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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 52

 

 

Verses 1-3

Isaiah 52:1-3. Awake, awake, put on strength — God orders his church to do that which she entreated him to do, Isaiah 51:9. And because his word is with power, and what he commands he in certain cases effects, this is a prediction and promise what he should do, that she should awake or arise out of her low estate, and be strong and courageous. Put on thy beautiful garments — Thy sorrows shall be ended, and thou shalt be advanced in a glorious condition. O Zion — O my church, very frequently called by the name of Zion or Jerusalem. There shall no more come unto thee — To molest, or associate themselves with, and thereby to defile and corrupt thee; the uncircumcised and unclean — Heathen and infidels, nor any others who are unholy. Whereby he intimates, that there should be a greater reformation and more purity in the church than formerly there had been, which was eminently accomplished in the church and kingdom of Christ. Shake thyself from the dust — In which thou hast lain as a prisoner, or sat as a mourner. Arise, and sit down — Upon thy throne. Or sit up, as the word שׁביis rendered, Genesis 27:19. Loose thyself, &c. — The yoke of thy captivity shall be taken off from thee. Ye have sold yourselves — By your sins, into the hands of your enemies; for naught — Without any price or valuable consideration paid by them, either to you or to your lord and owner. And ye shall be redeemed without money — Without paying any ransom.


Verses 4-6

Isaiah 52:4-6. My people went down into Egypt — Where they had protection and sustenance, and therefore owed subjection to the king of Egypt. And yet when he oppressed them I punished him severely, and delivered them out of his hands. And the Assyrian oppressed them — The king of Babylon, who is called the king of Assyria, (2 Kings 23:29,) as also the Persian emperor is called, (Ezra 6:22,) because it was one and the same empire which was possessed, first by the Assyrians, then by the Babylonians, and afterward by the Persians. Without cause — Without any real ground or colour, by mere force invading their land, and carrying them away into captivity, Now therefore what have I here — Why (speaking after the manner of men) do I sit still here, and not go to Babylon to punish the Babylonians, and to deliver my people? Or, What honour have I by suffering this injury to be done to my people? That my people is taken away for naught — Were carried away captive by the Babylonians, without any provocation or pretence of right? They that rule over them make them to howl — By their tyrannical and unmerciful usage of them; and my name continually is blasphemed — The Babylonians blaspheme me, as if I wanted either power or goodwill to save my people out of their hands. Therefore my people shall know my name — They shall have sensible experience of my infinite power and goodness in fighting for them. They shall know in that day — When I shall redeem them; which work was begun by the return of the Jews from Babylon, and afterward carried on, and at last perfected, by the coming of the Messiah; that I am he that doth speak — That these promises are not the words of a weak, or fickle, or deceitful man, but of him who is omnipotent, unchangeable, and a covenant-keeping God.


Verse 7

Isaiah 52:7. How beautiful — How exceeding precious and acceptable; upon the mountains — Of Judea, to which these glad tidings were brought; are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings — Tidings, first, Of the release of the Jews from captivity in Babylon; and, secondly, Of the redemption and salvation of mankind by the Messiah. Thus most commentators interpret the prophet’s words. They are “a poetical description,” says Lowth, “of the messenger who first brought the good news of Cyrus’s decree for the people to return home, whom the watchmen, mentioned Isaiah 52:8, are supposed to descry afar off from the tops of the mountains, making all possible haste to publish this happy news: a signal instance of God’s overruling providence, of the peculiar care he hath for his church. But this text is very fitly applied by St. Paul to the first preachers of the gospel, (Romans 10:15,) the very words importing good tidings of that peace and salvation whereby the kingdom of God was erected among men.” Indeed, true peace and salvation were procured for mankind, and are conferred upon them, only by Christ. And in his days, or from the time of his manifestation in the flesh, and entering upon his public ministry, God discovered and exercised his dominion over the world far more eminently than he ever had done from the beginning of the world until that time. Accordingly, we may observe, those Psalms wherein we find that expression, The Lord reigneth, are by the generality of interpreters, both Jewish and Christian, expounded of the times of the Messiah; the declaration being, in effect, the same that John the Baptist, the messenger of Christ, and that Christ himself published, when they testified, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.


