Isaiah 61
Pulpit Commentary
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
Verses 1-3. - THE MISSION OF THE SERVANT OF THE LORD. The words of our Lord in Luke 4:21, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears," preclude the application of this passage to any other than the Lord himself. It is simply astonishing that some Christian commentators (Ewald, Hitzig, Knobel) have not seen the force of this argument, but, with the Jews, imagine the prophet to be speaking of his own ministry. It is contrary to the entire spirit of Isaiah's writings so to glorify himself, and specially unsuitable that, after having brought forward with such emphasis the Person of "the Servant" (Isaiah 42:1-8; Isaiah 49:1-12; Isaiah 1:4-9; Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53:1-12), he should proceed to take his place, and to "ascribe to himself those very same official attributes which he has already set forth as characteristic features in his portrait of the predicted One" (Delitzsch). Hence most recent commentators, whatever their school of thought, have acquiesced in the patristic interpretation, which regarded the Servant of Jehovah as here speaking of himself. Verse 1. - The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; literally, the Spirit of the Lord Jehovah (Adonai Jehovah) is upon me. The Septuagint, the Vulgate, and one manuscript omit adonai. In the original announcement of "the Servant" it was stated that God had "put his Spirit upon him" (Isaiah 42:1). The sanctification of our Lord's human nature by the Holy Spirit is very explicitly taught in the Gospels (Matthew 1:20; Matthew 3:16; Matthew 4:1, etc.; Mark 1:10, 12; Luke 1:35; Luke 2:40; Luke 3:22; Luke 4:1, 14, 18-21, etc.; John 1:32, 33; John 3:34, etc.). The Lord hath anointed me. The "anointing" of Jesus was that sanctification of his human nature by the Holy Spirit, which commenced in the womb of the blessed Virgin (Luke 1:35), which continued as he grew to manhood (Luke 2:40, 52), which was openly manifested at his baptism, and never ceased till he took his body and soul with him into heaven. Of this spiritual anointing, all material unction, whether under the Law (Leviticus 8:10-12, 30; 1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:13; 1 Kings 1:39; 1 Kings 19:15, 16, etc.) or under the gospel (Mark 6:13; James 5:14), was symbolical or typical. To preach good tidings (comp. Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 52:7; and Nahum 1:15). Unto the meek (see Matthew 5:5; Matthew 11:29; and comp. Isaiah 11:4; Isaiah 29:19). To bind up the broken-hearted (comp. Psalm 147:3, where this is declared to be the office of Jehovah himself). "Binding up" is an ordinary expression in Isaiah's writings for "healing" (see Isaiah 1:6; Isaiah 3:7; Isaiah 30:26). To proclaim liberty to the captives. This was one of the special offices of "the Servant" (see Isaiah 42:7). The "captivity" intended is doubtless that of sin. And the opening of the prison to them that are bound. St. Luke, following the Septuagint, has, "and recovering of sight to the blind." It is thought by some that the original Hebrew text has been corrupted. Others regard the Septuagint rendering as a paraphrase.
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
Verse 2. - To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. An "acceptable year," or "year of acceptance," is a space of time during which God would be pleased to accept such as repented and turned to him. It is, of course, not intended to limit the space to a "year." The space is rather the term of our sojourn here below. The day of vengeance. The "day" of vengeance is contrasted with the "year" of acceptance, to indicate God's long-suffering and patience towards sinners (comp. Isaiah 34:8; and see also Exodus 20:5, 6). To comfort all that mourn; i.e. all who "sorrow after a godly sort" (2 Corinthians 7:11) - all who mourn their transgressions and shortcomings, their "sins, negligences, and ignorances," with a hearty desire to be rid of them, and to serve God truly in the future.
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Verse 3. - To appoint... to give. The latter expression is a correction of the former, which was not wide enough. Messiah is sent to give to the godly mourners

(1) beauty for ashes; or "a crown for ashes," i.e. a crown of glory in lieu of the ashes of repentance which it was customary to sprinkle upon the head;

(2) the oil of joy for mourning; or the anointing of the Spirit in lieu of that plenteousness of tears which naturally belonged to mourners; and

