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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 35

 

 

Verses 1-10

4. OBVERSE OF THE JUDGMENT: ISRAEL’S REDEMPTION AND RETURN HOME

Isaiah 35:1-10

1 [FN1]The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them;

And the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

2 [FN2]It shall blossom abundantly,

And rejoice even with joy and singing:

The glory of Lebanon [FN3]shall be given unto it,

The excellency of Carmel and Sharon,

They shall see the glory of the Lord,

And the excellency of our God.

3 Strengthen ye the weak hands,

And confirm the feeble knees.

4 Say to them that are of a [FN4] [FN5] fearful heart,

Be strong, fear not:

Behold, your God [FN6]will come with vengeance,

Even God with a recompense;

He will come and save you.

5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart,

And the tongue of the dumb sing:

For in the wilderness shall waters break out,

And streams in the desert.

7 And the [FN7]parched ground shall become a pool,

And the thirsty land springs of water:

[FN8]In the habitation of dragons, where each lay,

Shall be [FN9]grass with reeds and rushes.

8 And an highway shall be there, and a way,

And it shall be called The way of holiness;

The unclean shall not pass over it; [FN10]but it shall be for those:

The wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

9 No lion shall be there,

Nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon,

It shall not be found there;

But [FN11]the redeemed shall walk there:

10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,

And come to Zion with songs

And everlasting joy upon their heads:

They shall obtain joy and gladness,

And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

[The Author, like the LXX, translates the futures of this verse, (and also of Isaiah 35:2) as imperatives. But, as J. A. Alex. says, “there is no sufficient reason for departing from the strict sense of the future.”—Tr.]. The abnormal form יְשֻׂשׂוּם must not be regarded as an error in copying, as has been done by Lowth, Eichhorn, Hitzig, Umbreit, Olsh. (Gram.). Nor can the ending וּם be treated as a suffix, as is done by Gesenius, Rosenm, Maurer, Drechsler, who regard it as put for בָּם with reference to “the felicitous revolution of all things that is announced in the present chapter.” Such a reference would be harsh, and a departure from the analogy of the construction of verbs of rejoicing. It is better (with Aben Ezra, Kimchi. Ewald, (§ 91, b), Knobel, Delitzsch) to explain the form as an assimilation of the ן in יְשֻׂשׂוּן to the following מ: as in Numbers 3:49 פִּדְיוֹם מֵאֵת stands for כּדיון מ׳ and as, according to Wetstein (excursus in Delitzsch, p688), at the present day even in Arabic n becomes m before a labial. In Greek also τὴμ ημτέρα occurs for τὴν μητέρα. On the recurrence of ערבה,צִיָּה,שׂוּשׂ in Isaiah, see list.

Isaiah 35:2. גִילָה see list. The inf. רַנֵּן again only Psalm 132:16.—כבוד י׳ and הדר see list.

Isaiah 35:3. The words are manifestly borrowed from Job 4:3-4. By a comparison of the Hebrew original it is seen that the first clause quite agrees with the words of Job; but the second combines elements of the two following clauses in Job, and כשׁלות is substituted for כרעות. But the two expressions חזק יד׳ רכּ׳ and כשׁלות (or כרעות) אמץ ברכים occur only in these two places.

Isaiah 35:4. Drechsler, Delitzsch, as some Rabbins before them, take נָקָם as acc. modalis (Drechsler: “Rächens kommt er,” i.e., as much to do vengeance, as also in vengeance, in exhibition of vengeance). But no example can be cited of designating the object of coming by the accusative, or of the use of נקם adverbially as denoting the manner of appearance, like the use of נוֹרָאוֹת,הֶבֶל שֶׁקֶר,בֶּטַח, etc. The parallel passages that re cited ( Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 40:10) prove only that אלהיכם can be joined to יבוא as its predicate, something that is not doubted. The accents indeed favor this connection here, but they are not binding. In an entirely similar sentence as to structure ( Jeremiah 23:19; 30:33) they make such a distribution as I think is also the correct one here. With most expositors, therefore, I take הנה אלהיכם as first clause, which incontestibly is grammatically possible (comp. e.g. Isaiah 17:14; Genesis 12:19), and נקם יבוא as the second. Thus by הנח, as it were with the index finger, the Prophet points to God as He draws near, and then with the following words explains His coming. Vengeance, says he (comp. on Isaiah 34:8), comes, divine recompense. גמול א׳ is in apposition with . אלהים ּנקם denotes not merely the author, but also the manner of the recompense; it is such as God only can visit, viz., as just in principle as it is complete in execution. The expression therefore recalls חִתַּת א׳ “the terror of God,” Genesis 35:5; אַרְזֵי אֵל Psalm 80:11; עֲצֵי י׳ Psalm 104:16, etc.—הוא יבוא ו׳ emphasizes the coming of the Lord for a positive object.—The form וְישַׁ‍ֽעֲכֶם stands for וְישִׁיעֲכֶם as Proverbs 20:22 וְישַׁע for וְישִׁיעַ. The abbreviated (Jussive) form denotes that the clause is to be construed as marking intention: “that he may save you.”

