Isaiah 35
Barnes' Notes
This chapter Isaiah 35:1-10 is a continuation of the prophecy commenced in the previous chapter. See the Analysis of Isaiah 34 for a general view of the design of the prophecy. The object of the whole is, to show that all the enemies of the people of God, and particularly Edom, which had so peculiarly and grievously offended them, would be destroyed; and that the destruction of their foes would be followed by times of security, prosperity, and joy.

That this chapter refers in the Messiah is apparent from the slightest inspection of it. It so clearly describes the times of the gospel; so distinctly speaks of the very works which the Redeemer in fact performed; and is so full, and rich, and beautiful, that it cannot be regarded as referring to any other period. It has, in many respects, a strong resemblance to the predictions in Isaiah 11; Isaiah 12:1-6, and is incontestably among the most beautiful of the prophecies of Isaiah.

The chapter may be divided into the following portions:

I. The consolations which would follow the destruction of all their enemies - as great a change as if the wilderness were to blossom like the rose, and the glory and beauty of Lebanon and Carmel were given to the desert Isaiah 35:1-2.

II. The exhortation addressed to those in office and authority to comfort the feeble, and strengthen the weak, with the assurance that those blissful times would come Isaiah 35:3-4.

III. The description of the actual condition of the future period of happiness which is foretold.

1. The eyes of the blind would be opened, the deaf made to hear, and the lame man be cured Isaiah 35:5-7.

2. It would be a time of holiness. The way of access to these blessings would be open and free to all - even to all nations, but it would be a way for the pure only Isaiah 35:8.

3. It would be a time of safety. There would be no enemy that could overcome and subdue them Isaiah 35:9.

4. It would be a time of elevated joy - represented by the return to Zion from a long and painful captivity Isaiah 35:10. In the fullness of the blessings of the reign of the Messiah all their sorrow sad sighing would flee away Isaiah 35:10.

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
The wilderness and the solitary place - This is evidently figurative language, such as is often employed by the prophets. The word rendered 'solitary place' (ציה tsı̂yâh), denotes properly a dry place, a place without springs and streams of water; and as such places produce no verdure, and nothing to sustain life, the word comes to mean a desert. Such expressions are often used in the Scriptures to express moral or spiritual desolation; and in this sense evidently the phrase is used here. It does not refer to the desolations of Judea, but to all places that might be properly called a moral wilderness, or a spiritual desert; and thus aptly expresses the condition of the world that was to be benefited by the blessings foretold in this chapter. The parallel expressions in Isaiah 41:17-19; Isaiah 44:3-4, show that this is the sense in which the phrase is here used; and that the meaning is, that every situation which might be appropriately called a moral wilderness - that is, the whole pagan world - would ultimately be made glad. The sense is, that as great and happy changes would take place in regard to those desolations as if the wilderness should become a vast field producing the lily and the rose; or as if Isaiah 35:2 there should be imparted to such places the glory of Lebanon, and the beauty of Sharon and Carmel.

Shall be glad for them - This is evidently a personification, a beautiful poetic figure, by which the wilderness is represented as expressing joy. The sense is, the desolate moral world would be filled with joy on account of the blessings which are here predicted. The phrase 'for them,' expressed in Hebrew by the affix מ (m) means, doubtless, on account of the blessings which are foretold in this prophecy. Lowth supposes, however, that the letter has been added to the word 'shall be glad' (ישׂשׂוּ yes'us'û), by mistake, because the following word (מדבר midbâr) begins with a מ (m). The reading of the present Hebrew text is followed by none of the ancient versions; but it is nevertheless probably the correct reading, and there is no authority for changing it. The sense is expressed above by the phrase 'shall rejoice on account of the things contained in this prophecy;' to wit, the destruction of all the foes of God, and the universal establishment of his kingdom. Those who wish to see a more critical examination of the words used here, may find it in Rosenmuller and Gesenius.

And blossom as the rose - The word rendered 'rose' (חבצלת chăbı̂tsâleth) occurs only here and in Sol 2:1, where it is also rendered a 'rose.' The Septuagint renders it, Κρίνον Krinon 'Lily.' The Vulgate also renders it, Lilium - the lily. The Syriac renders it also by a word which signifies the lily or narcissus; or, according to the Syriac lexicographers, 'the meadow-saffron,' an autumnal flower springing from poisonous bulbous roots, and of a white and violet color. The sense is not, however, affected materially whatever be the meaning of the word. Either the rose, the lily, or the saffron, would convey the idea of beauty compared with the solitude and desolation of the desert. The word 'rose' with us, as being a flower better known, conveys a more striking image of beauty, and there is no impropriety in retaining it.

