|<< Isaiah 26 >>|
Barnes' Notes on the Bible
For the general scope and design of this chapter, see the remarks at the commencement of Isaiah 24 and Isaiah 25:1-12. It is a song of praise supposed to be sung by the Jews on their return to their own land, and in the re-establishment of the government of God with the ordinances of worship on Mount Zion. It was usual, as has been already remarked, to celebrate any great event with a song of praise, and the prophet supposes that the recovered Jews would thus be disposed to celebrate the goodness of Yahweh in again restoring them to their own land, and to the privileges of their own temple service. There are some indications that this was designed to be sung with a chorus, and with alternate responses, as many of the Psalms were. The ode opens with a view of Jerusalem as a strong city, in which they might find protection under the guardianship of God Isaiah 26:1. Then there is a response, or a call, that the gates of the strong city should be open to receive the returning nation Isaiah 26:2.
This is followed by a declaration of the safety of trusting in Yahweh, and a call on all to confide in him Isaiah 26:3-4. The reason of this is stated Isaiah 26:5-7, that Yahweh humbled the proud, and guarded the ways of the just. The confidence of the Jews in Yahweh is next described Isaiah 26:3, Isaiah 26:9; and this is followed by a declaration Isaiah 26:10-11 that the wicked would not recognize the hand of God; and by an assertion that all their deliverance had been performed by God Isaiah 26:12. This is succeeded by an acknowledgment that they had submitted to other lords than Yahweh; but that now they would submit to him alone Isaiah 26:13-14. The declaration succeeds that God had enlarged their nation Isaiah 26:15; and this is followed by a description of their calamities, and their abortive efforts to save themselves Isaiah 26:16-18. Many had died in their captivity, yet there is now the assurance that they should live again Isaiah 26:19; and a general call on the people of God to enter into their chambers, and hide themselves there until the indignation should be overpast Isaiah 26:20, with the assurance that Yahweh would come forth to punish the oppressors for their iniquity Isaiah 26:21. With this assurance the poem closes.
1In 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.
In that day shall this song be sung - By the people of God, on their restoration to their own land.
We have a strong city - Jerusalem. This does not mean that it was then strongly fortified, but that God would guard it, and that thus it would be strong. Jerusalem was easily capable of being strongly fortified Psalm 25:2; but the idea here is, that Yahweh would be a protector, and that this would constitute its strength.
Salvation will God appoint for walls - That is, he will himself be the defender of his people in the place of walls and bulwarks. A similar expression occurs in Isaiah 60:18 (see also Jeremiah 3:23, and Zechariah 2:5).
Bulwarks - This word means properly bastions, or ramparts. The original means properly a pomoerium, or antemural defense; a space without the wall of a city raised up like a small wall. The Syriac renders it, Bar shuro, - 'Son of a wall,' meaning a small wall. It was usually a breastwork, or heap of earth thrown up around the city, that constituted an additional defense, so that if they were driven from that they could retreat within the walls.
2Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.
Open ye the gates - This is probably the language of a chorus responding to the sentiment in Isaiah 26:1. The captive people are returning; and this cry is made that the gates of the city may be thrown open, and that they may be permitted to enter without obstruction (compare Psalm 24:7, Psalm 24:9; Psalm 118:19).
That the righteous nation which keepeth the truth - Who, during their long captivity and contact with pagan nations, have not apostatized from the true religion, but have adhered firmly to the worship of the true God. This was doubtless true of the great body of the captive Jews in Babylon.
3Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Thou wilt keep him - The following verses to Isaiah 26:11, contain moral and religious reflections, and seem designed to indicate the resignation evinced by the 'righteous nation' during their long afflictions. Their own feelings they are here represented as uttering in the form of general truths to be sources of consolation to others.