Isaiah 35:5. חֵרֵשׁ, see list.

Isaiah 35:6. דִּלֵג “to spring” ( Psalm 18:30) and איל only here in Isaiah. כּסח comp. Isaiah 33:23.—אִלֵּם, see list.

Isaiah 35:7. אֲגַם and מבוע ( Ecclesiastes 12:6), see list.—צמאון again only Deuteronomy 8:15; Psalm 107:33.—Both as to sense and grammar it gives a harsh construction to take רבצה in apposition with נוה, and to refer the suffix to תנים. What need is there of saying that the נוה of the jackal is also its רבץ? Nor would I, with Drechsler refer the suffix in רבצה to מים: for רבץ is a place of repose (comp. Isaiah 65:10; Jeremiah 1:6; Proverbs 24:15). רבצה is manifestly to be referred to Israel. It is true that in what precedes there is no word to which the suffix ַָהּ may be grammatically referred. But we know the great liberty of the Hebrew, in which verbal and nominal endings, as also suffixes are referred to ideal notions or such as are implied in the context (comp. on Isaiah 33:4). It is in this case to be referred to some feminine notion of the author’s mind, such as Zion or daughter of Zion. The following words, too, חציר י׳ are an echo of Isaiah 34:13 b (חציר לבנות י׳). Hence the latter passage seems to me to indicate what must be the explanation of the present, and that we must here also take חציר in the sense of חָצֵר. This interchange, indeed, does not occur in any other than the passages named. But grammatically it is not impossible (comp. כָּלִיט and יָגִיעַ כָּלֵט and עָתִיק,יָגִעַ and עָתֵק, Ewald, § 149, e) and the sense demands it in Isaiah 34:13. For the ostrich does not eat grass. Hence I construe חציר in this place as חַצֵר and in apposition with נְוֵה ת׳.

Isaiah 35:8. The וְ before הוא might be taken in a causal sense (Ewald, § 333, a). But it seems to me more suitable to regard the clause והוא למו as the negative correlative of לא יעברנו טמא, and to translate וְ accordingly by “but” (Ewald, § 354, a, p843). Note here, too, what freedom the Prophet takes with the gender of the words. The fem. לָהּ after יקרא is immediately followed by the masculines ייזַברנו and הוא—דרך, is most commonly masculine (fem. only Deuteronomy 1:22; Psalm 1:6; Psalm 119:33; Ezra 8:2). But it is incredible that this interchange of gender is conditioned by the double gender of דרך, for that would not justify such interchange in one and the same passage. But לָהּ relates מסלול,i.e., to the notion מְסִלָּה which is here in an exceptional way represented by the other word.—הלך is part, absolutum, and prepositive conditional clause. In respect to the sense comp. Isaiah 42:16.—אויל again only Isaiah 19:11.

Isaiah 35:9. כּריץ only here in Isaiah.—The 3 pers. fem. in תמצא is to be referred היות, for this 3 pers. fem. involves an ideal plural (comp. on Isaiah 34:13)—גאולים again only Isaiah 51:10; Isaiah 62:12; Psalm 107:2; [but also, see list].

Isaiah 35:10. אנחה,יגון,נשׂג כּדוי, see list. שׂשׂון ושׂמחה comp. Isaiah 22:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 51:11; Isaiah 61:3.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. As in all sections of Isaiah’s prophecies, so here the perspective closes with a glorious future (comp11,12; Isaiah 23:15-18; Isaiah 27; Isaiah 33:13-24). As exile is the sum of all terrors for the Israelite, so exile’s end, return to Zion to everlasting, blessed residence there is the acme and sum of all felicity. Thus here the prospect of joyful return home is presented to Israel in contrast with the frightful judgments that (34) are to come upon the heathen, and at the same time as a transition and prelude to chapters40–66.

