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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Isaiah 54

Isaiah 54:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
The Fertility of ZionA Perpetual Covenant of PeaceSong of Assurance To IsraelThe Lord's Love For IsraelJerusalem Restored To Yahweh's Favour
Isaiah 54:1-3(1-3)Isaiah 54:1-3(1-3)Isaiah 54:1-3(1-3)Isaiah 54:1-3(1-3)Isaiah 54:1-10(1-10)
Isaiah 54:4-8(4-8)Isaiah 54:4-8(4-8)Isaiah 54:4-8(4-8)Isaiah 54:4-5(4-5)
Isaiah 54:6-10(6-10)
Isaiah 54:9-10(9-10)Isaiah 54:9-10(9-10)Isaiah 54:9-10(9-10)The Future JerusalemThe New Jerusalem
Isaiah 54:11-17(11-17)Isaiah 54:11-15(11-15)Isaiah 54:11-17(11-17)Isaiah 54:11-12(11-12)Isaiah 54:11-17(11-17)
Isaiah 54:13-15(13-15)
Isaiah 54:16-17(16-17) Isaiah 54:16-17(16-17)

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. There are several allusions to the Patriarchal period (Genesis 12-50) in this chapter.

1. childless mothers

2. living in tents

3. use of “seeds” for descendants

B. There is also an allusion to the flood of Noah (Genesis 6-9) in Isaiah 54:9.

C. YHWH is renewing the covenant promises of deliverance.

1. from Egypt

2. from Mesopotamia

3. from end-time enemies

Verses 1-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 54:1-3 1”Shout for joy, O barren one, you who have borne no child; Break forth into joyful shouting and cry aloud, you who have not travailed; For the sons of the desolate one will be more numerous Than the sons of the married woman,” says the LORD. 2”Enlarge the place of your tent; Stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; Lengthen your cords And strengthen your pegs. 3For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left. And your descendants will possess nations And will resettle the desolate cities.”

Isaiah 54:1-3 This first strophe has several IMPERATIVES that relate to rebuilding restored Judah/Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 49:20).

1. shout for joy - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 943, KB 1247

2. break forth into joyful shouting - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 822, KB 953

3. cry aloud - Qal IMPERATIVE, BDB 843, KB 1007

4. enlarge the place of your tent - Hiphil IMPERATIVE, BDB 931, KB 1210

5. stretch out the curtains - Hiphil IMPERATIVE, BDB 639, KB 692, used in a JUSSIVE sense

6. spare not - Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 362, KB 359, used in a JUSSIVE sense

7. lengthen your cords - Hiphil IMPERATIVE, BDB 72, KB 88

8. strengthen your pegs - Piel IMPERATIVE, BDB 304, KB 302

Paul uses this quote in his typology about Abraham's sons and the two covenants in Galatians 4:21-31.

It always amazes me how modern believers take a verse like this totally out of context and use it for a sermon on building a new church building! If you allow a total disregard for the original setting and the inspired author's intent, you can back up any action. It seems that modern evangelical Christians psychologically need a Scripture text to support all their events and projects! See Seminar on Biblical Interpretation online at www.freebiblecommentary.org

Isaiah 54:3 “your descendants will possess nations” At first glance this phrase looks like another one of Isaiah's universal texts, but note the parallelism of the next line. This is referring to taking over the tribal areas of Judah and Benjamin. It is referring to Cyrus II's edict about the seed of Abraham returning to Palestine after the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles (cf. Isaiah 14:1-2).

Verses 4-8

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 54:4-8 4”Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; But you will forget the shame of your youth, And the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. 5For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of all the earth. 6For the LORD has called you, Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, Even like a wife of one's youth when she is rejected,” Says your God. 7”For a brief moment I forsook you, But with great compassion I will gather you. 8In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,” Says the LORD your Redeemer.

Isaiah 54:4 “Fear not” This is a Qal IMPERFECT (BDB 431, KB 432) used in a JUSSIVE sense. This is a recurrent theme in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 8:12; Isaiah 35:4; Isaiah 41:10, Isaiah 41:13, Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 51:7; Isaiah 54:4, Isaiah 54:14; Isaiah 57:11). Abraham's seed are to remember that they are the recipients of

1. the presence of YHWH

2. the promises of YHWH

3. the purpose of YHWH

“for you will not be put to shame;

And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced”

Notice the three promises to Abraham's returning seed.

