. We must not imagine that its true dignity consisted in that splendid building by which Herod cunningly endeavored to gain favor; and therefore the dignity or honor, which is here mentioned, was not manifested till God opened the gate of heaven to Jerusalem, and then openly called all the Gentiles to the hope of eternal salvation.
8. Who are those? As the Prophet cannot satisfy himself in describing this gift of God, he breaks out into admiration, and exclaims, “Who are those?“ This is far more forcible than if he had simply said that an inconceivable multitude was flying, and had even made use of the same metaphors. He intended, therefore, to describe how splendid this multiplication would be, when he could not find words sufficient to express it.
That fly as a cloud. (154) It is generally thought that this denotes the Apostles, who, with incredible swiftness, made their way to the farthest boundaries of the world; and there is some plausibility in that interpretation. (Mark 16:15) But the Prophet speaks of a universal assemblage of the Church; for from every quarter men shall run to it readily and cheerfully.
And as doves to their windows (155) The metaphor of “doves,” which he employs, is highly appropriate to this subject; for, when they are dispersed through the fields, they appear not to differ at all from untamed birds; and yet they are domesticated, and have their pigeonhouse, to which they betake themselves, and in which they build their nests. Thus believers, enlightened by faith, begin to perceive their assembly, to which they fly from frightful dispersion. How necessary this warning was, will be readily perceived by all who shall take into account their wretched and alarming condition at that time; for, if the prophets, after having carefully instructed the Jews for many years, could gain very little or hardly any success, what was to be expected from the Gentiles, who were altogether alienated from God? Was it not παράδοξον beyond all reasonable expectation, that the Gentiles would one day come into the Church? Yet the Prophet does not speak extravagantly, but is filled with such amazement that he leads us to admire it in the same manner.
(154) “It is a fine conception of Vitringa, that the ships expressly mentioned in the next verse are here described, on their first appearance at a distance, resembling with their outspread sails and rapid course a fleecy cloud driven by the wind, and a flight of doves returning to their young.” Alexander.
(155) “The ideas conveyed by the images here employed are those of number and velocity. The reference to the doves is beautifully illustrated by a passage in Morier’s Second Journey in Persia. Speaking of the pigeonhouses near Ispahan, he says: ‘They are large round towers, rather broader at the bottom than 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, afford 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 persons referred to are the Jews, who now flock in immense numbers from all quarters to the land of their fathers, and Jerusalem, the summit of their earthly joy.” Henderson.
9. Surely the islands shall wait for me. After having employed every eulogium that he could find for extolling that wonderful benefit of restoration, Isaiah introduces God himself as speaking, that the discourse may carry greater weight. This “waiting” is supposed by some to denote desire; as if he had said that this is done, because nations beyond the seas shall, as it were, hunger after him; because they shall feel that they are destitute of life and salvation. Others view it as simply denoting hope. But sometimes it likewise means “to observe,” in which sense David employs it. “Wicked men wait for my soul;” that is, “they lay snares for my life.” (Psalms 56:6) In that sense it may be understood in this passage. “They shall wait for,” that is, they shall observe my will; as servants are wont to comply with the will of their masters. Do not wonder, therefore, that so many shall flow into the Church; for “the islands,” which at present sometimes despise and sometimes fight against me, shall be so attentive to me as to execute whatever I shall command. And indeed from the remainder of the verse it is manifest that he now speaks of that kind of obedience.
And the ships of Tarshish. If it be thought preferable, the particle כ ( caph,) as, may be here supplied in this manner: “As the ships of Tarshish formerly traded with Judea, and brought what was necessary for building the temple and for the use of men, so they shall again renew their traffic, and that navigation which had been broken off shall bring them back to their former course. By “Tarshish,” that is, Cilicia, he means, συνεκδοχικῶς by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, all the naval intercourse and all the traffic which they carried on with foreign nations. It may also be supposed simply to mean, “The ships of Tarshish, which now proudly despise my Church, shall be subjected to my authority, and shall bring sons to her from distant countries.”