In perfect peace - Hebrew as in the Margin, 'Peace, peace;' the repetition of the word denoting, as is usual in Hebrew, emphasis, and here evidently meaning undisturbed, perfect peace. That is, the mind that has confidence in God shall not be agitated by the trials to which it shall be subject; by persecution, poverty, sickness, want, or bereavement. The inhabitants of Judea had been borne to a far distant land. They had been subjected to reproaches and to scorn Psalm 137:1-9; had been stripped of their property and honor; and had been reduced to the condition of prisoners and captives. Yet their confidence in God had not been shaken. They still trusted in him; still believed that he could and would deliver them. Their mind was, therefore, kept in entire peace. So it was with the Redeemer when he was persecuted and maligned (1 Peter 2:23; compare Luke 23:46). And so it has been with tens of thousands of the confessors and martyrs, and of the persecuted and afflicted people of God, who have been enabled to commit their cause to him, and amidst the storms of persecution, and even in the prison and at the stake, have been kept in perfect peace.
Whose mind is stayed on thee - Various interpretations have been given of this passage, but our translation has probably hit upon the exact sense. The word which is rendered 'mind' (יצר yētser) is derived from יצר yâtsar to form, create, devise; and it properly denotes that which is formed or made Psalm 103:14; Isaiah 29:16, Hebrews 2:18. Then it denotes anything that is formed by the mind - its thoughts, imaginations, devices Genesis 8:21; Deuteronomy 31:21. Here it may mean the thoughts themselves, or the mind that forms the thoughts. Either interpretation suits the connection, and will make sense. The expression, 'is stayed on thee,' in the Hebrew does not express the idea that the mind is stayed on God, though that is evidently implied. The Hebrew is simply, whose mind is stayed, supported (סמוּך sâmûk); that is, evidently, supported by God. There is no other support but that; and the connection requires us to understand this of him.
4Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
Trust ye in the Lord for ever - The sense is, 'Let your confidence in God on no occasion fail. Let no calamity, no adversity, no persecution, no poverty, no trial of any kind, prevent your reposing entire confidence in him.' This is spoken evidently in view of the fact stated in the previous verse, that the mind that is stayed on him shall have perfect peace.
For in the Lord Jehovah - 'This is one of the four places where our translators have retained the original word Yahweh (compare Exodus 6:3; Psalm 133:1-3 :18; the notes at Isaiah 12:2). The original is יהוה ביה beyâhh yehovâh; the first word, יה yâhh, (compare Psalm 68:4), being merely an abridged form of Yahweh. The same form occurs in Isaiah 12:2. The union of these two forms seems designed to express, in the highest sense possible, the majesty, glory, and holiness of God; to excite the highest possible reverence where language fails of completely conveying the idea.
Is everlasting strength - Hebrew as in the Margin, 'The rock of ages;' a more poetic and beautiful expression than in our translation. The idea is, that God is firm and unchangeable like an eternal rock; and that in him we may find protection and defense for everlasting ages (see Deuteronomy 32:4, et al.; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:32, 2 Samuel 22:47; 2 Samuel 23:3; Psalm 18:31; Psalm 19:14; Psalm 28:1; Psalm 42:9; Psalm 62:2, Psalm 62:6-7, ..., where God is called 'a rock').
5For 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.
The lofty city, he layeth it low - The city of Babylon (see the note at Isaiah 25:12; compare Isaiah 13, note; Isaiah 14:1, note)
6The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor, and the steps of the needy.
The foot shall tread it down, even the feet of the poor - That is, evidently, those who had been despised by them, and who had been overcome and oppressed by them. The obvious reference here is to the Jews who had been captives there. The idea is not necessarily that the 'poor' referred to here I would be among the conquerors, but that when the Babylonians should be overcome, and their city destroyed, those who were then oppressed should be in circumstances of comparative prosperity. No doubt the Jews, who in subsequent times traveled to the site of Babylon for purposes of traffic, would trample indignantly on the remains of the city where their fathers were captives for seventy years, and would exult in the idea that their own once down-trodden city Jerusalem was in a condition of comparative prosperity. That there were many Jews in Babylon after that city began to decline from its haughtiness and grandeur, we learn expressly from both Philo and Josephus. Thus Philo (De Legatione ad Caium, p. 792) says, that 'it is known that Babylon and many other satraps were possessed by the Jews, not only by rumour, but by experience.' So Josephus (Ant. xv. 2.) says, that there were in the time of Hyrcanus many Jews at Babylon.
