Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 14: Isaiah, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Isaiah Chapter 25:1-12
1. O Lord, thou art my God: I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name: for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.
1. Iehova Deus meus es tu; exaltabo te: celebrabor nomin tuum; quia fecisti rem mirificam; consilia iam olim decreta, veritatem firmam.
2. For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.
2. Quia posuisti ex urbe acervum, urbem munitam in ruinam; palatium extraneorum, ut non sit civitas, nec unquam ædificetur.
3. Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee.
3. Propterea glorificabit te populus fortis; civitas gentium robustarum timebit te.
4. For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.
4. Nam fuisti fortitudo pauperi; fortitudo, inquam, egeno in afflictione ejus; refugium ab inundatione, umbra ab æstu, quia spiritus fortium (aut, violentorum) quasi turbo (vel, inundatio) contra murum.
5. Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.
5. Sicut æstum in arido, strepitum alienorum humiliabis, æstum in umbra nubis; clamorem (vel, cantum, vel, excisionem) fortium humiliabit.
6. And in this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees; of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
6. Et faciet Iehova exercituum cunctis populis in monte isto convivium pinguium, convivium defecatorum; pinguium, inquam, medullatorum; defecatorum liquidorum.
7. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.
7. Et destruet in monte isto faciem involucri quo involuti sunt populi omnes, et operimentum quad expansum est super omnes gentes.
8. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.
8. Destruxit mortem in æternum. Et absterget Dominus Iehova lachrymam a cunctis faciebus, et opprobrium populi sui auferet ab universa terra; quia Iehova locutus est.
9. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
9. Et dicetur in die illa: Ecce Deus noster iste; expectavimus eum, et salvabit nos. Iste Iehova; expectavimus eum, exultabimus, et lætabimur in salute ejus.
10. For in this mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.
10. Nam quiescet manus Iehovæ in monte isto; et triturabitur Moab subter eum, sicut trituratur palea in sterquilinio.
11. And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim; and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.
11. Et extendet manum suam sub medio ejus, sicut extendit natator ad natandum; et humiliabit superbiam ejus, cum brachiis manuum suarum.
12. And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.
12. Et munitionem sublimitatis murorum tuorum sternet, humiliabit, dejiciet in terram, ad pulverem.
1. O Lord, thou art my God. Hitherto Isaiah has prophesied about the judgments of God, which threatened not only a single nation, but almost the whole world. Now, it was impossible that the contemplation of calamities so dismal as those which he foresaw should not give him great uneasiness; for godly persons would desire that all mankind should be saved, and, while they honor God, they desire also to love all that belongs to him; and, in short, so far as any man sincerely fears God, he has a powerful and lively feeling of the divine judgments. While wicked men stand amazed at the judgments of God, and are not moved by any terror, godly men tremble at the slightest token of his anger. And if this be the case with us, what do we suppose was experienced by the Prophet, who had almost before his eyes those calamities which he foretold? For, in order that the ministers of the word might be convinced of the certainty of what they taught, it was necessary that they should be more powerfully impressed by it than the generality of men.
Since therefore the Lord held out to Isaiah, as in a picture, those dreadful calamities, he found it necessary, under the overpowering influence of grief and anxiety, to betake himself to the Lord; otherwise the confused emotions of his mind would have agitated him beyond measure. He therefore takes courage from the belief that, in the midst of these tempests, the Lord still determines to promote the advantage of his Church, and to bring into subjection to himself those who were formerly estranged. Isaiah therefore remains firm and steadfast in his calling, and does not allow himself to be drawn aside from his purpose, but continually relies on the expectation of mercy, and therefore perseveres in celebrating the praises of God. Thus we learn that this thanksgiving is connected with the former prophecies, and that Isaiah considers not only what he foretold, but why the Lord did it; that is, why the Lord afflicted so many nations with various calamities. It was, that he might subdue those who were formerly incorrigible, and who rushed forward with brutal eagerness, who had no fear of God, and no feeling of religion or godliness.