Their silver and gold with them. He again repeats what he had formerly said, that the Gentiles shall yield obedience to God in such a manner as to offer themselves and all that they have. The Popish doctors, as I remarked a little before, display consummate impudence in abusing these proofs for defending that tyrannical and theatrical (156) display by which Roman antichrist, and his attendants, wish to attain fame and distinction. Abounding in luxury, adorning themselves with gold and jewels, and indeed with the attire of a harlot, they are not ashamed of representing the Holy Spirit as the author of this wickedness; so that, whenever gold and silver are mentioned in Scripture, they apply it to their luxury. In. this respect they certainly are very like the Jews, who rise to ecstatic delight at the mention of gold and silver, and hope to wallow in them, when Messiah comes. Thus the Papists think of nothing else than gold and silver, and their understandings are so much dazzled by that empty display that they cannot raise them to heaven. But such stupidity does not need a lengthened refutation.
To the name of Jehovah thy God. The general meaning is, that God intends to elevate his Church to the highest honor, and to adorn her with necessary ornaments. And that believers may not have their minds disturbed by any doubt of so illustrious a promise, or ascribe anything to their own merits, God himself promises that he will be the author of this event, for he will glorify thee. Besides, the Prophet declares that the riches of the Gentiles, which he appeared to represent, a little before, as the prey of the Church or the prize of victory, shall be a sacred offering to God; and thus he states more clearly what I have said, that there is nothing which we ought to desire more earnestly than that the whole world should bow to the authority of God.
(156) “ Et Persiques.” “And Persian.” The reference is to that love of display which has always prevailed in Asiatic countrics. Ed.
10. And the sons of the stranger shall build thy walls. He continues the same subject. As he formerly said that foreigners shall submit to his authority, in order to build the temple; so he now says that “the sons of the stranger” shall bestow their labor in building the walls. Various are the comparisons by which he promises the restoration of the Church. It is customary in Scripture, when the Church is spoken of, to exhibit sometimes the temple, and sometimes Jerusalem. He promises that foreigners and strangers shall assist in rearing this building, that the Jews may not be terrified by their poverty or their small number, and consequently lose heart; for they might be tempted to distrust during the captivity, so that, though they hoped to return to their native country, still they might think that this could not be accomplished by them.
Now, Cyrus accomplished it, when he supplied them with a large amount of gold and silver. But in him these things were merely shadowed out. They were actually fulfilled in Christ, to whose reign they must entirely relate; for, first, Christ employed a few apostles, (Matthew 10:1) who could not be sufficient for so great a work; but afterwards he raised up strangers, from among whom he chose pastors, and wished that their foreign princes should be nursingfathers of the Church.
With aggravated wickedness do the Papists pervert and corrupt this passage, by torturing it to uphold the tyranny of the Pope, whom they wish to possess supreme power over kings and princes. They speak impudent falsehood when they say that he is Christ’s deputy; for Christ’s “kingdom” is not of this world. (John 18:36) The Pope rules barbarously and tyrannically, and claims the power of changing and disposing of kingdoms. But kings submit to Christ in such a manner that they do not cease to be kings, but exercise all their power for preserving the worship of God and administering righteous government.
Hence we see how much those persons are opposed to the kingdom of Christ who wish to snatch authority and power from kings, that they themselves may possess it. Hence also the Anabaptists may be refuted, who overturn political order so far as to imagine that kings cannot be Christians in any other way than by renouncing their own authority, since even in the royal rank God shows that he wishes to hold the highest place.
For in my wrath I smote thee. Lest any one should object that it would have been easier to preserve the Church uninjured than to raise her from hell, God anticipates the objection, and shows that the Jews were justly afflicted in this manner, because he had been exceedingly provoked by their offenses; but he gives them good ground of hope, because he does not choose to demand the punishment which they had deserved, but will be satisfied, provided that a temporary chastisement shall humble them.
