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A Prophecy of Deliverance from Foes


Ah, you destroyer,

who yourself have not been destroyed;

you treacherous one,

with whom no one has dealt treacherously!

When you have ceased to destroy,

you will be destroyed;

and when you have stopped dealing treacherously,

you will be dealt with treacherously.



O L ord, be gracious to us; we wait for you.

Be our arm every morning,

our salvation in the time of trouble.


At the sound of tumult, peoples fled;

before your majesty, nations scattered.


Spoil was gathered as the caterpillar gathers;

as locusts leap, they leaped upon it.


The L ord is exalted, he dwells on high;

he filled Zion with justice and righteousness;


he will be the stability of your times,

abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;

the fear of the L ord is Zion’s treasure.



Listen! the valiant cry in the streets;

the envoys of peace weep bitterly.


The highways are deserted,

travelers have quit the road.

The treaty is broken,

its oaths are despised,

its obligation is disregarded.


The land mourns and languishes;

Lebanon is confounded and withers away;

Sharon is like a desert;

and Bashan and Carmel shake off their leaves.



“Now I will arise,” says the L ord,

“now I will lift myself up;

now I will be exalted.


You conceive chaff, you bring forth stubble;

your breath is a fire that will consume you.


And the peoples will be as if burned to lime,

like thorns cut down, that are burned in the fire.”



Hear, you who are far away, what I have done;

and you who are near, acknowledge my might.


The sinners in Zion are afraid;

trembling has seized the godless:

“Who among us can live with the devouring fire?

Who among us can live with everlasting flames?”


Those who walk righteously and speak uprightly,

who despise the gain of oppression,

who wave away a bribe instead of accepting it,

who stop their ears from hearing of bloodshed

and shut their eyes from looking on evil,


they will live on the heights;

their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks;

their food will be supplied, their water assured.


The Land of the Majestic King


Your eyes will see the king in his beauty;

they will behold a land that stretches far away.


Your mind will muse on the terror:

“Where is the one who counted?

Where is the one who weighed the tribute?

Where is the one who counted the towers?”


No longer will you see the insolent people,

the people of an obscure speech that you cannot comprehend,

stammering in a language that you cannot understand.


Look on Zion, the city of our appointed festivals!

Your eyes will see Jerusalem,

a quiet habitation, an immovable tent,

whose stakes will never be pulled up,

and none of whose ropes will be broken.


But there the L ord in majesty will be for us

a place of broad rivers and streams,

where no galley with oars can go,

nor stately ship can pass.


For the L ord is our judge, the L ord is our ruler,

the L ord is our king; he will save us.



Your rigging hangs loose;

it cannot hold the mast firm in its place,

or keep the sail spread out.


Then prey and spoil in abundance will be divided;

even the lame will fall to plundering.


And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick”;

the people who live there will be forgiven their iniquity.

10. Now will I rise. There is great force in the particle now, and likewise in the repetition which is added, “I shall be exalted, I shall be lifted up on high.” We ought to observe the time to which these statements relate, that is, when the Church appeared to be utterly ruined; for God declares that he will judge that to be the most suitable time for rendering assistance. This is, therefore, a comparison of things which are contrary to each other; for he exhibits to believers the heavy and grievous calamities by which they should be oppressed, and under which they would easily sink, if they were not upheld by some consolation. As if he had said, “The Lord will suffer you to be brought very low, but when your affairs shall be at the worst, and when you shall have in vain tried every remedy, the Lord will arise and succor you.” Thus even when we are afflicted and brought very low, we ought to acknowledge that our safety cometh from God alone.

Accordingly, the word now denotes a period of the deepest distress. Men might think it exceedingly strange, but we plainly see the best reason why God thus delays to render assistance. It is, because it is useful to exercise the patience of the godly, to try their faith, to subdue the desires of the flesh, to excite to earnestness in prayer, and to strengthen the hope of a future life; and, therefore, he lays a restraint, that they may not with headlong eagerness anticipate that period which God has already marked out for them. The repetition is very emphatic, and is added for the purpose of confirming the statement; for when our affairs are desperate, we think that we are ruined, but at that very time we ought especially to hope, because the Lord generally selects it for giving a display of his power. For this reason, by extolling his loftiness, he arouses believers to the exercise of courage, that they may boldly defy the insolence of their enemies. 1010     “The emphasis is not upon the pronoun (Barnes), which in that case would have been expressed in Hebrew, but upon the adverb now, which is twice repeated to imply that the time for the divine interposition is arrived, and that there shall be no more delay.” — Alexander.

