Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 4

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Verse 1

Isaiah 4:1

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man

The climax of Zion’s ruin

This verse should be part of the preceding chapter, the very climax, indeed, of the ruin which Zion has brought upon herself.

(Read Isaiah 3:25-26.) In this verse the course of nature is inverted. This is the ruin which sin always works. The picture is that of a country desolated by war, and when the census comes to be taken it is found that there are seven women to one man. The men are murdered, the strong have been taken away, the mighty men have gone down in the shock of war. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Social anarchy

A companion picture to Isaiah 3:6;--the male population are in search of a ruler; the women in search of a husband. (R. Weir.)

Verses 2-6

Isaiah 4:2-6

In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious

The first personal reference in Isaiah to the Messiah

If this is a reference to Christ, critics are agreed that it is the first personal reference to the Messiah which Isaiah has yet given.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

A pleasing contrast

What so beautiful as that a branch should appear in this wilderness of lava! Blessed are they who can turn away from the desert and look at the garden. (J. Parker, D. D.)

A branch

Then the fountains of life and energy are not dried up. (J. Parker, D. D.)

A branch

That is to say, fruitfulness, beauty, sufficiency, energy, summer. This is what the Son of God same to be and to do--to fill the earth with fruitfulness, to drive away the ghastly, all-devouring famine, and to feed the world with the fruit of heaven. (J. Parker, D. D.)

The Branch of the Lord

THE GENERAL MEANING OF THE PASSAGE. The time spoken of by the prophet is clearly the time of the Christian dispensation, called “the last days” (ch. 2). And we need not stop to prove that “the Branch of the Lord” is a name or title of the Messiah. We have, therefore, a prophecy of the glory of Christ’s kingdom.


(1) Why is it said “In that day,” specifying a particular time, “the Branch of the Lord shall be glorious”? And

(2) what is the special force or meaning of the title, “the Branch of the Lord”?

1. The glory of Christ is surely the glory which He had with the Father from the beginning. How then can it be said of Him that at any assigned time He is glorious, rather than at another? The word glory, when spoken of God or Christ, cannot have precisely the same sense as when spoken of a man. A man may gain glory by some act above the average of human nature. But starting from infinite perfection, nothing greater or nobler can be conceived. Glory, therefore, with reference to God is not the gaining of any higher excellence, but the manifestation of excellence which existed already. The creation was the first manifestation of the glory of God. And if the glory of God was made manifest in creation, it is yet more fully revealed in those mysteries of redemption which angels desired to look into.

2. But why in this connection is the Saviour called the Branch of the Lord? If the appropriateness of the figure does not at once appear, it will at least remind us of--“I am the Vine, ye are the branches.” The expression thus sets Christ before us in His character as the Mediator--Himself the Branch of the Lord, and His people branches of that true Vine. Thus we are enabled further to connect the title with the glory spoken of. The glory and beauty of the vine is in its fruit (John 15:8). (A. K. Cherrill, M. A.)

God’s perpetual presence with His people

THE PREPARATION FOR THE PROMISE. In the earlier verses of the chapter you will find that two things are presented as antecedent to the gifts of blessing--that is, the coming of the Divine Saviour, and His discipline for holiness within His Church.

1. The transition from the gloomy judgment to the grandeur of deliverance is abrupt and striking, as if from a savage wilderness one were to emerge suddenly into green pastures and among gay flowers. And surely this is a true representation of the change which passes upon human destinies when Christ the Lord comes down. We are naturally heirs of judgment. There is not a family, there is not a heart, upon which the curse has not descended in disastrous entail; there is a stain upon the birth, there is a feebleness in the nature of us all. But there comes a sound of help and of deliverance, for a Saviour has been provided--a Saviour who, in the mysterious union of natures, combines perfection of sympathy and almightiness of power.

2. It would at once correct our estimate and restrain our pride if we could remember always that with God the greatest thing is holiness. And then, further, we are told that to work this holiness in His people, God subjects them to discipline, and, if necessary, to the spirit of judgment and to the spirit of burning. Mark the exquisite fitness and the exquisite kindness of the discipline. There are some stains that water can wash away. If the water will avail, there is no need of the fire. There are some stains so deep and foul and crimson that the fire must purge them.

THE PROMISE ITSELF (verse 5). As we read these words, we are translated to a former scene of deliverance. We go back to the older ages; and there, in the fierce wilderness, where no groves of palm trees wave with shade, a vast host marching steadily, now in their van for guidance, now in their rear for protection, there rises by day a pillar of cloud and by night a pillar of flame; and, as we gaze, we listen to the snatches of their song: “Sing ye to the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath He thrown into the sea.” This was the vision prominent in the mind of the prophet when he symbolised by it God’s presence and protection to His chosen Church.

