Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 16: Isaiah, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.
1. Propter Sion non tacebo, et propter Ierusalem non quiescam, donec egrediatur ut splendor justitia ejus, et salus ejus sicat lampas ardeat.
2. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.
2. Et videbunt gentes justitiam tuam, et omnes reges terrae gloriam tuam; et vocabitur tibi nomen novum, quod os Iehovae nuncupabit.
3. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.
3. Et eris corona gloriae in manu Iehovae, et diadema regni in manu Dei tui.
4. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married.
4. Non dicetur tibi amplius Derelicta; nec terra tua dicetur amplius Desolata; quia vocabunt to Beneplacitum meum in ea, et terram tuam Maritatam. Quia beneplacitum Iehovae in to, et terra tua maritabitur.
5. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee: and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.
5. Quoniam sicut adoleseens maritat sibi virginem, ita maritabunt to sibi filii tui; et gaudio sponsi super sponsa gaudebit super to Deus tuus.
6. I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence,
6. Super muros tuos, Ierusalem, ordinavi custodes, qui tota die et tota nocte jugiter non tacebunt. Qui memores estis (vel, memoriam celebrabitis) Iehovae, ne silentium sit vobis.
7. And give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
7. Et ne detis silentlum illi donec reparet, et donec ponat Ierusalem laudem in terra.
8. The LORD hath sworn by his right hand, and by the arm of his strength, Surely I will no more give thy corn to be meat for thine enemies; and the sons of the stranger shall not drink thy wine, for the which thou hast laboured:
8. Juravit Iehova per dexteram suam, et per brachium roboris sui: Si dedero frumentum tuum amplius cibum inimicis tuis, et si biberint filii alienigenae vinum tuum pro quo laborasti.
9. But they that have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD; and they that have brought it together shall drink it in the courts of my holiness.
9. Nam qui congregaverunt illud comedent, et laudabunt Iehovam; et collectores ejus bibent vinum in atriis meis sanctis.
10. Go through, go through the gates; prepare ye the way of the people; cast up, cast up the highway; gather out the stones; lift up a standard for the people.
10. Transite, transite per portas; repurgate viam populo; complanate, complanate iter; sternite lapidibus, levate signum ad populos.
11. Behold, the LORD hath proclaimed unto the end of the world, Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh; behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
11. Ecce Iehova publicavit usque ad extremum terrae; dicite filiae Sion, Ecce servator tuus venit, Ecce merces ejus cum eo, et effectus ejus coram ipso.
12. And they shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD: and thou shalt be called, Sought out, A city not forsaken.
12. Et vocabunt vos Populum sanctum, redemptos Iehovae; et to vocabunt Quaesitam urbem, non relictam.
1. On account of Zion I will not be silent. That sad captivity being at hand, which was almost to blot out the name of the whole nation, it was necessary to confirm and encourage believers by many words, that with strong and assured confidence they might rely on these promises under the burden of the cross. Here, therefore, the Prophet, discharging that office which had been entrusted to him, openly declares that he will not be slack in the performance of his duty, and will not cease to speak, till he encourage the hearts of believers by the hope of future salvation, that they may know and be fully convinced that God will be the deliverer of his Church. He too might have been dismayed by the unbelief of that people, and might have lost courage when he saw that matters were every day growing worse, and when he foresaw that terrible vengeance. But, notwithstanding so great difficulties, he will still persist in his duty, that all may know that neither the massacre of the people nor their unbelief can prevent God from executing his promises at the proper time.
And on account of Jerusalem I will not rest. It was necessary that these things should be frequently repeated, because such is the depravity of our mind that we speedily forget God’s promises. When he says that he will not cease to speak, he likewise reminds others of their duty, that they may take courage, and expect with assured confidence their restoration, though it be long delayed, and even that their unwearied attention may answer to the voice of God which constantly addresses them. We know by experience every day how necessary this is, while Satan endeavors by every method to turn us aside from the right course.
