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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 26

A.M. 3292. B.C. 712.

In this chapter we have a second doxology, or song of praise, in which the great things God had engaged, in the foregoing chapter, to do for his people, and against his and their enemies, are celebrated. It is prepared to be sung when that prophecy shall be accomplished. In this song the people of God are taught to triumph in the safety, both of the church in general, and of every particular member of it, under the divine protection, and in an assurance of the destruction of all opposing powers, Isaiah 26:1-6 . To walk with God, and wait for him in the worst and darkest times, Isaiah 26:7-9 . To lament the stupidity of those who neither regard the mercies nor the judgments of God, Isaiah 26:10 , Isaiah 26:11 . To encourage themselves and one another with hopes, that God would still continue to deliver and do them good, Isaiah 26:12-14 . To recollect God’s providences toward them in their low and distressed condition, and their deportment under them, Isaiah 26:15-18 . In confident expectation of relief and deliverance in the needful time, and of a glorious resurrection to hide themselves under the divine protection, while the wicked are punished and cut off for their iniquities, Isaiah 26:19-21 .

Verses 1-2

Isaiah 26:1-2. In that day When God shall do such glorious works for the comfort of his people, as are described in the foregoing chapter; shall this song be sung in the land of Judah In the church of God, often signified by the titles of Judah, Jerusalem, Zion, and the like. We have a strong city Jerusalem, or the church, which is often compared to a city. Salvation will God appoint, &c. God’s immediate and saving protection shall be to his church instead of walls. Open ye the gates Of the city, mentioned Isaiah 26:1. An expression which implies the increase of the number of believers, and the enlargement of the church. That the righteous nation

The whole body of righteous men, whether Jews or Gentiles; (for he seems to speak here, as he apparently did in the foregoing chapter, of the times of the gospel;) which keepeth the truth Which is sincere and steadfast in the profession and practice of the true religion; may enter in May be received and acknowledged as true members of the church, which all such persons undoubtedly are.

Verses 3-4

Isaiah 26:3-4. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace Hebrew, in peace, peace; peace with God, and peace of conscience; peace at all times, and under all events; whose mind is stayed on thee Hebrew, יצר סמוךְ , the thought, or, mind fixed, or, the stayed mind, as Bishop Lowth renders it; that is, the man whose thoughts and mind are fixed and settled on thee by faith, as the next clause explains it. In the foregoing verse, the righteous are represented as being admitted into the city, and here as being preserved and defended in it by God’s almighty power. Trust ye in the Lord Ye, who truly turn to and obey him; for ever In all times and conditions, and as long as you live; for in the Lord Jehovah

In him who was, and is, and is to come; is everlasting strength Hebrew, צור עולמים , the rock of ages; which will assuredly support those who build their confidence thereon. That is, he is a sure refuge to all those that trust in him through all generations.

Verses 5-6

Isaiah 26:5-6. For he bringeth down Hebrew, he hath brought down, or, as it may be rendered, he will bring down, them that dwell on high He speaks not so much of height of place, as of dignity and power, in which sense also he mentions the lofty city in the next clause; which may be understood, either of proud Babylon, or of all the strong and stately cities of God’s enemies. The foot shall tread it down God will bring it under the feet of his poor, weak, and despised people. The meaning is, you have good reason for trusting in God, for he can and does raise up some and throw down others, according to his own good pleasure.

