Isaiah 61:4
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.
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(4) They shall build the old wastes . . .—Literally the waste places of olden time: i.e., not merely the cities that had fallen into ruins during the exile, but those that had been lying waste for generations. The words are parallel with those of Isaiah 58:12. By some commentators strangers is supplied from Isaiah 61:5 as the implied subject, as in Isaiah 60:10. Here, however, it would seem as if the prophet looked on the rebuilding as being Israel’s own work, while service of another kind was assigned to the aliens.

Isaiah 61:4-5. They shall build the old wastes — See on chap. 58:12. As this is evidently to be understood of gospel times, the meaning seems to be, that the establishment of Christianity in the world should repair the decays of true religion, of genuine piety and virtue, which had been at a very low ebb, not only in the Gentile nations, which were all idolatrous, but also among the Jews, for many centuries. By the ministry of John the Baptist, of our Lord, and his apostles, many thousands of spiritual worshippers were raised up to God in Judea, and the adjacent parts; and when the ministers of the word were sent into the Gentile countries, the cities and provinces which had been as a wilderness, overrun with briers and thorns, became as Eden, and the deserts like the garden of the Lord: truth and grace, wisdom and piety, godliness and righteousness, with joy and gladness, were found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody, Isaiah 51:3. And strangers — Namely, Gentiles, such as were not of the natural race of the Jews, but Gentile converts; shall stand — Ready to be at thy service; and feed your flocks — The churches, with the word of God. And the sons of the alien — The same with the strangers before mentioned, or their successors; shall be your ploughmen, &c. — Shall manage the whole work of God’s spiritual husbandry. See 1 Corinthians 3:6-9.61:4-9 Promises are here made to the Jews returned out of captivity, which extend to all those who, through grace, are delivered out of spiritual thraldom. An unholy soul is like a city that is broken down, and has no walls, like a house in ruins; but by the power of Christ's gospel and grace, it is fitted to be a habitation of God, through the Spirit. When, by the grace of God, we attain to holy indifference as to the affairs of this world; when, though our hands are employed about them, our hearts are not entangled with them, but preserved entire for God and his service, then the sons of the alien are our ploughmen and vine-dressers. Those whom He sets at liberty, he sets to work. His service is perfect freedom; it is the greatest honour. All believers are made, to our God, kings and priests; and always ought to conduct themselves as such. Those who have the Lord for their portion, have reason to say, that they have worthy portion, and to rejoice in it. In the fulness of heaven's joys we shall receive more than double for all our services and sufferings. God desires truth, and therefore hates all injustice. Nor will it justify any man's robbery to say, it was for burnt-offerings; and that robbery is most hateful which is under this pretence. Let the children of godly parents be such, that all may see the fruits of a good education; an answer to the prayers for them, in the fruit of God's blessing.And they shall build the old wastes - (See the notes at Isaiah 58:12). 4. old wastes—Jerusalem and the cities of Judah which long lay in ruins (see on [864]Isa 58:12). See Isaiah 58:12. As it is applied to gospel times, the meaning may be, that Gentilism, which was as a wilderness overgrown with briers and thorns, shall be cultivated; and those cities and provinces of the Gentiles that lay as it were waste, void of all true religion, shall now by the ministry of the word be edified in the true worship of God. And they shall build the old wastes,.... The captives set at liberty, and who are called trees of righteousness, and the planting of the Lord; righteous and good men, who shall be employed in the spiritual building of the church in Gospel times, and especially in the latter day; for here begins an account of the benefits and blessings the church of Christ should partake of, particularly at the time of the calling and conversion of the Jews: after having described the work and office of the Messiah, and his fitness for it, the Holy Ghost returns to the same subject with the preceding chapter, and which is carried on in the next. What is here said was literally true, when the Jews returned from Babylon, and built their ruined houses and cities; or, at least, there is an allusion to it: but it respects either the setting up of the interest of Christ, and forming churches in the Gentile world, where nothing but blindness and ignorance reigned; where there were no preaching nor ordinances, but all things were in ruin and confusion; as they were before the ministry of the Gospel by the apostles, who were wise master builders, and instruments of converting multitudes, and of raising churches to the honour of the great Redeemer there: or rather it respects the building up of the tabernacle of David, that is fallen down, or the church of God among the Jews, which will be in the latter day, when they are turned to the Lord, Amos 9:11 and the same sense have all the following expressions,

they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations; setting forth the desolate state and condition of the Jews; their long continuance in it, age after age; and their recovery and restoration, when they shall become a flourishing people again, both in civil and spiritual things.

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 {h} generations.

(h) That is, for a long time.