At the same time he shews what ought to be the aim of godly teachers, namely, to spend and devote themselves entirely for the advantage of the Church; for when he says “on account of Zion,” he means that our chief care ought to be that the Church may be preserved, and that none are good and faithful teachers but they who hold the salvation of the Church so dear as to spare no labors. Some explain this as relating to prayer, but I choose rather to refer it to doctrine; and it is more natural to view it as meaning’ that no inconvenience or annoyance shall wear out his patience, and no opposition shall retard him from proceeding in the office of teaching which God has enjoined on him concerning the redemption of the Church. For if he had survived that very sad calamity, the unbelieving multitude would undoubtedly have persecuted him, as well as the other Prophets, by many reproaches; but whatever may happen, he says that he is fortified by unshaken firmness, never to be dumb through shame, but to proceed with unremitting eagerness in his course. Besides, by this form of expression he procures credit to his predictions, and maintains their authority, so that, even when he is dead, they do not cease to resound in the ears of believers.
Till her righteousness go forth as brightness. By “righteousness” he means the rights of the Church; for during the period of calamity, she appeared to be condemned. Her “righteousness,” therefore, “goes forth” when she is perfectly restored, and regains her former condition; for that righteousness lay concealed during the captivity.
And her salvation. To “righteousness” he adds “salvation,” because they whom God justifies, or to whom he re-restores their rights, do likewise regain their “salvation.” Hence we infer that we are wretched and without assistance, so long as God withholds his grace from us on account of our sins; and therefore in other passages he frequently gave the appellation of “the righteousness of God” to that which he here affirms to be the righteousness of the Church. Thus we are undone while we are destitute of the righteousness of God; that is, while we slumber in our sins, and God shews himself to be a severe judge by punishing us for them.
The phrase “go forth” means that the righteousness of the Church was hidden and, as it were, buried for a time: she deserved in the sight of God no favor; but, on the contrary, her unspeakable iniquities prevailed to such an extent that there remained nothing but God’s righteous vengeance. But here the Prophet has his eye on men who already looked upon the afflicted Church as lost, and by their pride and reproaches almost cast her down to hell.
May burn like a lamp. Finally, he compares her to the world, and says, that with respect to the world she shall be righteous, when God shall have purged away her sins and undertaken her cause. By these words the Prophet teaches that we ought always to entertain favorable hopes of the restoration of the Church, though she be plunged under thick darkness and in the grave; for although for a time she is overwhelmed and hidden, yet she has God for her avenger in heaven, who, after having chastised her moderately, will at length shew that she was the object of his care. And indeed his righteousness must be illustrious and manifest, and that for the salvation of those whom he hath chosen to be his people and heritage.
2. And the Gentiles shall see. He now states more plainly the reason why he formerly said that he would not be silent, namely, that believers may be fully convinced that salvation is not promised to them in vain.
And all the kings of the earth thy glory. Here he employs the word “glory” as meaning “salvation.” We see here the argument by which prophets must fortify themselves for perseverance, namely, that the Lord is faithful, and will at length fulfill what he has once promised, though he delay for a time. The word kings serves for amplification; as if he had said that not only mean persons and those of the lowest rank shall behold and admire the glory of God, but even “kings” themselves, who commonly look down with contempt on all that was worthy in other respects of being esteemed and honored; for they are blinded by their splendor, and maddened by their high rank, so that they do not willingly behold any rank but their own.
And thou shalt be called by a new name. By a “new name” he means “a crowded assemblage;” for the people were so completely scattered, that there was no visible body, and they appeared to be altogether ruined. Although a vast multitude of persons were led into captivity, yet, having been scattered among the Babylonians, they were driven about like the members of a body broken in pieces, and scarcely retained the name of a people; which had also been foretold to them. After having been brought back from captivity, they began again to be united in one body, and thus regained the “name” of which they had been deprived. Yet “new” denotes what is uncommon; as if the Prophet had said that the glory of the people shall be extraordinary and such as was never before heard of. We know that this took place in the progress of time; for that small band of people, while they dwelt by sufferance in their native country, could not by any extraordinary distinction arrive at so great renown; but at length, when the doctrine of the Gospel had been preached, the Jewish name became known and renowned.
