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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 54

 

 

Verses 1-17

VI.—THE SIXTH DISCOURSE

The New Salvation

Isaiah 54

The fifty-third chapter retained its ground color, black, to the end. For the Prophet purposely once again accumulated the dark images of suffering in the twelfth verse, although from Isaiah 54:8 on he had let the light of the Easter morning dawn. It is as if he designed to paint the edge of his mourning ribbon dark black, so that it might appear in sharp relief. Spite of this, chap 54 has a close inward connection with what precedes. For was it not said already Isaiah 53:10, that the Servant will have seed, and in Isaiah 54:12 that a great crowd shall be given Him as spoil? Have we not read Isaiah 52:10, that the arm of the Lord shall be revealed before all nations, and that all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God? Is it not represented in Isaiah 49:12 sqq, that Zion, though a forsaken wife, shall have countless children? And is it not intimated Isaiah 49:6 that this unaccountable increase of the children of Zion will be because the Servant of God is made the light of the Gentiles? This thought now forms the chief contents of chap54 viz.: that Zion, apparently forsaken and repudiated, shall be made happy by a wonderful blessing of children, and that by reason of the righteousness of the Servant being imparted to men far beyond the limits of the natural Israel.

The chapter has two parts: 1) The rich blessing of children a fruit of the eternal grace of Jehovah ( Isaiah 54:1-10); 2) Israel’s state of salvation is one extending on all sides ( Isaiah 54:11-17).

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1. ZION’S RICH BLESSING OF CHILDREN A FRUIT OF THE ETERNAL GRACE OF JEHOVAH

Isaiah 54:1-10

1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear;

Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child:

For more are the children of the desolate

Than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.

2 Enlarge the place of thy tent,

And let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations:

[FN1]Spare not, lengthen thy cords,

And strengthen thy stakes;

3 For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left;

And thy seed shall [FN2]inherit the Gentiles,

And make the desolate cities to be inhabited.

4 Fear not: for thou shalt not be ashamed:

Neither be thou [FN3]confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame:

For thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth,

And shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.

5 For thy Maker is thine husband;

The Lord of hosts is his name;

And thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel;

The God of the whole earth shall he be called.

6 For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,

And a wife of youth, when [FN4]thou wast refused, saith thy God,

7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee;

But with great mercies will I gather thee.

8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment;

But with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee,

Saith the Lord thy Redeemer.

9 For this is as the waters of Noah unto me;

For as I have sworn

That the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth;

So have I sworn

That I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.

10 For the mountains shall depart,

And the hills be removed;

But my kindness shall not depart from thee,

Neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed,

Saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 54:1. שֹׁמֵמָה under שָׁמֵם. Isaiah 54:4. אל־תיראי—כָלַם in Niph. Isaiah 54:5. עֹשֶׂה. Isaiah 54:8. נּאֲלֵךְ,שֶׁצֶף—קֶצֶף. Isaiah 54:10. מְרַ‍ֽחֲמֵךְ.

Isaiah 54:3. הוֹשִׁיב causative from the neuter יָשַׁב “to be inhabited,” Isaiah 13:20; Jeremiah 17:6; Jeremiah 17:25; Jeremiah 30:18.

Isaiah 54:5. עשׂיך (see Exeget. and Crit.) is subject, יהוה is in apposition with it, and בעליך is predicate. The plural בֹּעֲלַיךְ is to be explained by בֹּעֵל being used here for בַּעַל, and being inflected and construed accordingly (see Green, § 202, 2). But why not simply בְּעָלַיִךְ? I think for this reason: because after the overthrow of the Old Testament Theocracy a Revelation -marriage, as it were, was necessary, a Revelation -founding of the former relations. The plural, as remarked, draws the plural עשַֹׁיִךְ after it.

Isaiah 54:6. קְרָאָךְ is a rare form for קְרָאֵךְ (comp. Isaiah 60:9).—אשת נעורים is still dependent on בְּ before אשׁה עזוכה.—The imperf. תִמָּאֵם is used because, not a definite, solitary fact, but something that often happens is to be thought of.

Isaiah 54:8. שֶׁצֶף קֶצֻף is a genuine Isaianic play on words (comp. Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 1:23; Isaiah 5:7; Isaiah 7:9; Isaiah 8:10; Isaiah 22:5; Isaiah 24:3-4; Isaiah 24:16 sqq.; Isaiah 25:6; Isaiah 27:7; Isaiah 28:7; Isaiah 28:10 sqq.; Isaiah 29:2; Isaiah 32:7; Isaiah 32:19, etc..).

Isaiah 54:9. The LXX translates ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος τοῦ ἐπὶ Νῶε. It seems therefore to have read מִמֵּי. But the whole translation of the verse is so confused that one sees the translator knew not what to do with the text. Symm, Theod, Vulg, Targ, Jonah, Syr, Saad. read כִּימֵי. Also Matthew 24:37 (comp. Luke 17:26) seems to favor the reading כימי with its ὥσπερ αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ Νῶε, though the passage is not properly a quotation of our text. Yet most CODD by far read כי־מי, In Stier and Theile’s Polyglott, the reading כימי is not quoted at all. Moreover the following מי־נח, as also the relation to the foregoing שׁצף קצף favors the reading כי־מי.—אֲשֶׁר cannot be construed pronominally, for the contorted construction that ensues, and the following כֵּן forbid it. We therefore take it as an adverb = כַּ‍ֽאֲשֶׁר ( Jeremiah 33:22; Ewald, § 360, a).—נשבעתי מ‍ֵֽעֲבֹר is construed as אֲצַוֶּה מֵהַמְטִיר Isaiah 54:6.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Sing, O barren——be inhabited.

