Isaiah Translated and Explained

by Joseph Addison Alexander

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This chapter, like the whole division which it introduces, has for its great theme the relation of the church to the world, or of Israel to the gentiles. The relation of the former to Jehovah is of course still kept in view, but with less exclusive prominence than in the preceding part (ch. XL-XLVIII). The doctrine there established and illustrated, as to the mutual relation of the body and the head, is here assumed as the basis of more explicit teachings with respect to their joint relation to the world and the great design of their vocation. There is not so much a change of topics as a change in their relative position and proportions.

The chapter opens with an exhibition of the Messiah and his people, under one ideal person, as the great appointed Teacher, Apostle, and Restorer, of the apostate nations, vs. 1-9. This is followed by a promise of divine protection and of glorious enlargement, attended by a joyous revolution in the state of the whole world, vs. 10-13. The doubts and apprehensions of the church herself are twice recited under different forms, vs. 14 and 24, and as often met and silenced, first by repeated and still stronger promises of God's unchanging love to his people and of their glorious enlargement and success, vs. 15-23; then by an awful threatening of destruction to their enemies and his, vs. 25, 26.

1. Hearken ye islands unto me, and attend ye nations from afar. Here, as in ch. 41:1, he turns to the gentiles and addresses them directly. There is the same diversity in this case as to the explanation of .... But there seems to be no sufficient reason for departing from the sense of islands, which may be considered as a poetical representative of foreign and especially of distant nations, although not as directly expressing that idea. From afar is not merely at a distance (although this explanation might, in case of necessity, be justified by usage), but suggests the idea of attention being drawn to a central point from other points around it. Jehovah from the womb hath called me, from the bowels of my mother he hath mentioned my name (or literally, caused it to be remembered). The expression from the womb may be either inclusive of the period before birth, or restricted to the actual vocation of the speaker to his providential work. The speaker in this and the following verses is not Isaiah, either as an individual, or as a representative of the prophets generally, on either of which suppositions the terms used are inappropriate and extravagant. Neither the prophets as a class, nor Isaiah as a single prophet, had been intrusted with a message to the gentiles. In favour of supposing that the speaker is Israel, the chosen people, there are various considerations, but especially the aid which this hypothesis affords in the interpretation of the third verse. At the same time there are clear indications that the words are the words of the Messiah. These two most plausible interpretations may be reconciled and blended, by assuming that in this case as in ch. 42:1, the ideal speaker is the Messiah considered as the head of his people and as forming with them one complex person. If, as we have seen cause to believe, the grand theme of this whole book is the Church, in its relation to its Head and to the World, the anterior presumption is no longer against but decidedly in favour of the reference of this verse to the Head and the Body as one person, a reference confirmed, as we shall see, by clear New Testament authority.

2. And he hath placed (i. e. rendered or made) my mouth like a sharp sword. By mouth we are of course to understand speech, discourse. The comparison is repeated and explained in the Epistle to the Hebrews (4:12): "The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." In both cases these qualities are predicated not of literal speech merely, but of the instruction of which it is the natural and common instrument. As tropical parallels, Lowth refers to Pindar's frequent description of his verses as darts, but especially to the famous panegyric of Eupolis on Pericles, that he alone of the orators left a sting in those who heard him. In the shadow of his hand he hid me. It has been made a question whether in the shadow of his hand means in his hand or under it; and if the latter, whether there is reference to the usual position of the sword-belt, or to the concealment of the drawn sword or dagger under the arm or in the sleeve. Most interpreters, however, prefer the obvious sense, in the protection of his hand, or rather in its darkness, since the reference is not so much to safety as to concealment. Thus understood, the figure is appropriate not only to the personal Messiah, but to the ancient church, as his precursor and representative, in which high character it was not known for ages to the nations. And he placed me for (that is, rendered me, or, used me as) a polished arrow. This is the parallel expression to the first member of the other clause. What is there called a sword is here an arrow. The essential idea is of course the same, viz. that of penetrating power, but perhaps with an additional allusion to the directness of its aim and the swiftness of its flight. The common version shaft is not entirely accurate, the Hebrew word denoting strictly the metallic head of the arrow. In his quiver he has hid me. This is the corresponding image to the hiding in the shadow of God's hand. It is still more obvious in this case that the main idea meant to be conveyed is not protection but concealment. The archer keeps the arrow in his quiver not merely that it may be safe, but that it may be ready for use and unobserved until it is used.

3. And he (Jehovah) said to me, Thou art my servant, i. e. my instrument or agent constituted such for a specific and important purpose. In this same character both Israel and the Messiah have before been introduced. There is therefore the less reason for giving any other than the strict sense to the words which follow, Israel in whom I will be glorified or glorify myself. The version I will glory seems inadequate and not sufficiently sustained by usage The only supposition which adheres to the natural and obvious meaning of the sentence, and yet agrees with the context, is the one above mentioned, viz. that of a complex subject including the Messiah and his people, or the body with its head.