In my kindness have I had compassion on thee. He reminds the Jews what is the cause of this change, that they may not judge of it according to their own apprehension. When kingdoms are changed, and frequently rise and fall, men think that these events happen by chance, and that it is the common lot of the world. The Jews might think the same thing, when, in consequence of the kingdom of the Babylonians having been overturned, they were restored to liberty. For this reason the Lord testifies that all these things are governed by his providence; that is, that they may not shut their eyes after the manner of heathens. It is as if he had said, “If thou inquire why thou hast endured so many afflictions, the reason is this, that I was angry with thee and punished thy transgressions. But if thou ask the cause of thy deliverance, my undeserved kindness, and not thy worthiness, or an accidental occurrence, was the cause.” Accordingly, calamities do not happen by chance, nor is God angry without cause; and he is not angry to such a degree as not to leave room for his compassion. (Habakkuk 3:2)
11. And thy gates shall be open continually. The ordinary exposition of this verse is incorrect. The Prophet is generally supposed to mean that the Church will be perfectly safe under the Lord’s protection and guardianship; for “open gates” indicate that danger is far off. But I think that the Prophet himself explains it; namely, that the gates shall be open, that riches may be brought into the city from every quarter. And as burdens are usually carried in the daytime, “The day,” he says, “will not be enough, so vast shall be the crowd of those who bring into it precious treasures, and therefore the carrying will be so constant that it will be necessary to keep the gates open night and day.” (157)
When he says that the riches of the Gentiles shall belong to the Church, let us not view this as referring to carnal luxury, but to obedience, which the whole world shall render to God in the Church; for he says that what is offered to God belongs to the Church, because here God has nothing separate from it.
That their kings may be led. I prefer retaining the participial form which the Prophet employs, instead of following those who change it into a verb. Such commentators corrupt the Prophet’s meaning, who expressly added this, because so great is the haughtiness of kings that they can scarcely endure to be led, but. rather, relying on their power, give free scope to their inclinations, and not only are driven along so as to be the sport of their passions, but., like violent torrents, drag others along with them. He shows, therefore, that these kings, though naturally haughty and ungovernable, shall submit to the authority of God and of the Church.
(157) “The idea conveyed by the gates never being shut is that of the continual arrival of the multitudes referred to. Modern travelers greatly complain of the inconvenience to which they are put, when they do not reach Jerusalem before the gates are closed. The Apostle John borrows the language in his description of the New Jerusalem. (Revelation 21:25) The ideas of security and peace are implied.” Henderson.
12. For the nation and kingdom. The Prophet dwells largely on confirming the hearts of believers, that they may not doubt that the restoration shall be such as he has described. Those events were altogether incredible; and we ourselves, though we have obtained abundant confirmation of them from the actual event, (for they have been made manifest to the eyes of all,) yet, unless we are guided by the Spirit of the Lord, could hardly conceive of them in our mind. He shows, therefore, that there is no reason why the Jews should doubt as to the restoration of the temple, because the Gentiles will aid them to the utmost of their power But here Isaiah looks at something higher than the building of the visible temple; for he intends to speak of that obedience which kings and nobles and the common people render to the Church when they promote, as far as they are able, pure doctrine.
Shall perish. He goes still farther, and confirms his statement the more by declaring that “the kingdoms and nations which will not serve the Church shall be destroyed.” And if so dreadful a punishment was pronounced against those who did not aid the Church, what shall we say of the tyrants who rush upon her with furious attack, and labor with all their might to destroy her? If careless and slothful men do not pass unpunished, does not a fearful vengeance await the ungodly, who disturb and overturn the work of the Lord?
The nations, I say, shall be utterly destroyed. What he had said in the singular number he immediately repeats in the plural, in order to show that even the whole world, if it be involved in the same guilt, shall likewise perish; for their multitude will not be able to prevent all who are estranged from God from perishing, and ungodly men will have no excuse for throwing obstacles in each other’s way, or for encouraging each other to impiety and wickedness. Kings and nations are said, as we have already seen, to “serve the Church;” not that she exercises any dominion over them, but because God has committed to her the scepter of his word by which he rules.
13. The glory of Lebanon. Isaiah again employs the metaphor which he formerly used, when he compared the Church of God to a building or a city. He enumerates those things which were necessary for building, such as “the fir-tree, the pine, and the box-tree,” which grew in Lebanon, a forest abounding, as we know, in excellent trees.