Thou art my God. Being as it were perplexed and confused, he suddenly raises his thoughts to God, as we have already said. Hence we ought to draw a very useful doctrine, namely, that when our minds are perplexed by a variety of uneasy thoughts on account of numerous distresses and afflictions which happen daily, we ought immediately to resort to God, and rely on his providence; for even the smallest calamities will overwhelm us, if we do not betake ourselves to him, and support our hearts by this doctrine. In order to bring out more fully the meaning of the Prophet, the word but or nevertheless may be appropriately inserted in this manner: “Whatever temptations from that quarter may disturb me, nevertheless I will acknowledge thee to be my God.” Thus he promises that he will give to God the praise which is due to him; and this cannot be, unless a firm belief of his grace dwell in our hearts, and hold a superiority, from which grace springs a joy, which yields to us the most abundant ground for praises, when we are certain of our salvation, and are fully convinced that the Lord is our God. Accordingly, those who are influenced by no desire to praise God, have not believed and have not tasted the goodness of God; for if we actually trust in God, we must be led to take great delight in praising his name.
For thou hast done a wonderful thing. He uses the word פלא, (pĕlĕ,) wonderful, in the singular number instead of the plural. The Prophet does not confine his view to the present appearance of things, but looks to the end; for even men who in other respects are heathens, behold in the government of the world astonishing events, the sight of which overwhelms them with amazement; which undoubtedly happened to the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, and to the Babylonians and Moabites. But those only who have tasted his goodness and wisdom can profit by the works of God; for otherwise they undervalue and despise his works, and do not comprehend their excellence, because they do not perceive their end, which is, that God, wonderfully bringing light out of darkness, (2Co 4:6,) raises his Church from death to life, and regulates in the best manner, and directs to the most valuable purpose, those things which to the eye of man appear to be confused.
Counsels which have been already decreed of old. 136 Now, in order to bestow still higher commendation on the providence of God, he adds, that the “counsels have been already decreed of old;” as if he had said, that to God nothing is sudden or unforeseen. And indeed, though he sometimes appears to us to act suddenly, yet all things were undoubtedly ordained by him before the creation of the world. (Ac 15:18.) By this word, therefore, the Apostle means that all the miracles which happen contrary to the expectation of men, are the result of that regular order which God maintains in governing the world, arranging all things from the beginning to the end. Now, since we do not understand those secret decrees, and our powers of understanding cannot rise so high, our attention must therefore be directed to the manifestation of them; for they are concealed from us, and exceed our comprehension, till the Lord reveal them by his word, in which he accommodates himself to our weakness; for his decree is (ἀνεξεύρητον) unsearchable.
Firm truth. 137 From the eternal decrees of God the Prophet thus proceeds to doctrines and promises, which he undoubtedly denotes by the word truth; for the repetition would be frivolous, if this word did not signify a relation; because, when God has revealed to us his purpose, if we believe his sayings, he then appears to be actually true. He commends the firmness and certainty of the word, when he says that it is “steadfast truth;” that is, that everything that comes from God, everything that is declared by him, is firm and unchangeable.
2. For thou hast made of a city a heap. Some refer this to Jerusalem; but I think that there is a change of the number, as is very customary with the prophets; for the Prophet does not speak merely of a single city, but of many cities, which he says will be reduced to heaps. As to the view held by some, that the Romans made Jerusalem a palace, it has nothing to do with the Prophet’s meaning, which will be easily enough understood, if we keep in remembrance what has been already stated, that the Prophet does not confine his thoughts to those calamities by which the Lord afflicts many nations, but extends his view to the end of the chastisements. In this manner the Lord determined to tame and subdue the obstinacy of men, whom he would never have brought into subjection to him without having been broken down by various afflictions.
A palace of foreigners, 138 that it may not be a city. The Prophet does not merely mean that, when the natives have been driven out, “foreigners” wil1 inhabit the cities which have been taken; for that would not agree with what he immediately adds, “that it may be no longer a city;” but that wandering bands of men who shall be in want of a habitation will there find abundance of room, because there will be no inhabitants left. Since ארמון (armōn) denotes a magnificent palace, the Prophet thus says ironically, that highwaymen will dwell as in palaces, on account of the vast extent of the place which shall be deserted.
3. Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee. This is the end which I mentioned; 139 for if the Lord should destroy the world, no good result would follow, and indeed destruction could produce no feeling but horror, and we would never be led by it to sing his praise; but, on the contrary, we must be deprived of all feeling, when we perceive nothing but wrath. But praises flow from a sense of grace and goodness. It is therefore as if he had said, “Thou wilt not only strike and afflict, O Lord, but wilt cause the chastisements to be not without effect; for by them thou wilt subdue the fierceness of men, so that those who were formerly estranged from thee shall bend their neck to thee.” This passage should lead us to observe how much we need chastisements, which train us to obedience to God; for we are carried away by prosperity to such an extent, that we think that we have a right to do anything, and we even grow wanton and insolent when God treats us with gentleness.
The city of the terrible nations shall fear thee. When the Prophet next mentions fear, he shews that this praise does not consist in words or outward gestures, but in the sincere feeling of the heart. Hence we infer that he now speaks of the entire worship of God; but, as many persons think that they have fully discharged their duty, as soon as they have made a confession with the mouth, he adds, for the sake of explanation, “The nations shall fear thee.” When he calls them strong and powerful, by these epithets he denotes their pride and arrogance; for they were elated by their prosperity. They rebel against God, and cannot be made humble or submissive, unless they have been deprived of all things. To such views, therefore, ought our thoughts to be directed amidst those calamities which we perceive. The fierceness of men must be restrained and subdued, that they may be prepared for receiving doctrine and for rendering true obedience. So long as they shall be blinded by their wealth and vain confidence, they will fearlessly mock at the judgments of God, and will never yield subjection to him.
4. For thou hast been a strength to the poor. Hence we see the fruit of conversion, namely, that the Lord raises us from the dead, and brings us, as it were, out of the grave, stretching out his hand to us from heaven, to rescue us even from hell. This is our first access to him, for it is only in our poverty that he finds the means of exercising his kindness. To us in our turn, therefore, it is necessary that we be poor and needy, that we may obtain assistance from him; and we must lay aside all reliance and confidence in ourselves, before he display his power in our behalf. This is the reason why he visits us with chastisements and with the cross, by which he trains us, so that we may be able to receive his assistance and grace.
A refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat. It is not without good reason that Isaiah adorns this description by these comparisons; for numerous and diversified temptations arise, and, in order to bear them courageously, it is necessary that the weak minds of men should be strengthened and fortified. On this account he says that God will be “a strength to the poor, a refuge from the storms, and a shadow from the heat;” because, whatever may be the nature of the dangers and assaults which threaten them, the Lord will protect his people against them, and will supply them with every kind of armor.
The breath of the strong or of the violent ones. In this passage, as in many others, (Ge 8:1; Ex 15:10; 1Ki 19:11,) רוח (rūăch) signifies “the blowing of the wind,” and denotes the tremendous violence with which wicked men are hurried along against the children of God; for not only do they “breathe out threatenings and terrors,” (Ac 9:1,) but they appear to vomit out fire itself.
A storm or flood against the wall. This is to the same purport as the former; for by this figure he means, that wicked men, when they obtain liberty to do mischief, rush on with such violence that they throw down everything that comes in their way, for to overthrow and destroy walls is more than if the water were merely flowing over the fields.
5. As the heat in a dry place. If the Lord did not aid when violent men rush upon us, our life would be in imminent danger; for we see how great is the rage of wicked men, and if the Lord overturn walls, what can a feeble man do against him? These things therefore are added in order to magnify the grace of God, that we may consider what would become of us if the Lord did not render assistance.
Yet there are two ways in which commentators explain this passage. Some understand it to mean, that wicked men will be consumed by God’s indignation, in the same manner as the violence of the heat burns up the fields which are in themselves barren. Others render it in the ablative case, As if by heat, and make the meaning to be, “Though wicked men, relying on their power, are so violent, yet the Lord will prostrate them in a moment, as if they were overpowered ‘by heat in a dry place.’” But I consider the meaning to be different, for, after having shewn how great is the rage of wicked men against believers, he adds:
Thou wilt bring them down, O Lord. Alluding to the metaphor of the deluge, which he had formerly used, he says, “Thou wilt quench their heat, which would otherwise consume us, even as rain, or a shower, falling from heaven, quenches the heat that scorched the thirsty fields.” And thus the passage flows naturally; for the other interpretation is forced, and does violence, as the saying is, to the letter.
