Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 16: Isaiah, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
1. Excitare, excitare, indue fortitudinem tuam, Sion, indue vestes decoris tui, Ierusalem, civitas sancta; quia non fiet amplius ut veniat in to incircumcisus et immundus.
2. Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
2. Excute to de pulvere, surge, sede, Ierusalem; extricate a vinculis colli tui, captiva filia Sion.
3. For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.
3. Quia sic dicit Iehova: Gratis venditi estis; ideo sine pecunia redimemini.
4. For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.
4. Quia sic dicit Dominus Iehova: In AEgyptum olim descenderat populus meus ut peregrinaretur illic; verum Assur absque causa oppressit eum.
5. Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? They that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.
5. Et nunc, Quid mihi hic, dicit Iehova, ut ablatus sit populus meus gratis, et qui in eum dominantur faciant eum ululare, dicit Iehova, et jugiter tota die nomen meum contumeliae expositum sit?
6. Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak; behold, it is I
6. Propterea sciet populus meus nomen meum; propterea in die illa, quod ego idem qui loquor; ecee, adero.
7. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
7. Quam speciosi super montes pedes annuntiantis, publicantis salutere, dicentis Sioni, Regnat Deus tuus.
8. Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
8. Vox speculatorum tuorum; levaverunt vocem, pariterjubilabunt; quoniam oculo ad oculum videbunt, cum Iehova reducet Sion.
9. Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
9. Laudate, exultate pariter, solitudines Ierusalem; qnoniam consolatus est Iehova populum suum, redemit Ierusalem.
10. The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
10. Nudavit Iehova brachium sanctitatis sum coram oculis omnium gentium; et videbunt omnes fines terrae salutem Dei nostri.
11. Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.
11. Discedite, discedite, exite inde, immundum ne attingite, exite e medio ejus, mundamini qui ferris vusa Iehovae.
12. For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.
12. Quoniam non in festinatione exibitis, neque in fuga erit iter vobis; quandoquidem praecedet vos Iehova, et congregabit vos Deus Israel.
13. Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
13. Ecce prosperum successum habebit servus mens; exaltabitur, elevabitur, et valde sublimis erit.
14. As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
14. Quemadmodum obstupuerunt super to multi, adeo deformata fuit ab hominibus species ejus, et forran ejus a filiis hominum:
15. So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
15. Sic asperget gentes multas; super eum reges claudent os suum; quia quod non fuerat ipsis narratum videbunt; et qued non audierant intelligent.
1. Awake, awake. He confirms the former doctrine, in order still more to arouse the people who had been weighed down by grief and sorrow. These things were necessary to be added as spurs, that the doctrine might more easily penetrate into their drowsy and stupified hearts; for he addresses the Church, which appeared to be in a benumbed and drowsy condition, and bids her “awake,” that she may collect her strength and revive her courage, he repeats it a second time, and with great propriety; for it is difficult to arouse and reanimate those whose hearts have been struck, and even laid prostrate, by a sense of God’s anger.
Put on thy strength. As if he had said, “Formerly thou wast dejected, and wallowedst in filth and pollution; now prepare for a happy and prosperous condition, to which the Lord will restore thee.” Thus he contrasts “strength” with despondency, such as is usually found when affairs are desperate; and he contrasts garments of beauty with filth and pollution.
For henceforth there shall not come to thee. The reason assigned by him is, that henceforth God will not permit wicked men to indulge their sinful inclinations for destroying it. Freed from their tyranny, the Church already has cause to rejoice; and security for the future holds out solid ground for joy and gladness. Yet Isaiah exhorts us to mutual congratulation when God is reconciled to his Church; and indeed if we have any piety in us, we ought to be deeply affected by her condition, that we may rejoice in her prosperity, and be grieved in her adversity. 37 In short, it ought to be the height of our gladness, as also the Psalmist says,
“Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I remember not thee, and if thou be not the crown of my gladness.” (Ps 137:6.)
By the word come, he means what we commonly express by the phrase, (Avoir e entree,) “to have access.”