1. The central thought is the presence of God. Then, there are right-hand and left-hand thoughts or aspects in which that presence manifests itself.

2. The presence of God for counsel.

3. The presence of God for defence. (W. M. Punshom.)

God’s promise to the remnant

THE PERSONS INTENDED. The remnant, the escaping, the “evasion of Israel,” as the word signifies (Isaiah 4:2) they that are left, that remain (Isaiah 4:3), who escape the great desolation that was to come on the body of the people, the furnace they were to pass through. Only in the close of that verse, they have a further description added of them, from the purpose of God concerning their grace and glory--they are written among the living, or rather, written unto life; “Everyone that is written,” i.e., designed unto life in Jerusalem.

THE CONDITION WHEREIN THEY WERE. This is laid down in figurative expressions concerning the smallness of this remnant, or the paucity of them that should escape, and the greatness of the extremities they should be exercised withal.

THE PROMISES HERE MADE TO THIS PEOPLE are of two sorts: Original, or fundamental; and then consequential thereon.

1. There is the great spring, or fountain promise, from which all others, as lesser streams, do flow; and that is the promise of Christ Himself unto them, and amongst them; He is that Branch of Jehovah, and that fruit of the earth, which is there promised (Isaiah 4:2). He is the foundation, the fountain of all the good that is or shall be communicated unto us; all other promises are but rivulets from that unsearchable ocean of grace and love that is in the promise of Christ.

2. The promises that flow from hence--

(1) Of beauty and glory (Isaiah 4:2).

(2) Of holiness and purity (Isaiah 4:3-4).

(3) Of preservation and safety (Isaiah 4:5-6). (J. Owen, D. D.)

Verse 3

Isaiah 4:3

He that is left in Zion

The holy remnant

“Holy” means what is separated from the world and superior to it; the congregation of the saints, or holy ones, who now inhabit Jerusalem, are what remain after a smelting; their holiness is the consequence of a washing.

(F. Delitzsch.)

God has never yet left the world without a nucleus of heaven

He has drowned the world, but left a seed to build an altar; He has burned the Gomorrahs of the world, but He has allowed the faithful to escape, and to become the beginning of a new progeny. There is always a remnant, the one left, the true heart, the faithful among the faithless found. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Holiness becomes the Christian

We are told that the little creature called the ermine is so sensitive to its own cleanliness that it becomes paralysed and powerless at the slightest touch of defilement upon its snow-white fur. A like sensibility should belong to the Christian, who should abstain from the very appearance of evil. (Sunday School Chronicle.)

Verse 5

Isaiah 4:5

A cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night

The pillar cloud of Israel--Christ, the Leader of His Church

(with Exodus 13:21-22):--It was good for the Israelites that they were so long in the wilderness.

There the most impressive intimations of a present Deity followed their every step. Miracles were wrought, to feed them when hungry, and to satisfy their thirsty souls. Jesus was in the manna--“I am the living Bread which came down from heaven.” There, in the form of a vast column of mingled fire and smoke, is the mysterious yet faithful guide of the Lord’s people. When it is stationary, they rest; when it advances, they journey. The pillar cloud was typical of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ ever liveth as the Church’s Prophet, Priest, and King. “And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion,” etc. If the pillar cloud was the shadow of good things to come, Jesus Christ is the glorious substance; and we shall endeavour to show in what manner the Redeemer leads His Church.

JESUS LEADS THE CHURCH BY HIS WORD. Not more certainly was there one pillar cloud than there is one Bible. The Word stands alone in its authority. It is the sole director of our faith; it is the sole regulator of our walk. The Word is the sole standard in all matters pertaining to the worship of God, and if human opinions or imperial statutes should oppose its high demands, “we must obey God rather than men.”

JESUS LEADS THE CHURCH BY HIS SPIRIT. How precious the promise which He made to His disciples. “The Comforter, who is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” The Word is a lamp to the feet and a light to the path; but what if the hands of men are so feeble that they cannot hold the heaven-sent lamp? What if the darkness which shrouds their minds is so dense that all the rays shining from the Word serve only to render the darkness visible? In such circumstances how desirable to have a living guide to expound the infallible directory! The cloud which was in the tabernacle by day, and the fire by night, formed a guiding pillar, but for which the people of Israel must have wandered and lost their way In the desert. Yet there was an imperfection arising from its very nature. The fiery pillar taught seeing men where to go; but it could not give sight to the blind. It pointed to the direction in which the pilgrims were to advance; but it could not make the lame man leap as an hart. We do not say that the Spirit of Christ did not impart inward light, saving knowledge, in the days of Moses. Wherever holiness adorned any character, He, the Sanctifier, was its source. The crowning excellence of the New Testament economy is, that it is the dispensation of the Spirit. While it does not dispense with forms, it specially inculcates the power of godliness. While it commends the Word, it holds the Word to be powerless without the Spirit of God.

