Lectionary Calendar
Friday, December 1st, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 60

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-22

“Arise, Shine; for Your Light Has Come” (60:1—66:24)

The Lord, Your Everlasting Light ( 60 : 1 - 22 )

The school of Second Isaiah has collected in the last seven chapters of the book a group of marvelous eschatological poems, of which chapter 60 is one of the most beautiful. The dominant theme in chapters 56-59 was judgment, for the life in the new community had not given evidence of the new age of glory. Consequently, only one part of the eschatological program envisioned by Second Isaiah (chs. 40-55) had been fulfilled—the release by Cyrus of all exiles who wished to return to their homeland. The exhortations in chapters 56-59, therefore, are more in the nature of admonitions, exhortations, and interpretations of both current life and the will of the Lord. Beginning with chapter 60 the vigor and exaltation characteristic of chapters 40-55 are again present, as the prophet presents the picture of the coming glory of God.

The poem begins with a marvelous use of the figure of light and darkness (vss. 1-3). Although darkness covers the earth, the glory of the Lord as a brilliant light will arise on Israel, and nations shall stream out of the darkness into the light which shines so brightly in Jerusalem. The prophet then asks the people in their imagination to lift their eyes round about to observe their own sons and daughters coming from afar, being gathered together again in the Promised Land. Then the wealth of the nations shall stream to Jerusalem as mankind arrives to “proclaim the praise of the Lord,” with the result that the Temple will become a glorious building (vss. 4-7). The prophet Haggai, during the time when the Temple was being built, had expressed a similar thought. To those who felt disappointed by the poverty of the new buildings erected between 520 and 515 b.c. he said that in due course all nations would contribute their wealth to the building, so that it would be filled with splendor (Haggai 2:1-9).

Among the peoples who are mentioned as making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem are those of Arabia (vss. 6-7). The Phoenician ships which ply the Mediterranean, in particular the “Tarshish” or refinery ships, will bring not only Israel’s sons but also silver and gold for the honor of the name of the Holy One of Israel (vss. 8-9).

Verses 10-14 are concerned with the building up of the fortifications of the ancient city. The task will be performed by foreigners. The wood of the Lebanon Mountains, so much desired by the kings of the whole Near East for temple buildings, will be used to beautify the Temple in Jerusalem. People who had formerly despised Israel will now come and bow before the city and name it “the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (vs. 14). The problem of stating properly this glorification of Israel and Jerusalem by the nations of the world is a very difficult one. The glorification of God because of his saving work and his use of his servant as his witness before mankind in the world is a prominent theme throughout the literature of Second Isaiah. In verses 12 and 15-16, however, the expressions verge on the nationalistic and seem to be some distance removed from the conception of the Suffering Servant in chapter 53. The destruction of the nations that will not serve Israel (vs. 12) may indeed be according to the plan of God, but not so much because they will not serve Israel as because they will not serve God himself.

The final verses of the chapter begin with a beautiful picture of a land at peace: “I will make your overseers peace and your taskmasters righteousness. Violence shall no more be heard in your land . . . you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise” (vss. 17-18). The author then turns again to the figure of light with which the chapter began. There will be no further need for the sun and the moon to give light by day and by night because the Lord will be for the people an everlasting light (vss. 19-20). Revelation 21:22-26 repeats this scene and others in this chapter, including the conception of a light so brilliant that it will draw all nations to the New Jerusalem, where the gates of the city will never be shut, either by day or by night (see Isaiah 60:11). Living in the light of the Lord, the people of Israel “shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land for ever,” and even the smallest one will be important in God’s scheme of things.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 60". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/isaiah-60.html.
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