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Judah’s Song of Victory


On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:

We have a strong city;

he sets up victory

like walls and bulwarks.


Open the gates,

so that the righteous nation that keeps faith

may enter in.


Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—

in peace because they trust in you.


Trust in the L ord forever,

for in the L ord G od

you have an everlasting rock.


For he has brought low

the inhabitants of the height;

the lofty city he lays low.

He lays it low to the ground,

casts it to the dust.


The foot tramples it,

the feet of the poor,

the steps of the needy.



The way of the righteous is level;

O Just One, you make smooth the path of the righteous.


In the path of your judgments,

O L ord, we wait for you;

your name and your renown

are the soul’s desire.


My soul yearns for you in the night,

my spirit within me earnestly seeks you.

For when your judgments are in the earth,

the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.


If favor is shown to the wicked,

they do not learn righteousness;

in the land of uprightness they deal perversely

and do not see the majesty of the L ord.


O L ord, your hand is lifted up,

but they do not see it.

Let them see your zeal for your people, and be ashamed.

Let the fire for your adversaries consume them.


O L ord, you will ordain peace for us,

for indeed, all that we have done, you have done for us.


O L ord our God,

other lords besides you have ruled over us,

but we acknowledge your name alone.


The dead do not live;

shades do not rise—

because you have punished and destroyed them,

and wiped out all memory of them.


But you have increased the nation, O L ord,

you have increased the nation; you are glorified;

you have enlarged all the borders of the land.



O L ord, in distress they sought you,

they poured out a prayer

when your chastening was on them.


Like a woman with child,

who writhes and cries out in her pangs

when she is near her time,

so were we because of you, O L ord;


we were with child, we writhed,

but we gave birth only to wind.

We have won no victories on earth,

and no one is born to inhabit the world.


Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.

O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

For your dew is a radiant dew,

and the earth will give birth to those long dead.



Come, my people, enter your chambers,

and shut your doors behind you;

hide yourselves for a little while

until the wrath is past.


For the L ord comes out from his place

to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;

the earth will disclose the blood shed on it,

and will no longer cover its slain.


1. In that day shall a song be sung. Here the Prophet begins again to shew that, after the return of the people from captivity, they will be defended by God’s power and guardianship, and that under his protection Jerusalem will be as safe as if she had been surrounded by bulwarks, ramparts, a ditch, and a double wall, so that no enemy could find entrance.

It is proper to observe the time when “this song was sung.” The Prophet had foretold the calamity that would befall the Church, which was not yet so near at hand, but happened a short time after his death. When the people were led into captivity, they would undoubtedly have despaired, if they had not been encouraged by such promises. That the Jews might cherish a hope that they would be delivered, and might behold life in the midst of death, the Prophet composed for them this song, even before the calamity occurred, that they might be better prepared for enduring it, and might hope for better things. I do not think that it was composed solely that, when they had been delivered, they might give thanks to God, but that even during their captivity, though they were like dead men, (Ezekiel 37:1,) they might strengthen their hearts with this confidence, and might also train up their children in this expectation, and hand down these promises, as it were, to posterity.

We have formerly 154154     See vol. 1 p. 162.
    FT412 See Calvin on Isaiah, vol. 1 p. 384

    FT413 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace (Heb. peace, peace) whose mind (or, thought, or, imagination) is stayed on thee.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT414 “For in the Lord Jehovah is (Heb. the Rock of ages) everlasting strength.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT415 “For he bringeth down them that dwell on high.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT416 See Commentary on Isaiah, vol. 1 p. 407

    FT417 It will be observed, that this accords very nearly with our English version. — Ed

    FT418 Bishop Stock’s rendering is, “The road of the just is the direct road; rightly the path of the just dost thou make even;” and he makes the following annotations: — “The direct road to happiness, the object of all human pursuit. ‘Rightly,’ or with reason, ‘the path of the just dost thou make even,’ smooth before him, till he reaches his journey’s end. ‘The straight road is the short one,’ says the divine as well as the geometrician.” — Ed

    FT419A se fier en Dieu;” — “To trust in God.”

    FT420Encor que les choses soyent du tout hors d’espoir;” — “Even when matters are altogether beyond hope.”

    FT421Tous les desirs et travaux des hommes.”

    FT422 “Early.” — (Eng. Ver.) In the marginal reading of the Author’s version, he renders it “earnestly.” — Ed

    FT423Que les hommes sont enseignez à eraindre Dieu par les verges dont il les frappe;” — “That men are taught to fear God by the scourges with which he strikes them.”

    FT424 “Let favour be shewed to the wicked.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT425Et se retiennent en bride de crainte qu’ils ont d’estre fouettez;” — “And are kept in check through fear of being chastised.”

    FT426 Accordingly, our English version, instead of “upright actions,” uses the term “uprightness,” which corresponds to the Author’s French version, “la terre de droiture,” “the land of uprightness.” — Ed

    FT427La terre de droiture;” — “The land of uprightness.”