7The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.
The way of the just is uprightness - The Hebrew is literally, 'The way to the just is uprightness;' the word 'way' probably refers to God's way, or his dealings with the righteous. The sentiment is, that his dealings with them are just; that though they are afflicted and oppressed, yet that his ways are right, and they will yet perceive it. This is language supposed to be used by the captive Jews after they had seen the proud city of Babylon taken, and after God had come forth to restore them to their own land. The word 'uprightness' in the original is in the plural number, but is often used in the sense of straightness Proverbs 23:31; Sol 7:10; of sincerity, or uprightness Sol 1:4; or of righteousness as a judge Psa 9:9; Psalm 58:2; Psalm 99:4.
Thou most upright - Evidently an address to God, as being most just, and as having now evinced his uprightness in the deliverance of his people. The same epithet is applied to him in Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 25:8; Psalm 92:16.
Dost weigh the path of the just - The word used here (פלס pâlac) may mean to weigh as in a balance Psalm 58:3; but it may also mean, and does usually, to make straight or smooth; to beat a path; to make level Psalm 78:50; Proverbs 4:26; Proverbs 5:21. Here it probably means, that God had made the way smooth, or exactly level. He had removed all obstacles, and had conducted his people in a plain and leveled way (see the notes at Isaiah 40:3-4).
8Yea, 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.
Yea, in the way of thy judgements - The word 'judgments' often refers to the statutes or laws of God. But it may also refer to the afflictions and trials with which he visits or judges people; the punishments which they endure for their sins. In which sense the word is used here it is not easy to determine. Lowth understands it of the 'laws' of Yahweh. So Kimchi, who says that the sense is, that during their captivity and trials, they had not remitted anything of their love and piety toward God. I am inclined to the belief that this is the true interpretation, because in the corresponding member of the parallelism they are represented as saying that the desire of their soul was to God, and to the remembrance of him, implying that they sought by an observance of his laws to please him, and to secure his favor.
The desire of our soul is to thy name - The word 'name' is used here, as it is often, to denote God himself. They desired that he would come and deliver them; they earnestly wished that he would manifest himself to them as their friend.
And to the remembrance of thee - The word 'remembrance' (זכר zēker) is often equivalent to name, appellation, or that by which anyone is remembered, or known. Thus Exodus 3:15 :
This is my name for ever;
And this is my memorial זכרי zikeriy unto all generations.
So Psalm 30:4 :
Sing unto Yahweh, O ye saints of his;
And give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness;
That is, at his holy memorial (Margin,) or name. In the place before us it seems to be used in the sense of name or appellation; that is, that by which God would be remembered or known.
9With 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.
With my soul ... in the night - By desiring God in the night, and by seeking him early, is meant that the desire to seek him was unremitted and constant. The prophet speaks of the pious Jews who were in captivity in Babylon; and says that it was the object of their unremitted anxiety to please God, and to do his will.
For when thy judgments are in the earth - This is given as a reason for what had just been said, that in their calamity they had sought God without ceasing. The reason is, that the punishments which he inflicted were intended to lead people to learn righteousness. The sentiment is expressed in a general form, though there is no doubt that the immediate reference is to the calamities which the Jews had suffered in their removal to Babylon as a punishment for their sins.
Learn righteousness - The design is to warn, to restrain, and to reform them. The immediate reference here was undoubtedly to the Jews, in whom this effect was seen in a remarkable manner in their captivity in Babylon. But it is also true of other nations; and though the effect of calamity is not always to turn a people to God, or to make them permanently righteous, yet it restrains them, and leads them at least to an external reformation, It is also true in regard to nations as well as individuals, that they make a more decided advance in virtue and piety in days of affliction than in the time of great external prosperity (compare Deuteronomy 6:11-12).