Verse 8

Isaiah 52:8. Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice — Partly to give notice to all people of these glad tidings, and partly by way of exultation, to sing forth the praises of God for this glorious season and exercise of mercy. If we consider this passage as referring to the deliverance from Babylon, by the watch-men here, we must understand those prophets who prophesied at or after the time of that deliverance, such as Haggai and Zechariah: but if the good tidings be interpreted of the publication of peace and salvation by the gospel, then by the watchmen its ministers are meant, and especially the apostles and evangelists, and other first messengers of Christ. For they shall see eye to eye — Those prophets that shall witness the release of the Jews from captivity shall see an exact agreement and correspondence between the prophecy and the event whereby it is accomplished, between the promise and the performance. It may still be affirmed with more propriety, that the preachers of the gospel saw eye to eye when the Messiah was manifested in the flesh, and they saw his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, John 1:14; when they saw with their eyes, looked upon, and their hands handled the word of life; when the life was manifested, and they saw it and bore witness, and could show unto others that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto men, 1 John 1:2. And being eye and ear witnesses of the words and works of Christ, their testimony became more certain and more valuable. Add to this, that true gospel ministers in general, and even ordinary Christians, who receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, (Ephesians 1:17,) have a more distinct and clear view of the grace of God in Christ than the Old Testament saints could have. When the Lord shall bring again Zion — When God shall complete the work of bringing his church out of captivity, which was begun at the return out of Babylon, and perfected by Christ’s coming into the world. Bishop Lowth, however, reads the clause, When Jehovah returneth to Zion; a translation which the Hebrew text will certainly bear. Thus the Chaldee: When he shall bring back his presence to Zion. “God is considered as having deserted his people during their captivity; and, at the restoration, as returning himself with them to Zion, his former habitation.” But in a much higher degree was God present in his church, when he was manifested in the flesh, and they could call him, Immanuel, God with us.


Verse 9-10

Isaiah 52:9-10. Break forth into joy — Break forth in joyful praises; ye waste places of Jerusalem — That is, all parts of Jerusalem, for it was all in ruins, and all parts of Judea, which lay desolate and waste during the captivity: an emblem of the desolate and barren state of the church when the Lord, for her sins, withdraws his presence from her. For the Lord hath comforted his people, &c. — They shall be restored to their former prosperity, and in the days of the Messiah to a far greater degree of holiness and happiness than the church of God ever before possessed. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm — Hath discovered and put forth his great power, which, for a long time, did not appear to be exerted in behalf of his people. And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God — All nations of the world shall, with astonishment, behold the wonderful work of God; first, in bringing his people out of Babylon; and afterward, in their redemption by Christ.


Verse 11-12

Isaiah 52:11-12. Depart ye, go ye out from thence — Out of Babylon into your own land, that there I may meet with you, and bless you, and perform those further and greater things for you which I have promised to do there. And this invitation was the more necessary, because God foresaw that a great number of the Jews would, upon worldly considerations, continue in those foreign countries in which they were settled, and would be very backward to return to the Holy Land. Touch no unclean thing — Carry not along with you any of their superstitions or idolatries. Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord — And especially you priests and Levites, who minister in holy things, and carry the holy vessels of the temple, keep yourselves from all pollution. Ye shall not go out by flight — But securely, and in triumph, being conducted by your great captain, the Lord of hosts. The God of Israel will be your rereward — So that none shall be able either to oppose you in your march, or to fall upon you in the rear.


