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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 26

 

 

Verses 1-21

Isaiah 26:1. When Sennacherib’s army was slain, the Hebrews could sing, We have a strong city; yea, a city stronger than Jerusalem. God is our refuge, a very present help in time of trouble. We are preserved, while Hamath, Arphad, and Hena are in flames, and their gods made the first trophies of the fire.

Isaiah 26:2. Open ye the gates that the righteous may enter in, without fear, and give thanks to God for his salvation. We fear the heathen no more. Or contemplating the ruin of Nineveh, we anticipate the voice—Oh Judah, keep the feast. Rejoice in the Lord; he casteth down the mighty oppressors.

Isaiah 26:5. The lofty city he layeth it low. This city, say the critics, is Jerusalem, Babylon, Nineveh, or the whole world, or cities in general. Grotius says it is Nineveh; and he must be right, for Babylon now had never oppressed Jerusalem. It was taken in Isaiah’s time by the Assyrians, and rebuilt: chap. 24:12. Nineveh was now the oppressor of the earth, and the Medes and Babylonians made it a heap of ruins, in the twenty ninth year of Josiah.

Isaiah 26:9. With my soul have I desired thee in the night. This time of war and trouble has been to me a prayerful time, a weeping season, that the inhabitants might learn righteousness, and turn to the Lord: Isaiah 26:20.

Isaiah 26:13. Oh Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us. Every surrounding nation has successively oppressed us, spiritual foes have reigned in our hearts, and the tyranny of demons is worst of all; but henceforth we will make mention only of thy name, which is a strong tower and sure defence.

Isaiah 26:14. They are dead, they shall not live. It is said of the Assyrians, that when the field was surveyed, they had no hands to handle their armour. So shall the enemies of righteousness perish. We have cried in this trouble, like a woman in travail, and have unexpectedly lost our troubles as an untimely birth. Yea, under this deliverance, a greater salvation is shadowed forth. Thy dead men, sinners dead in trespasses and sins, shall hear thy voice and live. Thou art, oh Christ, the resurrection and the life. These are the only words that can comfort us, when death invades our dwelling.

Isaiah 26:19. Thy dead men shall live, [together with] my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. The LXX, “The dead shall rise, and be raised from their sepulchres; and those that are on earth shall rejoice, for thy dew to them shall be a healing dew; but the land of the wicked shall fall.” The rabbi Kimchi associates this text with Daniel 12:2, which speaks of the general resurrection at the last day. And when the bloody Assyrians were swarming out, to massacre the half of western Asia, what could be more consolatory than to magnify the hopes of a life to come. In this way Paul comforted bereaved relatives, and the church of Thessalonica. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15.

The Vulgate reads, Vivent mortui tui, interfecti mei resurgent. Thy dead shall live, the slain with me (or in my cause) shall rise. Messiah is the speaker here; he speaks to console the bleeding church.

Dr. Lightfoot has not overlooked this text, which is fraught with consolation. His words are, “They shall rise with my body. The gentiles being dead in their sins, shall with my body, when it rises, rise again also from their death. Nay, they shall rise again as part of my body; that is, as part of myself, and of my mystical body.”—The doctor evidently understands the next words, “awake and sing,” of the conversion of the heathen.

The learned Poole speaks much the same as Dr. Lightfoot. Thy dead, thine elect, as distinguished from the dead, Isaiah 26:14. He refers the resurrection to the whole kingdom of Christ, from the commencement to the final consummation. He does not lay any emphasis on the Chaldaic, which reads in the plural, bodies; for whether he speaks of his own body personally, or collectively of the bodies of his saints, cannot be of any great moment.

Thy dew is as the dew of herbs. As the rain revives the vegetation, after an oriental drought, Psalms 1:3, so the sweet promises of grace revive and cheer the saints, when the judgments of heaven are diffused abroad in the earth. David applies this word to Christ. Psalms 110. From the womb of the morning thou hast “the dew of thy youth.” Rabbi Manasse Ben Israel says on this text, it was the opinion of the ancients, that the resurrection would be effectuated by a certain dew from heaven, possessing a plastic virtue, as written in the Jerusalem Talmud, and in Jelcudi. Plain enough that dew in the estimation of the rabbins, designates immortality. The Chaldaic agrees with this. The dew of light is thy dew, meaning eternal life.

