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Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
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CHAPTER 51

Isa 51:1-23. Encouragement to the Faithful Remnant of Israel to Trust in God for Deliverance, Both from Their Long Babylonian Exile, and from Their Present Dispersion.

1. me—the God of your fathers.

ye … follow after righteousness—the godly portion of the nation; Isa 51:7 shows this (Pr 15:9; 1Ti 6:11). "Ye follow righteousness," seek it therefore from Me, who "bring it near," and that a righteousness "not about to be abolished" (Isa 51:6, 7); look to Abraham, your father (Isa 51:2), as a sample of how righteousness before Me is to be obtained; I, the same God who blessed him, will bless you at last (Isa 51:3); therefore trust in Me, and fear not man's opposition (Isa 51:7, 8, 12, 13). The mistake of the Jews, heretofore, has been, not in that they "followed after righteousness," but in that they followed it "by the works of the law," instead of "by faith," as Abraham did (Ro 9:31, 32; 10:3, 4; 4:2-5).

hole of … pit—The idea is not, as it is often quoted, the inculcation of humility, by reminding men of the fallen state from which they have been taken, but that as Abraham, the quarry, as it were (compare Isa 48:1), whence their nation was hewn, had been called out of a strange land to the inheritance of Canaan, and blessed by God, the same God is able to deliver and restore them also (compare Mt 3:9).

2. alone—translate, "I called him when he was but one" (Eze 33:24). The argument is: the same God who had so blessed "one" individual, as to become a mighty nation (Ge 12:1; 22:7), can also increase and bless the small remnant of Israel, both that left in the Babylonish captivity, and that left in the present and latter days (Zec 14:2); "the residue" (Isa 13:8, 9).

3. For—See for the argument, see on Isa 51:2.

the garden of the Lord—restoration of the primeval paradise (Ge 2:8; Eze 28:13; Re 2:7).

melodyHebrew, "psalm." God's praises shall again be heard.

4. my people—the Jews. This reading is better than that of Gesenius: "O peoples … nations," namely, the Gentiles. The Jews are called on to hear and rejoice in the extension of the true religion to the nations; for, at the first preaching of the Gospel, as in the final age to come, it was from Jerusalem that the gospel law was, and is, to go forth (Isa 2:3).

law … judgment—the gospel dispensation and institutions (Isa 42:1, "judgment").

make … to rest—establish firmly; found.

light, &c.—(Isa 42:6).

5. righteousness … near—that is, faithful fulfilment of the promised deliverance, answering to "salvation" in the parallel clause (Isa 46:13; 56:1; Ro 10:8, 9). Ye follow after "righteousness"; seek it therefore, from Me, and you will not have far to go for it (Isa 51:1).

arms—put for Himself; I by My might.

judge—(Isa 2:3, 4; Ps 98:9).

isles, &c.—(Isa 60:9).

arm—(Ro 1:16), "the power of God unto (the Gentiles as well as the Jews) salvation."

6. (Isa 40:6, 8; Ps 102:26; Heb 1:11, 12).

vanish away—literally, "shall be torn asunder," as a garment [Maurer]; which accords with the context.

in like manner—But Gesenius, "Like a gnat"; like the smallest and vilest insect. Jerome translates, as English Version, and infers that "in like manner" as man, the heavens (that is, the sky) and earth are not to be annihilated, but changed for the better (Isa 65:17).

righteousness—My faithfully fulfilled promise (see on Isa 51:5).

7. know righteousness—(See on Isa 51:1).

8. (See on Isa 50:9; Job 4:18-20). Not that the moth eats men up, but they shall be destroyed by as insignificant instrumentality as the moth that eats a garment.

9. Impassioned prayer of the exiled Jews.

ancient days—(Ps 44:1).

Rahab—poetical name for Egypt (see on Isa 30:7).

dragonHebrew, tannin. The crocodile, an emblem of Egypt, as represented on coins struck after the conquest of Egypt by Augustus; or rather here, "its king," Pharaoh (see on Isa 27:1; Ps 74:13, 14; Eze 32:2, Margin; Eze 29:3).

10. it—the arm.

Art not Thou the same Almighty power that … ? dried the sea—the Red Sea (Isa 43:16; Ex 14:21).

11. (Isa 35:10).

Therefore—assurance of faith; or else the answer of Jehovah corresponding to their prayer. As surely as God redeemed Israel out of Egypt, He shall redeem them from Babylon, both the literal in the age following, and mystical in the last ages (Re 18:20, 21). There shall be a second exodus (Isa 11:11-16; 27:12, 13).

singing—image from the custom of singing on a journey when a caravan is passing along the extended plains in the East.

everlasting joy—(Jude 24).

sorrow … flee away—(Re 21:4).

