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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 26

The apocalyptic vision continues into times when the world-kingdoms, Assyria and Babylon, are conquered, never more again to invade and destroy, and when the last mystic scoffer, Moab, is trodden down. Redeemed Judah takes occasion still further for a triumphal song. The song is based on the foreseen return of Israel from exile; but the prophet soars above earthly deliverances into Messianic freedom and safety, of which the return to the Holy Land is but the type.

Verse 1

1. In that day Continuous with, or immediately successive to, the period spoken of Isaiah 25:9-12.

This song This joyous acclaim.

We have a strong city That is, we too, as well as those of the world-kingdoms now prophetically thrown down. Ours is impregnable, never possible to be destroyed.

Salvation… for walls God himself is set in our defence and safety, in place of man-made walls and earthworks.

Verse 2

2. Open… gates The choral style of the twenty-fourth psalm appears here, but the responsive chorus does not here, as there, appear. The picture is of Zion’s city purified and made ready to receive the reclaimed and purified nation.

Verse 3

3. Keep… in perfect peace The original has it, Peace, peace. Psalms 112:7-8, is the source of the thought here. The new Israel knows that Jehovah preserves him in enduring and intensified peace, because he knows his trust in Jehovah is perfect.

Verse 4

4. And as if from heaven comes the encouragement to Israel to trust in the Lord for ever, to permit it on no occasion to fail.

For in the Lord Jehovah Original, Jah Jehovah. On this combination, see note at Isaiah 12:2. Delitzsch regards the two names as the proper name of God the Redeemer in the most emphatic form.

Verses 5-7

5-7. He bringeth down them that dwell on high The argument is, Why not trust such a One who has overwhelmed imperial oppressive cities, and abolished nearer gainsaying peoples. A more free rendering here, but giving the true sense is, “The dwellers in high pride he hurled downward, the towering fortress he tumbled to the ground and pulverized it to dust. Feet of common people, feet of the poor and lowly, are treading it in very scorn.” But to the righteous how otherwise the result! Their way is straight and even. The word weigh, in Isaiah 26:7, is used in the sense of to make even, to level. The course of the just is smooth and unimpeded.

Verses 8-9

8, 9. In the way of thy judgments In the song allusion is here made to the long discipline of the Judahites in Babylon, perhaps also elsewhere.

Waited We waited in patient, trustful hope.

Thy name Our desire was to thee, for the word “name” means all that belongs to the divine personality.

In the night… early From night till morn, was our desire intense toward thee.

Verse 10

10. Let favour be showed For a moment the song takes on the preceptive character. The idea is, the wicked will not learn that God’s goodness is bestowed on them to lead them to repentance and to do righteousness.

The land of uprightness That is, in a situation the most favourable, among a people whose example is right. The wicked still do not amend, nor see the goodness and majesty of God.

Verse 11

11. When thy hand is lifted up The “hand” is the symbol of power, and when raised denotes power in exercise. Though divine power is conspicuous, the wicked recognise it not.

But they shall see Non-recognition of it shall not long last.

Ashamed They shall be put to confusion.

Envy at In observing God’s zeal for his own people.

Fire of thine enemies That is, “fire of” judgment, which “thine enemies” deserve and shall receive.

Verse 12

12. Peace for us “Peace,” here, is comprehensive. It is future safety from all the evils suffered under Jehovah’s enemies.

Wrought all our works Ground for trusting that God will secure to them future peace, inasmuch as his high hand has wrought complete rescue from the evils of captivity, etc.

Verse 13

13. Other lords Some suppose idolatry referred to, of which the Jews were forever weaned in Babylon. More likely, rulers in Babylon are prominently intended.

But by thee only Better rendered, but only thee will we henceforth mention.

Verse 14

14. They are dead That is, kings and tyrants just referred to.

They shall not rise That civil state, that God-defying power, shall have no resurrection.

Therefore Equivalent to so then. The result is certain, that all celebrity of that base people shall be blotted out. This is expressed in high figure, but its intention merely is an eternal, ethical truth; nothing can succeed against God.

Verse 15

15. Increased the nation The nation of reclaimed and purified Jews. Their enlargement was by successive colonies from the East for a hundred years after the first return from Babylon. Also, as the next clause asserts, ( thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth,) by growth from proselytes made outside of Judea; though the law of parallelism requires “the ends of the earth” to mean the farthest limits of the literal land of Israel. So Lowth and Noyes. But this is too mechanical for poetry. Frequently the prophet contemplates the new Israel as extending to the converted of all nations of the earth.