JESUS LEADS THE CHURCH BY HIS PROVIDENCE. The Saviour whom we adore, is Ruler of all worlds. Supreme in heaven, He is not less so on earth. The Author of salvation, He is the regulator of all the complicated wheels of providence. Providence is a volume which is often hard to be understood. And the reason why we put providence after the Word and Spirit of Christ is, that no man is able to explain providence aright until he has studied the Word, and been taught by the Spirit of the Lord. (J. Patrick, M. A.)

Israel’s guide and guard

It refers to the Church of God IN ITS PRIVATE AND DOMESTIC CHARACTER. These are denoted by the expressions--“every dwelling place of Mount Zion.” It is one among the many beautiful descriptions of the true Christian, with which the Bible abounds, not simply that he does approach to God, but that he takes delight in doing so; and having “tasted that the Lord is gracious,” he will strive to realise, in his own parental character, the exalted qualities, which God ascribed to Abraham, and which doubtless were even then in the course of development, though “as yet he had no child.” Happy is that parent, happy is that child, with respect to whom it can be truly said, “The fathers to the children shall make known Thy truth.”

The second aspect, under which the Church of God is here presented to us, is IN ITS SOCIAL AND COLLECTIVE CHARACTER. This is indicated by the expressions “her assemblies.” The expression refers to the union of the servants of God in public worship: corresponding exactly to that of which our Saviour spoke, when He said--“Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” There can be no doubt, that from the very earliest ages of the Church, the rest of the holy Sabbath was observed; and the more the spirit of genuine religion diffused itself, the more did men of similar tastes and feelings seek pious association with each other. (G. Weight, M. A.)

The glory of Christ’s Church

1. Experience has amply shown the true glory of a Church does not consist in outward pomp or splendour. Even Solomon confessed that the magnificence which adorned his temple in all its untarnished glory was unworthy to become a residence, or to receive the manifested tokens of Jehovah’s presence. In rich and stately decorations even the heathen may enshrine his lifeless idol, and outvie the splendour of the ancient Jewish sanctuary. On the other hand, the patriarchs in their wandering, and the persecuted Christians, convened in woods and caves and retired chambers, have beheld the manifested light of God’s countenance, and have seen His power and glory as graciously displayed as in the most splendid sanctuary.

2. The true and essential glory of the Church principally consists in the spirituality, holiness, and unity of its members.

3. The doctrine of the restoration of the image of God in the soul of man, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, challenges for the Church which prominently exhibits it, the title of a glorious Church.

4. Of the varied glories of the Church, none in its early days was more conspicuous than that of unity in government, discipline, worship, and spirit. Long has Satan prevailed in his endeavours to divide and conquer. (G. Almond.)

God in His sanctuary


GOD WILL EXPRESS HIS APPROVAL BY MANIFESTATIONS OF HIS PRESENCE. The benefits of the Jews from the Shechinah were a type of the benefits of Jesus among us. What were these?

1. The manifestation of truth--the Urim and Thummim. Jesus Christ is the only medium through which we can have knowledge of God, redemption, and the way of worship.

2. The display of holiness. Wherever the Shechinah appeared there was an impression of holiness. Moses and the bush. The Holy of Holies. So in the Gospel, we have not only a display of truth, hut of holiness also.

3. Communication of comfort. The cloud covered Israel in a heated atmosphere; it dropped dew, and they were baptized in the cloud. Is not this the end of the spiritual manifestation? The Holy Ghost is called the Comforter.

THESE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE DIVINE PRESENCE CONSTITUTE THE GLORY OF THE CHURCH. What was the temple without it? And how is this house filled with glory? It is not in the altar, the shewbread, the ark, or the manna, but in Jesus’ presence walking among the candlesticks. (J. Summerfield, M. A.)

Upon all the glory shall be a defence

A Gospel profession the glory of a nation

These words are a recapitulation of the whole verse, and are a Gospel promise given out in law terms, or a New Testament mercy under Old Testament expressions.

1. What is here expressed as to the type and figure. For the glory and defence two pairs of things seem to be intended: the ark and the mercy seat; the tabernacle and the pillar of fire.

(1) The ark is oftentimes called the glory of God (Psalms 78:61; 1 Samuel 4:21). The word which we have rendered “a defence,” properly, signifies “a covering”; as was the mercy seat the covering of the ark. So that “upon the glory shall be a defence,” is as much as, unto you the “mercy seat shall be on the ark,” or you shall have the mercy represented and intimated thereby.