4. And I said, in opposition or reply to what Jehovah said. The pronoun in Hebrew, being not essential to the sense, is emphatic. In vain (or for a vain thing, i. e. an unattainable object) have I toiled. The Hebrew word suggests the idea of exhaustion and weariness. For emptiness and vanity my strength have I consumed. But my right is with Jehovah and my work with my God. Work is no doubt here used in the same sense as in ch. 40:10, viz. that of recompense, being put for its result or its equivalent. If so, it is altogether probable that right here means that to which I have a right or am entitled, that is to say in this connection, my reward or recompense. This explanation of the term is certainly more natural than that which makes it mean my cause, my suit, as this needlessly introduces a new figure, viz that of litigation, over and above that of labour or service for hire. This clause is universally explained as an expression of strong confidence that God would make good what was wanting, by bestowing the reward which had not yet been realized. With therefore means in his possession, and at his disposal. The next verse shows that the failure here complained of is a failure to accomplish the great work before described, viz. that of converting the world.

5. And now, saith Jehovah, my maker (or who formed me) from the womb, for a servant to himself, i. e. to be his servant in the sense before explained. The now may be here taken either in its temporal or logical sense. To convert (or bring back) Jacob to him. This cannot mean to restore from exile; for how could this work be ascribed directly either to the Prophet or the Prophets, or to the Messiah, or to Israel himself? It might indeed apply to Cyrus, but the whole context is at war with such an explanation. All that is left, then, is to give the verb the sense of bringing back to a state of allegiance from one of alienation and revolt. But how could Jacob or Israel be said to bring himself back? This is the grand objection to the assumption that the servant of Jehovah was Israel himself. This is one of the cases where the idea of the head predominates above that of the body, because they are related to each other as the subject and object of one and the same action. The vocation of Israel was to reclaim the nations; that of the Messiah was first to reclaim Israel himself and then the nations. Some read the next clause as an interrogation, shall not Israel be gathered? Others as a concession, although Israel be not gathered. Others as a simple affirmation in the present tense, and (yet) Israel is not gathered. All that is needed to give this last the preference is the substitution of the future for the present, after which the whole verse may be paraphrased as follows: Thus saith Jehovah, who formed me from the womb as a servant for himself, to restore Jacob to him—and (yet) Israel will not be gathered—and (yet) I shall be honoured in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God has (already) been my strength. The first yet introduced to show the true connection is equivalent to saying, though I was called and raised up for this purpose; the other is equivalent to saying, although Israel will not be gathered. This last phrase may be taken as a simple prediction that they should not be gathered, or a declaration that they would not (consent to) be gathered. This last, if not expressed, is implied. The general meaning of the verse is that Messiah and his people should be honoured in the sight of God, although the proximate design of their mission, the salvation of the literal Israel, might seem to fail.

6. And he said. This does not introduce a new discourse or declaration. but resumes the construction which had been interrupted by the parenthetic clauses of the foregoing verse. And now saith Jehovah (who formed me from the womb to be a servant to himself, to restore Jacob to him, and yet Israel will not be gathered, and yet I shall be honoured in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God has been my strength)he said or says as follows. It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant. The original form of expression is so purely idiomatic, that it cannot be retained in English. According to the usual analogy, the Hebrew words would seem to mean it is lighter than thy being my servant; but this can be resolved into it is too light for thee to be my servant, with at least as much ease as a hundred other formulas, the sense of which is obvious, however difficult it may be to account for the expression. The form of expression is anomalous and rare, though not unparalleled, as may be seen by a comparison of this verse with Ezek. 8:17. The sense, if it were doubtful in itself, would be clear from the context, which requires this to be taken as a declaration that it was not enough for the Messiah (and the people as his representative) to labour for the natural descendants of Abraham, but he and they must have a wider field. Thy being to me a servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and the preserved of Israel to restore. This form of expression shows very clearly that in this and the parallel passages servant is not used indefinitely, but in the specific sense of an appointed instrument or agent to perform a certain work. That work is here the raising up of Jacob, a phrase which derives light from the parallel expression, to restore the preserved of Israel, i. e. to raise them from a state of degradation, and to restore them from a state of estrangement. A specific reference to restoration from the Babylonish exile would be gratuitous; much more the restriction of the words to that event, which is merely included as a signal instance of deliverance and restoration in the general. And I have given thee for a light to the gentiles (as in ch. 42:6), to be my salvation even to the end of the earth. This, according to the English idiom, would seem to mean that thou mayest be my salvation etc.; but Hebrew usage equally admits of the interpretation, that my salvation may be (i. e. extend) to the end of the earth, which is in fact preferred by most interpreters. The meaning of this verse is not, as some suppose, that the heathen should be given to him in exchange and compensation for the unbelieving Jews, but that his mission to the latter was, from the beginning, but a small part of his high vocation. The application of this verse by Paul and Barnabas, in their address to the Jews of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:47) is very important, as a confirmation of the hypothesis assumed above, that the person here described is not the Messiah exclusively, but that his people are included in the subject of the description. "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken unto you; but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the gentiles. For so Hath The Lord Commanded us (saying), I have set thee to be a light to the gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth." Although this is not irreconcilable with the exclusive Messianic explanation of the verse before us, its agreement with the wider explanation is too striking to be deemed fortuitous.

7. Thus saith Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, to the heartily despised, to the nation exciting abhorrence. The two epithets in this clause are exceedingly obscure and difficult. Whom the nation abhorreth, who abhorreth the nation, who excites the abhorrence of the nation, the nation which excites abhorrence, all these are possible translations of the Hebrew words, among which interpreters choose according to their different views respecting the whole passage. In any case it is descriptive of deep abasement and general contempt, to be exchanged hereafter for an opposite condition. To a servant of rulers, one who has hitherto been subject to them but is now to receive their homage. Kings shall see (not him or them, but it, viz. that which is to happen) and rise up (as a token of respect), princes (shall see) and bow themselves. For the sake of Jehovah who is faithful (to his promises), the Holy One of Israel, and he hath chosen thee, or in our idiom who has chosen thee. This last clause not only ascribes the promised change to the power of God, but represents it as intended solely to promote his glory.