Isaiah 54:1-3. Of course the Prophet addresses Jerusalem or Zion, yet not as a local congregation, but as representative of the whole nation. And it is true also, that He has in mind the Israel of the Exile, yet not of the Exile in its temporal limitation, but in the prophetic sense, that is so far as this comprehends in one view the Israel of the Exile with the subsequent time to the downfall of the outward Theocracy. For the Israel to which he speaks here is the שֹׁמֵמָה “desolate,” that is no more בְּעוּלָח “married,” but is forsaken and repudiated by her husband (comp. Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 49:21). The old, outward Theocracy sets, is broken as one shivers an earthen vessel. In so far Israel is despised, repudiated, forsaken by its husband. But from the broken shell issues the kernel that from the beginning was hid, in the shell till the period of ripeness. And this kernel now enters on a new existence, in which it develops to a greatness and glory, in comparison with which the greatness and glory of its former stage of existence almost vanish. For the narrow house becomes a mighty edifice under which all nations of the earth ( Isaiah 54:3), find room. The Apostle Paul uuderstands by this new, grand edifice the “Jerusalem from above that is the mother of us all” ( Galatians 4:26-27). And this “Jerusalem from above” is nothing else than the New Testament Zion, which itself, in turn, in the visible militant Christian Church, has only the first and initial stage of its existence. It is therefore a right meager construction when rationalistic expositors find nothing more said in our passage, than that Jerusalem after the Exile will be more populous than before, and that the people in the land will not have room, and consequently will spread out, and that to the south and to the north, i.e., toward Edom, Syria and Phoenicia (thus Knobel, Seinecke, etc.). What is to be understood by גוים Isaiah 54:3 we shall see below at that verse.

Rejoice O barren, recalls the words of Hannah’s song 1 Samuel 2:5 : “so that the barren hath borne seven,” where the additional thought occurs that the one having many children proves to be an אֻמְלָלָה, an exhausta viribus. לא ילדה is one that had never hitherto borne children ( Judges 13:2). If Zion be meant here, which we are to regard as the antitype of Sarah ( Isaiah 2:1-3), and we may add also of Hannah, still barren cannot refer to the fact that Jerusalem during the Exile was robbed of her children and during that time bore no more (Delitzsch). According to that we would need to understand the blessing of children to mean the children that should be born in Jerusalem when it would be rebuilt. The עקרה is rather the hidden kernel of the “spiritual Israel,” within the “fleshly Israel,” that is not yet released from the shell, that has not attained an independent existence. Although the children of the fleshly Israel have felt more or less the influence of the spiritual Israel, yet so far as such is the case, they are only children of an invisible mother, whose existence is latent, and who on this account must be reckoned as not bearing.—The same mother that is called barren is afterwards called desolate. Here the word itself (שׁוממה) shows Jerusalem when rebuilt cannot be meant. For the rebuilt Jerusalem is no longer “desolate” and is not less a married wife than she had been before. But the New Testament Zion implies the destruction of the outward Theocracy, and thus the apparent dissolution of the former relation between the latter and God. Just then, the Prophet would say, when Zion in respect to its outward situation will be desolate, a lonely woman forsaken of her husband, just then the new Zion will develop out of it and have a much richer blessing of children than Zion had before in its Old Testament form. שׁוממה is the destroyed, wasted, solitary one (comp. Lamentations 1:13; Lamentations 3:11). בעולה (comp. Isaiah 62:4-5), according to the representation of the relation between Jehovah and Zion as a married one, designates Jerusalem as the Theocracy in whose stability appears also the stability of that married relation.

Isaiah 54:2. As a measure of the greatness of the promised blessing of children, the Prophet calls on Zion to widen the place of her tent, i.e., she must prepare an extended surface for the erection of her tent for dwelling. For it is not probable that מקום designates the interior of the tent. What follows of itself shows that the extent of that interior will be great. נָטָה here does not mean “to stretch or strain” ( Isaiah 44:13), but “to expand” ( Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 45:12). The third person plural is used in the sense of the indefinite subject=let them expand. The Prophet implies that Zion may become concerned lest her dwelling be too much extended, and that she would check the expansion.—He therefore calls on her not to do so: אל־תחשׂכי, “do not oppose, hinder it” ( Isaiah 58:1). For all the nations of the earth are to find their spiritual dwelling under this tent. Corresponding to the greatness of the tent, the ropes must be lengthened and the pins be set firmly. But it has been justly remarked that strengthening the stakes refers not only to the greater resistance required for a tent of greater dimensions, but also to the fact that this is to be no more a momadic tent, but is to be a tabernacle continuing forever ( Isaiah 33:20).