Which the mouth of Jehovah shall name. He confirms what would otherwise have been hard to be believed, by promising that God will be the author of this glory; for it was not in the power of men thus to raise a Church which had sunk low and was covered with dishonor, but to God, who “lifteth up the poor from the dunghill,” (Ps 113:7,) it was not difficult to adorn his Church by new celebrity. As there was no face of a Church for forty years, and, although the Lord had some seed, yet it was in a state so disordered and so ruinous that there was no visible people of God, he now restores to the Church its name, when he has assembled it by the word of the Gospel. This majestic work of God, therefore, ought to confirm us on this point, that we may know that he will never forsake his Church; and although wicked men tear us by their slanders, and beat and spit upon us, and in every way endeavor to make us universally loathed, let us remember that God is not deprived of his right to vindicate us in the world, whose names he has deigned to write in heaven.
Others expound the passage in a more ingenious manner, namely, that instead of Israelites they shall be called Christians. But I think that the former meaning is more agreeable to the context and to the Prophet’s ordinary language; and we ought carefully to observe those forms of expression which are peculiar to the prophets, that we may become familiar with their style. In a word, the people shall be restored, though it appears to be exterminated, and shall obtain, not from men but from God, a new name.
3. And thou shalt be a crown of glory. Isaiah proceeds with the same subject, and we need not wonder at this; for no man, by judging from the flesh, could have formed such vast conceptions and expectations. Besides, he intended to fix the hearts of believers on the kingdom of Christ, which it was the more necessary to adorn and magnify by these illustrious titles, because hitherto it was not only obscure but at a great distance. It was needful to provide against a twofold danger, that the Jews, when they saw that they were still at a very great distance from their former honor, might not, on the one hand, despise the grace of God, or, on the other hand, rest satisfied with the mere beginnings, and thus, by disregarding Christ, devote their whole attention to earthly advantages. The Prophet therefore reminds them, that the return to their native country was but the forerunner of that exalted rank which was to be expected at the manifestation of Christ.
So far as relates to the former clause, exiles and slaves could perceive nothing but ground for despair, when they beheld the outward condition of things, since, after having returned and been restored to their country, they made very little progress in building the temple. Accordingly, he bids them look to God, that they may expect from him the glory which is concealed from the eyes of flesh, and, knowing that they are dear and precious in his sight, may be fully satisfied with this, till he adorn them more bountifully by the hand of Christ.
And the diadem of the kingdom. He calls the Church God’s crown, because God wishes that his glory should shine in us; and in this it is proper that we should behold and admire the inconceivable goodness of God, since, notwithstanding that we are by nature filthy and corrupted, and more abominable than the mire of the streets, yet he adorns us in such a manner that he wishes us to be “the diadem of his kingdom.” Let us therefore be aroused by this goodness of God to the desire of leading a holy life, that his image may more and more be formed anew in us.
4. Thou shalt no more be called forsaken. He meets a difficulty which might occur to the minds of believers, seeing that they were forsaken and abandoned, while at the same time they were called a “diadem” and a “crown.” Seeing that they were hated and abhorred by all nations, and sometimes even lay prostrate at the feet of their enemies, and no assistance of any kind was seen, it might appear ridiculous that they should receive these names, and thus be elevated to heaven and placed in the hand of God. He therefore means that the people, though for a time they resemble a divorced and forsaken woman, shall yet be restored so as to change their condition and name; as if he had said, “This divorce shall not be perpetual; God will at length receive thee to himself.” Thus, although the Church seems to be “forsaken,” and has the appearance of a divorced woman, yet the Lord will put an end to her afflictions and miseries.
