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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.

17. The king in his beauty. Although the Prophet changes the person, yet this verse must be connected with the preceding verse; for he addresses the sincere worshippers of God, to whom he promises this additional blessing, Thou shalt see the king in his beauty This promise was highly necessary for supporting the hearts of believers, when the state of affairs in Judea was so lamentable and so desperate. When Jerusalem was besieged, the king shut up within the city and surrounded by treacherous counsellors, the people unsteady and seditious, and everything hastening to ruin, there appeared to be no hope left. Still the royal authority in the family of David was a remarkable pledge of the love of God. Isaiah, therefore, meets this danger by saying, that though they behold their king covered with filthy garments, yet he shall be restored to his former rank and splendor.

First, it ought to be observed how invaluable is the kindness of God, when the commonwealth is at peace, and enjoys good princes, by whom everthing is administered justly and faithfully; for by their agency God rules over us. Since, therefore, this happiness is not inconsiderable, the Prophet was unwilling to leave out this part, in promising prosperity to the worshippers of God. Yet it, ought also to be observed, that that kingdom was a type of the kingdom of Christ, whose image Hezekiah bore; for there would be a slight fulfillment of this promise, if we did not trace it to Christ, to whom all these things must be understood to refer. Let no man imagine that I am here pursuing allegories, to which I am averse, and that this is the reason why I do not interpret the passage as relating directly to Christ; but, because in Christ alone is found the stability of that frail kingdom, the likeness which Hezekiah bore leads us to Christ, as it were, by the hand. I am, therefore, disposed to view Hezekiah as a figure of Christ, that we may learn how great will be his beauty. In a word, Isaiah here promises the restoration of the Church.

The land very far off. The restoration of the Church consists of two parts; first, that “the king shall be seen in his beauty;” and secondly, that the boundaries of the kingdom shall be extended. We know that the appearance of Christ is so disfigured as to be contemptible in the eyes of the world, because “no beauty or loveliness” (Isaiah 53:2) is seen in him; but at length, his majesty and splendor and beauty shall be openly displayed, his kingdom shall flourish and be extended far and wide. Although at present wicked men have everything in their power, and oppress the true servants of God, so that they scarcely have a spot on which they can plant their foot in safety, yet with firm hope we ought to look for our King, who will at length sit down on his bright and magnificent throne, and will gloriously enrich his people.

18. Thy heart shall meditate terror. Believers are again informed what calamities are at hand, lest, by being suddenly overtaken with such heavy afflictions, they should sink under them. יהגה (yehgeh) is translated by some in the preterite, “meditated,” and by others in the future, “shall meditate;” because such an exchange of tenses is customary in the Hebrew language. For my own part, believing that he warns the people of approaching distresses, instead of relating those which had been formerly endured, I willingly retain the future tense, which is also the tense employed by the Prophet, “shall meditate.”

Where is the scribe? He relates in a dramatic and lively manner (μιμητικῶς) the speeches of those who, overcome by terror, break out into these exclamations: Where is the scribe? Where is the weigher? thus expressing the powerful impression made on their minds. If any one suppose that the line of thought is suddenly broken off, because the Prophet, having in the former verse spoken of “the kings beauty,” now brings forward terrors, I have no doubt that he magnifies the kindness of God by means of comparison, in order that believers, when they have been delivered, may set a higher value on the condition to which they have attained. Men are forgetful and niggardly in judging of God’s favors, and, after having been once set free, do not consider what was the depth of their misery. Such persons need to be reminded of those wretched and disastrous times, during which they endured great sufferings, in order that they may more fully appreciate the greatness of the favor which God has bestowed on them. We ought also to observe another reason why it was advantageous that the people should be forewarned of that terror. It was that, after having heard of the kings magnificence, they might not promise themselves exemption from all uneasiness, but might be prepared to undergo any kind of troubles and distresses, and that, even while they were subject to tribute and placed under siege, they might, know that the kingdom of Judah was the object of God’s care, and would be rescued from the hands of tyrants.

It is a very wretched condition which the Prophet describes, that a free people should be oppressed by such cruel tyranny as to have all their property valued, and an inventory taken of their houses, possessions, families, and servants. How grievous this slavery is, many persons formerly unaccustomed to it actually know by experience in our times, when their property is valued to the very last farthing, and a valuation is made not only of their undoubted incomes but also of their expected gains, and not only their money and possessions, but even their names are placed on record, while new methods of taxation are contrived, not only on food but on the smallest articles, so that tyrants seize on a large portion of those things which are indispensably necessary to the wretched populace; and yet those calamities do not restrain men from insolence, licentiousness, and rebellion. What then will happen when they shall be free and at full liberty? Will they not, forgetful of all their distresses, and unmindful of God’s kindness, abandon themselves more freely than before to every kind of indulgence and licentiousness? It is not without good reason, therefore, that the Prophet places before the eyes of the people that wretched condition, that they may not, when delivered from it, giveway to their unlawful passions, but may acknowledge their deliverer and may love him with all their heart.

