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Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 52



The church redeemed, and called upon to rejoice therein, Isaiah 52:1-6.

The universal preaching of the gospel glorious, Isaiah 52:7-10.

A call to free ourselves from bondage, Isaiah 52:11,Isaiah 52:12.

Christ’s kingdom shall be exalted, Isaiah 52:13-15.

Verse 1

Awake, awake; put on thy strength: God biddeth his church do that which she entreated him to do, Isaiah 51:9. And because God’s word is operative, and effectual, and his sayings are doings, this is a prediction and promise what she should do, that she should awake or arise out of her low estate, and be strong and courageous.

Put on thy beautiful garments: thy sorrows shall be ended, and thou shalt be advanced into a most glorious and blessed condition.

O Jerusalem, the holy city; O my church, which is every where called by the name of Zion or Jerusalem.

For henceforth there shall no more come into thee, either to molest thee, or to associate themselves with thee, or to defile or corrupt thee, the uncircumcised, heathens or infidels, who are commonly called uncircumcised; and the unclean; nor any others, who though they be circumcised, as the Jews generally were, are unclean in any thing: whereby he intimates that there should be a greater purity and reformation in the church than formerly there had been, which was eminently accomplished in the church and kingdom of Christ.

Verse 2

Shake thyself from the dust, in which thou hast lain as a prisoner, or sat as a mourner.

Sit down upon thy throne. Or, sit up, as this word is rendered, Genesis 27:19.

Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck; the yoke of thy captivity shall be taken off from thee. It is a metaphor from beasts that have the yoke fastened by bands to their necks.

Verse 3

Ye have sold yourselves, by your sins, into the hands of the Chaldeans,

for nought; without any price or valuable consideration paid by them, either to you or to me, your Lord and Owner.

Ye shall be redeemed without money; without paying any ransom.

Verse 4

My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; where they had protection and sustenance, and therefore owed subjection to the king of Egypt. And yet when he oppressed them I punished him severely, and delivered them out of his hands. Which is easily understood from the following words. And; or, but; for here is an opposition made between these two cases.

The Assyrian; the king of Babylon, who is called the king of Assyria, 2 Kings 23:29, compared with Isaiah 24:7, as also the Persian emperor is called, Ezra 6:22, because it was one and the same empire, which was possessed, first by the Assyrians, then by the Babylonians, and afterwards by the Persians. Oppressed them without cause; without any such ground or valour, by mere force invading their land, and carrying them away into captivity. For although it be said that God gave this land and people into his hand, 2 Chronicles 36:11, by his counsel and providence; yet that was neither known to nor regarded by the king of Babylon, nor was it a good and lawful title, God’s word, and not his providence, being the rule by which men’s rights are determined; otherwise a robber hath a right to my purse, which he cannot take from me upon the highway without God’s providence.

Verse 5

What have I here? Heb. What to me here? the sense is either,

1. What do I here? Why do I sit still here, and not go to Babylon to punish the Babylonians, and to deliver my people? Or,

2. What honour have I by suffering this injury to be done to my people?

Is taken away, were carried away captive by the Babylonians,

for nought; without any provocation or pretence of right. See before on Isaiah 52:3. They that rule over then, who by their office are obliged to deal justly and tenderly with their subjects,

make them to howl, by their tyrannical and unmerciful usage of them.

My name continually every day is blasphemed; instead of that praise and service which the Babylonians owe me for all their successes and conquests, they blaspheme me, as if I wanted either power or good-will to save my people out of their hands.

Verse 6

My people shall know my name; they shall have sensible experience of my infinite power and goodness in fighting for them and against you; whereby they shall be able to put your blasphemous tongues to silence.

They shall know; which word is understood from the foregoing clause, as is very frequent in Scripture.

In that day; when I shall redeem my people: which work was begun by the return of the Jews from Babylon, and afterwards carried on, and at last perfected, by the coming of the Messiah.

That I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I: that all these promises are not the words of a weak, or fickle, or deceitful man, but of him who is the omnipotent, and unchangeable, and covenant-keeping God. Or thus, That I who have formerly spoken to you by my servants the prophets, (for it was the Spirit of Christ which was and spake in them, 1 Peter 1:11) do now speak to you in my own person, being clothed with flesh; which agrees well, as with the analogy of faith, and with divers other scriptures, so particularly with the next verse, and with divers following passages, which so evidently speak of the person and kingdom of Christ, that they cannot without great force be understood of any other.

Verse 7

How beautiful! these are words of rejoicing and admiration. They are exceeding precious and acceptable.

Upon the mountains of Zion and Moriah, which are sometimes mentioned as one mountain, and sometimes as two. Or in the mountainous country of Judea, to which these glad tidings were brought, and from which they were spread abroad into other countries.

