Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 61

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


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

In this chapter we have,

(1,) The appointment and qualifications of the Messiah for his work, according to his three offices of prophet, priest, and king, Isaiah 61:1-3 .

(2,) Under the figure of the Jews repairing their cities, assisted by the Gentiles, of their peculiar relation to God, their distinguished and durable honour and prosperity, and their direction by God, are represented the glories and blessings of the gospel church, Isaiah 61:4-9 .

(3,) The triumph of Jews and Christians in God, and his conferring righteousness, salvation, holiness, and comfort, are represented, Isaiah 61:10 , Isaiah 61:11 .

Verse 1

Isaiah 61:1. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me To qualify me for effecting what is foretold and promised in the foregoing chapter. As Christ has applied this passage to himself, (see Luke 4:16,) and assured us that it was fulfilled in him, we may, with the utmost reason, conclude that he is here introduced by the prophet in his own person, and not that the prophet speaks of himself, as some have thought. Because, or rather, for, the Lord hath anointed me Hath commissioned me with authority, qualified me with gifts, and set me apart, for the important offices here mentioned. Prophets, priests, and kings, among the Jews, were usually appointed and set apart to their several offices, as we have repeatedly seen, by anointing them with oil, which ceremony was used by the express command of God, and was intended to show, not only that the persons so anointed were called to, but were, or should be, qualified for, these offices, with suitable gifts and graces. But the anointing of Christ, who was to sustain offices incomparably more important, and productive of infinitely greater effects, was of another nature, he being anointed, not with external and corruptible oil, but with the eternal Spirit of the incorruptible God, which qualified him for every part of the great work to which he was called, beyond all others that were before him. Which Spirit he had without measure, John 3:34; and therefore is said (Psalms 45:7; Heb 1:9 ) to be anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows. To preach good tidings Namely, tidings of salvation, of pardoning mercy, of renewing grace, and of eternal glory; unto the meek Or, poor, as the words are rendered by the LXX., whom the evangelists follow Luke 4:18; Matthew 11:5; namely, to the penitent, the humble, and poor in spirit; to whom the tidings of a Redeemer, and of salvation through him, are indeed good tidings, faithful sayings, and worthy of all acceptation. These, and even the poor, as to worldly circumstances, are best disposed to receive the gospel, James 2:5; and then it is likely to profit them when it is received with meekness, as it ought to be. This relates to Christ’s prophetic office. To bind up the broken-hearted To give relief and comfort to persons burdened and distressed with a sense of the guilt and power of their sins, and of the wrath of God, to which they are obnoxious. It is a metaphor taken from surgeons binding up wounds: see Isaiah 1:6. This relates to Christ’s priestly office, his blood being the true expiation of sin, and the procuring cause of pardon and peace to the guilty. To proclaim liberty to the captives Namely, liberty from the dominion and bondage of sin and Satan, of the world and the flesh, and from the slavish, tormenting fear of death and hell. This appertains to his kingly office. And those whom he, who is exalted to be a prince, as well as a Saviour, makes free, are free indeed; not only discharged from the miseries of captivity and bondage, but advanced to all the immunities and dignities of citizens. This is the gospel proclamation, and it is like the blowing of the jubilee trumpet, which proclaimed the great year of release, Leviticus 25:9; Leviticus 25:40; in allusion to which, it is here called the acceptable year of the Lord; the time in which men should find acceptance with God, which is the origin of their liberties: or, it is called the year of the Lord, because it publishes his free grace, to his own glory; and an acceptable year, because it brings glad tidings to us; and what cannot but be very acceptable to those who know the capacities and necessities of their own souls.

