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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Isaiah 26

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 26:1 In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will [God] appoint [for] walls and bulwarks.

Ver. 1. In that day.] Before the morrow, and while the mercy was yet fresh. We are not to take day for return of thanks, but to do it forthwith.

In that same day shall this song be sung.] As an evidence and effect of their spiritual joy and security, mentioned Isaiah 25:9. "Is any man merry? let him sing psalms," [James 5:13] and so set an edge upon his praises and thanksgivings. Thus Israel sang, [Exodus 15:1 Numbers 21:7] "Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it." Thus, in the apostles’ times, [Romans 15:9] and afterwards Justin, Tertullian, Athanasius, others, voce praeiverunt, they go before with voices, gave the note. Constantine and Theodosius ever sang psalms with their soldiers before they gave battle. They knew that it is a good thing to sing praises to our God; it is pleasant, and praise is comely. [Psalms 147:1] (a)

We have a strong city.] The Church is invincible; hell gates cannot demolish it, whatever become of Moab’s munitions. [Isaiah 25:12]

Salvation will God appoint.] All manner of health, help, and safety. Satan cannot have so many means to foil and spoil the saints as Jesus - to whose sweet name our prophet here and elsewhere oft alludeth, as much delighted therewith - hath means to keep and hold them up.

For walls and bulwarks.] Pro muris et antemurali, for walls and rampart, or counterscarp. So Scipio was said to be fossa et vallum, the wall and trench to the Romans against Hannibal. If salvation itself cannot save Jerusalem, let her enemies triumph and take all. If her name be Jehovahshammah, as Ezekiel 48:35, "The Lord is there," let her enemies do their worst.


Verse 2

Isaiah 26:2 Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.

Ver. 2. Open ye the gates.] Room for the righteous, for such only are freemen of this city; [Revelation 22:14] such only are written among the living in Jerusalem. [Isaiah 4:3-4 Psalms 118:19] And this seemeth spoken to those doorkeepers, the ministers, to whom God hath committed the keys of his kingdom, setting them as upon a watch tower to keep out enemies, and to let in the true citizens.

That the righteous nation which keepeth the truth.] Heb., The truths, or faiths, as Peter hath "godliness," [2 Peter 3:11] that both observeth Christ’s law and preserveth it; "striving together for the faith of the gospel," [Philippians 1:27] and accounting every particle of truth precious. [ 1:3] And here we have a true definition of a right Church member. Civil righteousness is but a beautiful abomination. If men lay not faith for a foundation to their virtue, [2 Peter 1:5] it is no better than a glistering sin.


Verse 3

Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace, [whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]: because he trusteth in thee.

Ver. 3. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace.] Heb., Peace, peace - that is, a multiplied peace with God, with himself, and with others; or a renewed, continued peace, or a perfect, sheer, pure peace, as one senseth it. What the old translator here meaneth by his Vetus error abiit, is hard to say. An excellent description of true saving faith may be taken from this text; and Mr Bolton maketh mention of a poor distressed soul relieved by fastening steadfastly in his last sickness on these sweet words, saying that God had graciously made them fully good to him.

Because he trusteth in thee.] So far as a soul can stay on and trust in God, so far it enjoyeth a sweet peace and calm of spirit; perfect trust is blessed with perfect peace. We have a famous instance for this in our blessed Saviour. [John 12:27-28] Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind; be sober, and hope perfectly for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. [1 Peter 1:13]


Verse 4

Isaiah 26:4 Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH [is] everlasting strength:

Ver. 4. Trust in the Lord for ever.] To trust in God is to be unbottomed of thyself and of every creature, and so to lean upon God, that if he fail thee thou sinkest.

For in the Lord Jehovah.] Heb., For in Jah Jehovah; in him who is the all-powerful Essentialor and faithful promise keeper, &c. Here, then, look not downward, saith one, upon the rushing and roaring streams of miseries and troubles which run so swiftly under us, for then we shall be taken with a giddiness, &c., but steadfastly fasten on the power and promise of Jah Jehovah and ye shall be established.

