Isaiah 49:11
And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.
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(11) My mountains . . . my highways . . .—The pronoun asserts the universal lordship of Jehovah. The whole earth is His.



Isaiah 49:11

This grand prophecy is far too wide to be exhausted by the return of the exiles. There gleamed through it the wider redemption and the true return of the real captives. The previous promises all find their fulfilment in the experiences of the soul on its journey back to God. Here we have two characteristics of that journey.

I. The Path through the mountains.

My mountains.’ That is the claim that all the world is His; and also the revelation that He is the Lord of Providence. He makes our difficult and steep places. Submission comes with that thought, and even ‘for the strength of the hills we bless Thee.’ There are mountains which are not His but ours, artificial difficulties of our own creating.

1. Our way does lie over the mountains. There are difficulties. The Christian course is like a Roman road which never turned aside, but went straight up and on. So much the better. A keener air blows, bracing and health-giving, up there. Mosquitoes and malaria keep to the lower levels.

2. There is always a path over the mountains. Some way opens when we get close up, like a path through heather, which is not seen till reached. We walk by faith. We foolishly forebode and fancy that we cannot live if something happens, but there is no cul de sac in our paths if God’s mountain-way is our way, nor does the faint track ever die out if our faith is keen-sighted and docile.

II. The Pasture on the mountains-lit. ‘bare heights.’

Pastures in the East are down in bottoms, not, like ours, upon the hills. But this flock finds supplies on the barren hill-tops.

Sustenance in Sorrow and Loss.

1. Promise that whatever be our trials and losses we shall be taken care of. Not, perhaps, as we should have liked, nor as abundantly fed as down in the valleys, but still not left to starve. No carcases strewed on the bleakest bit of road as one sees dead camels by the side of the tracks in the desert.

2. Promise of sustenance of a higher kind even in sorrow. The Alpine flora is specially beautiful, though minute. The blessings of affliction; the more intimate knowledge of His love, submission of will. ‘Out of the eater came forth meat.’

‘Passing through the valley of weeping they make it a well’; the tears shed in times of rightly borne sorrow are gathered into a reservoir from which refreshment, patience, trust and strength may be drawn in later days.

But the perfect fulfilment of the promise lies beyond this life. ‘On the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be,’ and they who have found pasture on the barren heights of earthly sorrow shall ‘summer high in bliss upon the hills of God,’ and shall at once both lie ‘for ever in a good fold,’ and ‘follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth,’ and find fountains of living water bursting forth for ever on these fertile heights.

49:7-12 The Father is the Lord, the Redeemer, and Holy One of Israel, as sending the Son to be the Redeemer. Man, whom he came to save, put contempt upon him. To this he submitted for our salvation. He is a pledge for all the blessings of the covenant; in him God was reconciling the world to himself. Pardoning mercy is a release from the curse of the law; renewing grace is a release from the dominion of sin: both are from Christ. He saith to those in darkness, Show yourselves. Not only see, but be seen, to the glory of God, and your own comforts. Though there are difficulties in the way to heaven, yet the grace of God will carry us over them, and make even the mountains a way. This denotes the free invitations and the encouraging promises of the gospel, and the outpouring of the Spirit.And I will make all my mountains a way - I will make all the mountains for a highway; or an even, level way. That is, he would remove all obstructions from their path. The image is taken from the return from Babylon to the land of Palestine, in which God so often promises to make the hills a plain, and the crooked places straight (see the notes at Isaiah 40:4).

And my highways shall be exalted - That is, the way shall be cast up (see Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10), as when a road is made over valleys and gulf (see the notes at Isaiah 40:4).

11. my—All things are God's.

mountains a way—I will remove all obstructions out of the way (Isa 40:4).

exalted—that is, cast up (Isa 57:14; 62:10); for instance, over valleys. Vitringa explains "mountains" as great kingdoms, Egypt, Syria, &c., subjected to Rome, to facilitate the spreading of the Gospel; "highways," the Christian doctrine wherein those who join the Church walk, and which, at the time of Constantine, was to be raised into prominence before all, and publicly protected (Isa 35:8, 9).

I will remove all hinderances, and prepare the way for them, by levelling high grounds, and raising low grounds; of which see on Isaiah 40:3,4.

