Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 16: Isaiah, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
1. Spiritus Domini Iehovae super me; ob id unxit me Iehova; ad praedicandum afflictis misit me; ad obligandum contritos corde, ad publicandam captivis libertatem, vinctis apertionem careeris.
2. To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
2. Ad publicandum annum beneplaciti Iehovae, et diem ultionis Deo nostro, ad consolandum onmes lugentes.
3. To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
3. Ad constituendum lugentibus in Sion, ut dem illis decorem pro cinere, oleum gaudii pro luctu, pallium laetitiae pro spiritu angusto, ad vocandum eos arbores justitiae, plantationem Iehovae ad glorificandum.
4. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
4. Et aedificabunt deserta seculi, priscas solitudines erigent; et instaurabunt urbes vastitatis, solitudines multarum aetatum.
5. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen and your vinedressers.
5. Et stabunt alieni, et pascent oves vestras; et filii alieni erunt agricolae et vinitores vestri.
6. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
6. Vos autem sacerdotes Iehovae vocabimini; ministri Dei nostri dicetur vobis; substantiam Gentium comedetis, et in gloria eorum vos elevabitis.
7. For your shame ye shall have double, and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
7. Pro pudore vestro erit duplex praemium, et pro ignominia exultabunt de portione eorum; quia in terra eorum duplicia possidebunt, et gaudium perpetuum illis erit.
8. For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
8. Quia ego Iehova diligens judicium, odio habens rapinam in holocausto, et constituam opus eorum in veritate, et foedus perpetuum feriam eum ipsis.
9. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.
9. Et cognoscetur in Gentibus semen eorum, et germina eorum in medio populorum. Omnes qui viderint eos cognoscent eos quod semen sint benedictum Iehovae..
10. I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
10. Gaudens gaudebo in Iehova; exultabit anima mea in Deo meo; quoniam induit me vestibus salutis, indumento justitiae circumdedit me: quasi sponsum ornavit me, et quasi sponsam ornatam monilibus suis.
11. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
11. Quoniam sicut terra profert germen suum, et sicut hortus germinare facit semen suum; ita Dominus Iehova germinare faciet justitiam et laudem coram omnibus gentibus.
1. The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah. As Christ explains this passage with reference to himself, (Lu 4:18) so commentators limit it to him without hesitation, and lay down this principle, that Christ is introduced as speaking, as if the whole passage related to him alone. The Jews laugh at this, as an illadvised application to Christ of that which is equally applicable to other prophets. My opinion is, that this chapter is added as a seal to the former, to confirm what had hitherto been said about restoring the Church of Christ; and that for this purpose Christ testifies that he has been anointed by God, in consequence of which he justly applies this prophecy to himself; for he has exhibited clearly and openly what others have laid down ill an obscure manner.
But this is not inconsistent with the application of this statement to other prophets, whom the Lord has anointed; for they did not speak in their own name as individuals, or claim this authority for themselves, but were chiefly employed in pointing out the office of Christ, to whom belongs not only the publication of these things, but likewise the accomplishment of them. This chapter ought, therefore, to be understood in such a sense, that Christ, who is the Head of the prophets, holds the chief place, and alone makes all those revelations; but that Isaiah, and the other prophets, and the apostles, contribute their services to Christ, and each performs his part in making known Christ’s benefits. And thus we see that those things which Isaiah said would be accomplished by Christ, have now been actually accomplished.