Some have falsely imagined that Paul (1 Corinthians 1:20) quotes this passage; for that would spoil the Prophet’s meaning and torture his words to a different purpose. They have been led into a mistake by the mere use of the word “scribe,” which there denotes a Teacher. Isaiah gives the name of “the scribe” to the person who took account of persons, families, lands, and houses, and, in short, who kept the registers of the taxes. By “the weigher,” he means the person who received the taxes, for he “weighed” the money which was paid. That office is discharged in the present day by those who are called treasurers.

Where is he who singles out the principal houses? He now.adds a very troublesome and exceedingly disliked class of men, “the describers of the towers,” that is, of the more remarkable buildings; for they visit and examine each person’s house, in order to know who are more wealthy than others, that they may demand a larger sum of money. Such men,like huntinghounds, are commonly employed by tyrants to scent the track of money, for the sake of laying on some unusual impost in addition to the ordinary taxes. The arrival of such persons must have been exceedingly annoying to the people, for they never cease till they have sucked all the blood and marrow. If any one prefer to view this term as denoting the servants of the king himself, whose business it was to destroy the houses adjoining to the walls of the city, let him enjoy his opinion. For my own part, I think it probable that the Prophet speaks of the receivers of taxes, whom conquerors appoint over vanquished nations for the sake of maintaining their authority.

19. Thou shaft not see a fierce people. The word נועז (nognaz) is translated by some “strong,” and by others “impudent;” but, undoubtedly, he intends to express the fierceness of the Assyrians, which he afterwards affirms by saying that they would have no intercourse with them, because they spoke a different language. Nothing is more fitted to excite men to compassion than the intercourse of speech, by which men explain their distresses to each other. When this is wanting, there can be no means of gaining their hearts; each party is a barbarian to the other; and nothing more can be obtained from them than if one were dealing with wild and savage beasts. The Prophet, therefore, dwells largely on the wretched condition of the people, in order to shew, on the other hand, how great was the kindness of God in delivering them from so great terror. In like manner, the Holy Spirit magnifies the grace of God, in preserving his people in Egypt, though

“they did not understand the language of that nation.”
(Psalm 131:5.)

20. Behold Zion. Some read it in the vocative case, “Behold, O Zion;” but it is preferable to read it in the accusative case. He brings forward a promise of the restoration of the Church, which ought to have great weight with all godly persons; for when the Church shakes or falls, there can be no hope of prosperity. That the Church will be restored he shews in such a manner that he places it before our eyes as having actually taken place, though he speaks of what is future; and his object is to give greater energy to his style, as if he had said, “Again you will see Zion restored and Jerusalem flourishing.” Although believers see everything destroyed and scattered, and although they despair of her safety, yet in Jerusalem there shall be a quiet and safe habitation.

The city of our solemnities, or of our assemblies. By this designation he shews that we ought to judge of the restoration of Zion chiefly on this ground, that the people “assembled” there to hear the Law, to confirm the covenant of the Lord, to call upon his name, and to offer sacrifices. When the people were deprived of these things, they were scattered and nearly lost, and appeared to be separated from their head and utterly abandoned. Accordingly, nothing was so deeply lamented by godly persons, when they were held in captivity at Babylon, as to be banished from their native country and at the same time deprived of those advantages; and that this was the chief complaint of all believers is very manifest from many passages. (Psalm 137:4.)

“Zion” is called by him “a city,” because it formed the middle of the city, and was also called “the city of David.” (Isaiah 22:9.) The extent of Jerusalem was different and larger; for, as we mentioned in the explanation of another passage, 1414     Commentary on Isaiah there was a double wall, which is customary in many cities. Here it ought to be observed that the restoration of the Church is the most valuable of all blessings, and ought above all things to be desired; that everything else, even though it should be most abundant, is of no avail, if this single blessing be, wanting; and, on the other hand, that we cannot be unhappy, so long as Jerusalem, that is, the Church, shall flourish. Now, it is restored and flourishes, when God presides in our assemblies, and when we are assembled in his name and thus cleave to him. Wicked men indeed shelter themselves under the name of God, as if they were assembled at his command; but it is an empty mask, for in their heart they are very far from him, and attempt nothing in obedience to his authority.