Is everlasting strength.] Heb., The rock of ages, or, The old rock, so called of old, [Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:18; Deuteronomy 32:31] and so found to be from the beginning. Et quia in aeternum non mutat aut nutat ergapios, lieet montes et colles nutent [Isaiah 54:10] The name of the Lord is a strong tower; [Proverbs 18:10] a munition of rocks; [Isaiah 33:16] rocks so deep no pioneer can undermine them; so thick, no cannon can pierce them; so high, no ladder can scale them.


Verse 5

Isaiah 26:5 For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, [even] to the ground; he bringeth it [even] to the dust.

Ver. 5. For he bringeth down those that dwell on high.] Even all adverse power, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God. [2 Corinthians 10:5]

The lofty city he layeth it low.] This Museulus understands of Babylon, that towering city; as also of Rome, that spiritual Babylon, to which it was long since said -

Versa eris in cineres quasi nunquam Roma fuisses.


Verse 6

Isaiah 26:6 The foot shall tread it down, [even] the feet of the poor, [and] the steps of the needy.

Ver. 6. The foot shall tread it down.] He saith not the hand shall beat it down, but the foot shall spurn down this lofty city, even the feet of the poor and abject ones, as once Samson dealt by the Philistines, [ 15:8] and as men use to spurn base and peasantly fellows that stand in their way. God can, and sometimes doth, to show his power and wisdom, make desolation itself to scale a fort. [Amos 5:10] Men thrust through, to rise up and set whole cities afire, [Jeremiah 37:10] bring to pass mighty things by base and abject means.


Verse 7

Isaiah 26:7 The way of the just [is] uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.

Ver. 7. The way of the just is uprightness.] Heb., Uprightnesses - that is, just and straight courses. They turn not aside to crooked and wry ways, as do the workers of iniquity, [Psalms 125:5] but hold on in an even way, without windings or writhings; [Proverbs 4:26-27] the king’s highway to heaven is their road, and this leadeth them to that city of God. [Isaiah 26:1-2]

Thou most upright dost weigh the path of the just.] Or, Thou dost by levelling make the just man’s path even. By thy preventing grace thou makest him just and upright, and by thy subsequent grace thou strengthenest and directest him, that he may run and not be weary, walk and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31]


Verse 8

Isaiah 26:8 Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of [our] soul [is] to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.

Ver. 8. Yea, in the way of thy judgments.] Rough though it be and rugged; even when thou hast wrought against us in the rigour of thy punishments, as one paraphraseth it; in the discipline of thy chastisements, as another. There are those who by this phrase understand the doctrine of the gospel, which teacheth another way of judging of a righteous man than the law doth, and such as the Church trusteth to alone, and to none other, scil., justification by faith in Christ Jesus.

And to the remembrance of thee,] i.e., to all the signs, gauges, and tesitimonials which thou hast given us of thy grace by thy word, sacraments, and work. (a)


Verse 9

Isaiah 26:9 With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments [are] in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.

Ver. 9. With my soul, &c., with my spirit.] Spirit, soul, and body must all be for God (a) [1 Thessalonians 5:23] all that is within us especially; [Psalms 103:1] the fat and inwards were consecrated to him; the heart is his bride chamber, his bed of spices. [Song of Solomon 6:2] In the lives of the Fathers mention is made of a certain monk to whom, boasting of perfection, it was answered from heaven, Ills est perfectio, quae lunam, solem et canis iram Deo tribult, id est COR that is, perfection consisteth in giving the whole heart to God.

For when thy judgments are in the earth, &c.] God’s judgments are the best schoolmasters. Queen Elizabeth learned much from Mr Ascham, but more from her affliction. Our Saviour himself learned something by the things which he suffered, εξ ων επαθεν εμαθεν. [Hebrews 5:8] So do all his members; [Ezekiel 20:37] the worst are forced to say with Phlegyas -

Discite iustitiam moniti, et non temnere numen.

- Virg. Aeneid., lib. vi.