10Let 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.
Let favor be showed to the wicked - This is designed as an illustration of the sentiment in the previous verse - that judgments were needful in order that wicked people might be brought to the ways of righteousness. The truth is general, that though wicked people are favored with success in their enterprises, yet the effect will not be to lead them to the ways of virtue and religion. How often is this illustrated in the conduct of wicked people! How often do they show, when rolling in wealth, or when surrounded with the comforts of the domestic circle, that they feel no need of the friendship of God, and that their heart has no response of gratitude to make for all his mercies! Hence, the necessity, according to the language of the song before us, that God should take away their property, remove their friends, or destroy their health, in order that they may be brought to honor him. To do this, is benevolence in God, for whatever is needful to bring the sinner to the love of God and to the ways of virtue, is kindness to his soul.
In the land of uprightness - Even when others are just and pious around him; when this is so much the general characteristic that it may be called 'the land of integrity,' yet he will pursue his way of iniquity, though in it he may be solitary. Such is his love of sin, that neither the favor of God nor the general piety around him - neither the mercy of his Maker nor the influence of holy examples, will lead him in the way of piety and truth.
Will not behold the majesty of the Lord - Will not see that which makes the Lord glorious in his dealings with people, so as to love and adore him. He is blind, and sees no evidence of loveliness in the character of God.
11LORD, 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.
Lord, when thy hand is lifted up - This is an explanation of the sentiment expressed in the former verse. The lifting up of the hand here refers, doubtless, to the manifestations of the majesty and goodness of the Lord.
They will not see - They are blind to all the exhibitions of power, mercy, and goodness.
But they shall see - They shall yet be brought to recognize thy hand. They shall see thy favor toward thy children, and thy judgment on thy foes. The divine dealings will be such that they shall be constrained to recognize him, and to acknowledge his existence and perfections.
And be ashamed - Be confounded because they did not sooner recognize the divine goodness.
For their envy at thy people - The word 'their' is not in the Hebrew, and the sense is, that they shall see the zeal of Yahweh in behalf of his people, and shall be ashamed that they did not sooner recognize his hand. The word rendered 'envy' (קנאה qin'âh) may mean envy Ecclesiastes 4:4; Ecclesiastes 9:6, but it more properly and frequently means zeal, ardor, 2 Kings 10:16; Isaiah 9:6).
Yea, the fire of thine enemies shall devour them - Or rather, 'Yea, the fire in regard to thy enemies shall devour them.' The sense is, that when his people were delivered, his foes would be destroyed; his zeal for his people would also be connected with indignation against his foes. The deliverance of his people from Babylon, and the commencement of the downfall of that city, were simultaneous, and the cause was the same.
12LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.
Thou wilt ordain peace - The word 'peace' here seems to stand opposed to the evils of various kinds which they had experienced in the captivity at Babylon; and to refer net only to peace, but also to prosperity, and to the continued divine favor.
For thou hast wrought all our works in us - Or rather, 'for us' (לנוּ lânû). It is owing to thy hand that we are saved.
13O LORD our God, other lords beside thee have had dominion over us: but by thee only will we make mention of thy name.
Other lords beside thee have had dominion - The allusion here is to the kings of Babylon who had subdued and oppressed them, and who in their long captivity had held them in subjection to their laws.
But by thee only will we make mention of thy name - This may be better rendered, 'but only thee, thy name will we henceforward commemorate.' The words 'by thee,' and 'thy name,' are put in apposition, and denote the same thing. The word 'make mention' (נזכיר nazekiyr) means literally to cause to be remembered; to commemorate; to celebrate. The idea is, that during their long captivity they had been subject to the dominion of other lords than Yahweh; but now that they were restored to their own land, they would acknowledge only Yahweh as their Lord, and would henceforward celebrate only his name.
14They 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.
