Matthew Poole's Commentary
Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.The blessings and fulness of the gospel church, Isaiah 54:1-3; the Gentiles becoming Christ’s spouse; to whom his love is everlasting, Isaiah 54:4-10. Her glories, Isaiah 54:11,12. The gifts of the Holy Ghost, Isaiah 54:13. Her sure preservation, Isaiah 54:14-17.
Sing, O barren. The prophet having largely discoursed of the sufferings of Christ, and of the blessed fruits or effects thereof, among which one is, that he should have a numerous seed that should believe on him, and that when the Jews rejected him, the Gentiles should gladly receive him, and here foreseeing by the Spirit of God that glorious state of the church, he rejoiced in it, as Abraham did upon the like occasion, John 8:56, and breaks forth into this song of triumph. He turneth his speech to the church and spouse of God, or of Christ, as is manifest from the following words, and especially from Isaiah 54:5, and from Galatians 4:27, where it is so expounded. And although this chapter is by some understood of the flourishing condition of the Jewish church and state after their return from Babylon, yet the magnificent and glorious promises here following do so vastly exceed their condition at that time, which was full of uncertainties, and distractions, and troubles, as all the histories of those times assure us, and far from that glory and lasting tranquillity which is here assured to her, that it must necessarily be referred to the times of the gospel, in which all that is here said was or will be remarkably fulfilled. And therefore as the foregoing chapter doth directly and literally speak of Christ, so doth this literally speak of the church of Christ, or of the kingdom of the Messiah, of whom the ancient Hebrew doctors understood it. And this church, consisting at first of the Jews, and afterwards of the Gentiles, who were incorporated with them into the same body, he calleth barren, not because it now was so, but because before and until the coming of Christ it had been so; as Simon is called the leper, Matthew 26:6, after he was cured. Now this church of the Jews might well be called, and had been, barren, because the sincere converts brought forth to God by her ministry had been but few among the Jews comparatively, and simply few among the Gentiles.
More are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife: the church or congregation of the Gentiles, which in the times of the Old Testament was desolate, having neither husband nor children, doth now under the gospel bring forth unto God a far more numerous posterity than the church of the Jews, which had been married to God for many ages, until by her apostacy from God, and from her Messiah, she provoked God to put her away, He alludeth here either to the history of Sarah, who was long and naturally barren, but by the supernatural power of God was enabled to bring forth a numberless issue; or to that remarkable passage of God’s providence concerning Hannah and Peninnah, 1 Samuel 2:5, The barren hath born seven, and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.
Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes;Enlarge the place of thy tent, that it may be capable of the Gentiles, which shall flock to thee in great numbers, and desire to associate themselves with thee.
Let them, those to whom that work belongs, stretch forth. The meaning is, they must and shall be stretched out.
Lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes, that they may be able to support that great weight which the tents this enlarged shall be upon them.
For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.Thou shalt break forth; thou shalt bring forth a multitude of children; for this word is commonly used of any great and extraordinary propagation of living creatures, whether beasts or men, Genesis 30:30 Exodus 1:12.
On the right hand and on the left; on every side, in all the parts of the world.
Thy seed; either,
1. Thy spiritual seed, the church of the new testament, which is accounted Abraham’s seed, or children, Galatians 3:7-9,29. Or,
2. Thy natural seed, Christ and his apostles, and other ministers, who were Jews, by whom this work was first and most eminently done.
Shall inherit the Gentiles; shall subdue the Gentile world to the church, and to the obedience of the faith.
The desolate cities; those cities and countries which in a spiritual sense were desolate and forsaken by God.
Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more.Thou shalt not be ashamed for that barrenness and widowhood, which once was the matter of thy grief and shame, because now thou shalt be delivered from it, and God will own thee for his wife, and beget children of thee; as it is explained in the following words.
Thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth; it shall be forgotten both by thee and others: thou shalt not be upbraided with thy former barrenness in thy youthful state, nor confounded and tormented with the remembrance of it; both remembering and forgetting in Scripture use connote or comprehend those affections which naturally and usually follow upon them; so great shall be thy fertility and felicity, that it shall cause thee to forget thy former unfruitfulness and misery, as men commonly do in like cases, as Genesis 41:51 Job 11:16 Isaiah 65:16 John 16:21.