Verse 7

Isaiah 26:7. The way of the just is uprightness Hebrew, מישׁרים , righteousness. The just proceed steadily on in the practice of the various duties of righteousness, which they owe to God and man; or, their way is evenness, or plainness, as the word may be rendered. It is their constant care and endeavour to walk with God in an even, steady course of obedience and holy conversation. Bishop Lowth translates the clause, the way of the righteous is perfectly straight, not crooked, involved, and intricate, like that of the wicked. Thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just Dost mark and consider it, and observe the various difficulties and dangers that will occur in it, and wilt give them grace sufficient for them; or, thou dost examine it. Thou, who art most upright in all thy ways, and therefore a lover of uprightness, and of all upright men, dost weigh, dost narrowly observe and ponder, the path of the just; the whole course of their actions, and, which is implied, dost approve of them, and direct them to a happy issue. This seems to be the most common meaning of the word פלס , here rendered to weigh: see Proverbs 4:26; Proverbs 5:21. It bears, however, another sense, Psalms 78:50, namely, to make the way plain, or, to remove obstructions out of it. In this sense Bishop Lowth understands it here, and therefore translates the clause, thou most exactly levellest the path of the righteous. While the way of the wicked is perplexed, and rugged, and full of obstructions, God makes the way of the righteous plain and easy before them, by preventing or removing those things that would be stumbling-blocks to them, so that they walk safely and comfortably forward in the path of duty.

Verses 8-9

Isaiah 26:8-9. Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord That is, as some understand it, of thine ordinances and commandments, in which we carefully and conscientiously walk; or, in the way of thy chastisements. As we, thy people, have loved and served thee, when thou didst make our way smooth and pleasant before us, so we have not forsaken thee, but waited upon thee, when thou didst see fit, for our trial, to make it difficult and troublesome. We have possessed our souls in patience under thy chastisements, and have waited thy time for our deliverance. The desire of our soul is to thy name Hebrew, to thy name and thy memory; that is, to the remembrance of thy nature and attributes, according as thou hast made thyself known by thy word and works. And so the sense of this clause is, our affections are not alienated from thee by thy judgments, but we still continue to desire thy presence and favour, and we support and comfort ourselves with the remembrance of what thou art, and what thou hast done, and what thou hast promised to be to, and do for, thy people. With my soul Sincerely and most affectionately; have I desired thee The prophet speaks this in the name of all God’s people; in the night In the time of affliction, often termed night, or darkness; or, rather, in the night, properly so called, as appears from the next clause, wherein early, or in the morning, is opposed to it. When others are sleeping, my thoughts and desires are working toward thee. Yea, with my spirit within me By fervent and importunate prayer for thy loving-kindness; will I seek thee early Betimes in the morning. For when thy judgments are in the earth And good reason it is that we should thus desire and seek thee in the way of thy judgments, because this is the very design of thy judgments, that men should thereby be awakened to learn and return to their duty; and this is a common effect of them, that those who have been careless in prosperity are made wiser and better by afflictions.

Verses 10-11

Isaiah 26:10-11. Let favour be showed to the wicked If thou dost spare them, when thou chastisest thy own people, and grantest them health, prosperity, and other blessings; yet will they not learn righteousness They will not be led to repentance by thy goodness; and therefore it is requisite thou shouldest send thy judgments into the earth, to reckon with men for abused mercies. In the land of uprightness Even in thy church, and among thy people, where righteousness is taught, professed, and, among many, practised; and where unrighteousness is discountenanced and punished; will he The wicked man, deal unjustly Hebrew, יעול , will act perfidiously, perversely, or injuriously; and will not behold the majesty of the Lord Although God gives such plain and clear discoveries of his majesty and glory, not only in his words, but also in his works, and in all the dispensations of his providence, whether those of justice, or those of grace; and especially in his glorious patience and mercy toward wicked men; yet they wilfully shut their eyes against these discoveries, and will not believe, or will not consider, and lay to heart, what a God of terrible and glorious majesty he is. Lord, when thy hand is lifted up To smite and chastise them, in order that by repentance, faith, and prayer, they may make their peace with thee; they will not see They will not take notice of it; are not aware that thou art angry with them, and about to execute thy judgments upon them. Nay, even when thou dost actually smite and punish them, they are guilty of the same obstinate blindness as when thou dost only threaten them, shutting their eyes against the clearest convictions of guilt and wrath, and ascribing to chance, common fate, or second causes, what is manifestly a divine correction and rebuke. They regard not the symptoms of their own ruin, but cry, “Peace, peace,” when thou, the holy and righteous God, art waging war against them. But they shall see Whether they will or not. They shall know and feel, and that by sad experience, what they would not learn by other and easier ways. Atheists, scorners, and the carnally secure shall shortly feel what now they will not believe, that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. They will not see the evil of sin, and particularly the sin of hating and persecuting the people of God; but they shall, at length, be convinced to their sorrow, by the tokens of God’s displeasure against them for it, that what is done against his people, God takes as done against himself. And be ashamed for their envy at the people They shall see that they have done God’s people a great deal of wrong, and therefore shall be ashamed of it, and of the enmity and envy which produced it. Yea, the fire of thine enemies, &c. Such fire or wrath as thou usest to pour forth upon thy implacable enemies.