And I will make all my mountains a way,.... Or "for", or "into a way" (e); signifying that they should be dug through or levelled, and a way made through them, over them, or upon them, for his people to pass: very probably the allusion is to the mountains that lay between Babylon and Judea; and which the Lord calls his, because of his making and settling, and was therefore able to make them a way, or passable: though the words are not to be literally understood, but denote the removing of all impediments, obstructions, and difficulties, in the people's return from captivity; which was typical of redemption by Christ, which had its difficulties, which he only could get over; he came leaping over these hills and mountains, and they became a plain before him, the great Zerubbabel; such as the assumption of a sinless nature, to make atonement in for sin, which only could be produced in an uncommon and extraordinary way; the fulfilling of a broken law, satisfying divine justice, engaging with many enemies who were to be conquered, sin, Satan, the world, and death; bearing the wrath of God, and submitting to an accursed death: and so in the conversion of the Gentiles, which may here be referred to, and of any sinner, there are many mountains of difficulties in the way of it, which the Lord only can remove; great opposition is made by the men of the world to the preaching of the Gospel, the means of it to the work itself, by Satan, who is loathe to lose a subject of his kingdom; and by men themselves, whose carnal minds are enmity to God, and all that is good difficulties arise from the state of deadness, darkness, and hardness of heart men are in before conversion from the corruptions of their nature, and strong habits of sin; from the general depravity of all the powers and faculties of the soul; from the bad company they have got into; or from their own self-righteousness, they are loathe to part with: and when men are called, and a work of God is begun, there are many mountains appear in their way of coming to Christ; as their numerous and aggravated sins, and doubts about the willingness Christ to receive such sinners; but, when God works, nothing can let. Many are the obstructions the saints meet with in their passage, through this world, by reason of a body of sin, Satan's temptations, the world's persecutions, afflictions of various kinds, strait circumstances of life, losses, crosses, and disappointments; unbelief of itself is a mountain, and raises many others; but the Lord makes a way for his people through all; it may be some respect may be had to the spread of the Gospel in the world, and the introduction of latter day glory, and the difficulties in the way thereof, which the Lord has been removing, and will remove. Rome Pagan is one mountain which God has removed; and Rome Papal is another he will, move, with all the antichristian powers; and the Turkish empire is another:

and my highways shall be exalted; Christ is the great highway of all, and next his word and ordinances, which are ways of holiness and righteousness; these may be said to be "exalted", being conspicuous and visible; and, like causeways, or, highways cast up, that are above, and carry over the mire and dirt; so these carry over the mire and dirt of sin and corruption; and may be said to be so when made use of, approved, and valued: or the words may be rendered, "they shall be", or "let them be exalted on my highways" (f); that is, his people, being in the exercise of faith, and in the discharge of their duty; see Psalm 18:33 with these words compare Isaiah 40:3 perhaps this passage may be best explained by Revelation 16:12, where mention is made of the drying up of the river Euphrates, or of the destruction of the Ottoman empire, to make way for the conversion of the eastern nations, prophesied of, among others, in the following verse.

(e) "in viam", V. L. Piscator, Montanus, Cocceius; "ut siut pervii", Junius & Tremellius; "in viam planam", Vitringa. (f) "et in aggeribus meis emineant", Junius & Tremellius.

And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.
11. The expression my mountains is difficult. An allusion to the mere fact of creation is not natural, and to understand it of the mountains of Palestine (as in ch. Isaiah 14:25) would limit the image to the last stage of the return journey. Possibly the text should be amended so as to read “mountains” simply. Cf. LXX. (πᾶν ὄρος).

my highways] See on ch. Isaiah 40:4.

Verse 11. - I will make all my mountains a way. No obstacles shall prevent the return of the wanderers. Mountains shall he as roads, and as highways lifted up. Isaiah 49:11The next two vv. describe (though only with reference to Israel, the immediate circle) what is the glory of the vocation to which Jehovah, in accordance with His promise, exalts His chosen One. "Thus saith Jehovah, In a time of favour have I heard thee, and in the day of salvation have I helped thee: and I form thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to apportion again desolate inheritances, saying to prisoners, Go ye out: to those who are in darkness, Come ye to the light." Jehovah heard His servant, and came to his help when he prayed to Him out of the condition of bondage to the world, which he shared with his people. He did it at the time for the active display of His good pleasure, and for the realizing of salvation, which had been foreseen by Him, and had now arrived. The futures which follow are to be taken as such. The fact that Jehovah makes His servant "a covenant of the people," i.e., the personal bond which unites Israel and its God in a new fellowship (see Isaiah 42:6), is the fruit of his being heard and helped. The infinitives with Lamed affirm in what way the new covenant relation will be made manifest. The land that has fallen into decay rises into prosperity again, and the desolate possessions return to their former owners. This manifestation of the covenant grace, that has been restored to the nation again, is effected through the medium of the servant of Jehovah. The rendering of the lxx is quite correct: τοῦ καταστῆσαι τὴν γῆν καὶ κληρονομῆσαι κληρονομίας ἐρήμους λέγοντα לאמר is a dicendo governed by both infinitives. The prisoners in the darkness of the prison and of affliction are the exiles (Isaiah 42:22). The mighty word of the servant of Jehovah brings to them the light of liberty, in connection with which (as has been already more than once observed) the fact should be noticed, that the redemption is viewed in connection with the termination of the captivity, and, in accordance with the peculiar character of the Old Testament, is regarded as possessing a national character, and therefore is purely external.

