The welcome news of Christ's kingdom. (1-12) The humiliation of the Messiah. (13-15)
Verses 1-12 The gospel proclaims liberty to those bound with fears. Let those weary and heavy laden under the burden of sin, find relief in Christ, shake themselves from the dust of their doubts and fears, and loose themselves from those bands. The price paid by the Redeemer for our salvation, was not silver or gold, or corruptible things, but his own precious blood. Considering the freeness of this salvation, and how hurtful to temporal comfort sins are, we shall more value the redemption which is in Christ. Do we seek victory over every sin, recollecting that the glory of God requires holiness in every follower of Christ? The good news is, that the Lord Jesus reigns. Christ himself brought these tidings first. His ministers proclaim these good tidings: keeping themselves clean from the pollutions of the world, they are beautiful to those to whom they are sent. Zion's watchmen could scarcely discern any thing of God's favour through the dark cloud of their afflictions; but now the cloud is scattered, they shall plainly see the performance. Zion's waste places shall then rejoice; all the world will have the benefit. This is applied to our salvation by Christ. Babylon is no place for Israelites. And it is a call to all in the bondage of sin and Satan, to use the liberty Christ has proclaimed. They were to go with diligent haste, not to lose time nor linger; but they were not to go with distrustful haste. Those in the way of duty, are under God's special protection; and he that believes this, will not hasten for fear.
Verses 13-15 Here begins that wonderful, minute, and faithful description of the office, character, and glory of the Messiah, which has struck conviction to many of the most hardened unbelievers. Christ is Wisdom itself; in the work of our redemption there appeared the wisdom of God in a mystery. Those that saw him, said, Surely never man looked so miserable: never was sorrow like unto his sorrow. But God highly exalted him. That shall be discovered by the gospel of Christ, which could never be told in any other way. And Christ having once shed his blood for sinners, its power still continues. May all opposers see the wisdom of ceasing from their opposition, and be made partakers of the blood of sprinkling, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost; obeying him, and praising his salvation.
Isaiah 52:1-15 . FIRST THROUGH THIRTEEN VERSES CONNECTED WITH FIFTY-FIRST CHAPTER.
Zion long in bondage ( Isaiah 51:17-20 ) is called to put on beautiful garments appropriate to its future prosperity.
1. strength--as thy adornment; answering to "beautiful garments" in the parallel clause. Arouse thyself from dejection and assume confidence.
the holy city--( Nehemiah 11:1 , Revelation 21:2 ).
no more . . . unclean--( Isaiah 35:8 , 60:21 , Joel 3:17 , Revelation 21:27 ). A prophecy never yet fulfilled.
uncircumcised--spiritually ( Ezekiel 44:9 , Acts 7:51 ).
2. from the dust--the seat of mourners ( Job 2:12 Job 2:13 ).
arise, and sit--namely, in a more dignified place: on a divan or a throne [LOWTH], after having shaken off the dust gathered up by the flowing dress when seated on the ground; or simply, "Arise, and sit erect" [MAURER].
bands of . . . neck--the yoke of thy captivity.
3. As you became your foes' servants, without their paying any price for you ( Jeremiah 15:13 ), so they shall release you without demanding any price or reward ( Isaiah 45:13 ), (where Cyrus is represented as doing so: a type of their final restoration gratuitously in like manner). So the spiritual Israel, "sold under sin," gratuitously ( Romans 7:14 ), shall be redeemed also gratuitously ( Isaiah 55:1 ).
4. My people--Jacob and his sons.
went down--Judea was an elevated country compared with Egypt.
sojourn--They went there to stay only till the famine in Canaan should have ceased.
Assyrian--Sennacherib. Remember how I delivered you from Egypt and the Assyrian; what, then, is to prevent Me from delivering you out of Babylon (and the mystical Babylon and the Antichrist in the last days)?
without cause--answering to "for naught" in Isaiah 52:5 ; it was an act of gratuitous oppression in the present case, as in that case.
5. what have I here--that is, what am I called on to do? The fact "that My people is taken away (into captivity; Isaiah 49:24 Isaiah 49:25 ) for naught" (by gratuitous oppression, Isaiah 52:4 ; also Isaiah 52:3 , demands My interposition.
they that rule--or "tyrannize," namely, Babylon, literal and mystical.
make . . . to howl--or, raise a cry of exultation over them [MAURER].
blasphemed--namely, in Babylon: God's reason for delivering His people, not their goodness, but for the sake of His holy name ( Ezekiel 20:9 Ezekiel 20:14 ).
