Isaiah 51

 

                       AN ADDRESS TO FAITHFUL ISRAEL,

                       SUGGESTING TOPICS OF COMFORT

                                                   (vs/ 1-8)

 

 

The address consists of three nearly equal stanzas, each commencing with a call,

Shim'u elai, “Hearken unto me,” or  Haqshibu elai, “Attend to me.” The prophet

appears to be the speaker, and to address himself to the more faithful portion of

the people.

 

1 “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD:

look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye

are digged.”   Ye that follow after righteousness; i.e. "ye that endeavor to lead

righteous lives" (compare v. 7). Ye that seek the Lord. And do not "seek after idols,"

as too many of the exiles did (ch. 40:1941:744:9-2046:5-8). Look unto the rock...

the hole; i.e. look back at your past history, especially at the early beginnings

of it. Consider from what a slight and poor commencement - an aged man

and a barren woman (v. 2) - ye were raised up to be God's people, a numerous

nation, a multitude like the sand of the sea. How came this result about?

Was it not simply by the blessing of God?

 

2 “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called

him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.”  I called him alone; or, called him

when he was but onei.e. before he had any children (compare Ezekiel 33:24,

"Abraham was one, and he inherited the land"). And blessed him (see Genesis 24:1, 35).

And increased him; i.e. "made him a father of many nations" (ibid. ch. 17:5). If God

could multiply the progeny of one man, much more could He make a flourishing nation

out of the exiles, who, though but a "remnant" of the pro-Captivity Israel, were yet many

thousands in number (see Ezra 2:64).

 

3 “For the LORD shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and

He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD;

joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.”

The Lord shall comfort Zion (compare ch. 40:149:3v. 12, here; 52:9). Literally,

the word used is has comfortedi.e. has so determined the matter in His counsels that

it may be considered as already accomplished. Her waste places... her wilderness... 

her desert. Though Nebuchadnezzar "left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and

husbandmen" (II Kings 25:12Jeremiah 52:16), yet the population was not sufficient

to maintain cultivation generally. Thus, much of Judaea, during the absence of the

exiles, became a "wilderness" and a "desert" (see Ezekiel 36:34). Like Eden... like the

garden of the Lord. The Prophet Joel compares Judaea before its desolation to

"the garden of Eden" (Joel 2:3): and Ezekiel, like Isaiah, prophesies that it shall once

more become "like the garden of Eden," when the exiles have returned to it

(Ezekiel 36:35). With the last-named writer, Eden represents all that is glorious,

not in nature only, but in art (ibid. 28:1331:8-9, 16, 18). The voice of melody 

(compare ch. 35:10, and infra, v. 11). As music ceases out of the land in time

of affliction (ch. 24:8), so when a "time of refreshing from the Lord" arrives,

there is at once singing and "melody" (compare Revelation 5:814:215:2).

 

4 “Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall

proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.”

Hearken unto me; rather, attend to me - a stronger term than "hearken" - attend,

and hear of a greater blessing than the restoration of the land of Judah to cultivation

and fruitfulness. God, enthroned anew in Zion, will from thence send forth His light

and His truth to the nations, will make His Law known to them, and allow them to

partake of His salvation. O my nation. Some manuscripts have "O ye nations."

But the reading is undoubtedly a wrong one. A law shall proceed from me.

The Christian "law" - the new covenant - is probably intended. This became,

by the preaching of the apostles, a light of the people, or rather, of the peoples.

 

5 “My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge

the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.”

My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth. "One day is with the Lord as a

thousand years, and. a thousand years as one day" (II Peter 3:8). Isaiah always

speaks as if the Messianic kingdom was to supervene almost immediately on the

return of the exiles to Palestine. It was not revealed to him that there would be an

interval of from five hundred to six hundred years between the two events.

By God's "righteousness" here we must understand His righteous plans for the

redemption of His people through Christ, and for the punishment of those who

resist His will and remain impenitent. The salvation and the judgment are the two

parts of the "righteousness." The isles shall wait upon me (compare ch. 41:1, 5

42:4, 10, 1249:160:9; and the comment on ch. 42:4). On mine arm shall they trust.