The desert through which the way lies shall flourish like Carmel and Sharon ( Isaiah 35:1-2). There all the weary and languishing shall receive new strength ( Isaiah 35:3). The fearful and timid shall gain fresh courage at the prospect of the vengeance and deliverance from their God ( Isaiah 35:4). The blind shall see; the deaf hear ( Isaiah 35:5), the lame walk, the dumb speak; springs shall well up in the desert ( Isaiah 35:6); the mirage shall become reality, the lair of the jackal will become a place of grass and water fitted for an encampment ( Isaiah 35:7). A highway will appear that shall be a holy way. For as, on the one hand, nothing unclean shall go on it, Song of Solomon, on the other, the simple ones of Israel will not lose their way on it ( Isaiah 35:8). No ravenous beast shall render it insecure. Only the redeemed of the Lord shall travel it ( Isaiah 35:9). They shall return on it to Zion with joy. Then shall everlasting joy go in there, and sorrow and sighing flee away ( Isaiah 35:10).

2. The wilderness—of our God.

Isaiah 35:1-2. These verses, as it were, prepare the theatre in general for the return of Israel. This return is to be through the desert. There is not a word to intimate that the Prophet has a definite desert in view. The march of Israel through the Arabian desert when returning from the Egyptian captivity, is as much the type for all home returns of Israel, as that first captivity is the type for all that follow. For so says Isaiah 11:16 : “And there shall be an highway for the remnant of her people, which shall be left from Assyria, like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt.” The Nile and Euphrates shall be made passable by dividing their beds into seven small streams ( Isaiah 11:15), and the desert, (according to Jeremiah 31:21), by setting up signs and way marks, and preparing the road. Especially in Isaiah 43:19 sq.; Isaiah 48:21 it is promised that those returning home shall enjoy abundance of water in the desert. Thus then our passage sees in the wilderness the chief territory for the march of the home-returning Israelites. The desert shall conform to the blessed people that wander through it. It will change its nature. Hitherto a place of curse, abode of demons ( Isaiah 34:14), it will become a place of blessing, a paradise. The principle of a higher, spiritual, eternal life, the principle of glorification will become operative in it. This idea of the glorification of nature is peculiar to Isaiah (see Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 11:7 sqq.). חכצלת translated “rose,” occurs only here and Song of Solomon 2:1. It is variously translated rose, lily, narcissus, crocus. That it denotes some sort of bulbous plant appears from בֶּצֶל ( Numbers 11:5) which means “onion.” ח is often used to form quadraliterals, comp. חֲנָמָל,חִדֶּקֶל, Gesen,Thes., p436. Some suppose that the meadow-saffron, colchicum autumnale is meant, because the Syriac translates the word chamzaloito (see Gesen,Comm. in loc.). But it seems impossible that such a poisonous weed could be meant here and Song of Solomon 2:1. If a bulbous plant is meant, it may (distinguished from שׁוֹשַׁנָּה, the lilium candidum, the λείριον of the Greeks), be the lilium bulbiferum, the fire lily (comp. Plin.Hist. nat. XXI5, 11, est et rubens lilium, quod Graeciκρίνονvocant). In fact the LXX, translate it here by κρίνον. But it might even be the narcissus, “the miraculous flower, at the sight of which gods and men wonder, that raises itself out of the earth with a hundred heads, whose fragrance rejoices heaven, sea and earth” (Viktor Hehn,Kulturpflanzen, u. Hausthiere, Berlin, 1870, p164). Arnold (Herz,R- Encycl., XI. p25) holds this view. [The translation “rose” is true to the poetry if not to the botany.—Barnes, J. A. Alexander]. But however this may be, the meaning Isaiah, that the entire steppe, covered with the bloom of this flower, shall appear like one single individual flower of the sort. Lebanon, (see list) Sharon (ibid.) and Carmel appear united, Isaiah 33:9, as types of the most glorious vegetation הֵמָּה must be referred to the gloriously adorned meadows. For just because they are honored with beholding the glory of God, they must themselves appear in adornment to suit.

3. Strengthen—the desert.

Isaiah 35:3-6. The Prophet Isaiah 35:3 addresses his own word of encouragement to the returning ones, and then Isaiah 35:4 prescribes to them the words with which they are to reassure any that are dismayed (see on Isaiah 32:4 where the word is used for hurry in judging), to whom the undertaking may seem too bold and daring. The words “be strong, fear not” are evidently borrowed from Deuteronomy 31:6 (comp. 2 Chronicles 32:7). How can Israel fear since the Lord their God hastens to them to visit vengeance on the enemy and to redeem His people!

