Matthew Poole's Commentary
In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah; We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.A song of praise and confidence in God, for the blessings of righteousness, judgments on their enemies, and favour to his people: their chastisement, repentance, and hope.
In that day, when God shall do such glorious works for the comfort of his people, and for the ruin of his and their enemies, as he hath described in the foregoing chapter.
In the land of Judah; in the church of God, which in Scripture is oft signified by the titles of Judah, and Jerusalem, and Zion, or the like.
A strong city; Jerusalem, or the church, which is oft called or compared to a city, as Psalm 87:3 Revelation 3:12 11:2 21:2.
Salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks; God’s immediate and saving protection shall be to his church instead of walls, &c. But I conceive, with submission, the words may very fitly be thus rendered, He will send, or put, or make her walls and bulwarks salvation, i.e. as safe as salvation itself; or, in safety, there being only a defect of the preposition, which is very frequent in Scripture.
Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.Open ye the gates of the city, mentioned Isaiah 26:1.
The righteous nation; either,
1. Those godly Jews who are returning from Babylon; or,
2. The whole body of righteous and holy men, whether Jews or Gentiles. For he seems to speak here, as he apparently did in the foregoing chapter, of the times of the gospel.
Which keepeth the truth; which is sincere and stedfast in the profession and practice of the true religion.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.Heb. The fixed thought or mind (i.e. the man whose mind and thoughts are fixed and settled upon thee by faith as the next clause explains it, the qualifications being put for the person so qualified, as folly and wisdom are put for a fool and a wise man, Proverbs 24:9 Micah 6:9, and peace for a man of peace, Psalm 120:7) thou wilt keep in peace, peace, i.e. in all manner of peace, in constant and perfect peace. In the foregoing verse the righteous were admitted into the city, and here they were preserved and defended in it by God’s almighty power.
Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:For ever; in all times and conditions.
Everlasting strength, Heb. the Rock of ages; a sure refuge to all those that trust in him, through all generations; therefore you may safely trust in him, and that for ever.
For he bringeth down them that dwell on high; the lofty city, he layeth it low; he layeth it low, even to the ground; he bringeth it even to the dust.He bringeth down, Heb. he hath brought down, which yet may be put for the future, he will bring down, &c. You may trust him; for he can and doth raise some, and throw down others, according to his own good pleasure.
Them that dwell on high; he speaks not so much of height of place as of dignity and power, in which sense also he mentions the lofty city, in the next clause. The lofty city; which may be understood either of proud Babylon; or collectively, of all the strong and stately cities of God’s enemies.
The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy.God will bring it under the feet of his poor, and weak, and despised people.
The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.Is uprightness; or, most even or plain. Heb. evenness or plainness. Which is understood either,
1. Of the rectitude or goodness of his actions or course; or rather,
2. Of the good success of his affairs; for this suits best with the coherence. When the way of the wicked is rugged, in which they easily stumble and fall into mischief, of which he spoke, Isaiah 26:5,6, the path of just men is plain and smooth, and they walk safely and comfortably in it.
Thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just: the sense of the words thus rendered is, Thou, O God, who art most upright in all thy ways, and therefore a lover of uprightness. and of all upright men, dost weigh (i.e. examine) the path of the just, the course of his actions, and, which is implied, dost approve of them, and therefore direct them to a happy issue. But the words are otherwise rendered by some late learned interpreters, to this purpose, Thou dost level or make plain (as this very word signifies, Psalm 78:50) the path of the just exactly, Heb. with evenness, or evenly, so as to make it very even. Thus the first clause declares that it was even or plain, and this showeth whence or by whom it is made such, even by God.
Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee: and as we thy people have loved and served thee when thou hast made our way plain and easy for us; so we have not forsaken thee, but waited upon thee, when thou hast made it rugged and troublesome by thy judgments. He speaks of the same just men Isaiah 26:7-9, though it be with a change of the numbers and persons, which is usual in prophetical writings, the just, Isaiah 26:7, we, Isaiah 26:1 26:9.
To thy name, and to the remembrance of thee, Heb. to thy name and thy memory; which by a known figure called hendinduo may be put for the remembrance of thy name. And the name of God is here, as it is in many other places, put for God himself, as he hath made himself known by his word and works. And so the sense of this clause is, Our affections are not alienated from thee by thy judgments, but we still continue to desire thy presence and favour, and we support and comfort ourselves with the remembrance of what thou art, and what thou hast done, and what thou hast promised to be and do to thy people.