8. Thus saith Jehovah, In a time of favour have I heard (or answered) thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee. The common version, an acceptable time, does not convey the sense of the original, which signifies a suitable or appointed time for showing grace or favour. The object of address is still the Messiah and his people, whose great mission is again described. And I will keep thee, and will give thee for a covenant of the people, i. e. of men in general (see above, ch. 42:7), to raise up the earth or world from its present state of ruin, and to cause to inherit the desolate heritages, the moral wastes of heathenism. There is allusion to the division of the land by Joshua. Here again we have clear apostolical authority for applying this description to the Church, or people of God, as the Body of which Christ is the Head. Paul says to the Corinthians, ''We then as workers together (with him) beseech you also that ye receive not the word of God in vain. For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee." What follows is no part of the quotation but Paul's comment on it. ''Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." (2 Cor. 6:2.) This, taken in connection with the citation of v. 6 in Acts 13:47, precludes the supposition of an accidental or unmeaning application of this passage to the people or ministers of Christ as well as to himself.

9. To say to those bound, Come forth; to (those) who (are) in darkness, Be revealed (or show yourselves). On the ways (or roads) they shall feed, and in all bare hills (shall be) their pasture. There is here a change of figure, the delivered being represented not as prisoners or freedmen but as flocks. Some read by the way or on their way homeward; but it is commonly agreed that the Prophet simply represents the flock as finding pasture even without going aside to seek it, and even in the most unlikely situations. The restriction of these figures to deliverance from Babylon, can seem natural only to those who have assumed the same hypothesis throughout the foregoing chapters.

10. They shall not hunger and they shall not thirst, and there shall not smite them mirage and sun; for he that hath mercy on them shall guide them, and by springs of water shall he lead them. The image of a flock is still continued. (Compare ch. 40:10, 11,41:18. 43:19.) ... is the same word that is now universally explained in ch. 35:7 to mean the mirage, or delusive appearance of water in the desert. For the true sense of the verb lead, see above, on ch. 40:11.

11. And I will place all my mountains for the way, and my roads shall be high. The image of a flock is now exchanged for that of an army on the march. My mountains is by some understood to mean the mountains of Israel; but why these should be mentioned is not easily explained. Others with more probability explain it as an indirect assertion of God's sovereignty and absolute control, and more especially his power to remove the greatest obstacles from the way of his people. The original expression is not merely for a way but for the way, i. e. the way in which my people are to go. The word translated road is an artificial road or causeway made by throwing up the earth, which seems to be intended by the verb at the close. (Compare the use of way, ch. 57:14.)