Isaiah 54:3. For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left. There appears in these words to be an allusion to Genesis 28:14, “and thy seed shall be as dust of the earth, and thou shalt break forth (וּפָרַצְתָּ) to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south.” One sees from this passage also, that the Prophet does not merely name the right and left side (north and south) because breaking forth on the west would be hindered by the seas and on the east by the desert. But, spite of the comparison of the fastened stakes, the Prophet entertains the thought of an issuing forth in an appointed way. In such a connection the two lateral directions are ever named (comp. Genesis 24:49; Numbers 20:17; Numbers 22:26; Deuteronomy 2:27; Deuteronomy 5:32; Isaiah 9:19, etc.).—When it is further stated: and thy seed shall possess (יָרַשׁ as frequently, Deuteronomy 2:12; Deuteronomy 2:21-22; Deuteronomy 9:1, etc.), the nations, we must remember what has been already said by the Prophet, Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 49:12; Isaiah 49:18, sqq. We learn from these passages that the seed of Israel shall not merely take possession of some nations, but of all nations, and not of lands by expelling the inhabitants, but actually of the inhabitants themselves. For these themselves shall become the seed of Israel. But Zion shall wonder to see herself surrounded by a countless posterity, and how she came by these many children ( Isaiah 49:21 sqq.)—The seed of Israel will also make desolate cities to be inhabited. That the Prophet does not mean the desolate cities of Palestine that are to be repeopled, appears from the whole context which has a much loftier aim. Men are not wont to choose desolated places for residences. Colonists prefer to lay out a new city, rather than settle in the ruins of an ancient one. But the seed of Zion penetrates to all nations and seeks out even ruined nations, destroyed and desolated regions. It has in fact the mission of bearing new life everywhere that men are found.

2. Fear not—the Lord thy Redeemer.

Isaiah 54:4-8. In the name שׁוממה “desolate,” that is given to Zion, Isaiah 54:1, there is an intimation of a dreadful catastrophe. There will then come a time when Zion will no more be the “married wife” as heretofore, but “desolate.” That will, any way, be a severe and alarming crisis. In reference to just this critical time, Zion is called on not to fear, for, spite of the blow that seems to threaten annihilation, she will not come to shame (comp. Isaiah 45:16-17). She is further exhorted not to become depressed by the sense of shame, for she will actually have no occasion to blush with shame (comp. Isaiah 33:9). Yea, she will even forget the shame of her youth, and remember the reproach of her widowhood no more. The Prophet, therefore, distinguishes two periods of that time that precedes the issuing of the new Zion out of its Old Testament shell, viz., the youth and the widowhood, and both are designated as periods of reproach. The youth is the commencement period until David. It is the period when the Theocracy had a miserable existence, distressfully asserted itself in the midst of heathen nations, sometimes, as in the days of Samson and Elijah seeming to be lost in the struggle with its enemies, especially the Philistines. The widowhood denotes the period of exile, not merely the Babylonian, but also the Assyrian and the Roman exiles. For just with the beginning of the last named was coincident the issuing of the New Testament Zion from its Old Testament shell. In what follows is given the reason why Zion need not fear being brought to shame ( Isaiah 54:5-8).

Isaiah 54:5. Although apparently no longer “married,” Zion still has an “husband,” and He is identical with her Maker. Can then the Maker suffer His work to be destroyed? Were that not a reproach to Him? And is it conceivable that Jehovah, who is the Maker here, will let Himself be loaded with this disgrace? Therefore He that is Jehovah, and indeed Jehovah of hosts, the Lord and Commander of all heavenly powers, He is the Maker of Israel and also its husband. What security in these titles? And the same is true of the predicates given to God in what follows. What kind of a גְאֻלָּה “redemption “must that be, that proceeds from the Holy One of Israel (comp. Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 48:17)! Can He be faithless to His word, unmerciful, cruel? And beside all this, this “Holy One of Israel” is the God of the whole earth (comp. Genesis 24:3). He will therefore not have merely the will, but also the power to redeem Israel.—But if Jehovah was hitherto Israel’s Maker, Husband and Redeemer, why is He so no more? When we look exactly, He has not ceased to be.

Isaiah 54:6. Hebrews, in fact, calls Israel back to Him as a woman forsaken ( Isaiah 60:15; Isaiah 52:4), heart sore (properly, mortified in spirit, comp. Isaiah 63:10; Genesis 6:6); as a man calls back the beloved wife of his youth, after having once scorned her.

Isaiah 54:7. Only a small moment did the Lord forsake His people. But this moment of giving pain He will make good again by so much greater mercy. The centrifugal עֲזב shall have a corresponding centripetal קַבֵּץ (comp. the remark at Isaiah 43:5.

Isaiah 54:8, states the occasion of this momentary infliction of pain. It was the welling up of wrath, which, however, only prompted a momentary hiding of the face (comp. Isaiah 8:17; Isaiah 59:2; Isaiah 64:6).—שֶׁצֶף has plainly the same meaning as שֶׁטֶף “super-abundance,” that is often used of a great flood of water and welling up of anger ( Proverbs 27:4; Psalm 32:6; Job 38:25; comp. Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 30:28; Isaiah 66:12). But here, as the antithesis of “everlasting kindness, it does not mean a lasting overflow, but only a momentary boiling over, like, say, the boiling over of a kettle. Therefore I allow myself to translate “in Gluth der Wuth” [an effort to copy the paronomasia of the original. See other attempts quoted in J. A. Alex, in loc.—Tr.].