It was a true saying, in the general, of the proconsul to Cyprian at his martyrdom, though ill applied to him in particular, In sanguine tuo caeteri discent disciplinam, By thy punishment others shall learn wisdom. As when one scholar is whipped, the rest are warned. And as a thunderbolt falleth with the danger of few, but with the fear of all, so is it here.


Verse 10

Isaiah 26:10 Let favour be shewed to the wicked, [yet] will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.

Ver. 10. Let favour be shewed to the wicked, &c.] No fair means will work upon him, whatever foul may do. But as an evil stomach turneth good meat into bad humours, so here all is lost that is laid out upon them.

Ungentem pungit, pungentem rusticus ungit.

In the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly.] In the Church, where righteousness reigneth. Or, In a land of evenness he will wry and stray. Ye all know, saith holy Bradford in a certain letter of his, there was never more knowledge of God (viz, in good King Edward VI’s days), and less godly living and true serving of God. It was counted a folly to serve God sincerely; and earnest prayer was not passed upon. Preaching was but pastime: communion was counted too common, &c. (a)

And will not behold the majesty of the Lord.] Or, And he shall not see the majesty of the Lord - sc., in his heavenly kingdom. [Hebrews 12:14]


Verse 11

Isaiah 26:11 LORD, [when] thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: [but] they shall see, and be ashamed for [their] envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.

Ver. 11. Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, thou will not see,] i.e., Observe, consider, and take warning: let God’s hand be never so high and glorious, so lifted up and exalted, yet these buzzards will not behold his majesty, {as Isaiah 26:10} as being more blind than moles, more deaf than sea monsters they refuse to regard aught.

But they shall see and be confounded.] But yet, maugre their head, as one well paraphraseth the words, they shall be driven both to see and to acknowledge to their shame the great and mighty hand of God, his zeal for his people, and the fire of his wrath to consume his foes. See Zechariah 1:15; Zechariah 1:19. Experientur suo magno malo; they shall to their cost feel the weight of God’s hand, which, the higher it is lifted, the heavier it will light at length. Mrs. Hutchinson, that Jezebel of New England, as she had vented about thirty misshapen opinions there, so she brought forth about thirty deformed monsters. She and her family were after this - because they would not be reclaimed, but turned off admonition, saying, This is for you, ye legalists, that your eyes might be further blinded by God’s hand upon us in your legal ways, &c. - slain, some say burnt, by the Indians, who never used to exercise such an outrage upon any. (a)


Verse 12

Isaiah 26:12 LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.

Ver. 12. Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us.] Or, Lord, dispose peace for us.

For thou also hast wrought all our works in us.] Or, For us. Certum est nos facere quod facimus, sed Deus facit ut faciamus: without Christ we can do nothing. [John 15:5] In him alone is our fruit found. [Hosea 14:8] It is well observed by a grave interpreter, that the Church in the Canticles is nowhere described by the beauty of her hands or fingers, because God alone worketh all her works for her, and had rather that she should abound in good works in silence than to boast of them at all.


Verse 13

Isaiah 26:13 O LORD our God, [other] lords beside thee have had dominion over us: [but] by thee only will we make mention of thy name.

Ver. 13. O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us.] Or, Have mastered us. Oh that men were so sensible of their spiritual servitude as thus to complain thereof to Jesus Christ! But, alas! they do nothing less for the most part, delighting on the devil’s drudgery, which they count the only liberty, and dancing, as it were, to hell in their bolts.

Will we make mention of thy name.] For which end we would not be "the servants of men," much less the slaves of Satan, that basest of slaves, but the "freemen of Christ." [1 Corinthians 7:22] "Where the spirit is, there is liberty"; [2 Corinthians 3:17] and "if the Son set us free, we shall be free indeed." [John 8:36]


Verse 14

Isaiah 26:14 [They are] dead, they shall not live; [they are] deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.

Ver. 14. They are dead.] Those "other lords" of ours are. [Isaiah 26:13] But seldom lieth the devil dead in a dike, saith our proverb: yet he and his agents have their deadly wound, and shall be trodden under our feet shortly. [Romans 16:20] Oh groan in spirit after that sweet day of full redemption, &c.

