Isaiah 52
Pulpit Commentary
Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
Verses 1-6. - FURTHER ADDRESS OF THE PROPHET TO JERUSALEM. Zion is exhorted to rise from the dust, throw off her bonds, and assert her freedom (vers. 1, 2). God will deliver her from this third captivity for his Name's sake, which her oppressors blaspheme (vers. 3-6). Verse 1. - Awake, awake; put on thy strength (comp. Isaiah 51:9). God can help those only who help themselves. The "arm of the Lord" having been called upon to "put on strength" in order to help Zion, Zion is now exhorted to do her part, and put on her own strength. Nor is she to stop there; she is further to rut on her beautiful garments - to array herself in the glorious robes which befit her as a royal and a holy city, and show herself once more a queen, instead of being content to remain grovelling as a captive (Isaiah 51:20, 21). Henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised. Foreigners shall no more visit Jerusalem to injure her or exult over her misfortunes (comp. Joel 3:17). When the influx of the Gentiles comes (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6, 22, etc.), it will be one of Gentiles who are "circumcised in heart and lips," and no longer "unclean" (Acts 10:15).
Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
Verse 2. - Shake thyself from the dust (compare the opposite command given to Babylon, "Come down, sit in the dust" Isaiah 47:1). Zion was to arise, shake from her all trace of the dust in which she had been so long lying, and then calmly seat herself upon a seat of dignity. Loose thyself from the bands of thy neck. The Hebrew text has. "The bands of thy neck are unloosened;" i.e. I have caused thy chains to fall from thee - thou hast only to "rise," and thou wilt find thyself free. Captives in ancient times were often fastened together by a thong or chain passed round their necks (see Rawlinson, 'History of Ancient Egypt,' vol. 1 p. 473). Daughter of Zion. The prophet passes, by an easy transition, from the city to the nation, which continues to be the object of address in the remainder of the discourse.
For thus saith the LORD, Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money.
Verse 3. - Ye have sold yourselves for nought; rather, for nought were ye sold. God received nothing when he allowed his people to become the slaves of the Babylonians. He took no price for them (see Isaiah 50:1), and therefore is free to claim them back without payment (comp. Isaiah 45:13). He has but to say the word; and he is about to say it.
For thus saith the Lord GOD, My people went down aforetime into Egypt to sojourn there; and the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.
Verse 4. - My people went down... into Egypt ... the Assyrian oppressed them. Israel had experienced three captivities. They "went down" voluntarily into Egypt, on invitation, to sojourn, and were there cruelly and unjustly reduced to a servile condition (Exodus 1:13, 14). They (or a great part of them) were violently carried into captivity by the Assyrian kings, Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29), Sargon (2 Kings 17:6), and Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:13; 'Eponym Canon,' p. 134), who, without cause, grievously "oppressed" them. Now they are suffering under a third captivity in Babylonia. What is to be the Divine action under these circumstances?
Now therefore, what have I here, saith the LORD, that my people is taken away for nought? they that rule over them make them to howl, saith the LORD; and my name continually every day is blasphemed.
Verse 5. - What have I here? rather, what have r to do here? i.e. what is the task before me - the work that I have to perform? There are three principal considerations by which the answer to this question has to be determined.

(1) The Babylonians have obtained possession of the Israelites without purchase - for nought;