On that account Jehovah hath anointed me. This second clause is added in the room of exposition; for the first would have been somewhat obscure, if he had said nothing as to the purpose for which he was endued with the Spirit of God; but now it is made far more clear by pointing out the use, when he declares that. he discharges a public office, that he may not be regarded as a private individual. Whenever Scripture mentions the Spirit, and says that he “dwelleth in us,” (Ro 8:11; 1Co 3:16) let us not look upon it as something empty or unmeaning, but let us contemplate his power and efficacy. Thus, after having spoken of the Spirit of God, the Prophet next mentions the “anointing,” by which he means the faculties which flow from him, as Paul teaches that the gifts are indeed various, but the Spirit is one. (1Co 12:4)
This passage ought to be carefully observed, for no man can claim right or authority to teach unless he show that he has been prompted to it by the Spirit of God, as Paul also affirms that “no man can call Jesus Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” (1Co 12:3) But, it will be said, we see that almost all men boast of having the Spirit of God; for the Pope, and the Anabaptists, and other heretics and fanatics, have his name continually in their mouth, as if they were governed by him. How, then, shall we judge that any man has been sent by God, and is guided by his Spirit? By “anointing;“ that is, if he is endued with the gifts which are necessary for that orate. If therefore, having been appointed by the Lord, he abound in the graces of the Spirit and the ability which the calling demands, he actually has the Spirit. And if he wish to make profession of enjoying that teacher, and if he have no doctrine, 165 let him be held as an impostor.
He hath sent me to preach. The Prophet does not claim for himself right and authority to teach, before he has shown that the Lord “hath sent him” The authority is founded on his having been “anointed,” that is, furnished by God with necessary gifts. We ought not to hear him, therefore, as a private individual, but as a public minister who has come from heaven.
To the afflicted. Some render it, “To the meek;“ and both ideas are conveyed by the word ענוים (gnanavim). But I preferred to adhere to the former signification, because the Prophet is speaking of captives and prisoners. Yet I think that he includes both; for he means those who, while they are altogether forsaken and abandoned, are also wretched in themselves. Christ is promised to none but those who have been humbled and overwhelmed by a conviction of their distresses, who have no lofty pretensions, but keep themselves in humility and modesty. And hence we infer that Isaiah speaks literally of the Gospel; for the Law was given for the purpose of abasing proud hearts which swelled with vain confidence, but the Gospel is intended for “the afflicted,” that is, for those who know that they are destitute of everything good, that they may gather courage and support. For what purpose were prophets, and apostles, and other ministers, anointed and sent, but to cheer and comfort the afflicted by the doctrine of grace?
To bind up the broken in heart. Numerous are the metaphors which the Prophet employs for explaining more clearly the same thing. By “binding up,” he means nothing else than “healing,” but now he expresses something more than in the preceding clause; for he shows that. the preaching of the word is not an empty sound, but a powerful medicine, the effect of which is felt, not by obdurate and hardhearted men, but by wounded consciences.
To proclaim liberty to the captives. This also is the end of the Gospel, that they who are captives may be set at liberty. We are prisoners and captives, therefore, till we are set free (Joh 8:36) through the grace of Christ; and when Christ wishes to break asunder our chains, let us not refuse the grace that is offered to us. It ought to be observed in general, that the blessings which are here enumerated are bestowed upon us by heavenly doctrine, and that none are fit for the enjoyment of them but those who, conscious of their poverty, eagerly desire the assistance of Christ, as he himself says,
“Come to me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,
and I will relieve you.” (Mt 11:28)
2. To proclaim the year of the good-pleasure of Jehovah. Here he expressly mentions the time of bestowing such distinguished grace, in order to remove the doubts which might arise. We know by daily experience how numerous and diversified are the anxious cares which distract the heart,. He affirms that he is the herald of future grace, the time of which he fixes from the “goodpleasure” of God; for, as he was to be the Redeemer of the Church by free grace, so it was in his power, and justly, to select the time.
Perhaps he alludes to the Jubilee, (Le 25:10) but undoubtedly he affirms that we must wait calmly and gently till it please God to stretch out his hand. Paul calls this year “the time of fullness.” (Ga 4:4) We have likewise seen that the Prophet says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (Isa 49:8) Paul applies this to his own preaching; for, while the Lord addresses us by the Gospel, the door of heaven is thrown open to us, that we may now, as it were, enter into the possession of God’s benefits. (2Co 6:2) We must not delay, therefore, but must eagerly avail ourselves of the time and the occasion when such distinguished blessings are offered to us.
