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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Isaiah 25

Verse 1


(1) O Lord, thou art my God.—The burst of praise follows, like St. Paul’s in Romans 11:33-36, upon the contemplation of the glory of the heavenly city.

Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.—It is better to omit the words in italics, and to treat the words as standing in the objective case, in apposition with “wonderful things.” The “counsels of old” are the eternal purposes of God made known to His prophets. The absence of a conjunction in the Hebrew, emphasises the enumeration.

Verse 2

(2) Thou hast made of a city an heap.—The city spoken of as “the palace of strangers” was, probably in the prophet’s thought, that which he identified with the oppressors and destroyers of his people—i.e., Nineveh or Babylon; but that city was also for him the representation of the world-power which in every age opposes itself to the righteousness of God’s kingdom. The Babylon of Isaiah becomes the type of the mystical Babylon of the Apocalypse. The words as they stand expand the thought of Isaiah 24:10. (Comp. Isaiah 27:10.)

Verse 3

(3) Therefore shall the strong people . . .—Better, “a fierce people and a city,” the Hebrew having no article before either noun. The words paint the effect of the downfall of the imperial oppressor on the outlying fiercer nations, who were thus taught to recognise the righteous judgments of the God of Israel. (Comp. Revelation 11:13; Revelation 15:4.)

Verse 4

(4) Thou hast been a strength . . .—Literally, a fortress. The fierceness of the oppressor is represented by the intolerable heat, and the fierce tornado of an eastern storm, dashing against the wall, threatening it with destruction. From that storm the faithful servants of the Lord should find shelter as in the castle of the great King.

Verse 5

(5) Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers . . .—The thought of Isaiah 25:4 is reproduced with a variation of imagery, the scorching heat” in a “dry” (or parched) “land.” This is deprived of its power to harm, by the presence of Jehovah, as the welcome shadow of a cloud hides the sun’s intolerable blaze. (Comp. Isaiah 32:2.) It is noticeable that the LXX. in both passages gives “Sion” for “dry place” (Heb. tsayôn), perhaps following a various reading, perhaps interpreting.

The branch of the terrible ones . . .—Better, the song. The Hebrew noun is a rare one, but is found in this sense in Song Song of Solomon 2:12. The triumph song of the dread oppressors is thought of as blighting the world like a spell of evil; but this also is to be brought low, and hushed in silence.

Verse 6

(6) And in this mountain shall the Lord . . .—The mountain is, as in Isaiah 2:1, the hill of Zion, the true representative type of the city of God. True to what we may call the catholicity of his character, Isaiah looks forward to a time when the outlying heathen nations shall no longer be excluded from fellowship with Israel, but shall share in its sacrificial feasts even as at the banquet of the great King. In the Hebrew, as even in the English, the rhythm flows on like a strain of music appropriate to such a feast. The “wines on the lees” are those that have been allowed to ripen and clarify in the cask, and so, like the “fat things full of marrow,” represent the crowning luxuries of an Eastern banquet.

Verse 7

(7) The face of the covering cast over all people . . .—To cover the face was, in the East, a sign of mourning for the dead (2 Samuel 19:4); and to destroy that covering is to overcome death, of which it is thus the symbol. With this there probably mingled another, though kindred, thought. The man whose face is thus covered cannot see the light, and the “covering” represents the veil (2 Corinthians 3:15) which hinders men from knowing God. The final victory of God includes a triumph over ignorance and sorrow, as well as over sin and death.

Verse 8

(8) He will swallow up . . .—The verb is the same as the “destroy” of Isaiah 25:7. The words are an echo of the earlier promise of Hosea 13:14. They are, in their turn, re-echoed in the triumph-anthem of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:54. The clause, “the Lord God shall wipe away tears,” is in like manner reproduced in Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4.

The rebuke of his people . . .—The taunt to which they were exposed in the time of their affliction, when the heathen took up their proverb of reproach and asked, “Where is now their God?” (Psalms 79:10).

Verse 9

(9) It shall be said in that day.—The speakers are obviously the company of the redeemed, the citizens of the new Jerusalem. The litanies of supplication are changed into anthems of praise for the great salvation that has been wrought for them.

Verse 10

(10) Moab shall be trodden down . . .—There seems at first something like a descent from the great apocalypse of a triumph over death and sin and sorrow, to a name associated with the local victories or defeats of a remote period in the history of Israel. The inscription of the Moabite stone, in connection with Isaiah 15:0, helps to explain the nature of the allusion. Moab had been prominent among the enemies of Israel; the claims of Chemosh, the god of Moab, had been set up against those of Jehovah, the God of Israel (Records of the Past, xi. 166), and so the name had become representative of His enemies. There was a mystical Moab, as there was afterwards a mystical Babylon, and in Rabbinic writings a mystical Edom (i.e., Rome). The proud nation was to lie wallowing in the mire of shame, trampled on by its s on the threshing-floor is trampled by the oxen till it looks like a heap of dung. In the Hebrew word for “dunghill” (madmçnah) we may probably trace a reference to the Moabite city of that name (Jeremiah 48:2), in which Isaiah sees an unconscious prophecy of the future condition of the whole nation.

Verse 11

(11) As he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim.—The structure of the sentence leaves it uncertain whether the comparison applies (1) to Jehovah spreading forth His hands with the swimmer’s strength to repress the pride of Moab, or (2) to the outstretched hands upon the Cross, or (3) to Moab vainly struggling in the deep waters of calamity. Each view has the support of commentators. The last seems beyond question most in harmony with the context. Ineffective struggles for preservation naturally suggest the parallel, “like some strong swimmer in his agony” (Psalms 69:1-2; Psalms 69:14). In the second clause there is, of course, no reason for doubt. It is Jehovah who “brings down the pride” of the guilty nation.

Verse 12

(12) And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls . . .—Primarily the words, as interpreted by Isaiah 25:10, point to Kir-Moab (Isaiah 15:1) as the stronghold of the nation. Beyond this they predict a like destruction of every stronghold, every rock-built fortress (2 Corinthians 10:5) of the great world-power of which Moab was for the time the symbol.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 25". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.