Isaiah 51:16
And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.
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(16) And I have put my words in thy mouth . . .—Some interpreters assume, that while Isaiah 51:1? was spoken to the Jewish exiles, this, which reminds us of Isaiah 49:2, is addressed to the Servant of the Lord. Of these, some (Cheyne), struck by the apparent abruptness, assume it to be misplaced. There seems no adequate reason for adopting either hypothesis. The words are spoken to Israel, contemplated as in its ideal, as were the others to the actual Israel. It remains true, as ever, that that ideal is fulfilled only in the Servant.

That I may plant.—Noteworthy as the first intimation of the new heaven and the new earth, implying a restitution of all things, of which we find the expression in Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22.

51:9-16 The people whom Christ has redeemed with his blood, as well as by his power, will obtain joyful deliverance from every enemy. He that designs such joy for us at last, will he not work such deliverance in the mean time, as our cases require? In this world of changes, it is a short step from joy to sorrow, but in that world, sorrow shall never come in view. They prayed for the display of God's power; he answers them with consolations of his grace. Did we dread to sin against God, we should not fear the frowns of men. Happy is the man that fears God always. And Christ's church shall enjoy security by the power and providence of the Almighty.And I have put my words in thy mouth - That is, he had committed his truth to the Jewish people; to Zion. He had entrusted them with his statutes and his laws; he had given them the promise of the Messiah, and through him the assurance that the true religion would be spread to other nations. He would, therefore, preserve them, and restore them again to their own land.

And have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand - That is, I have protected thee (see the notes at Isaiah 49:2).

That I may plant the heavens - Lowth renders this, 'To stretch out the heavens.' Noyes, 'To establish the heavens.' Jerome, Ut plantes coelos - 'That thou mayest plant the heavens.' The Septuagint, Ἐν ῇ ἔστησα τὸν οὐρανὸν En ē estēsa ton ouranon 'By which I have established heaven.' The Chaldee renders it, 'In the shadow of my power have I protected thee, that I might raise up the people of whom it was said, that they should be multiplied as the stars of heaven.' But the language here is evidently entirely figurative. It refers to the restoration of the Jews to their own land; to the re-establishment of religion there; to the introduction of the new economy under the Messiah, and to all the great changes which would be consequent on that. This is compared with the work of forming the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth. It would require almighty power; and it would produce so great changes, that it might be compared to the work of creating the universe out of nothing. Probably also the idea is included here that stability would be given to the true religion by what God was about to do permanency that might be compared with the firmness and duration of the heavens and the earth.

And say unto Zion ... - That is, God would restore them to their own land, and acknowledge them as his own.

16. Addressed to Israel, embodied in "the servant of Jehovah" (Isa 42:1), Messiah, its ideal and representative Head, through whom the elect remnant is to be restored.

put my words in thy mouth—true of Israel, the depository of true religion, but fully realized only in Israel's Head and antitype, Messiah (Isa 49:2; 50:4, 5; 59:21; De 18:18; Joh 3:34).

covered … in … shadow of … hand—protected thee (see on [843]Isa 49:2).

plant—rather, "fix" as a tabernacle; so it ought to be rendered (Da 11:45). The "new creation," now going on in the spiritual world by the Gospel (Eph 2:10), and hereafter to be extended to the visible world, is meant (Isa 65:17; 66:22; compare Isa 13:13; 2Pe 3:10-13).

Zion—Its restoration is a leading part in the new creation to come (Isa 65:17, 19).

I have put my words in thy mouth; these great and glorious promises which are in thy mouth are not the vain words of man, a weak, and inconstant, and unfaithful creature, but the words of the almighty, unchangeable, and faithful God, and therefore they shall be infallibly accomplished. These words are manifestly spoken by God, either,

1. To Isaiah, by whom these promises were delivered. Or,

2. To Christ, of whom and to whom many things are said in this prophecy, as we have already seen, and will further appear. And such abrupt and sudden apostrophes to persons not mentioned in the foregoing words are not unusual in this prophecy, as hath been observed. Or rather,

3. To Israel, to God’s church and people, to whom he speaks both in the foregoing and following verses. For God’s word is frequently said to be

put into the mouths, not only of the prophets, but of the people also, as Isaiah 59:21; as also Deu 30:14 Joshua 1:8, &c.

Have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand; have protected thee by my almighty power. See the same phrase Isaiah 49:2.

