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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 54


In the fifty-third chapter, the conception of “the Servant of God” culminated in the individual Messiah, who is prophetically pictured as having expiated the sin of his people by the sacrifice of himself. Israel, too, is there pictured as confessing the mistake of having rejected the true conception of Messiah. Israel the spiritual ones, the men and women of true faith in the nation is the Church. In this chapter, Israel is in a state, through repentance and faith, to enter into possession of the glory of the Church redeemed. Hence the sudden burst of the following exhortation.

Verse 1

1. Sing, O barren, etc. These words seem to be addressed to Jerusalem, the true metropolis of the renewed nation, the ancient seat of the Church of the Old Testament. She is compared to Abraham’s wife, Sarah, for her long-continued barrenness, and subsequent bearing of One through whom Abraham became the father of many nations. The true Israel, long deprived of genuine descendants, has now the ban of barrenness removed. Let her exult, sing in loudest strains, on occasion of the great joy which has come upon her. She has not, indeed, been entirely childless: but the time of her marvelous increase in this regard has now arrived.

Verses 1-17

Sec. 3. MESSIAH AND THE GOSPEL, Isaiah 52:11 to Isaiah 55:13.

Thus far in this chapter is treated the case of an exalted Church passing, step by step, through suffering and deliverances into the purity of the typical holy Zion; from this point the view is turned again to the “Servant” of Jehovah, through whom the prophet has seen the Church to be redeemed. The portrait of a suffering servant is here filled out in detail, as a side-piece (Delitzsch) to the liberation and deliverance of Zion-Jerusalem already just depicted. He has conducted his people through suffering to glory.

This picture is to show, not only that Messiah’s earthly pathway, as our Mediator, is to be through intense, but voluntary, suffering, but also that it is in his heart also to suffer for and instead of, as well as with, his people.

Verses 2-3

2, 3. Enlarge… thy tent It is now due that Zion be alert to extend her dwelling-place, her tabernacle area, in every direction.

Spare not Spare no pains, grudge no labour. Spread the canopy indefinitely; make the tent cords longer and tent pins stronger. On every hand larger space is requisite for the occupancy of her children, which are to so abound as to include populations far into Gentile lands.

Inherit the Gentiles… desolate cities… inhabited Cities far abroad, and long desolate, are to be filled with new people.

Verse 4

4. Fear not… not be ashamed Keywords to what follows. Childlessness was a reproach among orientals, and especially so among Jews.

Thy youth That is, in years when family barrenness came as a judgment.

Widowhood When sin caused thee to become bereft of Jehovah, thy proper husband. The figures here, of course, cover spiritual conditions. Defection from God is, plainly enough, the meaning. The times when this condition was very marked in Israel cover many periods during the monarchy. Backsliding from Jehovah was the rule among them; spiritual worship and fidelity the exception. The exile period alone was distinguished for the deepest and most radical reform.

Verse 5

5. The Lord of hosts is his name Jehovah is thy husband as well as thy Maker, thy Redeemer, and the Sovereign of the earth. Barrenness and widowhood which mean dishonour for a languishing cause are no more to be feared. Protection such as a husband with these august names shall give, saves utterly from all occasions of fear.

Verse 6

6. The Lord hath called thee The Lord hath taken thee back again to the relation of a beloved wife the closest and dearest of all relations. The divorcement has to thee been very painful; made thee consciously forsaken, and conscious of no true spouse at hand as thy helper; but it has brought thee to the deepest penitence.

And a wife of youth Once rejoicing in early marriage, but soon fallen and therefore soon rejected; but on account of thy repentance, the Lord receives thee back again.

Verses 7-8

7, 8. For a small moment These verses continue the same course of thought. See Isaiah 26:20, where the same words appear, and with same meaning. The period is short compared with the now unending reunion.

Have I forsaken thee Better, Did I forsake thee. For thy wicked deeds made it needful.

But with great mercies Now in this grand Messianic age; that is, the day of the everlasting Gospel.

Will I gather thee Will restore my people with fulness of love and blessing.

In a little wrath In an outbreak quick but brief.

I hid my face Temporarily. The wrath was overflowing, as many render it; exercised, perhaps, in the trial of captivity at Babylon; but it was of short duration; the Lord soon made his face to shine in approval on signs of utter abandonment of idol worship. In contrast with this moment, or little time, the divine kindness shall be everlasting. The divorcement forced upon Jehovah was brief; the reunion is to be perpetual.