With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.With my soul; sincerely and most affectionately, as Psalm 63:1, and elsewhere.
Have I: the prophet speaks this in the name of all God’s people, by comparing this with the foregoing verse. In the night; either,
1. Figuratively, in the time of affliction, which is often called night or darkness; or rather,
2. Properly, as appears from the next clause, wherein early or in the morning is opposed to it. When others are sleeping, my thoughts and desires are working towards God. Will I seek thee, by fervent prayer for thy loving-kindness. Early; betimes in the morning, as the word signifies.
For when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness: and good reason it is that we should thus desire and seek thee in the way of thy judgments, because this is the very design of thy judgments, that men should thereby be awakened to learn and return to their duty; and this is a common effect of them, that those who have been careless in prosperity, are made wiser and better by afflictions. The inhabitants of the world seem to be here taken not in opposition to God’s people, as if not they only, but even the wicked world, would do thus; but in a general notion, so as to include, yea principally to design, God’s people, as may be gathered both from the former part of this, and the foregoing verse, in which he describes their pious carriage under affliction; as also from the two following verses, in which he speaks of the wicked, whom he seems to oppose to these inhabitants of the world, because these learn righteousness, whilst those wicked men remain incorrigible both under mercies and judgments, Isaiah 26:10,11.
Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD.Let favour be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness, this is the carriage of thy people; but the course of wicked men is directly contrary in all conditions; for if thou dost spare them, when thou punishest thine own people, they will not accept of that gracious invitation to repentance, nor walk worthy of so great a mercy.
In the land of uprightness; even in God’s church, and among his people, where righteousness is professed and taught, and by many practised; and where unrighteousness is discountenanced and punished; all which things are aggravations of his sin.
Will not behold the majesty of the Lord; although God gives such plain and clear discoveries of his majesty and glory, not only in his word, but also in his works, and especially in this glorious work of his patience and mercy to wicked men, yet they wilfully shut their eyes at it, and will not acknowledge it.
LORD, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see, and be ashamed for their envy at the people; yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them.When thy hand is lifted up, they will not see; and they are guilty of the same obstinate blindness when thou dost smite and punish them, which is commonly signified by lifting up the hand, as Ezekiel 44:12 Micah 5:9. Compare also 2 Samuel 20:21 1 Kings 11:26. Or, as others render it, when thine hand is high or exalted, i.e. when thy works are most evident and most glorious, when thou appearest most gloriously for the defence of thy people, and for the punishment of thine and their enemies, they will not see.
They shall see: the same word is repeated in another sense. They shall feel and know that by sad and costly experience, which they would not learn by other and easier ways. Seeing is oft put for feeling; in which sense men are said to see affliction, Lamentations 3:1, and to see death, Psalm 89:48, and the like. At the people; or, at or towards thy people, the pronoun thy being repeated out of the following clause, as it is in many other places of Scripture, as hath been before noted. Their envy and hatred against God’s people blinded their minds, that they neither could nor would see that God was on their side, though the tokens of it were most manifest and undeniable; which was the case of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, who were not sensible that the Lord fought for Israel against the Egyptians, as they said, Exodus 14:25, till it was too late.
The fire of thine enemies; not efficiently, but objectively; such fire or wrath as thou usest to pour forth upon thine implacable enemies. As my wrong, Genesis 16:5, is not the wrong done by me, but to me; and my violence, Jeremiah 2:35, is the violence done to me, as we translate it, not by me.
LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.Thou wilt ordain peace for us; as thou wilt destroy thine and our enemies, so thou wilt bless us thy people with peace and prosperity.
All our works; either,
1. All the good works done by us, which are the effects of thy grace; or rather,
2. All the good and great works which have been wrought for us, all our wonderful deliverances and singular blessings, come from thee. And so the argument is this, God hath delivered us formerly upon all occasions, and therefore he will still deliver us, and give us peace; which inference is frequently made by holy men in Scripture. In us, Heb. to or for us.
O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.Other lords beside thee; others besides thee, who art our only Judge, and King, and Lawgiver, Isaiah 33:22, and besides those governors who have been set up by thee, and have ruled us for thee, and in subordination to thee, even foreign and heathenish lords, such as the Philistines, and lately the Assyrians.
Have had dominion over us; have exercised a tyrannical power over us.
By thee only; by thy favour and help, by which alone (and not by our strength or merits) we have been rescued from their tyranny.