For they shall call thee, My good-pleasure in her. He teaches that this proceeds from the “good-pleasure of God;” that is, from his undeserved favor, that nothing may be ascribed to the merits or excellence of men; as he says in Hosea,
“I will espouse thee to me in mercy and compassions.”
And thus he shews that they shall be prosperous for no other reason than because God, out of his infinite goodness, will graciously condescend to receive into favor those whom he had abandoned. Although this relates strictly to the Church, yet let us learn in general that it is by the favor and bounty of God that cities and kingdoms are restored to their former condition, which, while he was angry and offended, appeared to be ruined. The Prophet, therefore, holds out to the consideration of the Jews the source of all the calamities which they had suffered, when he testifies that when God is reconciled to them, they will be happy; for we may gather from it that formerly God was angry with them, when their condition was wretched and miserable.
And thy land shall be married. This metaphor, by which he denotes the restoration of the people, is highly beautiful, and conveys twofold instruction. He shews that the state of variance between God and the Church shall be terminated; first, because she shall be received as a wife by her appeased husband; and secondly, because the multitude of people will take away the reproach of widowhood. The earth is, in some sense, married to its inhabitants, as trees to vines; and, on the other hand, when it is stripped of its inhabitants, it is said to be a widow.
For the good-pleasure of Jehovah is in thee. He again repeats and confirms what has been already said, that it is owing to the undeserved kindness of God that the Church is restored, that she remains in her condition, that the earth receives its inhabitants; for when God turns away his face and is angry with us, nothing can be looked for but destruction, and nothing can be expected from the aid or strength of men.
5. For as a young man marrieth a virgin. This verse contains nothing more than an explanation and confirmation of the preceding verse. Now there appears to be a sort of contradiction in this respect, that in the latter clause he makes God the only Husband of the Church, while in the former clause he assigns to her many husbands. But the solution is easy; for, when this marriage of the Church is spoken of, there is but one Husband, that is, God, who always claims for himself that title; and that is fulfilled in Christ, to whom, as Paul says, the pastors “espouse the Church as a chaste virgin.” (2Co 11:2.) Yet this does not prevent the metaphor of marriage from being employed to describe that unity of faith which all the children of God have with their mother, the Church. Nay more, it is consistent with God being the Husband of his Church, that he marries to his Church all the nations that are assembled to her; for, when she is without children, she may be said to be widowed and solitary. This is said, therefore, even with respect to God, who, by ratifying with his guidance the sacred amity between the members of his Church, extends the effect of marriage to the whole body.
And hence it ought to be inferred, that the Church of God shall be truly populous, that is, shall have many children, when she is united to God her Husband; for we must begin with God, that he may preside over his Church, and that under his guidance we may be gathered into her bosom; for then shall the marriage be truly sacred. But for this a vast multitude of people will not constitute a church, but rather an abominable brothel; as we see that in Popery there is boasting of the name of God, and yet the majesty of God is dishonored in it by frightful sacrilege.
6. On thy walls. As the Prophet intended to describe the perfect happiness of the kingdom of Christ, so he makes an assemblage of all that belongs to the prosperous condition of any country or city. To other advantages he adds guards and a garrison; because the greatest abundance of all good things would be of little avail, if we were not safe from enemies; and therefore he declares that the Lord will not only supply the Church with all that is necessary, but will also appoint faithful guards to ward off enemies and robbers, that he may thus be recognised, both within and without, as the author of a happy life.
Who shall not be, silent. By “being silent,” he means “being at rest;” as if he had said, “They will be continually on the watch, so as to foresee at a great distance the dangers that threaten them.”
Ye who are mindful of Jehovah. He next explains who these guards are, namely, those who “shall be mindful of the Lord,” that is, shall celebrate the memory of his name. Although among the guards we might, without impropriety, reckon the angels, (Ps 91:11; Heb 1:14,) to whom we know that this office is assigned, yet because they willingly and cheerfully watch over the safety of the Church, and do not need to be spurred on by exhortations, the Prophet addresses his discourse to other watchmen.
