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.
Verses 1-18. - A SONG OF THE REDEEMED IN MOUNT ZION. The prophet, having (in Isaiah 25.) poured forth his own thankfulness to God for the promise of the Church's final redemption and triumph, proceeds now to represent the Church itself in the glorified state as singing praise to God for the same. Verse 1. - In that day. In the "day of God" (2 Peter 3:12), the period of the "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21). In the land of Judah; i.e. in the "new earth" - whose city will be the "heavenly Jerusalem," and wherein will dwell "the Israel of God" - the antitype whereof the literal "land of Judah" was the type. A strong city; literally, a city of strength. In the Revelation of St. John the new Jerusalem is represented as having "a wall great and high" (Revelation 21:12), and "twelve gates," three on each side. The intention is to convey the idea of complete security. In the present passage the city has "gates" (ver. 2), but no "walls" - walls and bulwarks being unnecessary, since the saving might of God himself would be its sure defense against every enemy.
Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.
Verse 2. - Open ye the gates. The command is given by God to his angels within the city, or perhaps by some angels to others, to "open the gates," and let the saints march in and take possession (comp. Psalm 118:19, 20, which seems to represent the same occasion; and Psalm 24:7-10, which tells of another occasion on which the angelic warders were bidden to throw open the gates of the celestial city. The righteous nation which keepeth the truth; literally, a righteous nation. A people, made up of all kindreds and nations and tongues, which should henceforth be "the people of God" They are "righteous," as washed clean from all taint of sin in the blood of the Lamb. They "keep the truth," or "keep faithfulness," as under all circumstances clinging loyally to God.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Verse 3. - Thou wilt keep him, etc.; literally, the steadfast mind thou wilt keep in peace, in peace; i.e. "in perfect peace" (comp. Psalm 112:7, 8). The writer's mind throughout the first paragraph of his" song" (vers. 1-4)"is running" (as Mr. Cheyne well observes) "on the security and immovableness of the new Jerusalem." All is peace and sure defense on God's side; all is trust and perfect confidence on the side of man. The first words of the verse may be taken in various ways - the above rendering (which seems to us the best) is that of Delitzsch and Kay.
Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
Verse 4. - Trust ye in the Lord. The faithful exhort each other to perfect trust, in the new Jerusalem, as in the old (see Psalm 115:9-11). In the Lord Jehovah; literally, in Jab Jehorah (comp. Isaiah 12:2). Is everlasting strength; literally, is the Rock of ages. A certain refuge throughout all eternity is, no doubt, intended (see the comment on Isaiah 17:10).
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.
Verse 5. - He bringeth down; rather, he hath brought down. The redeemed praise God for his past mercies. He brought down in his own good time all the proud and lofty ones who exalted themselves against him and oppressed his saints, making cities desolate (Isaiah 24:10, 12) and giving over their inhabitants to destruction (Isaiah 24:6). Them that dwell on high; i.e. "that exalt themselves." It is net eminence, but pride, that provokes the Divine anger. The heathen judged differently (see Herod., 7:10, § 4). The lofty city (comp. Isaiah 24:10, 12; Isaiah 25:2, 3). The "world-city" (as it has been called); i.e. the idealized stronghold of the adversaries of God in this world, is intended.
The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy.
Verse 6. - The foot shall tread it down; rather, trode it down. The feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy; i.e. the feet of God's people, the weak and afflicted of this world, trod down ultimately, or brought to destruction and ruin, the great world-power - not so much that they were victorious in an actual physical contest, as that they, finally triumphed through God's judgment on the world-power, which brought it to naught, and left it for his people to show their contempt by trampling upon the smoking ruins.
The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.
Verse 7. - The way of the just is uprightness; or, the path for the just is straight. It is one of the main blessings of the righteous that God "makes their way straight before their face" (Psalm 4:8), "leads them in a plain path" (Psalm 27:11), "shows them the way they are to walk in" (Psalm 143:8), so that they are for the most part free from doubt and perplexity as to the line of conduct which it behooves them to, pursue. If this is so in the present life, still more will it be the uniform condition of the just in another sphere. Then God will of a surety "direct all their paths" (Proverbs 3:6). Thou, most upright, dost weigh; literally, O upright One, thou dost weigh. The term "upright" is applied to God in Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 25:8; and Psalm 92:16. By "weighing the path of the just" is meant keeping it, as Justice keeps her scales, straight and level.
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.
