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(1) In that day shall this song be sung . . .—The prophet appears once more, as in Isaiah 5:1; Isaiah 12:4, in the character of a psalmist, and what he writes is destined for nothing less than the worship of the new city of the heavenly kingdom.
Salvation will God appoint for walls.—Better, salvation He appoints. The walls of the heavenly city are not of stone or brick, but are themselves as a living force, saving and protecting. The same characteristic thought appears in Isaiah 60:18.
(2) Open ye the gates . . .—The cry comes as from the heralds of the king of the heavenly city, proclaiming that the gates are open to those who are worthy to enter into it, i.e., to the righteous people who alone may dwell in the city of God (Psalms 15:1-2; Psalms 24:3-4; Psalms 118:19-20; Revelation 21:27.)
The truth.—Literally, truths; all the many forms of truthfulness in heart and life.
(3) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.—The italics show that the English version is made up with several interpolated words. More literally, and more impressively, we read, Thou establishest a purpose firm; peace, peace, for in Thee is his trust. Completeness is expressed, as elsewhere, in the form of iteration. No adjectives can add to the fulness of the meaning of the noun.
(4) For in the Lord Jehovah.—The Hebrew presents, as in Isaiah 12:2, the exceptional combination of the two names Jah (Psalms 68:4) and Jehovah. In the Hebrew for “everlasting strength,” we have, literally, the Rock of Ages of the well-known hymn. We have the same name of Rock applied to express the unchangeableness of God, as in Deuteronomy 32:4.
(5) The lofty city, he layeth it low . . .—The “city” is probably the great imperial “city of confusion” that had exalted itself against God and his people. To that city, Moab, in all its pride, was but as a tributary.
(6) Even the feet of the poor . . .—The downfall of the haughty city is emphasised by the fact that the instruments of its destruction are to be the very people it had oppressed. The “saints of God” are in this sense to judge the world.
(7) The way of the just is uprightness.—The English version seems somewhat tautologous. Better, is straight, or is even—i.e., leads on without interruption to its appointed end. So, in the second clause, instead of “thou shalt weigh the path,” which conveys a not very intelligible thought, we render, makest smooth the path. Probably, too, the word translated, “most upright,” as if it were a vocative, should be taken adverbially. The verse is, as it were, an echo of Proverbs 4:26; Proverbs 5:6; Proverbs 5:21.
(8) To thy name, and to the remembrance of thee . . .—The “name” of God is, as always, that which reveals His character and will. Those who have waited for Him in the path of His judgments long for a fuller manifestation of that character. Comp. the prayer, “Father, glorify thy Name,” in John 12:28. In the next verse the prophet identifies himself in spirit with the longing expectation of the time that precedes the final manifestation.
(9) With my soul have I desired thee in the night . . .—Soul and spirit are joined together to express the fulness of personality. The “night” is the time of sorrow and expectation, in which the saints of God shall “watch for the morning” of the great day of judgment and deliverance. They welcomed the judgments” as the discipline, by which those who had failed to learn before would at last, it might be, learn and acknowledge the righteousness of God.
(10) Let favour be shewed to the wicked . . .—The thought of Isaiah 26:9 is presented under another aspect. The judgments of God manifested against evil are the only discipline by which the doers of evil can be taught; without the, under a system of mere tolerance and favour, they remain as they are. In the very “land of uprightness” (Psalms 143:10) they will still work unrighteousness. “The mind is its own place,” and can make a hell of heaven itself. The eyes that see “the majesty of the Lord” are those of the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8).
(11) They will not see . . .—Better, they did not see, or, they see not, so as to bring out the contrast with the clause that follows. When the “arm of Jehovah,” the symbol of His power, was simply lifted up for the protection of His people, the evildoers closed their eyes and would not see it. A time will come when judgments shall fall on them, and so they shall be made to see.
Shall be ashamed for their envy at the people.—Better, they shall see (and be ashamed) the jealousy (of God) for the people. They shall understand something of God’s watchful and zealous care for those whom He loves. It shall be seen that it is as a consuming “fire” (Psalms 79:5) that shall devour His adversaries.
(12) Thou also hast wrought all our work in us . . .—Better, for us. The “work” is the great work of salvation and deliverance.
(13) Other lords beside thee have had do minion over us . . .—The “other lords” are the conquerors and oppressors by whom Israel had been enslaved; possibly also, the false gods with whom those conquerors identified themselves.
By thee only will we make mention of thy name.—Better, Through Thee alone we celebrate Thy Name. The power to praise God with hymns of thanksgiving (Psalms 45:17) had been restored to Israel, not by man’s strength, but through His interposition on behalf of His people.