Are the feet, which carry this welcome messenger; or the messenger himself. Of him; or, of them; for the singular number is oft put for the plural: although it may be here emphatically used, to signify, that although there were many messengers, yet one was the chief and Lord of the embassy, whose coming was more acceptable than the rest; which suits excellently to the Messiah, who is called the Messenger of the covenant, Malachi 3:1, and is oft said to be sent by God, as John 6:38; John 8:16,John 8:18, &c., to publish the glad tidings of salvation.

That bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation: these emphatical and repeated expressions are a sufficient evidence that something further and better is here intended than their deliverance out of Babylon, which in itself was but a very imperfect work, and reached at first but to a few of that numerous people, and was attended with many fears, and sorrows, and remainders of their bondage, Ezra 9:8,Ezra 9:9; Nehemiah 1:3; and that although that was the beginning of these glad tidings, yet they extended much further, even to the coming of Christ, by whom alone true peace and salvation were procured.

That saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth: it is true, this might in some sort be said when God so overruled the affairs of the world, and the heart of Cyrus, that his people were freed from the Babylonish captivity, and restored into and settled in their own land. Although he that considers the state of God’s people in their own land after their return, will find that the reign of God in and over the world was not then either very conspicuous or glorious. And therefore it seems far more reasonable to understand it of the days of the Messiah, when God did discover and exercise his dominion over the world far more eminently than ever he had done from the beginning of the world until that time.

Verse 8

Thy watchmen, thy ministers, who shall descry the approach and coming of this heavenly King and kingdom, shall lift up the voice; partly to give notice to all people of these glad tidings; and partly by way of exultation, to sing forth the praises of God for this glorious day and mercy, as it here follows.

They shall see; they shall understand, and so be able to teach, Divine mysteries.

Eye to eye; very distinctly, and clearly, and familiarly, their eyes beholding the eyes of this King of glory; as it is said of Zedekiah, Jeremiah 34:3,

Thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon; and as it is said, mouth to mouth, Numbers 12:8, and face to face, Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Numbers 14:14. They shall see with their bodily eyes the King of the church, or the Word made flesh, as they are said to have done, John 1:14; 1 John 1:1. They shall be eye and ear witnesses of the words and works of Christ, and therefore their testimony of these things shall be more certain and valuable.

When the Lord shall bring again Zion; when God shall complete the work of bringing his church out of captivity; which was begun at the return out of Babylon, and perfected by Christ’s coming into the world.

Verse 9

For you shall be restored unto your former and a far greater fertility.

Verse 10

Hath made bare his holy arm; hath discovered and put forth his great power, which for a long time hath lain hid, and seemed to be idle.

All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God; all nations of the world shall with astonishment behold the wonderful work of God, first in bringing his people out of Babylon, and afterwards in their redemption by Christ.

Verse 11

Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence; make haste, O ye banished Jews, to depart out of Babylon into your own land, that there I may meet with you, and bless you, and perform those further and greater things which I have promised there to do for you. And this invitation was the more necessary, because God foresaw that a great number of the Jews would upon worldly considerations continue in those foreign countries in which they were settled, and be very backward to return to the Holy Land.

Touch no unclean thing; and when you go thence, take heed that you carry not along with you any of their superstitions or idolatries; but purify and prepare yourselves, that so God may return to you in mercy, when you return into your own land.

Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord; and especially you priests and Levites, whose office it is to minister in holy things, and to carry back the holy vessels of the temple, keep yourselves from all pollution.

Verse 12

For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; but securely, and in triumph, being conducted by your great Captain, the Lord of hosts. And therefore you will have both the greater obligation, and the more leisure and opportunity, to cleanse yourselves from all filthiness.

For the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward; so that none shall be able either to oppose and stop you in your march, or to fall upon you in the rear, as enemies commonly do.

Verse 13

This is the beginning of a new prophecy, which is continued from hence to the end of the next chapter; and therefore it is well observed by divers, both ancient and modern interpreters, that the fifty-third chapter should have begun here.

My servant.

