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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Isaiah 54

Verse 1


(1) Sing, O barren . . .—The words seem to carry on the jubilant strain of Isaiah 51:0, Isaiah 52:1-12, leaving the section Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12, as a mysterious episode. inserted, it may be, by the prophet to show how it was that the restoration of Israel and the victory of righteousness had become possible. We note, as bearing on Isaiah’s studies, the parallelism with 1 Samuel 2:5. The “children of the desolate” are primarily the returning exiles, ultimately all the citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem.

Verse 2

(2) Enlarge the place of thy tent.—Interesting parallels are found in Isaiah 33:20; Jeremiah 10:20.

Verse 3

(3) On the right hand and on the left.—Comp. Genesis 28:14. Strictly speaking, the words indicate specially the north and the south, in relation to one who stands looking towards the East. Here, of course, they mean “on every side.” The words that follow have, like others, a lower or material and a higher or spiritual meaning.

Verse 4

(4) Thou shalt forget.—The “shame of thy youth,” was the Egyptian bondage, from which Jehovah chose Israel to be His bride (Jeremiah 3:1-11; Ezekiel 16:1-14). The “reproach of widowhood” was the captivity in Babylon.

Verse 5

(5) The Lord of Hosts . . . the Holy One of Israel.—We note the combination of the two names so prominent in 1 Isaiah. The “Redeemer” in this context suggests the idea of the next of kin (such, e.g., as Boaz was to Ruth), taking on himself the kinsman’s duty of protection (Ruth 4:4-6).

Verse 6

(6) For the Lord hath called thee.—The words find their explanation, perhaps their starting-point, in the history of Hosea and Gomer (Hosea 1-3). The husband has punished the faithless wife by what seemed a divorce, but his heart yearns after her, and he takes her back again.

When thou wast refused.—Some critics render Can she be rejected . . .? with the implied answer. “No, that is impossible,” but the Authorised version is tenable, and gives an adequate meaning.

Verse 7

(7) For a small moment.—Historically the words point to the seventy years of exile, as being but a transient interruption of the manifestation of the everlasting mercies. Spiritually they have wider and manifold fulfilments in the history of individuals, of the Church, of mankind.

Verse 8

(8) In a little wrath.—The Hebrew has the rhetorical emphasis of rhyme, bĕshetsheph, guetseph, literally, in a gush or burst, of wrath, which, however terrible at the time, endured but for a moment.

Verse 9

(9) This is as the waters of Noah.—Interesting (1) as showing the writer’s knowledge of the book of Genesis (see Isaiah 51:2); (2) as one of the few references to the Deluge, outside that book, in the Old Testament. Strictly speaking, Genesis 9:11 speaks of a “covenant,” not an “oath,” but it would be idle to find a difficulty in the use of words which, as referring to a Divine act, are almost or altogether interchangeable. It is obvious that the words have found their fulfilment not in any earthly city but in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Verse 10

(10) For the mountains shall depart.—Better, “may depart.” The same bold hyperbole is found in Psalms 46:3; Jeremiah 31:36; Matthew 24:35.

The covenant of my peace.—The phrase is taken from Numbers 25:12, and re-appears in Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 37:26. “Peace,” as elsewhere in the Old Testament, includes well-nigh all that is wrapped up in the “salvation” of the New.

Verse 11

(11) I will lay thy stones with fair colours.—The first germ of the idealising symbolism of the new Jerusalem. The language of Tob. 13:16-17, shows the impression which it made on the Jews of the captivity. It takes its highest form, excluding all thoughts of a literal fulfilment, in Revelation 21:19-21. The Hebrew word for “fair colours” indicates the kohl, the black powder of antimony, or manganese, used by women in the East on eyelids and eyebrows, so as to enhance the brilliancy of the eyes. (2 Kings 9:30, 1 Chronicles 29:2, Jeremiah 4:30.) Here, apparently, it is used in the same way as the setting of the sapphires and other gems. For “windows” read pinnacles.

Sapphires . . .—As with the choice of the twelve gems for the High Priest’s breast-plate, it is probable that each stone, over and above its visible beauty, had a symbolical significance. Sapphire, e.g., represented the azure of the firmament, as the “sapphire throne” of the Eternal (Exodus 24:10, Ezekiel 1:26; Ezekiel 10:1), and the rubies (not “agates”) and carbuncles may, in like manner, have answered to the fiery glow of the Divine love and the Divine wrath.

Verse 13

(13) All thy children shall be taught of the Lord . . .—More accurately, shall be the disciples of Jehovah; quoted by our Lord as fulfilled in His disciples (John 6:45).

Verse 14

(14) Thou shalt be far from oppression . . .—On the assumption of Isaiah’s authorship the words stand out in contrast with his own experience of the “oppression” of Ahaz, of the “fear” and “terror” caused by Sargon and Sennacherib.

Verse 15

(15) But not by me . . .—Another contrast with Isaiah’s experience. The power of Sargon and Sennacherib rested on the fact that they were instruments in God’s hands (Isaiah 10:15; Isaiah 37:26). Against the new Jerusalem no command would be given such as had been given to them.

Verse 16

(16) Behold, I have created the smith . . .—The words assert the same thought. The “axe,” the “hammer,” the “sword,” of the great ravagers of the earth are formed by the great Work-Master, and He would fashion no such weapon against the new Jerusalem.

Verse 17

(17) Every tongue that shall rise . . .—The thought implied is that war comes as the punishment of guilt, and that it is preceded by the “cry” of accusation. Many such cries had risen up against the old Jerusalem (Isaiah 5:7). There should be none such heard against the new.

This is the heritage.—The solemn asseveration indicates the close of a distinct section.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 54". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.