And the day of vengeance to our God. But those expressions appear to be inconsistent with each other, namely, “The day of goodpleasure,” and “The day of vengeance.” Why did Isaiah join together things so opposite? Because God cannot deliver his Church without showing that he is a just judge, and without taking vengeance on the wicked. He therefore employs the term “goodpleasure,” with reference to the elect, and the term “day of vengeance,” with reference to the wicked, who cease not to persecute the Church, and consequently must be punished when the Church is delivered. In like manner Paul also says, that “It is righteous with God to grant relief to the afflicted, (2Th 1:6) and to reward the enemies of believers who unjustly afflict them;” and the Jews could not expect a termination of their distresses till their enemies had been destroyed.
Yet we ought to observe the cause of our deliverance; for to his mercy alone, and not to our merits, or excellence, or industry, must it be ascribed, he appears, indeed, as I briefly remarked a little before, to allude to the Jubilee; but above all things we should attend to this, that our salvation lies entirely in the gracious will of God.
To comfort all that mourn. We ought to keep in remembrance what we formerly remarked, that the end of the Gospel is, that we may be rescued from all evils, and that, having been restored to our former freedom, and all tears having been wiped from our eyes, we may partake of spiritual joy. And if we are not partakers of so great a benefit, it must be ascribed to our unbelief and ingratitude, by which we refuse and drive away God, who freely offers himself to us.
3. To appoint to the mourners in Zion. He proceeds with the same subject; for he means that the punishment which was to be inflicted on the people shall be such as still to leave room for forgiveness. And, in order more fully to convince them of it, he says that the Lord has charged him with this office, that he may proclaim this deliverance; and not to himself only, but also to others, till the chief messenger arrive, namely, Christ, who actually bestows and exhibits what God at that time commanded to be made known for a future period. Yet he means that the “mourning” shall not hinder God from giving ground of joy, when he shall think proper; for “to appoint” has the same meaning as “to fix the time,” that the tediousness of delay may not discourage them.
That I may give to them beauty for ashes. By the word, give he speaks with commendation of the efficacy of the prediction, that they may be fully convinced of the event. The allusion is to the ancient customs of the Jews, who, when any calamity pressed hard upon them, sprinkled ashes on their heads, and wore sackcloth. (Es 4:3) By these he denotes the filth and mourning which necessarily attend the wretched condition of the people, and contrasts them with the joy and gladness which they shall have when they are restored to liberty. I think that we ought not to pass by the allusion contained in the words פאר (peer) and אפר (epher;) for, by the mere transposition of letters, he intended to denote very different things, and, by an elegant inversion, a change of condition.
Trees of righteousness. By these words he points out the restoration of the people; as if he had said, “Whereas they had formerly been rooted out and resembled a dry stock, they shall be planted and settled.” Thus he reminds them that they ought to contemplate the divine power, so that, though they are slain and dead, still they may confidently hope that they shall be restored so as to take root and to receive strength and increase. From this ought to be drawn a universal doctrine, namely, that there is no other way in which we are restored to life than when we are planted by the Lord. We are indeed called his “planting,” because he elected us from the beginning. (Eph 1:4) But there is also another kind of “planting” which follows the former, namely, the Calling, by which we are ingrafted through faith into Christ’s body. The Lord does this by the agency and ministry of the Gospel; but it must be wholly ascribed to him, for “it is he alone that giveth the increase.” (1Co 3:7) We must always bear in mind the emblematical meaning of the first deliverance as illustrating the spiritual kingdom of Christ,.
He gives the appellation of “trees of righteousness” to those in whom the justice of God or good order shines forth. Yet let us know that the Lord adopts us on this condition, that we shall become new creatures, and that true righteousness shall reign in us. And hence it follows that we are by nature depraved and corrupted, and cannot yield fruit in any other way than by being changed and planted by the Lord. This sets aside the vain and haughty opinion of the Papists, who, by contriving either preparations or the aids of free will, claim what belongs to God alone; for if we are planted by the Lord, it follows that we are by nature dry and unfruitful.
To glorify him. This is the design of our “planting;“ but we have already spoken of these things in expounding the twenty-first verse of the preceding chapter.