By the uncircumcised and unclean, he means all irreligious persons who corrupt the worship of God and oppress consciences by tyranny. It was customary to apply the term “uncircumcised” to all who were estranged from the Church, which had for its symbol “circumcision,” by which all believers were distinguished. But as very many persons, though they bore this outward mark of the covenant, were not better than others, in order to remove all doubt, he added the word “unclean;” for the mark of “circumcision is nothing in itself,” (Ga 5:6,) and (unless, as Paul says, there be added purity of heart) “is even reckoned uncircumcision.” (Ro 2:25,) Accordingly, he declares that henceforth such persons shall not be admitted into the Church, in order that, by the removal of corruptions, and the restoration of the worship of God, she may possess perfect joy. Yet I do not object to viewing these words as applied to outward foes, whom he calls by hateful names, that even the severity of the punishment may warn the Jews of the heinousness of their offenses.
2. Shake thyself from the dust; arise. He explains more fully the deliverance of the Church, and exhibits it prominently by ὑποτύπωσιν, “a lively description.” When he bids her “shake off the dust and arise,” let us not on that account think that our liberty is in our power, so that we can obtain it whenever we think fit; for it belongs to God alone to raise us from the dust, to lift us up when we are prostrate, and, by breaking or loosing our chains, to set us at liberty. Why then does the Prophet make use of the imperative mood? for it is unreasonable to demand what we cannot perform. I reply, the imperative form of address has a much more powerful tendency to arouse than if he had employed plain narrative; and therefore he declares that, when God shall have restored her to her former freedom, she shall come out of the mire.
Sit, O Jerusalem,. The word “sit” denotes a flourishing condition, and is contrasted with the word “to lie,” which denotes the lowest calamity. Sometimes indeed it means “to be prostrate,” as when he formerly said to Babylon, “sit in the dust.” (Isa 47:1.) But here the meaning is different; for, after ordering her to arise, he likewise adds, “that she may sit;” that is, that she may no longer lie down, but may regain her former condition, and not be in future laid prostrate by enemies.
3. For thus saith Jehovah. This verse has been badly expounded by many commentators, who have here chosen to enter into philosophical subtleties; for they have dreamed of many things at variance with the Prophet’s meaning. It agrees with what he had formerly stated,
“To which of my creditors have I sold you?” (Isa 1:1.)
For here, in the same manner, he says, “Ye have been sold for nought;” as if he had said that he has received no price, and is under no obligations to a creditor who can claim them as having been purchased by him. This tends greatly to confirm the promise; because the Jews might entertain doubts of the liberty which was promised to them, in consequence of their having been long held in possession by the Babylonians, who were the most powerful of all nations. The Lord meets this doubt. “I did not sell or make a conveyance of you to them; for nought were ye sold; and therefore I can justly claim you as nay property and sell you. Do not then consider how great are your difficulties, when I promise you liberty, and do not reason on this matter by human arguments; for the Babylonians have no right to detain you, and cannot prevent your being set at liberty.
Therefore shall ye be redeemed without money. Lastly, as he had formerly said, that he is not like a spendthrift, who is compelled to sell his children, or offer them in payment, so in this passage he declares that “for nought he sold” and gave them up to their enemies, for no other reason than because they had provoked him by their sins; and therefore that there will be no greater difficulty in delivering them than in giving them up to their enemies.
Some explain it more ingeniously thus, that Christ has redeemed us by free grace. This doctrine must indeed be maintained, but does not agree with the Prophet’s meaning, who intended to correct the distrust of the Jews, that they might have no doubt as to their being set at liberty. Let it suffice to know, that when God shall be pleased to deliver his people, it will not be necessary to make a pecuniary bargain with the Babylonians, whom, in spite of their opposition, he will have no difficulty in driving out of their unjust possession.