They are dead - That is, the kings and tyrants to whom reference is made in Isaiah 26:13. The principal enemies of the Jews, who had oppressed them, were slain when Babylon was taken by Cyrus (see the notes at Isaiah 13; 14)
They shall not live - They shall not again live, and be permitted to harass and enslave us.
They are deceased - Hebrew, רפאים repâ'iym - a name given to the shades or manes of the dead, from an idea that they were weak and powerless (see the notes at Isaiah 14:9-10; compare Psalm 88:11; Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 21:16). The sense here is, that they had died and gone to the land of shades, and were now unable anymore to reach or injure the people of God.
Therefore - Or rather, "for"; the word לכן lākên being used evidently in the sense of because that, as in Genesis 38:26; Numbers 11:31; Numbers 14:13; Psalm 42:7; Psalm 45:3. The declaration that follows is given as the reason why they were dead, and incapable of again injuring or annoying them.
Hast thou visited ... - (see the note at Isaiah 24:22) The word 'visit' here is used in the sense of to punish.
And made all their memory to perish - Hast blotted out their name; hast caused their celebrity to cease.
15Thou 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.
Thou hast increased the nation - That is, the Jewish nation (see the note at Isaiah 9:3). The nation was not only enlarged by its regular increase of population, but many converts attended them on their return from Babylon, and probably many came in from surrounding nations on the rebuilding of their capital.
Thou hadst removed it far ... - Or rather, thou hast extended far all the borders of the land. The word rendered 'removed' (רחק râchaq) means usually to put far away, and here it may mean to put far away the borders or boundaries of the nation; that is, to extend them far. The word 'unto' is not in the original; and the phrase rendered 'ends of the earth,' may mean the borders. or boundaries of the land. The parallelism requires this construction, and it is indeed the obvious one, and has been adopted by Lowth and Noyes.
16LORD, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.
Poured out a prayer - Margin, 'Secret speech.' The Hebrew word לחשׁ lachash means properly a whispering, muttering; and thru a sighing, a calling for help. This is the sense here. In their calamity they sighed, and called on God for help.
17Like 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.
Like as a woman with child ... - This verse is designed to state their griefs and sorrows during the time of their oppression in Babylon. The comparison used here is one that is very frequent in the sacred writings to represent any great suffering (see Psalm 48:6; Jeremiah 6:24; Jeremiah 13:21; Jeremiah 22:23; Jeremiah 49:24; Jeremiah 50:43; Micah 4:9-10).
18We 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.
We have been ... - This refers to sorrows and calamities which they had experienced in former times, when they had made great efforts for deliverance, and when those efforts had proved abortive. Perhaps it refers to the efforts of this kind which they had made during their painful captivity of seventy years. There is no direct proof indeed, that during that time they attempted to revolt, or that they organized themselves for resistance to the Babylonian power; but there can be no doubt that they earnestly desired deliverance, and that their condition was one of extreme pain and anguish - a condition that is strikingly represented here by the pains of childbirth. Nay, it is not improbable that during that long period there may have been abortive efforts made at deliverance, and that here they refer to those efforts as having accomplished nothing.
We have as it were brought forth wind - Our efforts have availed nothing. Michaelis, as quoted by Lowth, explains this figure in the following manner: 'Rariorem morbum describi, empneumatosin, aut ventosam molam dictum; quo quae laborant diu et sibi, et peritis medicis gravidae videntur, tandemque post omnes verae gravitatis molestias et labores ventum ex utero emittant; quem morbum passim describunt medici.' (Syntagma Comment. vol. ii. p. 165.) Grotius thinks that the reference is to birds, 'Quae edunt ova subventanea,' and refers to Pliny x. 58. But the correct reference is, doubtless, that which is mentioned by Michaelis.
Neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen - We had no power to subdue them; and notwithstanding all our exertions their dominion was unbroken. This refers to the Babylonians who had dominion over the captive Jews.
19Thy 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.