Verses 2-3

Isaiah 61:2-3. And the day of vengeance of our God Namely, on those who reject or neglect these gracious offers of mercy and salvation: they shall not only be left in their captivity, as they deserve to be, but shall be dealt with as enemies. We have the gospel summed up, Mark 16:16, where that part of it, he that believeth shall be saved, proclaims the acceptable year of the Lord to those that will accept it; but the other part, he that believeth not shall be damned, proclaims the day of vengeance of our God; that vengeance that he will take on those that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Thessalonians 1:8; see also Hebrews 10:27-30; Matthew 24:21; Revelation 18:1. The clause seems to have an especial reference to the time in which God punished the unbelieving and disobedient Jews by the destruction of Jerusalem, and the unparalleled calamities that came upon their nation. We find Christ, in several of his discourses, threatening them with the judgments of God for their rejecting him. And he calls the destruction of Jerusalem the days of vengeance, Luke 21:22, the very expression made use of here. To comfort all that mourn Either on account of their sins, or their sufferings, or the desolations and miseries of the spiritual Zion, his church; and who, mourning, seek to him, and not to the world, for comfort. He not only provides comfort for them, and proclaims it, but he applies and bestows it by giving them the Comforter. There is enough in him to comfort all that mourn, whatever their afflictions or sorrows may be; but this comfort is sure to them that mourn in Zion, that is, that sorrow after a godly sort, and apply by faith and prayer to God in Christ for relief and consolation. To appoint unto them beauty Or rather, ornament, (as the Hebrew פאר more properly signifies,) for ashes. Bishop Lowth renders the clause, To give them a beautiful crown instead of ashes; the oil of gladness instead of sorrow; observing, “In times of mourning the Jews put on sackcloth, or coarse and sordid raiment; and spread dust and ashes on their heads: on the contrary, splendid clothing, and ointment poured on the head, were the signs of joy.” The oil of joy Which makes the face to shine, instead of that mourning which disfigures the countenance, and makes it unlovely. This oil of joy the saints have from that oil of gladness with which Christ himself was anointed above his fellows. The garments of praise Such beautiful garments as were worn on thanksgiving days, instead of the spirit of heaviness. Hebrew, כהה , contraction, dimness, or obscurity; “open joys,” says Henry, “for secret mournings. Zion’s mourners keep the spirit of heaviness to themselves, and weep in secret; but the joy, with which they are recompensed, they are clothed with, as with a garment, in the eyes of others.” Observe, reader, where God gives the oil of joy, he gives the garment of praise. Those comforts which come from God dispose the heart to, and enlarge the heart in, thanksgivings to God. That they might be called trees of righteousness That they might be righteous persons, deeply rooted by faith in the ground of gospel truth, solid and firm in sincerity, fortitude, and patience; ornaments to God’s vineyard, and bringing forth fruit suitable to the soil wherein they are planted. The planting of the Lord Planted by that holy Lord who, being himself holy and righteous, would plant none but such: see on Isaiah 60:21. That he might be glorified Namely, by the fruit they bear; for herein is our heavenly Father glorified, that we bring forth much fruit.

Verses 4-5

Isaiah 61:4-5 . They shall build the old wastes See on chap. 58:12. As this is evidently to be understood of gospel times, the meaning seems to be, that the establishment of Christianity in the world should repair the decays of true religion, of genuine piety and virtue, which had been at a very low ebb, not only in the Gentile nations, which were all idolatrous, but also among the Jews, for many centuries. By the ministry of John the Baptist, of our Lord, and his apostles, many thousands of spiritual worshippers were raised up to God in Judea, and the adjacent parts; and when the ministers of the word were sent into the Gentile countries, the cities and provinces which had been as a wilderness, overrun with briers and thorns, became as Eden, and the deserts like the garden of the Lord: truth and grace, wisdom and piety, godliness and righteousness, with joy and gladness, were found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody, Isaiah 51:3. And strangers Namely, Gentiles, such as were not of the natural race of the Jews, but Gentile converts; shall stand Ready to be at thy service; and feed your flocks The churches, with the word of God. And the sons of the alien The same with the strangers before mentioned, or their successors; shall be your ploughmen, &c. Shall manage the whole work of God’s spiritual husbandry. See 1 Corinthians 3:6-9.