    FT428 The Author refers to his exposition of Isaiah 5:12. See Commentary on Isaiah, vol. 1 p. 176

    FT429 Μετωνυμία, or metonymy, denotes that figure of rhetoric by which one word is exchanged for another on account of a connection of idea, such as, “Moses and the prophets,” for their works, or, as in this passage, the “hand” for the works performed by it. — Ed

    FT430 “(They are) dead, they shall not live.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT431Des fideles et des infideles;” — “Of believers and unbelievers.”

    FT432 “(They are) deceased, they shall not rise.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT433 Professor Alexander renders רפאים (rĕphāīm) ghosts and remarks, “It is here a poetical equivalent to מתים (mēthīm,) and may be variously rendered shades, shadows, spirits, or the like. The common version (deceased) leaves too entirely out of view the figurative character of the expression. Giants, on the contrary, is too strong, and could only be employed in this connection in the sense of gigantic shades, or shadows.”

    FT434 As if the reading had been not rĕphāīm, but rōphĕīm, the Seventy render it ἰατροὶ οὐ μὴ ἀναστήσουσι, “physicians shall not rise again.” — Ed

    FT435Faisoyent que la demeurance estiot plus estroite et moins libre;” — “Made habitation to be narrower and less free.”

    FT436Que nous avons traduit Prière;” — “Which we have translated Prayer.”

    FT437Pour une prière articulee;” — “For an articulated prayer.”

    FT438 “An obvious phrase for inanity. See below, Isaiah 33:11 They who think of a female disorder, termed empneumatosis, should remember that it is an uncommon disorder, and that metaphors are not drawn from objects or events of rare occurrence.” — Stock

    FT439 “We have not wrought any deliverance in the earth.” — Eng. Ver.

    FT440Esperant avoir part de leur resurrection;” — “Hoping to share in their resurrection.”

    FT441En ceste vie.”

    FT442 Bishop Lowth’s rendering is, “For thy dew is as the dew of the dawn.” Bishop Stock follows him very closely: “For as the dew of day-light is thy dew,” and remarks: — “A dew of rays, that is, as I conceive, a dew able to abide the solar rays, or a steady dew, in oppostion ‘to the early dew that passeth away’ of Hosea 6:4, 13:3; which the Prophet there parallels with ‘the morning cloud.’ The comparison of Isaiah intimates that the refreshing of Israel should not be transient, but lasting.” Professor Alexander, with his usual learning and judgment, produces a formidable array of conflicting authorities, but vindicates the usual rendering. “There are,” he says, “two interpretations of ארות, (ōrōth,) both ancient, and supported by high modern authorities. The first gives the word the usual sense of איר, (ōr,) light; the other, that of plants, which it has in 2 Kings 4:39. To the former it may be objected, that it leaves the plural form unexplained, that it arbitrarily makes light mean life, and that it departs from the acknowledged meaning of ארותrōth) in the only other place where it occurs. The second interpretation, on the other hand, assumes but one sense of the word, allows the plural form its proper force, and supposes an obvious and natural allusion to the influence of dew upon the growth of plants. In either case, the reference to the dew is intended to illustrate the vivifying power of God.” — Ed

    FT443 As to the interpretation of רפאים (rĕphāīm) by giants, See page 231, note 3

    FT444Que ces tourbillons et orages passent, et sont de petite duree;” — “That these whirlwinds and storms pass away, and are of short duration.”

    FT445 “Her blood (Heb. bloods).” — Eng. Ver.
seen the reason why these and other promises were put by Isaiah into the form of verse. It was, that, having been frequently sung, they might make a deeper impression on their memory. Though they mourned in Babylon, and were almost overwhelmed with sorrow, (hence these sounds, (Psalm 137:4,) “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”) yet they must have hoped that at a future period, when they should have returned to Judea, they would give thanks to the Lord and sing his praises; and therefore the Prophet shews to them at a distance the day of deliverance, that they may take courage from the expectation of it.

We have a city of strength. By these words a full restoration of Jerusalem and of the people is promised, because God will not only deliver the captives and gather those that are scattered, but will also preserve them safe, after having brought them back to their country. But not long afterwards believers saw that Jerusalem was destroyed, (2 Kings 25:9,) and the Temple thrown down, (2 Chronicles 36:19,) and after their return nothing could meet their eye but hideous ruins; and all this Isaiah had previously foretold. It was therefore necessary that they should behold from the lofty watch-tower of faith this restoration of Jerusalem.