Verses 16-18

16-18. Back to Israel’s night of affliction perhaps before, and certainly during, the captivity is the glance again taken. See Isaiah 26:8-9.

In trouble… they visited thee “They,” the then faithful of Israel, sought to find thee.

They poured out a prayer Not an audible, but a whispered, prayer: like Hannah’s prayer, from the heart’s depths. So the word here means. Its object was the nation’s salvation from overthrow and captivity. So felt the prophets and holy ones of Judah. But in vain. Calamities would come, because Judah’s sin, now socially and poetically crystallized, required them. The prayer was an agony, like that of women near to birth-giving. The prayer continued long into the night of the captivity. In ineffectual praying they almost gave themselves up as dead.

Verse 19

19. But in strong contrast with the preceding despair, the cheering word comes.

Thy dead men shall live Civilly, nationally, dead in Babylon, is the primary meaning. The tone changes from sorrow over the long national subjection to exultant joy in view of a speedy return to a higher national and spiritual life in Zion.

My dead body The Lord is speaking. “Subjected Zion being ‘my dead body,’” that is, being the dead of Zion, shall arise, shall have a spiritual as well as a civil resurrection. Alexander thinks this phrase to be unauthorized.

For thy dew… herbs The Lord’s “dew,” such as he sends upon herbs to refresh and make them thrive. “Dew” is ever the emblem in Scripture of a divine quickening an animating figure as in the East, where rain falls seldom, copious dews largely supply the deficiency. See Hosea 14:5.

Earth shall cast out the dead “Cast out,” a rendering of שׂפיל , ( taphil,) is a strong way of saying, “The earth shall precipitate, as by a convulsive act; that is, bring to the surface the dead;” a meaning which the verb necessarily bears here, as most expositors, even the rationalistic, agree. Such language could scarcely be used, except in view of the doctrine of the resurrection, not unfamiliar at this time. The language is clearly figurative, and borrowed from this doctrine. It is applied here to the Church, as good as dead in Babylon, but soon to have resurrection life in Zion. Figures are formed, not from things unknown, but from things or ideas before conceived of and familiar. Because Moses said little of a future life, and urged motives to obedience upon the Israelites from sanctions drawn from this side of eternity, is certainly no proof that he knew nothing of the doctrine of a future life. He dealt with people whose obedience to the law should rest first upon the essential righteousness of the law itself, and upon the reality of a holy, all-powerful Sovereign immediately ruling them. In like manner other doctrines the resurrection of the dead especially were held from direct statement and revelation till it should be practically seasonable for such statements and revelation to be made. In favoured minds in minds inspired and commissioned to teach the world, as were Moses, Isaiah, and the like no doubt doctrines latest needed in the world’s history lay at least in a dim premonitory outline in connexion with the whole scheme of redemption; and this outline came out in marked clearness as fast as the world’s mind should comprehend and need it. Numerous are the hints in the Old Testament that Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Job, David, Isaiah, and other prophets, knew of future life with its rewards and punishments, and of the resurrection of the dead, long before Persian Zoroastrianism had existence, from which rationalists allege the resurrective idea originated. The air of familiarity with this idea in our prophet’s easy allusion to it in the expression and figures here in question, leaves, so far forth, little opportunity for cavil.

Verse 20

20. The foregoing song now ends, and Isaiah again speaks as a prophet. While judgment passes on the world hostile to Israel, Israel, restored to Zion in vision, is called to silent adoration and prayer.

Come… into thy chambers The last great victories are not achieved. Not yet is the time for final triumph. The rage of the enemy is not yet over. Be circumspect, cautious, prayerful, till the trial ceases.

Indignation God’s wrath against the Babylonians and all enemies of his people. The Jews, though confident of ultimate triumph, are not to be jubilant prematurely, but to wait till the retributive storm be overpast.

Verse 21

21. Out of his place The Hebrew idea of God’s residence, namely, the heavens; an idea simple, childlike, unmetaphysical as to the divine infinitude.

Inhabitants of the earth Such were the people of the lands, belonging to the great world-powers, accounted the people of Chaldea.

Blood Guilt is here meant guilt for the shedding the blood of the righteous. See Genesis 4:10.

Cover her slain The same idea expanded. They shall no more conceal their guilt for shedding righteous blood.

The people of God are ever avenged for wrongs done them. See Exodus 14:13-14. “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah. Jehovah shall fight for you and ye shall hold your peace.”

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 26". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.