Isaiah Translated and Explained

by Joseph Addison Alexander

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The Creation Concept

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Besides the first verse, which has been explained already, this chapter contains a prophecy of Christ and of the future condition of the Church. The Prophet here recurs to the theme with which the prophecy opened (ch. 2:1-4), but with this distinction, that instead of dwelling on the influence exerted by the church upon the world, he here exhibits its internal condition under the reign of the Messiah. He first presents to view the person by whose agency the church is to be brought into a glorious and happy state, and who is here described as a partaker both of the divine and human nature, v. 2. He then describes the character of those who are predestined to share in the promised exaltation, v. 3. He then shows the necessity, implied in these promises, of previous purgation from the defilement described in the foregoing chapters, v. 4. When this purgation is effected, God will manifest his presence gloriously throughout his church, v. 5. To these promises of purity and honour he now adds one of protection and security, with which the prophecy concludes, v. 6.

It is commonly agreed that this prediction has been only partially fulfilled, and that its complete fulfilment is to be expected, not in the literal Mount Zion or Jerusalem, but in those various assemblies or societies of true believers, which now possess in common the privileges once exclusively enjoyed by the Holy City and the chosen race of which it was the centre and metropolis.

2. In that day (after this destruction) shall the Branch (or Offspring) of Jehovah be for honour and for glory, and the Fruit of the Earth for sublimity and beauty, to the escaped of Israel, literally, the escape or deliverance of Israel, the abstract being used for the collective concrete, meaning those who should survive these judgments. At this point the Prophet passes from the tone of threatening to that of promise. Having foretold a general destruction, he now intimates that some should escape it, and be rendered glorious and happy by the presence and favour of the Son of God, who is at the same time the Son of Man. The usage of the word Branch in application to an individual will be clear from the following examples. "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper" (Jer. 23:5). " In those days and at that time will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David, and he shall execute judgment" (Jer. 33:15). "Behold I will bring forth my servant the Branch" (Zech. 3:8). " Behold tho Man whose name is the Branch" (Zech. 6 :12). The Branch is here represented as a man, a king, a righteous judge, a servant of God. Hence it is reasonable to conclude that the same person, whom Jeremiah calls the branch (or son) of David, is called by Isaiah in the verse before us the branch. (or son) of Jehovah. The parallel terms correspond exactly to the two parts of Paul's description (Rom. 1:3, 4), and to the two titles applied in the New Testament to Christ's two natures, Son of God and Son of Man.

3. And it shall be, happen, come to pass, that the left in Zion and the spared in Jerusalem, singular forms with a collective application, shall be called holy, literally, holy shall be said to him, i.e. this name shall be used in addressing him, or rather may be used with truth, implying that the persons so called should be what they seemed to be, every one written, enrolled, ordained, to life in Jerusalem. Having foretold the happiness and honour which the Son of God should one day confer upon his people, the Prophet now explains to whom the promise was intended to apply. In the preceding verse they were described by their condition as survivors of God's desolating judgments. In this they are described by their moral character, and by their eternal destination to this character and that which follows it.

4. The construction is continued from the verse preceding. All this shall come to pass, if (provided that, on this condition, which idea may be here expressed by when) the Lord shall have washed away (the Hebrew word denoting specially the washing of the body, and suggesting the idea of the legal ablutions) the filth (a very strong term transferred from physical to moral defilement) of the daughters of Zion (the women before mentioned), and the blood (literally bloods, i.e. blood-shed or blood-guiltiness) of Jerusalem (i.e. of the people in general), by a spirit of judgment and spirit of burning, i.e. by the judgment and burning of the Holy Spirit, with a twofold allusion to the purifying and destroying energy of fire, or rather to its purifying by destroying, purging the whole by the destruction of a part, and thereby manifesting the divine justice as an active principle. This verse contains a previous condition of the promise in v. 3, which could not be fulfilled until the church was purged from the pollution brought upon it by the sins of those luxurious women and of the people generally, a work which could be effected only by the convincing and avenging influences of the Holy Spirit. The word spirit cannot be regarded as pleonastic or simply emphatic without affording license to a like interpretation in all other cases. It has been variously explained here as meaning breath, word, and power or influence. But since this is the term used in the New Testament to designate that person of the Godhead, whom the Scriptures uniformly represent as the executor of the divine purposes, and since this sense is perfectly appropriate here. the safest and most satisfactory interpretation is that which understands by it a personal spirit.

5. And Jehovah will create (implying the exercise of almighty power and the production of a new effect) over the whole extent (literally, place or space) of Mount Zion (in its widest and most spiritual sense, as appears from what follows), and over her assemblies, a cloud by day and smoke (i. e. a cloud of smoke). and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory (previously promised, there shall be) a covering (or shelter). The church is not only to be purified by God's judgments, but glorified by his manifested presence, and in that state of glory kept secure by his protection. The presence of God is here denoted by the ancient symbol of a fiery cloud, and is promised to the church in its whole extent and to its several assemblies, as distinguished from the one indivisible congregation, and its one exclusive place of meeting, under the old economy. The two appearances described in this verse are those presented by a fire at different times, a smoke by day and a flame by night Some regard this as the statement of a general fact, 'over every thing glorious there is protection,' i. e. men are accustomed to protect what they value highly ; but the great majority of writers understand it as a prophecy or promise.

6. And there shall be a shelter (properly a booth or covert of leaves and branches, to serve) for a shadow by day (as a protection) from heat, and for a covert and for a hiding-place from storm and from rain. The promise of refuge and protection is repeated or continued under the figure of a shelter from heat and rain, natural emblems for distress and danger.