3. For this——hath mercy on thee.

Isaiah 54:9-10. The Prophet supports the foregoing promise of “everlasting kindness “by giving it equal rank with the promise made to Noah ( Genesis 8:21 sq.; Isaiah 9:8 sqq.). Jehovah Himself calls this promise an everlasting covenant ( Genesis 9:16). And on this covenant, as on an immovable basis, rests the present stability of the earth. Here then the promise that the Lord will no more be wroth with Zion is put on a par with this covenant. If by Zion is to be understood the Israel of the exile, thus the fleshly Israel, then, indeed, as Hendewerk remarks, the Lord did not keep His word. But we have seen above under Isaiah 54:1, that the spiritual Israel is meant. Thus זאֹת Isaiah 54:9 relates to the turn in Israel’s affairs described in Isaiah 54:1-8. And as the general abstract זאת refers to that whole stage of the Theocracy’s development, so also מּי נחwaters of Noah as pars pro toto, represent by metonymy the whole Noachian period. But from what follows, it appears that the Lord makes prominent a central point in the two periods. That is He makes the promise just given to Zion parallel with that given to Noah. He calls both an oath, although the word “to swear” occurs neither in what precedes, nor in the places in Genesis that have been cited. But when the Lord gives His word, it is always an oath in substance, though it may not be as to form. For whether He expressly says it or not, when the Lord gives His word, He stakes His honor, and so His very divinity, as a man does the highest good he has, his salvation. קָצַף and גָּעַר are related to one another as the inward sensation and outward manifestation. But גער here, as often, designates the real divine acts of judgment as a rebuking (comp. Isaiah 17:13; Psalm 9:6; Psalm 68:31; Psalm 80:17).—Finally in Isaiah 54:10, the Lord gives another image of the immovable fixedness of the covenant He makes with Zion. It shall stand more firmly than mountains and hills. For though these are elsewhere taken as the image of what is firm and immovable ( Psalm 36:7; Psalm 65:7; Psalm 104:5; Psalm 104:8), still here and in other passages ( Isaiah 24:18-20; Habakkuk 3:6; Job 9:5; Job 14:18; Psalm 46:3-4; Psalm 114:4; Psalm 114:6), the possibility is also recognized of mountains shaking, leaping, and even falling down. But such a possibility is positively denied in respect to the grace of God and His covenant of peace (covenant whose aim and consequence is peace, Numbers 25:12; Ezekiel 34:25; Ezekiel 37:26). In regard to the formula of assurance in Isaiah 54:10, it is to be remarked that this sort of thing occurs four times in this section. The first two times it sounds quite simply, “saith the Lord,” Isaiah 54:1; saith thy God, Isaiah 54:6. But toward the end, where the pathos of the Prophet rises, the formula grows to “saith the Lord thy Redeemer,” Isaiah 54:8, and “saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee,” Isaiah 54:10.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Hinder it not.

FN#2 - possess.

FN#3 - depressed.

FN#4 - she was scorned.

2. ISRAEL’S CONDITION OF SALVATION EXTENDS ON ALL SIDES

Isaiah 54:11-17

11 O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted,

Behold, [FN5]I will lay thy stones [FN6]with fair colours,

And [FN7]lay thy foundations with sapphires.

12 And I will make thy [FN8]windows of [FN9]agates,

And thy gates of carbuncles,

And all thy borders of pleasant stones.

13 And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;

And great shall be the peace of thy children.

14 In righteousness shalt thou be established:

[FN10]Thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear:

And from terror; for it shall not come near thee.

15 Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me:

Whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall [FN11]for thy sake.

16 Behold, I have created the smith

That bloweth the coals in the fire,

And that bringeth forth an instrument [FN12]for his work;

And I have created the waster to destroy.

17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper;

And every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn.

This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,

And their [FN13]righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

Isaiah 54:11. עָני see List.—סֹעֲרָה is part. Kal from סָעַרtumultuari, to storm, be moved by tempests, to be hunted” (comp. Jonah 1:11; Jonah 1:13; Hosea 13:3).—נֻחָמָה is perf, for as part. it would need to read מְנֻחָמָה (comp. on Isaiah 53:7).—בְּbefore סכּירים cannot be taken strictly as instrumental, For the stone is not the instrument with which one lays a foundation, but only one of the means. One may therefore only regard בְּ as instrumental in the wider sense, unless it may be treated as a species of בְּ essentiae. It were, indeed, not Impossible to translate with Gesenius, “super saphiros.” But there occurs no instance of designating the basis on which something is founded by בְּ In this sense everywhere עַל is used ( Psalm 24:2; 155:5; Amos 9:6; Song of Solomon 5:15).