4. Into Egypt my people went down aforetime. Here also the commentators touch neither heaven nor earth; for the Jews dream of three captivities, and Christians differ from them by thinking that this denotes a third captivity, which shall be under Antichrist, and from which Christ will deliver them. But the Prophet’s meaning, in my opinion, is quite different; for he argues from the less to the greater, by quoting the instance of the Egyptian captivity, from which the people were formerly recalled by the wonderful power of God. (Ex 14:28.) The argument therefore stands thus: “If the Lord punished the Egyptians because their treatment of his people was harsh and unjust, (Ge 15:14,) much more will he punish the Babylonians, who have cruelly tyrannized over them.”
But the Assyrian has oppressed them without cause. There was much greater plausibility in Pharaoh’s claim of dominion over the Jews than in that of the Babylonians; for Jacob, having voluntarily come down to Egypt with his family, (Ge 46:5,) undoubtedly became subject to the power of Pharaoh, who, in return for the kindness received from Joseph, 38 had assigned to him a large country and abundant pasturage. Pharaoh’s successors, ungrateful and forgetful of the benefit conferred on them by Joseph, afflicted all the posterity of Jacob in various ways. This ingratitude and cruelty the Lord severely punished. But far more base and savage was the wickedness of the Babylonians, who drove the Jews out of a lawful possession, and dragged them into bondage. If then the Lord could not bear the Egyptians, who were unthankful and ruled by unjust laws, though in other respects they had a just title to possession, much less will he endure the violent and cruel Babylonians, who have no right to govern his people and oppress them by tyranny.
By “the Assyrian,” he means the Babylonians, who were united under the same monarchy with the Assyrians; but he takes special notice of “the Assyrian,” because he was the first that grievously distressed the Jews, and that prepared the way for this captivity.
5. What have I here? He follows out and confirms what I have already said, that it; is not reasonable that he should silently permit his people to be any longer oppressed. By these words he reproves, in some measure, his own delay; as if he had said, “Shall I not stretch out my hand? Shall I not avenge my people? If Pharaoh did not hinder me, though he was a lawful master, shall the violence of robbers hinder me?” He next enumerates the reasons which ought to move him to bring back the people.
That my people should be carried away for nought. There must be understood an implied contrast to the participle “carried away;” for the Egyptians did not “carry away” Jacob by force; he came down to it of his own accord when he was pressed by famine, yet he was delivered from it; 39 how much more shall he be rescued out of the hand of those who tore him from his native country, and carried him by violence into captivity?
That they should cause them to howl. In order to express more forcibly the baseness of this conduct, he says that they are constrained to howl without ceasing. Some translate the vero as neuter; 40 but I think that it is intended to express the strength of their hatred, and therefore I consider it to be an active verb, expressive of the violence which the Babylonians exercised towards the Jews; for they not only ruled unjustly over them, but also treated them harshly. To “howl” is more than to sigh or weep; for there is reason to believe that the pain which sends forth loud and strong cries is exceedingly severe. The metaphor is taken from wild beasts, and denotes extreme despair.
The third and principal reason why the Lord will deliver his people is, that his name is continually exposed to the reproach and blasphemy of wicked men. For the sake of his own honor the Lord preserves the Church, and defends the pure worship of his name. Because wicked men seize on the Church’s calamitous state as a reason for blasphemy, and insolently mock God, with good reason does he say, that by delivering his people, he will plead his own cause. I do not here relate the various interpretations, or stay to refute them; for it will be enough for me to have briefly explained the Prophet’s real meaning.
6. Therefore shall my people know. In this verse he concludes what he had glanced at in the two preceding verses, that at length the people must be redeemed by God, who cannot be unlike himself; for, if he redeemed the fathers, if he always assisted the Church, their posterity, whom he has adopted in the same manner, will never be suffered by him to be overwhelmed. We ought carefully to observe the word “know;” for to “know the name of the Lord” is to lay aside every false opinion, and to know him from his word, which is his true image, and next from his works. We must not imagine God according to the fancy of men, but must comprehend him as he declares himself to us. The Lord, therefore, concludes that he will actually assist them, and will fulfill all that he has promised, that the people may know that their hope has not been without foundation, and that they may be more and more confirmed in the knowledge of his name. We must keep in remembrance what we have elsewhere said about experimental knowledge, which confirms the truth of the word.