For the beauty of the place of my holiness. He means that all that is excellent and beautiful in Lebanon shall be carried into the Church. But it must be believed that these figures contain an emblematical reference to the spiritual worship of God; for the Lord adorns his Church with the title of a sanctuary, because he dwells in the midst of it. Yet he always alludes to the temple, so as to accommodate himself to the time and to ordinary custom. Thus he holds out to us the pattern of the temple which stood at Jerusalem, that under the image of it we may contemplate the “spiritual temple,” (Ephesians 2:21) of which we are the “living stones” and the living substance. (1 Peter 2:5)
For I will glorify the place of my feet. By “the place of his feet,” he means that he dwells in the temple in such a manner that his majesty is not confined within it, (for he is not limited to so narrow a place;) and therefore his feet only, what may be called the smallest part, is there, that we may ascend to heaven, and not fix our whole attention on those outward signs by which we are instructed according to our capacity. Thus also in the Psalm,“
Worship the footstool of his feet, for it is holy.” (Psalms 99:5)
We will worship in the place where his feet stood.” (Psalms 132:7)
Not that God’s essence is divided into parts above and below, (158) but because by such means he lifts up his servants, as it were, from the feet to the head.
(158) “ L’une au ciel, l’autre en terre.” “One in heaven, another on earth.”
14. And the sons of them that afflict thee shall come. He continues the same subject, for he shows how splendid will be this work of redemption; that is, that they who persecuted or despised the Church “shall come,” so as to bow down humbly before her, and submit to her with their whole heart. By “the sons of them that afflict her,” he means the persecutors and enemies who oppressed her. This was indeed partly fulfilled, when the Jews returned to their native country; but that return was nothing more than a dark shadow of the deliverance which we have obtained through Christ. These things were actually accomplished under the reign of Christ, yet so that the full accomplishment of them may be expected at; his second coming, as we have already said under a different passage.
Some one will ask, “Is not this honor, of which the Prophet speaks, excessive and greater than ought to be given to the Church? for to bow down and prostrate ourselves are tokens of honor which no human being ought to receive.” I reply, this honor is rendered, not to the members, but to the Head; that is, to Christ, who is worshipped in the Church; and this worship is rendered by those who formerly hated and persecuted him. Now we say that Christ is worshipped in the Church, not as the Papists do, who think that the honor which they bestow on that Roman idol is rendered to Christ. (159) They for whose sake these things are said reject and despise doctrine; for Christ is honored by those who obey his doctrine. And this is what the Prophet means, that they who were formerly alienated from it shall heartily submit, so as to obey Christ; for if Christ; has any majesty, it shines forth in the doctrine which he administers by the agency of men.
They shall call thee the city of Jehovah. The Church had formerly been adorned with that title; but it was nearly obliterated when the city was destroyed, the temple thrown down, and the people carried into captivity. Jerusalem was no more, and nothing was to be seen in it but frightful desolation; and therefore he means that it shall be restored in such a manner that all shall acknowledge it to be the city of God.
The Zion of the Holy One of Israel. He next speaks of the temple, that all may know that this high rank is ascribed to Jerusalem on account of the temple; that is, on account of the worship of God which the Lord established there.
(159) “ Qui pensent bien honnorer Christ en s’agenouillant derant cette idole de Rome pour baiser sa pantoufle.” “Who think that they greatly honor Christ by kneeling before that idol of Rome to kiss his slipper.”
15. Instead of (160) thy having been forsaken and hated. The Prophet has in his eye that intermediate period which was already at hand; for, soon after his death, the people were deprived of their heritage and led into captivity, so that all thought that there was no remaining hope of their safety. Lest this thought should come into the minds of believers, by which they might be reduced to despair, “We are undone, there can be no remedy for affairs so desperate, and we ought not to hope for a better condition,” he shows that those grievous calamities cannot prevent God from restoring them; for, although for a time, when the Lord chastised them, they appeared to be forsaken, yet it was easy for him to raise them again to prosperity and to a better condition than before.