God's "arm" is His executive power - that might by which He effects His purposes.

The "isles" or "countries" that have been expecting the coming of a Deliverer will

have faith in His power to redeem and save them. Christianity was received with

more readiness by the Gentiles than by the "peculiar people" (Acts 11:2113:42, 46;

14:1-217:4-518:6, 28:28).

 

6 “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the

heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a

garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation

shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.”  Lift up your eyes

to the heavens. Look to that which seems to you most stable and most certain to

endure - the vast firmament of the heavens, and the solid earth beneath it, of which

God "bears up the pillars" (Psalm 85:3). Both these, and man too, are in their

nature perishable, and will (or may) vanish away and cease to be. But God,

and His power to save, and His eternal law of right, can never pass away,

BUT MUST ENDURE FOR EVERMORE!  Let Israel be sure that the righteous

purposes of God with respect to their own deliverance from Babylon, and to the

conversion of the Gentiles, stand firm, and THAT THEY WILL MOST CERTAINLY

BE ACCOMPLISHED! The heavens shall vanish away like smoke (compare Psalm

102:26; Matthew 24:35II Peter 3:10-12). And the earth shall wax old like a garment. 

So also in Psalm 102:26 and Hebrews 1:11. The new heaven and new earth promised

by Isaiah (ch. 65:17; 66:22), Peter (II Peter 3:13), and John (Revelation 21:1) are

created in the last times, because "the first heaven and the first earth have passed

away." They that dwell therein shall die in like manner. Dr. Kay observes

that the Hebrew text does not say, "in like manner," but "as in like manner."

Man is not subject to the same law of perishableness as the external world,

but to a different law. External things simply "pass away" and ARE NO MORE!

Man disappears from the earth, but continues to exist SOMEWHERE?  (Where?

The Bible tells us!  It is:

 

·         Heaven, or

·         Hell.

 

WHICH SHALL IT BE??????  CY – 2020)

 

Man has, by God's gift, a life that is to be unceasing!

 

7 “Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my

law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.”

Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness. The highest grade of faithfulness

is here addressed - not those who "seek" (v. 1), but those who have found - who

"know righteousness," and have the "law" of God in their "hearts." Such persons

may still be liable to one weakness - they may "fear the reproach of men." The

prophet exhorts them to put aside this fear, remembering”

 

  • the nothingness of humanity, and
  • the eternity and imperishableness of God's judgments.

 

the people in whose heart is my Law, fear ye not the reproach of men,

neither be ye afraid of their revilings” - The opinion formed of a man

by his contemporaries is frequently reversed by posterity!

 

It matters not what men think of us but what God thinks!

 

No one has been more reviled than Jesus Christ!

 

8 “For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them

like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from

generation to generation.”  The moth shall eat them (compare ch50:9). If men

themselves never wholly pass away (see the comment on v. 6), yet it is otherwise

with their judgments. These perish absolutely, disappear, and are utterly forgotten.

 

 

AN APPEAL OF THE PROPHET TO GOD TO AROUSE HIMSELF,

                        WITH A PROMISE OF ISRAEL'S RESTORATION

                                                            (vs. 9-11)

 

There has been much doubt as to the utterer of this "splendid apostrophe." Zion,

the prophet, the angels, Jehovah, and God the Son pleading with God the Father,

have been suggested. To us it seems simplest and best to assign the passage to the

prophet

 

