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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 27

This chapter is connected with the three preceding, and closes the prophecy, or series of prophecies, concerning God’s true Israel and the fate of Israel’s opposers.

Verse 1

1. In that day The same time as that referred to in the preceding verse, when the Lord should come “out of his place to punish.” This verse should have closed the preceding chapter.

Sore An epithet applied to the “sword” with which the Lord efficiently enters the contest, meaning hard and well-tempered.

Great and strong sword Triple epithets completed, denoting no failure of providential turnings in the adjustments of this war.

Leviathan… dragon Really the same sea or river monster, thrice named. There is but little doubt that leviathan the piercing, or fleeing, (or, if Arabic etymology is a help to its meaning, as Gesenius thinks, cross mailed, referring to the twisted mailed covering of the crocodile,) applies to Assyria on the rapid Tigris, and leviathan the crooked, to Babylon, on the winding Euphrates, where the stream is stagnant and marshy.

The dragon Referring to the same beast, probably, applies to Egypt on the Nile sea, including thus the three great representative world-powers which had more or less always harassed Israel. The meaning here is difficult, and has been explained variously; this, however, seems the best explanation.

Verses 2-5

2-5. God’s work of overthrow and vindication being accomplished, what more appropriate than the ode which follows?

In that day The day or period in which leviathan is destroyed.

Vineyard of red wine Lowth turns the sense into lovely, pleasant, wine; to the ancients, meaning joy. Jehovah is the keeper of the vineyard, or the Church on Mount Zion, which assures its complete preservation. It is watered and guarded night and day.

Fury is not in me God speaks and says, I entertain no longer any anger toward my vine. My people have been punished as they needed for discipline. Purified, they need it no more as in days past.

Briers and thorns To whom do these refer? The foes of God’s people, most likely, in defence of which people God would go through, that is, against, the said foes; which would be equivalent to burning them.

Or Alternative, else, otherwise. To be safe from this, let such foes take hold of my strength. Let them become reconciled and at peace with God.

Verse 6

6. The song of the vineyard is here explained. The posterity of Jacob, the true Israel which God owns, shall, as this divinely nourished vine, take root, grow, extend branches, send down new roots, and spread blossoms and fruit to all parts of the earth. Romans 11:12. Israel becometh thus “the riches of the Gentiles.”

Verses 7-8

7, 8. Him That is, Israel. The question, in form, calls for a negative answer. Not to the degree God has punished his enemies has he punished Israel. He has punished in measure, only moderately. בסאסאה , ( b’sassah,) composed probably of two words, and to be translated in measure, measure, which means, very moderately. The word is used in no other place in the Bible, and has occasioned a world of difficulty. But interpreters of approved character come together in the explanation above given.

When it shooteth forth A translation not intelligible. Literally, it is, In sending her forth, that is, God’s vineyard, or Jewish people.

Thou wilt debate Or, enter into contention with this vineyard. With these clauses, “in measure” is to be construed. Then the meaning of the verse is: “When thou didst send thy people into Babylon, thou didst punish them very moderately, considering, first, their deserts, and second, the fruits of this captivity.”

He stayeth Showing how he punished only moderately. He checked the severe rough wind upon them. He is to return them to Jerusalem, though not in the period of the tempestuous east wind. Such winds are emblematic of divine judgment. See Job 27:21.

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Verse 9

9. By this By this sending away to Babylon.

Purged Of idolatrous tendencies forever.

The fruit to take away his sin The object or overruling purpose of the captivity.

As chalkstones The old idolatrous altars in Judea are to crumble down as chalk crumbles in long weathering. The limestone of Judea is what, in geology, is called cretaceous, and easily crumbles or wears away. Likewise the old idolatrous groves, in which licentious rites were enacted, shall be cut down, and the sun images (Ashtoreth and Baal) destroyed.

Verses 10-11

10, 11. The defenced city Which some think means Jerusalem, some Samaria, and some Babylon. Samaria, at least, may be ruled out; but the question hangs in doubt as to the other two. In favour of Babylon is the natural conservation of Isaiah 27:12. In favour of Jerusalem is the easily-supposed figure of a vineyard at the close of this verse, and so still kept up through the next verse. The interpretation is not materially to be changed, whichever is meant. During the captivity all the figures of desolation here apply to Jerusalem, and when Babylon shall be overthrown the stone description will apply to it, though the desolation is not so complete here as in Isaiah 13:19-22; (where see notes;) but there total desolation was the work of ages, not of a single short period. If it means Jerusalem, the prophet speaks from the foreseen captivity as a point of time. The city ruins are overgrown with grass and thickets, where stray cattle browse. When the shrubs decay, the women (a custom still in the East) gather them for fuel. The lowest class only were left behind the class of least character, and of least regard to Jehovah, apparently uncared for of their Creator, as indicated by their destitution.

Verse 12

12. But on Israel’s repentance all this is to cease, as to Jerusalem.

Shall beat off from the channel Of the Euphrates to the river of Egypt (Wady el Arish) the Rhinocolura of the Septuagint, ancient boundary line between Egypt and Palestine. Over the whole extent of the original land of Promise, Jehovah shall order the growth and beating, or threshing, of grain for the sustenance of the returned ones of Israel. This is one view of the imagery employed here. Another is, that the beating implies an extensive growth of olives or other fruit to be carefully beaten off and discriminated as to the good and the bad; the good then to be gathered together; the whole signifying that the true Israel shall be discriminately gathered.

One by one Rather, one to another, or, one after another, in colonies, to their home in Judea, from the different directions where their exile has been. Perhaps this meaning better suits the idea of the text.

Verse 13

13. The great trumpet An image taken from the trumpet blown to summon the people to holy convocation. Leviticus 23:24. Jehovah is, as it were, to summon his righteous ones to worship him on Mount Zion.

Ready to perish That is, those who, in the region of the Euphrates, had not enjoyed religious opportunities, and those who, amid national trouble in Judah, had fled in consternation to Egypt. All these shall hear the call to return, and, purified from old vices, with intense zeal to serve Jehovah shall they come.

Thus closes these four chapters respecting the destiny of the true Israel, not alone of Judah, but the sincere and true of all tribes of Israel, who, one after another, were to be gathered as individuals or in colonies to Mount Zion.


Historico-prophetic discourses relating to Assyria and the Egyptian alliance, chapters 28-33.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 27". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.