11. Ye shall conceive chaff. He now addresses his discourse to the enemies of the Church, whose insolence, he says, is foolish and to no purpose; for when God shall have brilliantly displayed his power, they shall know that their efforts will be fruitless, and that they will accomplish nothing, even though they be leagued together in vast crowds. The Lord laughs at their madness, in thinking that everything is in their power, when he can instantly, by the slightest expression of his will, restrain and destroy them, though they may be defended by a very powerful army.

It is customary in the Scriptures to employ the word conceptions for denoting the designs and efforts of men. (Job 15:35; Psalm 7:14; Isaiah 26:17, and 59:4.) The metaphor is taken from pregnant women. Men are said to “conceive” and to “bring forth,” when they attempt anything; but he declares that their “conception” shall be fruitless, and that they shall also “bring forth” to no purpose, for whatever they undertake shall be unsuccessful. There is nothing, therefore, in the brilliant military forces of our adversaries that ought to alarm us; for, although God may permit them for a time to bustle, and toil, and rage, yet God will at length turn into “chaff” all their rash and daring attempts. Let us learn that what Isaiah foretold about Sennacherib relates to all the adversaries of believers and of the Church.

The fire of your breath shall devour you. That they “shall be devoured by the fire of their breath” is usually explained to mean, “Your breath, like fire, shall devour you.” But that is an unsuitable and even absurd comparison, and the true meaning readily suggests itself, “The fire kindled by your breath shall devour you.” We commonly kindle a fire by blowing, and therefore he declares, that the fire which wicked men have blown by their wicked contrivances shall be destructive to them, because it shall consume them. It is the same statement which is often conveyed by a variety of metaphors in Scripture.

“They shall fall into the pit which they have digged. They are entangled in a net which they had prepared for others. The sword which they had drawn hath entered into their own bowels. Their arrow hath been turned back to pierce their own hearts.” (Psalm 7:15; 37:15; 57:6.)

Thus the Prophet shews that the wicked tyrant who laid waste Judea and besieged Jerusalem with a numerous army, and all others who in like manner are adversaries of the Church, bring down destruction on themselves, and will at length be destroyed; and, in short, that they will be consumed by that “fire” which they have kindled.

12. And the peoples shall be the burnings of lime. He compares them to “the burning of lime,” because their hardness shall be bruised, as fire softens the stones, so that they shall easily be reduced to powder; and, undoubtedly, the more powerfully wicked men are inflamed with a desire to commit injury, the more do they bruise themselves by their own insolence.

As thorns cut up. 1111     “In the Chaldee כסח (chasach) signifies “to prune,” and in the Syriac it denotes “the pruning of vines,” as in Asseman. Bibl. Orient., tom. 1, p. 374. The meaning therefore is, as thorns lopped off and dried are quickly consumed, with a crackling noise, by the fire laid under them.” — Rosenmuller. This metaphor is not less appropriate; for although they hinder men from touching them by the painful wounds which they inflict on the hands, yet there is no kind of wood that burns more violently or is more quickly consumed. Something of the same kind, we have said, may be observed in “lime,” which at first is hard, but is softened by the fire. The Prophet declares that the same thing will happen to the Babylonians, whom the Lord will easily destroy, though at first they appear to be formidable, and though it may be supposed to be unlikely that they shall be consumed by any conflagration. Whenever, therefore, we behold the enemies of the Church collecting all sorts of wealth and forces, and military preparations, in order to destroy us and set on fire the whole world, let us know that they are kindling a fire which shall miserably destroy them.

We know that this was fulfilled in Sennacherib, for the event proved the truth of these predictions, though they appeared to be altogether incredible. Let us hope that the same thing shall happen to all others who shall imitate the actions of this tyrant, and let us comfort ourselves by that example, and innumerable others, amidst our distresses and afflictions, which shall be followed by certain deliverance and dreadful vengeance on our enemies.