The noise of the strong ones will he lay low. 140 This clause is tortured in various ways. Some think that זמיר (zĕmīr) means seed; others that it means a root; as if he had said, that God will not only destroy wicked men, but will utterly root them out. This meaning would be probable, were it not opposed by the metaphor of the heat. In my opinion, therefore, it is more correctly interpreted by others to mean “singing and shouting,” or “cutting off,” although even those interpreters do not fully succeed in getting at the meaning of the Prophet. He therefore confirms the preceding statement, that the violence of wicked men, or the shouting which they haughtily and daringly set up, will presently be laid low, as the heat of the sun is overpowered by the falling rain, which is meant by the shadow of a cloud
6. And the Lord of hosts shall make. This passage has received various interpretations. Some think that the Prophet threatens the Jews, and threatens them in such a manner as to invite various nations to a banquet. This mode of expression is also found in other passages, for the Lord is said to fatten the wicked for the day of slaughter. Those commentators think that, as if the Jews were exposed as a prey to the Gentiles on account of their impiety, the Gentiles are invited to a banquet; as if the Lord had said, “I have prepared a splendid entertainment for the Gentiles; the Romans shall plunder and prey on the Jews.” But, in my opinion, that view of the passage cannot be admitted, nor will it be necessary for me to give a long refutation of it, after having brought forward the true interpretation. Others explain it as if Isaiah were speaking of the wrath of God in this manner, “The Lord will prepare a banquet for all nations; he will give to them to drink the cup of his anger, that they may be drunken.”
But the Prophet had quite a different meaning, for he proceeds in making known the grace of God, which was to be revealed by the coming of Christ. He employs the same metaphor which is also used by David, when he describes the kingdom of Christ, and says, that
“the poor and the rich will sit down at this feast,
and will eat and be satisfied.” (Ps. 22:26, 29.)
By this metaphorical language he means, that no class of men will be excluded from partaking of this generous provision. Formerly it seemed as if the Lord nourished the Jews only, because they alone were adopted, and, as it were, invited to the feast provided for his family; but now he admits the Gentiles also, and extends his beneficence to all nations.
Will make for all nations a feast of fat things. This is an implied contrast when he says, to all nations, for formerly he was known to one nation only. (Ps 76:1.) By “a feast of fat things” is meant a banquet consisting of animals that have been well fattened.
Of liquids purified. 141 Some render the Hebrew word שמרים, (shĕmārīm,) dregs, but inaccurately, for it means “old wines,” such as the French call, vins de garde, “wines that have been long kept,” and that are preferable to ordinary wines, especially in an eastern country, where they carry their age better. He calls them liquids which contain no dregs or sediment.
In short, it is sufficiently evident that he does not here threaten destruction against Gentiles or Jews, but that both are invited together to a very splendid banquet. This is still more evident from Christ’s own words, when he compares the kingdom of heaven to a marriage-feast which the King prepared for his Son, to which he invites all without exception, because those who were at first invited refused to come. (Matt. 22:2, 3.) Nor have I any doubt that he speaks of the preaching of the gospel; and as it proceeded from Mount Zion, (Isa 2:3,) he says that the Gentiles will come to it to feast; for when God presents to the whole world spiritual food for feeding souls, the meaning was the same as if he had prepared a table for all. The Lord invites us at the present day, that he may fill and satisfy us with good things; he raises up faithful ministers to prepare for us that feast, and gives power and efficacy to his word, that we may be satisfied with it. 142
In this mountain. As to the word mountain, though the servants of God do not now come out of the mountain to feed us, yet by this name we must understand the Church; for nowhere else can any one partake of this food. That feast is not set down in streets and highways, the table is not spread everywhere, and this banquet is not prepared in all places. In order that we may feast, we must come to the Church. That place was mentioned, because there alone God was worshipped, and revelations proceeded from it; as also the gospel came forth from it. When he says that this banquet will be rich and sumptuous, the design of this is to commend the doctrine of the gospel; for it is the spiritual food with which our souls are fed, and is so exquisitely delightful that we have no need of any other.
7. And he will destroy the face of the covering. 143 Here also commentators differ, for by the word covering is meant the disgrace with which believers are covered in this world, so that the glory of God is not seen in them; as if he had said, “Though many reproaches oppress the godly, yet God will take away those reproaches, and will make their condition glorious. I pass by other interpretations; but, in my opinion, the true meaning is, that the Lord promises that he will take away the veil by which they were kept in blindness and ignorance; and therefore it was by the light of the gospel that this darkness was dispelled.
