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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 60

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3298. B.C. 706.

“The subject of this chapter is the great increase and flourishing state of the church of God, by the conversion and accession of the heathen nations to it; which is set forth in such ample and exalted terms, as plainly show that the full completion of this prophecy is reserved for future times.” It is here promised,

(1,) That the church should be marvellously enlightened with the knowledge and glory of God, Isaiah 60:1 , Isaiah 60:2 .

(2,) That it should be wonderfully enlarged by the accession of Gentile converts, Isaiah 60:3-8 .

(3,) That these converts should be very serviceable to it, Isaiah 60:9-13 .

(4,) That it should be in great honour and repute among men, Isaiah 60:14-16 .

(5,) That it should enjoy perfect safety and profound peace and tranquillity, Isaiah 60:17 , Isaiah 60:18 .

(6,) That, the members of it being all righteous, the glory and joy of it should be everlasting, Isaiah 60:19-22 . “The state of the church,” says Vitringa, “is here exhibited in a perfection which approaches nearest to the divine, the most beautiful and glorious imaginable; though we are yet to seek where or when the true exemplar of it may or shall be found.”

Verse 1

Isaiah 60:1. Arise, &c. The prophet here addresses the church of God, which he supposes to be sitting sorrowful, and exhorts her to awake and arise from a state of darkness and mourning, and enter into a state of light and happiness, “now that her salvation, so long desired and hoped for, is at hand, and the divine glory is about to rise upon her, and illuminate the nations and people who had hitherto sat in thick darkness.” See Vitringa. The reader will observe the exhortation is accommodated to the Jewish or Hebrew style, wherein, as by lying down is signified a servile and calamitous condition, (Isaiah 47:1,) so, by rising, and standing up, a recovery out of it into a free and prosperous state, as may be seen frequently. Shine Discover thyself, as a luminary breaking forth from a dark night. Show thy native beauty: suffer thyself to be so strongly irradiated by the glory of the Lord, that thou mayest not only be enlightened, but mayest be able to enlighten others. For thy light is come Thy flourishing and prosperous condition, an allusion to people’s rising, when after a dark night the light breaks forth upon them. And the glory of the Lord Glorious light, grace, and salvation from the Lord; or a bright display of the glory, that is, of the glorious attributes of the Lord; or, the Lord of glory, Christ, is about to make himself glorious, in some wonderful work, for thy salvation. Is risen upon thee Like as when the sun, arising, spreads his light everywhere, leaving no place dark. Thus shall the church of God be fully illuminated in the latter days, and thus shall she shine for the perfect illumination of all flesh: see Isaiah 11:9; and Zechariah 14:7. In his description of this perfect state of the Christian Church, this evangelical prophet is here peculiarly eloquent, displaying it “in the most splendid colours, and under a great variety of images, highly poetical, designed to give a general idea of its glories, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, and the Jews shall be converted and gathered from their dispersions, and the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God, and of his Christ.” Bishop Lowth.

Verse 2

Isaiah 60:2. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth Ignorance, idolatry, and all kinds of errors and vices; and gross darkness the people Like that of Egypt; the most palpable blindness and infatuation as to divine things; but the Lord Christ, the bright and morning-star, the day- spring from on high, or, rather, the Sun of righteousness, Revelation 22:16; Luke 1:78; Malachi 4:2; shall arise upon thee By his gospel and his grace, bringing light to those that before sat in darkness, and in the shadow of death; and his glory shall be seen upon thee Shall be wonderfully conspicuous. “The design of the Holy Spirit in this clause, as I suppose,” says Vitringa, “is to describe the state of the nations of the world, at the time when God should illuminate the church with this light, as if by a new advent of his Son, and a repeated manifestation of his divine kingdom. Almost all the world should be found in a similar state of darkness to that wherein the Son of God found it at his first coming; and if we might form any judgment from the state of things, from the darkness which now overspreads the earth, through the prevalence of Popery, infidelity, and immorality, in the countries professing Christianity, and Mohammedanism and paganism in the other regions of the earth, we may reasonably conclude, that these words of the prophet, at the period alluded to, will not want their exact completion.”