9 “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the

ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab

and wounded the dragon?” Awake, awake (compare Psalm 7:635:2344:23

78:65). When God neglects the prayers and supplications of His people, He is

spoken of as "asleep," and needing to be awoke by a loud cry. The

anthropomorphism is obvious, and of course not to be taken literally

(see I Kings 18:27)Put on strength. Gird the strength to thee (Psalm 93:1)

which thou hadst laid aside while thou wept asleep. Art thou not it that hath

cut Rahab? ratherwas it not thou that didst cleave Rahab in pieces? Here, as in 

Psalm 87:4 and 89:10, "Rahab" would seem to be a symbolical expression for

Egypt. "Rahab" is literally "pride," or "the proud one." The event alluded to, both

here and in Psalm 89:10, is the destruction of Pharaoh's host in the Red Sea

(see v. 10). And wounded the dragon. "The dragon" is another symbol of the

Egyptian power (compare Ezekiel 29:3, "Pharaoh, King of Egypt, the great

dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers"). Originally designating God's great

enemy, Satan (Genesis 3:14Revelation 12:7-9 20:2), it is a term which

comes to be applied to the adversaries of the Almighty generally.

 

10 “Art thou not it which hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that

hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?”

Art thou not it which hath dried the sea? ratherwas it not thou that didst dry

up the sea? (compare Exodus 14:21-22). The waters of the Red Sea are called

those of "the great deep," because they are a portion of the circumambient ocean,

not a tideless land-locked basin, like the Mediterranean. That hath made; rather, 

that madest. The allusion is to the single occasion of the passage of the Red Sea by

the Israelites.

 

vs. 9-10 - Work as in the days of old!

 

At the end of time the Bible says that He will!  Zecharaiah 14:3 –

“Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations,

as when He fought in the day of battle”

 

11 “Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto

Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness

and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.” The redeemed of the Lord

(see the comment on ch. 35:10. where the same passage occurs with scarcely any

variation). Isaiah is not averse to repetitions (see ch. 5:259:12, 17, 2110:4

11:165:2548:22; 57:21).

 

No more separation of loved ones, no more loss of friends, or parents, or

children, or wife, or brother or sister - AND THERE IS NO MORE SIN –

the sense of shame is gone, remorse, and regret are gone.  So also labor and

sorrow, disappointment and delusion, hunger, thirst, weariness, cold, heat,

desire and passion – in its place A NEW HEAVEN AND EARTH

WHEREIN DWELLETH RIGHTEOUSNESS!  II Peter 3:13

 

 

 

                        AN ADDRESS OF GOD TO HIS CAPTIVE PEOPLE

                                                            (vs. 12-16)

 

There is no very clear connection between this passage and the preceding, to which it is

certainly not an answer. God comforts the captives under the oppression which they

are suffering:

 

  • by reminding them of their oppressors' weakness and short-livedness;
  • by assuring them of speedy deliverance (v. 14); and
  • by impressing upon them His own power as shown in the past, which is a

      guarantee that He will protect them in the future (vs. 15-16).

 

12 “I, even I, am He that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be

afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass.”

I am He that comforteth you (compare v. 3, and the comment). Who art thou?

Art thou a poor, weak, powerless, unprotected people, which might well tremble at

the powerful Babylonians: or art thou not rather a people under the special protection

of Jehovah, bound, therefore, to fear no one? As grass (compare ch. 37:2740:6-8).

 

13 “And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and

laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because

of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of

the oppressor?”  And forgettest the Lord thy Maker. It is not so much apostasy as want

of a lively and practical faith with which captive Israel is here reproached. They did

not deny God – they left Him out of sight, neglected Him, forgot Him. That hath

stretched forth the heavens (compare  ch. 40:2242:544:2445:12). And laid the

foundations of the earth (see ch. 48:13*; Psalm 102:25Hebrews 1:10). And hast

feared continually... because of the fury of the oppressor. (On the sufferings

of the Israelites under their Babylonian oppressors, see the comment on ch. 42:22,

and again on ch. 47:6.) By the present passage it would appear that life itself was

not safe from their cruel fury, when their victims had exasperated them. Where is the

fury of the oppressor? All their violence and rage will come to naught, when they

in their turn become subject to the conquering Persians.

 

*(Should that not make a person to be in awe of God, or if not awe. fear?

   CY – 2020)

 

Man is the creature of a day but God is “from everlasting to everlasting”-

Men will tremble before the wrath of men with little thought given to

the wrath of God? The Bible from cover to cover asks what ye will do in the

Judgment?