In that mountain. He says that this will be in mount Zion, from which also the light of the word shone on the whole world, as we have already seen. (Isa 2:3.) This passage, therefore, must unavoidably be referred to the kingdom of Christ; for the light did not shine on all men till Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, arose, (Mal 4:2,) who took away all the veils, wrappings, and coverings. And here we have another commendation of the gospel, that it dispels the darkness, and takes away from our eyes the covering of errors. Hence it follows, that we are wrapped up and blinded by the darkness of ignorance, before we are enlightened by the doctrine of the gospel, by which alone we can obtain light and life, and be fully restored. Here, too, we have a confirmation of the calling of the Gentiles, that is, of our calling; for not only the Jews, but all nations, which formerly were buried in every kind of errors and superstition, are invited to this banquet.
8. He hath destroyed death eternally. 144 The Prophet continues his subject; for in general he promises that there will be perfect happiness under the reign of Christ, and, in order to express this the more fully, he employs various metaphors admirably adapted to the subject. That happiness is real, and not temporary or fading, which not even death can take away; for amidst the highest prosperity our joy is not a little diminished by the consideration that it will not always last. He therefore connects two things, which render happiness full and complete. The first is, that the life is perpetual; for to those who in other respects are happy for a time, it is a wretched thing to die. The second is, that this life is accompanied by joy; for otherwise it may be thought that death would be preferable to a sorrowful and afflicted life. He next adds that, when all disgrace has been removed, this life will be glorious; for otherwise less confidence would have been placed in the prophecy, in consequence of the wretched oppression of the people.
But it is asked, To what period must we refer these promises? for in this world we must contend with various afflictions, and must fight continually; and not only are we “appointed to death,” (Ps 44:22,) but we “die daily.” (1Co 15:31.) Paul complains of himself and the chief pillars of the Church, that they are “a spectacle to all men,” and endure insults of every kind, and are even looked upon as (καθάρματα) “cleansings” and (περιψήματα) “sweepings,” or “offscourings.” 145 (1 Cor. 4:9, 13.) Where or when, therefore, are these things fulfilled? They must undoubtedly be referred to the universal kingdom of Christ; — universal, I say, because we must look not only at the beginning, but also at the accomplishment and the end: and thus it must be extended even to the second coming of Christ, which on that account is called “the day of redemption” and “the day of restoration;” because all things which now appear to be confused shall be fully restored, and assume a new form. (Luke 21:28, Acts 3:21, Rom. 8:23, Eph. 4:30.) This prediction relates, no doubt, to the deliverance from Babylon; but as that deliverance might be regarded as the earnest and foretaste of another, this promise must undoubtedly be extended to the last day.
Let us therefore direct all our hope and expectation to this point, and let us not doubt that the Lord will fulfill all these things in us when we have finished our course. If we now “sow in tears,” then undoubtedly we shall “reap with joy” and ecstasy. (Ps 126:5.) Let us not dread the insults or reproaches of men, which will one day procure for us the highest glory. Having obtained here the beginnings of this happiness and glory, by being adopted by God, and beginning to bear the image of Christ, let us firmly and resolutely await the completion of it at the last day.
For Jehovah hath spoken it. After so many dreadful calamities, it might be thought that such an event was incredible; and therefore the Prophet shews that it proceeds not from man, but from God. When Jerusalem had been overthrown, the worship of God taken away, the temple destroyed, and the remnant of the people oppressed by cruel tyranny, no man would have believed it to be possible that everything would be raised to its original condition. It was necessary to combat with this distrust, to which men are strongly inclined; and therefore the Prophet confirms and seals these promises.
“Know that God communicated to me these declarations; fix your minds therefore on him, and not on me; let your faith rely on him ‘who cannot lie’ or deceive.”
9. And it shall be said. The verb אמר (āmăr) is indefinite, “He shall say;” but as the discourse does not relate to one or another individual, but to all in general, I chose to render it in a passive form. 146 This is an excellent conclusion; for it shews that God’s benefits are not in any respect doubtful or uncertain, but are actually received and enjoyed by men. The Prophet declares that the banquet, of which he formerly spoke, (verse 6,) will not in vain be prepared by God; for men shall feast on it, and possess everlasting joy.