That I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth; I have given thee these promises and this protection in all thy calamities, to assure thee of any care and kindness to thee, and that I will reform thee in a most glorious manner, and bring thee unto that perfect and blessed estate which is reserved for the days of the Messiah, which in Scripture phrase is called a making of new heavens and a new earth, Isaiah 65:17 66:22 2 Peter 3:13, and elsewhere.

And say unto Zion, Thou art my people; that I may own thee for my people, in a more illustrious manner than ever I have done.

And I have put my words in thy mouth,.... His promises and his truths, either in the mouth of his church, and people for them, both to preserve and transmit to future generations, and to publish and declare to the comfort of each other, Isaiah 59:21 or to the Prophet Isaiah, to make known to the people of Israel; or to Christ himself, the great Prophet in Israel, by whom grace and truth are come, and by whom God has spoken all his mind and will, and in whom all the promises are yea and amen. The doctrines of God, and not men, as appears by their truth, purity, harmony and efficacy; they are the words of faith and sound doctrine, of peace and reconciliation, of pardon and righteousness, of salvation and eternal life; and these were put into the mouth of Christ, to be published and declared by him as the great Prophet of the church; for which he was abundantly qualified as man and Mediator, by being anointed with the Holy Ghost, without measure, and by having the tongue of the learned given him: hence he declares, that the doctrine he preached was not his own as man, but his Father's, and that he spoke nothing of himself, but what he heard of him, and was taught by him, and had a commandment from him to say; and which words or doctrines he delivered to his apostles, and put into their mouths to make known unto men; see John 7:16.

And have covered thee in the shadow of my hand; protected and defended both the church and its members, Christ and his ministers, his interest and kingdom, his Gospel, and the truths of it, with its ordinances; and continued them from age to age, notwithstanding the virulence and violence of false teachers and persecutors, see Isaiah 49:2,

that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth; form and establish Gospel churches in the world, in the Roman empire, and elsewhere, both by the words and doctrines of the Gospel; by the ministry of the apostles, and other preachers of the word; and by the hand of almighty power, the efficacious grace of God attending the same: so the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions connect this clause with the former,

by which I have settled the heavens, &c; these are called "heavens", for their purity, brightness, and glory they have from the Lord; for the doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel, which are from heaven, and not of men; and for the true members of them, which are men born from above, and partakers of the heavenly calling; and for the ministers of the Gospel, those stars of light, which here hold forth the light of the divine word to men; and where the sun of righteousness arises with healing in his wings, and where the clouds drop down the rain of heavenly doctrine: these are said to be "planted", as if they were gardens, as the churches of Christ are, planted with all kind of pleasant plants, with trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified; and these, being watered with the dew of heaven, flourish and bring forth fruit: but planting rather denotes the stability and duration of the churches of Christ, which will continue as long as the days of heaven: or "that thou mayest plant" (t); referring either to the ministers of the word, who are instruments in planting churches, 1 Corinthians 3:7, or to Christ, the chief master builder and founder of them; though this may principally respect the making of the new heaven, and the new earth, which will be of Christ's forming and making, Revelation 21:1 for it is not to be understood of the first making of the heavens and earth in a natural sense, or in a political sense of the settling and establishing of the Jewish nation:

and say unto Zion, thou art my people; the church of God, consisting whether of Jews or Gentiles, especially the latter, who once were not, but now, being called through the ministry of the word, are the people of God: and more particularly this will be declared and made manifest in the New Jerusalem state, when all the elect of God will be gathered in, Revelation 21:3.

(t) "ut plantes", V. L.

And I have put my words in thy {n} mouth, and have covered thee in the shadow of my hand, that I may plant the {o} heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, Thou art my people.

(n) Meaning, of Isaiah and of all true ministers who are defended by his protection.

(o) That all things may be restored in heaven and earth, Eph 1:10.

16. I have put my words in thy mouth] recurring in ch. Isaiah 59:21.

covered thee in the shadow of mine hand] Taken almost exactly from Isaiah 49:2.

that I may plant &c.] This is no doubt the right translation, not “that thou mayest plant” (lit. “to plant”). The metaphor of “planting” the heavens is strange; some critics substitute “to stretch forth” (changing a letter), as in Isaiah 51:13, with which likewise the following words correspond.

