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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 52

Verses 1-12

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 The continuation of Isaiah 52:2 has disappeared and been replaced by Isaiah 52:3-6.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.

Verses 13-15

Isaiah 52:13 Isaiah 53:12 . The Vindication of the Servant of Yahweh (the fourth of the Songs of the Servant of Yahweh).

Isaiah 52:13-15 . Yahweh announces that His Servant Israel shall be raised to a position so glorious that, even as many were appalled at his pitiable plight, so nations shall do him homage and kings be reverently silent in his presence, beholding so wonderful, so unheard-of a transformation.

Isaiah 52:13 . shall deal wisely: translate “ prosper” ( mg.) , but probably the easy emendation “ Israel” is to be accepted.

Isaiah 52:14 . thee: read “ him,” with Targum and Syr. A parallel line such as “ and princes shuddered at him” seems to have been lost.— The words in brackets are introduced in Heb. by “ so.” The picture seems to be that of a leper so disfigured as hardly to seem human ( mg.) . Possibly they should follow Isaiah 53:2. If retained here, read “ for his visage was marred.”

Isaiah 52:15 . sprinkle: an impossible translation, nor is mg. well based. Read “ shall do homage,” with nations as subject.— shut their mouths: cf. Job 29:9 f.

Isaiah 53:1-3 . At this point the nations begin to speak, their words continuing apparently as far as Isaiah 53:11 a. First they utter their thoughts concerning the change in Israel’ s fortunes. “ Who,” they ask, could have believed what we have heard ( mg.)? To whom was the working of Yahweh revealed? Why, Israel aforetime (so emend “ before him” ) grew up like a shoot from the roots of a tree that has been cut down, or a feeble plant in an arid soil. Far from possessing beauty such as fascinates, he was despised, pain-stricken, and diseased, so that men turned from him in revulsion, and we paid him no regard.”

Isaiah 53:2 . nor comeliness: delete as a gloss, and render following words as mg.

Isaiah 53:3 . rejected of men: a fine thought, but the Heb. is very dubious; possibly emend, “ lightly esteemed.”— sorrows . . . grief: render, “ pains . . . sickness,” and so in Isaiah 53:4.

Isaiah 53:4-6 . “ But now we recognise that it was our sicknesses and pains which he was bearing when we thought him stricken with leprosy by God as the punishment of his sins. Not his sins but ours were the cause of his suffering: he suffered chastisement in order to bring us prosperity and healing. We, not knowing Yahweh the shepherd, wandered as sheep having no shepherd: but upon him Yahweh made to light the sin of us all.”

Isaiah 53:4 . Stricken: this term is used especially of a leper.

Isaiah 53:5 . bruised: render, “ crushed.”— of our peace: i.e. which was to bring us peace = prosperity.

Isaiah 53:7-9 . “ Though he was oppressed he made no protest, but suffered with the meekness of a sheep led to slaughter or shearing. Debarred from (so emend “ by oppression and” ) justice he was taken off ( i.e. by death) and who considered his fate (so emending simply “ and as for his generation who among them considered” ), cut off from life and stricken to death (LXX) for our (reading “ our transgressions” by an easy emendation for “ the transgressions of my people” ) rebellions! His grave was made with the wicked, and with evil-doers (so emend “ rich” ) his tomb, despite his life of innocence.” The last words are probably a metaphorical way of saying that Israel had lost its national existence in exile.

Isaiah 53:7 . yet he humbled himself: possibly the text, which is awkward, originally read, “ but he made no answer for himself” ( w e lo for w e hu) , and the words and opened not his mouth, the repetition of which is suspicious, are a correct gloss.

Isaiah 53:9 . in his death: literally as mg. This seems almost absurd; the text by a slight alteration might perhaps be translated “ his burial-mound” ; in any case some such parallel is needed here.

Isaiah 53:10-12 . The text of these verses is so corrupt that any translation is hazardous. This is apparent even in the English, in which Yahweh is, according to the usual interpretation third (“ the Lord” ), second (“ thou” ), and first (“ I” ) person.

But though men regarded him with scorn, Yahweh took pleasure in His Servant, and delivered his soul (= “ him,” in Heb. idiom) from trouble. He caused him to see light and be satisfied, in his descendants brought him justice. (The foregoing is an attempt, removing doublets, emending, and using hints from LXX, to give approximately what is now rendered by Isaiah 53:10 f, down to “ justify,” except the words “ my righteous servant” which in Heb. follow “ justify.” From this point it would seem that the nations cease to speak and Yahweh pronounces His verdict upon His Servant.) “ An object of scorn (so emending “ righteous” ) my servant may be to the many, though he is bearing their iniquities; therefore he shall inherit (so LXX for “ I will divide him a portion” ) with the great, and with earth’ s rulers shall he share dominion (this seems to be the meaning of “ dividing the spoil with the strong” ) since he poured out his life-blood, and was numbered with the rebellious, when all the while he was bearing the sins of the many, interposing for the rebellious.”

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 52". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.