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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 4

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

2. God’s discipline of Israel 2:5-4:1

In contrast to the hopeful tone of the sections that precede and follow it, this one is hopeless. In contrast to the dignity of humanity there, Isaiah presented its folly here.

The death of liberty 3:16-4:1

The Lord’s condemnation of His people continues, but there is a change in focus. In Isaiah 3:1-5 it was the male leaders who received criticism, but in this section the female citizens are more prominent. Undoubtedly what the Lord said about these women was true of them as females, but we should not limit their indictment to females alone. Men have been just as guilty of these sins as women, though in Isaiah’s day they were more blatant among some women. The point is that the whole nation of Judah was guilty, not just the men.

Verse 1

This verse brings to a high point the horrors that were to come. War has always resulted in the decimation of the male population. For example, approximately one million French, one million German, and half a million English male soldiers died in World War I. So many men would die in Israel that women would be desperate for male companionship and support. They would be willing to humiliate themselves to escape the reproach of being unmarried and childless. Long gone is the hope to gain a man through seduction of the eyes (cf. Isaiah 3:16). Now even begging and pleading would be ineffective. Women providing their own food and clothing is the reverse of God’s intention in marriage (cf. Exodus 21:10). Likewise, women taking men’s places and leading them, as Eve led Adam (Genesis 3), illustrates a desperate situation.

"Here is the final end of our desire to avoid dependence. We will become dependent in the most degrading and disadvantageous ways." [Note: Oswalt, p. 143.]

All this will happen on "that day" (Isaiah 3:7; Isaiah 3:18; Isaiah 4:1), namely, when God judges His people for trusting in other human beings-and themselves-rather than Him. Many of the judgments prophesied in this section took place during the Babylonian Captivity, and during the Assyrian Captivity of the Northern Kingdom, but "that day" also anticipates Tribulation times.

Verse 2

"In that day" connects this section of the oracle with its earlier parts and shows that all of it deals with a future time (cf. Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 2:17; Isaiah 2:20; Isaiah 3:8; Isaiah 3:18; Isaiah 4:1). However, here we learn that "that day" will be a day of glory and vindication for Israel, as well as retribution and judgment.

In a general sense "The Branch of the Lord" refers to Israel, but this is also a messianic title here as elsewhere (cf. Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12). It was regarded as a messianic reference here as early as the Targums, the Aramaic interpretive translation of the Old Testament that dates after the Babylonian exile or possible during it. [Note: See Joyce G. Baldwin, "Semah as a Technical Term in the Prophets," Vetus Testamentum 14 (1964):93-97.]

"[The branch is] a name of Christ, used in a fourfold way: (1) ’the branch of the LORD’ (Isaiah 4:2), i.e. the Immanuel character of Christ (Isaiah 7:14) to be fully manifested to restored and converted Israel after His return in divine glory (Matthew 25:31); (2) ’the Branch’ of David (Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15), i.e. the Messiah, ’of the seed of David according to the flesh’ (Romans 1:3), revealed in His earthly glory as King of kings, and Lord of lords; (3) the LORD’s ’servant, the Branch’ (Zechariah 3:8), Messiah’s humiliation and obedience unto death according to Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Philippians 2:5-8; and (4) the ’man whose name is THE BRANCH’ (Zechariah 6:12), that is, His character as Son of man, the ’last Adam,’ the ’second man’ (1 Corinthians 15:45-47), reigning as Priest-King over the earth in the dominion given to and lost by the first Adam. Matthew is the Gospel of the Branch of David; Mark, of the LORD’s Servant, the Branch; Luke, of the Man whose name is the Branch; and John, of the Branch of the LORD." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 716.]

God would provide a source of fruitfulness and blessing, which a tree branch (stemming from David and ultimately from the Lord) is, to Israel (cf. 2 Samuel 23:5). The nation would not produce this on her own by trusting in people, but God Himself would provide it. "The fruit of the earth" probably refers to the fruitfulness of the earth that God would provide through Israel and, specifically, the Messiah. God promised earlier to judge Israel with lack of fruitfulness because of her sin (Isaiah 4:1).