Verse 12

Isaiah 26:12 . Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us That is, for thy true and genuine church and people. Though thou hast afflicted us, (Isaiah 26:8.) yet the time will come when we shall be in a very different, yea, in a happy condition. Or, referring to what he had last said, he means, as thou wilt destroy thine and our enemies, so thou wilt bless us; thy people, with peace and prosperity. For thou hast wrought all our works in us Hebrew, לנו , to, or for us. All the good works done by us are the effects of thy grace. And all the good and great works which have been wrought for us, all the wonderful deliverances and singular blessings vouchsafed us, came from thee. The argument is this: God hath done great things for us, and delivered us formerly upon many occasions, and therefore he will still deliver us, and give us peace.

Verses 13-14

Isaiah 26:13-14. O Lord our God, &c. The people of God, having already obtained their deliverance in part, with the overthrow and destruction of their enemies, proceed to unfold and express their hope, that God would perfect all his good works for them. Other lords besides thee Who art our only King, Lawgiver, and Judge; and besides those governors who have been appointed over us by thee, and have ruled us in subordination to thee; even foreign and heathen lords, such as the Philistines formerly, and lately the Assyrians, and afterward (as the prophet foresaw would come to pass) the Babylonians, have had dominion, over us Have exercised a tyrannical power over us. The reader will observe, the song begun, Isaiah 26:1, is continued, and Isaiah is foretelling what the language of the church would be after her deliverance. By thee only By thy favour and help, by which alone we have been rescued from the tyranny of our enemies, and not by our merits or strength; will we make mention of thy name

Celebrate thy praise, and trust in thee for the future. Bishop Lowth renders the clause, Thee only, and thy name, henceforth will we celebrate. They are dead, &c., they shall not rise Those tyrants are destroyed, they shall never live or rise again to molest us. He probably refers to the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib’s army before Jerusalem, and to the overthrow of the Babylonian empire. Therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, &c. That they might be thus effectually destroyed thou didst undertake the work; and thou hast perfectly accomplished it, and abolished the monuments or memorials of their greatness and glory. The prophet speaks of what he foresaw, with certainty, would be done, as though it were effected already.

Verse 15

Isaiah 26:15 . Thou hast increased the nation Namely, the Jewish nation, which multiplied exceedingly in Egypt, and afterward in Canaan, so that they filled the land. But the prophet perhaps foretels their increase after their return from captivity in Babylon; and, as some think, that increase of the church (called the righteous nation, Isa 26:2 ) which was to take place in gospel days. Thou art glorified In faithfully fulfilling thy promises made to Abraham concerning the multiplication of his seed, and making him the father of many nations. Thou hast removed it far unto all the ends of the earth Thou hast scattered thy people over all the world, so that they are found in every nation under heaven, where they are witnesses for thee, the only living and true God, against idolaters of all descriptions. This was the case before, and at the time of the coming of the Messiah, and of the opening of the gospel dispensation, Acts 2:5. And in a little time, the Gentiles being called into the church of God, the Christians were spread over all parts of the Roman empire, and far beyond its utmost limits, and they were much more faithful witnesses or the truth than the Jews had ever been. But, as the Hebrew of the first clause of this verse, יספת לגוי , when literally rendered, is only, thou hast added to the nation; some think the prophet does not speak of adding to their number, or increasing them, but rather of adding to their plagues or chastisements. This, it must be acknowledged, would agree well with what follows. Then the interpretation of the next clauses would be, Thy justice is glorified in their punishment, and thou hast removed them out of their own land, and suffered them to be carried captive to the ends of the earth. This, as the reader will easily observe, would accord perfectly with what follows to the end of the chapter.