He hath made salvation to be walls and a bulwark. He now defines what will be “the strength of the city;” for the “salvation” of God will supply the place of a “wall,” towers, ditches, and mounds. As if he had said, “Let other cities rely on their fortifications, God alone will be to us instead of all bulwarks.” Some allege that the words may be read, “He hath set a wall and bulwark for salvation;” and I do not set aside that rendering. But as a more valuable doctrine is contained in the Prophet’s words, when nothing is supplied, it serves no good purpose to go far for a forced interpretation; especially since the true and natural interpretation readily presents itself to the mind, which is, that God’s protection is more valuable than all ditches and walls. In like manner, it is also said in the psalm, “Thy mercy is better than life,” (Psalm 63:3;) for as David there boasts of enjoying, under God’s shadow, greater safety and freedom from care than if he had been fortified by every kind of earthly defense, so Isaiah here says, that there will be good reason for laying aside fear, when God shall have undertaken to guard his people. Now, since this promise extends to the whole course of redemption, we ought to believe that at the present day God is still the guardian of his Church, and therefore, that his power is of more avail than if it had been defended by every kind of military force. Accordingly, if we wish to dwell in safety, we must remain in the Church. Though we have no outward defences, yet let us learn to be satisfied with the Lord’s protection, and with his sure salvation, which is better than all bulwarks.

2. Open ye the gates. This “song” was undoubtedly despised by many, when it was published by Isaiah; for during his life, the inhabitants of Jerusalem were wicked and ungodly, and the number of good men was exceedingly small. But after his death, when they had been punished for their wickedness, it was in some measure perceived that this prediction had not been uttered in vain. So long as wicked men enjoy prosperity, they have no fear, and do not imagine that they can be brought low. Thus the Jews thought that they would never be driven out of Judea, and carried into captivity, and hoped that they would continue to dwell there. It was therefore necessary to take away from them every pretense for being haughty and insolent; and such is the import of the Prophet’s words:

And a righteous nation, which keepeth the truth, shall enter in. “The inhabitants of the restored city shall be unlike the former; for they will maintain righteousness and truth. But at that time this promise also might appear to have failed of its accomplishment; for when they had been driven out of the country and led into captivity, no consolation remained. Accordingly, when the Temple had been destroyed, the city sacked, and all order and government overthrown and destroyed, they might have objected, “Where are those ‘gates’ which he bids us ‘open?’ Where are the people who shall ‘enter?’” Yet we see that these things were fulfilled, and that nothing was ever foretold which the Lord did not accomplish. We ought, therefore, to keep before our minds those ancient histories, that we may be fortified by their example, and, amidst the deepest adversity to which the Church is reduced, may hope that the Lord will yet raise her up again.

When the Prophet calls the nation “righteous and truthful,” he not only, as I mentioned a little before, describes the persons to whom this promise relates, but shews the fruit of the chastisement; for when its pollution shall have been washed away, the holiness and righteousness of the Church shall shine more brightly. At that time wicked men were the majority, good men were very few, and were overpowered by the multitude of those who were of an opposite character. It was therefore necessary that that multitude, which had no fear of God, and no religion, should be taken away, that God might gather his remnant. Thus, it was a compensation for the destruction, that Jerusalem, which had been polluted by the wickedness of her citizens, again was actually devoted to God; for it would not have been enough to regain prosperity, if newness of life had not shone forth in holiness and righteousness.

Now, as the Prophet foretells the grace of God, so he also exhorts the redeemed people to maintain uprightness of life. In short, he threatens that these promises will be of no avail to hypocrites, and that the gates of the city will not be opened for them, but only for the righteous and holy. It is certain that the Church was always like a barn, (Matthew 3:12,) in which the chaff is mingled with the wheat, or rather, the wheat is overpowered by the chaff; but when the Jews had been brought back into their country, the Church was unquestionably purer than before. Those who returned must have been animated by a good disposition, to undertake a journey so long, and beset by so many annoyances, embarrassments, and dangers; and many others chose rather to remain in captivity than to return, thinking that to dwell in Babylon was a safer and more peaceful condition than to return to Judea. Such persons must have had a seed of piety, which led them to take possession of those promises which were granted to the fathers. Now, though the Church even at that time was stained by many imperfections, still this description was comparatively true; for a large portion of the filth had been swept away, and those who remained had profited in some degree under God’s chastisements.

A righteous nation, which keepeth the truth. Some distinguish these terms in this manner, “A nation righteous before God, and upright before men.” But I take the meaning to be more simple; that, after having called the nation “righteous,” he shews in what righteousness consists; that is, where there is uprightness of heart, which has nothing feigned or hypocritical, for nothing is more opposite to righteousness than hypocrisy. And though no man ever existed who advanced so far that he could receive the commendation of being perfectly righteous, yet the children of God, who with their whole heart aim at this “truth,” may be said to be keepers of it. But perhaps it will rather be thought that, by a figure of speech, one part is taken for the whole, to describe what is true righteousness; that is, when all deceit and all wicked practices have been laid aside, and men act towards each other with sincerity and truth.

If any man wish to make use of this passage for upholding the merits of men, the answer is easy; for the Prophet does not here describe the cause of salvation, or what men are by nature, but what God makes them by his grace, and what kind of persons he wishes to be members of his Church. Out of wolves he makes sheep, as we have formerly seen. 155155    {Bogus footnote} So long as we live here, we are always at a great distance from perfection, and are in continual progress towards it; but the Lord judges of us according to that which he has begun in us, and, having once led us into the way of righteousness, reckons us to be righteous. As soon as he begins to check and reform our hypocrisy, he at once calls us true and upright.

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