4. And they shall build the deserts of the age. He goes on to describe more largely that restoration of the Church; and chiefly with this view, that the Jews may entertain confident hope of deliverance, because those promises appeared to be altogether incredible. And this is the reason why he adorns with extensive and magnificent terms that benefit of redemption. It is a mistake to suppose that these words, “the age” and “many ages, relate to a future period; as if he had said that the building of which he speaks shall be firm and permanent. The Prophet’s meaning was widely different; for he shows (as I have explained at another passage) that the longcontinued ruins of the city shall not prevent it from rising anew. When the inhabitants of any city, scattered in all directions, have been absent for a very long time, there can be no hope of rebuilding it; just as no person in the present day takes any concern about rebuilding Athens. Thus, when the Jews had been banished into a distant country, and Jerusalem had been forsaken for seventy years, who would have hoped that it would be built by the citizens themselves?
For this reason Isaiah employs the designations of “deserts of the age, ancient wildernesses, cities of desolation, wildernesses of many ages,” in order to show that all this cannot prevent the Lord from restoring the city to be inhabited by his elect at the proper time. Yet these statements ought also to be accommodated to our time, so that, although the Lord permits his Church, when it has fallen down, to lie long in ruins, and though there is no remaining hope of rebuilding it, yet we may strengthen our heart by these promises; for it is God’s peculiar office to raise up and renew what had formerly been destroyed, and devoted as it were to eternal rottenness. But we have formerly treated of these matters at the fiftyeighth chapter.
5. And strangers shall stand. He means that foreigners and strangers shall be ready to yield obedience to them; for, in consequence of their being at that time separated from the rest of the nations, none was willing to assist them, and therefore he says that “strangers stand;“ that is, are ready to meet and assist them. As to what follows, about “feeding sheep” and “cultivating fields and vines,” these are metaphorical expressions; for the Prophet treats of the kingdom of Christ, which is spiritual, but by means of these figures describes its perfect happiness, that we may understand it better from examples drawn from those things which are known to us. Let us therefore understand that we shall be truly happy when Christ shall exercise his dominion over us; for in this way shall we likewise obtain, beyond expectation, many advantages of which the children of Adam are justly deprived.
6. But ye shall be called the priests of Jehovah. This verse sheds somewhat more light on the preceding; for in the second part of it the Prophet foretells that believers shall enjoy the riches of the Gentiles, and shall be raised to glory as their successors. The Jews, indeed, seize eagerly on such declarations, and already devour by covetousness the wealth of all the nations, as if they would one day possess it, and vaunt as if the glory of the whole world would become their own.
But there are chiefly two things that ought to be observed in these words, that we may more fully understand them. First, the prophets, when they wish to describe the glory and happiness of the Kingdom of Christ, borrow comparisons from human affairs. Secondly, when they speak of the Church, they connect the Head with the members in such a manner that sometimes they look more at the Head than at the members. We must not understand the enjoyment of the wealth of others to mean that they who are converted to Christ shall seize on the wealth, or glory, or rank of others, which is most inconsistent with true religion; but because all things shall be brought under the dominion of Christ, so that he alone shall hold authority and rule. And that is what I have already said, that he looks both at the members and the Head. But when they come into the power of Christ, they are called ours, because Christ possesses nothing separate from his Church.
In the same manner it is said elsewhere, (Isa 45:14) that the enemies of Christ “shall kiss his feet and supplicate pardon,” although this is done in the Church, in which they acknowledge Christ and yield to his doctrine. Thus Isaiah shows what the Father will give to the Son, who has lawful authority over the whole world, (Mt 28:18) and to whom
“all things must be made subject.” (Heb 2:8)
Yet we must not omit what I mentioned a little before, that God gives large and kind support to his elect in the world, in order that they may feel that their condition is far better than that of unbelievers; for, though they are in want of many things, yet, being content with a little, they cheerfully give thanks to God, so that their hunger is better than all the abundance of unbelievers.
