Isaiah 35
Pulpit Commentary
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
Verses 1-10. - THE GLORY OF THE LAST TIMES. On the punishment of God's enemies will follow the peace, prosperity, and glory of his Church. Previously, the Church is in affliction, waste, and desolate. Its enemies once removed, destroyed, swept out of the way, it rises instantly in all its beauty to a condition which words are poor to paint. The highest resources of the poetic art are called in to give some idea of the glory and happiness of the final Church of the redeemed. Verse 1. - The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; rather, the wilderness, and the dry place, shall be glad. The Church, that has been long wasted and kept under by the wicked, shall, at their destruction, feel a sense of relief, and so of joy. The desert shall rejoice, and blossom. The first result of the joy shall be a putting forth of lovely products. Blossoms, beautiful as the rose or the narcissus (Kay), shall spring up all over the parched ground, and make it a parterre of flowers. The blossoms are either graces unknown in the time of affliction, or saintly characters of a new and high type.
It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.
Verse 2. - It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; rather, with dancing and singing. Dancing and singing were the ordinary manifestations of religions joy (Exodus 15:1, 20, 21; Judges 11:34; Judges 21:19-21; 2 Samuel 6:5, 14, 15; Psalm 30:11, etc.), and would naturally follow the great deliverance of the Church from the power of its enemies. The clause is a touch of realism intruded into a prolonged metaphor or allegory, and is quite in the manner of Isaiah (comp. Isaiah 14:7; Isaiah 26:1; Isaiah 30:32, etc.). The glory of Lebanon... the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; i.e. productiveness of all kinds, of abundant harvests, fruits, and flowers, and forest trees (comp. Isaiah 10:18, 19, 33, 34; Isaiah 32:15) - a resumption and prolongation of the metaphor in ver. 1. They shall see the glory of the Lord. The culminating joy and delight and blessedness of the Church shall be the vision of God - either the spiritual perception of his presence (Matthew 5:8; Romans 1:20) or the actual beatific vision (1 Corinthians 13:12; Revelation 21:11, 23; Revelation 22:4), the first during the probation period, the second in the state of final bliss.
Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
Verse 3. - Strengthen ye the weak hands. In the Church of the redeemed there will be "weak" brethren as well as strong, "feeble" as well as healthful (see 1 Corinthians 3:1; Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 5:12-14). God, by the mouth of his prophet, calls on the strong to impart of their strength to their weaker brethren, uplifting their "weak hands," as Aaron and Hur did those of Moses (Exodus 17:12), and "confirming" or sustaining their "feeble knees." So St. Paul: "We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Romans 15:1).
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
Verse 4. - Say to them that are of a fearful heart. There will be fearful and trembling hearts always, even among the saints of God. These are to be encouraged and assured that God Will come to their aid, will avenge them of their spiritual enemies, reward their efforts to serve him, and in the end "save" them. He will come and save you; rather, he will come himself to save yon. There is One alone who can save, and he must do it himself, and, to do it, he must "come" to us. The words were at once an announcement of the Incarnation, and a promise to every trembling, doubting heart - a promise of direct Divine assistance, of the presence of God within us, of help potent to save. The predominant thought of the prophet appears to have been Messianic, and hence the burst of glorious prophecy which follows - a burst of prophecy most inadequately expounded of the time of the return from the Captivity.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Verses 5, 6. - Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened. In the literal sense, our Lord claims these prophecies to himself and his earthly career, when he says to the disciples of John the Baptist, "Go and show John those things which ye do hear and see, the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear" (Matthew 11:4, 5); but they have doubtless a further spiritual sense, in which they belong to the whole period of his mediatorial kingdom, and are correlative to former utterances of the prophet, in which the blinded eyes and deaf ears and stammering tongues of God's people had been spoken of and made the subject of complaint (see Isaiah 6:10; Isaiah 29:10, etc.). Our Lord's miracles of bodily healing, performed during the three years of his earthly ministry, were types and foreshadowings of those far more precious miracles of spiritual healing, which the great Physician is ever performing on the sick and infirm of his Church, by opening the eyes of their understandings, and unstopping the deaf ears of their hearts, and loosening the strings of their tongues to hymn his praise, and stirring their paralyzed spiritual natures to active exertions in his service. Doubtless Isaiah, or the Spirit which guided him, intended to point to both these classes of miracles, and not to one of them only, as characteristic of the Messiah's kingdom.
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
Verse 6. - For in the wilderness shall waters break out. The wilderness of humanity shall be renovated by a large effluence of God's grace (comp. Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 32:2; Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 43:19; John 7:37, 38).
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
Verse 7. - The parched ground shall become, etc.; rather, the glistening sand. That hot glow of the parched desert soil, which produces the mirage, shall be replaced by a real lake of cool water. Illusive imitations of goodness shall give way to the display of genuine virtues and excellences. In the habitation of dragons; or, according to some, of jackals - the driest and most desolate of all places. Shall be grass with reeds and rushes; i.e. "shall be a luxuriant vegetation, like that on the banks of the Nile" (comp. vers. 1, 2).
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
Verse 8. - And an highway shall be there, and a way (comp. Isaiah 30:21). There shall be a clear "way" marked out in which all shall be bound to walk - a "strait and narrow way" doubtless (Matthew 7:14), but one not readily missed. The way shall be called The way of holiness. It shall be that path through the dangers and difficulties of life which holiness points out and requires. The unclean shall not pass over it. It is tempting to imagine that there is here a reference to the famous chinvat peretu of the Zoro-astrians - the "bridge of the gatherer" - along which all souls had to pass in order to reach the abode of the blessed, but which the souls of the wicked never succeeded in passing ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. it. p. 339). The 'bridge of the gatherer" is, however, in the other world, not in this world; but Isaiah's "highway" is here. It is that right course of life, which "the unclean" do not follow, though they might do so if they chose, but which the righteous follow to their great gain and advantage. But it shall be for those; rather, as in the margin, but he shall be with them; God, i.e. shall be with those who seek to walk in the way, and not to err from it. He shall direct them, support them, sustain their footsteps. The wayfaring men; rather, they that walk in the way - that make up their minds to try to walk in it. Though fools; i.e. however simple and unlearned they may be - "Ne simplicissimi quidem" (Rosenmüller). Shall not err therein; shall not wander from the way through mere simplicity. It shall be easy to find, difficult to miss.
No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
Verse 9. - No lion shall be there. No great tyrannical power, like Assyria (Nahum 2:11, 12) or Babylon, shall arrest the energies of the Church, take it captive, or enslave it. No ravenous beast shall make it his prey. In proportion as the Church is holy (ver. 8) it shall be free from the molestation of bloody persecutors (see Isaiah 11:9). The redeemed - those whom God has purchased for his own (Exodus 6:6; Hosea 13:14) - shall be free to walk there, untroubled by cruel enemies. There is an under-current of comparison between the blessedness of the last times and the existing troubles of Israel, still threatened by Sennacherib.
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Verse 10. - The ransomed of the Lord shall return. The blessedness of the last times would be incomplete to Jewish ideas without this crowning feature. There had already been a great dispersion of the faithful (Isaiah 1:7-9); there was to be a still greater one (Isaiah 11:11); Israel could not be content or happy until her "outcasts" were recalled, "the dispersed of Judah gathered together from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12). The return here prophesied is again announced, in almost the same words, in Isaiah 51:11. With songs (see the comment on ver. 2). Everlasting joy upon their heads. Anointed, as it were, with "the oil of gladness" (Psalm 45:7) forever and ever. Sorrow and sighing shall rise away (comp. Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4).

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