Verses 16-18

Isaiah 26:16-18. O Lord, in trouble Amidst the various calamities brought upon them for their correction and especially in their captivity; have they Namely, thy people; visited thee Come into thy presence with their prayers and supplications; they poured out a prayer Prayed much and earnestly, as the expression implies; when thy chastening was upon them When thou wast punishing them for their sins. Like as a woman is in pain, &c. A comparison often used to express men’s consternation under great calamities, from which they cannot deliver themselves; so have we been in thy sight Such has been our anguish and danger, of which thou, O Lord, hast been a witness. We have been with child That is, we have had great expectation of a speedy and happy deliverance, have been big with hopes; and we have been in pain Have comforted ourselves with this, that the joyful birth would make us forget our misery, but, alas! we have, as it were, brought forth wind We have had the torment of a woman in child-bearing, but not the comfort of a living child. “We have had no good issue of all our pangs and throes; they did not produce deliverance and ease, as in the case of travailing women, but all our own labours proved abortive: in vain we struggled with our enemies, who were still too mighty for us,” and we were utterly unable to effect our deliverance. To bring forth wind, is much the same kind of phrase with feeding on wind, and reaping wind, Hosea 12:1; Hosea 8:7; and signifies, to take a great deal of pains to no purpose. This seems to be spoken of the siege which the Jewish people endured, and of all their other labours and sufferings to prevent their coming under the Chaldean yoke. Thus the attempt of Zedekiah to withstand Nebuchadnezzar we find only brought greater evils upon the country, 2 Chronicles 36:13. We have not wrought any deliverance in the earth In our land, where we had far greater advantages than we could have had elsewhere. Neither have the inhabitants of the world The Assyrians, Chaldeans, or our other enemies; fallen By our means.

Verse 19

Isaiah 26:19. Thy dead men shall live The prophet here, speaking in the name of God, turns his speech to God’s church, and gives her a cordial to support her in that deep distress which he had foretold she should suffer, and which is described in the preceding verse. Thy dead men are not like those mentioned Isaiah 26:14, for they shall not live, as was there said, but thine shall live. You shall certainly be delivered from all your fears and dangers. For here, as Bishop Lowth observes, “The deliverance of the people of God, from a state of the lowest depression, is explained by images taken from the resurrection of the dead.” And nothing is more frequent, both in Scripture and other authors, than for great calamities to be compared to death, and deliverance from them to reviving, a resurrection, and life; and particularly the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, and their deliverance out of it, is largely expressed by this very similitude, Ezekiel 37:11, &c. “It appears from hence,” says Bishop Lowth, “that the doctrine of the resurrection was at that time a popular and common doctrine; for an image which is assumed, in order to express or represent any thing in the way of allegory, or metaphor, whether poetical or prophetical, must be an image commonly known and understood, otherwise it will not answer the purpose for which it is assumed.” Together with my dead body shall they arise It is to be observed here, that the words, together with, are supplied by our translation, there being nothing for them in the Hebrew. “All the ancient versions,” says Bishop Lowth, “render the word in the plural; they read נבלותי , my dead bodies.” The Vulgate has it, Interfecti mei resurgent, My slain men shall rise. The Syriac and Chaldaic read, their dead bodies; and the LXX. εγερθησονται οι εν τοις μνημειοις , those that are in their graves shall be raised. It seems this clause is added merely as an amplification or repetition of the former, being entirely equivalent therewith, and expressing only that the Jewish Church, with which the prophet connects himself, as being a member of it, should be delivered out of captivity in Babylon, but not that he himself should either personally suffer in that captivity, or have a part in that deliverance. Thus, in a similar way, ( 1Th 4:15 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:17,) the apostle connects himself with those that should be found alive at Christ’s second coming, we who are alive, &c., certainly not intending to signify that he personally should be alive at that time. Awake, &c. Out of your sleep, even the sleep of death, ye that dwell in the dust You that are dead and buried in the earth. For thy dew The favour and blessing of God upon thee; is as the dew of herbs Which refreshes and revives them, and makes them grow and flourish. And the earth shall cast out the dead As an abortive birth is cast out of the womb, to which the grave is compared, Job 1:21. But, as the verb תפיל , here used, does not properly signify to cast out, but to cast down, or cause to fall, these words are by many, both ancient and later interpreters, rendered otherwise, namely, thou wilt cast down, or she, that is, the church, shall cast down the land of the giants, or violent ones. Thus the Vulgate: Thou shalt draw into ruin the land of the giants; and the LXX., η δε γη των ασεβων πεσειται , the land of the ungodly shall fall, or be brought down. The sense is, the church shall prevail against all oppressors, and shall cast them down: when brought low she shall rise, but her enemies shall not.