Will we make mention of thy name; we will celebrate thy praise, and trust in thee for the future. Thou only hast given us both ability and occasion to magnify thy name, whereas without thy succour we had gone into the place of silence, where there is no remembrance of thee, as is said, Psalm 6:5.
They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish.They shall not rise; those tyrants and enemies are utterly and irrecoverably destroyed, so as they shall never live or rise again to molest us. Possibly he speaks of the miraculous destruction of Sennacherib’s army before Jerusalem.
Therefore, that they might be so effectually destroyed, thou didst undertake the work. Or rather, because (as this particle is used, Numbers 14:43 Psalm 42:6)
thou hast, & c., as it follows.
Destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish; thou hast destroyed both them and theirs, and all the monuments or memorials of their greatness and glory.
Thou hast increased the nation, O LORD, thou hast increased the nation: thou art glorified: thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth.Thou hast increased the nation, Heb. Thou hast added to the nation; which may be understood either,
1. In way of mercy, of adding to their numbers, as our translation takes it; and so we have in effect the same phrase 2 Samuel 24:3, The Lord add to the people, &c., and Psalm 115:14, in the Hebrew text, The Lord shall add upon or to you. Or,
2. In way of judgment, of adding to their plagues or miseries, of which we read Revelation 22:18, in which sense the phrase is found in the Hebrew text, Psalm 120:3, What shall be added to thee? and in that usual form of imprecation, The Lord do so to me, and more, Ruth 1:17 1 Samuel 3:17, &c., where it is in the Hebrew, The Lord do so to me, and add. And this sense seems to be favoured by the context, as also by the ancient Greek translators, who render the words, add to them evil or punishments. And so the word adding may be used emphatically and sarcastically. God indeed will add to them; but what? Not numbers, and power, and glory, as they expected, but plagues and judgments one after another. This
nation is supposed by the current of interpreters to be the people of Israel, emphatically called the nation. Possibly it may be the Assyrians, of whom he spoke in the last verse. But this I propose with submission.
Thou art glorified; thy justice is glorified in their punishment or destruction. Thou hadst removed it far unto all the ends of the earth; which may be understood either,
1. Of Israel, and that either in a way of mercy, Thou hast by destroying the Assyrians enlarged thy people, who were shut up in Jerusalem, so that now they may go to the remotest parts of the land; or in way of judgment, Thou hast removed thy people out of their own land, and suffered them to be carried captive to the ends of the earth. Or,
2. Of the Assyrians; Thou hast removed them from Jerusalem, which they had besieged, and caused them to flee into their own country, which in Scripture phrase was in the ends of the earth; of which see Isaiah 5:26 13:5.
LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.They, to wit, thy people, as appears both from the matter of this verse, and from the following verses.
Visited thee; come into thy presence, with their prayers and supplications, as the next clause explains it.
They poured out; which notes the plenty or rather the earnestness of their prayers, as Psalm 42:4 142:2.
A prayer, Heb. a muttering or lowly speech, such as charmers use, and such as Hezekiah used when he was in great distress, Isaiah 38:14, Like a crane or swallow, so did I chatter: I did mourn as a dove; and such as is usual in case of great humiliation and dejection of mind. When thy chastening was upon them; when thou wast punishing them for their sins.
Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in thy sight, O LORD.So have we been, such was our anguish and danger, in thy sight; whilst thou didst only look upon us like a mere spectator, without affording us the least degree of pity or help. Or this phrase notes only the reality of the thing; God was witness of this our misery, and knoweth the truth of what I say.
We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen.We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have had the torment of a woman in child-bearing, but not the comfort of a living child, John 16:21, for we have brought forth nothing but wind; all our labours and hopes were vain and unsuccessful. The prophet here represents their deplorable and desperate condition before God appeared so eminently to deliver them.
We have not wrought any deliverance; we found that we were utterly unable to deliver ourselves.
In the earth; or, in the land, in our own country, where yet we had far greater advantages than we could have had elsewhere.
The inhabitants of the world; the Assyrians, or our other enemies; for they are here opposed to God’s people.
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.Thy dead men shall live. The prophet here turneth his speech to God’s people, and gives them a cordial to support them in their deep distress, expressed in the foregoing verse. Thy dead men are not like those Isaiah 26:14, for they shall not live, as I there said; but thine shall live. You shall certainly be delivered from all your fears and dangers. Nothing is more frequent, both in Scripture and other authors, than for great calamities to be compared to death, and deliverance from them to life, and reviving, and resurrection; and particularly the captivity of the Jews in Babylon, and their deliverance out of it, is largely expressed by this very similitude, Ezekiel 37:11, &c.