12. Behold, these from afar shall come; and behold, these from the north and from the sea, and these from the land of Sinim. There is not the least doubt as to the literal translation of this verse; and yet it has been a famous subject of discordant expositions, all of which turn upon the question, what is meant by the land of Sinim? In addition to the authors usually cited, respect will here be had to an interesting monograph, by an American Missionary in China, [1] originally published in the Chinese Repository, and republished in this country under the title of "The Land of Sinim, or an exposition, of Isaiah 49:12, together with a brief account of the Jews and Christians in China." (Philadelphia, 1845.) It is well said by this writer, that the verse before us is the central point of the prophetical discourse, of which it forms a part; inasmuch as it embodies the great promise, which in various forms is exhibited before and afterwards. This relation of the text to the context is important, because it creates a presumption in favour of the widest meaning which can be put upon the terms of the prediction, and against a restricted local application. A preliminary question, not devoid of exegetical importance, is the question with respect to the mutual relation of the clauses. The doubtful point is, whether the first clause is a single item in an enumeration of particulars, or a generic statement, comprehending the specific statements of the other clause. Almost all interpreters assume the former ground and understand the verse as naming or distinguishing the four points of the compass. But the other supposition is ingeniously maintained by the Missionary in China, who makes the first clause a general prediction that converts shall come from the remotest nations, and the other an explanation of this vague expression, as including the north, the west, and the land of Sinim. Upon this construction of the sentence, which is certainly plausible and striking, it may be observed, in the first place, that it is not necessary for the end at which the author seems to aim in urging it. This end appears to be the securing of some proof that the specifications of the second clause relate to distant countries. But this conclusion is almost as obvious, if not entirely so, upon the other supposition; for if one of the four quarters is denoted by the phrase from afar, the idea necessarily suggested is that all the other points enumerated are remote likewise. The same thing would moreover be sufficiently apparent from the whole drift of the context as relating not to proximate or local changes but to vast and universal ones. Nothing is gained, therefore, even for the author's own opinion, by the admission of this new construction. Another observation is, that the authority on which he seems to rest its claims is inconclusive, namely, that of the Hebrew accents. He states the testimony thus afforded much too strongly, when he speaks of "a full stop" after the clause from afar they shall come, and points the verse accordingly. The accent which occurs here, as a general rule, indicates the pause not at the end but in the middle of a sentence or complete proposition. It is therefore prima facie proof that the sentence is incomplete; and although there may be numerous exceptions, it cannot possibly demonstrate that the first clause does not form a part of the same series of particulars which is concluded in the second. That the first clause frequently contains what may be logically called an essential portion of the second, any reader may convince himself by the most cursory inspection of the book before us; and for two decisive examples in this very chapter, he has only to examine the fifth and seventh verses, where the substitution of a "full stop" would destroy the sense. But even if the testimony of the accents were still more explicit and decisive than it is, their comparatively recent date and their mixed relation to rhythmical or musical as well as to grammatical and logical distinctions make it always proper to subject their decision to the requisitions of the text and context in themselves considered. Notwithstanding the great value of the masoretic accents as an aid to interpretation, the appeal must after all be to the obvious meaning of the words, or in default of this to analogy and usage. The accents leave us therefore perfectly at liberty to look upon the mutual relation of the clauses as an open question, by inquiring whether there is any valid reason for departing from the ancient and customary supposition that the four points of the compass, or at least four quarters or directions, are distinctly mentioned. This leads me, in the third place, to observe that the objection which the Missionary makes to this hypothesis, apart from the question of accentuation, is an insufficient one. He objects to the explanation of the phrase from afar as meaning from the cast (and the same objection would by parity of reasoning apply to the explanation of it as denoting from the south), that afar does not mean the east, and is not elsewhere used to denote it. But it is not said that afar means the east, but simply that it here supplies its place. If any one, in numbering the points of the compass, should, instead of a complete enumeration, say the north, south, east, and so on, his obvious meaning could not well be rendered doubtful by denying that and so on ever means the west. It is not the words themselves, but the place which they occupy, and their relation to the rest of the sentence, that suggests rather than expresses the idea. So here, the north, the west, the land of Sinim, and afar, may denote the four points of the compass, although not so explicitly as in the case supposed, because in that before us we have not merely one doubtful point, but two, if not three; and also because the one most dubious (from afar) is not at the end like and so on, but at the beginning. Still it seems most natural, when four distinct local designations are given, one of which is certainly, another almost certainly, and a third most probably, indicative of particular quarters or directions, to conclude that the fourth is so used likewise, however vague it may be in itself, and however situated in the sentence. The presumption thus created is confirmed by the fact that the hypothesis of only three divisions admits that the whole earth was meant to be included; and it thus becomes a question, which is most agreeable to general usage, and to that of Scripture in particular, a threefold or a fourfold distribution of the earth in such connections? If the latter, then analogy is strongly in favor of the common supposition that the first clause is not co-extensive with the other, but contains the first of four particulars enumerated. Over and above this argument derived from the usual distinction of four points or quarters, there is another furnished by the usage of the pronoun these, when repeated so as to express a distributive idea. In all such cases, these and these means some and others; nor is there probably a single instance in which the first these comprehends the whole, while the others divide it into parts. This would be just as foreign from the Hebrew idiom as it is from ours to say, 'Some live in Europe, some in France, some in Holland,' when we mean that some live in Holland, some in France, and all in Europe. From all this it seems to follow that the verse most probably contains the customary distribution of the earth or heavens into four great quarters, and that one of these is designated by the phrase from afar. Which one is so described can only be determined by determining the true sense of the other three. The Missionary in China is therefore perfectly correct in setting aside all arguments against his own opinion founded on the supposition that from afar must mean the south or the east. The expression is so vague that it must be determined by the others, and cannot therefore be employed to determine them, without reasoning in a vicious circle. This serves to show that the question after all is of no great exegetical importance, since in either case the same conclusion may be reached. It is always best, however, to adhere to the more obvious and usual construction of a passage, in the absence of decisive reasons for departing from it. Assuming then that four points are mentioned, and that the first (from afar) can only be determined by determining the others, let us now attempt to do so. One of these (the north) is undisputed; for although interpreters may differ as to its precise bounds and extent, its relative position is unquestionably fixed by the usage of the Hebrew word. Another term is ..., which strictly means the sea, but is often used for west, because on that side Palestine is naturally bounded by the Mediterranean. The geographical import of the term is to be decided by the predominant usage, which determines it to mean the west, and so it is explained both by the oldest and the latest writers. Having two points thus determined, we are sure that the two which remain must be the east and south; and as we have already seen that from afar from its vagueness must receive but cannot give light, we have now to ascertain, if possible, in which of these directions lay the land of Sinim. The discrepancy of the versions as to these concluding words is remarkable, and shows the doubt in which the subject was involved at a very early period. Dismissing these gratuitous conjectures, we may now confine ourselves to those interpretations which have some foundation or appearance of it either in philology or history. Among these may be mentioned, first, the supposition that the land of Hinim is the country of the Sinites spoken of in Gen. 10:17 and 1 Chron. 