 

14 “The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die

in the pit, nor that his bread should fail.” The captive exile hasteneth that he

may be loosed; rather, he that is bent down hasteneth to be released; i.e. such of

the exiles as were cramped and bent by fetters, or by the stocks, would speedily,

on the fall of Babylon, obtain their release. They would not "die unto the pit," i.e.

so as to belong to the pit and to be cast into it, but would live and have a sufficiency

of sustenance.

 

15 “But I am the LORD thy God, that divided the sea, whose waves roared:

The LORD of hosts is His name.” But I am the Lord thy God, that divided the

sea; rather, for Ithe Lord thy Godam He that divided the sea (compare v. 10).

The reference is once more to the great miracle wrought at the Exodus, when

the Red Sea was "divided" before the host of Israelites (Exodus 14:21; compare

 Psalm 74:13). Whose waves roared (see ibid. v.27ch. 15:10).

 

16 “And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow

of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth,

and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.”  And I have put my words in thy mouth.

Some commentators detach this verse altogether from the preceding passage, and

regard it as a fragment intruded here out of its proper place by some unaccountable

accident. From the close resemblance of the expressions used to those in ch. 49:2, they

consider that the person addressed must be "the Servant of Jehovah," and hence

conclude that the verse "originally stood in some other context" (Cheyne). It is,

however, quite possible to regard Israel as still addressed; since Israel too was the

recipient of God's words (see ch. 59:21), and was protected by God's hand from

destruction, and kept in existence until the happy time should come when God

would create a new heaven and a new earth (ch. 65:17) for Israel's dwelling-place,

and say unto Zion i.e. to the "new Jerusalem" Revelation 21:2) - Thou art my

people. This crowning promise well terminates the comforting address wherewith

Jehovah at this time saw fit to cheer and encourage His captive people.

 

 

            AN ADDRESS OF THE PROPHET TO JERUSALEM.

                                                (vs. 17-23)

 

The comfort afforded to Israel generally is now concentrated on Jerusalem.

Her condition during the long period of the Captivity is deplored, and her

want of a champion to assert her cause and raise her out of the dust is

lamented (vs. 17-20). After this, an assurance is given her that the

miseries which she has suffered shall pass from her to her great enemy, by

whom the dregs .of the “cup of trembling” shall be drained, and the last

drop wrung out (vs. 21-23).

           

17 “Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the

LORD the cup of His fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, 

and wrung them out.  Awake, awake (compare v. 9 and ch. 52:1). Isaiah marks the

breaks in his prophecy, sometimes by a repetition of terminal clauses, which have the

effect of a refrain (ch.5:25Isaiah 9:12, 17, 2110:4; and 48:22; 57:21); sometimes

by a repetition of initial clauses of a striking character (ch.5:8, 11, 2013:115:1

17:119:121:1, 1122:123:128:129:130:131:133:148:1, 12, 1650:4, 7, 9).

Here we have thrice over "Awake, awake" - not, however, an exact repetition in the

Hebrew, but a near approach to it each summons forming the commencement of a new

paragraph or subsection. Which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury. 

The cup of God's fury was poured out on Jerusalem when the city was taken by

Nebuchadnezzar, the temple, the royal palace, and the houses of the nobles burnt

(II Kings 25:9), the walls broken down (ibid. 25:10), and the bulk of the inhabitants

carried away captive to Babylon (ibid. v. 11; compare II Chronicles 34:25

Jeremiah 42:1844:6Ezekiel 22:31). "The cup of God's fury" is an expression

used by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:15). The dregs of the cup; rather, perhaps, the goblet-cup 

(Cheyne), or the out-swollen cup. It is the fullness of the measure of Jerusalem's

punishment, not its character, which is pointed at.