Together with my dead body; as I myself, who am one of your number, and of these dead men, shall live again. You shall be delivered together with me. Which he might add, to meet with an objection; for they might think that God would take some special care of this holy prophet, and would preserve him when they should he destroyed. No, saith he, as I am at present like a dead carcass no less than you, so you shall be restored to life no less than I. If the supplement of our translation seems to be too literal, it may be rendered to the same purpose, as my body, the particle as being oft understood, as I have divers times observed: As my dead body shall rise, so shall theirs also; we are equally dead, and shall equally live again.
Shall they arise unto life, as appears from the former clause.
Awake out of your sleep, even the sleep of death, as it is called, Psalm 13:3; death being oft compared to a sleep, as John 11:11 Acts 7:60, and restoration to life unto awaking, as 2 Kings 4:31.
Ye that dwell in the dust; you that are dead and buried in the dust, as the dead are said to deep in the dust, Daniel 12:2.
Thy dew; the favour and blessing of God upon thee, which is oft compared to the dew, as Hosea 14:5 Micah 5:7. The pronoun thy is here taken not efficiently, but objectively, as thy curse, Genesis 27:13, is the curse coming upon thee.
Is as the dew of herbs, which gently refresheth and reviveth them, and maketh them to grow and flourish.
The earth shall cast out the dead, as an abortive birth is cast out of the womb, to which the grave is compared. Job 1:21. But because the verb here used doth not signify to cast out, but to cast down, which seems not proper here, these words may be, and are, both by ancient and later interpreters, rendered otherwise, and thou wilt cast down the land of the giants, or of the violent ones, of the proud and potent tyrants of the world. For the word here rendered dead is elsewhere rendered giants, as 2 Samuel 21:16,18. See also Job 26:5 Proverbs 9:18 21:16. But then the words seem to be better rendered, and thou wilt cast the giants down to the ground: either,
1. Thou, O God, who is oft understood in such cases; or rather,
2. Thou, O my people, to whom he speaks in the foregoing clauses of the verse, thy dead body, and thy dew and here continueth his speech, thou wilt or shalt cast, &c., thou shalt subdue even the most giant-like and mighty enemies; which though it be properly God’s work, the church is oft said to do, because she by her prayers engageth God to do it. And so as the former clauses of the verse speak of the deliverance and prosperity of God’s church and people, so this clause speaks of the destruction of their enemies, which usually accompanieth it.
Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.Having foretold the wonderful deliverance and great happiness of God’s people, and the utter destruction of their enemies, lest they should think they were now entering into the possession of this felicity, he adds what here follows, and intimates, that for the present they were to expect storms, and to prepare for them, and patiently to wait God’s time for the accomplishment of so great a mercy.
Enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; withdraw thyself from the company and conversation of the wicked world, lest partaking with them in their sins thou dost also partake of their plagues; pour out thy prayers to God in thy closet, as this may be explained by comparing Matthew 6:6; put thyself under the protection of my providence and grace by faith and prayer. He alludes to the common practice of men, who when there are storms or dangers abroad, betake themselves into their own houses or chambers for safety; or, as some think, to that history, Exodus 9:19,20, or to that command of not going out of their houses, Exodus 12:22, or to the like charge given to Rahab, as the condition of her preservation, Joshua 2.
For a little moment; whereby he intimates that all their afflictions, how long and tedious soever they may seem, are but short and momentary, in comparison of that happiness which is reserved for them.
The indignation; the dreadful effects of God’s anger, those sore judgments of God mentioned in the following verse.
For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.Cometh out of his place; cometh down from heaven; which God in Scripture is frequently said to do, when he undertaketh any great and glorious work, either of delivering his people, or of destroying their enemies. The speech is borrowed from the manner of princes, who come out of their palaces either to sit in judgment, or to fight against their enemies, which is the case here.
The inhabitants of the earth; all the enemies of God and of his people; for these are here opposed to God’s people. Therefore take heed you be not found in the number of them.
The earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain; the innocent blood which hath been spilled upon the earth shall be brought to light, and shall be severely revenged upon the murderers. For the phrase, see on Genesis 4:10 Job 16:18 Ezekiel 24:7.