Verse 13

Isaiah 52:13. Behold, my servant, &c. — This is the beginning of a new prophecy, continued from hence to the end of the next chapter, which, as has been justly observed by many, both ancient and modern interpreters, should have begun here. “The subject of Isaiah’s prophecy, from the fortieth chapter inclusive, has hitherto been, in general, the deliverance of the people of God. This includes in it three distinct parts: the deliverance of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon, the deliverance of the Gentiles from their miserable state of ignorance and idolatry, and the deliverance of mankind from the captivity of sin and death. These three subjects are subordinate to one another, and the two latter are shadowed out under the image of the former. Cyrus is expressly named as the immediate agent of God in effecting the first deliverance. A greater person is spoken of as the agent who is to effect the two latter deliverances, called the Servant, the Elect, of God, in whom his soul delighteth. Now these three subjects have a very near relation to one another; for, as the agent who was to effect the two latter deliverances, that is, the Messiah, was to be born a Jew, with particular limitations of time, family, and other circumstances, the first deliverance was necessary in the order of providence, and, according to the determinate counsel of God, to the accomplishment of the two latter deliverances; and the second deliverance was necessary to the third, or, rather, was involved in it, and made an essential part of it. This being the case, Isaiah has not treated the three subjects as quite distinct and separate, in a methodical and orderly manner, like a philosopher or a logician, but has taken them in their connective view; he has handled them as a prophet and a poet; he has allegorized the former, and, under the image of it, has shadowed out the two latter; he has thrown them all together, has mixed one with another, has passed from this to that with rapid transitions, and has painted the whole with the strongest and boldest imagery. The restoration of the Jews from captivity, the call of the Gentiles, the redemption by Messiah, have hitherto been handled interchangeably and alternately. Babylon has hitherto been kept pretty much in sight, at the same time that strong intimations of something much greater have been frequently thrown in. But here Babylon is at once dropped, and hardly ever comes in sight again. The prophet’s views are almost wholly engrossed by the superior part of his subject. He introduces the Messiah as appearing at first in the lowest state of humiliation, which he had just touched upon before, (Isaiah 50:5-6,) and obviates the offence which would be occasioned by it, by declaring the important and necessary cause of it, and foreshowing the glory which should follow it.” — Bishop Lowth. My servant — That it is Christ who is here spoken of, is so evident, that the Chaldee paraphrast, and other ancient, and some later Hebrew doctors, understand it directly of him, and that divers Jews have been convinced and converted to the Christian faith by the evidence of this prophecy. Shall deal prudently — Shall manage the affairs of his kingdom with admirable wisdom. Or, shall prosper, as it is in the margin; and as the word ישׂכיל, here used, is frequently rendered: which also agrees best with the following clause. And this intimation concerning the future prosperity and advancement of the Messiah, is fitly put, in the first place, to prevent those scandals which otherwise might arise from the succeeding passages, which describe his state of humiliation and deep affliction. Shall be exalted, and extolled, and be very high — Here are three words signifying the same thing, to express the height and glory of his exaltation.


Verse 14-15

Isaiah 52:14-15. As many were astonished at thee — At thee, O my servant: were struck with wonder at his glorious endowments, at the excellence and power of his doctrine, and his miraculous works, or rather, at his humiliation. His visage was so marred, &c. — Christ, in respect of his birth, breeding, manner of life, and outward condition in the world, was obscure and contemptible, and therefore said to be a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and despised of the people, Psalms 22:6, being exposed to all manner of affronts, indignities, and contumelies, from day to day. His countenance also was so marred with frequent watchings, fastings, and troubles, that he was thought to be nearly fifty years old when he was but thirty, John 8:57, and was further disfigured when he was buffeted, smitten on the cheek, spit upon, and crowned with thorns, and met with other cruel and despiteful usages. So, &c. — His exaltation shall be answerable to his humiliation; shall he sprinkle many nations — 1st, With his blood, which is called the blood of sprinkling, Hebrews 12:24, that is, he shall justify them by his blood, as it follows, Isaiah 53:11, which act is frequently expressed by washing, as Psalms 51:2; Psalms 51:7; Ezekiel 16:9; Revelation 1:5. Or, 2d, With his word or doctrine; which, being often compared to rain, or water, as chap. 55:10, 11; Psalms 72:6, may be said to be sprinkled: as it is said to be dropped, Deuteronomy 32:2; Ezekiel 20:46; Ezekiel 21:2. This sense seems to be favoured by the following words: or, 3d, With his Spirit, represented under the emblem of the sprinkling of water, Ezekiel 36:25-27; and frequently compared to water in the Scriptures, and, in the days of the Messiah, to be poured out on all flesh, Joel 2:28; and particularly promised to such as should thirst for it, and believe in Christ, John 7:37-38; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:17. Kings shall shut their mouths at him — Shall be silent before him, out of profound humility, reverence, and admiration of his wisdom, and an eager desire to hear and receive counsels and oracles from his mouth; for that which had not been told them shall they see — They shall hear from his mouth many excellent doctrines, which will be new and strange to them. And particularly that comfortable doctrine of the salvation of the Gentiles, which was not only new to them, but strange and incredible to the Jews themselves.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 52:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-52.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, October 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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