Priests of Jehovah. By this term he shows that the condition of the people shall be far more excellent than formerly; as if he had said, “Hitherto the Lord had chosen you to be his heritage; but he will adorn you with gifts much more excellent, for he will elevate you to the honor of the priesthood.” Although the whole people was “a kingdom of priests,” (Ex 19:6; De 33:10) yet we know that the tribe of Levi only discharged this office; but the Prophet declares that in future it shall be common to all. This was not manifested but under the reign of Christ. The restoration of the Church, indeed, began at the time when the people returned from Babylon; but at the coming of Christ believers were at length adorned and honored by this dignity; for all the saints have been consecrated to Christ, and discharge that office. To this belong the words of Peter,
“Ye are a holy nation, a royal priesthood.” (1Pe 2:9)
What is the nature of this kind of priesthood ought to be carefully observed; for we must no longer offer to God earthly sacrifices, 166 but men must be offered and slain in obedience to Christ, as Paul declares that he slew the Gentiles by the sword of the Gospel, that thenceforth they might obey the Lord. 167 (Ro 15:16)
Hence infer how childish is the folly of the Papists, who abuse this passage to prove their priesthood; for the Pope and his lackeys ordain priests to sacrifice Christ, not to teach the people. But Christ offered himself “by eternal redemption,” (Heb 9:12) and he alone has once exercised this priesthood, and commands that the priest of the sacrifice shall be offered to us by the doctrine of the Gospel. Those persons, therefore, who usurp this office, and wish to repeat what he has completed, are guilty of sacrilege.
But every person ought to offer himself, (Ro 12:1) and all that he has, in sacrifice to God, that he may exercise this lawful priesthood; and next, ministers, who have been specially called to this office of teaching, ought to make use of the sword of the word to slay men and consecrate them to God. Lastly, those are lawful ministers who do not of themselves attempt or undertake anything, but faithfully and diligently execute the commands which they have received from God.
7. Instead of your shame. He confirms the former statement, in which he said that believers who, clothed with sackcloth and covered with ashes, mourned, shall be sprinkled with the oil of gladness. This change of mourning into joy is again promised.
There shall be a double reward. Some interpret the word double as meaning that they who have been redeemed by God shall be happy both before God and before men. But I do not know that there are solid grounds for that interpretation. I choose rather to adopt a more simple view; as if the Prophet had said, “The prosperity of the Church shall be so great as togo far beyond all the calamities and afflictions by which she is now oppressed.” If, therefore, she is now weary of her condition, she ought to look to that day when she shall be most happy, as Paul contrasts “an eternal weight of glory” with “the momentary lightness of afflictions.” (2Co 4:17)
And instead of disgrace they shall rejoice in their portion. Wicked men vaunt over us and indulge in wantonness, because they think that they have the superiority; but the Lord promises that ere long he will cause good men, rescued from their tyranny, to obtain their portion. This began to be done, indeed, when the people returned from captivity; but a clearer proof has been exhibited in Christ, and is exhibited every day, and will at length be completed at his last coming, when all things shall be fully renewed, and the wicked shall be thrown down, that we may obtain the inheritance of the world. This is the reason why he says, by way of acknowledgment, that the earth is the portion of those wicked men; for they now boast that they are the lords of the world, but they shall at length feel that it belongs peculiarly and specially to the children of God.
And they shall have everlasting joy. This may relate to the outward condition of the Church; ibr he daily supplies his people with ground of thanksgiving; but as they must also devour many griefs, and are surrounded by manifold sorrow, this prediction is not fulfilled but when joy of spirit reigns and holds the pre-eminence in our hearts, accompanied by that “peace which (as Paul says) surpasses all understanding,” (Php 4:7,) which the children of God alone enjoy when they have the testimony of adoption, He calls it everlasting, in order to shew how greatly it differs from the joy of wicked men, which is momentary and quickly passes away, and is even changed into “gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 8:12.)
8. For I Jehovah love judgment. He not only confirms what he promised in the name of the Lord, but likewise exhorts the Jews to repent, and shews whence they ought to expect salvation, and what and how great is the Judge with whom we have to do; for lie reasons from the nature of God in what manner they ought to regulate their life, that they may not by their wickedness reject the grace that is offered to them.