Quest. Of whom doth the prophet here speak? It is apparent that these three last verses of this chapter, and all the following chapter, speak of one and the same person. And that that person is Christ is so evident, that the Chaldee paraphrast, and other ancient, and some later Hebrew doctors, understand it directly of him, and that divers Jews have been convinced and converted to the Christian faith by the evidence of this prophecy. And there is not a verse in this whole context which doth not afford a clear and convincing proof of this truth, as we shall see. And there needs no other argument to confirm it, than the variety and vanity of the pretended expositions of the Jews, who use all possible wit and art to wrest all these passages to other persons. Those who would seem wiser than the rest, and confute the other expositions of their brethren, understand it either of the Jewish people in general, or of the prophet Jeremiah in particular. But both these conceits are so groundless and absurd, that there is scarce a verse but confutes them, as we shall clearly discern in the exposition of them. And therefore other Jews reject them both, and understand it of Abraham, or Moses, or Josiah, or Ezra, or Zorobabel; and they might as well have named twenty persons more, to whom this place might be applied upon as good grounds as to any of these. But there is not one clause in all this context which is not most truly and fitly applied to Christ, as I shall make apparent, step by step. And first this title of God’s servant is in an eminent and peculiar manner given to Christ in this very prophecy, as Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 53:11; Ezekiel 34:23; Zechariah 3:8. Shall deal prudently; shall manage his kingdom with admirable wisdom. Or, shall prosper, as it is in the margin, and as this word is frequently rendered, and particularly in this very case, and of this same person, Jeremiah 23:5; which also seems best to agree with the following clause, and with Isaiah 53:10,Isaiah 53:11; And this intimation concerning the future prosperity and advancement of the Messiah is fitly put in the first place to prevent those scandals which otherwise might arise from the succeeding passages, which largely describe his state of humiliation and deep affliction.

He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high: here are three words signifying the same thing, to express the height and glory of his exaltation; which agrees most fitly to Christ, but cannot without great force be applied to Jeremiah, who had no greater honour or favour done him by the Chaldeans at the taking of Jerusalem, than to be left at liberty to go where he pleased, Jeremiah 40:4, and who after that time met with great contempt and hardship from his own countrymen, Jeremiah 42:0; Jeremiah 43:0; Jeremiah 44:0.

Verse 14

Were astonished; were struck with wonder, either,

1. At his glorious endowments, and the excellency and power of his doctrine, and his miraculous works. Or rather,

2. At his great deformity, and stupendous humiliation and calamity, as may be gathered both from the following words, and from the use of this word in Scripture, which is generally used in a bad sense, or of wondering at some extraordinary evil, as Jeremiah 18:16; Jeremiah 19:8, and oft elsewhere; and never in a good sense, or of wondering at any thing which is extraordinarily good.

At thee; at thee, O my servant, to whom he now turneth his speech, and then turneth his speech from him, and speaks of him in the next words; such sudden changes of persons, and speaking of one and the same man sometimes in one person, and then presently in another, being very frequent in the writings of the prophets, as we have already seen in divers instances.

His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men; he was more deformed or uncomely than any other man; which was undoubtedly verified in Christ, who, in respect of his birth, and breeding, and manner of life, was most obscure and contemptible, and therefore said to be a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people, Psalms 22:6; who was more hated and vilified by the generality of the Jews than any man upon earth, and was accounted and called by them a deceiver, a Samaritan, a blasphemer, and a devil, &c.; whose countenance also was so marred with frequent watchings, and fastings, and troubles, that he was thought to be near fifty years old when he was but about thirty, John 8:57; and was further spoiled with buffetings, and crowning with thorns, and other cruel and despiteful usages from men, and with the deep and continual sense of the burden of men’s sins, and of God’s displeasure due unto them; all which did not only oppress his spirit, but had a great influence upon the very constitution of his body.

Verse 15

So; his exaltation shall be answerable to his humiliation.

Shall he sprinkle; either,

1. With his blood, which is called the blood of sprinkling, Hebrews 12:24; or, shall justify them, as it follows, Isaiah 53:11, which is frequently expressed by washing, as Psalms 51:2,Psalms 51:7; Ezekiel 16:9, and by sprinkling clean water, Ezekiel 36:25. Or,

2. With his word or doctrine; which being oft compared to rain or waters, as Deuteronomy 32:2; Isaiah 55:10,Isaiah 55:11; Habakkuk 2:4, &c, may be said to be sprinkled, as it is said to be dropped, Deuteronomy 32:2; Ezekiel 20:46; Ezekiel 21:2. And this sense seems to be most favoured by the following words.

The kings shall shut their mouths at him; shall be silent before him, out of a profound humility, and reverence, and admiration of his wisdom, and an eager desire to hear and receive counsels and oracles from his mouth. Compare Job 29:9-11,Job 29:21. They shall no more contend with him, nor blaspheme the true God and religion, as they formerly used to do.

For that which had not been told them shall they see; for they shall hear from his mouth many excellent doctrines, which also will be new and strange to them, such as men are very desirous to hear. And particularly they shall hear from him that comfortable doctrine concerning the conversion and salvation of the Gentiles, which was not only new to them, but was strange and incredible to the most of the Jews themselves.

Shall they consider; or, they shall understand; which is added to show that the seeing in the former clause was meant of discerning these things with the eyes of their minds.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 52". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.