1:15. But why should a Canaanitish tribe of no importance, and which nowhere reappears in history, be here made to represent one of the four quarters of the globe? This question becomes still more difficult to answer when it is added that the Sinites must have been immediately adjacent to the land of Israel, and on the north side which is separately mentioned. Others understand the Land of Sinim to be the wilderness of Sin or the peninsula of Sinai, and some even identify these with the country of the Canaanitish Sinites. To this opinion the decisive objection is not the one which the Missionary in China draws from the difference of name and from the plural form Sinim. That there were not two deserts of Sin, proves no more in this case than the assertion that there were not two Hermons proves against the application of the plural Hermonim to that mountain in Ps. 42:7. If a mountain might be so called, why not a desert? Or if Hermonim means Hermonites, why may not Sinim mean Sinites? This question is especially appropriate, because the author gives no explanation of the plural form, upon his own hypothesis. But although this objection is invalid, the other which the author urges is conclusive, namely, that Sinai and the wilderness of Sin were too near and too limited to be employed in this connection. Another explanation founded on analogy of names is that the land of Sinim is the land of Egypt, so called from Syene, or from Sin, i. e. Pelusium, mentioned under that name by Ezekiel (30:15, 16). Here again it seems unfair to argue, with the Missionary in China, from the plural form of the Hebrew name; for if, as he observes, it is merely fanciful to refer it to the old geographical distinction of Upper and Lower Egypt, is it not more than fanciful to refer it to China where there is no such distinction to account for it at all? If it be said, that Sinim means the Chinese, it may just as easily be said that it means the Egyptians. There is no force therefore in the argument from this peculiarity in form, any more than in the argument which the Missionary in China himself admits to be here inapplicable, that Egypt was not sufficiently important to be made the representative of one great quarter. As little weight attaches to his argument that this interpretation of the name would make the distribution too unequal; for as he adjusts the limits of the north and even of the land of Sinim at discretion, there is no sufficient reason why the same thing might not be done with Sinim if it did mean Egypt. The really decisive ground, assumed by the same writer, is that Egypt, notwithstanding its extent and historical importance, was too near at hand to suit the context, which requires a remote land to be here meant, whether from afar be taken as a general description or as a distinct specification. Another strong objection is that no cause can be shown, from analogy or otherwise, for the designation of this well-known country, in this one place only, by a name derived from one of its cities, and that not of the first rank. The only remaining explanation, which will be referred to, is that the land of Sinim is China. An objection to this interpretation has been drawn from its resemblance to an etymological conceit founded merely on an assonance of names. But in modern times it has been generally adopted not only by the most distinguished writers on Isaiah, but by the most eminent comparative philologists, who have investigated the question as one of historical and literary interest. The only plausible objections which are still urged against it may be reduced to two. The first is that China was unknown to the Jews at the date of the prophecy. To this it may be answered, first, that no one who believes in the inspiration of the prophets, can refuse to admit the possibility of such a prediction, even if the fact were so; and secondly, that in all probability China was known to the Jews at a very early period. The rashness of asserting a negative in such cases has been clearly proved by the modern discovery of porcelain vessels with Chinese inscriptions in the monuments of Thebes. But it is still objected, that the name Sinim is not that used by the Chinese themselves, nor by other nations until long after the date of this prophecy, it having been derived from a family which did not ascend the throne until about 246 years before the birth of Christ. It is remarkable how readily this date in Chinese history is taken for granted as undoubtedly correct by those who wish to use it for an argument, although it rests upon a dark and dubious tradition of a distant unknown country; although the very text before us makes it doubtful; although the universal prevalence of the name Sin, Chin, or Jin, throughout western and southern Asia from time immemorial presupposes an antiquity still more remote; and although Chinese historians themselves record that the family from which the name derives its origin, for ages before it ruled the empire ruled a province or kingdom on the western frontier, whence the name might easily have been extended to the western nations. There are in fact few cases of a name being more extensively or longer prevalent than that of China, the very form which it exhibits in the Sanscrit, the mother language of southern Asia. That the Chinese themselves have never used it, although acquainted with it, is nothing to the purpose. A Hebrew writer would of course use the name familiar in the west of Asia. This universal name is allowed to be essentially identical with Sin by the highest philological authorities. There is therefore no conclusive force in either of the arguments advanced against this explanation of the name. As positive reasons on the other side, besides the main one drawn from the coincidence of name, may be mentioned the agreement of so many different and independent writers, and the appropriateness of the explanation to the context. Under the first head may be classed precisely those philologists whose peculiar studios best entitle them to speak with authority on such a point, and those German commentators on Isaiah, who are most accustomed to differ among themselves and with the older writers, especially where anything is likely to be added by a proposed interpretation to the strength of revelation or rather to the clearness of its evidences. Prejudice and interest would certainly have led this class of writers to oppose rather than favour a hypothesis which tends to identify the subject of this prophecy with China, the great object of missionary effort at the present day. The other confirmation is afforded by the suitableness of the sense thus evolved to the connection. If the land of Sinim meant the wilderness of Sin or even Egypt, it would be difficult if not impossible to give a satisfactory solution of its singular position here as one of the great quarters or divisions of the world. But if it mean China, that extreme limit of the eastern world, that hive of nations, supposed to comprehend a third part of the human race, the enigma explains itself. Even to us there would be nothing unintelligible or absurd, however strange or novel, in the combination, north, west, south, and China. On the whole, then, a hypothesis which solves all difficulties, satisfies the claims of philology and history, unites the suffrages of the most independent schools and parties, fully meets the requisitions of the text and context, and opens a glorious field of expectation and of effort to the church, may be safely regarded as the true one. For an interesting view of the extent to which the promise has already been fulfilled, and of the encouragements to hope and pray for its entire consummation, the reader is referred to the little book, of which we have so frequently made mention, although our citations have been necessarily confined to the first or expository chapter, the remaining four being occupied with the fulfilment of the prophecy.