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Verses 9-10

9, 10. As the waters of Noah unto me And such perpetuity is as certain as the divine oath can make it; as certain as that the earth shall no more be deluged; the rainbow sign in the heavens being an eternal pledge thereto. Genesis 8:21-22. This is here alluded to, not only because the oath and promise had been made, but because it also had been kept. Not be wroth, etc. Because the everlasting Messianic covenant, made between Jehovah and his Church, secures that; though the Church may often be persecuted and disciplined, it shall never be swept away. Other things, as mountains and hills, shall be removed, but God’s kindness and covenant of peace never. We are ever to keep in mind that the Church is the renovated spiritual Jerusalem. That shall stand, though of the walls of the literal city “there shall not be left one stone upon another.” Matthew 24:2.

Verses 11-12

11, 12. Hitherto the Church, or Zion, has been a lone female, afflicted, or insulted; tossed with tempest, unprotected, jostled about, furious storms driving in upon her; but now, instead of ruined walls and torn-up pavements, a blessed spiritual vision is the medium in which she is to be seen. The stones of Zion shall be laid in solid gems of variegated colours, and of a strength and quality most precious and most enduring. The Hebrew mind revelled in figures of this kind to exhibit the future Church in her splendour, permanence, and power. Both in the apocryphal book of Tobit, (chap. Isaiah 13:16-17,) and especially in Revelation 21:18-27, the whole resources of rhetoric in this line of figures, descriptive of the glories of Zion or the New Jerusalem, seem worked to exhaustion. Beauty, preciousness, solidity, are characteristics after which the whole heart and understanding are put upon the strain to describe.

Thy windows Here so called because light is transmitted through them. The lexicons give other definitions, such as battlements, pinnacles, and the like; implying, however, some relation to the sun, as if the material they were made of was transparent, and so admitted the light.

Sapphires Gems translucently blue, and in foundations beautifully offsetting the azure of the sky.

Agates, the same as rubies; and carbuncles, the same as glittering gems.

Verses 13-14

13, 14. All thy children Dwellers within the glorious city, or, in literal terms, all who are pure in heart and love the communion of Zion and of Zion’s Jehovah.

Taught of the Lord Informed and learned in the deep things of God. Jeremiah 31:34; Matthew 5:2-10.

Peace Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 9:6.

In righteousness… established In Isaiah 54:13-14, the plain doctrines taught are those connected with the mission of the Holy Spirit throughout the complete reign of Messiah. “Peace” is to be established on intrinsic “righteousness.” Assaults, therefore, shall be unavailing. No cause for fear.

Verse 15

15. They shall surely gather together That is, enemies, or opposing companies. Compacts shall still be formed against Zion.

But not by me Not by my appointment. I may not hinder I may permit for a time.

Whosoever… against thee shall fall for thy sake The scene presented seems to imply that Zion all along shall still have opposers. If God permits these oppositions, the spirit and power of his providence is, nevertheless, against them, and their opposition shall be ineffectual. Many opposers shall themselves fail and go to perdition, they having first fulfilled a permitted persecution to discipline Zion’s people, and thus strengthen their faith and fidelity. Others shall give up the strife and become friends of God: shall fall unto thee: a sense many of the later interpreters adopt. The Septuagint and Vulgate Versions, and some of the Targums, vary from this interpretation, but not seriously nor at all essentially. Since this day the Messianic period has advanced more than 2000 years further in history, and the interpretation has thus become general in its terms.

Verses 16-17

16, 17. I have created the smith Every instrument which is employed against God’s people, as well as its maker, is in God’s hands to overrule and to foreclose.

I have created the waster to destroy This means, that Zion’s welfare is wholly in God’s care, and every destroyer in war in the interest only of himself is equally and absolutely at God’s ultimate disposal. “The smith,” or armorer, who forges the weapon, and the warrior who wields it, are both as easily controlled as created. Man’s free act, when projected, is in divine, not in self-same human hands, to be used.

Verse 17

17. No weapon… against thee shall prosper An address of encouragement to Zion. No tongue entering into contest with thee shall prevail. Opposition, physical, ethical, spiritual, shall be discomfited Such is the heritage of God’s people namely, his infallible promise, and his power to maintain and completely fulfil it.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 54". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.