That it is I who speak. The verb “to speak” relates to the promises. הנני (hinni,) Behold I, relates to actual power; as if he had said, “Although now there be nothing more than that there sound in your ears the words by which I promise what is hardly probable, yet you shall speedily obtain it; for I will actually accomplish what I promise.” Hence we ought to draw the universal doctrine, that the promises of God and the fulfillment of them are linked together by an indissoluble bond. Whenever, therefore, Satan tempts and urges us to distrust, as if God had forsaken and abandoned us, we must come back to this point, and place our confidence in God, who never promises anything in vain. “If hitherto he does not perform, yet he will assist in due time.”
7. How beautiful upon the mountains. The Prophet again confirms believers as to the certainty of the word of God, that they may be fully persuaded that they shall be restored to their former liberty, and may comfort their hearts by assured hope during that hard bondage. He pronounces magnificent commendations on this message, that believers may be convinced that God holds out to them, in their calamity, the hope of future salvation; and indeed, when God speaks, they ought to accept the consolation, that, relying on it, they may calmly and patiently wait for the fulfillment of the promise. Thus, in order that believers may bridle their desires by patience, he splendidly adorns the word of God. “Will you be so ungrateful as not to rest satisfied with that incomparable treasure of the word which contains so many benefits? Will you give way to unruly passions? Will you complain of God?” He wishes to guard against distrust the people who were drawn away by various allurements, and did not fully rely on the word of God; and therefore he praises the excellence of the doctrine, and shews that the Lord bestows upon “us more than we can say or think.” (Eph 3:20.)
He states that he does not now speak of every kind of doctrine, but of that which is adapted to consolation, and therefore shews that “beautiful” and lovely is the approach of those who bring consolation from the mouth of God, which can not only alleviate our grief, but even impart to us abundant joy. Here he speaks of the doctrine of salvation, and consequently says that peace, happiness, salvation, is proclaimed. By the word “peace” he denotes a prosperous and happy condition, as we have already in other passages explained fully the signification of this term.
That saith to Zion. Hence we infer what is the beginning of that doctrine which Isaiah preaches, and what we ought chiefly to desire, namely, that the kingdom of God may be erected among us; for until he reign among us, everything must go in with us, and therefore we must be miserable, as, on the other hand, when God is pleased to take care of us, this of itself is the chief part of salvation; and this, too, is the only way of obtaining peace, though the state of affairs be ruinous and desperate. And let us remember that this message is sent to the Church; for it cannot apply to heathens that know not God.
Paul quotes this passage, in order to prove that the preaching of the Gospel proceeds not from men but from God, and that the ministers who bring the message of salvation are sent by him. He employs this chain of reasoning, — “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But it is impossible for any one to call on God till he know him; for there can be no entrance to calling on him till it is opened up by faith, that, embracing God as our Father, we may familiarly pour our cares into his bosom. Now, the foundation of it is doctrine, by which the Lord has revealed himself to us, and for that purpose employs the agency and ministry of men. Therefore he adds, lastly, that there will be none to preach till he be sent by God.” (Ro 10:15.)
But it may be thought that Paul tortures the Prophet’s words; for Isaiah does not say that God sends ministers, but that their approach and presence is desirable. I reply, Paul took this principle for granted, that nothing is desirable but what comes from God. But whence comes salvation? From men? No; for none but God can be the author of such a distinguished benefit. Justly, therefore, does he conclude that it proceeds from God, and not from man.
8. The voice of thy watchmen. He continues his argument; for he shews that there shall be such a restoration of the people, that the messengers shall venture boldly to proclaim it. To lift up the voice has the same meaning with the phrase, “on the mountains,” which he formerly employed. (Verse 7.) The matter will not be hidden, but so clear and evident as to draw forth universal admiration. They who speak of what is doubtful matter mutter inaudibly, 41 and do not venture to “lift up the voice;” but here there will be nothing doubtful or uncertain.