If any one object that this splendor of the Church was not of long duration, the reply is short. Although the people were afflicted in various ways after their return, and although even the Christian Church did not long retain its glory, yet those things which the Prophet foretold were fulfilled; for under the cross the glory of Christ shines forth, so that the name of God remains, and there is a people that calls upon him by faith. It ought also to be observed, that in consequence of our ingratitude, we do not obtain the fruit of those promises; for we interrupt the course of God’s works, and deprive ourselves of the fruit of them by our malice. Besides, we ought always to keep in remembrance what I have so often said, that the Prophet does not speak of a few years or a short period, but embraces the whole course of redemption, from the end of the captivity to the preaching of the Gospel, and, finally, down to the end of the reign of Christ.
(160) תחת ( tachath) merely expresses ‘in exchange for:’ though, from the circumstances of the case, the idea of compensation is necessarily implied.” Henderson. “The תחת (tachath) may express either simply a change of condition, (whereas,) or the reason of the change, (because,) or the further idea of equitable compensation.” Alexander
16. And thou shalt suck the milk of the Gentiles. He speaks of the extension of the Church which he had formerly mentioned; but it was of great importance that the same things should be frequently repeated, because it appeared to be incredible that the Church, which had been reduced to calamities so great and so numerous, would be restored and spread throughout the whole world. Her condition was desperate; but at length, out of that slender remnant which had been, as it were, snatched from the burning, to the great astonishment of all she was restored, and her seed was spread far and wide through every part of the world. And therefore it is as if he had said, “Although thou art confined within narrow limits, and thou hast had no intercourse with the Gentiles, yet thou wilt obtain very abundant fruit from them.”
Thou shalt suck the breast of kings. (161) By “milk” and “breasts” he means nothing else than service and obedience, which the Gentiles shall render to the Church for supporting her offspring; for, having formerly said that at one birth she would bring forth innumerable children, he now gives them milk for nourishment till they grow up. And he speaks expressly of “kings,” because it was more difficult to be believed. Here, too, in passing, “kings” are reminded of their duty; and if they wish to discharge it in a proper manner, they must be the servants of the Church; otherwise the Lord will call them to account. We see also what David says of them,“
And now, O ye kings, be wise; and ye judges of the earth, be instructed. Serve Jehovah with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” (Psalms 2:10)
But we ought carefully to observe in what manner the Church sucks “the milk” and “the breasts” of the Gentiles; for she is not at liberty to exhaust the wealth of the whole world, but to preserve her own condition safe and sound. What is more inconsistent with the nature of a Church than to be an insatiable gulf, and to draw the wealth of all to herself? Those things, therefore, must relate to her spiritual condition, that God may be purely worshipped in her, that the ministry of the word may prosper and flourish, and that some discipline may be maintained, which shall serve as a bridle to restrain all. Yet let believers remember that (Acts 20:35) “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” and that they ought to bear poverty so patiently as to enrich others abundantly with spiritual benefits.
And thou shalt know that I Jehovah am thy Redeemer. At length he adds that what had been concealed for a time shall be made manifest, that the Jews were not elected in vain, because they shall know by undoubted experience that God takes care of their salvation. It may be asked, Did they not know this even before they were led into captivity? I answer, that captivity was like the thick darkness to which also the Prophet compared it in the beginning of this chapter. Since, therefore, during that harsh tyranny, they could not behold God’s majesty and power, the Lord led them out into open day, not that faith gives way amidst afflictions, but that the feeling of faith is different from that of experience. When we appear to be ruined, faith raises itself above the present condition and the thick darkness in which we are involved; and if God restore us perfectly, then we see it, not by the eyes of faith, but by actual experience. And this is the clear knowledge of which he speaks; as if he had said, “When I shall have acted so kindly towards you, then you shall actually know that I am your Redeemer.”
The mighty one of Jacob. He expressly claims the title of “the mighty one of Jacob,” because he had often shown that he was so; and not only had Jacob experience in various ways of the power of God, but Jacob’s posterity had also known that in the power of God there was abundant protection. He therefore calls himself the “mighty one,” that they may know that God will henceforth be to them what he formerly was to their fathers.