Lo, this is our God. That joyful shout, which he declares will be public, is the actual test and proof, so to speak, of the experience of the grace of God. This passage ought to be carefully observed; for the Prophet shews that there will be such a revelation as shall fix the minds of men on the word of God, so that they will rely on it without any kind of hesitation; and if these things belong, as they undoubtedly do belong, to the kingdom of Christ, we derive from them this valuable fruit, that Christians, unless they are wanting to themselves, and reject the grace of God, have undoubted truth on which they may safely rely. God has removed all ground of doubt, and has revealed himself to them in such a manner, that they may venture freely to declare that they know with certainty what is his will, and may say with truth what Christ said to the Samaritan woman, “We worship what we know.” (Joh 4:22.) Having been informed by the gospel as to the grace offered through Christ, we do not now wander in uncertain opinions, as others do, but embrace God and his pure worship. Let us boldly say, “Away with all the inventions of men!”
It is proper to observe the contrast between that dark and feeble kind of knowledge which the fathers enjoyed under the law, and the fullness which shines forth to us in the gospel. Though God deigned to bestow on his ancient people the light of heavenly doctrine, yet he made himself more familiarly known through Christ, as we are told;
“No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, hath declared him.” (Joh 1:18.)
The Prophet now extols that certainty which the Son of God brought to us by his coming, when he “sheweth to us the Father.” (Joh 14:9.) Yet, while we excel the ancient people in this respect, that the reconciliation obtained through Christ makes God, as it were, more gracious to us, there is no other way in which God can be known but through Christ, who is “the pattern and image of his substance.” (Heb 1:3.) “He who knoweth not the Son, knoweth not the Father.” (Joh 14:7.) Though Jews, Mahometans, and other infidels, boast that they worship God, the creator of heaven and earth, yet they worship an imaginary God. However obstinate they may be, they follow doubtful and uncertain opinions instead of the truth; they grope in the dark, and worship their own imagination instead of God. In short, apart from Christ, all religion is deceitful and transitory, and every kind of worship ought to be abhorred and boldly condemned.
Nor is it without good reason that the Prophet employs not only the adverb Lo, but the demonstrative pronoun This, 147 in order to attest more fully the presence of God, as, a little afterwards, by repeating the declaration of certainty and confidence, he expresses the steadfastness that will be found in those who shall worship God through Christ. It is certain that we cannot comprehend God in his majesty, for he “dwelleth in unapproachable light,” (1Ti 6:16,) which will immediately overpower us, if we attempt to rise to it; and therefore he accommodates himself to our weakness, gives himself to us through Christ, by whom he makes us partakers of wisdom, righteousness, truth, and other blessings. (1Co 1:30.)
This is Jehovah. It is worthy of observation that, when he calls Christ the God of believers, he gives to him the name “Jehovah;” from which we infer that the actual eternity of God belongs to the person of Christ. Besides, since Christ has thus made himself known to us by the gospel, this proves the base ingratitude of those who, not satisfied with so full a manifestation, have dared to add to it their own idle speculation, as has been done by Popery.
We have waited for him. He expresses the firmness and perseverance of those who have once embraced God in Christ; for it ought not to be a temporary knowledge, but we must persevere in it steadfastly to the end. Now, Isaiah speaks in the name of the ancient Church, which at that time had its seat, strictly speaking, among the Jews alone; and therefore, despising as it were all the gods that were worshipped in other countries, he boldly declares that he alone, who revealed himself to Abraham, (Ge 15:1,) and proclaimed his law by the hand of Moses, (Exod. 20:1, 2,) is the true God. Other nations, which were involved in the darkness of ignorance, did not “wait for” the Lord: for this “waiting” springs from faith, which is accompanied by patience, and there is no faith without the word.
Thus he warns believers that their salvation rests on hope and expectation; for the promises of God were as it were suspended till the coming of Christ. Besides, we ought to observe what was the condition of those times; for it appeared as if either the promise of God had come to nought, or he had rejected the posterity of Abraham. Certainly, though they looked very far, God did not at that time appear to them; and therefore they must have been endued with astonishing patience to endure such heavy and sharp temptations. Accordingly, he bids them wait quietly for the coming of Christ; for then they will clearly perceive how near God is to them that worship him.