Isaiah 54:12. We may make particular note here of the grammatical construction. According to Hebrew usage, what is made of any stuff is not described as the product of the stuff, but the material is put in apposition with the object to be made, or the object made is put in apposition with the material. Thus 1 Kings 18:32, “he built the stones an altar.” Here the object made is in apposition with the material. But the reverse occurs Exodus 38:8, “All his vessels he made brass,” i.e., brazen. The Hebrew conceives of the thing fabricated as a particular form of appearance of the material of which the artist makes it. This form of expression may be owing t its poverty in respect to adjective forms. In our text, therefore, the construction לאכני אקרח and לאבני חכץ is to be understood like the immediately preceding ושׂמתי כדכד שׁמשׁתין, only that in the two cases first named the Hebrew way of conception appears more pregnantly. For it is in general possible in Heb after. the verbs עָשָׂה,נָתַן,שָׂם, to designate that into which something is made not merely by לְ, but also by the simple accusative.

Isaiah 54:13. This verse may be treated as dependent שַׂמְתִּי on or as an independent normal clause.—, רַב as third pers. perf. masc. Kal from רָבַב does not occur elsewhere. It must therefore be construed as adjective.

Isaiah 54:14. תכונני is Hithpalel with assimilated ת. The meaning is “to make ready, fast.” What follows suits very well this construction of צדקה in a subjective sense. First the imperative רחקי seems strange, if a promise is given and not an exhortation. Then עשֶׁק means “the oppresio, violence,” in an active sense. The meaning “terror” is badly supported by Isaiah 38:14.

Isaiah 54:15. הֵן with almost a hypothetical significance, see Ewald, § 103, g.—מֵאוֹתִי stands here instead of מֵאִתִּי, as in Isaiah 59:11 אוֹתָם for אִתָּם. These are solitary instances of this use that became frequent only later. One may not cite Genesis 34:2; Leviticus 15:18; Leviticus 15:26 as analogous examples. For in these passages אותָהּ is really nota accusativi, because שָׁכַב that precedes the word in all the passages named, involves there the transitive meaning of “lying with, sleeping with.” But Joshua 14:12 can be quoted as an example of this isolated use.—מִי before גָּר stands here in the sense it has when at the point of transition from an Interrogative to a relative meaning. Comp. Isaiah 44:10; Isaiah 50:10.

Isaiah 54:16. למעשׂהו is not=“for his use;” for the smith forges swords not for his own use. But לְ is here = secundum. Therefore he produces an implement, a weapon according to his workmanship, i.e., such as answers to his manufacture in general and to his individual craft in particular.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. O thou afflicted——pleasant stones.

Isaiah 54:11-12. The foregoing strophe promised Zion a wonderful blessing of children, the “benedictio vere theocratica,” as the fundamental condition of national well-being in the largest measure. Now the blessing is extended to all. Zion was wretched, hunted, comfortless in her youth and widowhood. Lo-nuhama [not comforted] recalls Lo-ruhama [not having obtained mercy] Hosea 1:6. But now Zion shall mount so high in splendor and glory that her walls shall consist of sapphires bedded in stibium, her doors of carbuncles, yea, her border-walls of precious stones. What a contrast between this past and the future which the Prophet has in mind, and which of course has also its stages ! For it is not realized at once, but only by degrees, until it is accomplished in the image of the future that the Apostle John portrays in Revelation 21:18 sqq. כּוּןְ is a paint made of sulphuret of antimony or grey stibium, Arabic Kohl, hence alchohol; to which is related the Hebrew כָּחַל “to paint,” Ezekiel 23:40, see Herz. R. Enc. XIII p446; IX. p607. The stones shall be bedded in stibium. It was a custom to paint around the eyes with a shining black paint, which 2 Kings 9:30 is called שׂוּם עֵינַיִם בַּכּוּןְ. So also the stones of the walls shall be set in costly stibium instead of mortar. Their edges therefore shall have its color, and the stones themselves the effect that stibium imparts to the eyes. This explanation may be harmonized with the mention of אַבְנֵי כּוּןְ in the list of materials collected by David for the building of the Temple, 1 Chronicles 29:2, by supposing that there כּוּןְ means stones prepared in a peculiar manner unknown to us. But the stones of the foundation shall be blue sapphires ( Job 28:6; Job 28:16). The pinnacles of the walls (שׁמשׁות, plural form occurring only here, properly the sun-beams, hence the projecting points, pinnacles of the wall, ἐπάλξεις) shall consist of כּ‍ַֽדְכֹּד (comp. Ewald § 48, c). This word, which only occurs again Ezekiel 27:16, is likely connected with כִּידוֹד § scintilla ( Job 41:11), and designates a shining, sparkling stone. The LXX translates ἴασπις; modern writers understand it to mean the ruby or carbuncle, a stone of red hue. The gates shall consist of אבני אקדח (ἄπ. λεγ. from קָדַחacccendit, exarsit,” comp. קַדַּחַתfebris ardens,” a precious stone of fiery appearance, thus probably carbunculus, small glowing coal). נְּבוּל cannot mean here the boundary line, for the wall itself is such for the city, and it has already been spoken of. And there is no Biblical authority for a boundary wall that enclosed also the territory of the city extra muros, i.e., a sort of Chinese wall. We will therefore need to take גבול in the sense of that which is bounded, i.e., of the city territory that is bounded by the wall, a not unfrequent meaning (comp. Genesis 10:19; Exodus 10:14; Exodus 10:19; 1 Samuel 11:3; 1 Samuel 11:7 and the Latin finis). This city territory shall be paved with choice stones (חפץאבני a general expression found only here). Such is the understanding of our text that the author of the book of Tobit had, for he writes: “And the streets (πλατεῖαι) of Jerusalem shall be paved (ψηφολογηθήσονται, laid in mosaic) with beryl and carbuncle and stones of Ophir,” Tobit 8:17. He had therefore the idea of a tesselated pavement.