(161) “Sucking the breast of kings is unusual, and by fastidious critics may be deemed unnatural: but the phrase is merely employed for the purpose of carrying out more efficiently the idea taught in the preceding clause; namely, that abundant contributions would be made by the inhabitants of the different nations to the sustenance of Zion.” Henderson
17. For brass I will bring gold. He alludes to the building of the ancient temple, and compares it with the heavenly and spiritual temple; as if he had said, “When you shall be led into captivity, you will deplore the ruin of the temple, but I will cause you to build one far more excellent.” Thus, “for brass I will bring gold, for iron silver, for wood brass, for stones iron;” that is, everything shall be full of magnificence and splendor in that temple which shall come in place of the former.
We know that this prediction was never accomplished ill that external restoration of the people, or during the commencement of it, and even that the temple which was afterwards erected was far inferior to the former. It follows, therefore, that the Prophet, to whom a full redemption was exhibited in spirit, not only relates what shall happen immediately after the return of the people, but discourses concerning the excellence of the spiritual temple; that is, of the Church of Christ. We must, therefore, come down in uninterrupted succession to Christ, if we wish to understand this prophecy. In his reign these things were abundantly fulfilled, and the glory of the former temple was greatly surpassed; for the Lord poured out gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are more excellent than gold, silver, and jewels. We may therefore see the temple now built with precious stones, as was formerly said. (Isaiah 54:11)
I will make thy magistracy peace. (162) Instead of “magistracy” some render the word “tribute.” I have no doubt that the Prophet intended indirectly to compare the wretched bondage of the people under which they were to be kept, with that preeminently high rank which they afterwards obtained. With “peace” and “righteousness” he contrasts the “magistrates” who exercised unjust rule, while they were harassed by the avarice and cruelty of the Babylonians.
And thy exactors righteousness. He now shows that when their “exactors” shall have been exterminated, there will be no “magistracy” but that of “peace” and “righteousness.” “They who shall have power over thee will observe righteousness and peace.” This was more fully accomplished when, through Christ, we were delivered from the tyranny of the devil; for by the Gospel he set up a kingdom of righteousness which he has not yet completed; but we must look for his last coming so as to have our eyes eagerly fixed on it, and, in the meantime, must; be satisfied with those firstfruits.
(162) “‘And I will make thy magistracy peace;’ that is, ‘I will make thy rulers peaceful. פקדה, ( pekudah,) which evidently corresponds to the Greek word ἐπισκοπὴ, is here used by metonymy for, אנשי פקדה, ( anshe pekudah,) or בעלי פקדה, ( begnale pekudah,) those who discharge the office of magistracy, as in Genesis 11:18, Ezekiel 44:11. The Septuagint renders it ἄρχοντάς, ‘thy rulers,’ and the Chaldee פרנסך, ( parnasach,) ‘thy governors.’“ Rosenmuller
18. Oppression shall no longer be heard in thy land. Here he states more clearly what we have already said, namely, that, while the Prophet discourses concerning the prosperous condition of the Church, he indirectly contrasts the miseries and calamities by which they had been afflicted in various ways. He promises, therefore, that they shall never afterwards be subjected to such afflictions. Yet nevertheless various afflictions afterwards befell them. This is undoubtedly true; but the people were never scattered in such a manner as not to have some remaining form of the Church, and thus to enjoy peace, and to feel that they were protected and kept by the hand of God. These words did not contain a promise of exemption from every annoyance and distress; but by comparison they held out this solace for future evils, that God spares his Church, and consequently the Church shall be safe under his protection; and during the very course of the deliverance there was exhibited a striking proof of this peace, which the Prophet extols. Finally, we must always keep in remembrance what we have so often said, that; it is only in part that all these things are experienced by us; for the kingdom of Christ has not yet been completed.
And thy gates Praise. He alludes, as we have often said already, to the building of the temple or the city, and shows that the Church shall be safe, not by means of walls, or towers, or any enclosures, but that, although there are no earthly defenses, there shall be abundance of safety and peaceful joy in God alone. Now he connects the safety of the Church with “peace” or “joy;“ because she rejoices at being safe and sound, whereas formerly she lay silently in affliction and despair.
