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The Return of the Redeemed to Zion


The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,

the desert shall rejoice and blossom;

like the crocus 2it shall blossom abundantly,

and rejoice with joy and singing.

The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,

the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the L ord,

the majesty of our God.



Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.


Say to those who are of a fearful heart,

“Be strong, do not fear!

Here is your God.

He will come with vengeance,

with terrible recompense.

He will come and save you.”



Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,

and the ears of the deaf unstopped;


then the lame shall leap like a deer,

and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.

For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,

and streams in the desert;


the burning sand shall become a pool,

and the thirsty ground springs of water;

the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,

the grass shall become reeds and rushes.



A highway shall be there,

and it shall be called the Holy Way;

the unclean shall not travel on it,

but it shall be for God’s people;

no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.


No lion shall be there,

nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;

they shall not be found there,

but the redeemed shall walk there.


And the ransomed of the L ord shall return,

and come to Zion with singing;

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;

they shall obtain joy and gladness,

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


1. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad. Here the Prophet describes a wonderful change; for having in the former chapter described the destruction of Idumaea, and having said that it would be changed into a wilderness, he now promises, on the other hand, fertility to the wilderness, so that barren and waste lands shall become highly productive. This is God’s own work; for, as he blesses the whole earth, so he waters some parts of it more lightly, and other parts more bountifully, by his blessing, and afterwards withdraws and removes it altogether on account of the ingratitude of men.

This passage is explained in various ways. I pass by the dreams of the Jews, who apply all passages of this kind to the temporal reign of the Messiah, which they have contrived by their own imagination. Some explain it as referring to Judea, and others to the calling of the Gentiles. But let us see if it be not more proper to include the whole world along with Judea; for he predicted the destruction of the whole world in such terms as not to spare Judea, and not only so, but because “the judgment of God begins at his house or sanctuary,” (1 Peter 4:17,) the singularly melancholy desolation of the Holy Land was foretold, that it might be a remarkable example. Thus beginning appropriately and justly with Judea, he calls the whole world a wilderness, because everywhere the wrath of God abounded; and, therefore, I willingly view this passage as referring to Judea, and afterwards to the other parts of the world. As if he had said, “After the Lord shall have punished the wickedness and crimes of men, and taken vengeance on Jews and Gentiles, the wilderness shall then be changed into a habitable country, and the face of the whole earth shall be renewed.” Now this restoration is a remarkable instance of the goodness of God; for, when men have provoked him by their revolt, they deserve to perish altogether, and to be utterly destroyed, especially they whom he has adopted to be his peculiar people. Isaiah has his eye chiefly on the Jews, that in their distressful condition they may not faint.

Let us now see when this prophecy was fulfilled, or when it shall be fulfilled. The Lord began some kind of restoration when he brought his people out of Babylon; but that was only a slight foretaste, and, therefore, I have no hesitation in saying that this passage, as well as others of a similar kind, must refer to the kingdom of Christ; and in no other light could it be viewed, if we compare it to other prophecies. By “the kingdom of Christ,” I mean not only that which is begun here, but that which shall be completed at the last day, which on that account is called “the day of renovation and restoration,” (Acts 3:21;) because believers will never find perfect rest till that day arrive. And the reason why the prophets speak of the kingdom of Christ in such lofty terms is, that they look at that end when the true happiness of believers, shall be most fully restored.

After having spoken of dreadful calamities and predicted the lamentable ruin of the whole world, the Prophet comforts believers by this promise, in which he foretells that all things shall be restored. This is done by Christ, by whom alone they can be renewed and made glad; for he alone renews everything, and restores it to proper order; apart from him there can be nothing but filth and desolation, nothing but most miserable ruin both in heaven and in earth. But it ought to be carefully observed, that the world needed to be prepared by chastisements of this nature, in order that it might be fit and qualified for receiving such distinguished favor, and that the grace of Christ might be more fully manifested, which would have been concealed if everything had remained in its original state. It was therefore necessary that the proud and fierce minds of men should be cast down and subdued, that they might taste the kindness of Christ, and partake of his power and strength.

2. Flourishing it shall flourish. He describes more fully how great, will be the effect of the grace of Christ, by whose power and might those places which had been overgrown with filthy and noxious weeds “flourish” exceedingly and regain their vigor. This repetition is used for the sake of amplification. The doubling of the word “flourish” may be taken in two senses; either to denote the prolongation of time in incessant vegetation; as if he had said, “It shall not flourish with a passing or fading blossom, so as to return immediately to the foul condition in which it once was, but with a continual, uninterrupted, and long-continued bloom, which can never fade or pass away;” or to denote the increase and daily or yearly progress of improvement; for Christ enriches us in such a manner as to increase his grace in us from day to day.