13. Near, ye that are far off. Isaiah here makes a preface, as if he were about to speak on a very weighty subject; for he bids his hearers be attentive, which is commonly done when any important and remarkable subject is handled. He addresses both those who are near, who would be eyewitnesses of this event, and the most distant nations to whom the report would be communicated; as if he had said that the power of God will be such as to be perceived not only by a few persons, or by those who are at hand, but also by those who shall be at a very great distance. Thus he means that it will be a striking and extraordinary demonstration of the power of God, because wicked men, who formerly were careless and unconcerned, as if they had been free from all danger of distress or annoyance, shall be shaken with terror.

14. The sinners in Zion are afraid. But some one might object that the subject here treated is not so important as to need that lofty preface intended to arouse the whole world. Was it a matter of so great importance that wicked men were struck with fear? But by an attentive examination it will be found that it is no ordinary exhibition of divine power, when wicked men are aroused from their indolence, so that, whether they will or not, they perceive that God is their judge, especially when contempt of God is accompanied by hypocrisy, For although it is difficult to arouse irreligious men, when a veil is spread over their hearts, 1212     “Quand leurs coeurs sont endureis.” “When their hearts are hardened.” yet still greater is the obstinacy of hypocrites, who imagine that God is under obligations to them. Thus we see that men are so bewitched by madness, that they despise all threatenings and terrors, and mock at the judgments of God, and, in short, by witty jesting, set aside all prophecies, so that it ought to be regarded as a miracle that men who make such resistance are overthrown. Hence Isaiah, with good reason, kindles into rage against them;for, when he employs the word Zion, he undoubtedly reproves the degenerate Jews, because, when they were covered with the shadow of the sanctuary, they thought that they were in possession of a fortress which could not be stormed; and undoubtedly, as I remarked a little before, the haughtiest and proudest of all men are they who shelter themselves under the name of God, and glory in the title of the Church.

Terror hath seized the wicked, הנפים (chanephim) is translated hypocrites, but still more frequently it may be viewed as denoting “treacherous revolters and men utterly worthless.” Since, therefore, they were so wicked, and mocked at God and the prophets, he three, tens that God will be a judge so sharp and severe, that they shall no longer find pleasure in their impostures. Next is added a conression which wears the aspect of humility, in order to shew more clearly that hypocrites, who do not willingly obey God, at length find that experience is their instructor how dreadful is the judgment of God. As soon, therefore, as their “laughing” is turned into “gnashing of teeth,” they begin to acknowledge that their whole strength is chaff or stubble. (Luke 6:25; Matthew 8:12.)

Which of us shall dwell with the devouring fire? As to the meaning of the words, some translate them, “Who shall dwell instead of us?” Others, “Which of us shall dwell?” If we view them simply as meaning “to us,” or “for us,” the meaning may be thus explained, “Who shall encounter the fire, or place himself between, so that the flame may not reach us?” There are also other interpretations which amount to the same thing; but commentators differ in this respect, that some view the words as relating to the king of Assyria, and others as relating to God. I prefer the latter opinion, as has been already shewn; for although the king of Assyria might be regarded as a “fire” that would burn up the earth with his heat, yet the Prophet intended to express something far more dreadful, namely, the inward anguish by which ungodly men are tormented, the stings of conscience which cannot be allayed, the unquenchable burning of crimes which exceeds every kind of torments; for whatever is the course pursued by ungodly men, such will they find the dispensations of God to be towards them.

On their account, therefore, God is called a devouring fire, as we may learn from Moses, (Deuteronomy 4:24, and 9:3,) from whom the prophets, as we have frequently remarked, borrow their doctrines, and who is also followed by the Apostle. (Hebrews 12:29.) This exposition is confirmed by the Prophet himself, who shews what was the cause of that terror. It might be objected that God was excessively severe, and that he terrified them beyond measure; but he is usually kind and gentle to the godly, while wicked men feel that he is severe and terrible. Some think that the Prophet intended to convince all men of their guilt, in order that they might abandon all confidence, in their works, and in a lowly and humble manner betake themselves to the grace of God, as if he had said, “None but he who is perfectly righteous can stand before the judgmentseat of God, and therefore all are accursed.”