Verse 3

Isaiah 60:3. The Gentiles shall come to thy light Or, shall be allured by thy light to come to thee, as travellers in a dark night, and out of their way, when a light discovers itself make to it; so the doctrine of the gospel shall shine so bright, and be made so conspicuous by preaching and miracles, that well-disposed heathen shall not only congratulate them that profess it, and wish them much joy, but shall rejoice to participate with them in their happiness. A plain prophecy this of the calling of the Gentiles, a promise of which was made to Christ, Isaiah 49:6. And, or Yea, kings to the brightness of thy rising That is, the greatness and glories of the church shall attract the eyes of kings, and make them willing to become her proselytes. Or, to add to thy lustre, thou shalt not only be honoured by the conversion of mean persons, but even of honourable personages, yea, of kings, embracing the Christian faith, and submitting themselves to Christ’s sceptre and government: see Isaiah 49:23.

Verses 4-5

Isaiah 60:4-5. Lift up thine eyes round about Or, in a circle, into all parts of the earth. He seems to refer to the apostles and disciples, with their successors, carrying the gospel into all quarters of the world. And because it would be, as it were, a thing incredible, he bids them lift up their eyes, as if they were to behold it in some vision, or upon some watch-tower in Jerusalem. See the like expression Isaiah 49:18. All they gather themselves together He speaks of the coming in of all nations to embrace the gospel, and unite themselves to the Christian Church. Thy sons shall come from far From the remotest parts, having heard the report of thee. And thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side Shall be brought unto thee tenderly, as it were in persons’ arms, (Isaiah 49:22,) and shall have their education with thee from their infancy: there, where alone the sincere milk of the word is to be had, must the church’s newborn babes be nursed, that they may grow thereby, 1 Peter 2:2. Then thou shalt see With delight, the multitudes of thy children running to thee; and flow together As when two rivers meet, and, joining their waters, run sweetly together, as one and the same river. This denotes the abundance of their united joys and delights. Or the words may mean, they shall flock together to behold such an amazing sight. And thy heart shall fear Or stand amazed, to see such multitudes come to the Lord Christ; and be enlarged Both with joy and love. Because the abundance of the sea The islands of the sea, the nations; shall be converted unto thee Shall turn to thee in religion and affection; they that formerly so much hated thee shall now love thee. Or the sense is, The wealth and traffic of those who trade by sea, the riches of the merchants, shall be converted to thy use rather than to the use of the owners thereof. The forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee Thou shalt not only have the wealth, but the strength of the nations to stand by thee, to protect thee, and aid thy endeavours to evangelize the world.

Verses 6-7

Isaiah 60:6-7. The multitude of camels The treasure that is brought upon camels. By these, and such like figurative expressions in several verses of this chapter, is implied the coming in of all nations to Christ, and therefore they are brought in as presenting the chief commodities of their respective countries. The dromedaries Or, also, or, even the dromedaries; which are a sort of lesser camel, so called from their swiftness in running. For it is said by the Arabs that they will run as far in one day as their best horses will do in nine; and therefore they are chiefly used for riding: for which they are the more fit, because, as Pliny observes, they can endure the want of water four days together. Of Midian and Ephah The Midianites and Ephahites were descended from Abraham, by Keturah, and dwelt beyond Arabia, where camels were very numerous, Judges 7:12. All they from Sheba A country in Arabia Felix, whose queen it was that came to visit Solomon, and her bringing gifts might be a type of this. They shall bring gold and incense The principal commodities with which this country abounded, by which we are to understand whatever is precious. All the flocks of Kedar Arabia Petrea, or stony Arabia, the people inhabiting which being principally shepherds. They shall come up with acceptance They shall not now, as heretofore, be rejected. I will glorify the house of my glory He alludes to the temple, but must be understood as intending the gospel church, built of living stones, of which the temple at Jerusalem, with all the splendour of its ornaments, and the whole multitude of its sacrifices and oblations, was but a typical or shadowy representation.

Verse 8

Isaiah 60:8. Who are these that fly as a cloud These metaphors import the number, as well as speed, of those that should be begotten by the apostles’ doctrine. “By this new crowd of believers hastening to the church,” Vitringa understands “the Greeks and Asiatics, and those of the west groaning under the Ottoman empire, who, having long sat in a state of ignorance and superstition, at this period shall be freed from their yoke, and hasten to the enlightened church in multitudes, like a cloud, and with zeal and impetuosity, (like doves to their cotes or holes,) when once made acquainted with the wonderful change of things, and the mighty works wrought by God for the deliverance of his people. The flight of doves, especially when they return to their cotes, is remarkably swift and precipitate.”