The verse is remarkable in two respects. (1) It throws an important light on the idea of the Servant of the Lord. Language which is elsewhere used of the Servant is here applied to Israel, to whom the verse is undoubtedly addressed. This would be a strong confirmation of the theory that the Servant is in some sense a personification of Israel. (2) The conception of a new moral universe about to be created is partly anticipated both in Isaiah 51:6 (where the transitoriness of the present world is asserted), and in Isaiah 51:9 f. (see the notes above). This verse, however, adds the further idea that the new creation is the ultimate goal of God’s dealings with Israel, whose religious mission culminates in a universal and everlasting salvation.

Verse 16. - And I have put my words in thy mouth. Some commentators detach this verse altogether from the preceding passage, and regard it as a fragment intruded here out of its proper place by some unaccountable accident. From the close resemblance of the expressions used to those in Isaiah 49:2, they consider that the person addressed must be "the Servant of Jehovah," and hence conclude that the verse "originally stood in some other context" (Cheyne). It is, however, quite possible to regard Israel as still addressed; since Israel too was the recipient of God's words (see Isaiah 59:21), and was protected by God's hand from destruction, and kept in existence until the happy time should come when God would create a new heaven and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17) for Israel's dwelling-place, and say unto Zion - i.e. to the "new Jerusalem" Revelation 21:2) - Thou art my people. This crowning promise well terminates the comforting address wherewith Jehovah at this time saw fit to cheer and encourage his captive people. Isaiah 51:16The promise, as the pledge of which Jehovah has staked His absolute power, to which everything must yield, now rises up to an eschatological height, from the historical point at which it began. "And I put my words into thy mouth, and in the shadow of my hand have I covered thee, to plant heavens, and to found an earth, and to say to Zion, Thou art my people." It is a lofty calling, a glorious future, for the preparation and introduction of which Israel, although fallen as low as Isaiah 51:7 describes, has been equipped and kept in the shadow of unapproachable omnipotence. Jehovah has put His words into the mouth of this Israel - His words, the force and certainty of which are measured by His all-determining absoluteness. And what is the exalted calling which it is to subserve through the medium of these words, and for which it is preserved, without previously, or indeed at any time, passing away? We must not render it, "that thou mayest plant," etc., with which the conclusion does not harmonize, viz., "that thou mayest say," etc.; for it is not Israel who says this to Israel, but Jehovah says it to Israel. The planter, founder, speaker, is therefore Jehovah. It is God's own work, to which Israel is merely instrumentally subservient, by means of the words of God place din its mouth, viz., the new creation of the world, and the restoration of Israel to favour; both of them, the former as well as the latter, regalia of God. The reference is to the last times. The Targum explains it thus: "to restore the people of whom it is said, They will be as numerous as the stars of heaven; and to perfect the church, of which it is said, They will be as numerous as the dust of the earth." Knobel understands by this a completion of the theocracy, and a new arrangement of the condition of the world; Ewald, a new spiritual creation, of which the liberation of Israel is the first corner-stone. But the prophecy speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, in something more than a figurative sense, as a new creation of God (Isaiah 65:17). Jehovah intends to create a new world of righteousness and salvation, and practically to acknowledge Zion as His people. The preparation for this great and all-renewing work of the future is aided by the true Israel, which is now enslaved by the heathen, and disowned and persecuted by its own countrymen. A future of salvation, embracing Israel and the heaven and the earth, is implied in the words placed by Jehovah in the mouth of His church, which was faithful to its calling. These words in their mouth are the seed-corns of a new world in the midst of the old. The fact that the very same thing is said here of the true spiritual Israel, as in Isaiah 49:2 of the one servant of Jehovah, may be explained in the same manner as when the apostles apply to themselves, in Acts 13:47, a word of God relating to the one Servant of Jehovah, by saying, "So hath the Lord commanded us." The One is, in fact, one with this Israel; He is this Israel in its highest potency; He towers above it, but only as the head rises above the members of the body, with which it forms a living whole. There is no necessity, therefore, to assume, as Hengstenberg and Philippi do, that Isaiah 51:13 contains an address from the One who then stood before the mind of the prophet. "There is no proof," as Vitringa affirms, "of any change in the object in this passage, nor any solid reason for assuming it." The circumference of the idea is always the same. Here, however, it merely takes the direction towards the centre, and penetrates its smaller inner circle, but does not go back to the centre itself.
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