The word which he employs is of doubtful meaning. 169 Sometimes it signifies “to remember,” and sometimes “to bring to remembrance;” and neither of those significations will be inappropriate. But I think that he simply means that these guards will be God’s ministers to celebrate his name. Some render it “Making known the Lord;” but that is unnatural, and suddenly breaks off the Prophet’s meaning; and such commentators do not attend to the comparison of the guards of a city, which the Prophet employs.
Although the Prophet intends simply to teach that the Church will be safe from all dangers, because she has God to watch over her safety, yet we ought always to consider what is the nature of Christ’s kingdom; for it is not defended by the weapons of war or by arms, but, being spiritual, is protected by spiritual arms and guards. The Lord will therefore have his ministers, whose agency he will employ for defending the Church by the sword of the word, that she may be kept safe; not by earthly guards, but by God’s secret and spiritual power; and the Prophet explains himself by saying, “Ye who are mindful of the Lord.” Although this statement relates to all the godly, who are commanded to celebrate the name of God in all places, as far as lies in their power, yet it is chiefly addressed to the priests, who, discharging a public office, should hold out an example to others, and devote themselves with all their heart to the praises of God.
During the whole day and the whole night. Here pastors are reminded of their duty; for it is not enough to feed the Lord’s flock, if they do not likewise defend it from the attacks of robbers and wolves. “Night and day,” therefore, they must guard and keep watch, if they wish to perform their duty in a proper manner.
Keep not silence. The Lord forbids them to be silent; for he wishes them to be diligent and attentive; and in this he shews how great is the care which he takes about the safety of the Church. This passage testifies that it is a remarkable kindness of God, when we have faithful pastors who take care of us; for we are exposed to dangers of every kind, and lie open to the snares of Satan, if the Lord do not protect us by his guards; and therefore we ought always to pray that he would surround us with those guards which he sees that we need.
7. And do not give him silence. Hitherto the Prophet has spoken of the office and duty of teaching; but as this would not be enough if prayer were not likewise added, he exhorts the ministers of the word to prayer; for I think that לו, (lo,) “to him,” refers to God. We ought, therefore, to plead with God, and to entreat by earnest prayer, that he will give some success to our labors, which would otherwise be unprofitable. And since we devote ourselves entirely to preaching doctrine, and vigorously oppose all the machinations of Satan, let us learn, at the same time, to turn our minds to God, that he may not permit our labors to be unsuccessful. In the same manner as he applied the word “silence” to doctrine in the beginning of the chapter, when he said, “I will not be silent,” so in this passage he applies it to prayer, by which we obtain from God some fruit of doctrine. Even the angels move us by their example to this earnestness of prayer, as we read in Zechariah that the angel prays ardently for the restoration of the Church. (Zec 1:12.)
Till he restore. Hence infer that there are two distinct benefits: first, to have faithful pastors who shall watch over the safety of the Church; secondly, that the Church be upheld and preserved in her condition by their agency. But God, who speaks here, claims these benefits as his own; which he also does in many other passages. “How shall they preach,” says Paul, “unless they be sent?” (Ro 10:15.) It belongs to God alone, therefore, to appoint pastors; for no man could otherwise have been “sufficient” (2Co 2:16) for an office so important and so difficult; and it is he alone who promotes by their agency the restoration of the Church; for their efforts would be altogether vain and fruitless, if the Lord did not grant them prosperous success. And here we see that the external agency of men is joined with the efficacy of the Holy Spirit; for, although the Lord alone is the author and finisher of the work, yet he brings forward instruments which he employs for rearing the building of the Church. This reminds us that we ought not to lose courage, even when we see nothing but ruin and wretchedness and desolation; but it is our duty to pray that the Lord will restore her, which he also promises that he will do.