4. Comp. ch. Isaiah 49:8, Isaiah 58:12, Isaiah 60:10.Verses 4-9. - GOD'S PURPOSE OF DEALING GRACIOUSLY WITH ISRAEL. Having proclaimed the objects of his own mission, "the Servant" proceeds to declare God's gracious purposes towards Israel. Taking the Captivity period for his standpoint, he promises, first, the restoration of the cities of Judah (ver. 4), and then a flourishing time in which Jews and Gentiles shall dwell together in one community peacefully and gloriously, Israel having a certain pre-eminence (vers. 5-9). Verse 4. - They shall build the old wastes. (On the "waste" condition, not of Jerusalem only, but of the cities of Judith generally, see Isaiah 44:26; Isaiah 49:8, 19; Isaiah 64:10, 11, etc.) The first step in the recovery of Israel from the misery of the Captivity would be a return to Palestine, and a general restoration of the ruined towns. It was a ruin of "many generations," having commenced, probably, with the invasion of Pharaoh-Necho in B.C. 608, and being continued till the edict of Cyrus ( B.C. 538). The fifth turn celebrates the glorifying of Jerusalem, through the shining of Jehovah as its everlasting light and through the form of its ever-growing membership, which is so well-pleasing to God. The prophecy returns to the thought with which it set out, and by which the whole is regulated, viz., that Jerusalem will be light. This leading thought is now unfolded in the most majestic manner, and opened up in all its eschatological depth. "The sun will be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness will the moon shine upon thee: Jehovah will be to thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun will no more go down, and thy moon will not be withdrawn; for Jehovah will be to thee an everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning will be fulfilled." Although, in the prophet's view, the Jerusalem of the period of glory in this world and the Jerusalem of the eternal glory beyond flow into one another; the meaning of this prophecy is not that the sun and moon will no longer exist. Even of the Jerusalem which is not to be built by Israel with the help of converted heathen, but which comes down from heaven to earth, the seer in Revelation 21:23 merely says, that the city needs neither the shining of the sun nor of the moon (as the Targum renders the passage before us, "thou wilt not need the shining of the sun by day"), for the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof, i.e., God Himself is instead of a sun to her, and the Lamb instead of a moon. Consequently we do not agree with Stier, who infers from this passage that "there is a final new creation approaching, when there will be no more turning round into the shadow (James 1:17), when the whole planetary system, including the earth, will be changed, and when the earth itself will become a sun, yea, will become even more than that, in the direct and primary light which streams down upon it from God Himself." We rather agree with Hofmann, that "there will still be both sun and moon, but the Holy Place will be illuminated without interruption by the manifestation of the presence of God, which outshines all besides." The prophet has here found the most complete expression, for that which has already been hinted at in such prophecies in Isaiah 4:5; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 24:23. As the city receives its light neither from the sun nor from the moon, this implies, what Revelation 21:25 distinctly affirms, that there will be no more night there. The prophet intentionally avoids a לילה לאור parallel to יומם לאור. We must not render the second clause in Isaiah 60:19, "and it will not become light to thee with the shining of the moon," for האיר never means to get light; nor "and as for the shining of the moon, it does not give the light," as Hitzig and Knobel propose, for וּלנגהּ is used alone, and not היּרח וּלנגהּ as the antithesis to יומם לאור, in the sense of "to light up the night" (compare נגהּ as applied to the shining of the moon in Isaiah 13:10, and נגהּ to the glittering of the stars in Joel 2:10), and even the use of הלילה is avoided. The true rendering is either, "and for lighting, the moon will not shine upon thee" (Stier, Hahn, etc.); or, what is more in accordance with the accentuation, which would have given ולנגה tifchah and not tsakeph gadol, if it had been intended to indicate the object, "and as for the lighting" (ל as in Isaiah 32:1). The glory of Jehovah, which soars above Jerusalem, and has come down into her, is henceforth her sun and her moon - a sun that never sets, a moon יאסף לא which is not taken in towards morning, like a lamp that has been hung out at night (compare נאסף, Isaiah 16:10, withdrawn, disappeared). The triumph of light over darkness, which is the object of the world's history, is concentrated in the new Jerusalem. How this is to be understood, is explained in the closing clause of Isaiah 60:20. The sum of the days of mourning allotted to the church is complete. The darkness of the corruption of sin and state of punishment is overcome, and the church is nothing but holy blessed joy without change or disturbance; for it walks no longer in sidereal light, but in the eternally unchangeable light of Jehovah, which with its peaceful gentleness and perfect purity illumines within as well as without. The seer of the Apocalypse also mentions the Lamb. The Lamb is also known to our prophet; for the "Servant of Jehovah" is the Lamb. But the light of transfiguration, in which he sees this exalted Lamb, is not great enough to admit of its being combined with the light of the Divine Nature itself.
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