Verse 9

Isaiah 60:9 . Surely the isles shall wait for me The countries remote from Judea, and especially the islands and continents of Europe, generally intended by the term isles. And the ships To convey them to me; of Tarshish first Those that traffic by sea. In naming this, he implied all places that had commerce with other nations. Concerning Tarshish, see note on Isaiah 2:16. To bring thy sons from far From the most distant countries; their silver and their gold with them With all their treasure; unto the name of the Lord To be presented to the Lord, and employed for the advancement of his glory, and the benefit of his church and people. Because he hath glorified thee He will make thee honourable in the eyes of the world, and that especially by setting up the ministry of the gospel in the midst of thee.

Verses 10-12

Isaiah 60:10-12. And the sons of the stranger Namely, such as were not Israelites born, but of Gentile race; and he puts sons of strangers, by a usual Hebraism, for strangers; shall build up thy walls As Gentile proselytes to the Jewish religion assisted the Jews in repairing the walls of Jerusalem upon their return from captivity, so Gentile converts to Christianity assisted the apostles, evangelists, and other ministers of Christ, who were of Jewish extraction, in building and adorning the Christian Church: and for many ages its builders have been almost wholly of Gentile race. And their kings shall minister unto thee Ecclesiastical history affords us many instances of kings and princes that were great benefactors to her, among whom Constantine greatly excelled. For in my wrath I smote thee, &c. As I afflicted thee in mine anger, so out of my compassions I will abundantly bless thee. “The discourse here,” says Vitringa, “rises, and will continue to rise till the end of the section, that the blindest may discern spiritual things involved in these corporeal figures and emblems. It is not sufficient that the nations only, with their wealth and possessions, shall be added to the church, and perform all requisite offices toward it, but kings and princes also shall come: nor shall they come alone; a great retinue shall attend them: nor shall instances of their approach be few and rare, but common and frequent; insomuch that the gates of the city shall be always left open to receive this continual accession of kings and people.” The nation, &c., that will not serve thee Do offices of kindness to thee, as the word ועבדו is used Isaiah 19:23, or, that will not submit to Christ’s sceptre; shall perish Shall not only be subdued to thee, but shall be destroyed by the sword, or famine, or pestilence, or some other of the divine judgments. Yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted Shall, by the peculiar interposition of a righteous providence, be brought to desolation. “This,” says Lowth, “must relate to the latter days, as the Scripture calls them, when the church shall become a great mountain, and break in pieces all the kingdoms of the earth, according to Daniel’s prophecy, Daniel 2:35; Daniel 2:44.”

Verse 13

Isaiah 60:13. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee As Lebanon furnished cedars, and other choice timber, for building and beautifying Solomon’s temple, so shall different nations contribute what is most excellent and suitable among them for supporting, establishing, enlarging, and adorning the church of Christ, here called the place of God’s sanctuary, with allusion to the temple, an eminent type of it. See note on Psalms 46:4-5. And I will make the place of my feet glorious The Christian Church, so called in allusion to the ark in the most holy place of the tabernacle and temple, where the divine glory, termed by the Jews the Shechinah, was wont to appear between the wings of the cherubim, over the mercy-seat, which was, as it were, the footstool of that glorious symbol of God’s presence.

Verse 14

Isaiah 60:14. The sons of them, that afflicted thee Their posterity, or themselves, for it is the manner of the Hebrews so to speak; shall come bending unto thee Humbling themselves as penitents, and thus manifesting their respect and reverence for thee. They shall acknowledge their former errors, or the errors of their fathers, and instead of being persecutors shall become proselytes. And all they that despised thee As a poor, mean, insignificant, and despicable people; shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet Shall prostrate themselves before thee as humble suppliants, or rather before Christ, the head, husband, and king of his church. And they shall call thee, The city of the Lord They shall acknowledge thee to be so, and to be so called, both from the love that God hath to thee, and from the presence of God with thee. As there is no account of any thing like this happening to the Jews, that any people, who had before persecuted and afflicted them, came and made submission to them in such a suppliant manner as is here represented, this must, of necessity, be considered as a description, either, 1st, Of that change of things which was made in the Roman empire, when the highest powers in it, even the emperors themselves, became Christians, in consequence of which the heathen became suppliants to the Christians, whom they had before treated in the most cruel and barbarous manner: or, 2d, Of that still greater change which shall take place, in this respect, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ, and he will make his church’s enemies to come and worship, that is, to prostrate themselves before her feet, and to know that he has loved her, Revelation 3:9.

