Isaiah Translated and Explained

by Joseph Addison Alexander

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CHAPTER XII.

Taking occasion from the reference to Egypt and the exodus in the close of the preceding chapter, the Prophet now puts into the mouth of Israel a song analogous to that of Moses, from which some of the expressions are directly borrowed. The structure of this Psalm is very regular, consisting of two parts, in each of which the Prophet first tells the people what they will say, or have a right to say, when the foregoing promises are verified, and then addresses them again in his own person and in the usual language of prediction. In the first stanza, they are made to acknowledge the divine compassion and to express their confidence in God as the source of all their strength, and therefore the rightful object of their praise, vs. 1-3. In the second stanza, they exhort one another to make known what God has done for them, not only at home but among all nations, and are exhorted by the Prophet to rejoice in the manifested presence of Jehovah, vs. 4-6.

1. And thou (Israel, the people of God) shalt say in that day (when the foregoing promise is accomplished) I will praise thee (strictly, acknowledge thee as worthy, and as a benefactor) for thou wast angry with me, but thine anger is turned away and thou comfortest me.—The apparent incongruity of thanking God because he was angry, is removed by considering that the subject of the thanksgiving is the whole complex idea expressed in the remainder of the verse, of which God's being angry is only one element. It was not simply because God was angry that the people praise him, but because he was angry and his anger ceased. The same idea is expressed by the English Version in another form, by intimating early in the sentence the relation of its parts, whereas it is characteristic of the Hebrew style to state things absolutely first, and qualify them afterwards. The same mode of expression is used by Paul in Greek, when he says (Romans 6:17), God be thanked that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have from the heart obeyed etc. Thou comfortest me, not by words only but by deeds.

2. Behold, God is my salvation. I will trust, and not be afraid; for my strength and song is Jah Jehovah, and he is become my salvation. The first verb may be rendered in the present (I trust), as describing an actual state of mind; but the future form, while it sufficiently implies this, at the same time expresses a fixed determination, I will trust, be confident, secure. The next words contain a negative expression of the same idea. My strength and my song, i. e. the source of my protection and the subject of my praise.

3. And ye shall draw water with joy from the springs of salvation. This is a natural and common figure for obtaining and enjoying divine favour.

4. And ye shall say (to one another) in that day, praise (or give thanks to) Jehovah, call upon his name (proclaim it), make known among the nations his exploits (or achievements), remind (them) that his name is exalted. Name is here used in the pregnant sense of that whereby God makes himself known, including explicit revelation and the exhibition of his attributes in all.

5. Praise Jehovah (by singing, and perhaps with instruments) because he has done elevation (or sublimity, i. e. a sublime deed). Known is this (or be this) in all the earth, means properly to play upon stringed instruments, then to sing with an accompaniment, then to sing in general, then to praise by singing or by music generally. In this last sense it may govern the noun directly. The English Version, excellent things, is too indefinite. The English Version supplies is, and makes the last clause an appeal to the whole world for the truth of the thing celebrated. Most of the recent versions make it an imperative expression, exhorting to a general diffusion of the truth.

6. Cry out and shout (or sing), oh inhabitant of Zion (the people or the church personified as a woman), for great in the midst of thee (residing in thee by a special manifestation of his presence) is the Holy One of Israel (that Holy Being who has bound himself to Israel, in a peculiar and extraordinary manner, as their covenant God).