Isaiah 61 Study Notes


61:1-3 Much debate surrounds the identity of the first-person speaker of the first three verses of this chapter. He identified himself as having the Spirit. This reference provides a connection to the servant on whom God had placed his Spirit (see note at 42:1-9). Isaiah 11:2 states of the Messiah that “the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him.” It is significant that 61:1-3 uses the language of anointing from which the word Messiah (“anointed one”) comes. Thus, it is best to consider the first-person speaker in this pronouncement to be none other than the Messiah-Servant. Jesus identified himself as the embodiment of this passage when he read these verses in a synagogue, to the amazement of all who heard him (Lk 4:16-30).

61:1 The description of this future day as one in which prisoners will be freed and the poor will receive good news associates this time with the Jubilee, where slaves were freed and land reverted to the original owners (Lv 25).

61:2 The same act can be designated as displaying the Lord’s favor as well as God’s vengeance, depending on whether a person is on God’s side or not.

61:3 This verse emphasizes the reversal of fortune (from suffering to restoration) expressed in chap. 60. The reference to God’s people as righteous trees is reminiscent of Ps 1 and is the opposite of what is said of them in Is 1:30-31.

61:4 The Babylonians devastated Jerusalem and its surrounding towns and villages in 587 BC. The pronouncement looks to the future when the cities will be restored and rebuilt.

61:5-6 Like chap. 60, this pronouncement repeats the themes of foreigners serving rather than oppressing the people of God as well as the wealth of the nations flowing to Jerusalem. The idea that all of God’s people will function as priests toward the nations points back to Ex 19:6 where God told Moses that the Israelites would be “my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.” Because of their failure to function in this way, God had brought judgment against his people.

61:7 Double portion seems to allude to the inheritance awarded to the firstborn (Gn 48:22; Dt 21:17).

61:8 According to 24:5, God’s devastating judgment had come on Israel because it had broken the permanent covenant, but now God will establish it anew with his restored people.

61:9 In the Abrahamic covenant, God promised that Abraham’s descendants would enjoy great blessing, which pointed to happiness and prosperity.

61:10 Isaiah broke out in a hymn of praise in response to the pronouncement he had just delivered. He used the theme of clothing to describe his taking on God’s salvation and righteousness. These were not just any clothes but the clothes of a bride. This image implies the metaphor of God as husband of his people.