Jerusalem a peaceful habitation. He says that believers, who had long been agitated amidst numerous alarms, will have a safe and “peaceful habitation” in the Church of God. Although God gave to his people some taste of that peace under the reign of Hezekiah, yet it was only in Christ that the fulfillment of it was manifested. Not that since that time the children of God have had a quiet habitation in the world; even in the present day this peacefulness is concealed; for we lead an exceedingly wandering and uncertain life, are tossed about by various storms and tempests, are attacked by innumerable enemies, and must engage in various battles, so that there is scarcely a single moment that we are at rest. The peace which is promised, therefore, is not that which can be perceived by our bodily senses, but we must come to the inward feelings of the heart, which have been renewed by the Spirit of God, so that we enjoy that peace which no human understanding is able to comprehend; for, as Paul says, “it goes beyond all our senses.” (Philippians 4:7.) The Lord will undoubtedly bestow it upon us, if we dwell in the Church.

A tent which shall not be carried away, the stakes of which shall never be removed. By these metaphors of “a tabernacle” and of “stakes,” he describes accurately the condition of the Church. He might have called it a well-founded city, but he says that it is “a tabernacle,” which, by its very nature, is such that it can be speedily removed to a different place, in order that, though we may consider the condition of the Church to be uncertain and liable to many changes, yet we may know that it cannot be moved or shaken; for it will remain in spite of storms and tempests, in spite of all the attacks of enemies, and in opposition to what appears to be its nature, and to the views of our understanding. These two statements appear to be inconsistent with each other, and faith alone reconciles them, by maintaining that it is safer to dwell in this “tabernacle” than in the best defended fortresses.

We ought to employ this as a shield against temptations,which otherwise would speedily destroy our faith, whenever we perceive the Church to be not only shaken, but violently driven about in all possible directions. Who would say that amidst that violent storm the “tabernacle” was safe? But since God does not wish his people to be wholly fixed on the earth, that they may depend more on himself alone, the protection which he promises to us ought to be reckoned better than a hundred, better than a thousand supports.

21. Because there the mighty Jehovah will be to us. The two particles כי ים (ki im) often serve the place of a double affirmative, but here a reason is assigned, and they might even be appropriately rendered, For if; but I willingly retain what is more clear. The Prophet assigns the reason why the Church, which appears to resemble a movable “tent,” exceeds in stability the best founded cities. It is because “the Lord is in the midst of her,” as it is also said, (Psalm 46:5,) and “therefore she shall not be moved.” If we separate the Church from God; it will immediately fall without any attack; for it will consist of men only, than whom nothing can be more weak or frail.

Will be to us a place of rivers. When God dwells with us, he confirms and supports what was naturally feeble, and supplies to us the place of a very strong fortress, a very broad ditch, and walls and “rivers” surrounding the city on every side. He alludes to the situation of the city Jerusalem, which had only a small rivulet, and not large and rapid rivers, like those of Babylon and other cities; for in another passage (Isaiah 8:6) he enjoined them to rest satisfied with the power of God alone, and not to covet those broad rivers. As if he had said, “Our strength shall be invincible, if God rule over us; for under his guidance and direction we shall be abundantly fortified.”

There shall not pass a ship with oars. Large rivers are attended by this inconvenience, that they may give access to enemies, so as to enable them to approach with their ships nearer than is desirable; and thus, very frequently, what appeared to be of service is found to be injurious. But while the Lord says that he will be “a river,” he says also that there will be no reason to dread such an inconvenience, and that enemies will not be allowed to approach, he mentions two kinds of ships, long ships, and ships of burden, in order to shew that enemies will be shut out in every possible way. Hence we ought to draw a very useful doctrine, that the hope of safety should not be sought from any other than from God alone, and that it is in vain to collect various means of defense, which will be useless, and even hurtful, if He be not on our side.

22. For Jehovah is our judge. The Prophet now explains the manner in which God dwells in the Church. It is, that he is there worshipped and acknowledged as Judge, Lawgiver, and King; for they who obey God and yield subjection to him as their King, shall know by experience that he is the guardian of their salvation; but they who falsely glory in his name, vainly hope that he will assist them. Let us only yield to his authority, hear his voice, and obey him; and, on the other hand, he will shew that he is our protector and most faithful guardian. But when we despise his voice and disobey his word, we undoubtedly have no reason to wonder that he abandons and forsakes us in dangers.

Hence, also, we ought to observe what is the true Church of God. It is that which acknowledges God to be a “Lawgiver” and “King.” With what effrontery, therefore, do the Papists dare to boast that they are the Church of God, seeing that they reject that lawful government of it which was enjoined by Moses, and the Prophets, and Christ, and substitute in the room of it inventions and base traffic? They exert a cruel tyranny over consciences, and, by taking away all the liberty which Christ has bestowed on us, they wretchedly harass souls and lead them to perdition; but God alone has the right to rule the conscience, because he alone is “Lawgiver” and “Judge,” and he alone ought to rule and guide us by his word. He combines here the three words, “Judge,” “Lawgiver” and King,” because the subject is of very great importance, and ought not to be lightly set aside. If, therefore, we permit ourselves to be guided by his word, he will never fail us; and this is the only way of obtaining salvation.

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