(2) they use their authority harshly and brutally; and

(3) they continually blaspheme the Name of Jehovah. All three are grounds for bringing the captivity to an end, and coming forward with the cry of a deliverer, "Here I am." Make them to howl; rather, howl; i.e. insult over the captives with shouts and yells of triumph. The prophet is speaking of the Babylonian oppressors, not of the native "rulers," who exercised a certain amount of authority over the captives (see Delitzsch and Cheyne). My Name... is blasphemed. Cruel taskmasters vexed the captives by insulting their God.
Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.
Verse 6. - Therefore. Because of the "howling" and the "blasphemy." My people shall know my Name; i.e. "my people shall know by practical experience that I am all that my name of El or Elohim - 'the Strong,' ' the Powerful' - implies." They shall know in that day. The "day" when God would come to their help and deliver them from their oppressors - when they would call upon him, and he would manifest himself (Isaiah 58:9), responding to their appeal as distinctly as though he said, "Here I am."
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!
Verses 7-12. - A VISION OF THE DAY OF DELIVERANCE. The prophet sees the messenger come bounding over the mountains of Judaea, to bring the news to Jerusalem that her deliverance is come (ver. 7). The angelic watchers sing with joy (ver. 8). The prophet calls upon the waste places of Jerusalem to do the same, and dwells on the greatness of the mercy wrought (vers. 9, 10). Finally, he exhorts the exiles to avail themselves of the permission to quit Babylon, and prophesies that they will go forth in peace, without hurry, under the guidance and protection of God (vers. 11, 12). Verse 7. - How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace! (comp. Nahum 1:15, which is almost a repetition of the passage). The primary meaning is undoubtedly that assigned to the words in the introductory paragraph; but this does not hinder there being also a secondary meaning, viz. the Messianic one of Romans 10:15. Jerusalem's deliverance is a type of the redemption of the world by Christ. That saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth! So long as Israel was in captivity, and Jerusalem in ruins, God's earthly sovereignty (1 Samuel 12:12) was in abeyance. The moment that the Jews were set free and allowed to return and to rebuild their city, his. sovereignty was re-established.
Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
Verse 8. - Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; literally, The voice of thy watchers. They have lifted up the voice; they sing (or, shout joyfully, Kay) together. The "watchmen" are regarded by some as the prophets of the Captivity-time (Delitzsch), by others - as the faithful who "waited for the redemption of Israel" (Kay); but are considered by the best critics (Cheyne, Alexander) to be "supersensible beings," or, in other words, angels, who "watch" over the fortunes of Israel, and sympathize with their weal and woe (see Daniel 4:13, 17, 23, etc.). These "watchers" now "sing" or "shout" with joy. They shall see eye to eye (compare the "face to face" of Numbers 14:14; Deuteronomy 34:10). The "watchers" would watch closely God's dealings with his Church, and would see them as clearly as a man sees his friend when he leeks into his face. When the Lord shall bring again Zion. It is, perhaps, best to translate, with Houbigant and Mr. Cheyne, "When the Lord shall return to Zion." The prophet sees God as the Leader of his people, not merely by his providence bringing them back, but "returning" at their head (camp. ver. 12).
Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the LORD hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.
Verse 9. - Ye waste places of Jerusalem (comp. Isaiah 44:26; Isaiah 49:19; Isaiah 64:10, 11). The city had not been wholly destroyed. Only the temple, the royal palace, and the houses of the nobles had been "burnt with fire" (2 Kings 25:9; 2 Chronicles 36:19). The poorer houses had been left. Even these, however, must in the space of fifty years have for the most part fallen into decay. The ruins are now called upon to join in the general chorus of rejoicing, as they rise from their ashes. Hath comforted... hath redeemed. Perfects of prophetic certitude.
The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
Verse 10. - The nations... the ends of the earth. It may well add to the general joy that the work wrought for Israel is not "a thing done in a corner," but one on which the eyes of the" nations" have been turned. and to which the attention of" the ends of the earth" has been called (comp. Isaiah 41:5). The holy arm of Jehovah, made bare for battle, has been seen far and wide. The world has stood to gaze at the contest between Persia and Babylon.
Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD.
Verse 11. - Go ye out from thence; i.e. "from Babylon" - the standpoint of the prophet in the present chapter being Jerusalem. When the time came, earnest exhortations to depart would be found not superfluous, for there would be an indisposition on the part of some to quit their possessions, and of others to affront the perils of the way. Touch no unclean thing. Bring with you none of the Babylonian idols, none of the Babylonian charms, spells, and the like (see the comment on Isaiah 47:9). Be ye clean; rather, purify yourselves. The departing captives generally are called upon to avoid polluting themselves with the unclean things of Babylon; but for those who bear the vessels of the Lord this negative purity is insufficient. They are for-really to purify themselves (2 Chronicles 29:34) before undertaking their sacred office. By "the vessels of the Lord" we must understand those which Nebuchadnezzar carried off from the temple (2 Kings 25:14-16; Daniel 1:2), and which, on the return of the Jews from captivity, were restored by Cyrus (Ezra 1:7-11) and Artaxerxes (Ezra 8:25-34).
For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the LORD will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.
Verse 12. With haste... by flight. As at the going forth from Egypt (Exodus 12:33; Exodus 16:5). Then they were "thrust out;" now there would be no need of hurry. They would have the free permission of their sovereign to depart at their own time, and might proceed with calm deliberateness. God would go before them, as he did on that former occasion (Exodus 13:21), though not now visibly; and he would also defend them from attacks by the way, being at once their Guide and their Rereward, or Rearguard.
Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
Verses 13-15. - PRELUDE TO THE "GREAT PASSIONAL." It is generally allowed by modern commentators that this passage is more closely connected with what follows it than with what precedes. Some would detach it altogether from ch. 52. and attach it to ch. 53. But this is not necessary. The passage has a completeness in itself. It is a connecting link. The exaltation of Israel, the collective "Servant of the Lord" (Isaiah 44:1, 21), brings to the prophet's mind the exaltation of the individual "Servant" (Isaiah 42:1-7; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 49:1-12), through which alone the full exaltation of Israel is possible. He is bound to complete his account of the individual "Servant" by telling of his exaltation, and of the road which led to it. This is done in ch. 53, in what has been called the "Great Passional." But the "Great Pas-signal" needs a "prelude," an "introduction," if only as indicative' of its greatness. And this prelude we have here, in these three verses, which briefly note