13. Shout, oh heavens, and rejoice, oh earth; let the mountains burst into a shout; because Jehovah has comforted his people, and on his sufferers he will have mercy. This is a very common method with Isaiah of foretelling any joyful change by summoning all nature to exult in it as already realized. See especially ch. 44:23. Jehovah's consolation of his people is administered by deed as well as by word. (Compare ch. 51:3, 12. 52:9. 66:13. Luke 2:25, 38) The consolation here meant is the joyful assemblage of his people from all parts of the earth, predicted in the foregoing verse. The Hebrew word which is commonly translated in the English Bible poor, is here rendered more correctly afflicted. The expression his afflicted intimates at once their previous condition and their intimate relation to the Lord as their protector.

14. And (yet) Zion said, Jehovah hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me. So far was this glorious change from having been procured by confidence in God, that Zion thought herself forsaken and forgotten. Those who restrict these prophecies to the Babylonish exile are compelled to understand this either of the captive inhabitants of Zion, as distinguished from the other exiles, or of Jerusalem itself, complaining of its desolation. But the former distinction is as arbitrary here as in ch. 40:9, and the long argumentative expostulation which ensues would be absurd if addressed to the bare walls of an empty town. The only satisfactory conclusion is, that Zion or Jerusalem is mentioned as the capital of Israel, the centre of the true religion, the earthly residence of God himself, and therefore an appropriate and natural emblem of his chosen people or the ancient church, just as we speak of the corruptions or spiritual tyranny of Rome, meaning not the city but the great ecclesiastical society or corporation which it represents and of which it is the centre.

15. Will a woman forget her suckling, from haring mercy (i. e. so as not to have mercy) on the son of her womb? Also (or even) these will forget, and I will not forget thee. The constancy of God's affection for his people is expressed by the strongest possible comparison derived from human instincts. There is a climax in the thought, if not in the expression. What is indirectly mentioned as impossible in one clause, is declared to be real in the other. He first declares that he can no more forget them than a woman can forget her child; he then rises higher and declares that he is still more mindful of them than a mother. The future verb at the beginning implies without expressing a potential sense. If she will, she can; if she cannot, then of course she will not. For the negative use of the preposition from, see above, on ch. 44:18. There is no need of departing from the obvious meaning of the prophet's language, which is not hypothetical but categorical. He does not say that if or though a woman could forget her child he would not follow her example, but asserts directly that she can and will, and puts this fact in contrast with his own unwavering constancy. The plural in the last clause, like the singular in the first, denotes the whole class. He does not say that all mothers thus forget their children, nor that mothers generally do so, but that such oblivion is not unknown to the experience of mothers as a class, or of woman as an ideal individual. The primitive simplicity with which the Hebrew idiom employs the simple copulative and, where we feel the strongest adversative expression to be necessary, really adds to the force of the language, when it is once understood and familiar. The and may be retained, and yet the antithesis expressed in English by supplying yet: and (yet) I will not forgive thee.

16. Behold, on (my) palms I have graven thee; thy walls (are) before me continually. The true sense of the Prophet's figure seems to be the one expressed by those who suppose him to allude, not to a picture or a plan of Zion, but to her name imprinted on his hands for a memorial, as the ancient slave and soldier wore his master's name but for a different purpose. (See above, on ch. 44:5 ) The use of the word palms implies a double inscription and in an unusual position, chosen with a view to its being constantly in sight. Thy walls, i. e. the image of thy walls upon my hands. But this is not necessarily or certainly the true relation of the clauses, which may be considered not as parts of the same image but as two distinct images of one and the same thing. The essential idea, I will not forget thee, is first expressed by saying, I will write thy name upon my hands, and then by saying, I will keep thy walls constantly before me, i. e. in my sight and memory. (See Ps. 16:8. Is. 38:13. The mention of the walls is no proof that Zion is mentioned merely as a city, since the image of a city is the proximate object here presented, even if the object which it symbolizes be the church or chosen people.

17. Thy sons hasten (to thee); thy destroyers and thy wasters shall go out from thee. This is the proof that God had not forsaken her. The true construction, as in many other cases, seems to be that which represents the process as begun but not complete. Already had her sons begun to hasten to her, and ere long her enemies should be entirely departed. The natural interpretation of the last clause is that which understands it as containing simply an emphatic contrast between friends and foes, the latter taking their departure, and the former coming into possession.

18. Lift up thine eyes round about and see, all of them are gathered together, they are come to thee. (As) I Live, saith Jehovah. (I swear) that all of them as an ornament thou shalt put on, and bind (or gird) them like the bride. The sons, described in v. 17 as rapidly approaching, are now in sight, and their mother is invited to survey them, by lifting up her eyes round about, i. e. in all directions, with allusion to their coming from the four points of the compass. as predicted in v. 12. The common version all these, seems to introduce a new subject. The strict translation, all of them, refers to what precedes, and means all the sons who are described in the first clause of v. 17 as hastening to her. They are now already gathered, i. e. met together at the point to which they tended from so many distinct quarters. They come to thee is an inadequate translation. The true sense is that they are actually come, i. e. arrived. The formula of swearing here used strictly means, I (am) alive (or living), and is itself equivalent to I swear in English. The sons are then compared to ornaments of dress, which the mother girds or binds upon her person. As a bride puts on her ornaments, so thou shalt be adorned with thy children.