Thy dead men shall live - Very various interpretations have been given of this verse, which may be seen at length by comparing Vitringa, Rosenmuller, Gesenius, and Poole's Synopsis. In Isaiah 26:14, the chorus is represented as saying of the dead men and tyrants of Babylon that had oppressed the captive Jews, that they should not rise, and should no more oppress the people of God. In contradistinction from this fate of their enemies, the choir is here introduced as addressing Yahweh (compare Isaiah 26:16), and saying 'thy dead shall live;' that is, thy people shall live again shall be restored to to vigor, and strength, and enjoyment. They had been dead; that is, civilly dead in Babylon; they were cut off from their privileges, torn away from their homes, made captives in a foreign land. Their king had been dethroned; their temple demolished; their princes, priests, and people made captive; their name blotted from the list of nations; and to all intents and purposes, as a people, they were deceased. This figure is one that is common, by which the loss of privileges and enjoyments, and especially of civil rights, is represented as death. So we speak now of a man's being dead in law; dead to his country; spiritually dead; dead in sins. I do not understand this, therefore, as referring primarily to the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead; but to the captives in Babylon, who were civilly dead, and cut off by their oppressors from their rights and enjoyments as a nation.
Shall live - Shall be restored to their country. and be reinstated in all their rights and immunities as a people among the nations of the earth. This restoration shall be as striking as would be the resurrection of the dead front their graves. Though, therefore, this does not refer primarily to the resurrection of the dead, yet the illustration is drawn from that doctrine, and implies that that doctrine was one with which they were familiar. An image which is employed for the sake of illustration must be one that is familiar to the mind, and the reference here to this doctrine is a demonstration that the doctrine of the resurrection was well known.
Together with my dead body shall they arise - The words 'together with' are not in the original. The words rendered 'my dead body' (נבלתי nebēlâthiy) literally means, 'my dead body,' and may be applied to a man, or to a beast Leviticus 5:2; Leviticus 7:24. It is also applied to the dead in general; to the deceased; to carcasses, or dead bodies (see Leviticus 11:11; Psalm 79:2; Jeremiah 7:33; Jeremiah 9:22; Jeremiah 16:18; Jeremiah 26:23; Jeremiah 34:20). It may, therefore, be rendered, 'My deceased, my dead;' and will thus be parallel with the phrase 'thy dead men,' and is used with reference to the same species of resurrection. It is not the language of the prophet Isaiah, as if he referred to his own body when it should be dead, but it is the language of the choir that sings and speaks in the name of the Jewish people. "That people" is thus introduced as saying "my" dead, that is, "our" dead, shall rise. Not only in the address to Yahweh is this sentiment uttered when it is said 'thy dead shall rise,' but when the attention is turned to themselves as a people, they say 'our dead shall rise;' those that pertain to our nation shall rise from the dust, and be restored to their own privileges and land.
Awake and sing - In view of the cheering and consolatory fact just stated that the dead shall rise, the chorus calls on the people to awake and rejoice. This is an address made directly to the dejected and oppressed people, as if the choir were with them.
Ye that dwell in dust - To sit in dust, or to dwell in the dust, is emblematic of a state of dejection, want, oppression, or poverty Psalm 44:25; Psalm 119:25; Isaiah 25:12; Isaiah 26:5; Isaiah 47:1. Here it is supposed to be addressed to the captives in Babylon, as oppressed, enslaved, dejected. The "language" is derived from the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and proves that that doctrine was understood and believed; the sense is, that those wire were thus dejected and humbled should be restored to their former elevated privileges.
For thy dew - This is evidently an address to Yahweh. "His" dew is that which he sends down from heaven, and which is under his direction and control. Dew is the emblem of that which refreshes and vivifies. In countries where it rains but seldom, as it does in the East, the copious dews at night supply in some sense the want of rain. "Thence dew" is used in Scripture as an emblem of the graces and influences of the Spirit of God by which his people are cheered and comforted, as the parched earth and the withered herbs are refreshed by the copious dews at night. Thus in Hosea 14:5 :
I will be as the dew unto Israel;
He shall grow as the lily,
And cast forth his roots as Lebanon.
