Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
Verse 1. - Arise, shine. The subject of the address does not distinctly appear until ver. 14, where it is found to be "the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel." Zion has long been prostrate in the dust from the prophet's standpoint, and covered with thick darkness. Now she is bidden to "arise" and "shine forth as the day." For thy light is come. Zion cannot shine with her own light, for she has no light of her own, having preferred to "walk in darkness" (Isaiah 59:9). But she may reflect the radiance which streams from the Person of Jehovah, whose glory is risen upon her. "In thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9).
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
Verse 2. - For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth. As in Egypt a "thick darkness" covered the whole land at the word of Moses (Exodus 10:22), while still "the children of Israel had light in their dwellings," so now the world and "the nations' of the world lay in a deep obscurity, into which scarcely a ray of light penetrated, while on Israel there dawned a glory which streamed from the throne of God, and at once transfigured her, and gave her the appearance of an angel of the Most High. In the radiance of this light she was to stand up and show herself, and then great results would follow.
And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
Verse 3. - The Gentiles shall come to thy light. Plunged in darkness themselves (ver. 2), the Gentiles shall be astonished and attracted by Israel's radiance, and shall draw near to it and seek to partake of it. Among them shall come even their "kings," drawn by the brightness of the glory (comp. Isaiah 49:23).
Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
Verse 4. - Lift up thine eyes (see Isaiah 49:18). Thy sons... thy daughters. Not so much Jews of the dispersion, as Gentiles, who will become thy adopted "sons" and "daughters." Shall be nursed at thy side; rather, shall be carried on thy side. Oriental mothers often carry a small child on their hip, with the arm round it to prevent its falling off.
Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
Verses 5-9. - The second stanza. Zion's wealth. Verse 5. - Thine heart shall fear; rather, shall throb; "beat with excitement." Because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee; i.e. the maritime commerce, which has hitherto enriched other nations, shall be turned thy way and be at thy disposal. The forces of the Gentiles; rather, the riches of the Gentiles - as in Isaiah 8:4; Isaiah 10:14; Isaiah 30:6; Isaiah 61:6. Details of the riches fellow in vers. 6-9.
The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.
Verse 6. - The multitude of camels; rather, a multitude - a continual stream of caravans (Kay). These would be composed of merchants from Midian and Ephah, and would bring goods from Sheba. The Midianite caravans of camels are mentioned as early as the time of Jacob, when they carried "spicery and balm and myrrh" from the land of Gilead into Egypt (Genesis 37:25, 28, 36). Ephah is a sub-tribe of Midian (Genesis 25:4). These nomads would visit the distant Sheba, in Happy Arabia, for purposes of trade, and would procure there gold and incense, which they would convey to Palestine. The "Sheba" intended is doubtless that whose queen visited Solomon, and brought with her gold in abundance, and "of spices very great store, and precious stones" (1 Kings 10:10). The Egyptians appear to have called the kingdom of the Shebaim (Sabaeans) "Punt," and to have traded with it from a very early time, especially for frankincense (' Records of the Past,' vol. 10. pp. 14-19; Rawlinson, 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. it. pp. 132-134, 221-224). The dromedaries; rather, the young camels, or the camel colts. All they from Sheba shall come; rather, they (i.e. the camels of Midian and Ephah) shall come all together from Sheba.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.
Verse 7. - Kedar... Nebaioth. Arab tribes, like the Midianites and Sabaeans. (With respect to Kedar, see the comment on Isaiah 21:15.) "Nebaioth" stands for the tribe called by the Greeks and Romans the "Nabataeans," and by the Assyrians the "Nabaiti," who were one of the most powerful in the peninsula. About B.C. 645 Nathan, their king, warred with Asshur-bani-pal (Smith's' Hist. of Asshur-bani-pal,' pp. 256-298). During the Maccabee period we find the Nabataeans in alliance with the Jews, and giving them some valuable assistance (1 Macc. 5:25 1 Macc. 9:35). The locality of the Nabataeans was northern Arabia, or the tract lying between the Elanitic Gulf and the Lower Euphrates. The wealth of the Nabataeans and the Kedarenes was in their flocks and herds; and this wealth, it is prophesied, they will place, at the disposal of Israel. Mine altar... the house of my glory. The renovated Zion contains a glorious temple, and the temple has in it an altar, to which the sheep and rams are brought - not, however, to be offered in sacrifice, but to be presented to God and become a part of the wealth of the Church.
Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?
Verse 8. - Who are these, etc.? The prophet beholds the waters of the Mediterranean Sea covered with numerous ships, whose sails remind him of white clouds moving across the blue expanse of heaven, and again of doves wending their way homewards to their accustomed dove-cotes. The "windows" of the dove-cotes are the openings through which the birds pass into the towers where they breed.
Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.
Verse 9. - Surely the isles shall wait for me. The "isles," or maritime countries of the West, have long waited for a Redeemer (Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 51:5, etc.). They shall send their sons, and their gifts, in ships, which will come from far, and cover the Mediterranean (see the preceding verse). The ships of Tarshish. Either ships belonging to the people of Tartessus, in Spain, who had a widely extended commerce in ancient times (Herod., 1:163; 4:152; 1 Kings 10:22; Ezekiel 27:12; Jonah 1:3; etc.), or ships of a peculiar class, such as were considered suitable for the long and dangerous voyage to the distant Western port (see the comment on Isaiah 2:16). To bring thy sons from far (see the comment on ver. 4). Unto the Name of the Lord; i.e. "to the place where the Lord has set his Name" (comp. Isaiah 18:7).
And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee.
Verses 10-14. - The third stanza. Zion's reconstruction. Verse 10. - The sons of strangers shall build up thy walls. Cyrus aided in the supply of timber for the construction of the second temple (Ezra 3:7). Artaxerxes Longimanus sanctioned the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:3; Nehemiah 2:5-8). The passage has, however, a meaning beyond the literal one. "Strangers" of all kinds, Greeks, and Romans, and Syrians, and Africans, and Cauls, and Spaniards, and others, assisted in building and enlarging the walls of the Church as it spread over the world, set up its bulwarks in the Creeds, and fenced it round about with various decrees and canons. Their kings shall minister unto thee (see the comment on ver. 3). Among ministrant kings may be mentioned Cyrus, Darius the son of Hystaspes, Artaxerxes Longimanus, Alexander the Great, Constantine, Theodosius, Charlemagne, St. Louis, etc. I had mercy on thee. A preterit of prophetic certitude. Mr. Cheyne translates, "I will have compassion upon thee."
Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.
Verse 11. - Thy gates shall be open continually. That all who seek salvation may have free access at all times. There is no fear of enemies entering, since war has ceased (Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:9, etc.). The forces of the Gentiles; rather, the wealth of the Gentiles, as in ver. 5. That their kings may be brought; i.e. forced to come by their subjects, who know that their own prosperity is involved in complete submission to the Church established in Zion, and therefore compel their kings to come and render their homage in person.
For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.
Verse 12. - The nation... that will not serve thee shall perish. God's curse shall be upon them; they shall wither and decay for lack of the Divine favour and of the graces which God dispenses to mankind through his Church (comp. Zechariah 14:17-19).
The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
Verse 13. - The glory of Lebanon shall come (comp. Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 41:19). Considered as imagery, the representation is that the barren hills which stand about Jerusalem shall, in the new state of things, be decked with tall and beautiful forest trees, all the sylvan scenery of Lebanon being transported to Southern Palestine, so as to encompass the city of God with a garden as delightful as that of Eden. The spiritual meaning is that graces of all kinds shall abound in and around the holy city, and shall make it beautiful and glorious. The fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together (comp. Isaiah 41:19, where the same words occur in the same order; and, for the trees intended, see the comment on that passage). To beautify the place of my sanctuary. Not with "avenues of cedars and plane trees leading up to it" (Delitzsch), which was a style of ornamentation quite unknown to the lie-brews; but with groves, and thickets, and sylvan glades, and wooded slopes all around it, as round the Syrian temples in the Lebanon. The place of my feet. The Jewish temple, as the special place of God's presence upon earth, was frequently termed "God's footstool" (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 99:5; Psalm 132:7; Lamentations 2:1). He that towers above the heavens had there set his foot. The metaphor is transferred to the renovated Zion.
The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
Verse 14. - The sons (i.e. descendants) also of them that afflicted thee; i.e. of the various nations that at different times oppressed and afflicted Israel - as Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Edomites, Moabites, Ammonites, etc. Shall come bending unto thee. Bowing themselves down to the new Israel - the Israel of God - as the eleven sheaves bowed themselves down to Joseph's sheaf (Genesis 37:7). At the soles of thy feet (comp. Isaiah 49:23). Shall call thee, The city of the Lord. Hitherto her enemies had bestowed on Jerusalem disparaging names, as "Forsaken," or "Desolate" (Isaiah 62:4). Now they will substitute for such names titles of honour, such as "City of Jehovah," "Zion of Israel's Holy One."
Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.
Verses 15-18. - The fourth stanza, Zion's prosperity. Verse 15. - Thou hast been forsaken and hated (comp. Isaiah 54:7; Isaiah 62:4). Zion has been a wife repudiated for her adulteries, "forsaken" by her husband, and the object of his just "hate." So that no man went through thee. The mixed metaphor is awkward, but readily intelligible. Zion is at once a city and a wife. As a wife, she is "hated and forsaken," as a city, no man goes through her. An eternal excellency (comp. Isaiah 59:21, and see the Homiletics on the passage).
Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.
Verse 16. - Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles (comp. Deuteronomy 33:19). As a child at the mother's breast, thou shall obtain kindly nourishment through the means of the Gentiles, who acknowledge thee for their superior, and place all their means at thy disposal (supra, vers. 5-11). Among these, the most liberal, and the most prompt to render aid, will be their kings (see the comment on ver. 10). Thou shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour. This clause is repeated from Isaiah 49:26. It is a phrase containing in it a mysterious depth of promise.
For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness.
Verse 17. - For brass I will bring gold; rather, for copper. "Brass" was an alloy little known to the Oriental nations. The general idea is that the glorious age of Solomon would return (1 Kings 10:21, 27), and Zion be as resplendent and as wealthy as in his time. The material splendour is, no doubt, throughout the whole description, typical in the main of spiritual glories and excellences. I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness. "Peace" and "righteousness" are here personified; and the declaration is that they shall bear rule in the community whereof the prophet is speaking (comp, Isaiah 32:16, 17).
Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.
Verse 18. - Violence shall no more be heard in thy land (comp. Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 35:9). The entire cessation of war and violence is one of the most characteristic features of the "last times," when swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning-hooks. "The Prince of Peace" shall ultimately establish peace. It is not surprising that men of earnest religious feeling should have thought, at various times, that they saw the actual commencement of the reign of peace upon earth, so distinctly promised, so earnestly longed for, so necessary for the happiness of mankind. But to a calm and dispassionate observer the nineteenth century seems scarcely more advanced upon the road which leads to this desirable end than the first. Thou shall call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise. The true wall of the city will be the "salvation" of which God assures it, and the true gates will be the "praise," or renown, which it has among the nations of the earth (comp. Isaiah 26:1).
The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.
Verses 19-22. - The fifth stanza. Zion's crowning glories. Verse 19. - The sun shall be no more thy light by day. Here Isaiah anticipates one of the most sublime thoughts in the Revelation of St. John the Divine, viz. that the heavenly Jerusalem, illuminated perpetually by the radiance of the Divine Presence, shall need neither light of the sun by day, nor of the moon by night, but shall be sufficiently illumined by the direct and primary light which streams down upon it from God himself. Whether the sun and moon will continue to exist or not is beyond the prophet's ken - he makes no announcement on the subject; sufficient for him that the redeemed bask perpetually in a Divine radiance shed upon them by the "Father of lights" (see Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5). The germ of the idea appears in the earlier prophecies (Isaiah 24:23). For brightness; rather, for illumination. The Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light. God is "the Father of lights" (James 1:17) - "the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (John 1:9). All other light is but his shadow and his reflex - his creature (Genesis 1:3) - therefore perishable, not to be reckoned on for continuance (Psalm 102:26; Hebrews 1:11). But God abides; therefore his light will abide. He is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8). And thy God thy glory (comp. Zechariah 2:5). God will not only be the Light of the Church, but her "Glory" and boast. As the Shechinah was the glory of the first, so "the eternal unchangeable light of Jehovah, with its peaceful gentleness and perfect purity" (Delitzsch), will be the glory of the final temple.
Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.
Verse 20. - Thy sun... thy moon. That which is to thee instead of sun and moon - Jehovah's brightness. The days of thy mourning shall be ended. Till the new Jerusalem descends from heaven (Revelation 21:2), and Christ reigns personally over his people (Revelation 22:5), the Church is always, more or less, in a state of mourning. The Bridegroom is away (Matthew 9:15); his light shines upon his Church only by snatches; his Church feels itself unworthy of him - cold, unloving, stained with sin. Fasting, weeping, and mourning befit such a state of things. But in the final condition of the redeemed their mourning shall be ended, "sorrow and sighing shall have fled away" (Isaiah 35:10); God shall have "wiped away all tears from their eyes" (Revelation 21:4); "There shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:4); "no more curse" (Revelation 22:3); "neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4). The days of mourning shall be ended.
Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.
Verse 21. - Thy people also shall be all righteous. Here the prophet touches the root of the matter. Pain and sorrow are the fruit of sin. Once let sin disappear, and sorrow goes with it. It is the foundation of all the glory and all the happiness of the redeemed in their Lord's final kingdom, that they are cleansed from all defilement of sin, and "are as the angels" (Mark 12:25). They shall inherit the land; rather, the earth - the "new heavens and new earth" of Isaiah:17; 66:22. The branch of my planting; rather, a sprout of my planting; i.e. a sprout which I have planted.
A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.