19. For thy ruins, and thy wastes, and thy land of desolation (i. e. thy desolated land)—-for now thou shalt be too narrow for the inhabitant, and far off shall be thy devourers (those who swallow thee up). The general meaning of this verse is evident, although the construction is obscure. Perhaps the best solution is the one which supposes the construction to be interrupted and resumed: For thy wastes, and thy ruins, and thy land of desolation—(then beginning anew, without completing the first sentence)—for thou shalt be too narrow etc. This mode of composition, not unlike what appears in the first draft of any piece of writing till obliterated by correction, is comparatively frequent in the ancient writers, not excepting some of the highest classical models, though proscribed as inelegant and incorrect by the fastidious rules of modern rhetoric. For the inhabitant is literally from the inhabitant, the Hebrew preposition being here used as in 1 Kings 19:7. For the application of the verb swallow up to enemies, see Lam. 2:2, 5. The devourers of this verse are of course the destroyers of v. 17.

20. Again (or still) shall they say in thine ears, the sons of thy childlessness, (Too) narrow for me is the place; come near for me, and I will dwell (or that I may dwell). The again may simply indicate that something more is to be said than had been said before, in which case it is nearly equivalent to over and above this or moreover. Or it may have its true sense as a particle of time, and intimate that these words shall be uttered more than once, again and again, or still, i. e. continually, as the necessity becomes more urgent. The relative position of the verb and its subject is retained in the translation, as it causes no obscurity, and exhibits more exactly the characteristic form of the original. By the sons of thy childlessness we may understand the sons of thee a childless one, or, thy sons oh childless one. The apparent contradiction is intentional, as appears from what follows. She who was deemed by others, and who deemed herself, a childless mother, hears the voices of her children, complaining that they have not a sufficient space to dwell in. In thy ears means in thy hearing, although not addressed to thee. (Compare 2 Sam. 18: 12.) Even in ch. 5:9, the idea seems to be not merely that of hearing, but of overhearing. The idea of excess (too narrow) is not expressed but implied, the strict translation being simply this, the place is narrow for me. All interpreters agree that the first verb in the last clause means make room for me, but they differ in explaining how this sense may be extracted from the Hebrew words. Some explain the phrase to mean, Come near to me, that there may be more room, but the sense thus given to the words is inappropriate, because the person speaking demands room not for others but for himself, which he could not possibly secure by calling on his neighbour to come close to him. The whole difficulty seems to have arisen from assuming that the preposition means to: and denotes the direction of the motion, in opposition to the fact that it is never so used after this verb, but always indicates the purpose or design. This usage fully justifies the explanation of the phrase before us as meaning, 'approach to one side for me or on my account' leaving the precise direction of the motion undetermined. The sense for me is the more probable, because it is precisely that which it has in the first clause of this verse and the first clause of the next.

21. And thou shalt say in thine heart, i. e. to thyself, in strict agreement with the preceding verse, as a dialogue not between the mother and her children, but between the children in their mother's hearing. This is consequently not an answer to what goes before, but an observation uttered, as it were, aside by an eye and ear witness of the struggle and the clamour for more room. With them the question is, where they shall dwell; with her it is, whence they came. Who hath produced these for me? As in other cases the mother is said to bear a child to the father, so in this case one mother may without absurdity be said to bear a child to another, because in either case the essential idea is that of one person being provided with a child by another, whether it be a husband by his wife, or a childless woman by a woman who has children. The truth is, however, that the force and beauty of the passage are exceedingly impaired by cutting its bold figures to the quick, and insisting on a rigorous conformity to artificial rules, instead of resting in the general conception, so clearly and affectingly presented, of a childless mother finding herself suddenly surrounded by the clamour of a multitude of children, and asking in amazement whence they came and who they are. The distinction between father and mother is one which would never occur to the speaker in such a case, and may therefore be safely overlooked by the interpreter. The cause of her astonishment is then assigned. And I was bereaved and barren. These almost incompatible expressions for a childless one are joined for the purpose of expressing that idea in the strongest manner, and with more regard to the idea itself than to the rules of rhetorical propriety. An exile and a banished one. The last word strictly means removed, i. e. from home and from society. And these who brought up? literally made great, as in ch. 1:2. Behold, I was left alone (or by myself); these, where were they? The pronoun at the end is emphatic: where were they? She asks how it is that she was so long desolate and childless, when she sees so many children round her now. The Zion of this context is the ancient church or chosen people, represented by the Sanctuary and the Holy City, as its local centre and appointed symbol. Of this ideal subject, desolation, childlessness, captivity, exile, and the other varying conditions here described, may all be predicated with the same propriety. If this, however, be the true exegetical hypothesis, and no other seems to answer all the requisitions of the case, then the Babylonish exile, and the state of the church at that period of her history, has no claim to be recognized as anything more than a particular exemplification of the general promise, that the church, after passing through extreme depression and attenuation, should be raised up and replenished like a childless mother who suddenly finds herself surrounded by a large and joyous family of children.

22. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will lift up to the nations my hand, and I will set up to the peoples my standard (or signal); and they will bring thy sons in the bosom (or arms), and thy daughters on the shoulders shall be carried. The idea expressed by the figures of the first clause is that of summoning the nations to perform their part in this great work. The figures themselves are the same as in ch. 13:2, viz. the shaking or waving of the hand and the erection of a banner, pole, or other signal, with distinct reference perhaps to persons at a distance and at hand. The figurative promise would be verified by any divine influence securing the co-operation of the heathen in accomplishing Jehovah's purpose, whatever might be the external circumstances either of the call or their compliance with it. The effect of that compliance is described in the last clause, as the bringing home of Zion's sons and daughters, with all the tender care which is wont to be lavished upon infants by their parents or their nurses. The same image is again presented in ch. 60:4. 66:12. Peculiar to this case is the use of the word 'Ish, which seems most probably to signify either the bosom or the arm, when spoken of in reference to carrying and especially the carrying of children. Strictly perhaps the word expresses an idea intermediate between arm and bosom, or including both, viz. the space enclosed by them in the act of grasping or embracing. Those who restrict the promise to the exiled Jews in Babylon are under the necessity of making this a restoration, which is not only perfectly gratuitous but inconsistent with the verse preceding, where these same children are described as appearing for the first time and thereby exciting the surprise of the forsaken mother.

23. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers; face to the ground shall they bow to thee, and the dust of thy feet shall they lick; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah, whose waiters (or hopers, i. e. those who trust in him) shall not be ashamed (or disappointed). The same promise is repeated in substance with a change of form. Instead of the nations, we have now their kings and queens; and instead of Zion's sons and daughters, Zion herself. This last variation, while it either perplexes or annoys the rhetorical precisian, aids the rational interpreter by showing that the figures of the preceding verse, however natural and just, are not to be rigidly explained. In other words, it shows that between the Zion of this passage and her children there is no essential difference, and that what is promised to the one is promised to the other. This identity is clear from the apparent solecism of representing the bereaved and childless mother as herself an infant in the arms and at the breast, because really as much in need of sustenance and care as those before called her sons and daughters, or rather because she is but another figure for the same thing. This confusion of imagery all tends to confirm the supposition that the Zion of these prophecies is not a city, which could scarcely be thus confounded with its citizens, but a society or corporation, between which as an ideal person and its individual members or any given portion of them, there is no such well-defined and palpable distinction. The Hebrew word to which the English Version and some others give the sense of nourishers, is now explained to mean a carrier or bearer, which last name is applied by the English in India to the male nurses of their children. Some regard it as equivalent to ... (Gal. 3:24), and as referring to a later period of childhood than the other, which is properly a suckler or wet-nurse. But as there is nothing in the text to suggest the idea of succession in time, they may be regarded as poetical equivalents. The image is still that of a tender infant, with an almost imperceptible substitution of the mother for her children. Face-to-the-ground is a kind of compound adverb like our English phrases sword-in-hand, arm-in-arm, but still more concise in the original. The addition of these words determines the meaning of the preceding verb as denoting actual prostration, which is also clear from the next clause, where the licking of the dust cannot be naturally understood as a strong expression for the kissing of the feet or of the earth in token of homage, but is rather like the biting of the dust in Homer, a poetical description of complete and compulsory prostration, not merely that of subjects to their sovereign, but of vanquished enemies before their conquerors. (Compare Mic. 7:17. Ps. 72:9.)

24. Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, and shall the captivity of the righteous be delivered? This verse suggests a difficulty in the way of the fulfilment of the promise. The words here translated prey and captivity are combined likewise elsewhere to describe whatever can be taken in war, including prisoners and booty. (Num. 31:11, 12, 27, 32.) The latter, though properly an abstract, is continually used as a collective term for captives. Its combination here with righteousness has perplexed interpreters. The English Version gives it the sense of lawful captive, i. e. one who has been lawfully enslaved, or one who deserves to be a captive. The simplest and most obvious construction of the words is that which makes them mean the captives of a righteous conqueror. The argument may then be stated thus: Shall the captives even of a righteous conqueror be freed in such a case? How much more the captives of an unjust oppressor!

25. For thus saith Jehovah, also (or even) the captivity (or captives) of the mighty shall be taken, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered, and with thy striven will I strive, and thy sons will I save. Shall the captives of the righteous be delivered? Yes, and more; for thus saith Jehovah, not only this but also the captives of the tyrant or oppressor. The logical connection between this verse and the one before it has been already stated. Its general sense is clear, as a solemn declaration that the power of the captor can oppose no real obstacle to the fulfilment of the promise of deliverance. The same idea is expressed in the last clause in more general and literal terms.

26. And I will make thy oppressors eat their (own) flesh, and as with new wine, with their blood shall they be drunken; and all flesh shall know, that I, Jehovah, am thy Saviour, and (that) thy Redeemer is the Mighty One of Jacob. The first clause is commonly explained as a strong metaphorical description of intestine wars and mutual destruction, similar to that in Zech. 11:9. In this case, however, as in ch. 9:19, the image is perhaps rather that of a person devouring his own flesh in impotent and desperate rage. The last clause winds up this part of the prophecy by the usual return to the great theme of the whole book, the relation of Jehovah to his people, as their Saviour, Redeemer, and Protector, self-existent, eternal, and almighty in himself, yet condescending to be called the Mighty One of Jacob. The last words may be construed as a single proposition, 'that I am Jehovah thy Saviour and thy Redeemer the Mighty One of Jacob.' This will be found upon comparison, however, to express much less than the construction above given, which asserts not only that the speaker is Jehovah etc. but that the Being who possesses these attributes is the peculiar covenanted God of Israel or Jacob. For the different epithets of this clause, see above, ch. 1:24. 41:14. 43:3. For a similar statement of the purpose of God's providential dealings with his people, see ch. 45:3, and v. 23 of this same chapter.


1. Now understood to be the lamented Walter Alacou Lowrie.