The prophet here speaks of the captivity in Babylon. Their state is represented as a state of death - illustrated by the parched earth, and the decayed and withered herbs. But his grace and favor would visit them, and they would be revived.
As the dew of herbs - As the dew that falls on herbs. This phrase has, however, been rendered very variously. The Vulgate renders it, 'Thy dew is as the dew of light.' The Septuagint: 'Thy dew shall be healing (ἴαμα iama) unto them.' The Chaldee, 'Thy dew shall be the dew of light.' But the most correct and consistent translation is undoubtedly that which renders the word אורת 'ôroth, herbs or vegetables (compare 2 Kings 9:19).
And the earth shall cast out the dead - This is language which is derived from the doctrine of the resurrection of the body; and shows also that that doctrine was understood by the Hebrews in the time of Isaiah. The sense is, that as the earth shall cast forth its dead in the resurrection, so the people of God in Babylon should be restored to life, and to their former privileges in their own land.
20Come, 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.
Come, my people - This is an epilogue (Rosenmuller), in which the choir addresses the people, and entreats them to be tranquil during that convulsion by which their oppressors would be punished, and the way made for their deliverance. The image is taken from seeking a shelter when a storm rages, until its fury is spent. The address is to the captive Jews in Babylon. The tempest that would rage would be the wars and commotions by which Babylon was to be overthrown. While that storm raged, they were exhorted to be calm and serene.
Enter thou into thy chambers - Into places of retirement, where the storm of indignation on your enemies shall not reach or affect you.
Hide thyself as it were ... - Do not mingle in the scenes of battle, lest you should partake of the general calamity.
For a little moment - Implying that the war would not rage long. Babylon was taken in a single night (see the notes at Isaiah 13; 14), and the call here is for the people of God to be calm while this battle should rage in which the city should be taken.
Until the indignation ... - Not, as Lowth supposes, the indignation of God against his people, but the storm of his indignation against their enemies the Babylonians. That would be soon 'overpast,' the city would be taken, the storms of war would cease to rage, and then they would be delivered, and might safely return to their own land.
21For, 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.
For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place - That is, from heaven, which is the dwelling-place or residence of God Psalm 115:3; Ezekiel 3:12; Micah 1:3. When God executes vengeance, he is represented as coming from his abode, his dwelling-place, his capitol, as a monarch goes forth to war to destroy his foes.
To punish the inhabitants of the earth - The land of Chaldea, or of Babylon.
The earth also shall disclose her blood - Blood, in the Scriptures, often denotes "guilt." The sense here is, that the land of Chaldea would reveal its guilt; that is, the punishment which God would inflict would be a revelation of the crimes of the nation. There is a resemblance here to the language which was used respecting the blood of Abel, Genesis 4:10 : 'The voice of thy brother's blood (Hebrew as here, "bloods") crieth unto me from the ground.
And shall no more cover her slain - Shall no more be able to conceal its guilt in slaying the people of God. By these hopes, the Jews were to be comforted in their calamity; and no doubt this song was penned by Isaiah long before that captivity, in order that, in the midst of their protracted and severe trials, they might be consoled with the hope of deliverance, and might know what to do when the storms of war should rage around the place of their captivity, and when the proud city was to fall. They were not to mingle in the strife; were to take no part with either their foes or their deliverers; but were to be calm, gentle, peaceful, and to remember that all this was to effect their deliverance. Compare Exodus 14:13-14 : 'Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of Yahweh; Yahweh shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.' There are times when the children of God should look calmly on the conflicts of the people of this world. They should mingle with neither party, for they should remember that Yahweh presides over these agitations, and that their ultimate end is to bring deliverance to his church, and to advance the interests of his kingdom on the earth. Then they should be mild, gentle, prayerful; and should look up to God to make all these agitations and strifes the means of advancing the interests of his kingdom.