The same doctrine ought to soothe us in the present day, so that, though our salvation be concealed, still we may “wait for the Lord” with firm and unshaken hope, and, when he is at a distance, may always say, Lo, here he is. In times of the greatest confusion, let us learn to distinguish him by this mark, This is he. 148 As to the words, though he says, in the past tense, 149 “We rejoiced and were glad in his salvation;” yet the words denote a continued act; and, a little before, he had said in the future tense, “He will save us.” The meaning may be thus summed up, “Christ will never disappoint the hopes of his people, if they call on him with patience.”
10. For the hand of Jehovah shall rest. The design of the Prophet in the beginning of this verse, I have no doubt, was to comfort the godly, who but for this would have thought that God had forsaken and abandoned them; for the opinion of those who view it as describing the judgment which the Lord was about to execute on the Jews, has no foundation whatever; but the meaning is the same as if he had said, that the Lord will always assist his Church. I am aware that “the hand of God” rests also on the reprobate, when he does not cease to pursue them with his vengeance, till he completely overwhelm them; but here the word “hand” denotes assistance, and not chastisements, and therefore by the word “rest,” is meant the uninterrupted continuance of defense or protection.
We draw from this a profitable doctrine, that although God scatters innumerable blessings over the whole world, in such a manner that wicked men also obtain a share of them, yet his “hand” does not “rest,” or is not continually present, but in the holy mountain; that is, in the Church, where he is worshipped. It ought also to be observed, that Jerusalem had been chastised, before she received these blessings; for he had formerly threatened chastisements and punishments, to which he added this consolation.
And Moab shall be trodden down under him. In this clause he gives an additional view of the grace of God; for, by inflicting punishment on the enemies of the Church, he will shew how dearly he values its salvation. The Jews had no enemies more deadly than the Moabites, though their ancestors 150 were near relatives. By a figure of speech (συνεκδοχικῶς) in which a part is taken for the whole, he includes under this name all the enemies of the Church, and especially those who are somewhat related to them, and who are more destructive than all others. He shews that, though for a time they are victorious and oppress the Church, yet eventually they shall be punished. His object is, that under their afflictions believers may not lose heart, as if their condition were unhappy, while wicked men are cheerful and prosperous; for the “treading down,” which is here mentioned, will quickly follow. Consequently, if at the present day we see the Church disturbed and oppressed by those who are somewhat related to us, and who even assume the name and title of the Church, let us comfort our hearts by this promise.
As straw is trodden down in the dunghills. 151 The word מדמנה, (Mădmēnāh,) which we translate “dunghill,” 152 is supposed by some to be the name of a city, which is also mentioned by Jeremiah, (Jer 48:2.) But what if we should say that the Prophet alludes to the city, which was probably situated in a fertile soil, and thus conveys a stronger censure, and presses harder on the Moabites? As if he had said, “As straw is trodden down in their fields, so will the Lord tread down the Moabites.” I do not dislike other interpretations, but consider it to be not improbable that he alludes to the fertility of the soil in which that city was situated. Yet in my version I have not hesitated to follow the common opinion.
11. And he shall spread out. The Prophet now explains and confirms the former statement; but he employs a different metaphor, by which he means, that the Lord will spread out his hand to the innermost part of the country of Moab, and not merely to its extremities. Some explain the metaphor thus: “As the arms are stretched out in swimming, so the Lord will chastise the Moabites on all sides.” Others think that it expresses the doubling of punishments, as if he had said, “The Lord will not only punish the Moabites, but will again and again take vengeance for the cruelty which they exercised against the children of God.”
But we might take another way of explaining that metaphor. Those who swim do not rush forward with the utmost violence, but gently spread out and quickly draw back their arms, and yet they cut and subdue the waters. In like manner, the Lord does not always put forth great strength to cut down the wicked, but without any effort, without the use of armies, without any noise or uproar, he destroys and puts them to flight, however valiant or well prepared for battle they may appear to be. And I approve of this explanation, because it takes nothing from the meaning formerly given, and explains more clearly, that the wicked are often brought to nothing by the hand of God, though he do not openly thunder from heaven. When he says, “In the midst of it,” he shews that no part will be hidden in such a manner as not to be overtaken by this vengeance.