It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.
It shall blossom abundantly - Hebrew, 'Blossoming it shall blossom' - a common mode of expression in Hebrew, denoting certainty, abundance, fullness - similar to the expression Genesis 2:17, 'Dying thou shalt die,' that is, thou shalt surely die. The sense here is, it shall blossom in abundance.

And rejoice even with joy - Strong figurative language, denoting the greatness of the blessings; as great as if in the waste wilderness there should be heard the voice of joy and rejoicing. The Septuagint renders this: 'The deserts of Jordan also bloom and rejoice;' and Jerome applies this to the preaching of John in the wilderness adjacent to Jordan. The Septuagint evidently read ירדן yaredēn instead of the Hebrew ירנן yerannēn. Lowth has followed this, and rendered it, 'The well-watered plain of Jordan shall rejoice,' but without any authority from Hebrew manuscripts for the change.

The glory of Lebanon - The glory or ornament of Lebanon was its cedars (see the note at Isaiah 10:34). The sense here is, that the change would be as great under the blessings of the Messiah's reign as if there should be suddenly transferred to the waste wilderness the majesty and glory of mount Lebanon.

The excellency of Carmel - Carmel was emblematic of beauty, as Lebanon was of majesty, and as Sharon was of fertility. For a description of Carmel, see the note at Isaiah 29:17; of Sharon, see the note at Isaiah 33:9. The sense is clear. The blessings of the times of the Messiah would be as great, compared with what had existed before, as if the desert were made as lovely as Carmel, and as fertile as Sharon. The world that, in regard to comfort, intelligence, and piety, might be cormpared to a pathless desert, would be like the beauty of Carmel and the fertility of Sharon.

They shall see the glory of the Lord - As manifested under the Messiah.

Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
Strengthen ye - That is, you who are the religious teachers and guides of the people. This is an address made by the prophet in view of what he had said and was about to say of the proraised blessings. The sense is, strengthen and sustain the feeble and the desponding by the promised blessings; by the assurances Isaiah 34 that all the enemies of God and his people will be destroyed; and that he will manifest himself as their Protector, and send upon them the promised blessings. Or it may be regarded as addressed to the officers and ministers of religion when these blessings should have come; and as being an exhortation to them to make use of the influences, the promises, and the consolations which would attend the coming of the Messiah, to strengthen the feeble, and confirm those who were faint-hearted.

The weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees - Strength resides mainly in the arms, and in the lower limbs, or the knees. If these are feeble, the whole frame is feeble. Fear relaxes the strength of the arms, and the firmness of the knees; and the expressions 'weak hands,' and 'feeble knees,' become synonymous with saying, of a timid, fearful, and desponding frame of mind. Such were to be strengthened by the assurance of the favor of God, and by the consolations which would flow from the reign of the Messiah. The Jews, who looked abroad upon the desolations of their country, were to be comforted by the hope of future blessings; those who lived in those future times were to be consoled by the assurances of the favor of God through the Messiah (compare the notes at Isaiah 40:1).

Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
Say to them - This is still an address to the ministers of religion, to make use of all the consolations which these truths and predictions furnish to confirm and strengthen the people of God.

Of a fearful heart - Of a timid, pusillanimous heart; those who tremble before their enemies. The Hebrew is, as in the Margin, 'Of a hasty heart;' that is, of those who are disposed to flee before their enemies (see the note at Isaiah 30:16).

Behold, your God will come with vengeance - That is, in the manner described in the previous chapter; and, generally, he will take vengeance on all the enemies of his people, and they shall be punished. The language in this chapter is, in part, derived from the captivity at Babylon Isaiah 35:10, and the general idea is, that God would take vengeance on all their enemies, and would bring them complete and final deliverance. This does not mean that when the Messiah should come he would be disposed to take vengeance; nor do the words 'your God' here refer to the Messiah; but it is meant that their God, Yahweh, would certainly come and destroy all their enemies, and prepare the way thus for the coming of the Prince of peace. The general promise is, that however many enemies might attack them, or however much they might fear them, yet that Yahweh would be their protector, and would completely humble and prostrate all their foes. The Hebrew will admit of a somewhat different translation, which I give in accordance with that proposed by Lowth. The sense is not materially varied.

Say ye to the faint-hearted, Be ye strong; fear ye not; behold your God!

Vengeance will come; the retribution of God:

He himself will come, and will deliver you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened - The images in this verse and the following are those of joy and exultation. They describe the times of happiness when God would come to save them from their foes. This passage is so accurate a description of what the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, did, that it doubtless refers to the miracles which he would perform. In not a few instances did he in fact restore the blind to sight, giving thus the most unequivocal proof that he was the Messiah sent from God Matthew 9:27; Matthew 20:30; Mark 8:23; Mark 10:46; Luke 7:21. It is a full confirmation of the opinion that this passage refers to Christ, that the Saviour himself appeals to the fact that he restored the blind to sight, as demonstration that he was the Messiah, implying that it was predicted that this would be a part of his appropriate work (Matthew 11:5; compare Luke 4:18).