12. comforteth—(Isa 51:3; Isa 40:1).

thou—Zion.

son of man—frail and dying as his parent Adam.

be made as grass—wither as grass (Isa 40:6, 7).

13. (Isa 40:12, 26, 28), the same argument of comfort drawn from the omnipotence of the Creator.

as if … ready, &c.—literally, "when he directs," namely, his arrow, to destroy (Ps 21:12; 7:13; 11:2) [Maurer].

14. captive exile—literally, one bowed down as a captive (Isa 10:4) [Maurer]. The scene is primarily Babylon, and the time near the close of the captivity. Secondarily, and antitypically, the mystical Babylon, the last enemy of Israel and the Church, in which they have long suffered, but from which they are to be gloriously delivered.

pit—such as were many of the ancient dungeons (compare Jer 38:6, 11, 13; Ge 37:20).

nor … bread … fail—(Isa 33:16; Jer 37:21).

15. divided … sea—the Red Sea. The same Hebrew word as "make to rest" (Isa 51:4). Rather, "that terrify the sea," that is, restrain it by My rebuke, "when its waves roar" [Gesenius]. The Hebrew favors Maurer, "that terrify the sea so that the waves roar." The sense favors Gesenius (Jer 5:22; 31:35), or English Version (Isa 51:9, 10, which favors the special reference to the exodus from Egypt).

16. Addressed to Israel, embodied in "the servant of Jehovah" (Isa 42:1), Messiah, its ideal and representative Head, through whom the elect remnant is to be restored.

put my words in thy mouth—true of Israel, the depository of true religion, but fully realized only in Israel's Head and antitype, Messiah (Isa 49:2; 50:4, 5; 59:21; De 18:18; Joh 3:34).

covered … in … shadow of … hand—protected thee (see on Isa 49:2).

plant—rather, "fix" as a tabernacle; so it ought to be rendered (Da 11:45). The "new creation," now going on in the spiritual world by the Gospel (Eph 2:10), and hereafter to be extended to the visible world, is meant (Isa 65:17; 66:22; compare Isa 13:13; 2Pe 3:10-13).

Zion—Its restoration is a leading part in the new creation to come (Isa 65:17, 19).

17. Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, &c.—(Isa 52:1).

drunk—Jehovah's wrath is compared to an intoxicating draught because it confounds the sufferer under it, and makes him fall (Job 21:20; Ps 60:3; 75:8; Jer 25:15, 16; 49:12; Zec 12:2; Re 14:10); ("poured out without mixture"; rather, "the pure wine juice mixed with intoxicating drugs").

of trembling—which produced trembling or intoxication.

wrung … out—drained the last drop out; the dregs were the sediments from various substances, as honey, dates, and drugs, put into the wine to increase the strength and sweetness.

18. Following up the image in Isa 51:17, intoxicated and confused by the cup of God's anger, she has none to guide her in her helpless state; she has not yet awakened out of the sleep caused by that draught. This cannot apply to the Babylonish captivity; for in it they had Ezekiel and Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah, as "guides," and soon awoke out of that sleep; but it applies to the Jews now, and will be still more applicable in their coming oppression by Antichrist.

19. two—classes of evils, for he enumerates four, namely, desolation and destruction to the land and state; famine and the sword to the people.

who shall be sorry for thee—so as to give thee effectual relief: as the parallel clause, "By whom shall I comfort thee?" shows (La 2:11-13).

20. head of all … streets—(La 2:19; 4:1).

wild bull—rather, "oryx" [Jerome], or gazelle [Gesenius], or wild goat [Bochart]; commonly in the East taken in a net, of a wide sweep, into which the beasts were hunted together. The streets of cities in the East often have gates, which are closed at night; a person wishing to escape would be stopped by them and caught, as a wild animal in a net.

21. drunken … not with wine—(Isa 29:9; compare Isa 51:17, 20, here; La 3:15).

22. pleadeth … cause—(Ps 35:1; Jer 50:34; Mic 7:9).

no more drink it—(Isa 54:7-9). This cannot apply to Israel after the return from Babylon, but only to them after their final restoration.

23. (Isa 49:26; Jer 25:15-29; Zec 12:2).

Bow down that … go over—Conquerors often literally trod on the necks of conquered kings, as Sapor of Persia did to the Roman emperor Valerian (Jos 10:24; Ps 18:40; 66:11, 12).

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