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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 52

Verse 1

Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.

Zion, long in bondage (Isaiah 51:17-20), is called to put on beautiful garments appropriate to its future properity.

Awake! Awake! put on thy strength, O Zion - as thy adornment: answering to put on thy beautiful garments in the parallel clauses. Arouse thyself from dejection and assume confidence.

The holy city - (Nehemiah 11:1; Revelation 21:2).

There shall no more come into thee ... the unclean - (Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 60:21; Joel 3:17; Proverbs 21:27.) A prophecy never yet fulfilled.

The uncircumcised - spiritually (Ezekiel 44:9; Acts 7:51).

Verse 2

Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Shake thyself from the dust - the seat of mourners (Job 2:12-13).

Arise, and sit down - namely, in a more dignified place: on a divan, or a throne (Lowth), after having shaken off the dust gathered up by the flowing dress when seated. on the ground; or simply, 'arise, and sit erect' (Maurer).

Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck - the yoke of thy captivity.

Verse 3

For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.

Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money - As you became your foes' servants, without their paying any price for you (Jeremiah 15:13), so they shall release you without demanding any price or reward: cf. Isaiah 45:13, where Cyrus is represented as doing so: a type of their final restoration gratuitously in like manner. So the spiritual Israel, "sold under sin" gratuitously (Romans 7:14), shall be redeemed also gratuitously (Isaiah 55:1).

Verse 4

For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.

My people - Jacob and his sons.

Went down aforetime into Egypt. Judea was an elevated country compared with Egypt.

To sojourn there. They went there to stay only until the famine in Canaan should have ceased.

And the Assyrian oppressed them without cause - Sennacherib. Remember how I delivered you from Egypt and the Assyrian; what, then is to prevent me from delivering you out of Babylon (and the mystical Babylon and Antichrist in the last days)?

Without cause - answering to "for nought" in Isaiah 52:5: it was an act of gratuitous oppression in the present case, as in that case.

Verse 5

Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.

What have I here ... that my people is taken away for nought? - i:e., what am I called on to do? The fact "that my people is taken away (into captivity; Isaiah 49:24-25) for nought" (by gratuitous oppression, Isaiah 52:4: also Isaiah 52:3, where see note) demands my interposition.

They that rule over them - "rule" or 'tyrannize over them' (Hebrew, moshªlaayw (H4910)); namely, Babylon, literal and mystical.

Make them to howl - or, raise a cry of exultation over them (Maurer and Lowth). But yalal (H3213) is a mournful howl, rather then an exulting cry. And the Rabbis make the verb ( yªhowlaaluw (H3213)) here active, 'make them to howl.''

And my name continually every day (is) blasphemed namely in Babylon; God's reason for delivering And my name continually every day (is) blasphemed - namely, in Babylon; God's reason for delivering His people, not their goodness, but for the sake of His holy name (Ezekiel 20:9; Ezekiel 20:14).

Verse 6

Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.

Therefore my people shall know ... in that day - when Christ shall reveal Himself to Israel sensibly. the only means whereby their obstinate unbelief shall be overcome (Psalms 102:16; Zechariah 12:10; Zechariah 14:5).

Verse 7

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings - i:e., The advent of such a herald seen on the distant "mountains" (notes, Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 25:6-7; Song of Solomon 2:17), running in haste with the long-expected good tidings, is most grateful to the desolated city (Nahum 1:15).

Good tidings ... that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth - only partially applying to the return from Babylon. Fully and antitypically, the Gospel (Luke 2:10-11), "beginning at Jerusalem," (Luke 24:47), "the city of the great King" (Matthew 5:35), where Messiah shall, at the final restoration of Israel, 'reign' as peculiarly Zion's God ("Thy God reigneth:" cf. Psalms 2:6).

Verse 8

Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.

Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing. The "watchmen" were set on towers separated by intervals, to give the earliest notice of the approach of any messenger with tidings (cf. Isaiah 21:6-8). The Hebrew is more forcible than the English version, 'The voice of thy watchmen!' (exclamatory, as in Song of Solomon 2:8.) 'They lift up their voice! together they sing' (Hebrew, ranan, to sing with a strong voice).

Eye to eye ie close at hand and so clearly (Gesenins) (Numbers 14:14 "face to face;" Numbers 12:8 "mouth to Eye to eye - i:e., close at hand, and so clearly (Gesenins) (Numbers 14:14, "face to face;" Numbers 12:8, "mouth to mouth"). Compare 1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 22:4, of which Simeon's sight of the Saviour was a prefiguration (Luke 2:30). The watchmen, spiritually, are ministers and others who pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Isaiah 62:6-7).

Bring again Zion - i:e., shall restore Zion. Or else ( bªshuwb (H7725)), 'return to.' The Chaldaic, 'when the Lord, shall have brought back His Majesty to Zion.' The Septuagint, Vulgate, Arabic, and Syriac translate virtually as the English version (Maurer).

Verse 9

Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.

Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem - (Isaiah 14:7-8; Isaiah 42:11).