But he rather speaks in the name, and agreeably to the feelings, of those who formerly scorned all threatenings; and he now represents those very persons as inquiring with trembling dismay, “Who shall dare to go into the presence of God?This mournful complaint is a manifestation of that terror which hath lately seized them, when, being convinced of their frailty, they cry out in sorrow, “Who shall endure the presence of God?” But since they still murmur against God, though he compels them reluctantly to utter these words, the Prophet, on the other hand, in order to restrain their wicked barkings, replies that God is not naturally the object of terror or alarm to men, but that it arises through their own fault, because conscience, which God does not suffer to lie idle, terrifies them with their crimes.

15. He that walketh in righeousness. Now, therefore, he explains more fully what we briefly remarked a little before, that they who provoke his anger, and thus drive away from them his forbearance, have no right to complain that God is excessively severe. Thus he convinces them of their guilt and exhorts them to repentance, for he shews that there is a state of friendship between God and men, if they wish to follow and practice “righteousness,” if they maintain truth and integrity, if they are free from all corruptions and act inoffensively towards their neighbors; but because they abound in every kind of wickedness, and have abandoned themselves to malice, calumny, covetousness, robbery, and other crimes, it is impossible that the Lord should not strike them down with fear, by shewing that he is terrible to them. In short, the design of the Prophet is to shut the mouths of wicked babblers, that they may not accuse God of cruelty in their destruction; for the whole blame rests on themselves. By evasions they endeavor to escape condemnation. But the Prophet declares that God is always gracious to his worshippers, and that in this sense Moses calls him “a fire,” (Deuteronomy 4:24, and 9:3,) that men may not despise his majesty and power; but that every one who shall approach to him with sincere piety will know by actual experience that nothing is more pleasant or delightful than his presence. Since, therefore, God shines on believers with a bright countenance, they enjoy settled peace with him through a good conscience; and hence it follows that God is not naturally terrible, but that he is forced to it by our wickedness.

This discourse is directed chiefly against hypocrites, who throw a false veil of piety over their hidden pollutions and crimes, and make an improper use of the name of God, that they may indulge more freely in wickedness. By the examples which he adduces in illustration of “righteousness,” the Prophet more openly reproves their crimes. He enumerates the principal actions of life by means of which we shew what sort of persons we are. Here, as in many other passages, he treats of the second table of the Law, by which the sincerity of godliness is put to the test; for, as gold is tried in the fire, so the dispositions which we cherish towards God are ascertained from the habitual course of our life, when our sincerity comes to be seen by the duties which we owe to each other.

The word walketh is the wellknown metaphor of a road, which is frequently employed in Scripture for describing the manner of life or habitual conduct. By righteousness he means not the entire keeping of the Law, but that equity which is included in the second table; for we must not; imagine that subtle disquisitions about “righteousness” are here intended.

Who speaketh what is right. He now enumerates the chief parts of that uprightness which ought to be maintained; and as the tongue is the chief instrument by which a man regulates his actions, he places it in the second rank after “righteousness.” He who restrains it from slander and evilspeaking, from deceit, perjury, and falsehood, so as not to injure his brother in any matter, is said to “speak what is right.” Next is added another department,

Who despiseth the gain arising from violence and calumny. He might have said in a single word, “who despiseth money;but he employed more homely language, and accommodated himself to the ignorance of men. He who is desirous of riches, and does not refrain from robbery or from base and unlawful means of making gain, harasses and oppresses the poor and feeble, and cares for nothing else than to lay hold on money in every direction, and by every method either right or wrong. He next proceeds farther, and describes corruptions of every sort.

Who shaketh his hands from accepting a bribe. Under the name of bribes, by which judges are corrupted, he likewise includes everything else. There is nothing by which the dispositions of men and righteous judgment are so much perverted; and therefore he bids them “shake their hands,” so as to intimate in what abhorrence they should be held, and with what care they should be avoided by all, lest, if they only handled or were tainted by barely touching them, they should be drawn aside kern what is just and right; for “bribes” have wonderful powers of fascination, so that it is very difficult for judges to keep their hands altogether clean and uncorrupted by them. What, then, can we think of those who always have their hands stretched out and ready to receive, and crooked nails ready to catch; and not only so, but, like harlots, openly hire themselves out for gain? Need we wonder if God thunders against them with unrelenting vengeance?