1. shame - negated Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 101, KB 116 (opposite of Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 20:5)

2. feel humiliated - negated Niphal IMPERFECT, BDB 482, KB 480, cf. Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 50:7

3. disgraced - negated Qal IMPERFECT, BDB 344, KB 340

“you will forget. . .you will remember no more” Notice the parallelism. These returnees are encouraged by the use of two family terms.

1. your youth

2. your widowhood

Israel was sinful in her early days (and it continued), therefore, she was exiled by YHWH (i.e., widowhood), but now both will be forgotten and hopefully a new day of faith and faithfulness begins!

Isaiah 54:5 Again, like Isaiah 54:4, family metaphors are used. Notice the different titles for Israel's husband (cf. Isaiah 54:6-8; Hosea 1-3).

1. your Maker, - YHWH as both husband and creator, cf. Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:7; Isaiah 44:2, Isaiah 44:21, Isaiah 44:24; Deuteronomy 32:18

2. the LORD of hosts - see Special Topic at below

3. your Redeemer - recurrent title in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:6, Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:7, Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 54:5, Isaiah 54:8; Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 63:16)

4. the Holy One of Israel - recurrent title in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 5:19, Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 10:20; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 17:7; Isaiah 29:19, Isaiah 29:23; Isaiah 30:11, Isaiah 30:12, Isaiah 30:15; Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 37:23; Isaiah 41:14, Isaiah 41:16, Isaiah 41:20; Isaiah 43:3, Isaiah 43:14, Isaiah 43:15; Isaiah 45:11; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 55:5; Isaiah 60:9, Isaiah 60:14 (in both sections of Isaiah, 1-39 and 40-66)

5. the God of all the earth - this universalism is characteristic of Isaiah, i.e., Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 11:9; Isaiah 45:6; Isaiah 52:10

These titles are a Hebraic way of highlighting the characteristics of Israel's God! For other wonderful texts on God's character see Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalms 86:15; Psalms 103:8; Psalms 145:8-9.

SPECIAL TOPIC: LORD OF HOSTS

SPECIAL TOPIC: Characteristics of Israel's God

Isaiah 54:6 Israel is described as a faithless wife who has been divorced (cf. Isaiah 49:14-21; Isaiah 50:1, Isaiah 50:2; Isaiah 62:4).

Isaiah 54:7 YHWH divorced His faithless wife but now seeks her out again (cf. Hosea 1-3). This is shocking in light of Moses' writings about not remarrying the same woman.

“For a brief moment I forsook you” See Isaiah 26:20. God does get angry but it passes (cf. Psalms 103:9-14).

“I will gather you” This (Piel IMPERFECT, BDB 867, KB 1062) is a way of referring to a reversal of the exile, a new exodus from Mesopotamia (cf. Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 43:5; Isaiah 49:18; Isaiah 56:8; Isaiah 60:4).

Isaiah 54:8 In the OT the characteristics of YHWH as loving and compassionate are contrasted with Him as a God of justice and righteousness. Israel is the object of both YHWH's love and wrath (lit. “overflowing anger,” BDB 1009, KB 1637, found only here). Theologically this is where the work of the Messiah (Isaiah 52:13-12) is needed. Love and justice meet at Calvary!

“But with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you” Wow! These are powerful words of God's love and promises.

1. “everlasting” - see Special Topic: Forever ('olam)

2. “lovingkindness” - see Special Topic: Lovingkindness (hesed)

3. “compassion” - Piel PERFECT, BDB 933, KB 1216; this is used of YHWH in Isaiah 14:1; Isaiah 30:18; Isaiah 49:10, Isaiah 49:13, Isaiah 49:15; Isaiah 54:7, Isaiah 54:8, Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 55:7; Isaiah 60:10; Micah 7:19 (negatively in Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 27:11)

“the LORD” This is literally “YHWH”; see Special Topic: Names for Deity.

“Redeemer” See Special Topic: Ransom/Redeem.

Verses 9-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 54:9-10 9”For this is like the days of Noah to Me, When I swore that the waters of Noah Would not flood the earth again; So I have sworn that I will not be angry with you Nor will I rebuke you. 10For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,” Says the LORD who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:9-10 These two verses must be describing the “new covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31-34 (cf. Ezekiel 36:22-38) because the Israelites who returned continued to sin (cf. Malachi).

Isaiah 54:9 This verse is a direct allusion to the Flood of Genesis 6-9 (esp. Genesis 8:21; Genesis 9:11).

The Hebrew “waters of Noah” can easily be “like the days of Noah” (NASB) with DSS and other ancient versions, but not the LXX which has “from the waters at the time of Noah.”

