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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Isaiah 52

Isaiah 52:1-12


Chosen For Prostrate ZionGod Redeems JerusalemGod's Kingship(Isaiah 51:17-12)God Will Rescue JerusalemThe Liberation of Jerusalem
Isaiah 52:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 52:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 52:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 52:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 52:1-2(1-2)
Isaiah 52:3-6Isaiah 52:3(3)Isaiah 52:3-6Isaiah 52:3-6Isaiah 52:3-6(3-6)
Isaiah 52:4-6(4-6)
Isaiah 52:7-10(7-10)Isaiah 52:7-10(7-10)Isaiah 52:7-10(7-10)Isaiah 52:7-8(7-8)Isaiah 52:7-12(7-12)
Isaiah 52:9-12(9-12)
Isaiah 52:11-12(11-12)Isaiah 52:11-12(11-12)Isaiah 52:11-12(11-12)
The Exalted ServantThe Sin-bearing Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13-12)The Fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13-12)The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13-12)Fourth Song of the Servant (Isaiah 52:13-12)
Isaiah 52:13-15(13-15)Isaiah 52:13-15(13-15)Isaiah 52:13-15(13-15)Isaiah 52:13-15(13-15)Isaiah 52:13-15(13-15)

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. The context of Isaiah 51:0 runs through Isaiah 52:12.

B. Notice the different people to whom the IMPERATIVES are addressed (Isaiah 52:4-12).

1. O My people. . .O My nation (Isaiah 51:4-8)

a. pay attention - Hiphil (BDB 904, KB 1151)

b. give ear - Hiphil (BDB 24, KB 27)

c. lift your eyes - Qal (BDB 669, KB 724)

d. look - Hiphil (BDB 613, KB 661)

e. listen - Qal (BDB 1033, KB 1570)

2. O arm of the LORD (Isaiah 51:9-11)

a. awake - Qal (BDB 734, KB 802)

b. awake - same as “a”

c. put on - Qal (BDB 527, KB 519)

d. awake - same as “a”

3. O Jerusalem (Isaiah 51:17-23)

a. rouse - Hithpolel or Hithpael (BDB 734, KB 802)

b. rouse - same as “a”

c. arise - Qal (BDB 872, KB 1086)

4. O Zion, O Jerusalem (Isaiah 52:1)

a. awake - Qal (BDB 734, KB 802)

b. awake - same as “a”

c. clothe - Qal (BDB 527, KB 519)

d. clothe - same as “c”

5. O captive (Isaiah 52:2)

a. shake - Hithpael (BDB 654, KB 707)

b. rise - Qal (BDB 877, KB 1086)

c. loose - Hithpael (BDB 605, KB 647 [MT has MASCULINE but qere is FEMININE])

6. unspecified (Isaiah 52:9-10, fits #1,3,4, or 5)

a. break forth - Qal (BDB 822, KB 953)

b. shout joyfully - Piel (BDB 943, KB 1247)

7. unspecified (Isaiah 52:11-12, fits #1,3,4, or 5)

a. depart - Qal (BDB 693, KB 747)

b. depart - same as “a”

c. go out - Qal (BDB 422, KB 425)

d. touch nothing - Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense (BDB 619, KB 668)

e. go out - same as “c”

f. purify yourselves - Niphal (BDB 140, KB 162)

Verses 1-2

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 52:1-2 1Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; For the uncircumcised and the unclean Will no longer come into you. 2Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Isaiah 52:1-2 “Awake. . .clothe. . .shake. . .loose” This is a series of IMPERATIVES (see Contextual Insights, B), like Isaiah 51:9, Isaiah 51:17. Many compare this with the opposite condition of the city of Babylon in Isaiah 47:1ff.

52:1e “For the uncircumcised and the unclean

Will no longer come into you” This cannot refer to the exclusion of the Gentiles from redemption, but that no heathen nation would again invade the Promised Land. This may be the source of John's imagery in Revelation 21:27.

Isaiah 52:2

NASB, NRSV, NJB, NET“captive” NKJV“sit down” LXX, Vulgate, TEV, JPSOA“sit [on your throne]”

The MT has “sit” (BDB 442, KB 444, Qal IMPERATIVE, יבש, but later in the verse היבש (BDB 985), is translated “captive”). The UBS Text Project gives “sit” a B rating (some doubt). Israel is to rise up and sit on her throne.

“Loose” This is a place where the MT has a MASCULINE PLURAL form of the Hithpael IMPERATIVE, but the Masoretic scholars suggested (qere) a FEMININE SINGULAR form.