 

18 “There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth;

neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought

up.”  None to guide her. From the time that Johanan, the son of Kareah, and the other

"captains of the forces," quitted Judaea and fled into Egypt, taking with them Jeremiah

and Baruch (Jeremiah 43:5-7), there was no one left in the country with any authority

or any ability to direct affairs. The city, no doubt, suffered by this state of things,

becoming more ruined and more desolate than it would have been otherwise. Had

Johanan and the Jews under him remained in the land, God had promised to

"build them, and not pull them down;" to "plant them, and not pluck them up"

(Jeremiah 42:10). Thus Jerusalem's extreme desolation was not wholly the result

of the Babylonian conquest, but was partly due to the after-misconduct of the Jews left

in the country.

 

19 “These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation,

and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee?”

These two things. What are the "two things," it is asked, since four are mentioned – 

desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword? The right answer seems

to be that of Aben Ezra and Kimchi, that the two things are "desolation," or rather

"wasting" within, produced by "famine;" and "destruction" without, produced

by "the sword." Who shall be sorry for thee? ratherwho will mourn with thee? 

Jerusalem is without friends; no man condoles with her over her misfortunes.

God alone feels compassion; but even He scarce knows how to comfort. By whom?

ratherhow? (compare Amos 7:2, 5).

 

20 “Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull

in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy God.”

Thy sons have fainted, they lie; rather, thy sons fainted; they lay. The prophet

describes the siege and capture of Jerusalem as past, because his standpoint

is the time of the Captivity. He depicts the inhabitants of Jerusalem as "faint"

through famine, and so weak that they lie prostrate about the streets. As a wild

bull in a net; rather, like a gazelle in a net - panting, exhausted, incapable of

the hast resistance. They are full of the fury of the Lord; i.e. the fury of the Lord

has been fully poured out upon them.

 

21 “Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine.”

Drunken, but not with wine (compare ch 29:9; and see above, v. 17, which shows

that the appearance of drunkenness had been produced by Jerusalem drinking the

cup of God's wrath).

 

22 “Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His

people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the

dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again.”

The Lord... that pleadeth the cause of His people (compare Jeremiah 50:34, which

contains an allusion to this passage). As His people have a relentless adversary,

who accuses them continually, and pleads against them (Revelation 12:10),

so it is needful that they should have an untiring advocate. God Himself is

this Advocate. (I John 2:1)  The dregs of the cup (see the comment on v. 17, ad fin.).

 

23 “But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy

soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground,

and as the street, to them that went over.”  I will put it into the hand of them

that afflict thee. Babylon, the oppressor of Judah, shall in her turn be made to drink

of the cup of which Judah had so long drunk, and shall suffer nearly the same woes

which she had inflicted. Meanwhile, Judah should cease to drink of the cup, and have

"a time of refreshing." Bow down, that we may go over; i.e. "submit yourselves to the

uttermost, that we may put upon you the most extreme indignity." The metaphor

is drawn from the actual practice of conquerors, who made captive kings prostrate

themselves, and placed their feet upon their necks, or otherwise trampled upon

them (see Joshua 10:24; and compare 'Ancient hierarchies,' vol. 3:p. 7).

 

“God that pleadeth the cause of His people - As His people have a relentless

adversary, who accuses them continually, and pleads against them

(Revelation 12:10), so it is needful that they should have an untiring Advocate. 

God the Father is the Judge of man, before whose tribunal all men must one day

appear. God the Son is the Advocate - 1 John 2:1) who pleads with the Father on

their behalf, intercedes  for them (Hebrews 7:25), deprecates the Father’s wrath,

implores His mercy, entreats for and obtains their pardon. Satan, on the other

hand accuses (Revelation 12:10); but the Lord Jesus Christ defends. He

defends His own, and He overcomes by His own blood (Revelation

12:11), wherewith He has washed away their sins. He “justifieth

(Romans 8:33), and then “who is he that condemneth?” Assuredly, NO ONE!

 

God’s mercy is over all His works,” over man especially; in a peculiar manner

over such as love Him and trust in Him. He will not suffer them to be tried “above

that they are able” (I Corinthians 10:13) -  He loves them, and watches over them, and

sympathizes with their sufferings, and counts their wrongs, and hears their groans

(Exodus 2:23), and “knows their sorrows” (ibid. ch. 3:7).

 

 

 

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