What is said Isaiah 35:5-6 of opening eyes, ears and tongues, and of the free use of members before crippled, we will need to understand as much in a spiritual as in a corporeal sense. For the “hasty of heart,” Isaiah 35:4, proves that also spirit and spiritual defects on the part of the returning Israelites are still to be removed. And כּקח is the specific technical term for opening the eyes generally (only once of the ears Isaiah 42:20) and for opening the spiritual eyes in particular ( Isaiah 37:17; Isaiah 42:7). [“As Henderson justly says, there is no proof whatever that Christ refers John the Baptist to this prophecy ( Matthew 11:5; Luke 7:22): He employs none of the formulas which He uniformly uses when directing attention to the Old Testament (e.g., in Matthew 9:16; Matthew 11:10; Matthew 12:17; Matthew 13:14), but simply appeals to His miracles in proof of His Messiahship: the language is similar, but the subjects differ. To the question, whether this prediction is in no sense applicable to our Saviour’s miracles, we may reply with Calvin, that though they are not directly mentioned, they were really an emblem and example of the great change which is here described. Song of Solomon, too, the spiritual cures effected by the gospel, although not specifically signified by these words, are included in the glorious revolution which they do describe.—J. A. Alexander].

The clause Isaiah 35:6 b. gives a reason, not specially for the healing of the dumb, lame, etc., but in general for the exhortation to be of good cheer that is given to those returning, and to rejoice that is given to the desert itself from Isaiah 35:1 onwards. Abundance of water shall be given in the desert. This explains why the desert is to flourish and rejoice, and those that journey through it should be of good cheer. נכקע “to break out” (comp. at Isaiah 48:21) stands in the well-known metonymic sense as elsewhere (see list). But this verse forms at the same time the transition to what follows, viz.: the more particular description of the road, by which the redeemed shall return.

4. And the parched—flee away.

[שׁרנ it is now agreed denotes the illusive appearance often witnessed both at sea and land, called in English looming, in Italian fata morgana, and in French mirage. In the deserts of Arabia and Africa, the appearance presented is precisely that of an extended sheet of water, tending not only to mislead the traveller, but to aggravate his thirst by disappointment. “More deceitful than mirage” (or serab) is an Arabian proverb. The word (which occurs again in the Old Testament only Isaiah 49:10) adds a beautiful stroke to the description, not only by its local propriety, but by its strict agreement with the context. Comp. J. A. Alex, and Barnes,in loc.Herz,R-Encycl. XXI, p607. Curtius, Isaiah 7:5; Isaiah 7:3-4.—Tr.].

This torture shall not be experienced by the returning Israelites. Instead of the mocking atmospheric illusion there shall be an actual lake, and the dry region shall become a region of bubbling (מבוע) springs. Where before was only the lair of jackals, there Israel will bivouac as in a place where now is a green spot hedged in for cane and reed. The Prophet has in mind his own description Isaiah 34:13 b.

On רבצה and חציר see Text and Gram. By the construction defended there we see that the Prophet explains why a former lair of jackals has now become fit for a resting place. It has become a fence enclosure for reed and cane. Once dry, it is now moist; so much so that plants requiring great moisture grow there. Wherever the moisture extends these plants grow. Their station, therefore, being sharply defined, may be called really a septum, a hedge. But this is a natural fence, not artificial; depending on organic life, not on stone walls. It is well remarked by Gesenius (Thes. p512) that the meanings of חציר and חֵצָר hang together. For the nomadic חצר extends exactly as far as there is חציר. So also the Greek χόρτος (by which the LXX. generally translate חציר) is at once fodder, grass and fence, court (comp. hortus and chors, cors, cohors). We may then in the text take חציר as having the additional notion of the natural hedge, the district of vegetation. קנה “cane” see Isaiah 19:6. גמא, properly the papyrus reed (see on Isaiah 18:2) stands here for rushes generally ( Job 8:11). Isaiah 35:8. The Lord’s care extends further: He will make in the desert an embanked highway, a causeway; an impossible construction for men! (= מסלה מסלולsee list) is ἅπ. λεγ. The expression “a highway and a way” is plainly a hendiadys. This way shall be holy. The Lord built it and destined it to lead to His house. It is a pilgrim way. Hence nothing unclean, neither unclean person nor thing, may come up on it; it belongs only to them, i. e., the Israelites, which notion here, as well as in רבצה (see Text and Gram.), must be regarded as ideally present. Another advantage of this via sacra is that even the simple-minded (“Thumbe”), cannot go astray on it. For whoever goes on it is a sanctified one, under God’s protection and care. הלך דרך is in contrast with לא יעברנו טמא: an unclean person will not cross the way, but as regards him who goes, i.e., who has once entered on the way,—even fools will not go astray. All that can make unclean or occasion danger will remain at a distance from the holy way. (Comp. comm. on Isaiah 43:20), Instead of that, redeemed, and only they shall journey on it. Hence the way will be a, or rather the way of salvation. Isaiah 35:10, which is identical with Isaiah 51:11, defines the goal of the travellers and the success of their journey.

