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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 61

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes


2. Israel under the Lord chs. 61-62

These chapters explain the character of the Israelites in the era following the Lord’s future provision of salvation for them. The salvation in view is the redemption that the Servant would provide in His first and second advents. The fact that the Servant would accomplish His ministry in two advents, separated by thousands of years, was unknown to the Old Testament prophets. Salvation includes deliverance from the power of sin, as well as deliverance from the penalty of sin. Chapter 60 presented the blessings that Israel would enjoy in the future, as a city lit by the rising sun. Chapter 61 begins by introducing the One who would bring those blessings, the "Sun" that lights that city.

Verse 1

Isaiah spoke for the Messiah, as is clear from what he said about Him (cf. Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 50:4). The Spirit of sovereign Yahweh would be upon Him (cf. Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 48:16). This is a verse in which all three members of the Trinity appear. This verse indicates that He would possess supernatural wisdom and capacity (cf. Genesis 41:38; Exodus 31:3; Numbers 11:17; Numbers 11:29), and that He would be able to bring justice and righteousness to the earth through His spoken word (cf. Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 32:15-16; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 59:21). His possession of the Spirit is a result of God anointing Him for His mission. He would need divine enablement by the Spirit to fulfill it (cf. 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 10:6-7; 1 Samuel 16:3; 2 Samuel 23:1-7; Matthew 3:16-17). This Anointed One would do the Servant’s work.

The mission of the Anointed One would be to announce good news to distressed people (cf. Psalms 25:16-21; Matthew 9:12-13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31-32). In other occurrences of this verb, it is the hope of Israel that is in view, specifically deliverance from Babylon and deliverance from sin (cf. Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 60:6). What "announcing good news to the afflicted" means, follows next (through Isaiah 61:3). First, it means He would mend the hearts of those so broken by life that they despair of having any hope. Second, it means the Anointed One would liberate those so enslaved that they could not break free (cf. Isaiah 1:27; Isaiah 11:3-5). Captives are in bondage to another person, and prisoners are bound to a place.

Verses 1-3

The mission of the Anointed One 61:1-3

These two chapters begin with an introduction of the Servant (Messiah) and His mission. Some scholars regard Isaiah 61:1-3 as a fifth Servant Song. [Note: E.g., Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "The Christological Fulfillment of Isaiah’s Servant Songs," Bibliotheca Sacra 163:652 (October-December 2006):401-4), regard 61:1-3.] That the Servant of the Servant Songs is the same person as the Anointed One (Messiah) of chapter 11, is clear from what Isaiah wrote about Him.

"The Anointed One now appears for the second time. As in the second Servant Song (Isaiah 49:1-6), he speaks in his own person about himself and his God-given ministry." [Note: Motyer, p. 499.]

Verse 2

Third, proclaiming good news means He would bring, for God, a year of favor and a day of vengeance. God’s favor would last much longer than His vengeance. A prolonged time of blessing is in view, followed by a short time of punishment for oppressors.

When Jesus Christ read this passage in the Nazareth synagogue and claimed that He fulfilled it, He stopped reading after "the favorable year of Yahweh" and did not read "and the day of vengeance of our God" (Luke 4:18-19). He meant that He was the Anointed One of whom Isaiah spoke, and that He had come to bring salvation. The day of salvation had begun (cf. Isaiah 49:8; 2 Corinthians 6:2). However, the day of vengeance would not begin until much later, specifically at the end of the Tribulation when He will return (cf. Isaiah 34:8; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 63:4; Daniel 7:21; Daniel 7:24-27; Micah 5:15; 1 Peter 1:11; Revelation 12:13-17; Revelation 19:15-20). [Note: See Gary Yates, "The Use of Isaiah 61:1 (and 58:6) in Luke 4:18-19," Exegesis and Exposition 2:1 (Summer 1987):13-27.]