The Prophet borrowed the metaphor from sentries which are commonly placed in cities, though the designation of “watchmen” is usually given to all Prophets, because they are placed, as it were, on watch-towers, to keep watch over the safety of the people. When he says that they shall lift up the voice, he means that there will be silence during the captivity, because the voice of the Prophets shall not be heard; for although they warn every one privately, yet there will be no freedom of speech. Hence also Jeremiah says, “I will put my mouth in the dust.” (La 3:29) But when the Lord shall be pleased to lead forth the people, the mouth of watchmen, who were formerly dumb, shall be opened to proclaim that they are at liberty to return; for they will not speak within private walls, or impart moderate consolation, but will openly proclaim that salvation. On this subject I have spoken fully at the beginning of the fortieth chapter. 42
Eye to eye; that is, openly. This extends, indeed, to spiritual conversion; but let us not on that account depart from the literal sense, so as not to include also the benefit which the Lord conferred on the ancient people; for, when he restored the Jews to liberty, and employed the ministry of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, these things were fulfilled. Yet at the same time they ought to be continued down to the coming of Christ, by which the Church was gathered out of all parts of the world. But we ought also to go forward to Christ’s last coming, by which all things shall be perfectly restored.
9. Praise ye, rejoice together. He exhorts believers to thanksgiving, but chiefly confirms them in the hope and confidence of this salvation; as if the actual enjoyment of it already called them to thank God for it. 43 We are not sufficiently moved, when the Lord testifies that he will assist us, and think that we are deceived, if he do not actually show it. On this account the Prophets insist much on strengthening the hearts of believers, and placing the fact almost before their eyes. Although it appears to be unreasonable and inappropriate to prescribe a song of joy in the midst of grief, yet we have elsewhere seen that this form of expression is well fitted to arouse those who groan under the burden of sorrow, fear, and cares.
Ye wildernesses of Jerusalem. He calls them “wildernesses” or waste places “of Jerusalem,” that, notwithstanding its ruin and destruction, they might still hope that it would be restored. And this appellation is better adapted for shaking off fear than if he had called her prosperous or flourishing; for, in consequence of their condition being very wretched, nothing would have led them to think that these promises related to them except a description of their misery, against which they needed to be fortified, in order that, though they beheld nothing but desolation and hideous ruin, still they might look for restoration with assured confidence.
For Jehovah hath comforted his people. The Lord hath changed the mourning of the people into joy, and out of captivity hath made them free. Yet some person will say 44 that this had not yet happened. But in the promises of God, as in a mirror, we ought to behold those things which are not yet visible to our eyes, even though they appear to us to be contrary to reason.
He hath redeemed Jerusalem. Here we see that to deliver the Church is God’s own work. And if we ought to judge thus of the redemption from Babylon, which was but of a shadowy nature, what shall we say of the spiritual redemption? Can it be ascribed to men without grossly insulting God? As it belongs to God alone to deliver the Church, so to him it likewise belongs to defend its liberty.
10. Jehovah hath made bare the arm of his holiness. The Prophet has borrowed this comparison from soldiers who stretch out their arms when they make ready for the battle. To “make bare” does not here mean to hold out the naked arm, but to exert it; because, when we sit in idleness, we either have our arms folded or conceal them; and in like manner, we conceive of God according to the grossness of our senses, and think that, like a wearied or indolent man, he does not move a finger till he publicly displays his power.
The Prophet calls it “the arm of holiness,” because he intended to display his power for the salvation of the people. This implies a mutual relation between God and the Church which the Lord has consecrated to himself. True, “he maketh bare his arm” in the government of the whole world; but he does not call it “the arm of holiness,” as in this passage, when he renders peculiar assistance to his Church. There are two points of view in which the power of God ought to be regarded; first, universally, in preserving all the creatures; next, specially, in defending the Church; for there is a peculiar care which he exercises about his own people, and which the rest do not share with them.