2. And all thy children——saith the Lord.

Isaiah 54:13-17. After these intimations of an outward glory equally grand and symbolical, the Prophet turns to the inward blessings that relate to the sphere of intelligence, of the life of the soul, of right-living. “All thy children,” he says, “shall be Jehovah learned,” i.e., taught by Jehovah. Thus he promises knowledge, and in fact the highest and most infallible, since Jehovah Himself is its source. Kindred expressions occur Isaiah 44:3; Joel 3:1 sq.; Jeremiah 31:34, while their fulfilment is declared in the New Testament in such passages as John 6:45 (διδακτοὶ θεοῦ); 1 Thessalonians 4:9 (θεοδίδακτοι); Acts 2:16 sqq.; Hebrews 8:10 sqq.; 1 John 2:20. Where the Lord is Himself and alone the teacher, there the result can only be the deepest and most universal satisfaction for spirit and soul. For what the Lord teaches is the true wisdom. But that is not mere theory, but also practice as well, and satisfies the whole man.—Israel so taught cannot practice unrighteousness. It must be holy as its Lord is holy. By the exercise of righteousness it shall itself be established; for righteousness exalts a nation ( Proverbs 14:34). Israel must not, as the world does, regard as good everything that furthers its own interest. It must not in impending danger, itself practice unrighteousness and violence. For in fact it has nothing to fear. It must be on its guard both against unrighteousness and alarm. It must be neither insolent nor despondent. מְחִתָּה is “fractio, consternatio,” in a subjective or passive sense (comp. Proverbs 8:3; Proverbs 14:28). For it (viz., the subject of מחתח) shall not come near (fem. in a neuter sense) thee.

Isaiah 54:15. In connection with the statement of Isaiah 54:14, that Israel need not fear, the Prophet now sets forth the reason. First he does not deny that there may be hostile conspiracies against Israel. Behold, they shall surely gather [“they band together in bands,” Dr. N—’s. rendering.—Tr.]. גּוּר has this meaning of banding together in a hostile sense also in Psalm 56:7; Psalm 59:4; Psalm 140:3. But though that may happen it is not from Me, says the Lord. Whoever, then, without Jehovah’s approval, bands together at Zion (the neighborhood of conspirators is ever hostile), He will, as it were attracted like birds are said to be by the rattlesnake, fall on thee and so dash to pieces (comp. Luke 20:18).

Isaiah 54:16. And because God the Lord “causes iron to grow” and has taught men to make swords of it, and that for the משׁחית “the waster” to use for destroying, so also He has the power to compel the creature of His hand not to use his destructive efficiency on Israel.—I cannot treat the clause וא֞ ב֞ משׁחית לחבל as the apodosis. The sentence rather affirms that the Lord made the weapons not for play, but of course for destruction. But opposed to Israel, the weapons shall fail in their mission, although they have that mission from God. From iron weapons the transition to the fleshly weapon is easy, viz., to the tongue, which is often compared to weapons of iron and is called worse ( Psalm 55:22; Psalm 57:5; Psalm 64:4; Jeremiah 9:3; Jeremiah 9:8; Jeremiah 18:18). Every such tongue that shall raise itself in legal strife with Israel shall be proved by the latter to be a רָשָׁע, criminal and guilty ( Isaiah 50:9).

A brief word in conclusion finishes the discourse. This (זאת) refers back to the rich promise of blessing of the chapter. This is given to the servants of Jehovah. Isaiah intentionally speaks here for the first and only time of servants of Jehovah. Manifestly there is intended an antithesis to the Servant of Jehovah that plays so prominent a part in chap53. After that chapter the Prophet has nothing more to say concerning the Servant of Jehovah. But he has still to indicate how the salvation from the Saviour will be conveyed to those that need and are worthy of salvation. The expression עַבְדֵי י “servants of Jehovah” occurs again 2 Kings 9:7; 2 Kings 10:23; Psalm 118:1; Psalm 134:1; Psalm 135:1. Now to these servants of Jehovah the promise of this chapter is given, pointing out, as it were, their inheritance and the righteousness acquired for them. Beck (Die Cyrojes. Weiss., p161) even recognized that צדקתם forms an antithesis to תרשׁיעי. The enemies of Israel shall dash to pieces ( Isaiah 54:15), and if they contend before a judgment Baruch, shall be condemned. But the servants of the Lord shall, as the seed of the Servant of Jehovah ( Isaiah 53:10; Isaiah 53:8), inherit the glory that is promised to Him, and obtain the righteousness which He the Righteous One, according to Isaiah 53:11, shall impart to the many.

Footnotes:

FN#5 - I lay.

FN#6 - in stibium.

FN#7 - will found thee.

FN#8 - pinnacles.

FN#9 - rubies.

FN#10 - Be for from oppression.

FN#11 - on thee, i.e, dash to pieces on thee.

FN#12 - after his craft.

