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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 32

As if the previous exhortation (Isaiah 31:6) has been heeded, and the opposing great world powers like Assyria have been overcome, the sifted, purified Jews now, in the eye of the prophet, enter into a new kingly organization, including not the idolatrous elements of the nation, but only the reformed, obedient, and holy remnant. Over this kingdom reigns One, the essence of whose being is truth and righteousness. Those whom he employs as his vicegerents shall be inspired to rule with inflexible right-doing, and in himself shall be protection unfailing, and at the same time satisfying, refreshing, and invigorating.

The figures here used are but the expansion of those used in Isaiah 4:8 and Isaiah 25:4. Only the traveller in an oriental desert can fully appreciate what these figures imply. See The Lord’s Land, by RIDGAWAY; also The Land and the Book, by THOMSON.

Verse 1

1. Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness Who is he? Possibly the good, but yet imperfect, Hezekiah stands in the prophet’s foreground; but more probably he is depicting the surroundings of the expected Messiah.

Verse 2

2. A man… hiding place One greater and every way more competent as a protector than a merely human person. Jehovah in the person of the Messiah.

Verses 3-4

3, 4. Eyes… not be dim… ears… hearken Under which Messiah the process of heart-hardening will not be the rule, as in the prophet’s time, but the exception. He is speaking of times when the present moral order shall be reversed in a large degree: when conscience shall be normally educated, and false views and tendencies will not prevail.

Verses 5-8

5-8. Vile person A fool in the scriptural sense, one who knows well enough, but knows unwisely, viciously.

Liberal Noble.

Churl One acting niggardly. Messianic times are of gradual growth. Radical moral changes are not wrought in an hour. Steadily the changes go on, until they end in universal righteousness and peace. The prophet here gives persons, qualities, and things their right names. The fool, or “vile person,” cannot, in that day, as now, pass for a noble man. The niggard or “churl” shall have no name for being generous, for making small gifts go for much giving.

The instruments also of the churl are devices for making himself richer at the cost of the poor. On the other hand, the noble man is the liberal man; kind to all, he supplies wants with generosity, and by such a name shall he stand.

Verse 9


9. There is an abrupt change here. From men in high life to women in high life the prophet now turns. All aglow with views of the glorious coming time in his closing address to the men, he comes suddenly back to the real state of things for a separate admonition to the women.

Rise up, ye women Not a physical rising up is meant, though the form of address is like to that of Lamech to his wives, (Genesis 4:23.) but an inward rousing of the conscience.

At ease… careless ones Women at ease, and self-secure in luxurious living, not dreaming of calamity and unprepared for it.

Verse 10

10. Many days and years Literally, Days upon a year, or many days added to a year, as if answering the question, “When shall these troubles come;” and the time given is, More than a year hence, but not two years. The light-hearted confidence is to be dashed, and timely warning is here given.

Verse 11

11. Strip you… sackcloth This means to put on signs of grief. “Sackcloth” instead of daily gay apparel.

Verse 12

12. Lament, etc. Better rendered, Smiting the breasts, as on funeral occasions.

Pleasant fields The loss of these, and the loss of successive vintages, are the ground of lament. Desolation generally is to befal the proud daughters of Zion.

Verses 13-14

13, 14. Upon the land… thorns and briers Recurrence again to what is yet to happen to Judah and Jerusalem makes the language of the prophet in the original grammatically complicated, just as is common with the sacred prophetic writers when, almost with the fiery spirit of indignation, they dilate on the lawlessness and disobedience of the people, and the retribution that is sure to follow. On Judah throughout grim desolation is to come. In the place of harvest fields and vineyards will be “briers and thorns.”

Upon all the houses of joy Even the aforetime populous Jerusalem is to be thus covered; that is, its desolate streets and broken down walls and houses are to become as a shapeless, entangled thicket. The homes where women so thoughtlessly lived, never dreaming of an end of their gayety and pleasure, and the strong towers and palaces, are all literally to be laid waste, and rooms and cells therein to become hiding places for wild animals, or for use to the scattered peasantry in enclosing their flocks by night. All is to occur in a short time “in days added to a year,” a short period hence: margin of Isaiah 32:10.

Verses 15-17

15-17. Until the Spirit be poured upon us Then shall begin the dispensation of the great moral changes referred to in Isaiah 32:1-8. The captivity will sift the just from the unjust and disobedient. The remnant shall return. Morally, the land shall become a fruitful field, where righteousness shall flourish, and peace, its result, shall abide with quietness and assurance for ever; that is, for a long, long time.

Verse 18

18. A peaceable habitation At such a time the moral influences shall be so great that God’s people shall tranquilly pass their lives in peaceful homes, sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places; that is, faith gives sweet rest in God and blessed association with him.

Verse 19

19. It shall hail, coming down on the forest That is, the fierce storm shall overthrow it. Hail storms in Palestine are fearful agencies of destruction. Note the scenes under Joshua at Beth-horon, and at Megiddo under Barak. Joshua 10:11; Judges 5:20. And the city, etc. If this verse is in its right place, it is another case of a sudden mental association, in the mind of the prophet, with the destroying power, Assyria. Assyria is to destroy Judah as an event ordered to precede this beginning of spiritual renovation of redeemed Israel. “The forest,” then, denotes the degenerated children of Judah, and “the city,” is destroyed Jerusalem. In the same mental association, Assyria, as a destroying power, covers the seat of that power throughout the Euphrates valley; it ideally includes the same power transferred to Babylon. The verse would seem to be a parenthetic interruption to the course of thought in this place.

Verse 20

20. Blessed are ye that sow In the coming happy times, when great activity shall be among God’s people in planting his principles everywhere.

Beside Better, upon all waters. The allusion may be to the practice in overflowing river countries, like Egypt and Mesopotamia, of sowing rice in the still waters at each overflow, and then sending cattle the ox and the ass freely to tread in the grain. The idea is still using the above practice as a figure that the passage relates wholly to moral cultivation; that the planting of the truth is to be universal; that these truths are free as the air for all men, just as “the ox and the ass” are free to range in patches of planted rice lands, or in extended pasture lands. No doubt the verse implies the happy moral condition of coming times, and the free activity of enterprises to improve mankind generally.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 32". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.