(1) the fact of the exaltation;

(2) the depth of the humiliation preceding it; and

(3) the far-extending blessedness which shall result to the world from both. Verse 13. - My Servant shall deal prudently; rather, shall deal wisely; i.e. shall so act throughout his mission as to secure it the most complete success. "Wisdom is justified of her children," and of none so entirely justified as of him "in whom were all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hid away" (Colossians 2:3). Exalted and extolled; or, high and lifted up - the same expressions as are used of the Almighty in Isaiah 6:1 and Isaiah 57:15. Even there, however, seems to the prophet rot enough; so he adds, "and exalted exceedingly" (comp. Isaiah 53:10-12 and Philippians 2:6-9).
As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
Verse 14. - As many were astonied at thee. The world was "astonied" to see, in One come to deliver it, no outward show of grandeur or magnificence, no special beauty or "comeliness" (Isaiah 53:2), but a Presence unattractive to the mass of men at all times, and in the end so cruelly marred and disfigured as to retain scarcely any resemblance to the ordinary form and face of man. The prophet, as Delitzsch says, sits at the foot of the cross on Calvary, and sees the Redeemer as he hung upon the accursed tree, after he had been buffeted, and crowned with thorns, and smitten, and scourged, and crucified, when his face was covered with bruises and with gore, and his frame and features distorted with agony.
So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
Verse 15. - So shall he sprinkle many nations. The Septuagint has, "So shall many nations marvel at him;" and this translation is followed by Gesenius and Ewald. Mr. Cheyne thinks that the present Hebrew text is corrupt, and suggests that a verb was used antithetical to the "astonied" of ver. 14, expressing "joyful surprise." It is certainly hard to see how the idea of "sprinkling," even if it can mean "purifying," comes in here. Kings shall shut their mouths at him; rather, because of him. In reverential awe of his surpassing greatness (comp. Micah 7:16). That which had not been told them shall they see. They will learn the facts of Christ's humiliation, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven - events that it had never entered into the heart of man to conceive, and of which, therefore, no tongue had ever spoken.

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