(3) the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, or a glad heart inclined to praise God, in lieu of a heavy one inclined to despair. Christian experience witnesses to the abundant accomplishment of all these purposes. That they might be called trees of righteousness; literally, oaks of righteousness, or strong and enduring plants in the garden of God, planted by him, in order that through them he might be glorified. Nothing gives so much glory to God as the proved righteousness of his saints. The planting of the Lord; i.e. "which he has planted" and caused to grow, and rendered righteous. The righteousness, though it is their own, an indwelling quality, has nevertheless come from him (comp. Isaiah 60:21).
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
Verses 4-9. - GOD'S PURPOSE OF DEALING GRACIOUSLY WITH ISRAEL. Having proclaimed the objects of his own mission, "the Servant" proceeds to declare God's gracious purposes towards Israel. Taking the Captivity period for his standpoint, he promises, first, the restoration of the cities of Judah (ver. 4), and then a flourishing time in which Jews and Gentiles shall dwell together in one community peacefully and gloriously, Israel having a certain pre-eminence (vers. 5-9). Verse 4. - They shall build the old wastes. (On the "waste" condition, not of Jerusalem only, but of the cities of Judith generally, see Isaiah 44:26; Isaiah 49:8, 19; Isaiah 64:10, 11, etc.) The first step in the recovery of Israel from the misery of the Captivity would be a return to Palestine, and a general restoration of the ruined towns. It was a ruin of "many generations," having commenced, probably, with the invasion of Pharaoh-Necho in B.C. 608, and being continued till the edict of Cyrus ( B.C. 538).
And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
Verse 5. - Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks (comp. Isaiah 14:1, 2; Isaiah 45:14; Isaiah 60:10). The Gentiles who join themselves with the Jews, and form with them one community, are constantly represented in the writings of Isaiah as occupying a subordinate position. In the New Testament, Jew and Gentile are put upon a par. Is the explanation that Isaiah assumes that the Jews generally will accept the gospel, and therefore, to some extent, retain their privileges in the new community, whereas, in fact, they rejected the gospel, and so lost their natural position (see Romans 11:7-20)? Or does Isaiah look onward to a later date? And is there to be a restoration of "Israel according to the flesh" upon their conversion, and a reinstatement of them in a position of privilege? Such a condition of things seems glanced at in Romans 11:23-29, and in Revelation 7:4-9; Revelation 14:1. The sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen and your vinedressers. Not so much compelled, like the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:21-27), to perform menial offices, as undertaking them voluntarily out of good will.
But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
Verse 6. - But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord. By the covenant made at Sinai, Israel was to be "a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation" (Exodus 19:6). Had they risen to the height of their calling when our Lord and his disciples offered them salvation before offering it to the Gentiles, they might have "been in the midst of the heathen who had entered into the congregation of Jehovah and become the people of God, what the Aaronites farmerly were in the midst of Israel itself" (Delitzsch). Will they ever now obtain this position? Ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles (comp. Isaiah 60:5-9 and 16). The Gentiles, when they came in, would freely offer to the Church of their substance.
For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
Verse 7. - For your shame ye shall have double. Instead of the shame and confusion of face which were the portion of Israel during the Captivity (see Isaiah 51:7, 23; Isaiah 54:4; Daniel 9:7, 8, etc.), they should after their restoration to Palestine "have double" their former glory and double their former territory. An increase of territory had been already prophesied (Isaiah 49:18-21) - an increase which, however, was not so much an extension of the bounds of Palestine as a spread of the Church over the whole earth (comp. Zechariah 9:12). For confusion; rather, as for disgrace. So far from feeling disgraced, they will rejoice, or exult, in their portion; i.e. in the territory assigned them. It will be ample; and their life in it will be one of everlasting joy. The speaker passes on in his thought to the time of the "new heavens and the new earth," which he regards as continuous with that of Israel's return.
For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
Verse 8. - For I the Lord love judgment. Either "the Servant" here identifies himself with Jehovah, or he cites a declaration of Jehovah which he has authority to announce. Jehovah will restore the Israelites to their land because he "loves judgment" (equivalent to "justice") and hates injustice. The Babylonian conquest, though a judgment sent by him, is, so far as the Babylonians are concerned, a wrong and a "robbery." I hate robbery for burnt offering; rather, I hate robbery with wickedness (comp. Job 5:16; Psalm 58:3; Psalm 64:7; 92:16). The transplantation of nations was a gross abuse of the rights of conquest. I will direct their work in truth; rather, I will give them their recompense faithfully. As they have been wronged, they shall be righted; they shall be faithfully and exactly compensated for what they have suffered. Nay, more - over and above this, God will give them the blessing of an "everlasting covenant" (comp. Isaiah 55:3).
And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.
Verse 9. - Their seed shall be known; or, shall be illustrious (Lowth), renowned (Cheyne). A halo of renown still, in the eyes of many, attaches to Jewish descent. Among the people; rather, among the peoples. The seed which the Lord hath blessed; rather, a seed. The blessing has passed in the main to "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16).
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
Verses 10, 11. - JERUSALEM ACCEPTS THE PROMISES, AND GLORIES IN JEHOVAH. So the Targum and Rosenmuller. Others think that "the Servant" is still speaking, or that Isaiah speaks in the name of the people. To us the exposition of the Targum appears the most satisfactory. It is in the manner of Isaiah suddenly to introduce a new speaker. Verse 10. - I will greatly rejoice in the Lord (comp. Habakkuk 3:18). The promises made were such as naturally to call forth on the part of Israel the most heartfelt joy and rejoicing - including, as they did, restoration, rule over the Gentiles, a universal priesthood, a wide territory, "everlasting joy," a high renown, and an "everlasting covenant. He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation (comp. Isaiah 59:17 and Isaiah 61:3). The metaphor occurs also in the Psalms (Psalm 71:6; Psalm 109:18). God clothes Israel with "righteousness" derived from himself (Isaiah 54:17, ad fin.), and then with its natural consequence - "salvation." The result is to make Israel as a bridegroom who decketh himself with a priestly crown, and as a bride who adornoth herself with her jewels. That bridegrooms ordinarily wore crowns appears from the Mishna.
For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
Verse 11. - As the garden; rather, as a garden. The Hebrew is without the article. Righteousness and praise. The essential result of righteousness is "salvation" (see ver. 20); its accidental result is "praise" or "renown." Men cannot but recognize the benefits which flow to themselves from goodness in others; and a perfectly righteous nation would attract to itself universal praise (comp. Zephaniah 3:20, "I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord ").

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