The glory of Lebanon, the beauty of Carmel and Sharon. These metaphors display more fully the fertility already described; for the Prophet is not satisfied with saying that where formerly there was a gloomy wilderness smiling fields will be seen, and that dry places will be clothed with the beauty of flowers, but adds that there will be such luxuriant beauty as “Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon” were celebrated for possessing. Though Carmel denotes a cultivated and fertile field, yet here it is a proper name, like the other two. We have seen in other passages 2222     Commentary on Isaiah, vol 2, pp. 330 and 420. that these mountains were highly celebrated, and throughout the whole of Judea held the undisputed preeminence both for delightfulness and for abundance of fruits.

They shall see the glory of Jehovah. What he had formerly spoken metaphorically he now explains clearly and without a figure. Till men learn to know God, they are barren and destitute of everything good; and consequently the beginning of our fertility is to be quickened by the presence of God, which cannot be without the inward perception of faith. The Prophet undoubtedly intended to raise our minds higher, that we may contemplate the abundance and copiousness of heavenly benefits; for men might be satisfied with bread and wine and other things of the same kind, and yet not acknowledge God to be the author of them, or cease to be wretched; and indeed men are often blinded and rendered more fierce by enjoying abundance. But when God makes himself visible to us, by causing us to behold his glory and beauty, we not only possess his blessings, but have the true enjoyment of them for salvation.

3. Strengthen ye the weak hands. We might explain this passage generally, as if he had said, “Let those who have feeble hands strengthen them, let; them whose knees tremble and totter compose and invigorate their hearts.” But the following verse shews that the whole of this passage relates to the ministers of the word; for he addresses the teachers of the Church, and enjoins them to exhort, arouse, and encourage weak men whose hearts are broken or cast down, that they may be rendered more firm and cheerful. This exhortation is seasonably introduced, because he saw that so many tokens of God’s anger, of which he had spoken, could not do otherwise than fill even the strongest minds with alarm and dread; for, seeing that we are always enfeebled by adversity, when God himself proclaims what may be called open war against us on account of our sins, who would not tremble? But the Prophet commands that they who are cast down and almost lifeless shall be enlivened, and the manner of doing it is explained by him in the following verse.

4. Say to them that are faint hearted. That strength of which he spoke is breathed into our hearts by God through his word, as “by faith alone we stand” (2 Corinthians 1:24) and live; and therefore he adds the promise of grace yet to come.

Behold, your God will come. First, it ought to be observed that God does not wish that his grace should remain concealed and unknown, but rather that it should be proclaimed and imparted, that they who totter and tremble may compose and invigorate their hearts. And this is one method by which our hearts may be cheered amidst heavy distresses; for if we are not supported by the word of the Lord, we must faint and despair. This, then, is the office assigned to the teachers of the word, to raise up them that are fallen down, 2323     “Fortifler ceux qui sont prests a tomber.” “To support those who are ready to fall.” to strengthen the feeble, to upheld the tottering.

We ought also to observe how great is the efficacy of the word in “invigorating the feeble hands and strengthening the tottering knees;” for if it had not been a powerful instrument in communicating this strength, the Prophet would never have spoken in this manner; and, indeed, if God struck only our ears by his word, and did not pierce our hearts, these words would have been spoken in vain. Since, therefore, the Lord assigns this office to the word, let us know that he also imparts this power to it, that it may not be spoken in vain, but may inwardly move our hearts, not always indeed or indiscriminately, but where it pleases God by the secret power of his Spirit to work in this manner. And hence we infer that the same word makes us disposed to obey him; for otherwise we shall be indolent and stupid; all our senses shall fail, and we shall not only waver, but shall be altogether stupified by unbelief. We, therefore, need to receive aid from the Lord, that the removal of our fear and the cure of our weakness may enable us to walk with agility.

Fear not; behold, your God will come. This warning deeply fixed in our minds will banish slothfulness. As soon as men perceive that God is near them, they either cease to fear, or at least rise superior to excessive terror.

“Be not anxious,” says Paul, “for the Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5, 6.)

On this subject we have spoken largely on other occasions; and the Apostle to the Hebrews appears to allude to this passage, when, after having charged them not to be wearied and faint-hearted, he quotes the words of the Prophet. (Hebrews 12:3, 12.) Yet he directs this discourse to every believer, that they may be excited to perseverance, and because they have many struggles to maintain, may advance steadfastly in their journey. Nor is it superfluous that he adds your God; for if we do not know that he is our God, his approach will produce terror, instead of giving cause of joy. Not the majesty of God, which is fitted to humble the pride of the flesh, but his grace, which is fitted to comfort the fearful and distressed, is here exhibited; and, therefore, it is not without reason float he is represented as a guardian, to shield them by his protection.