Before the eyes of all nations. He means that this deliverance shall be worthy of so great admiration that it shall be visible even to the blind. The extension of this magnificent spectacle to the very ends of the earth makes it evident that the Prophet does not speak of the return of the people, which would take place a few years afterwards, but of the restoration of the whole Church. This prophecy is maliciously restricted by the Jews to the deliverance from Babylon, and is improperly restricted by Christians to the spiritual redemption which we obtain through Christ; for we must begin with the deliverance which was wrought under Cyrus, (2 Chr. 36:22, 23,) and bring it down to our own time. Thus the Lord began to display his power among the Medes and Persians, but afterwards he made it visible to all the nations.
11. Depart ye, depart ye. He now exhorts the people to be always ready to set out, and at the same time to bear their misery with patience. As the excessive haste of the people needed to be restrained, so it was also proper to shake off their slothfulness; for, before the time of deliverance arrived, they burned with extravagant eagerness to depart; but when the period of the captivity was fulfilled, they had grown languid through long delay, and had thrown away all hope and wish to return, so that there were few who returned to Judea. 45 They had mingled with the Babylonians, whose customs had captivated and depraved them so much that they disregarded their native country; and therefore they needed to be aroused and admonished, that they might not lose heart through long expectation, and might not suffer themselves to be corrupted by the pollutions of the Babylonians.
Touch not what is unclean. 46 This expresses more clearly what we have already said. He bids them keep themselves pure and free from the defilements with which the Babylonians polluted themselves; for there was a risk of their being corrupted by the pollutions of the Gentiles, as we are all prone to evil, and easily led away by bad examples. Accordingly, he exhorts them, though they are captives, not to do anything for the purpose of pleasing their masters, or of having their condition improved; not to allow themselves to be drawn aside from the pure worship of God; not to be polluted by their idolatries; not to pretend that they worship idols or approve of their religion; for this is detestable “uncleanness,” which the Prophet bids them shun. Captives and those who groan under tyranny meet with temptations of this kind, under which they frequently sink so as to allow themselves to do many things that are unlawful and base, under the pretense of wishing to mitigate the rage of tyrants. But how frivolous their excuse is we see in this passage; for the Prophet does not exhort the Jews to be clean when they shall be free, but so long as they shall be held captive, and even when their life shall be in danger. These words undoubtedly relate to us also, whom Paul exhorts to be unpolluted, not only “in spirit,” but also “in the flesh.” (2Co 7:1).
Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of Jehovah. This exhortation is especially directed to the priests and Levites, who, being standardbearers, ought to maintain greater integrity; not that others have a right to pollute themselves, but he addresses them chiefly, that they may give an example to others, to whom they have been appointed to be guides. Besides, we must bear in remembrance what we have already seen, and what Isaiah will again repeat at the end of this book, that there will be a new priesthood among a redeemed people. (Isa 66:21.)
Yet I approve of the simple meaning, that the Levites and ministers of the temple are put, by way of eminence, (κατ᾿ ἐξοχὴν) for the whole of the people. This doctrine, therefore, relates in the present day, not only to ministers of the word, but to all Christians, who are also called “a royal priesthood,” (1Pe 2:9,) and not only are appointed to carry the vessels of the temple, but are themselves “temples of God.” (1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Cor. 6:19.) Thus Ezekiel has predicted that at the restoration of the Church the Levites shall be high priests, and the whole people shall be admitted into the order of the Levites. Seeing, therefore, that the Lord has raised all to so high a rank of dignity, it follows that this “cleanness” is demanded from all without exception; and on this account also Paul has applied this passage to the whole Church.
12. For not in haste shall ye go out. The Prophet again magnifies that benefit of redemption, for it appeared to be incredible, so deep was the despair with which almost all of them had been seized; for he chiefly addresses those who would be led into captivity, that they might not lose courage in that wretched condition. He promises that this deliverance shall not resemble a flight such as that of Egypt; for there is an implied contrast between the deliverance from Egypt. and the deliverance from Babylon. They fled “by night” out of Egypt, (Ex 12:31,) having pretended that they were only performing “a journey of three days to offer sacrifice to God.” (Ex 5:3.) They went out “with haste” (Ex 12:33) and bustle, as they were told to do, and Pharaoh pursued them in their journey and attempted to destroy them. But the Prophet declares that the present case shall be totally different, and that they shall go away like conquerors, so that none shall venture to give them any annoyance, or, as we commonly say, “They will go out with flying colors,” (Ils s’en iront a enseigne desployee,) so that this deliverance will be more excellent and wonderful.