And till he place Jerusalem a praise. This means to render the Church glorious, that ground of joy may shine forth from it; for when we feel nothing but God’s severity, we become dumb, and are overwhelmed with shame; but when he frees us from our afflictions, and causes us to recover, he at the same time opens our mouth; for he supplies us with ground of praise and thanksgiving.
8. Jehovah hath sworn. He proceeds with the metaphors which he formerly used; for since, owing to the corruption of our nature, the kingdom of Christ cannot be described so as to be level to our capacity; it was necessary to represent it under figures. In the same manner as he promised, first, an abundance of all things, and next, faithful guardianship, that the condition of believers may be safe; so here he promises tranquillity and repose, that they may peacefully enjoy their blessings, and may not in future be defrauded of them. As if he had said, “Whatever thou hadst formerly in thy hands was exposed to plunder and robbery; but now thou shalt have everything well secured, and shall freely partake of thy corn and thy wine; and, in a word, thou shalt enjoy thy prosperity in peace.”
But since the depravity of our nature is such that we do not place trust in God, though he promise largely and bountifully, for this reason the Prophet represents him as swearing; for the Lord condescends to us so far as to make use of an oath, in order to correct still more our unbelief and obstinacy. Now, the Lord “sweareth by himself, because” (as an Apostle says) “he hath none greater than himself.” (Heb 6:13.)
By his right hand and by the arm of his strength. He mentions his “right arm,” that is, the power of God; because that was appropriate to the present discourse. As if he had said, “If I have any power, I will display it in your salvation; and lest, in an arduous affair, your minds should slumber, I swear by my hand, which is invincible and victorious over all, that, whatever difficulties may arise, you shall be safe under my protection.” Whenever therefore he promises salvation, let us think of his strength and power.
If I shall give. This is an elliptical form of expression; and we are taught by it the sacredness and solemnity of an oath. The import of this declaration is, as if he had said, that he wishes that henceforth he may not be believed, if these promises be not justified by the event. When he promises the peaceful enjoyment of wheat and wine, he means that it proceeded from his righteous judgment, and did not happen by chance, that the Church was deprived of corn and wine; for whenever enemies ravage and plunder, this is unquestionably done by God’s permission; as he threatens in the Law. (De 28:33.) On the other hand, it is his special blessing, that every one eats in safety
“under his vine, and under his fig-tree.” (1Ki 4:25.)
9. For they who have gathered it shall eat it. This is an explanation and confirmation of the preceding statement; for, after having testified that he will no longer permit that which the Church possesses to be laid open as a prey, he adds that she shall enjoy her possessions. Yet he shews that “corn and wine” are justly called our own, when we have obtained them by honest industry; for they who violently seize the bread of others, or obtain it by unlawful means, have it not from the Lord, and cannot attribute it to his blessing, as if they possessed it lawfully; and to this corresponds what is said in the Psalm,
“Thou shalt eat the labor of thy hands, thou shalt be happy, and it shall be well with thee.” (Ps 128:2.)
And shall praise Jehovah. But when he promises that they who cultivate the soil shall have food, why does he say that they will give thanks to God? And why do men praise God, if by their own labor they gather the corn and procure the wine? It appears to be but a pretended thanksgiving, if those things are ascribed to the toil and industry of men; and God deserves no praise, if men procure food by their own labor. But it ought to be observed, that the Prophet, after having shewn what is the lawful method of seeking food, at the same time adds that our labor will be fruitless, if the Lord do not supply us with food; for all that we have belongs to God, and to him alone all that we obtain ought to be ascribed.
Shall drink wine in my holy courts. He alludes to the solemn act of offering sacrifices; for they might drink in other places, and every one might eat in his own dwelling. But the allusion is to that ceremony which was observed in consecration, when the law required that the first-fruits should be an oblation, (Lev. 2:12, Lev. 23:10,) in order that the produce of the year might be dedicated to God; and in the writings of Moses we frequently meet with these words,
“Thou shalt feast, and rejoice in presence of thy God.” (De 12:18.)