Verses 20-21

Isaiah 26:20-21. Come, my people, &c. These two verses are supposed not to belong to the song which takes up the preceding part of the chapter, but to be an address of the prophet to the people of God on the contents of it. Having foretold their wonderful deliverance, and the utter destruction of their enemies, lest they should suppose that these predictions would immediately begin to be fulfilled, and thereby should meet with a disappointment, which might shake their faith respecting the future fulfilment of them, he here warns them that they must first expect storms, and exhorts them to prepare for them, and patiently to wait God’s time for the accomplishment of his promises. Enter thou into thy chambers, &c. Withdraw thyself from the company and conversation of the people of the world, lest, partaking with them in their sins, thou shouldst also partake of their plagues; and shut thy doors about thee Separate and seclude thyself, as far as may be, from men and things, and give thyself up to meditation on these awful dispensations of divine justice and mercy, and to prayer. Having entered into thy closet, and shut thy door, pour out thy supplications and intercessions before thy Father, who seeth in secret. Hide thyself, as it were In this time of danger and calamity, when the judgments of God are so awfully abroad in the earth, put thyself under the protection of his providence and grace, by faith and prayer. He alludes to the common practice of men, who, when there are storms or dangers abroad, betake themselves to their houses or chambers for safety: or, it may be, to the history, Exodus 9:19-20; or, to the command of Moses to the Israelites, (Exodus 12:22,) not to go out of the doors of their houses: while the destroying angel was going through the land of Egypt; or, to the like charge given to Rahab, as the condition of her preservation, Joshua 2:0. For a little moment Whereby he intimates, that all their afflictions, how long and tedious soever they might seem, were but short and momentary in comparison of that happiness which was reserved for them; until the indignation be overpast The dreadful effects of God’s anger, mentioned in the next verse. For the Lord cometh out of his place Cometh down from heaven, which, in Scripture, he is frequently said to do, when he undertakes any great and glorious work, either of delivering his people or destroying their enemies. The expression is borrowed from the manner of princes, who come out of their palaces either to sit in judgment, or to fight against their enemies, both which things God is here represented as doing. To punish the inhabitants of the earth All the enemies of God and of his people; for their iniquity For all their sins, and especially for oppressing and persecuting his church. The earth also shall disclose her blood The innocent blood which hath been shed upon the earth shall be brought to light, and shall be severely revenged upon the murderers.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 26". Benson's Commentary. 1857.