Jehovah will go before you; that is, will be the leader of your journey. It will be said that God was also the leader of his ancient people when he led them out of Egypt. This is undoubtedly true; but he did not at that time display his majesty, as now, when, like a general, he brought back his army, after having vanquished his enemies.
And the God of Israel will assemble you. The word “assemble” will confirm the interpretation now given; for there will be no scattering such as usually takes place when men are under the influence of terror, nor will they wander about here and there, but will march, as under banners, in a regular and ordinary manner. As if he had said, “God will bring you out as a band or army drawn up; one shall not follow another, like those who steal away secretly; but ye shall be openly gathered in troops, and shall depart without any fear. None shall molest you; for you will be assembled under God as your leader, that you may return into your native country.
13. Behold, my servant shall have prosperous success 47 After having spoken of the restoration of the Church, Isaiah passes on to Christ, in whom all things are gathered together. Some explain ישכיל (yashkil) to mean shall “deal prudently;” but, as it is immediately added that he shall be exalted, the context appears to demand that we shall rather understand it to denote “prosperous success,” for שכל (shakal) also signifies “to be prosperous.” He speaks, therefore, of the prosperity of the Church; and as this was not visible, he draws their attention to the supreme King, by whom all things shall be restored, and bids them wait for him. And here we ought carefully to observe the contrasts which the Prophet lays down; for the mightiness of this king whom the Lord will exalt is contrasted by him with the wretched and debased condition of the people, who were almost in despair. He promises that this king will be the head of the people, so that under him as the leader the people shall flourish, though they be now in a state of the deepest affliction and wretchedness; because he shall have a prosperous course.
He calls Christ “his Servant,” on account of the office committed to him. Christ ought not to be regarded as a private individual, but as holding the office to which the Father has appointed him, to be leader of the people and restorer of all things; so that whatever he affirms concerning himself we ought to understand as belonging also to us. Christ has been given to us, and therefore to us also belongs his ministry, for the Prophet might have said, in a single word, that Christ will be exalted and will be highly honored; but, by giving to him the title of “Servant,” he means that he will be exalted for our sake.
14. As many. He makes use of an anticipation; for the exalted state of Christ was not visible at first sight, and on this pretense it might be rejected. On this account, he informs them that Christ must first be rejected and humbled, and anticipates that doubt which might have arisen from his singularly debased and unseemly condition. As if he had said, “There is no reason why men should be shocked at that unseemliness and disgrace which will be speedily followed by eternal happiness.”
So marred by men. I have translated כן (ken) as meaning so; for it is a mistake to suppose that it opens the second part of the comparison. 48 I consider מאיש (meish) to mean “by men;” for I do not consider מ (mem) to be a particle denoting comparison, as others explain it; that is “more than” men, or “beyond” what is usually found among men; but I adopt a simpler meaning, which is, that Christ was disfigured among men, or that his beauty was defaced by the perverse judgment of men.
Were amazed. 49 This “amazement” is considered by some commentators to denote the astonishment with which men were seized on account of the miracles performed by Christ, and next, that, when he must come to the cross, he was immediately rejected by them. But they have not caught the Prophet’s meaning; for he says that Christ will be such that all men will be shocked at him. He came into the world so as to be everywhere despised; his glory lay hid under the humble form of the flesh; for though a majesty worthy of “the onlybegotten Son of God” (Joh 1:14) shone forth in him, yet the greater part of men did not see it, but, on the contrary, they despised that deep abasement which was the veil or covering of his glory.