The ransomed of the Lord will return home. The idea שׁוּב in all its modifications plays a great part in Isaiah and Jeremiah. Comp. on Isaiah 7:3; Isaiah 10:20-22; Jeremiah 3:1; Jeremiah 31:22. Joy and peace as the promised blessings ( Deuteronomy 28:2; Deuteronomy 28:15) the redeemed shall receive, but sorrow and sighing shall flee. [On their headsmay be an expression denoting that joy is manifest in the face and aspect. Gesenius, Barnes.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Be glad desert—rejoice steppe, etc.

FN#2 - Bloom, bloom let it.

FN#3 - is given.

FN#4 - Hob. tasty.

FN#5 - disconcerted

FN#6 - vengeance comes, recompense of God! He conies that He may save you,

FN#7 - mirage.

FN#8 - In the habitation of jackals is their encampment, an enclosure for reeds and rushes.

FN#9 - Or, a court for reeds, etc.

FN#10 - Or, for he shall be with them.

FN#11 - redeemed ones.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 34:1-4. Because Revelation 6:12-17 has express reference to this passage, some would conclude that the Prophet here has in view only that special event of the world’s judgment (the opening of the sixth seal). But that is not justified. For other passages of the New Testament that do not specially relate to the opening of the sixth seal are based on this passage ( Matthew 24:29; 2 Peter 3:7 sqq.; Revelation 14:11; Revelation 19:11 sqq.). It appears from this that the present passage Isaiah, as it were, a magazine from which New Testament prophecy has drawn its material for more than one event of fulfilment.

2. On Isaiah 34:16. The word of God can bear the closest scrutiny. Indeed it desires and demands it. If men would only examine the Scriptures diligently and with an unclouded mind and love of truth, “whether these things are Song of Solomon,” as did the Bereans ( Acts 17:11; John 5:39)!

3. On Isaiah 35:3. “The Christian church is the true Lazaretto in which may be found a crowd of weary, sick, lame and wretched people. Therefore, Christ is the Physician Himself ( Matthew 9:12) who binds up and heals those suffering from neglect ( Ezekiel 34:16; Isaiah 61:1). And His word cures all ( Wisdom of Solomon 16:12). His servants, too, are commissioned officially to admonish the rude, to comfort the timid, to bear the weak, and be patient with all ( 1 Thessalonians 5:14). Therefore, whoever feels weak, let him betake himself to this Bethania; there he will find counsel for his soul,” Cramer.

4. [On Isaiah 35:8-9. “They who enter the path that leads to life, find there no cause of alarm. Their fears subside; their apprehensions of punishment on account of their sins die away, and they walk that path with security and confidence. There is nothing in that way to alarm them; and though there are many foes—fitly represented by lions and wild beasts—lying about the way, yet no one is permitted to ‘go up thereon.’ This is a most beautiful image of the safety of the people of God, and of their freedom from all enemies that could annoy them.” “The path here referred to is appropriately designed only for the redeemed of the Lord. It is not for the profane, the polluted, the hypocrite. It is not for those who live for this world, or for those who love pleasure more than they love God. The church should not be entered except by those, who have evidence that they are redeemed. None should make a profession of religion who have no evidence that they belong to “the redeemed,” and who are not disposed to walk in the way of holiness. But for all such it is a highway on which they are to travel. It is made by leveling hills and elevating valleys; across the sandy desert and through the wilderness of this world, infested with the enemies of God and His people. It is made straight and plain, so that none need err; it is defended from enemies, so that all may be safe; because ‘ Hebrews,’ their Leader and Redeemer, shall go with them and guard that way.” Barnes in loc.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 35:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-35.html. 1857-84.

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Monday, October 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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