Under the word judgment he includes all that is just and equitable; for he contrasts this word with the useless inventions of the Jews, by which they thought that they satisfied God, and at the same time concealed their malice. The Lord cares not, as we have often seen, for such masks and vain pretences, but demands true cleanness of heart and hands pure from all unrighteousness. He who wishes to obtain the approbation of God for himself and for all that he does must have an upright heart and an unblemished life.
And hate robbery in the burnt-offering. By a single part he figuratively denotes all hypocritical worship of God; and under “burnt-offering” is included every kind of sacrifice. Nothing is more abominable than when men, from cheating and robbery, sacrifice to God, or when they mingle their lies, hypocrisy, and impurity of heart, with their sacrifices, or corrupt the worship of God by basely defrauding him. This vice abounds not only in a single age, but at all times; for all men pretend to worship God, and even the wicked are ashamed of not having an appearance of religion, the impression of a Divine Ruler being so deeply engraven on the hearts of all that it cannot be erased. Yet the greater park of men sport with God, and endeavor to satisfy him by childish trifles.
Isaiah therefore condemns and abhors this hypocrisy, and teaches that the Lord demands from us “mercy rather than sacrifice.” (Ho 6:6; Matt. 9:13, Matt. 12:7.) We cannot worship God in a right manner, if we do not observe the Second Table, and abstain from all dishonesty and violence; for he who defrauds or injures his neighbors does violence also to God. In a word, the design of the Prophet is to teach what is the true character of repentance; namely, when, laying aside hypocrisy, and dismissing all inventions, the worshippers of God cherish natural kindness to one another.
And I will establish their work in truth. Some explain it to mean the “reward.” of work. But I rather think that it denotes all the undertakings of life, to which the Lord promises a prosperous issue. The undertakings of men succeed very ill; because they do not choose to ask counsel of God, or attempt anything under his guidance. Thus they are justly punished for their rashness; because they trust in their own counsels, or depend on a blind stroke of fortune, in which there is no reality whatever, but only a deceitful shadow. But that they who are guided by the Spirit of God, and who commit themselves wholly to his protection, should succeed prosperously and to their wish, is not at all wonderful; for all prosperity flows from his blessing alone.
By the word truth is meant a uniform course; for even unbelievers are often puffed up with transitory joy, but it speedily vanishes away.
And will make an everlasting covenant with them. In the conclusion of the verse he assigns the cause of the stability. It is because God is pleased not once only to stretch out his hand to them, but to be the continual guide of the journey. And the true support of our perseverance is, that he deigns to enter into an everlasting covenant with us, in which he voluntarily makes himself our debtor, and freely bestows upon us all things, though he owes us nothing whatever.
9. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles. Here the Prophet treats more clearly of the extension of the Church, which at that time might be said to be confined within a narrow corner of the earth, and afterwards, as we have already seen, was exceedingly diminished and impaired. (Isa. 1:9, Isa. 10:22.) Isaiah therefore discourses concerning the Church, which, after having suffered so great a diminution, would be spread throughout the whole world, so as to be visible to all the nations. And yet this did not happen even in the reign of Solomon, when the Jews flourished most in wealth and splendor. (1 Kings 10:21, 27.) Now this appeared to be altogether incredible; and that is the reason why the prophets take such pains to convince men of it, and repeat it very frequently, that the Jews may not measure this restoration by their own understanding or by the present appearance of things.
A question now arises, When did these things happen? I reply (as I have often done before) that they began when the people returned to their native country; for at that time, and in uninterrupted succession, they experienced the manifold kindness of God towards them. But as nothing more than feeble sparks appeared, the full brightness shone forth in Christ, in whose reign those things are entirely accomplished; for where there was the utmost barrenness of godliness, the offspring of Abraham sprouted, because foreigners were ingrafted by faith into the elect people. Thus foreign and barbarous nations acknowledged that the Jews were the blessed seed of God, (Ge 22:18,) when they united with them in the same confession of faith; nor was this fulfilled but once only, but is in course of being fulfilled every day.
As to the Jews going before, and holding the first rank in God’s covenant, this ought to be ascribed to the mercy of God, and not to their own excellence, as Paul (Ro 3:2) teaches; for, after having shown that by nature they differ nothing at all from the Gentiles, and after having subjected them to the same condemnation, he likewise teaches that they hold this privilege of pre-eminence, because they were the very first that received the word of God and the promises. But this proceeded from God’s undeserved kindness, and not from their merits or excellence.