Verse 8. - Yea, in the way of thy judgments... have we waited for thee; rather, we waited. During the long years of our affliction and persecution in the world, we waited in the constant expectation that "thy judgments" would fall upon our persecutors. We were not impatient. We knew that thou wouldst visit us at the tilting time. The desire of our soul is to thy Name; rather, the desire of our soul was to thy Name. During all the weary time of waiting, we longed for thee, and thy Name, or rather what thy Name indicates, thy own true self. In default of thy actual presence, we desired to have thee ever in remembrance.
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.
Verse 9. - In the night; i.e. "the long night of their affliction." The sentiment is identical with that of the preceding verse. Will I seek thee early; rather, did I seek thee. For when thy judgments, etc. It was not a mere selfish desire for the cessation of persecution that caused the righteous to long for the time when God's judgments would be manifested upon the earth, but a conviction that so only would an impression be made on the persecutors, and a certain number of them be induced to learn righteousness. A desire for the conversion of sinners to God characterizes God's saints generally, and none more than Isaiah, who is here expressing what he conceives will be the thoughts of the redeemed, and naturally judges their thoughts and feelings by his Own.
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.
Verse 10. - Let favor be showed to the wicked. This is a further explanation of the reason why the righteous had so earnestly desired the coming of God's judgments upon the earth. They had felt that further mercy and long-suffering wine thrown away upon the wicked, and "only did them harm" (Kay). When "favor was showed them," they did but persist in unrighteousness. In the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly. Even good example does not convert the wicked man. Though he live in a "land of righteousness," where God and his Law are acknowledged, where true religion is professed, where the gospel is preached, he will continue wicked, he will "deal unjustly;" he will not behold - or, consider - the majesty of the Lord.
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.
Verse 11. - When thy hand is lifted up, they will not see. The original is more graphic. It runs, "Lord, thy hand is lifted up, [but] they see not. They shall see to their shame thy jealousy for thy people; yea, fire shall devour thy adversaries" God's jealousy "burns like fire" (Psalm 79:9; Zephaniah 1:18) in the cause of his people.
LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.
Verse 12. - Lord, thou wilt ordain peace for us; i.e. henceforth thou wilt give us an existence of perfect peace (see ver. 3), untroubled by adversaries. For thou also hast wrought all our works in us; rather, all our work for us. The "work" intended seems to be, as Mr. Cheyne observes, "the work of their deliverance."
O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.
Verse 13. - Other lords. The saved had not always been faithful to Jehovah. Some, no doubt, had actually been idolaters, as many of the early Christians (1 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:9, etc.). Others had given their hearts for a time to other vanities, and turned away from God. Now, in the new Jerusalem, they confess their short comings, and acknowledge that only through God's mercy - by thee - are they in the condition to celebrate his Name.
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.
Verse 14. - They are dead, etc.; literally. Dead, they shall not live (i.e. return to life); deceased, they shall not arise. The power of the idol-gods is altogether passed away. It was for this end - therefore - that God had visited and destroyed them, and made their very memory to perish. How strange it seems that the "great gods" whom so many millions worshipped in former times - Bel, and Asshur, and Ammon, and Zeus, and Jupiter - should have passed so completely away as to be almost wholly forgotten!
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.
Verse 15. - Thou hast increased the nation; i.e. the "righteous nation" of ver. 2 - not the Jewish people merely, but "the Israel of God" - who are to be "a great multitude, that no man can number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" (Revelation 7:9). Thou hadst removed it. This rendering gives a very good sense. It makes the redeemed pass in thought from their present state of happiness and glory to that former time of tribulation and affliction when they were a remnant, scattered over the face of the earth (Isaiah 24:13-15), driven into its uttermost corners (Isaiah 24:16), oppressed and down-trodden by their enemies. But it is doubtful whether the Hebrew will bear the rendering. Most modern commentators translate, "Thou hast extended far all the borders of the land," which is certainly the more natural meaning of the words. If we accept this view, we must regard the clause as continuing the idea contained in the former part of the verse - the nation is increased in number, and its borders are advanced - it is "a multitude that no man can number," and it has no narrower limits than the "new earth," which has been given to it for its habitation (Revelation 21:1).
LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.
Verse 16. - Lord, in trouble have they visited thee. Here, at any rate, the redeemed go back in thought to their time of trouble. They remember that what brought them back to God from that alienation which they have confessed (ver. 13) was the affliction which they so long endured. Their present bliss is the result of their former woe, and recalls the thought of it. They poured out a prayer; rather, as in the margin, a secret speech, or a low whisper (Kay); comp. Isaiah 29:4. The word elsewhere means "the muttering of a charm," but must here signify the "whispered prayer" of one in deep humiliation.