Verses 3-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 52:3-6 3For thus says the LORD, “You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money.” 4For thus says the Lord GOD, “My people went down at the first into Egypt to reside there; then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. 5Now therefore, what do I have here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that My people have been taken away without cause?” Again the LORD declares, “Those who rule over them howl, and My name is continually blasphemed all day long. 6Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, 'Here I am.'“

Isaiah 52:3 “redeemed without money” This verse must be seen in light of Isaiah 45:13. Cyrus will let the Jews return freely. Cyrus reversed the relocation policy of both the Assyrians and Babylonians. He allowed all conquered peoples to return home and rebuild their national temples. This was his way of restoring order to his empire and also he was superstitious and wanted all the returning people groups to pray to their gods for him and his successors.

Isaiah 52:4-5 Verse 5 is referring to Babylonian exile though Babylon is not mentioned by name. These verses are looking at past oppression (i.e., Egypt and Assyria). Theologically Israel and Judah were exiled because of their sin against YHWH (cf. Isaiah 43:22-24; Isaiah 50:1).

Isaiah 52:4 “Egypt. . .Assyrian” These were two of the Jews' previous enemies before that of Babylon (cf. Isaiah 10:5ff).

Isaiah 52:5 There are several ways to view the Hebrew text.

1. the rulers (“those who rule,” BDB 605, KB 647, Qal PARTICIPLE)

a. leaders of Jerusalem who “wail” (BDB 410, KB 413, Hiphil IMPERFECT) over the fall of Jerusalem

b. leaders of Babylon “mock” as Jerusalem falls

“My name is continually blasphemed” This VERB (BDB 610, KB 658) is a rare Hithpolel form. God's name was linked to Israel's condition. God will act, not because of Israel's goodness but because of His name (cf. Isaiah 48:11; Ezekiel 20:9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:22, Ezekiel 20:44; Ezekiel 36:19-20, Ezekiel 36:22-23; Daniel 9:17-19; Romans 2:24).

Isaiah 52:6 By YHWH's deliverance His people will know that He has reestablished the covenant. His name will have meaning again!


“in that day” See Special Topic from my commentary on the Eighth Century Prophets below.


NASB, NJB, REB“Here I am” NKJV“Behold, it is I” NRSV“Here am I” JPSOA“Am now at hand” LXX“I am here” PESHITTA“It is I”

This phrase is usually a faith response from a human being who has been addressed by God (i.e., Genesis 22:1, Genesis 22:11; Exodus 3:4; Isaiah 6:8). It would denote availability to do God's will.

It is only in Isaiah that it is used of God and denotes His presence, power, and ability to do what He promised (cf. Isaiah 58:9; Isaiah 65:1).

Verses 7-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 52:7-10 7How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes When the LORD restores Zion. 9Break forth, shout joyfully together, You waste places of Jerusalem; For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. 10The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, That all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God.

Isaiah 52:7-9 These verses are using the metaphor of (1) a governmental messenger bringing good news (cf. Isaiah 52:7) and (2) the watchman (cf. Isaiah 52:8) at the gate announcing it to the whole city. The city is Zion; the good news is that YHWH reigns again as King over His restored people.

Isaiah 52:7 The Hebrew VERB “bring good news” (BDB 142, KB 163, Piel PARTICIPLE, twice) is alluded to in Romans 10:15 for the “good news” of the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Isaiah 52:13-12).

Notice the parallelism between the announced good news.

1. peace (BDB 1022)

2. happiness/good (BDB 373 I)

3. salvation (BDB 447)


“Your God reigns” This (BDB 573, KB 590, Qal PERFECT) is the fulfillment of Isaiah 24:23. It may reflect a well known Israeli liturgy (cf. Psalms 93:1; Psalms 96:10; Psalms 97:1; Psalms 99:1).

Isaiah 52:8

NASB, TEV, NJB“they will see with their own eyes” NKJV“they shall see eye to eye” NRSV“in plain sight they see” JPSOA“every eye shall behold” NET Bible”they will see with their very own eyes”

The MT has “eye to eye.” Leupold, in his commentary on Isaiah, makes a good point.

“The phrase 'eye to eye' has an utterly different meaning in English than in Hebrew. In English it means something like agreeing completely in one's approach and outlook with another. In Hebrew the meaning is 'close at hand,' something like being so near that you can see the whites of the eye of the person approaching” (p. 219).

Isaiah 52:10 Israel was established by YHWH to be a kingdom of priests to the world (cf. Genesis 12:3; Exodus 19:4-6). However, her covenant unfaithfulness required God's judgment, therefore, the world never saw God's true character. By God delivering Israel from captivity, first Egypt, then Assyria, and now Babylon, all the peoples of the earth will see God's power, love, and blessing.