6. shall know in that day--when Christ shall reveal Himself to Israel sensibly; the only means whereby their obstinate unbelief shall be overcome ( Psalms 102:16 , Zechariah 12:10 , 14:5 ).
7. beautiful . . . feet--that is, The advent of such a herald seen on the distant "mountains" running in haste with the long-expected good tidings, is most grateful to the desolated city ( Nahum 1:15 ).
good tidings--only partially applying to the return from Babylon. Fully, and antitypically, the Gospel ( Luke 2:10 Luke 2:11 ), "beginning at Jerusalem" ( Luke 24:17 ), "the city of the great King" ( Matthew 5:35 ), where Messiah shall, at the final restoration of Israel, "reign" as peculiarly Zion's God ("Thy God reigneth"; compare Psalms 2:6 ).
8. watchmen--set on towers separated by intervals to give the earliest notice of the approach of any messenger with tidings (compare Isaiah 21:6-8 ). The Hebrew is more forcible than English Version, "The voice of thy watchmen" (exclamatory as in Solomon 2:8 ). "They lift up their voice! together they sing."
eye to eye--that is, close at hand, and so clearly [GESENIUS]; Numbers 14:14 , "face to face"; Numbers 12:8 , "mouth to mouth." Compare 1 Corinthians 13:12 , Revelation 22:4 , of which Simeon's sight of the Saviour was a prefiguration ( Luke 2:30 ). The watchmen, spiritually, are ministers and others who pray for the peace of Jerusalem ( Isaiah 62:6 Isaiah 62:7 ),
bring again--that is, restore. Or else, "return to" [MAURER].
9. ( Isaiah 14:7 Isaiah 14:8 , 42:11 ).
redeemed--spiritually and nationally ( Isaiah 48:20 ).
10. made bare . . . arm--metaphor from warriors who bare their arm for battle ( Ezekiel 4:7 ).
all . . . earth . . . see . . . salvation of . . . God--The deliverance wrought by God for Israel will cause all nations to acknowledge the Lord ( Isaiah 66:18-20 ). The partial fulfilment ( Luke 3:6 ) is a forerunner of the future complete fulfilment.
11. ( Isaiah 48:20 , Zechariah 2:6 Zechariah 2:7 ). Long residence in Babylon made many loath to leave it: so as to mystical Babylon ( Revelation 18:4 ).
ye . . . that bear . . . vessels of the Lord--the priests and Levites, whose office it was to carry the vessels of the temple ( Jeremiah 27:18 ). Nebuchadnezzar had carried them to Babylon ( 2 Chronicles 36:18 ). Cyrus restored them ( Ezra 1:7-11 ).
be . . . clean--by separating yourselves wholly from Babylonian idolaters, mystical and literal.
12. not . . . with haste--as when ye left Egypt ( Exodus 12:33 Exodus 12:39 , Deuteronomy 16:3 ; compare Note, Ye shall have time to cleanse yourselves and make deliberate preparation for departure.
Lord--Jehovah, as your Leader in front ( Isaiah 40:3 , Exodus 23:20 , Micah 2:13 ).
rereward--literally, "gather up," that is, to bring up the rear of your host. The transition is frequent from the glory of Messiah in His advent to reign, to His humiliation in His advent to suffer. Indeed, so are both advents accounted one, that He is not said, in His second coming, to be about to return, but to come.