FN#13 - righteousness from me.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 54:2. “God dwelt in the Old Testament with His divine service in the Tabernacle, which was fifty ells broad and a hundred ells long. But it is not accomplished with this in the New Testament. For the stakes must be set out much further, because Christ will reign from one sea to the other ( Psalm 72:8).” Cramer.

2. On Isaiah 54:4-5. “We do God no honor when we are so very much afraid of our spiritual enemies. O, how joyful and assured we can be when we have God for a friend! Luke 12:32; Romans 8:31.—A believing follower of Jesus cannot perish. He is as a living member united to Christ his Head. Will the head let one of its members be reviled, and not rescue its honor? Luke 18:7-8.—The timid and shy ought not to be made more timid and shy, but one ought to comfort and cheer them up. 1 Thessalonians 5:14.”—Starke.

3. On Isaiah 54:5. “Habebis maritum non Mosen, non Petrum, non Paulum, non papam, etc., sed Dominum qui fecit te.” Luther. In the plurals בעלין עשין, the old theologians found an adumbratio mysterii S. S. Trinitatis: “sponsi vel sponsoris tui factores tui Jehova.” Foerster.

4. On Isaiah 54:6-8. What is all time in comparison with eternity? Therefore what are especially the exile-periods of Israel, even the longest, the Roman exile, in comparison with the everlasting communion of the nation with its Lord? Therefore what are the tribulations of Christendom compared with the everlasting rest that is promised to the people of God? Hebrews 4:9. We ought, therefore, in the greatest distress, while sighing: O, Lord, how long! never to forget that with the Lord a thousand years are as one day. We ought to remember that every earthly period of time is for the Lord but a moment. For the prize of everlasting bliss, an earthly moment of tribulation may well be endured.—“Ratio non potest credere, momentum et punctum esse tentationem, sed putat aeternam et infinitum esse, quia tantum in praesenti sensu haeret, nihil sentit, vidit, audit, cogitat, intelligit quam praesentem dolorem et praesens malum. Quare spiritualis haec est practica, omnia apparentia spectra relinquire et assuefacere cor ad non apparentia, hoc est fide in verbo haerere.”—Luther.

5. On549. “Nonnunquam pluit, ut sit species aliqua futuri diluvii, non tamen redit diluvium. Quoties homines cernunt unam nubeculam ascendentem, turn putant rediturum diluvium. Hoc Esther, levis tentatio frangit animum, sed oportet, ut sic ex fide in fidem proficiamus. Nisi nonunquam desperatio incideret, non disceremus vere credere.” Luther.

6. [On Isaiah 54:11-12. “In the foregoing chapter we had the humiliation and exaltation of Christ; here we have the humiliation and exaltation of the Church; for if we suffer with Him, we shall reign with Him.” Isaiah 54:12. “That which the children of the world lay up among their treasures, and too often in their hearts, the children of God make pavements of, and put under their feet, the fittest place of it.” M. Henry.]

7. On Isaiah 54:11-12. “The color display of precious stones in which the New Jerusalem shines is more than childish painting. Whence then have the precious stones their charm? The ultimate ground of this charm is this, that in all nature everything stretches up to the light, and that in the mineral world the precious stones represent the highest stage of this ascending process of inward absorption. It is the process of self-unfolding of the divine glory itself, that is reflected typologically in the ascending scale of the play of color and in the transparency of the precious stones. Therefore the high-priest bears a breast-plate with twelve precious stones, and on them the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and therefore Revelation 21. takes the picture of the New Jerusalem, that the Old Testament Prophet here sketches (without distinguishing the last time and the world to come), and paints it in detail, adding to the precious stones, which he names individually, also crystal and pearls. How could that be explained if the stone-world did not absorb in itself a reflection of the eternal lights, from which God is called πατὴρ τῶν φώτων, and were it not implied that the blessed will some time be able to translate these stony types into the words of God out of which they have their being?” Delitzsch.

8. [On Isaiah 54:13. “The church’s children, being born of God, shall be taught of God; being His children by adoption, He will take care of their education. It was promised ( Isaiah 54:1) that the church’s children should be many; but lest we should think that being many, as sometimes it happens in numerous families, they will be neglected, and not have instruction given them so carefully as if they were but few, God here takes that work into His own hand: They shall all be taught of God, that Isaiah, they shall be taught by those whom God shall appoint, and whose labors shall be under His direction and blessing. He will ordain the methods of instruction, and by His word and ordinances will diffuse a much greater light than the Old Testament church had. Care should be taken for the teaching of the church’s children, that knowledge may be transmitted from generation to generation, and that all may be enriched with it, from the least even to the greatest.” M. Henry.]

9. On Isaiah 54:16 sq. “Verily He is also with our enemies. But not to give them success against us, but to restrain them from us, and precisely not to let them succeed. God says, He is also there when weapons are forged against us; He is also there when they sally forth for our destruction. Thus He will hold them, so that with all their equipping they will do nothing. If our almighty Friend Himself is with our enemies, we may well have no fear of any enemy. God causes the weapons of all the world to be forged so soft that they can do nothing to His children armed with a panoply by His word. So shall it be also with tongues that blaspheme against us. We will convict them, and in that they shall have their judgment.” Diedrich.