Who stoppeth his ear that it way not hear blood. At length he demands that the manifestation of uprightness shall be made in the ears. By blood he means murder and manslaughter, but he likewise includes wicked conspiracies of every kind, that the “ears” may not be open to hear them, to give our consent.. He does not mean that our “ears” should be shut against the cries of the poor, when they suffer injuries and oppression; but he means that we should detest wicked devices by which unprincipled men contrive the ruin of the innocent, that we may not even lend our “ears” to their discourses, or allow ourselves to be solicited in any way to do what is evil.

Who shutteth his eyes. At length he demands the same holiness in the “eyes.” In short, he teaches that we ought to restrain all our senses, that we may not give to wicked men any token of our approbation, if we wish to escape the wrath of God and that terrible burning of which he formerly spake.

16. He shall dwell in high places. That the Jews may know that the chastisements which God had inflicted on them were righteous, and may endeavor to be restored to his favor, he says that his blessing is ready to be bestowed on good and upright men, such as he described in the former verse, and that they are not subject to any danger, and have no reason to dread that burning which he mentioned, because they shall be made to dwell in a place of the greatest safety. As to wicked men, slanderers, robbers, and deceitful persons, on the other hand, who cannot restrain their tongue, and hands, and ears, and eyes from base and wicked actions, the Prophet shews that we need not wonder if God treat them with severity, and that, while God is their judge, their own conscience is at the same time their executioner; and consequently, that the only means of hindering them from dreading the presence of God, is to keep themselves voluntarily in the fear of God. By “high places,” he means a very safe place, and free from all danger, which ns attack of the enemy can reach, as he declares plainly enough immediately afterwards by assigning to them a habitation among “fortified rocks.”

Bread shall be given to him. To a safe dwelling he adds an abundance of good things; as if he had said that the holy and upright worshippers of God shall lack nothing, because God will not only protect them so as to keep them safe from all danger, but will also supply them abundantly with all that is necessary for the support of life. By the words “bread” and “water” he means all the daily necessaries of life.

And his waters shall be sure. Though wicked men have abundance for a time, they shall afterwards be hungry; as God threatens in the Law, that they shall have famine and hunger. (Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:23, 48.) The same remark may be made with regard to “bread,” for the word “sure” relates to both; as if he had said, that all believers shall have their food made “sure.” “Lions are hungry, and wander about; but they that fear God shall not want any good thing,” (Psalm 34:10;) because God, who is by nature bountiful, is not wearied by bestowing liberally, and does not exhaust his wealth by acts of kindness.

Besides, as the life of men is exposed to various dangers, and as abundance of meat and drink is not all that is necessary for our support, unless the Lord defend us by his power, we ought, therefore, to observe carefully what he formerly mentioned, that believers are placed in a safe abode. The Lord performs the office of a shepherd, and not only supplies them with food, but also defends them from the attacks of robbers, enemies, and wolves; and, in short, keeps them under his protection and guardianship, so as not to allow any evil to befall them. Whenever, therefore, it happens, that enemies annoy us, let us consider that we are justly punished for our sins, and that we are deprived of God’s assistance because we do not deserve it; for we must reckon our sins to be the cause of all the evils which we endure.

Yet let not those who are conscious of their integrity imagine that God has forsaken them, but let them to the latest day of their life rely on those promises in which the Lord assures his people that he will be a very safe refuge to them. No man, indeed, can be so holy or upright as to be capable of enduring the eye of God; for “if the Lord mark our iniquities,” as David says, “who shall endure?” (Psalm 130:3.) We therefore need a mediator, through whose intercession our sins may be forgiven; and the Prophet did not intend to set aside the ordinary doctrine of Scripture on this subject, but to strike with terror wicked men, who are continually stung and pursued by an evil conscience, 1313     “D’un remords de mauvaise conscience.” “By the remorse of a bad conscience.” This ought to be carefully observed in opposition to the Popish doctors, by whom passages of this kind, which recommend works, are abused in order to destroy the righteousness of faith; as if the atonement for our sins, which we obtain through the sacrifice of Christ, ought to be set aside.

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