Therefore thou hast visited.] Or, Because thou hast visited. Woe be to a person or people when God taketh them to do.


Verse 15

Isaiah 26:15 Thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, thou hast increased the nation: thou art glorified: thou hadst removed [it] far [unto] all the ends of the earth.

Ver. 15. Thou hast increased the nation,.] That righteous nation which keepeth the truth. [Isaiah 26:2] Some render and sense the words thus: "Thou hast indeed increased the nation," sc., of the Jews; thou hadst done it (oh sweet mercy, I am the better to speak of it, and therefore I speak it twice), but thou wast "heavy laden," sc., with their sins: therefore thou hast removed it far unto all the ends of the earth. Who knoweth not what a dispersed and despised people the Jews are in all places, banished as it were out of the world by a common consent of nations. "Be not therefore high minded, but fear." [Romans 11:20]


Verse 16

Isaiah 26:16 LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer [when] thy chastening [was] upon them.

Ver. 16. Lord, in trouble have they visited thee.] Pulcherrimus afflictationum fructus, precandi ardor et assiduitas. Affliction exciteth devotion, as blowing doth the fire. Christ in his agony prayed most earnestly. [Luke 22:44] Martha and Mary, when their brother Lazarus was sick, sent messengers to Jesus; [John 11:3] Quos putas nisi suspiria continuata, nisi preces irremissas, saith Scultetus - i.e., what were those messengers but their continued groans and earnest prayers? See Hosea 5:15. {See Trapp on "Hosea 5:15"} Prayer is the daughter of affliction, and the mother of comfort.

They poured out.] Freely and largely, and well watered. {as 1 Samuel 1:10; 1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 7:9-10} Not dropped, but poured; not prayers, but a prayer; one continual act: and as in the speaking of three or four words there is much efficacy in a charm, so their prayers were very prevalent.

A prayer.] Heb., A charm, a mussitation, a submiss and lowly speech. Spells and enchantments were conceived to be full of efficacy, containing much in few: think the same of prayer. But how much was he mistaken in this kind of charm or spell who would haunt the taverns, play houses, and whore houses at London all day: but he dared not go forth without private prayer in the morning, and then would say at his departure, Now, devil, do thy worst.


Verse 17

Isaiah 26:17 Like as a woman with child, [that] draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, [and] crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O LORD.

Ver. 17. So have we been in thy sight.] Heb, From thy face - i.e., by reason of thy wrath. So 2 Thessalonians 1:9, "Who shall be punished from the presence of God," that is, of God himself present to their terror.


Verse 18

Isaiah 26:18 We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.

Ver. 18. We have been with child.] With various devices and hopes, which yet have miscarried and run aslope. See Job 15:35. {See Trapp on "Job 15:35"}

We have as it were brought forth wind.] As did Queen Mary, to her own great grief and the disappointment of her expectauts, - Dale, the promoter, for instance. Well, quoth he, at the apprehending of Julian living, you hope and hope, but your hope shall be aslope; for although the queen’s conceptions should still fail, as they did, yet she that you hope for shall never come at it: for there is my lord cardinal’s grace and many more between her and it. (a) But my lord cardinal’s grace departed the very next day after Queen Mary, having taken, as it is thought, some Italian medicine, and Queen Elizabeth succeeded in the throne, to the great joy of all good men. (b)


Verse 19

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.