Redeemed Jerusalem - spiritually and nationally (Isaiah 48:20).

Verse 10

The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

The Lord hath made bare his holy arm - metaphor from wanders who bare their arm for battle (Ezekiel 4:7).

All ... earth shall see the salvation of our God. The deliverance performed by God for Israel will cause all nations to acknowledge the Lord (Isaiah 66:18-20). The partial fulfillment (Luke 3:6) is a forerunner of the future complete fulfillment.

Verse 11

Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.

Depart ye, go ye out from thence - (Isaiah 48:20; Zechariah 2:6-7.) Long residence in Babylon made many loath to leave it: so as to mystical Babylon (Revelation 18:4). Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord - the priests and Levites, whose office it was to carry the vessels of the temple (Jeremiah 27:18). Nebuchadnezzar had carried them to Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:18). Cyrus restored them (Ezra 1:7-11).

Be ye clean - by separating yourselves wholly from Babylonian idolaters, mystical and literal.

Verse 12

For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.

For ye shall not go out with haste - as when ye left Egypt (Exodus 12:33; Exodus 12:39; Deuteronomy 16:3: cf. note, Isaiah 28:16). Ye shall have time to cleanse yourselves and make deliberate preparation for departure.

For the Lord will go before you - Yahweh, as your Leader in front (Isaiah 40:3; Exodus 23:20; Micah 2:13).

And the God of Israel (will be) your rereward - literally, will gather you up; i:e., bring up the rear of your host.

Verse 13

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

The transition is frequent from the glory of Messiah in His advent to reign, to His humiliation in His advent to suffer. Indeed, so are both advents accounted one, that He is not said in His second coming to be about to return, but to come. Here Isaiah 53:1-12 ought to begin, and Isaiah 52:1-15 end with Isaiah 52:12. This section, from here to end of Isaiah 53:1-12, settles the controversy with the Jews, if Messiah be the person meant; and with infidels, if written by Isaiah, or at any time before Christ. The correspondence with the life and death of Jesus Christ is so minute that it could not have resulted from conjecture or accident. An impostor could not have shaped the course of events so as to have made his character and life appear to be a fulfillment of it. The writing is, moreover, declaredly prophetic. The quotations of it in the New Testament (no less than nine direct quotations in different connections: Matthew 8:17; Luke 22:37; John 1:29; John 12:38; Acts 8:28-35; Romans 10:16; 1 Peter 2:21-25; Mark 15:28) show

(1) that it was before the time of Jesus a recognized part of the Old Testament;

(2) that it refers to Messiah.

The indirect allusions to it still more clearly prove the Messianic interpretation: so universal was that The indirect allusions to it still more clearly prove the Messianic interpretation: so universal was that interpretation, that it is simply referred to in connection with the atoning virtue of His death, without being formally quoted (Mark 9:12; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 3:5). The genuineness of the passage is certain; because the Jews would not have forged it, since it is opposed to their notion of Messiah, as a triumphant temporal prince. The Christians could not have forged it; because the Jews, the enemies of Christianity, are 'our librarians' (Paley). The Jews try to evade its force by the figment of two Messiahs-one a suffering Messiah (Ben Joseph), the other a triumphant Messiah (Ben David). Hittel maintained that Messiah has 'already come in the person of Hezekiah. Buxtorf states that many of the modern Rabbins believe that He has been come a good while, but will not manifest Himself because of the sins of the Jews.

But the ancient Jews, as the Chaldee paraphrast Jonathan, refer it to Messiah; so the Medrasch Taochuma (a commentary, on the Pentateuch); also Rabbi Moses Hadderschan. Abarbanel says of the non-Messianic interpreters, 'All these interpreters are smitten with blindness.' So Kimchi (see Hengstenberg, Christol). Some explain it of the Jewish people, either in the Babylonian exile, or in their present sufferings and dispersion. Others, the pious portion of the nation taken collectively, whose sufferings made a vicarious satisfaction for the ungodly. Others, Isaiah, or Jeremiah (Gesenius), or the prophets collectively. But an individual is plainly described: he suffers voluntarily, innocent, patiently, and as the efficient cause of the righteousness of His people, which holds good of none other, but Messiah (Isaiah 53:4-6; Isaiah 53:9; Isaiah 53:11: contrast, Jeremiah's impatience in suffering with Messiah's lamb-like meekness, as here foretold, Jeremiah 20:7; Jeremiah 15:10-21: cf. Psalms 137:8-9): Isaiah 53:9 can hold good of none other. The objection that the sufferings (Isaiah 53:1-10) referred to are represented as past, the glorification alone as future (Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:11-12) arises from not seeing that the prophet takes his stand in the midst of the scenes which he describes as future. The greater nearness of the first advent, and the interval between it and the second, are implied by the use of the past tense as to the first, the future as to the second.

Verse 13. Behold - awakening attention to the striking picture of Messiah that follows (cf. John 19:5; John 19:14).