10. Pass through, pass through the gates. From the preceding statement he draws the conclusion, that there shall be a free passage through the gates of the city, which formerly were shut or in a ruinous state; shut when it was besieged by enemies; in a ruinous state, when the city was thrown down and levelled with the ground. He means that there shall be such a restoration of the city, that its inhabitants shall be numerous, and there shall be frequent passing to and from it.
Some think that these words are addressed to the pastors, that they may enter in at the gates, and go before others as their conductors. But it is a general and figurative statement, by which he compares the Church to a populous city, though for a time it was ruinous and desolate, as Jerusalem had been. Others pursue more ingenious speculations, and say that the gates of a Church are opened, when pardon of sins is proclaimed in it, and by that message God invites all to come to him. But if we wish to get at the Prophet’s meaning, we must believe that all these things are spoken figuratively, as we have already mentioned.
Clear the way for the people. This is, strictly speaking, the duty of teachers; but the Prophet speaks in general terms, and addresses all whose agency the Lord employed for preparing the way for the people. At that time, indeed, he spoke to Medes and Persians, by means of whom he opened up the way for the Jews, that they might return to their native country; but next he includes all others by whom the Lord restored his Church.
Level, level the road. He authoritatively commands all men to “clear and level the roads;” that the Jews might know that every obstacle shall easily be removed, and that all men, however inveterate their hostility, shall immediately obey the command of God. In this way he enjoins believers to gird themselves manfully for the work, as if many workmen were ready to give assistance, and the emphatic repetition of the word (“Level, level”) deserves notice as intended to express certainty.
Pave it with stones. סקל (sikkel) sometimes means to remove stones, and sometimes to pave with stones; and I think that it ought rather to be understood here in this latter signification, though commentators are generally of a different opinion. 170
Lift up a standard to the peoples. This is of the same import with the former clause; for the Prophet means that the peoples shall obey the command of God, in the same manner as subjects are wont to obey princes; for they shall assemble and run together when “the standard is lifted up,” and shall lend their aid to bring back the people; and thus he extols in lofty terms the power of God, that the Jews might be fully persuaded that they would one day be restored. 171
11. Behold, Jehovah hath, proclaimed. He means that the Lord, by acting miraculously and beyond the judgment or expectation of the flesh, will cause all the nations to know that this is done by his command. It might be objected, How shall it be brought about that the peoples, who now make fierce resistance to God, shall become obedient to him? He assigns the reason, “Because the Lord will proclaim your return, so that they shall acknowledge that at his command you are restored.”
Say ye to the daughter of Zion. Undoubtedly this refers literally to the ministers of the word and to the prophets, whom the Lord invests with this office of promising deliverance and salvation to the Church. And hence we conclude that these promises are not merely limited to a single age, but must be extended to the end of the world; for, beginning at the return from Babylon into Judea, we must advance as far as the coming of Christ, by which this prophecy was at length accomplished, and redemption was brought to a conclusion; for the Savior came, when the grace of God was proclaimed by the Gospel. In a word, he foretells that the voice of God shall one day resound from the rising to the setting of the sun, and shall be heard, not by a single nation only, but by all nations.
Behold, the Savior cometh. This is a word which, we know, belongs peculiarly to the Gospel; and therefore he bids the teachers of the Church encourage the hearts of believers, by confirmed expectation of the coming of the Lord, though he appeared to be at a great distance from his people. But this promise relates chiefly to the reign of Christ, by which these things were fully and perfectly accomplished; for he actually exhibited himself as the “Savior” of his Church, as we have seen before in the fortieth chapter.