The reproach of thy widowhood; that time and state when thou wert like a widow, disconsolate and desolate, forsaken by her husband, and having in a manner no children; which was a great reproach, especially among the Jews.
For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.Thy Maker; he who made thee out of nothing, and therefore can easily fulfil all these promises, how unlikely soever they seem to be; and he who made thee a people, and, which is far more and better, his people, and therefore will not easily nor utterly forsake thee.
Is thine husband; he will own thee for his spouse, and will do the part of a husband to thee.
The Lord of hosts; who hath the sovereign command of all men and creatures, and therefore can subdue the Gentiles to thee, and can make thee to increase and multiply in so prodigious a measure, even in thine old age, notwithstanding thy barrenness in the days of thy youth, of which he speaketh in the foregoing verse.
The God of the whole earth; the God and Father of all nations; whereas formerly he was called only
the God of Israel, and the Gentiles had no special relation to him, nor interest in his covenant and favour, as was observed, Psalm 147:19,20, and elsewhere.
For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God.The Lord hath called thee, to return and come again to him. As a woman forsaken; when thou wast like a woman forsaken. Or, as a husband recalleth his wife. Forsaken by her husband, who hath given her a bill of divorce.
Grieved in spirit, for the loss of her husband’s flavour and society, and for the reproach attending upon it.
And a wife of youth; or, and as (which note of similitude is supplied here by the LXX. and Chaldee interpreters, and is easily understood out of the foregoing clause, in which it is expressed) a wife of youth, i.e. as readily and affectionately as a husband recalleth his wife which no married in her and his own youth, of whom see on Proverbs 5:18, whom though he might through a sudden and violent passion put away, yet he soon repents of it, and his affections work towards her, and he invites her to return to him.
When thou wast refused; when thou wast in a desolate estate, and hadst been for some time rejected by me, then I recalled thee. Or, although thou wast refused, or dismissed, or despised by me, and that justly; yet I had mercy upon thee, and freely offered reconciliation to thee. Saith thy God; who will again be, and still show himself to be, thy God, and will renew his covenant with thee.
For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.For a small moment; for the space of some few years, as seventy years in Babylon, and some such intervals, which may well be called a small moment in comparison of God’s everlasting kindness mentioned in the next verse.
Forsaken thee; withdrawn my favour and help from thee, and left thee in thine enemies’ hands.
With great mercies, such as are most precious and sweet for quality, as is here said, and such as are of long continuance, as is said in the following verse,
will I gather thee from all the places where thou art dispersed, from all the parts of the world.
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.I hid my face; I removed the means and pledges of my presence and kindness.
With everlasting kindness; with kindness to thee and thy seed through all succeeding generations, here and unto all eternity.
For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.This is as the waters of Noah unto me; this covenant of grace and peace made with thee shall be as certain and perpetual as that which I made with Noah, that there should never be another flood of waters to drown the world; of which see Genesis 9:11.
Would not be wroth with thee, to wit, so as I have been, or so as to forsake thee utterly.
For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; which hath been verified in some mountains and hills, that by earthquakes, or otherwise, have been removed from their places. But these kind of absolute expressions are ofttimes comparatively understood, of which See Poole "Isaiah 51:6"; and so the sense is, The mountains shall sooner depart from their places, than my kindness shall depart from thee. As when it is said absolutely, I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, it is meant comparatively, I desired mercy more than sacrifice, as it is explained in the following clause.
The covenant of my peace; that covenant whereby I have made peace and friendship with thee, and have promised unto thee all manner of happiness, which frequently comes under the name of peace in Scripture. The sense of the place is, that God will not cast off his Christian church, as he did cast off the church of the Jews; and that the new covenant is established upon better and surer promises than the old, as is observed, Hebrews 8:6,7, &c., and elsewhere.
That hath mercy on thee; who doth thus with thee not for thine own merits, but merely for his own grace and mercy.