Fourth, announcing good news means the Anointed One would comfort those who mourn because they believe their sins have doomed them (cf. ch. 12; Isaiah 40:1-2; Isaiah 49:13; Matthew 5:3-4). God would accept them in spite of their sin because of the Servant’s work.

Verse 3

Fifth, proclaiming good news means He would give joy to the mourners among the Israelites in place of their sorrows. Sixth, it means they would become a blessing like large trees are, flourishing in righteousness by demonstrating the saving and enabling grace of God, and so glorifying Him. God’s righteousness would make them strong and durable.

Verse 4

Those who formerly mourned in Israel, because of their downtrodden and deprived conditions, would rebuild their land, which others had destroyed. These destructions had come on Israel because of her sins. God predicted that the cities that opposed His people would suffer destruction and never rise again (cf. Isaiah 13:19-22; Isaiah 34:8-17). But the cities and land of His people, though terribly decimated throughout history, would be rebuilt (in the Millennium).

Verses 4-11

The benefits of the mission of the Anointed One 61:4-11

The Anointed One would fulfill God’s ancient promises to Israel.

"The Servant of Jehovah celebrates the glorious office committed to him, and expounds the substance of the gospel given him to proclaim. It points to the restoration of the promised land, and to the elevation of Israel, after its purification in the furnace of judgment, to great honour and dignity in the midst of the world of nations." [Note: Delitzsch, 2:428.]

Verse 5

Flocks and crops would again flourish in the Promised Land, and the Israelites would be so blessed that their former Gentile oppressors would even serve Israelite farmers.

Verse 6

However, the Israelites would not oppress their former oppressors. Rather than tilling the land and tending flocks, the Israelites would serve in the exalted position of being priests of Yahweh. They would mediate between God and the Gentiles. As the priests in Israel lived off the contributions of their fellow Israelites in the past, so all the Israelites would live off the contributions of the Gentiles in the future. The nation would finally become the kingdom of priests that God intended it to be (cf. Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 33:10).

"All that we can safely infer from his prophecy is, that the nationality of Israel will not be swallowed up by the entrance of the heathen into the community of the God of revelation." [Note: Ibid., 2:429.]

Verse 7

Instead of the shame that Israel suffered formerly because of God’s judgments on her, she would enjoy the double portion of blessing bestowed on the favored firstborn son in Israelite society (cf. Deuteronomy 21:17). As God’s firstborn son, Israel would enter into her promised bountiful and joyful inheritance (Exodus 4:22).

Verse 8

Israel could count on these promises because of who Yahweh is: a lover of justice (faithful to His promises to Israel) and a hater of iniquitous robbery (Israel’s enemies taking what did not belong to them). God would give Israel her inheritance and would make a new, everlasting covenant with her (cf. Isaiah 49:8; Isaiah 55:5; Jeremiah 31:31; Jeremiah 32:40; Ezekiel 16:60; Ezekiel 37:25-26; Malachi 3:1-2; Matthew 26:27-28; Hebrews 9:11-22; Hebrews 13:20).

Verse 9

The physical seed of Abraham would continue to exist and to be identifiable as Israel, as God promised the patriarch and his descendants (Genesis 12:1-3). Furthermore, Israel would be a witness to the rest of the earth’s population. Thus all the earth would be able to worship and praise Yahweh.

Verse 10

Isaiah now spoke for Zion, who rejoiced in the Lord for the gifts that He would give her in the future. Yahweh will have clothed her in garments of salvation and wrapped her in a robe of righteousness, like a bride for her wedding day. Salvation is "unto" (for the purpose of and expected results toward) righteousness. Israel’s joy in that day (the Millennium) will be like that of a bride on her wedding day, ecstatically adorned with a turban and jewels.

Verse 11

Finally, the harvest of righteousness that the Lord planted in Israel, when He redeemed her by the Servant’s work, would come to fruition (cf. Isaiah 55:10-11). With that righteousness will come praise, not only from Israel, but from the whole earth.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 61". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/isaiah-61.html. 2012.
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