“has bared His holy arm” The VERB (BDB 362, KB 359, Qal PERFECT) is an anthropomorphic metaphor (see Special Topic: Hand) for YHWH getting ready for action/deliverance (cf. Ezekiel 4:7).

Often the phrase “with an outstretched arm” denotes the same divine actions (cf. Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 26:8).

“In the sight of all the nations” This is parallel to the next phrase, “all the ends of the earth may see.” This is also parallel to “all flesh will see it” (Isaiah 40:5; also note Joel 2:28 for another universal image).

Verses 11-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 52:11-12 11Depart, depart, go out from there, Touch nothing unclean; Go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, You who carry the vessels of the LORD. 12But you will not go out in haste, Nor will you go as fugitives; For the LORD will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

Isaiah 52:11-12 These verses are using God's directions to the priests (cf. Isaiah 52:11d) as a way to assure all covenant people that God is with them and for them (cf. Isaiah 52:12). It is a veiled warning to leave the idolatry of Mesopotamia behind!

The returnees will take the vessels from YHWH's temple with them (cf. Ezra 1:5-11; Ezra 5:14; Ezra 6:8; also note 2 Chronicles 4:0 where they are described). They left Babylon as they had Egypt (cf. Exodus 11:2; Exodus 12:35-36) by taking the spoils of the land with them (i.e., a symbol of the defeat of the nation and its gods).


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was Isaiah using Abraham's call as an encouragement to the Jews in captivity?

2. How does creation and the Exodus bring encouragement to exiled Israel and Judah?

3. To whom does Isaiah 51:16 refer?

4. How did God use Israel to reach the Gentiles?

Verses 13-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 52:13-15 13Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. 14Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. 15Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand.

Isaiah 52:13 “will prosper” This VERB (BDB 968, KB 1328, Hiphil IMPERFECT) has two connotations.

1. to consider, to give attention to, to ponder - Isaiah 41:20; Isaiah 44:18; Deuteronomy 32:29; Psalms 64:9

2. to prosper, “to have success” - 1 Samuel 18:15; Isaiah 52:13; Jeremiah 20:11; Jeremiah 23:5

The question is which of these best parallel the series of VERBS “high,” “lifted,” and “greatly exalted.” Will the Servant be

1. listened to

2. lifted up

Both fit the context of chapters 44-55.

“He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted” The threefold question of these VERBS with similar meaning intensifies the idea.

1. will be high - BDB 926, KB 1202, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 57:15

2. will be lifted up - BDB 669, KB 724, Niphal PERFECT (with waw), cf. Isaiah 6:1; Isaiah 33:10; Isaiah 57:15

3. will be greatly exalted - BDB 146, KB 170, Qal PERFECT (with waw), cf. Isaiah 5:16

Isaiah 52:14

NASB, NKJV, LXX“were astonished at you” NRSV“were astonished at him” NJB“were aghast at him” JPSOA“were appalled at him” REB“recoil at the sight of him” PESHITTA“amazed at him”

The MT has “you,” עליך (also LXX), but “him,” עליו is read by the Targums and some Syriac versions. The UBS Text Project gives “you” a B rating, p. 142.

There is a fluidity between the corporate focus (“you”) and the individual (“him”) in the Servant Songs. The individual ideal Israelite paid the price for corporate Israel (cf. Isaiah 53:8) and corporate humanity!

My people This is not in the Masoretic Hebrew text. The Servant is not identified with corporate Israel but an individual, ideal Israelite.

“His appearance was marred more than any man,

And His form more than the sons of men” Jesus was beaten very badly, almost unrecognizable, first by the Sanhedrin and then by the Roman soldiers. The rabbis used this verse to say that the Messiah will have leprosy.

Isaiah 52:15

NASB, NKJV“sprinkle” NRSV, JPSOA, NET“startle” NJB, LXX“astonished” PESHITTA“purify”

This is a sacrificial term (BDB 633 I, KB 683, Hiphil IMPERFECT, cf. Exodus 29:21: Leviticus 4:6; Leviticus 8:11; Leviticus 14:7). Many modern translations have “startle” (BDB 633 II, “cause to leap”), which comes from an Arabic root. This follows the LXX and the Vulgate.

The question is “What do the kings hear and see?”

1. a marred man (Isaiah 52:14; Isaiah 53:5)

2. a high, lifted up, and greatly exalted man (Isaiah 52:13)

Does the VERB of Isaiah 52:15a mean:

1. startle with joy

2. startle with shock

3. sprinkled as a sacrifice (cf. Isaiah 52:4-5, Isaiah 52:10)

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 52". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.