Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, May 29th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 54

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-17

Isaiah 54:1 . Sing, oh barren, thou that didst not bear. This prophecy is a song of praise, exulting in the assurance that the gentile world should be converted to Christ. The prophet saw it as already done: he had no doubt on the subject. Christianity has contended single-handed with idolatry, on the great theatres of Greece and Rome, and put her to shame. It shall be the same, whenever truth shall fairly gain the ear of the yet rebellious gentiles.

The Jews, it is true, apply all these prophecies to the conversion of the gentiles to Judaism; and with these arguments they imposed on the christians in Galatia during Paul’s absence. Against whom he declares that Jerusalem below is in bondage with her children; but Jerusalem above is free, who is the mother of us all. Galatians 4:25-26. Hebrews 13:22. By consequence, the Zion he addressed is the christian church, composed of Jews and gentiles; a city set on a hill, the light and glory of the world.

Isaiah 54:3 . Thy seed shall inherit the gentiles. In the short space of two hundred and eighty six years after Christ, the emperor Constantine was converted, and the Roman world at large flocked into the christian church. Kings and queens, princes and rulers, became the parents and protectors of the saints. Oh how Caiaphas and the Jewish rulers would have looked with contempt on the poor apostles, had they thought even that they had the remotest hope of such a day of glory, and in so short a time.

Isaiah 54:4 . The shame of thy youth, when debased in Egypt, rebellious against the Lord, enslaved in the Babylonian captivity, and afflicted with the Roman dispersion.

Isaiah 54:5 . Thy Maker is thy husband. On this text, St. Bernard says, Nemo commitit sponsam suam vicario, nemo enim ecclesiæ sponsus est. “No man commits his wife to a vicar, for no man is the husband of the church. It is enough for a pastor to be the friend of the Bridegroom, and to rejoice in the prosperity of the church.” The pope would not like this comment of one of his most honoured sons.

Isaiah 54:7 . For a small moment have I forsaken thee. It was only during the periods of oppression, and the darker ages of the church; and then in appearance more than in reality. The Lord awaited to see the good effects of correction, that his sun might shine again.

Isaiah 54:9 . The waters of Noah should no more go over the earth. We are now advancing far into the fifth thousand years since the deluge, and no periodical destruction of the earth has taken place; the rejectors of revelation are therefore embarrassed with the fidelity of God’s oath to that patriarch, while the saints rejoice that the Lord is indeed faithful to his word, giving us summer and winter, seedtime and harvest.

Isaiah 54:10 . The mountains shall depart. Babylonian and Roman tyranny shall be brought down, for the Lord will shake and remove all opposing powers, and establish his covenant of peace, as nations do after long wars. Then the sun of Zion shall set no more. Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 37:26. Language cannot be more strong, that God will never leave nor forsake his people.

Isaiah 54:13 . All thy children shall be taught of the Lord. According as our Saviour cites the text, it contains a promise that the grace and truth of the gospel shall be opened to all the world; that the law shall be written on men’s hearts, they shall all be taught to do the will of God, and to love one another. 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 4:9.

Isaiah 54:17 . No weapon of the secular arm shall prosper that is lifted up against thee; no tongue of infidelity shall utter vile speeches, unshamed and uncondemned. Thy righteousness or covenant blessings are all of me, saith the Lord. The French school thought to change the times; God sat in the heavens, and laughed them to scorn.


This chapter contains a luminous prediction of the success of the gospel among the gentiles, and of the union of the Jewish and gentile converts in the new mount Zion which the Lord hath chosen. The prophet saw that thousands of Jews would be converted, but that myriads of gentiles would fly as a cloud, home to the church. The wall of partition which divided the Jews and the gentiles in the court of the temple, is done away in Christ; the gentile sheep are one with Israel’s fold; and we alike belong to mount Zion which is free, and the fruitful mother of us all. So St. Paul has expounded this passage; and so it must be; for it is true only of the believing seed which sprung up from the day of pentecost, that they might inherit the gentiles. Zion shall no more see a state of widowhood and shame. This would not be true, if restricted to the return of the Jews from Babylon, for they now see an awful state of widowhood under this long dispersion. But Christ, our Lord and Maker, is still the head and husband of the church, and he decks her with ornaments of grace and glory.

The chastisement of Israel was but for a moment, but his kindness shall be for ever. The years of affliction during the darker ages of the christian church, have not been long at any one time; and of late ages they have enjoyed great quiet, and acquired much wealth. But on their conversion to the Lord Christ their calamities shall all subside; and as the Lord sware to Noah that the earth should no more be destroyed by water, so the deluge of tribulation shall no more drown and make desolate his chosen sanctuary. This he farther illustrates by saying, that the mountains should depart, and the hills be removed, but his kindness should not depart from Zion. This must of course be understood of the calling and conversion of the Jews, in union with the christian church, for now there is but one church and one covenant. The removal of mountains is no other than the shaking of all nations, and the exalting of vallies, for God will be the defence of his people, and all who molest them shall destroy their own souls.

Zion was to be rebuilt with precious stones, with sapphires and carbuncles. The holy prophets and apostles are the precious foundation stones, of infinite beauty and unspeakable worth. In the calling and conversion of the Jews, God will raise up from among them many invaluable men, quite in the spirit of the holy apostles. Under such ministers the children shall all be taught of God, and have his law written on their hearts.

No weapon made against Zion shall prosper long. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans, were soon drenched with the cup they had made the Hebrews to drink. So likewise under the christian church, both Jews and Romans suffered for afflicting the saints. The papists have often visibly suffered for persecuting the protestants. Let us therefore be confident in his almighty love. He made the smith before the smith could forge the weapon. He knows the counsel, and is privy to the plots of our enemies. He will not suffer them to hurt us, unless it be to punish our sins, or to save us from some greater evil.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 54". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/isaiah-54.html. 1835.
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