13. Here the fifty-third chapter ought to begin, and the fifty-second chapter end with Isaiah 52:12 . This section, from here to end of the fifty-third chapter settles the controversy with the Jews, if Messiah be the person meant; and with infidels, if written by Isaiah, or at any time before Christ. The correspondence with the life and death of Jesus Christ is so minute, that it could not have resulted from conjecture or accident. An impostor could not have shaped the course of events so as to have made his character and life appear to be a fulfilment of it. The writing is, moreover, declaredly prophetic. The quotations of it in the New Testament show: (1) that it was, before the time of Jesus, a recognized part of the Old Testament; (2) that it refers to Messiah ( Matthew 8:17 15:28 Luke 22:37 John 12:38 Acts 8:28-35 Romans 10:16 1 Peter 2:21-25 ). The indirect allusions to it still more clearly prove the Messianic interpretation; so universal was that interpretation, that it is simply referred to in connection with the atoning virtue of His death, without being formally quoted ( mark 1:1 9:12 , Romans 4:25 , 1 Corinthians 15:3 , 2 Corinthians 5:21 , 1 Peter 1:19 , 2:21-25 , 1 John 3:5 ). The genuineness of the passage is certain; for the Jews would not have forged it, since it is opposed to their notion of Messiah, as a triumphant temporal prince. The Christians could not have forged it; for the Jews, the enemies of Christianity, are "our librarians" [PALEY]. The Jews try to evade its force by the figment of two Messiahs, one a suffering Messiah (Ben Joseph), the other a triumphant Messiah (Ben David). HILLEL maintained that Messiah has already come in the person of Hezekiah. BUXTORF states that many of the modern Rabbins believe that He has been come a good while, but will not manifest Himself because of the sins of the Jews. But the ancient Jews, as the Chaldee paraphrast, Jonathan, refer it to Messiah; so the Medrasch Tauchuma (a commentary on the Pentateuch); also Rabbi Moses Haddarschan (see HENGSTENBERG, Christology of the Old Testament). Some explain it of the Jewish people, either in the Babylonish exile, or in their present sufferings and dispersion. Others, the pious portion of the nation taken collectively, whose sufferings made a vicarious satisfaction for the ungodly. Others, Isaiah, or Jeremiah [GESENIUS], the prophets collectively. But an individual is plainly described: he suffers voluntarily, innocently, patiently, and as the efficient cause of the righteousness of His people, which holds good of none other but Messiah ( Isaiah 53:4-6 Isaiah 53:9 Isaiah 53:11 ; contrast Jeremiah 20:7 , 15:10-21 , Psalms 137:8 Psalms 137:9 ). Isaiah 53:9 can hold good of none other. The objection that the sufferings ( Isaiah 53:1-10 ) referred to are represented as past, the glorification alone as future ( Isaiah 52:13-15 , Isaiah 53:11 Isaiah 53:12 ) arises from not seeing that the prophet takes his stand in the midst of the scenes which he describes as future. The greater nearness of the first advent, and the interval between it and the second, are implied by the use of the past tense as to the first, the future as to the second.
Behold--awakening attention to the striking picture of Messiah that follows (compare John 19:5 John 19:14 ).
my servant--Messiah ( Isaiah 42:1 ).
deal prudently--rather, "prosper" [GESENIUS] as the parallel clause favors ( Isaiah 53:10 ). Or, uniting both meanings, "shall reign well" [HENGSTENBERG]. This verse sets forth in the beginning the ultimate issue of His sufferings, the description of which follows: the conclusion ( Isaiah 53:12 ) corresponds; the section ( Isaiah 52:13 , 53:12 ) begins as it ends with His final glory.
extolled--elevated ( 16:19 , Ephesians 1:20-22 , 1 Peter 3:22 ).
14, 15. Summary of Messiah's history, which is set forth more in detail in the fifty-third chapter. "Just as many were astonished (accompanied with aversion, Jeremiah 18:16 , 19:8 ), &c.; his visage, &c.; so shall He sprinkle," &c.; Israel in this answers to its antitype Messiah, now "an astonishment and byword" ( Deuteronomy 28:37 ), hereafter about to be a blessing and means of salvation to many nations ( Isaiah 2:2 Isaiah 2:3 , Micah 5:7 ).
thee; his--Such changes of persons are common in Hebrew poetry.
marred--Hebrew, "disfigurement"; abstract for concrete; not only disfigured, but disfigurement itself.
more than man--CASTALIO translates, "so that it was no longer that of a man" (compare Psalms 22:6 ). The more perfect we may suppose the "body prepared" ( Hebrews 10:5 ) for Him by God, the sadder by contrast was the "marring" of His visage and form.
15. sprinkle many--GESENIUS, for the antithesis to "be astonished," translates, "shall cause . . . to exult." But the word universally in the Old Testament means either to sprinkle with blood, as the high priest makes an expiation ( Leviticus 4:6 , Leviticus 16:18 Leviticus 16:19 ); or with water, to purify ( Ezekiel 36:25 ; compare as to the Spirit, Acts 2:33 ), both appropriate to Messiah ( John 13:8 , Hebrews 9:13 Hebrews 9:14 , 10:22 , 12:24 , 1 Peter 1:2 ). The antithesis is sufficient without any forced rendering. Many were astonished; so many (not merely men, but) nations shall be sprinkled. They were amazed at such an abject person claiming to be Messiah; yet it is He who shall justify and purify. Men were dumb with the amazement of scorn at one marred more than the lowest of men, yet the highest: even kings ( Isaiah 49:7 Isaiah 49:23 ) shall be dumb with awe and veneration ("shut . . . mouths"; Job 29:9 Job 29:10 , Micah 7:16 ).
that . . . not . . . told them--the reason why kings shall so venerate them; the wonders of redemption, which had not been before told them, shall then be announced to them, wonders such as they had never heard or seen parallelled ( Isaiah 55:1 , Romans 15:21 , Romans 16:25 Romans 16:26 ).