The cause of their astonishment was this, that he dwelt among men without any outward show; and the Jews did not think that the Redeemer would come in that condition or attire. When he came to be crucified, their horror was greatly increased. Paul describes this humiliation and subsequent exaltation of Christ, when he says,
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to make himself equal to God, but emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a servant, made in the likeness of man, and found in fashion as a man, humbled himself, being made obedient even to death, and the death of the cross. Wherefore also God hath raised him to the highest exaltation, and hath given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus should bow every knee of those that are in heaven and in earth and in hell; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Php 2:6-11)
It was therefore necessary that Christ should first be humbled and covered with shame, and that exaltation to which he was about to be raised was not all at once visible; but the shame of the cross was followed by a glorious resurrection attended by the highest honor.
15. So shall he sprinkle many nations. Some explain it, “Shall cause to drop,” which they take to be a metaphorical expression for “to speak.” But since נזה signifies “to sprinkle,” and is commonly found to have this sense in Scripture, I choose rather to adopt this interpretation. He means that the Lord will pour out his Word over “many nations.” He next mentions the effect of doctrine, that kings shall shut their mouth, that is, in token of astonishment, but a different kind of astonishment from that which he formerly described. Men “shut their mouths,” and are struck with bewilderment, when the vast magnitude of the subject is such that it cannot be expressed, and that it exceeds all power of language.
What they have not heard. He means that this astonishment will not arise merely from Christ’s outward appearance, but, on the contrary, from the preaching of the Gospel; for, though he had risen from the dead, yet all would have thought that he was still a dead man, if the glory of his resurrection had not been proclaimed. By the preaching of the Gospel, therefore, were revealed those things which formerly had neither been seen nor heard; for this doctrine was conveyed to kings and nations that were very far off, and even to the very ends of the world.
Paul quotes this passage, and shows that it was fulfilled in his ministry, and glories on this ground, that he proclaimed the doctrine of the Gospel to those who had never heard of it at all. (Ro 15:21) This belongs to the office of an Apostle, and not to the office of every minister. He means that the kingdom of Christ is more extensive than merely to embrace Judea, and that it is not now confined within such narrow limits; for it was proper that it should be spread through all nations, and extended even to the ends of the world. The Jews had heard something of Christ from the Law and the Prophets, but to the Gentiles he was altogether unknown; and hence it follows that these words relate strictly to the Gentiles.
They shall understand. By this word he shows that faith consists in certainty and clear understanding. Wherever, therefore, knowledge of this kind is wanting, faith is unquestionably wanting. Hence it is evident how idle is the notion of the Papists about implicit faith, which is nothing else than gross ignorance, or rather a mere creature of imagination.
“Pour rire et chanter quand elle florit, et pleurer lors qu’elle est persecutee.” “To laugh and sing when she is flourishing, and to weep when she is persecuted.”
“En recognoissance du bien que Joseph avoit fait au royaume.” “In gratitude for the benefit which Joseph had conferred on the kingdom.”
“Toutes fois sa posterite en a este delivree.” “Yet his posterity was delivered from it.”
That is, that the verb means “to howl,” instead of “to cause to howl.” — Ed.
“Murmurent entre les dents.” “Mutter between the teeth.”
See Com. on Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 197.
“A en remercier Dieu.”
“Tellement que le nombre de ceux qui revindrent en Judee fut bien petit.” “So that the number of those who returned to Judea was very small.”
“Ne touchcz point la souillure.” “Touch not defilement.”
“Here some begin the 53d chapter, and Salmeron says it is so divided in some copies which he had seen; the subject is new, and has nothing ‘which smacks of Babylon,’ (quod Babylonium olet,) according to the expression of Sanctius, and is to be literally understood of the Messiah, as all expositors that I have met with agree, except Grotius, who thinks the words may in the first lower sense of them be understood of Jeremiah the prophet, considered as a type of Christ.” — White.
Our author’s meaning is, that he has rendered the clause, “He was so (much) marred,” while others render it, “So he was marred;” making the So to correspond to the As in the former clause, which he pronounces to be a mistake. Ed.
“Comme plusieurs t’ont eu en horreur.” “As many were shocked at thee.”