19. and 20. And thou shalt no longer have the sun for the light of days. He teaches that the prosperity of the Church shall not be temporary, but permanent; for he distinguishes it from the ordinary condition of men, among whom there is nothing steadfast or permanent; because there is nothing under the sun, however well regulated, that is not subject to various changes. But we ought not to judge of the Church from the dangers of the present life; for she is preserved in the midst of the billows; as if he had said, “Do not judge of thy safety from the present appearance of things, but know that it is laid up in God. God will be thy sun, so that thou hast no need of borrowing light from the sun or the moon. Do not, therefore, dread any change or revolution of affairs; for thou shalt have a perpetual and unchangeable light.”
By these words the Prophet does not mean that the children of God shall be deprived of the ordinary advantages of life; for, since the Lord bestows them indiscriminately on all men, he certainly has appointed them also for his children, for whose sake, indeed, God created all things, since he exercises a peculiar care over them. But the Prophet intended to express a still greater blessing, which the children of God alone enjoy, namely, the heavenly Light, which ungodly men hate, and therefore cannot receive; for, although they enjoy the sun and other blessings, yet their happiness cannot be firm and enduring; because, being void of taste, they do not relish that which was of the greatest importance, that they have God for their Father.
Thus he distinguishes the condition of the Church and of believers from the ordinary lot of men, that we may not judge of it from the revolution and change of events, and next that we may know that, amidst the thickest darkness, the fatherly kindness of God shines on believers, in order to cheer them. And, indeed, although all the elements either cease to discharge their duty, or threaten us with a melancholy aspect, yet it ought to be enough that God is reconciled to us. By a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, he includes, under the terms “Sun” and “Moon,” the whole condition of man, which is continually undergoing change.
21. Thy people also are all righteous. Here he shows what is the true establishment of the Church; namely, when she is purged of the ungodly, and none but righteous men have a place in her. Yet we know that, in the Church, hypocrites have always been mingled with the true children of God. We have said that this is a description of the whole reign of Christ, not such as it shall be at any one moment, but in its perfection. Christ began to do this at his coming, when he purged the Church. Hence also he calls the Church “a sieve,” (Matthew 3:12) because by means of it the chaff is separated from the wheat; but he goes on from day to day in purifying it, and will go on till the day of harvest. Yet there must be much rubbish mixed with the wheat, which shall at length be removed on that day. Besides, there is an implied contrast between this people and that irreligious and unholy multitude which, by its defilement, had polluted the sanctuary of God. The use of the plural number appears to denote an assemblage of nations, when he says that all the peoples shall be righteous.
They shall inherit the land for ever. I have no doubt that, in these words, the Prophet had his eye on Judea, and indirectly contrasted the time of restoration with the time of the captivity which was immediately at hand; as if he had said, “Though I drive out my people from their inheritance, yet after seventy years I will restore them, that they may possess it for ever.” Besides, it ought to be observed that, when he limits to the “righteous” that promise which related to the people of Zion, there is implied a sort of correction, in order to exclude hypocrites, who falsely and unwarrantably are wont to appropriate to themselves what is said about the true children of God.
This sentiment, therefore, agrees with these words, “How good is God to Israel, to those who are of an upright heart!” in which the Psalmist claims the name of “Israel,” which all without exception had in their mouth, as belonging to none but God’s sincere worshippers. (Psalms 73:1) Such is the import, in this passage, of the phrase, “Thy people,” that is, the remaining portion which shall have been purged from its defilement. This was not, in every respect, fulfilled in the Jews; but a beginning was made with them, when they were restored to their native country, that, by their agency, the possession of the whole earth might afterwards be given to them, that is, to the children of God. For as he formerly spoke of the restoration of the temple, which was not complete at Jerusalem, but must be extended throughout the whole world, so the possession of this land must not be limited to Judea, since it is more extensive, and all men are called to it, that by faith they may be children of Abraham, and may thus become heirs of it. (Galatians 4:28)
We must therefore observe carefully those modes of expression which are customary among the prophets, that we, nay understand their meaning, and not break off sentences, or torture them to meanings different from what was intended. Exceedingly unnatural and inconsistent with the style of the prophets is the interpretation of those who explain “the land” to mean heaven and the blessed life; for the land of Canaan was given to the children of God with this intention, that, being separated from the whole world, and having become God’s heritage, they might worship him there in a right manner; and consequently, to dwell in the land by right of inheritance means nothing else than to remain in the family of God.