Verses 6-7

Isaiah 61:6-7. But ye shall be named the Priests, &c. The whole body of you shall now be as near to God as the priests were formerly, and shall be a royal priesthood, 1 Peter 2:9. This is most certainly true of all the faithful under the gospel; hence they have also their spiritual sacrifices, Romans 12:1; Hebrews 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5. Ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles Partake of their plenty; and in their glory shall ye boast You shall be highly advanced by the addition of all that is glorious in them. The LXX. render it, εν τω πλουτω αυτων θαυμασθησεσθε , you shall be wonderful, or the objects of admiration, through their riches; that is, by the glory which they shall bring to you, namely, in riches, parts, learning, chap. 60:5, 11. For your shame ye shall have double Honour; though you have been little accounted of among the Gentiles, yet now you shall be highly esteemed by them; you shall have double damages. See on chap. 40:2. They shall rejoice in their portion Namely, of honour, which God will give them. It is a repetition of that which is asserted in the former clause. Therefore, or, rather, because, they shall possess the double Because of the doubling of their portion; everlasting joy shall be unto them Joy that shall continue long here, and shall be everlasting hereafter. The meaning of this prediction seems to be, that though the first Christians should have a large share of shame or ignominy thrown upon them, yet their descendants should, in return, receive a double share of honour and glory. This accordingly came to pass: Christianity, from being considered as the greatest infamy, and being loaded with the greatest shame, came into the highest repute when Constantine became emperor, and received the highest honours that could possibly be paid, and was, as it were, loaded with glory, riches, and honour.”

Verses 8-9

Isaiah 61:8-9. For I the Lord love judgment I will do them right, for I love justice in myself, and in them that practise it. I hate robbery for burnt- offerings I hate all things gotten by injustice, though they be for sacrifice. As God will not accept of that which cost nothing, so much less of that which is the effect of rapine and oppression. And I will direct their work in truth I will lead them so, that they shall do all things in sincerity. They shall do good works with good intentions, and to good ends: they shall love truth, and walk in truth, and serve God in spirit and truth. I will make an everlasting covenant with them Though they have broken covenant with me, yet I will renew my ancient covenant made with their fathers, confirmed with the blood of the Messiah; and it shall be everlasting, never to be abrogated. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles That is, eminently; a promise of the increase of the church: such shall be their prosperity and multiplying, that they shall be known abroad by their great increase: or else the meaning is, the church shall have a seed of the Gentiles; whereas the church has been confined to one corner of the world, now it shall remain in one nation alone no more, but shall fill all the nations of the earth. All shall acknowledge they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed Such shall be the visible characters of God’s love to them, and of God’s grace in them.

Verse 10

Isaiah 61:10. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord This is spoken in the person of the church, wherein she thankfully acknowledges God’s kindness to her in the fore-mentioned promises. My soul shall be joyful in my God The expression here is varied, but the sense is the same with that in the former clause. He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, &c. With salvation as with a garment, and with righteousness as with a robe: the salvation that God will work for me will render me as beautiful and considerable as they are that are clothed with the richest garments. As the bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments Hebrew, יכהן פאר

כחתן , as the bridegroom decketh himself with a priestly crown; so Bishop Lowth translates it, observing that it is “an allusion to the magnificent dress of the high-priest when performing his functions, and particularly to the mitre, and crown, or plate of gold on the front of it, Exodus 29:6. The bonnet or mitre of the priests also was made, as Moses expresses it, ‘for glory and for beauty,’ Exodus 28:40. It is difficult to give its full force to the prophet’s metaphor in another language: the version of Aquila and Symmachus comes nearest to it: ως νυμφιον ιερατευομενον

στεφανω ,” as a bridegroom exercising the priest’s office in a crown.

Verse 11

Isaiah 61:11. For as the earth bringeth forth, &c. By this and the other metaphor here used, the church shows, not only the revival and restoration of her blessings, after they had been, as it were, dead and lost in the winter of affliction, but the great plenty and abundance of them that should spring forth and flourish: what had been as a wilderness should be as a paradise, referring to the effects of God’s grace and bounty. So the Lord will cause righteousness That is, his great work of salvation; and praise As the natural product and fruit of it; to spring forth To break out and appear; before all nations These things will not be done in a corner, but will be eminently conspicuous in the sight of all the world.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 61". Benson's Commentary. 1857.