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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 51

Verses 1-8

Isaiah 51:1-8 . A Heartening Consolation.— Yahweh, in words that echo Isaiah 50:4-9, bids His people, who seek the victory which ever eludes them, consider their origin. Abraham was but one; yet He made him a great people: how much more from a people, though their numbers be decreased, can He make a mighty nation. He will comfort Zion— the perfects of Isaiah 51:3 are “ perfects of certainty”— her ruins shall be rebuilt and her waste places made fruitful as Eden. Instruction in the true religion shall go forth from Him as a light for the nations. His vindicating victory is near at hand; His power shall judge the nations. Though heaven and earth pass away, and men perish like gnats ( mg.) , His victory shall be eternal. Let not His people, who know His vindicating power and understand His instruction, fear the taunts of men. Their oppressors shall vanish like moth-eaten garments, but His victory shall endure for ever.

Isaiah 51:1 . Read, “ and to the quarry whence ye were digged.”

Isaiah 51:4 b Isaiah 51:5 a. Read, “ for a law shall go forth from me, and my judgement for a light of the peoples. Suddenly I bring near my victory,” etc.

Isaiah 51:6 . Translate, “ and the earth as a garment; the world shall fall to pieces and they,” etc.— be abolished: read “ fail” (LXX, Vulg.).

Verses 9-11

Isaiah 51:9-11 . An Appeal to Yahweh to Display His Might as of Old.— Let Yahweh’ s strong arm manifest its power as it did in slaying the dragon Rahab, the personification of the mighty deep regarded as the power of Chaos ( Job 9:13 *). This thought naturally suggests another work of Yahweh’ s arm, the drying up of the Red Sea, the more easily that Rahab was an emblem for Egypt ( cf. Isaiah 30:7 *).

Isaiah 51:10 . great deep: this expression makes it clear that the reference to the Exodus begins only with the following words.

Isaiah 51:11 . A scribe’ s quotation from Isaiah 35:10.

Verses 12-16

Isaiah 51:12-16 . Israel, Trusting in Yahweh, Need Have no Fear.—“ Since it is I, Yahweh, who am comforting thee, how canst thou fear mortal man, and how forget that Yahweh is the omnipotent Creator, so that thou art ever in fear of the (Chaldean) oppressor? The crouching (prisoner?) shall soon be freed: he shall not perish. I am Yahweh, controller of the ocean. My spokesman have I made thee, and jealously have I guarded thee that I may stretch out (Syr.) the (new?) heavens and establish the (new?) earth, calling Zion My people.” (??).

Isaiah 51:12 . who art thou, that: Heb. idiom for “ how canst thou?”

Verses 17-23

Isaiah 51:17 to Isaiah 52:12 . The Sorrow of Jerusalem, which shall Give Place to Joy.

Isaiah 51:17-20 . The prophet, obviously familiar with the vision of Jeremiah 25:15, pictures Jerusalem as staggering under the stupefaction caused by the draught which Yahweh in His anger has compelled her to drink. Two pairs of evils (expressed in Heb. by word-plays) have befallen her, and who is there to comfort her (read “ who shall” for “ how shall I” with VSS). Under the fury of Yahweh her sons are like an antelope exhausted by its vain struggles in the net.

Isaiah 51:18 . Apparently a quotation added by a scribe.

Isaiah 51:21-23 . But Jerusalem shall no more drink of the stupefying draught; the oppressor who, like an eastern conqueror striding over the prostrate bodies of his captive foes, has arrogantly afflicted her shall be compelled to drink it instead.

Isaiah 51:23 . thy soul: render, “ thee” ; “ soul” in Heb. often means “ self.”

Isaiah 52:1 f. With evidently designed contrast to Isaiah 47, where Babylon is bidden sit in the dust and remove her fair apparel, Zion is exhorted to awake and put on garments of beauty. She shall no longer be the slave of the uncircumcised (Chaldæ an): let her rise from the dust and free herself from her bonds.

Isaiah 52:2 . sit thee down: i.e. on a throne ( cf. Isaiah 47:1). But read, “ arise, O captive Jerusalem.” The continuation of Isaiah 52:2 has disappeared and been replaced by Isaiah 52:3-6.

Isaiah 52:3-6 , which breaks the exhortation to Zion, resumed in Isaiah 52:7, is marked by a view of Israel’ s history different from that of 2 Is., contains late phrases, and is, unlike its context, in prose; it is therefore a late addition. Yahweh assures His people that they were delivered to their oppressors for no fault, and not for money shall they be ransomed. To Egypt they went originally as guests ( Genesis 45:9-20); nor had Assyria just cause for oppressing them. “ Now, what do I find here— My people unjustly taken away, My Temple overthrown, My name constantly spurned! In the day of reckoning My people shall know the meaning of that name, and that it is I who am now speaking to them.”

Isaiah 52:3 . sold: in the sense of Judges 11:14.

Isaiah 52:5 . they . . . howl: difficult in form and meaning, not supported by LXX. Of several emendations “ my temple is cast down” is accepted above.

Isaiah 52:6 . behold it is I: these words belong to the beginning of Isaiah 52:7, but read simply “ behold.”

Isaiah 52:7-9 . Behold, he who brings glad news of deliverance is speeding over the mountains. All the watchers from the city shout for joy because, so near that they can look in His face (“ eye to eye” ), they behold Yahweh approaching to reign in Zion. Let the ruined city break forth into exultant song!

Isaiah 52:7 . Read, “ Behold, hastening upon the mountains.”— reigneth: i.e. is about to assume his position as king.

Isaiah 52:8 . Read simply, “ All thy watchmen lift up,” etc.— shall see . . . when: render, “ see . . . how” ( mg.) .

Isaiah 52:9 . waste places: ruins.

Isaiah 52:10-12 . Yahweh has thrown back the clinging garment that might hamper His arm, and all the world shall see the deliverance He will work. . . . Let the exiles depart from Babylon, the people and the priests, who bear the sacred vessels, alike having made themselves ceremonially pure. Nor shall their departure be a hurried flight like the Exodus from Egypt, for Yahweh will be both vanguard and rearguard.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 51". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.