The branch of his planting. When God declares that a new “branch,” which shall come forth, shall be the work of his hands, this tends to confirm the hope; (163) for it was impossible, to human view, that the Church should spring up again, which all perceived to be dead, especially while the root was hidden. Thus, in order that it may spring up, he says that God will be like a husbandman, who plants anew that which had been torn up and was withered. In a word, he declares that it will be a wonderful work of God, and not of men, that the Church shall be rescued from a wretched and harsh captivity; for she shall be raised up as from the dead. And indeed all that relates to the heavenly life was neither produced in us by nature nor obtained by our own strength, but flows and proceeds from God alone. What is here said universally concerning the whole body every person ought to apply to himself in particular; for we are God’s “planting” before the world was made, (Ephesians 1:4,) and were afterwards ingrafted into Christ, and called, that we might have the testimony of our election and planting. Wicked men are not God’s planting; and therefore Christ declares that “they whom his heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.” (Matthew 15:13)
That I may be glorified. At length he adds the end of the “planting,” that we may celebrate the perfections of God, (1 Peter 2:9) and may show forth his glory, as Paul beautifully explains. (Ephesians 1:12)
(163) “ Pour conformer l’esperance des fideles.” “To confirm the hope of believers.”
22. A little one shall become a thousand. He again confirms what he formerly said, that, although they were few in number, yet the Church of God would be populous. When the Prophet foretold these things, there was still a vast multitude of people; but afterwards it was so greatly diminished that not more than a feeble remnant was left, as we have formerly seen. (Isaiah 1:9) he declares that the small number shall be so much enlarged, that it shall afterwards be a vast body of people, and shall possess great strength. Let us consider that what was said to the Jews is now said also to us; that is, though we are few in number and inconsiderable, and appear to be very near destruction, still the Church cannot perish, but will be enlarged and multiplied till it become very numerous; for it is God’s planting, and therefore we must not judge of it from the multitude or strength of men.
I Jehovah. He now shows the reason why he said all those things which we have formerly seen; namely, that we may not suppose him to be like men, whose labors and efforts quickly pass away. Although they wish to change the condition of any kingdom or of the world, they will accomplish nothing; but the Lord changes everything in an instant. He does not speak, therefore, of an ordinary government, but of a wonderful work by which the Lord delivers and multiplies his Church.
Will hasten it in her time. He says that “he will hasten this,” so as to complete it. But he employs a little word which deserves notice as to the time of the Church; for the relative is in the feminine gender, and is improperly interpreted by some as relating to God. (164) The Prophet means that there is a fixed time when the Church shall be delivered; and in this way he exhorts believers to patience, that they may not plunge headlong, but depend on God’s eternal purpose, who knows how to arrange every moment in an appropriate manner.
First, then, he describes the seasonableness and the time when it is advantageous that. the Church shall be delivered. We do not indeed perceive this, for we would wish to obtain instantly God’s promises, and are impatient of delay; but the Lord delays for our benefit, and because the time is not yet come. Next, he speaks of haste; for the Lord appears to us to be idle and inactive, when he prolongs the time; although he hastens to accomplish everything at the proper season, which he knows.
(164) Our author adds that he prefers “ ejus tempore “ to “ suo tempore,” for the sake of avoiding ambiguity; but unfortunately neither the Latin language nor his own vernacular could distinguish between the English pronouns his, her, and its. Ed. “The pronouns in the last clause are correctly explained by Knobel as neuters, referring to the whole preceding series of prophecies. (Compare Isaiah 43:13) The his in the common version is equivalent to its in modern English, a possessive form apparently unknown to the translators of the Bible.” Alexander.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 60". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29