My servant - Messiah (Isaiah 42:1).

Shall deal prudently (Hebrew, yaschil) - rather, prosper (Gesenius), as the parallel clause favours (cf. Isaiah 53:10, a different Hebrew word for 'prosper'). Or, uniting both meanings, shall reign well (Hengstenberg). The same Hebrew is translated, "a King shall reign and prosper" (hiskil), in Jeremiah 23:5. The English version is the primary meaning. His prudent dealing, or wisdom, and His prospering are inseparably connected (cf. Isaiah 11:1-5). This verse sets forth in the beginning the ultimate issue of His sufferings, the description of which follows. The conclusion (Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12) corresponds. The section, Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:12, begins as it ends, with His final glory.

He shall be exalted and extolled - elevated, (Mark 16:19; Ephesians 1:20-22; 1 Peter 3:22). God's spirit, jealous for the honour of His Son, which might seem to be lowered by His humiliation, prefaces it with the assertion of His glory, which is its inseparable issue and result (1 Peter 1:11). The Midrasha, Tanhuma says on this passage, 'This is King Messiah, who shall be higher than Abraham, more elevated than Moses, and exalted above the ministering angels.

Verses 14-15

As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:

As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man ... So shall he sprinkle many nations - Summary of Messiah's history, which is set forth more in detail in Isaiah 53:1-12. 'Just as many were astonished accompanied with aversion, Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8; literally, were dumb with astonishment, from shaamem (H8074), to be silent) at thee, his visage was so marred, etc.; so shall He sprinkle many nations. Israel in this answers to its Antitype, Messiah, now 'an astonishment and by-word' (Deuteronomy 28:37), hereafter about to be a blessing and means of salvation to many nations (Isaiah 2:2-3; Micah 5:7).

At thee; his. Two, manuscripts, the Chaldaic and Syriac, read 'at Him;' but the Septuagint, Vulgate, and Arabic read as the English version; and such changes of person are common in Hebrew poetry.

His visage was so marred - Hebrew, disfigurement; abstract for concrete: not only disfigured, but disfigurement itself.

More than any man. Castallio translates, 'so that it was no longer that of a man' (cf. Psalms 22:6) - literally, from being a man: meeish. Syriac, 'His visage was so changed from that of man.' The more perfect we may suppose the 'body prepared' (Hebrews 10:5), for Him by God, the sadder by contrast was the 'marring' of His visage and form.

Verse 15. So shall he sprinkle many. Gesenius, for the sake of the antithesis to "be astonished," from an Arabic root, translates, 'shall cause ... to exult.' But the word [ yazeh (H5137), from naazah (H5137)] universally in the Old Testament means either to sprinkle (with blood); to atone for guilt-as the high priest makes an expiation (Leviticus 4:6; Leviticus 16:14; Leviticus 16:19); or to sprinkle (with water), as synonymous with purifying (Numbers 19:18; Numbers 19:21) or cleansing (cf. Ezekiel 36:25, where sprinkle (a different Hebrew word) means to cleanse). Compare as to the Spirit, Acts 2:33. Both atoning for guilt and purifying by the Spirit are appropriate to Messiah (John 13:8; Hebrews 9:13-14; Hebrews 10:22; Hebrews 12:24; 1 Peter 1:2). The antithesis is sufficient without any forced rendering. Many were astonished: so many (not merely men, but) nations shall be sprinkled. They were amazed at such an abject person claiming to be Messiah; yet it is He who shall justify and purify. Men were dumb with the amazement of scorn at one marred more than the lowest of men, yet the highest.

The kings shall shut their mouths at him - even kings (Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 49:23) shall be dumb with awe and veneration ('shut mouths,' Job 29:9-10; Micah 7:16).

For that which had not been told them shall they see - the reason why kings shall an venerate them: the wonders of redemption which had not been before told them, shall then be announced to them, wonders such as they had never heard or seen paralleled (Isaiah 55:1). Romans 15:21 refers to this passage (cf. Romans 16:25-26). Though rejected by His own nation, He shall be confessed by many Gentile kings who had never before heard of Him.

Remarks: As the ancient people of God 'sold themselves for nought,' so 'shall they be redeemed without money.' Their 'howls' of anguish under oppression shall bring the Lord to their help. "They shall know in that day" the Lord Christ as their manifested Redeemer, who shall then deliver them from their gratuitous oppressor, even as He did from 'Egypt and the Assyrian' of old. The "good tidings" of "peace" published by John the Baptist, the forerunner of Messiah, were truly delightful to those who 'looked for redemption in Jerusalem.' Such they are still to every soul that experimentally appropriates them, in the hearing of them as announced by the ministers of the Gospel. They shall be especially so hereafter, when it shall be said unto the regenerated Zion, "Thy God reigneth!" The spiritual "watchmen shall lift up the voice" in joyful thanksgivings when their long-deferred prayers shall have been heard, and "eye to eye" they shall see their desire accomplished in the Lord's bringing again of Zion.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 52". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.