The person of the servant of Jehovah now falls into the background again, and the prophecy proceeds with a description of the return of the redeemed. "They shall feed by the ways, and there is pasture for them upon all field-hills. They shall not hunger nor thirst, and the mirage and sun shall not blind them: for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, and guide them by bubbling water-springs. And I make all my mountains ways, and my roads are exalted. Behold these, they come from afar; and, behold, these from the north and from the sea; and these from the land of the Sinese." The people returning home are represented as a flock. By the roads that they take to their homes, they are able to obtain sufficient pasture, without being obliged to go a long way round in order to find a sufficient supply; and even upon bare sandy hills (Isaiah 41:18) there is pasture found for them. Nothing is wanting; even the shârâb (see Isaiah 35:7) and the sun do not hurt them, the former by deceiving and leading astray, the latter by wearying them with its oppressive heat: for He whose compassion has been excited by their long pining misery (Isaiah 41:17-20) is leading them, and bringing them along in comfort by bubbling springs of real and refreshing water (ינחל, as Petrarch once says of shepherds, Move la schira sua soavemente). Jehovah also makes all the mountains into roads for those who are returning home, and the paths of the desert are lifted up, as it were, into well-made roads (yerumūn, Ges. 47, Anm. 4). They are called my mountains and my highways (differently from Isaiah 14:25), because they are His creation; and therefore He is also able to change them, and now really does change them for the good of His people, who are returning to the land of their forefathers out of every quarter of the globe. Although in Psalm 107:3 yâm (the sea) appears to stand for the south, as referring to the southern part of the Mediterranean, which washes the coast of Egypt, there is no ground at all in the present instance for regarding it as employed in any other than its usual sense, namely the west; mērâchōq (from far) is therefore either the south (cf., Isaiah 43:6) or the east, according to the interpretation that we give to 'erets Sı̄nı̄m, as signifying a land to the east or to the south.

The Phoenician Sinim (Ges. Isaiah 10:17), the inhabitants of a fortified town in the neighbourhood of Area, which has now disappeared, but which was seen not only by Jerome, but also by Mariono Sanuto (de castro Arachas ad dimidiam leucam est oppidum Sin), cannot be thought of, for the simple reason that this Sin was too near, and was situated to the west of Babylon and to the north of Jerusalem; whilst Sin ( equals Pelusium) in Egypt, to which Ewald refers, did not give its name to either a tribe or a land. Arias Montanus was among the first to suggest that the Sinim are the Sinese (Chinese); and since the question has been so thoroughly discussed by Gesenius (in his Commentary and Thesaursu), most of the commentators, and also such Orientalists as Langles (in his Recherches asiatiques), Movers (in his Phoenicians), Lassen (in his Indische Alterthumskunde, i.-856-7), have decided in favour of this opinion. The objection brought against the supposition, that the name of the Chinese was known to the nations of the west at so early a period as this, viz., that this could not have been the case till after the reign of the emperor Shi-hoang-ti, of the dynasty of Thsin, who restored the empire that had been broken up into seven smaller kingdoms (in the year 247 b.c.), and through whose celebrated reign the name of his dynasty came to be employed in the western nations as the name of China generally, is met by Lassen with the simple fact that the name occurs at a much earlier period than this, and in many different forms, as the name of smaller states into which the empire was broken up after the reign of Wu-wang (1122-1115 b.c.). "The name Θῖναι (Strabo), Σῖναι (Ptol.), Τζίνιτζα (Kosmas), says the Sinologist Neumann, did not obtain currency for the first time from the founder of the great dynasty of Tsin; but long before this, Tsin was the name of a feudal kingdom of some importance in Shen-si, one of the western provinces of the Sinese land, and Fei-tse, the first feudal king of Tsin, began to reign as early as 897 b.c." It is quite possible, therefore, that the prophet, whether he were Isaiah or any other, may have heard of the land of the Sinese in the far east, and this is all that we need assume; not that Sinese merchants visited the market of the world on the Euphrates (Movers and Lassen), but only that information concerning the strange people who were so wealthy in rare productions, had reached the remote parts of the East through the medium of commerce, possibly from Ophir, and through the Phoenicians. But Egli replies: "The seer on the streams of Babel certainly could not have described any exiles as returning home from China, if he had not known that some of his countrymen were pining there in misery, and I most positively affirm that this was not the case." What is here assumed - namely, that there must have been a Chinese diaspora in the prophet's own time - is overthrown by what has been already observed in Isaiah 11:11; and we may also see that it is to purely by accident that the land of the Sinese is given as the farthest point to the east, from my communications concerning the Jews of China in the History of the Post-biblical Poetry of the Jews (1836, pp. 58-62, cf., p. 21). I have not yet seen Sionnet's work, which has appeared since, viz., Essai sur les Juifs de la Chine et sur l'influence, qu'ils ont eue sur la litrature de ce vaste empire, avant l're chrtienne; but I have read the Mission of Enquiry to the Jews in China in the Jewish Intelligence, May 1851, where a facsimile of their thorah is given. The immigration took place from Persia (cf., ‛Elâm, Isaiah 11:11), at the latest, under the Han dynasty (205 b.c.-220 a.d.), and certainly before the Christian era.

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