Many conservative interpreters have understood "the fruit of the earth" to be a second messianic title, which is possible. Some of them felt that the first title referred to Messiah’s divine nature, and the second to His human nature. [Note: E.g., Delitzsch, 1:152-53. ] Others favored taking "the fruit of the earth" simply as a reference to the future agricultural abundance of the land. [Note: E.g., Chisholm, "A Theology . . .," p. 317.]

"The survivors of Israel" refers to those who would live through the judgments mentioned earlier in this passage. Since the time of these judgments includes the Exile and the Tribulation, and since the reference to the Branch points to messianic times, these survivors will probably be Jews who will still be alive at the end of the Tribulation (cf. Zechariah 13:8). The daughters of Jerusalem previously sought to beautify themselves (Isaiah 3:16; Isaiah 3:18; Isaiah 4:1), but now the Lord would adorn them with fruitfulness.

Verses 2-6

3. God’s determination for Israel 4:2-6

Having begun this oracle by clarifying God’s desire for Israel (Isaiah 2:1-4), the prophet proceeded to contrast her present condition. She depended on people rather than Himself, a condition that would result in divine discipline (Isaiah 2:5 to Isaiah 4:1). Next, and in conclusion, he revealed that God would indeed bring what He determined for His chosen people to completion in the future (Isaiah 4:2-6). Israel’s destiny would be glorious-in spite of intervening judgment.

Verses 3-4

The divine judgments that God will bring on the Israelites in the future (in the Tribulation) will have a purifying effect on many of them, specifically the elect (cf. Isaiah 1:25; Ezekiel 36:25-26; Ezekiel 39:23-26; Daniel 9:4-19; Malachi 3:2-5; Matthew 3:11; Acts 13:48). Those left alive to the end will be holy in conduct, as well as set apart by God for His purposes. Similarly, God purified the Israelites through their oppression in Egypt and then liberated them so they could be a holy nation (Exodus 19:6)-in calling and in conduct. In both cases God Himself did it. This purification was only true to a very limited extent of those Israelites who returned from the Exile, as the post-exilic books of the Old Testament reveal.

The "daughters of Zion" throughout this oracle represent all the Israelites, not just the females in the nation (cf. Isaiah 3:16-17). The "spirit" in view (Isaiah 4:4) is probably the abstract concept of "process" (cf. Isaiah 19:14; Isaiah 28:6; Isaiah 29:10; Isaiah 37:7). A less probable view is that the spirit is the Holy Spirit.

Verses 5-6

God definitely would not abandon His people Israel in the coming judgment, but would share His presence with them and care for them by providing protection and guidance. Failure in leadership marked Israel in Isaiah’s day (Isaiah 3:2-7), but God Himself would lead the nation in the future. In the past, God had done this by sheltering the wilderness wanderers with a cloudy pillar, but in the future a similar covering would protect the dwellers at Mount Zion. The daughters of Jerusalem tried desperately to secure husbands (Isaiah 4:1), but God Himself would finally provide a marriage canopy (chamber) for His beloved in the future.

The same fire that judged His people, God Himself, would warm and protect them in all of their circumstances (cf. Psalms 91). He would control the forces of nature that the pagans believed the gods controlled. The Israelites saw a literal cloudy pillar in the wilderness, and perhaps this one in the future will be literal too, symbolic of His presence.

This oracle (Isaiah 2:1 to Isaiah 4:6) reveals events that would happen in a "day" yet future from Isaiah’s perspective. History has shown that some of the predictions of judgment found partial fulfillment in the exiles of Israel that preceded Messiah’s appearing. However, most of the judgment, and all the blessing connected to Messiah, lies in the future from our perspective (cf. Matthew 24:4-30). It is mainly the Tribulation, and Messiah’s blessing of Israel in the Millennium to follow, that is in view here.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/isaiah-4.html. 2012.
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