Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Isaiah 55

Verses 1-13

Invitation to the Banquet of the Lord (55:1-13)

This chapter contains the final poem and the climax of the prophecies of Second Isaiah which were composed about 540 B.c., shortly before the Persian conquest of the Babylonian empire in 539 b.c. (see Introduction to Isaiah 40-66). In its theme and its triumphant, elevated style the poem gives every evidence of having been intended as the conclusion and climax of this series of prophecies. In the first three strophes (vss. 1-2, 3-5, 6-9) note the prominence of imperatives: “Come,” “hearken,” “incline your ear,” “seek.” Each of the last two strophes (vss. 10-11, 12-13) begins with the word “for.” The Hebrew in this case does not have the meaning of “because” but is rather a strong asseveration: “surely,” or “of a truth.” Thus the imperatives are followed by an expression of certainties.

Verses 1-5 issue an eloquent invitation to the Messianic banquet for all peoples, the banquet of the Kingdom of God (see also 25:6-7). The thought is that in the days to come, when the alienation of mankind and of God’s own people will have been healed, then there will be a great banquet or Covenant meal, with all mankind present and God’s Messiah presiding at the head of the table. This expectation became very prominent in Intertestament Judaism among the Essenes of the Dead Sea community and in the New Testament Church. The Lord’s Supper in the latter and the daily meals at Qumran thus became communion banquets looking forward to the great banquet of the Kingdom when the Messiah would be present (see Mark 14:25; Luke 22:14-20; 1 Corinthians 11:26).

The invitation in verse 1 is addressed to everyone who is thirsty and hungry. It is a free meal. Then comes the challenging question in verse 2 as to why people spend so much money for food that is not satisfying. Come instead to the banquet of the Lord and enjoy the finest of good things!

In verses 3-5 there is a reference to God’s everlasting Covenant with David; that is, to the Messianic thought of Israel. The promises contained in that Covenant will be completely fulfilled in the age about to dawn. For references to this Covenant see 2 Samuel 7:8-16; 2 Samuel 23:5; Psalms 89:3-4; Psalms 89:9-37; Psalms 89:49. The words “my steadfast, sure love for David” refer to God’s Covenant promises to David which are to be realized and fulfilled in the new era. In verses 4-5 the new David, God’s Messiah, is to be the leader of mankind, a “witness” to all people, so that as a result the nations of the world will flock to Israel because of the Lord their God. That is, as in the New Testament the salvation of all mankind is to come through God’s act in Jesus Christ, so here the salvation of mankind comes through the revelation of God in Israel, the Messianic king being his agent. The use of the term “witness” for the Messiah is unusual. The prophet’s reference to Cyrus as God’s “messiah” (“anointed”) in 45:1, and his emphasis on the saving role of Israel as God’s servant, means that he has not emphasized the role of God’s king from the line of David in the new day, as did First Isaiah in 9:1-6; 11:1-9. Warlike metaphors are used only in connection with God’s punishing work through Cyrus; Second Isaiah does not use them in relation to Israel as God’s servant nor in this single reference to the Davidic Messiah.

The invitation to the Covenant banquet is accompanied by the great invitation to come to the Lord in repentance, for the Lord is ready to have mercy (vss. 6-9). His thoughts and ways are far greater in understanding than ours. Let all men, therefore, forsake their ways and turn unto the Lord to receive his mercy and forgiveness.

The fourth strophe (vss. 10-11) uses the metaphor of the seasons as a way of expressing the certainty and stability of the word of the Lord. God’s word is his purpose, and it will accomplish the thing for which God sends it into the world. The final strophe (vss. 12-13) returns to the scene of the new Exodus and to the joy of the whole creation in this great event. Nature will be transformed, and that transformation will be a memorial to the great work of the Lord, “an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off.”

The beauty and the richness of the words in this chapter have sung themselves into human hearts through the ages; they are among the most familiar in the whole Bible. They perfectly express our hope in the Lord, which is our hope for the future.

Bibliographical Information
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