(14) They are dead . . .—We get a more vivid rendering by omitting the words in italics, Dead, they live not; shadows (Rephaim, as in Psalms 88:10), they rise not. Those of whom the prophet speaks are the rulers of the great world-empires, who, as in Isaiah 14:9; Ezekiel 32:21, have passed into the gloomy world of Hades, out of which there was, for them at least, no escape. Their very names should perish from the memories of men. The LXX., adopting another etymology of the word Rephaim, gives the singular rendering, “Physicians shall not raise them up to life.”
(15) Thou hast increased the nation . . .—The nation is, if we follow this rendering, Israel, whose prosperity the prophet contrasts with the downfall of its oppressors (comp. Isaiah 9:3). The LXX., however, gives, “Add thou evils to all the glorious ones,” as if referring to the “chastening” of exile in the next verse, and the use of the word “nation” (i.e., heathen) instead of “people,” is, perhaps, in favour of this rendering. “Nation,” however, is used for Israel in Isaiah 9:3, which is partly parallel to this passage.
Thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earths—Better, Thou hast moved far off the borders of the land. The English Version seems to speak of the exile and dispersion of the people. “What is really meant is, probably, that Jehovah will restore it to its old remoter boundaries, as in the days of David and Solomon. This belongs, of course, to the ideal, and not the historical, restoration.
(16) Lord, in trouble have they visited thee.—Better, have they missed Thee (as in 1 Samuel 20:6; 1 Samuel 25:15), or sought after Thee, or, remembered Thee.
They poured out a prayer . . .—The word for “prayer” is a peculiar one, commonly used, as in Isaiah 3:3; Isaiah 8:19, for the whispered incantations of the heathen. Here it appears to mean the low-toned prayers, pitched as in a minor key, of the afflicted. In Isaiah 29:4 we have the same thought more fully developed.
(17) Like as a woman with child.—This, as in Matthew 24:8, John 16:21, comes as the most natural image of longing, painful expectation, followed by great joy.
(18) We have as it were brought forth wind.—Left to themselves, the longing expectations of Israel had been frustrated. It was, “as it were” (the words imply the prophet’s consciousness of the boldness of the figure), like a false pregnancy, a disease with no birth as its outcome.
Neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.—Better, Neither were the inhabitants of the world brought to birth, the verb to “fall” being used, as in Wis. 7:3; Hom., II., xix. 10, of the delivery of a woman with child. The words continue the picture of the fruitlessness of mere human strivings and expectations. The LXX., “They that are in the tombs shall rise,” connects itself with John 5:28-29. (Comp. the like imagery in Isaiah 37:3.) The “creation” was “subject unto vanity,” as in Romans 8:20-22.
(19) Thy dead men shall live.—Better, Thy dead shall live; my corpses shall rise. The words, though they imply a belief more or less distinct in a resurrection, are primarily like the vision of dry bones in Ezekiel 37:1-14, and like St. Paul’s “life from the dead” in Romans 11:15 (comp. also Hosea 6:2), used of national and spiritual resurrection.
For thy dew is as the dew of herbs.—The rendering is a tenable one, and expresses the thought that as the dew that falls upon the parched and withered plant quickens it to a fresh life, so should the dew of Jehovah’s grace (comp. 2 Samuel 23:4) revive the dying energies of His people. Most interpreters, however, render the words the dew of lights (plural expressing completeness), the dew which is born of the womb of the morning (Psalms 110:3). This, coming as it does from the “Father of Lights” (so the LXX., “The dew that is from Thee shall be healing for them”), shall have power to make the earth cast forth even the shadowy forms of the dead. The verb for “cast forth” is another form of that used in Isaiah 26:18 of childbirth, and is, in this interpretation, used in the same sense.
(20) Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers.—The vision of the judgments and the glory of the future leads the prophet to his work as a preacher of repentance in the present. His people also need the preparation of silent and solitary prayer (Matthew 6:6; Psalms 27:5; Psalms 31:21). As men seek the innermost recesses of their homes while the thunderstorm sweeps over the city, so should they seek God in that solitude till the great tempest of His indignation has passed by.
(21) The earth also shall disclose her blood.—Literally, her bloods (plural of intensity). The prophet has in his thoughts the reckless destruction of life which characterised the great world-powers of Assyria and Babylon. As in the case of Abel’s blood that cried from the ground (Genesis 4:16), so here the earth first brings to light the blood of those that have been slain, and then the forms of the murdered ones themselves.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 26". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13