If it be objected that he brings terror when he comes to take vengeance, I reply that this vengeance, is threatened against wicked men and enemies of the Church. To the latter, therefore, he will be a terror, but to believers he will be a consolation; and accordingly he adds that he will come to save them, because otherwise it might be objected, “What is it to us if our enemies be punished? What good does it do to us? Must we take delight in the distresses of enemies?” Thus he expressly declares that it will promote our “salvation;” for the vengeance which God takes on wicked men is connected with the salvation of the godly. In what manner the godly are delivered from anxiety and dread by the favor of God and by the expectation of his aid, has been explained at a former passage). 2424     Commentary on Isaiah, vol 1, p. 232. (Isaiah 7:4.) At present it ought to be observed, that God is prepared and armed with vengeance, that believers may learn to lean on his aid, and not to fancy some deity unemployed in heaven. Such is also the object of the repetition of the words, “he will come;” because distrust is not all at once banished from the hearts of men.

The end of the verse may either be rendered, God himself will come with a recompense, or He will come with the recompense of God; but as the meaning is the same, the reader may make his choice Yet if it be thought preferable to view אלהים (elohim) as in the genitive case, “of God,” then by “the recompense of God” is emphatically meant that which belongs peculiarly to God, that believers may be fully convinced that he is a “rewarder” as truly as he is God. 2525     “Vengeance shall come. The meaning is the same as if he had said, ‘God will come in vengeance, or as an avenger.’ Again, the retribution of God shall come against your enemies and deliver you.” — Jarchi. “The construction of the second clause is greatly perplexed by making אלהים (elohim) the subject of יבוא (yabo.) The true construction as given by Junius, Cocceius, Vitringa, and most later writers, makes behold your God an exclamation, and vengeance the subject of the verb.” — Alexander.

5. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened. 2626     “That is,” says Jarchi, “who have hitherto been blind so as not to know the reverence (or fear) of me upon them.” Or, as explained by his annotator Breithaupt, “Who have hitherto shaken off the yoke of the fear of God, and have not manifested the reverence that is due to God.” He continues the promise about the restoration of the Church, in order to encourage the hearts of the godly, who must have been grievously dismayed by the frightful calamities which he foretold. Since a true restoration is accomplished by Christ, we must therefore come to him, if we wish to know the meaning of the words which Isaiah employs in this passage; and indeed it is only by his kindness that we rise again to the hope of a heavenly life. Isaiah probably alludes to a former prediction, (Isaiah 29:10,) in which he threatened against the Jews dreadful blindness, madness, and total stupefaction of the soul. He now promises that, when Christ shalt shine forth, those senses of which they were deprived for a time shall be renovated and brightened to a new life. There is weight in the adverb Then; for we ought to infer from it that, so long as we are alienated from Christ, we are dumb, blind, and lame, and, in short, that we are destitute of all ability to do what is good, but that we are renewed by the Spirit of Christ, so as to enjoy real health.

By the tongue and ears and feet he means all the faculties of our soul, which in themselves are so corrupt that nothing that is good can be obtained from them till they are restored by the kindness of Christ. The eyes cannot see what is right, and the ears cannot hear, and the feet cannot guide us in the right way, till we are united to Christ. Though the senses of men are abundantly acute wherever they are impelled by sinful passions; though the tongue is eloquent for slander, perjury, lying, and every kind of foolish speaking; though the hands are too ready for thefts, extortions, and cruelty; though the feet are swift to do injury; and, in short, though the whole of our nature is not only willing but strongly bent on doing what is evil; yet we are altogether slothful and dull to do what is good, and therefore every part of us must be created anew by the power of Christ, that it may begin to understand aright, to feel, to speak, and to perform its offices; for

“no man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3.)

This renewal proceeds from the grace of Christ alone, and, therefore, sound strength is regained by those who are converted to Christ, and who formerly were in all respects useless, and resembled dead men; for, while we are separated from Christ, we either are destitute of everything that is good, or it is so greatly corrupted in us, that it cannot be applied to its proper use, but on the contrary is polluted by being abused. Christ gave abundant proofs and examples of this, when he restored speech to the dumb, eyes to the blind, and perfect strength to the feeble and lame; but what he bestowed on their bodies was only a token of the far more abundant and excellent blessings which he imparts to our souls.

6. For waters shall be dug. He next adds other blessings with which believers shall be copiously supplied, as soon as the kingdom of Christ is set up; as if he had said, that there will be no reason to dread scarcity or want, when we have been reconciled to God through Christ, because perfect happiness flows to us from him. But he represents this happiness to us under metaphorical expressions; and, first, he says that “waters shall be dug;” because, where formerly all was barren, there the highest fertility shall be found. Now, we are poor and barren, unless God bless us through Christ; for he alone, brings with him the blessing of the Father, which he bestows upon us. Wicked men, indeed, have often a great abundance of good things, but their wealth is wretched; for they have not Christ, from whom alone proceeds a true and salutary abundance of all blessings. Death unquestionably would be more desirable than that abundance of wine and of food with which we, at the same time, swallow the curse of God. When, therefore, Christ shall gloriously arise, rivers and waters shall flow out and yield true and valuable advantage.

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