REFLECTIONS.

Sennacherib’s army laid before Jerusalem several months, as is allowed. The gates were shut, the houses were numbered, and every thing assumed the terror of a siege. The military men were slain, but not with the sword; they were as frighted women, having no hope against so great a multitude. Two thirds of the people awaited death, and the rest expected captivity. Oh what times of visitation and war does wickedness bring upon the earth! But while the wicked despair, the righteous have hope; while the city was as dead, and bewailing in the dust, Isaiah was composing a sublime song of eternal joy. We have a strong city: salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. He saw JEHOVAH’S protecting arm; he saw the wall of fire, or hosts of angels, keeping watch both day and night. He therefore thought it high time to sing, Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth of God’s covenant, may enter in from all countries, accompanied with gentile converts. He augured perfect peace to the man whose mind was stayed on God by habitual piety, and who departed not to idols and to sins. Oh what a heaven descends into the soul of the believer, and especially when his faith brightens in the fire. The Lord weighs the path of the just, who wait for him in the way of his judgments; and he guards their city, while that of the wicked is trampled underfoot. Hence, while we claim the covenant protection of God, we should be careful to maintain the character of righteous men.

We may mark the great piety of Isaiah, as exemplified in the love of his country. He knew his own safety by the spirit of prophecy, yet he watched and waited whole nights on his bed for the salvation which God had promised; and as is the good man’s duty, he besieged heaven with faith and prayer, while the Assyrians besieged the city.

The tremendous visitations of heaven have a fine effect, in promoting piety and reformation in the state. While the judgments of God are abroad in the earth, the people learn to practise righteousness. Seeing the storm, they look next for their sins; for a perilous situation gives us to see our guilt, and to feel our misery, with sentiments which at another time would not enter our heart. Men wishful to profit by the stroke, will then repair their past faults, so far as possible, by the fruits of repentance, before they presume to kneel and ask forgiveness.

We have next the prophet’s lamentation over a vast multitude, on whom those tremendous judgments had no effect. Let favour be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness. He becomes gloomy, revengeful, and desponding; perhaps he eats and drinks to excess, thinking he shall die to-morrow; and the moment the hand of vengeance is removed, he laughs at all his fears. Thus favour is showed him in vain. And not only very wicked men in outward life do this, but there are some who seem to be religious characters, who in reality have the same hearts. Afflicted for a moment, with the heavier strokes of God, they pray, and bend under the rod; but as soon as it is removed, all their former habits and secret sins return, and find a ready entrance into their hearts. Why should those men be striken any more, they will revolt yet more and more. They continually break covenant with God, and he will break covenant, if we may so speak, with them.

Notwithstanding, the Lord will ordain peace for his church. Other lords besides thee, heathen kings, and especially our sins, have had dominion over us, yet will we make mention only of thy name; for as the Assyrians lay dead, and after all their blasphemy were dumb and unable to rise, so shall our sins be cast as a burden into the depth of the sea. Then the nation of Israel was encreased; those who had fled for fear returned, and glorified God who had brought them back from the ends of the earth.

Though the Israelites cried as a woman with child in the hour of nature’s sorrow, and were called dead men in regard to despair and fear, yet they should live. God, according to Ezekiel, would open their graves. Yea, they should revive; they should awake from the dust of sackcloth, and sing salvation to the Lord. But the psalmist, and the holy prophets, associated their sorrows and joys with those of the Saviour. Isaiah therefore seemed to see a greater deliverance than from the Assyrian; the gentile nations awake from their sins, to sing redemption through the atonement and resurrection of Christ. Hence the faithful are bid to hide for a moment, till the tempest is past, for it should most assuredly recoil on the bloody invader.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 26:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/isaiah-26.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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