12. And the fortress. The Prophet now directs his discourse to the country of Moab. It was highly fortified, and was proud of its walls and fortifications; and he affirms that the lofty towers, and other defences, however strong and seemingly impregnable, will be of no avail. The ancients, it is well known, had quite a different method of fortifying from what is practiced among us.
He will bring down, lay low, and cast to the ground. The three words here employed, for conveying the meaning more strongly, are not superfluous; for it was necessary to beat down that pride which swelled the hearts of the Moabites, and which, as we formerly saw, 153 made them intolerable. The Prophet therefore mocks at them, “As if the Lord could not cast down that loftiness of which you boast!”
To the dust. The meaning of this clause is as if he had said, “He will not only level it with the ground, but will reduce it to dust, so that there will not even be a trace of the ancient ruin.” This passage contains an excellent and highly seasonable consolation; for the enemies of the Church in the present day are so haughty, that they mock not only at men, but at God himself, and are so much swelled and puffed up by their power, that they imagine themselves to be invincible; but, in opposition to their bulwarks and defences, we ought to bring forward this declaration of the Prophet, “The Lord will quickly bring down and lay them low.” Yet we must patiently endure to see them strong and powerful, till the full time for their destruction arrive.
“Faithfulness and truth.” — Eng. Ver. “Perfectly true.” — Stock. “Truth, certainty.” — Alexander.
FT394 “Counsels of old.” — Eng. Ver. “Counsels of old time.” — Stock
FT395 “Of foreigners, a term with the Jews synonymous to barbarians or enemies; as the Romans confounded hospites with hostes, being to them nearly the same thing.” — Stock
FT396 See page 191
FT397 “The branch of the terrible ones.” — Eng. Ver. “So shall the song of the tyrants be brought low.” — Alexander
FT398 “Of wines on the lees well refined.” — Eng. Ver.
FT399 “Que nous en soyons remplis et rassassiez;” — “That we may be filled and satisfied with it.”
FT400 “Le voile qui cache la face de tous les peuples;” — “The veil which covers the face of all people.”
FT401 “He will swallow up death in victory.” — Eng. Ver.
FT402 “When we consider the expression which follows, (evidently meant, by a parallelism, to be exegetical,) πάντων περίψημα, there is little doubt that the sense of περικαθάρματα is ‘the cleansings up,’ as περίψημα is ‘the sweepings up or around;’ metaphorically denoting ‘the vilest things’ or ‘persons,’ the very ‘outcasts’ of society.” — Bloomfield on 1Co 4:13. “Περίψημα denotes filings or scrapings of any kind, and also the sweepings that are cleared away with a brush.” —Calvin on Corinthians, vol. 1 p. 166
FT403 “J’ay mieux aimé le tourner, On dira;” — “I chose rather to render it, It shall be said.”
FT404 “Ces deux mots, Voici, Cestui-ci;” — “These two words, Lo, This.”
FT405 “C’est-ci l Eternel;” — “This is the Eternal.”
FT406 “This is a strange oversight. נגילה (nagīllah) and נשמחה (nismĕchāh) are in the future tense, and are so rendered by our Author in his version, “Exultabimus et lætabimur,” — “We will rejoice and be glad.” “The augmented futures at the close,” says Professor Alexander, alluding to the He paragogic, “may either denote fixed determination (‘we will rejoice, we will be glad’) or a proposition, (‘Let us then rejoice,’) for which the language has no other distinct form.” — Ed
FT407 That is, Abraham and Lot. (Gen. 11:31, Gen. 19:37.)
FT408 “As straw is trodden down for the dunghill, (or, thrashed in Madmenah.)” — (Eng. Ver.)
FT409 Professor Alexander renders it, “in the water of the dunghill,” and remarks, “The Keri, or Masoretic reading in the margin, has במו, a poetical equivalent of ב, the preposition. The Kethib, or textual reading, which is probably more ancient, is במי, in the water. This, with the next word, may denote a pool in which the straw was left to putrefy.”
FT410 See Commentary on Isaiah, vol. 1 p. 488