O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires.O thou afflicted, tossed with tempests, and not comforted; O thou my poor church, \vho hast frequently been, and wilt again and again be, in a most afflicted and comfortless condition for a time, be not discouraged thereby.
I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires; I will make thee exceeding beautiful and glorious. Which yet is not to be understood of outward pomp and worldly glory, as is evident from many places of Scripture, which assure us that Christ’s kingdom is of another nature, and that the external condition of God’s church is, and for the most part will be, mean and calamitous in this world; but of a spiritual beauty and glory, consisting in the plentiful effusion of excellent gifts, and graces, and comforts; although these shall be followed with eternal glory in heaven. See the like description of the church’s glory, Revelation 21:11, &c.
And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of pleasant stones.Agates; one kind of which stones was transparent like glass, as Pliny writes in his Natural History, b. 37. ch. 10. But some render this word crystal, and the LXX., and some other of the ancients, translate it jasper. But the proper signification of the Hebrew names of precious stones is unknown to the Jews themselves, as hath been noted before. It may suffice us to know that this was some very clear, and transparent, and precious stone.
Thy borders; the utmost parts or walls. The church is here evidently compared to a building, whose foundation, pavement, gates, and windows were named before.
And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.Shall be taught of the Lord; not only outwardly by his word, which was made known to all the Jews under the Old Testament, but inwardly by his Spirit, which is poured forth under the New Testament, both upon a far greater number of persons, and in a far higher measure, and with much more efficacy and success, than it was under the Old.
1. Inward peace of mind or conscience arising from the clear discoveries of God’s love and reconciliation to us, and wrought by the Spirit of adoption, which is more abundantly given to believers under the gospel, whereas the spirit of bondage was more common and prevalent under the law.
2. Outward peace, safety, and happiness, which is more fully promised in the following verses, and which God, when he sees fit, will confer upon his church.
In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.In righteousness; either,
1. As the means of thy establishment. This kingdom shall not be set up and settled by fraud or tyranny, as other kingdoms frequently are, but by justice. Or rather,
2. As the effect of the establishment. Thine affairs shall be managed with righteousness, which is the glory and felicity of any society, and not with oppression, as it follows. Justice shall be freely and impartially executed.
Thou shalt be far from oppression; either by thine own governors, or by foreign powers.
Thou shalt not fear; thou shalt neither have any just cause of fear, nor be given up to the torment of fear without cause.
Behold, they shall surely gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake.They shall surely gather together; it is true, there will not want some that shall combine and make an attempt against thee.
But not by me; as they do this without any such commission from me, as Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar had, Isaiah 10:6,7 Jer 25:9; so they shall not have my help in it, without which all their endeavours will be vain and unsuccessful.
Whosoever shall gather together to battle, as is manifest from the following words, of which kind of gathering this word is used, Psalm 140:2, and elsewhere. Against thee, Heb. with thee. But to fight with a man is all one with fighting against him.
Shall fall for thy sake; for that respect and love which I bear to thee. Or before thee, as this particle is sometimes used, so as thine eyes shall behold it.
Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.Both the smith that maketh all warlike instruments, and the soldier that useth them, are my creatures, and totally at my command, and therefore they cannot hurt you without my leave. To destroy; to destroy only whom and when I please.
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and as they cannot do any thing against thee without my leave, so I assure thee I will not suffer them to do it; and if any smith shall make any weapons to be employed against thee, he shall not succeed in it.
And every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn; and I will deliver thee not only from the fury of the war, but also from the strife of tongues, from all the threatenings, and boasts, and reproaches of thine enemies, and from all the claims and pretences which they have of any right and power over thee. So thine enemies shall neither prevail against thee by violence, nor by pretences of justice.
This is the heritage; this blessed condition described in this chapter is the portion allotted to them by me.
Their righteousness; either,
1. The reward or fruit of their righteousness, as righteousness is used, Psalm 112:3,9. Or,
2. Their right or the righteous administration of all their concerns, whereby they are preserved from all manner of oppressions, as righteousness was used, Isaiah 54:14. Is of me; I give it, and I will continue it to them; and who then can take it away from them?