10. Rejoicing I shall rejoice in Jehovah. He represents the Church as giving thanks to God, in order to convince them more fully of the truth of what he formerly said. It may be regarded as (ὑποτύτωσις) a lively description, by which the thing is, as it were, painted and laid before the eyes of men, so as to remove all doubt; for by nature we are prone to distrust, and so fickle, that we place confidence rather in the inventions of men than in the word of God. As to this form of confirmation, we have spoken at chapter 12:1; 26:1, and at other passages.
For he hath clothed me. These things were still, indeed, at a great distance, but must have been seen and understood by the eyes of faith; as the eyes should undoubtedly be raised to heaven, when the Prophet discourses concerning salvation and righteousness. Nothing is visible here, and much less could so great happiness have been perceived by the senses, while everything tended to destruction. But because even now we do not see any such beauty of the Church, which is even contemptible in the eyes of the world under the revolting dress of the cross, we need faith, which comprehends heavenly and invisible things.
With the garments of salvation. He connects “righteousness” with “salvation,” because the one cannot be separated from the other. “Garments” and “mantles” are well-known metaphors. It is as if he had said, that righteousness and salvation had been bestowed upon them. Since the Lord bestows these benefits, it follows that from him alone we should seek and expect them.
He hath adorned me. The metaphor is supposed to be drawn from priestly ornament; and accordingly there are some who speculate here about the priesthood of Christ. But I do not think that the Prophet spoke so ingeniously; for he brings forward the comparison of the bridegroom and the bride 168 Formerly the Church lay in filth and rags, and was universally despised, as a forsaken woman; but now, having been received into favor with her husband, she shines with amazing lustre. A parallel passage occurs in Ho 2:20. This was accomplished at the coming of Christ; but it is also bestowed upon us daily, when the Lord adorns his people with righteousness and salvation. But all these things, as we have often said already, shall be accomplished at Christ’s last coming.
11. For as the earth putteth forth. By a beautiful comparison the Prophet confirms the former promises; for he reminds the Jews of the ordinary power of God, which shines brightly in the creatures themselves. The earth every year puts forth her bud, the gardens grow green after the sowing time, and, in short, herbs and plants, which appear to be dead during the winter, revive in the spring and resume their vigor. Now these are proofs and very clear illustrations of the divine power and kindness toward us; and since it is so, ought men to doubt of it? Will not he who gave this power and strength to the earth display it still more in delivering his people? And will he not cause to bud the elect seed, of which he promised that it should remain in the world for ever?
Before all the nations. He again shews that the boundaries of the Church shall no longer be as narrow as they formerly were, for the Lord will cause her to fill the whole world.
Will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth, He mentions “righteousness,” which was fully displayed when the Lord redeemed his people; but the righteousness of God was chiefly seen, when Christ was manifested to the world; not that God kept his righteousness concealed till that time, but that men did not know it. It is, as if he had said, “God will deliver and restore his people in such a manner that all shall acknowledge him to be righteous.” For redemption is a striking proof of the justice of God.
He next mentions praise; because such a benefit ought to be accompanied by thanksgiving. The end of “righteousness” is, that glory may be given to God; and therefore he exhorts us to gratitude; for it is exceedingly base to be dumb after having received God’s benefits.
“S’il veut contrefaire le docteur, et n’a doctrine ni savoir.” “If he wishes to counterfeit the teacher, and has not any doctrine or knowledge.”
“Il ne faut plus offrir a Dieu des bestes brutes.” “We must no longer offer to God brute beasts.”
See our author’s exposition of that remarkable passage. Ed.
“‘As a bridegroom halloweth himself with ornament,’ that is, maketh himself respectable, as a priest in his secret vestments.” — Stock.
“The reference is, no doubt, to the sacerdotal mitre, which was probably regarded as a model of ornamental head-dress, and to which פאר (peer) is explicitly applied.” — Alexander.