Ver. 19. Thy dead men shall rise.] So shall not thine enemies. [Isaiah 26:14] This may seem to be Christ’s gracious answer to his poor desponding people; and it is, say some, argumentum a beata resurrectione sumptum, an argument taken from the happy resurrection of the righteous; the wicked also shall be raised at the last day, but not by the like means, nor for the like blessed purpose. [Daniel 12:2] Some read the words thus: "Thy dead, my dead body shall live"; for the faithful, say they, are Christ’s body; [Ephesians 4:12] and therefore, to shew this, "my dead body" is here added by apposition, to show how the faithful, being dead and buried, are to be accounted of, even Christ’s dead body, &c., and shall be raised at the last day by virtue of that mystical ration which still they hold with Christ. Hence they are said to "sleep in Jesus," to be "dead in Christ," who shall "change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." [Philippians 3:21] The Hebrews call a dead corpse Nephesh, i.e., a soul, [Numbers 5:2; Numbers 9:10; Numbers 19:11 Haggai 2:14] to note that it shall live again, and that the soul shall return to it. At this day also they call the churchyard Bethcaiim, the "house of the living"; and as they return from the burial place, every one plucks off grass from off the ground twice or thrice, and casts it over his head, saying, florebunt de civitate tanquam faenum terrae, &c. [Psalms 92:12-13] so to set forth their hopes of a resurrection, (a) Neither need it seem "incredible" with any "that God should raise the dead" [Acts 26:8] considering what followeth: (1.) "Together with my dead body shall they arise," i.e., with Christ’s body raised as the "first fruits of them that sleep." [1 Corinthians 15:20] One of the Rabbis readeth it, As my dead body, they shall arise. (2.) The force of Christ’s all-powerful voice, saying, "Awake and sing ye that dwell in dust": arise and come away, lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand. The resurrection is in the Syriac called the "consolation." [John 11:24] (3.) "Thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead," i.e., Qua facilitate herbulas reficit Deus, eadem mortuos animare potest. God can as easily raise the dead as refresh the herbs of the earth with a reviving dew, when they were even scorched to death with the heat of the sun. See we not a yearly resurrection of grass, grain, flowers, fruits, every spring tide. And surely if nature can produce out of a small seed a great tree, or a butterfly out of a worm, or the beautiful feathered peacock out of a misshapen egg, cannot the Almighty raise our bodies out of dust, who first out of dust made them? Or can the condition of any people or person be so desperate that he is not able to help them out. The assurance of God’s power, which shall show itself in the raising of the dead, is a most excellent argument to confirm us in the certainty of God’s promises, seem they never so incredible to flesh and blood. Atque haec de Cantico.


Verse 20

Isaiah 26:20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.

Ver. 20. Come, my people.] Thus God lovingly bespeaketh his, as leading them by the hand to a hiding place of his providing. So he shut up Noah in the ark, secured Lot in Zoar, hid Jeremiah and Baruch when sought for to the slaughter, bade Daniel to go away and rest before those great troubles foretold. [Daniel 12:13] Augustine and Paraeus died a little before Hippo and Heidelberg were taken, so did Luther before the bloody wars of Germany. For Mr Brightman a pursuivant was sent a day or two after he was buried. (a) The burying place is not unfitly called κοιμητηριον, a resting room to the saints; the grave a "bed"; [Isaiah 57:2] the bier that carrieth men to it, Matteh, i.e., a pallet. [2 Samuel 3:31] Lyra and others by "chambers" here understand the graves, {compare Revelation 6:11 John 16:33} those chambers of rest, and beds of down, to the bodies of the saints until the last day. There are those who by "chambers" will have meant the closets of God’s providence and protection, such as Pella was to the primitive Christians. Hitherto the saints are exhorted to retire till the storm be over, the enemy gone, the destroying angel passed over, {as Exodus 12:12} possessing their souls in patience.

As it were for a little moment.] Heb., A little of a moment. Nubecula est, cito transibit, as Athanasius said when persecuted by Julian, This storm will soon blow over, this indignation doth not transire, but pertransire, pass, but pass apace. (b)


Verse 21

Isaiah 26:21 For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.

Ver. 21. For, behold.] This is as a crier to prepare attention.

The Lord cometh out of his place.] Here God compareth himself to a prince upon his throne, who goeth from his place of state into countries to quiet mutinies and rebellions among his people.

The earth also shall disclose her blood.] Murder shall out; oppression, whether by force or fraud, shall be certainly and severely punished. See Job 16:8. See an instance hereof in leviathan, Isaiah 27:1. Whether you understand it of the devil, that old man slayer, as many ancients do, or else the kings of the nations, and especially of the Turks, as some Rabbis.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 26:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-26.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, November 16th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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