Verse 15

Isaiah 60:15. Whereas thou hast been forsaken Both of God, as to outward appearance, and man; and hated Either slighted and neglected, or suffering actual miseries and slaughters; so that no man went through thee Thy streets were left desolate and thou wast in a manner depopulated. The state of the Christian Church, during the dark and persecuting ages of Popery, is here described, in language borrowed from Jerusalem lying in desolation. I will make thee an eternal excellency Being reformed from idolatry and other superstitions and abominations, and thy members being enlightened with the truth, and regenerated by the grace of God, and thereby rendered wise and holy, thou shalt be blessed and exalted with continual tokens of the divine favour, and made a lasting and increasing blessing in the world. The Hebrew, לגאון עולם , is literally, for a lifting up, or, an exaltation, continually, or, for ever. A joy of many generations Hebrew, Of generation and generation. The meaning is, that the church’s prosperity and happiness should be the rejoicing and comfort of many succeeding ages, or the matter of their great and continual rejoicing. Bishop Lowth translates this clause, I will make thee an everlasting boast, a subject of joy for perpetual generations. It cannot be said of the Jewish nation, since this was uttered, that it has in any degree answered these characters. For after their restoration to their own land, they were first in subjection to the Persians, afterward to the Macedonians, the successors of Alexander the Great; whose yoke they had scarcely shaken off, when they fell under the power of the Romans, who treated them with great severity, and at last destroyed them, together with their city of Jerusalem, almost to an entire extirpation. So that we are compelled to look for the accomplishment of this prophecy in the Christian Church, the perpetual excellences of which far exceed those of the Jewish, and in the glorious privileges and blessings of the religion of Christ, which are indeed, and will be, the joy of many generations.

Verses 16-17

Isaiah 60:16-17. Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles A metaphor taken from children drawing nourishment from the breast. The sense is, that the church should draw, or receive, the wealth of nations, and the riches and power of kings, and whatever is most excellent; and that it should come freely and affectionately, as milk flows from the breast of the mother. And thou shalt know Namely, shall experience; that I the Lord Hebrew, Jehovah; am thy Saviour That I have undertaken to save, and that I do and will save thee; the mighty One of Jacob Not only of the literal, but also, and especially, of the spiritual Jacob, or Israel: as if he had said, These things will certainly be accomplished, for he is the mighty God, and so is able; and the God of Jacob, and so is obliged by covenant with, and relation to them, to deliver and protect his people. For brass I will bring gold, &c. Here we have the effect of the preceding promise: Thy poverty shall be turned to riches, all things shall be altered for the best: it is an allusion to the days of Solomon, when gold was as plentiful as brass. If these words be considered as intended to be taken literally, it is sufficiently evident that they are not applicable to Jerusalem, which was never so enriched, after it was rebuilt, as to have greater riches than the Jews possessed before the wars which they waged with the Babylonians; nor was their state happier. And after Herod the Great, they were in a much worse condition, Judea being reduced to a province of the Roman empire, and governed and pillaged by the deputies or vicegerents of the emperors. Therefore all this is undoubtedly spoken of the Christian Church and of spiritual riches, namely, the privileges and blessings of the gospel. I will also make thy officers peace That is, men of peace, loving, meek, and friendly. This was far from being the case with the Jews after their return out of captivity; for, though those who were first set over them, after their return, namely, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, and others, governed them peaceably and mildly, yet it was not so in the following times; and after their high-priests took upon them the government, they grievously plundered and oppressed the people, and contended with one another with the most outrageous and cruel discord, as appears from Josephus, the Jewish historian. But the governors of the Christian Church, that is, of that church which only deserves the name of Christian, have been, and always will be, mild and gentle, and men of peace and clemency. And thine exactors Or rulers, as Dr. Waterland renders נגשׂי Š . Righteousness Most righteous, as before peace was put for peaceable.

Verse 18

Isaiah 60:18. Violence shall no more be heard, &c. Neither the threats and triumphs of those that do violence, nor the outcries and complaints of those that suffer it, shall be heard again, but every man shall peaceably enjoy his own. Wasting nor destruction Of persons or possessions, anywhere within thy borders Thou shalt be secure from violence and injustice at home, and from invasion and war from abroad. But thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, &c. They shall be safe and able to defend thee; thou shalt be as safe as salvation itself can make thee. And the protection and security, which God by his providence shall afford thee, shall be to thee continual matter of praise and thanksgiving. This verse, and what follows to the end of the chapter, seems to relate chiefly to that peaceable and happy state which the church shall enjoy in the latter days.