Behold, his reward is with him, and the effect of his work is before him. That they may no longer be distressed by any doubt, when God the Savior shall appear, he invests him with power, as in Isa 40:10; for he repeats the same words which we found in that passage. As if he had said, “As soon as it shall please God to display his hand, the effect will be rapid and sudden; for so long as he stops or delays, the judgment of the flesh pronounces him to be idle;” and we see how very many fanatics imagine some deity that has no existence, as if they were painting a dead image. Justly, therefore, does the Prophet declare that God’s “work and reward are before him,” that he may make it evident, whenever it shall be necessary, that he is the righteous Judge of the world.
12. And they shall call you a holy people. He describes the benefit of the coming of the Lord; that is, because, by shewing that he takes care of his elect as his heritage, he will make it evident to the whole world that the covenant of adoption, which he made with Abraham, was not deceptive. He therefore calls them “a holy people,” because the Lord hath separated and consecrated them to himself; for, although he governs all nations, he has deigned to choose the seed of Abraham, that he might make them the object of his peculiar care. (Ex 19:6.)
The redeemed of Jehovah. In the sense now stated, God declares that they shall be a holy people, when he shall appear as their Savior and Redeemer; for, as the people are said to be “profaned” when they lie amidst filth, being afflicted and distressed by the reproaches of the wicked, so they are said to be “sanctified,” when the Lord actually shews that he presides over their salvation. This was accomplished by a wonderful redemption; and at that time God also testified that he remembered his heritage, which, in the eyes of men, he appeared to have forsaken and disregarded; for in these words, Sought out, 172 not forsaken, is denoted a contrast between the time when God made a divorce from his people, and the time when he again reconciled to himself those whom he had cast off.
“המזכירים (hammazkirim) admits of three interpretations, all consistent with Isaiah’s usage. In Isa. 36:3, 22, it seems to mean an official recorder or historiographer. In Isa 66:3, it means one burning incense as a memorial oblation. Hence אזכרה, (uzkarah,) the name used in the Law of Moses to denote such an offering. (See Lev. 2:2, Lev. 5:12, Lev. 24:7; Nu 5:26.) In Isa 43:26, the verb means to remind God of something which he seems to have forgotten; and as this is an appropriate description of importunate intercession, it is here entitled to the preference.” — Alexander.
“The words סקלו מאבן (sakkelu meeben) are used elliptically for סקלו הדרך מאבן, (sakkelu hadderek meeben,) ‘remove the stones from the road;’ for סקל, (sikkel,) which.in general means ‘to stone, or to throw stones,’ as ויסקל באבנים את דוד, (vayesakkel baabanim eth David,) (2 Sam. 16:6, 13,) here means to take away many stones, as in Isa 5:2; and מאבן (meeben,) as Jarchi remarks, is equivalent to מהיות שם אבן, (mihyoth sham eben,) ‘that there may be no stones there,’ at which travellers might stumble. Thus, ‘I will make them מאדם, (meadam) from a man;’ that is, that not a man shall be left. (Ho 9:12.)” — Rosenmuller.
“Here the style of the Prophet is very Pindarical. First, he speaks to the captives, as if he saw them near the gates of Babylon, and bids them go through them, that is, pass out of the place of their captivity; then, as if he saw workmen in the road, he bids them level the ground, and make it plain, that they may not be tired by ascending and descending steep precipices, nor hurt their feet with sharp stones; then, as if they had not yet received notice of their deliverance, or were not informed of the place where they were to rendezvous, in order to return altogether, he commands a standard to be erected for the people, that is, over their heads, so high that it might he seen by those at the greatest distance.” — White.
“The word דרושה, (derushah,) the name that shall be given to Jerusalem, is rendered by some sought after, that is, a city to which, as being very highly celebrated and visited by crowds of strangers, all shall resort and shall desire to be enrolled among her citizens. Others render it cared for, that is, by Jehovah, who appeared to have abandoned and given her up to forgetfulness, as her citizens complained. (Isa 49:14.) Both agree with what is here added, ‘A city not forsaken.’ (See Jer 30:14-17.)” — Rosenmuller.