10. [On Isaiah 54:17. “The idea Isaiah, that truth and victory, in every strife of words, would be on the side of the church. To those who have watched the progress of discussions thus far on the subject of true religion, it is needless to say that this has been triumphantly fulfilled. Argument, sophism, ridicule, have all been tried to overthrow the truth of the Christian religion. Appeals have been made to astronomy, geology, antiquities, history, and indeed to almost every department of human science, and with the same want of success. Poetry has lent the charm of its numbers; the grave historian has interwoven with the thread of his narrative covert attacks and sly insinuations against the Bible; the earth has been explored to prove that ‘He who made the earth and revealed its age to Moses was mistaken in its age,’ and the records of Oriental nations, tracing their history up cycles of ages beyond the Scripture account of the creation of the world, have been appealed to; but thus far, in all these contests, the ultimate victory has declared in favor of the Bible.—Those who are desirous of examining the effects of the controversy of Christianity with science, and the results, can find them detailed with great learning and talent in ‘Twelve Lectures on the Connection between Science and Revealed Religion,’ by Dr. Nicholas Wiseman, Andover, 1837.” Barnes.]

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. On Isaiah 54:1-3. Thoughts equally applicable in preaching on missions to the Jews and to the heathen. As long as the Old Testament, fleshly Israel had the husband, the spiritual Israel was unfruitful. But when that fleshly Israel had become desolate, then the spiritual Israel became free and began to stir itself, to develop its soarings and activity. And with what results! As soon as it was no longer important where one must worship, but the chief concern was how one must worship, and that one must worship “in spirit and in truth,” immediately to the true Israel was opened the way to the heathen, and to the heathen the way to Israel. And from that moment Zion became the mother of countless heathen children. And these, who hitherto had been without God and without hope in the world, now suddenly gained a Father, a home and a child’s rights that are eternal. In the spiritual Israel, which is one with the Christian church, there is for this reason the uniting centre between Jew and Gentile. The Jews should recognize in the church of the gospel the kernel of their Theocracy long since broken up, and the fulfilment of all the promises and hopes of the Old Covenant. And the Gentiles should see that by means of the Christian church they may become children of Abraham, and thus be grafted into the old holy olive tree ( Romans 11:17 sqq.).

2. On Isaiah 54:2-8. “An urgent call to gospel mission work1) God wills it2) Fear not3) God is with thee.” Dr. Thiele.

3. On Isaiah 54:7-14. “The great mercy of the Lord. 1) How deep it goes, a. from God’s heart (great mercy, Isaiah 54:7); b. from an eternal purpose of grace (with everlasting grace, Isaiah 54:8). 2) How firm it stands, a. on God’s oath ( Isaiah 54:9); b. when everything gives way and falls ( Isaiah 54:10). 3) How it raises up ( Isaiah 54:11-14).” Scheerer, Manch. Gaben u. Ein G., 1868, p284.

4. On Isaiah 54:10. “It is true, histories give us examples of mountains being displaced and sinking away; but that the Lord Jesus ever forsook or cast out a believing soul, of that no man will find an example. Ah! how should He forsake that which, when it forsakes Him, He seeks, with such great, divine patience and long-suffering, to restore again, and calls to it: Return again, thou backslider, and I will not change my countenance against thee, for I am merciful; I will not keep anger forever ( Jeremiah 3:12).”—Scriver.

5. On Isaiah 54:11-13. “There are names for you! Whoever will judge by them must say that God is ungracious towards the church, and is angry with it and punishes it. For to be wretched, suffer all weathers, be comfortless, as God Himself here confesses of Christians, that is very hard and does not go off without vexation. What becomes then of the assurance: I will not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee? The comfort is given above, it shall in the first place be the anger of a father, accordingly it shall not endure long, it is but for a moment. With this agrees the Prophet here, and says how God would adorn and embellish the church with sapphire pavements, crystal windows, and gates of rubies. One must not think of this as happening in a physical sense. The Holy Ghost means the spiritual adornments, that all her children, i.e., all true Christians are taught of the Lord. That Isaiah, they have the Holy Ghost, and by faith in Christ much peace. For the hearts know God, that He is gracious; they look to Him for all good, call on Him in every distress, experience His gracious deliverance and help. Therefore, let it storm as it may, the heart is still joyful in God. These are the sapphire, crystal, rubies that are found in the church, and with which she is embellished. But note particularly what it means, to be taught of God. For it does not mean what the Anabaptists and other deluded spirits dream, that God converts the people by some particular revelation. But God teaches by the office of the ministry, which He has ordained for men here on earth, that in the name of His Son Christ Jesus they should preach repentance and forgiveness of sins, and baptize. With such preaching and baptism is the Holy Ghost, and He kindles in hearts reliance on the grace of God and impels to obedience. That then is what is meant by being taught of God, and goes on without special revelation.”—Veit Dietrich.

6. On Isaiah 54:14-17. The church should in all times remember that it is the house of the holy and righteous God, and should draw from that both warning and comfort. The church of the Lord stands on righteousness. 1) It is itself righteous, a. in that it appropriates the righteousness that the Lord has acquired for it; b. in that it does no wrong itself, but in every thing and toward every one exercises righteousness2) It obtains justice from the Lord against those that would do it wrong. For a. those that complot against the church do so without the righteous God; hence they have b. the righteous God against them, and they and their purposes must come to confusion,

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 54:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-54.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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