Verses 19-20

Isaiah 60:19-20. The sun shall be no more thy light, &c. The light of the sun and moon shall not be at all esteemed in comparison of the spiritual light of the church, which shall be so glorious as to eclipse all the light formerly enjoyed by her, the divine glory and majesty illuminating her much more brightly than the luminaries of heaven illuminate and adorn the theatre of nature. Or, as Lowth interprets the clause, “God’s favour and the light of his countenance shall give her greater comfort and lustre than the light of the sun and moon doth to the world.” Every reader must perceive that the passage is metaphorical, and it is here introduced to give the church assurance of comfort, as the preceding was to assure her of safety; so that God will not only be a shield, but a sun to her, Psalms 84:11. The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light Christ shall scatter all thy darkness and ignorance, enlightening and comforting thee with the doctrines of the gospel, and the graces of his Spirit, and these blessings shall be everlasting, not waxing and waning, and suffering eclipses and settings, as the sun and moon do, but shall be constant, without shadow or change; and thy God thy glory Always giving thee reason to glory in him; or, thy relation to him, and interest in him, as thy God, shall be thy greatest honour. Thy sun shall no more go down, &c. Thy light and comfort shall be no more withdrawn. “If the church, under the economy of the external and typical covenant, saw only a temporary light, and underwent various changes of its state, at this time it shall rejoice, for a long season with unchanged light, in a much more constant and happy state.” The days of thy mourning shall be ended The prosperity and happiness of the church shall be perpetual and uninterrupted. Hebrew, שׁלמו , shall be recompensed, that is, Thy days of rejoicing shall abundantly recompense all thy days of mourning. Observe, reader, “Jesus Christ is the eternal Sun and Light of his church, illuminating and sanctifying it by his Spirit, filling it with his glory, and prospering its whole state by his providence, for the end of eternal joy. (See Revelation 22:5.) Who will say that the church has ever yet enjoyed this blessing of divine providence and grace, in the full extent which is here marked out by the prophet?” Vitringa.

Verses 21-22

Isaiah 60:21-22. Thy people shall be all righteous Through righteousness imputed to them, Romans 4:3-8; Romans 4:23-24; implanted in them, Ephesians 4:22-24; and practised by them, 1 John 3:7; in other words, through the justification of their persons, the renovation of their nature, and their practical obedience to God’s law. “It was proper,” says Vitringa, “that the prophetic discourse, big with such excellent promises, should set forth the quality of the citizens of this blessed city; for so many and excellent privileges cannot belong to any but to such as are fitted for these times by divine grace. The prophet therefore teaches that the inhabitants of this city should be all righteous; where there can be no doubt that the righteousness of faith is meant; of living faith, purifying the soul, sanctifying the affections, abounding in charity, and never separated from true holiness: so that they who are called righteous here are the same who are elsewhere called holy.” See the following parallel passages, Isaiah 4:3; Isaiah 33:24; Isaiah 35:8; Isaiah 52:1; Zechariah 14:20-21. They shall inherit the land for ever They shall for ever be continued as God’s peculiar people; the branch of my planting Born again of my Spirit, created in the Messiah, unto good works, Ephesians 2:10; broken off from the wild olive, and grafted into the good olive; transplanted out of the field into the nursery; that, being now planted in God’s garden on earth, they might shortly be removed into his paradise in heaven; that I may be glorified By the good fruit which they bear. A little one shall become a thousand Rather, this should be rendered, A little number shall become a thousand. Though their beginning be very small and contemptible, and the members of the church very few, yet shall they greatly multiply, and increase into many hundreds of thousands and millions. Thus Daniel describes the kingdom of Christ as a stone, which, in process of time, becomes a great mountain, and fills the whole earth, which will be verified at the proper season, as it follows. I the Lord will hasten it in his time Namely, in due time, the time that I have appointed; as if he had said, Let not this be doubted, because I have undertaken it, to whom nothing is difficult. Indeed this has been already accomplished in a considerable degree by the great progress the gospel has made. Never were means more unlikely employed to effect any purpose, never was there a stronger opposition; yet the gospel prevailed, and multitudes of both sexes, in different countries, became obedient to the faith, and looked upon it as their greatest glory. Vitringa, who closes his comment on this chapter with some excellent remarks, tending to show that it particularly refers to some future glorious state of the church, which will take place after the conversion of the Jews, and the coming in of the fulness of the Gentiles, concludes with the following important observation: “However, all our care and endeavour should be to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of so high a hope; and we should so form our lives and manners as rather to regard things present than future; neglecting no duty of a true citizen of the spiritual Jerusalem, whereof we now profess ourselves members; that the expectation of the future may not deprive us of those blessings and privileges which God offers at present to all those who seriously and sincerely seek them; in the mean time humbly and earnestly interceding with him that his kingdom may come.”

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 60". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/isaiah-60.html. 1857.
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