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.
Verse 17. - Like as a woman with child (comp. Isaiah 13:8; Isaiah 21:3). Isaiah uses the metaphor to express any severe pain combined with anxiety. So have we been in thy sight; rather, so have we been at thy presence. When thou wert visiting us in anger, and laying thy chastisements upon us.
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.
Verse 18. - We have as it were brought forth wind. Our pains have been idle, futile - have effected nothing. We have not given deliverance (literally, "salvation") to our land; we have not effected the downfall of our heathen enemies. That downfall was God's work (Isaiah 24:16-20).
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.
Verses 19-21. - THE PROPHET'S COMMENT ON THE SONG OF THE JUST. Having concluded his "song of the just" in a minor key with a confession of human weakness, the prophet proceeds to cheer and encourage his disciples by a clear and positive declaration of the doctrine of the resurrection: "Thy dead, O Israel, shall live." He then adds a recommendation for the present - a recommendation to privacy and retirement, until the judgments of God which he has predicted (Isaiah 24.) are shown forth upon the earth. Verse 19. - Thy dead men shall live. A universal resurrection of" some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2), is not yet announced; but only a resurrection of the just, perhaps only of the just Israelites. The object is encouragement, especially encouragement of those whom the prophet directly addresses - the religious Israelites of his own day. It is enough for them at the present time to know that, whether the day of the Lord comes in their time or no, when it comes, they will have a part in it. The assurance is given, and is made doubly sure by repetition. The prophet does not say, Together with my dead body they will arise; for there is nothing in the Hebrew corresponding to "together," and the ellipse of 'ira, "with," though suggested by Kimchi, is impossible; nor is it likely that he intends to speak of his own dead body at all. He may, perhaps, call the past generations of just Israelites "my dead," i.e. the dead with whom he is in sympathy; or the supposed personal suffix may be merely paragogic, as Rosenmüller argues. In any case the two clauses must be regarded as identical in meaning - an instance of "synonymous parallelism.... Thy dead men shall live; my dead shall arise." Awake and sing; rather, awake and shout for joy (comp. Psalm 35:27; Psalm 67:4, etc.). Ye that dwell in dust (comp. Daniel 12:2, "Many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake"). Thy dew is as the dew of herbs; i.e. refreshing, vivifying, potent to make even dead bones live. "Thy dew" may be said with reference to Jehovah, for changes in the person addressed are frequent in Isaiah; or with reference to the people of Israel, meaning, "the dew which Jehovah will shed on thee," i.e. on thy dead.
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.
Verse 20. - Come, my people... into thy chambers. As when a storm comes, prudence counsels men to seek shelter (Exodus 9:19), so now the prophet advises his people to put themselves under cover during the coming tempest. His meaning, probably, is that they should retire into the privacy of communion with God, withdrawing from public affairs and the distractions of a worldly life. Shut thy doors about thee (comp. 2 Kings 4:33; Matthew 6:6). For a little moment (so in Isaiah 10:25; and again in Isaiah 54:7, 8). God's estimate of time, we must remember, is not as man's (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8).
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.
Verse 21. - The Lord cometh out of his place (comp. Micah 1:3). In the Psalms God is represented as "bowing the heavens and coming down," bringing them, as it were, with him. Here (and in Micah) he quits his place in heaven, as a king quits his own country when he proceeds to take vengeance on rebels in another. The expressions are, both of them, accommodations to human modes of thought. To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; literally, to visit the iniquity of the inhabitant of the earth upon him. The earth also shall disclose her blood; literally, her bloods; i.e. her bloodsheddings; the many murders committed by man upon her surface. Isaiah denounced "murderers" in his first chapter (ver. 27). Manasseh's murders were the main cause of the first destruction of Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:4). The second destruction was equally a judgment for the innocent blood that had been shed upon the earth, "from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Bars-chins" (Matthew 23:35). Bloodshed "cries to God for vengeance" (Genesis 4:10), and will be one of the main causes of the world's final destruction (Revelation 16:6; Revelation 18:20). And shall no more cover her slain. "There is nothing covered that shall not" in the last day "be revealed, and hid that shall not be known" (Matthew 10:26). Every murder, however secret, will be brought to light, and every murderer, however unsuspected previously, denounced and punished.