Isaiah 54:10 “My covenant of peace” This is probably another way of referring to “the everlasting covenant” (cf. Isaiah 55:3; Isaiah 59:21; Isaiah 61:8; Genesis 17:7; Psalms 105:10; Jeremiah 32:40; Jeremiah 50:5). This time period is described often in Ezekiel (cf. Ezekiel 16:60; Ezekiel 20:37; Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 37:26; for more study see my commentary on Ezekiel online at www.freebiblecommentary.org). The problem is that YHWH broke His covenant with Abraham's seed by the destruction and exile of Jerusalem and the abandonment of the Temple (Ezekiel 8-10). Part of our problem is with the English word “forever” or “everlasting” (see Special Topic: Forever ('olam)). The other part of our problem in interpreting texts like this is the two covenants! Something really significant happened in Christ. He is the fulfillment of all OT promises. The NT is about Him and those who believe in Him, not about national Israel. This is difficult for us to accept because of our love and trust of the Bible and the powerful nature of these texts. However, neither Jesus nor any NT writer ever reaffirms a promise to national Israel (see Special Topic: Why are OT Covenant Promises so Different from NT Covenant Promises?).

Verses 11-17

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 54:11-17 11”O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, And your foundations I will lay in sapphires. 12Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, And your gates of crystal, And your entire wall of precious stones. 13All your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great. 14In righteousness you will be established; You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; And from terror, for it will not come near you. 15If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. Whoever assails you will fall because of you. 16Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals And brings out a weapon for its work; And I have created the destroyer to ruin. 17No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.

Isaiah 54:11-13 Notice the number of jewels used as a way to show God's favor (cf. Ezekiel 28:13).

1. antimony (BDB 806, KB 918) - either a black stone, cf. 1 Chronicles 29:2, or black mortar, cf Isaiah 54:11

2. sapphires (BDB 705, KB 764) - possibly lapis-lazuli

3. rubies (BDB 461, KB 460)

4. crystal (BDB 869, KB 82) - possibly beryl

5. precious stones, but not specified as to which ones

Only one of these jewels (#2) was used in the breastplate of the High Priest (cf. Exodus 28:17-19; Exodus 39:10-11).

The imagery of jeweled walls is taken over by John in Revelation 21:18-21.

Isaiah 54:11 “O afflicted one” This is poetically parallel to “O barren one” of Isaiah 54:1. They both refer to the returnees.

Isaiah 54:13 “All your sons will be taught of the LORD” This sounds very much like Jeremiah 31:34 (i.e., “the new covenant”). Jesus quotes this verse in John 6:45 related to the Father drawing believers/disciples to Himself through Jesus.

The NEB revocalizes the MT and changes “and all your sons” to “your masons,” but the UBS Text Project gives “and all your sons” an A Rating (very high probability).

Isaiah 54:14 This verse mentions four things that the returnees will experience of God's care and protection.

1. you will be established in righteousness - Hithpolel IMPERFECT (BDB 465, KB 464)

2. oppression will be far from you - Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 934, KB 1221)

3. you will not fear - Qal IMPERFECT (BDB 431, KB 432)

4. terror will not come near you - Qal IMPERFECT (BDB 897, KB 1132)

Isaiah 54:15-17 This is surely a passage on YHWH's sovereignty. One wonders how this truth relates to eschatological persecution of believers.

Isaiah 54:15 This verse is similar in meaning to Genesis 12:3b. The returnees may experience problems but they are not from God and will be punished (cf. Isaiah 41:11-16). There is a Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE, a Qal IMPERFECT, and a Qal PERFECT of the same Hebrew root (BDB 158, KB 184). This grammatical construction emphasizes their possible problem but God's sure actions on their behalf.

Isaiah 54:16-17 This verse, like John 6:45, emphasizes the sovereignty of YHWH to accomplish His purpose through the seed of Abraham (i.e., Israel and the Messiah).

Isaiah 54:17 “the servants of the LORD” The NASB Study Bible has a good note on this phrase (p. 1033).

“After ch. 53 the singular 'servant' no longer occurs in Isaiah. The 'servants' (see Isaiah 63:17; Isaiah 65:8-9, Isaiah 65:13-15; Isaiah 66:14) are true believers - both Jew and Gentile (see Isaiah 56:6-8) - who are faithful to the Lord. They are in a sense the 'offspring' of the servant (Isaiah 53:10).”

“their vindication is from Me” There is no VERB in the MT. YHWH will deliver His people.

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 54". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/isaiah-54.html. 2021.