(2) The tabernacle and cloud, or pillar of fire, are also called to mind; so the words are expressive of that figure of God’s gracious presence with His people, which we have recounted (Exodus 40:34). “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.”

2. What is here intended, as to the substance of the mercy promised. All those things were typical of Christ. Apply, then, this promise to Gospel times, and the substance of it is comprehended in these two propositions:

THE PRESENCE OF CHRIST WITH ANY PEOPLE IS THE GLORY OF ANY PEOPLE. This is the glory here spoken of, as is evident to anyone that will but read Isaiah 4:2, and consider its influence unto these words. This is their glory, or they have none. Is it in their number, that they are great, many, and populous? God thinks not so (Deuteronomy 7:7; Psalms 105:12). You know what it cost David in being seduced by Satan into the contrary opinion. There is nothing more common in the Scripture than for the Lord to speak contempt of the multitude of any people, as a thing of nought. Is it in their wisdom and counsel, their understanding for the ordering of their affairs? Is that their glory? Why, see how God derides the prince of Tyrus, who was lifted up with an apprehension hereof; and counted himself as God, upon that account (Ezekiel 27:1-36; Jeremiah 9:23-24).

1. Now, Christ may be said to be present with a people two ways.

(1) In respect of the dispensation of His Gospel amongst them, the profession of it and subjection to the ordinances thereof.

(2) In and by His Spirit, dwelling in their hearts by faith, uniting them to Himself.

2. This is the glory of any people upon a threefold account.

(1) This alone makes them honourable and precious before God.

(2) This presence of Christ makes men comely and excellent in themselves (Psalms 16:3)

(3) This alone makes any truly useful unto others.

Here lies the preservation of any nation from ruin. Prosperity is from hence Micah 5:7) If you desire the glory of the nation, labour to promote the interest of Christ in the nation. Value, encourage and close with them in and with whom is the presence of Christ.


Christ the Defence of His people

A DEFENDER OF THE HOME. It is “upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion” that there shall be “the cloud and smoke by day,” and the “pillar of fire by night.” What is a house without Christ?

A DEFENDER OF THE CHURCH. Upon “all her assemblies,” as well as in every “dwelling place,” rose the symbols of His presence. Eli trembled for the ark of God, and men now tremble for the safety of the Church in this wilderness world. But it is safe as the children of Israel under the cloud and the pillar.

A DEFENDER OF THE PERSON. We need personal protection. A shade in the heat of calamity; a tent in the storm of adversity. This Christ is to His people.

1. In temporal matters.

2. In the interests of the soul. (J. S. H.)

Verse 6

Isaiah 4:6

And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow

A substantial shadow amid the insubstantials

The tabernacles of the Old Testament typify the abiding glory of that true tabernacle which the Lord pitched and not marl They were taken down.

This abideth evermore. The dissolving process of death only developed the capacity of the Divine Redeemer to become a universal tabernacle. Isaiah saw the Divine King in all His beauty and in all His adaptedness for the world’s deep needs when he declared, “And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the day time from the heat.” The word shadow is not always attractively employed. Job, in mournful imagery, describes the traveller going to the land of darkness, and the shadow of death. And cheering ideas are not always suggested by the proverb which affirms that coming events cast their shadows before them. But the sublime tabernacle spoken of by Isaiah is a shadow that always attracts. It never hides any sunlight which may be needful for the ripening of celestial fruits.

This tabernacle is a COOLING SHADOW. The heats of this world will not be so oppressive to him who dwells in this tabernacle. For the soul finds adequate provisions for the wants and aspirations of its largo capacities in this substantial shadow.

This tabernacle is a LIFE GIVING AND PRESERVING SHADOW. The summer heat of Judaea is intense. Some of the rivers are dried up, and become lanes of burning sand. Near Mount Tabor many of the soldiers of Baldwin IV died through the oppressive heat; and at this very place of Shunem, the son of the Shunamite was struck in the head by the sun’s rays as he went up to his father to the reapers, and he died. A shadow to impart and preserve life as well as to give a cooling place of resort. The spirit of man dies in consequence of unforgiven transgression, but life is found in the true tabernacle.

This tabernacle is a DELIGHTFUL SHADOW. Delightful, not only in protecting from evils, but in the direct impartation of pleasure. If there is any delightful state in this world, it is where and when the soul sits down under the shadows of the Beloved and holds sublime communion with the Infinite.

This shadow is an ABIDING SHADOW. Unlike that afforded by Jonah’s gourd. God blasts our cherished gourds in order to lead us out of all narrow and selfish policies. Earth’s protecting shadows flee away to teach us to abide more constantly and believingly beneath the one perfect and ever-abiding shadow. (W. Burrows, B. A.)


Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 4". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.