And the ears of the deaf be unstopped - Another demonstration of divine power, and another proof that would be furnished that the Messiah was from God The Lord Jesus often gave this demonstration that he was invested with divine power Matthew 11:5; Mark 7:32, Mark 7:37; Mark 9:25.

Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
Then shall the lame man leap - This was literally fulfilled after the coming of the Messiah Acts 14:10; Acts 3:8. It is an emblem of the general joy which the coming of the Messiah would impart, and is an instance of the blessings which it would convey.

As an hart - The word used here denotes the stag, or male deer. In Arabic it denotes the wild, or mountain-goat. The word sometimes refers to any species of deer or antelope, and this is referred to here from its quick and sprightly nature.

And the tongue of the dumb sing - Shall be able to sing, and to praise God. On the restoration of the dumb to the benefits of language, see Matthew 9:32-33; Matthew 12:22; Matthew 15:30-31; Mark 9:17; Luke 11:14.

For in the wilderness shall waters break out - The joy shall be as great, and the blessings as numerous and refreshing, as if running fountains should suddenly break out in the desert, and the thirsty and weary traveler should be thus unexpectedly and fully supplied. The world, in regard to its real comforts without the gospel, may be not unaptly compared to g vast waste of pathless sands and arid plains. Nothing will more strongly express the blessings of the gospel than the idea of cool, refreshing, abundant fountains and streams bursting forth in such pathless wastes. This is an image which would be very expressive to those who were accustomed to cross such deserts, and it is one which is frequently employed by the sacred writers, and especially by Isaiah (see Isaiah 43:19-20; Isaiah 48:21; Isaiah 49:10-11; Isaiah 55:1; Isaiah 58:11). 'Lameness and dumbness are the uniform effects of long walking in a desert; the sand and gravel produce the former, fatigue the latter. In such cases some of us have walked hours together without uttering a sentence; and all walked as if crippled, from the sand and gravel getting into the shoes; but the sight of water, especially if unexpected, unloosed every tongue, and gave agility to every limb; men, oxen, goats, sheep, and dogs, ran with speed and expressions of joy to the refreshing element.' (Campbell's Travels in Africa.) The Chaldee Paraphrast understands this as referring entirely to the return from the captivity at Babylon. 'Then shall they see the exiles of Israel assembled, ascend to their own land as the swift stags, so that they shall not be hindered.'

And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
And the parched ground shall become a pool - The idea is the same here as in the previous verse, that under the Messiah there would be blessings as great as if the parched ground' should become a lake of pure and refreshing water. The words 'parched ground,' however, probably do not convey the sense which Isaiah intended. The image which he had in his eye is much more beautiful than that which is denoted by the 'parched ground.' Lowth translates it, 'The glowing sand.' The Septuagint, Ἄνυδρος Anudros - 'The dry place, The Hebrew word (שׁרב shârâb), properly denotes the heat of the sun Isaiah 49:10; and then the phenomenon which is produced by the refraction of the rays of the sun on the glowing sands of a desert and which gives the appearance of a sea or lake of water, This phenomenon is witnessed in the deserts of Arabia and Egypt, and has been also seen occasionally in the south of France and in Russia. We have no word in English to express it. The French word by which it is commonly designated is mirage. It is caused by the refraction of the rays of the sun, an explanation of which may be found in the Edin. Encyclopaedia, vol. xiv. pp. 753-755. It is often described by travelers, and is referred to in the Koran, chapter xxiv. 39:

The works of unbelievers are like the serab in a plain,

Which the thirsty man takes to be water;

Until he comes to it, and finds that it is not.

Mr. Sale's note on this place in the Koran is, 'The Arabic word serab signifies that false appearance which in the eastern countries is often seen in sandy plains about noon, resembling a large lake of water in motion, and is occasioned by the reverberation of the sunbeams, "by the quivering undulating motion of that quick succession of vapors and exhalations which are extracted by the powerful influence of the sun" (Shaw's Travels, p. 378). It sometimes tempts thirsty travelers out of their way, but deceives them when they come near, either going forward (for it always appears at the same distance), or quite vanishes.' Q. Curtius (vii. 5) also has mentioned it, in the description of the march of Alexander the Great across the Oxus to Sogdiana: 'The vapor of the summer sun inflamed the sands, which when they began to be inflamed all things seemed to burn. A dense cloud, produced by the unusual heat of the earth, covered the light, and the appearance of the plains was like a vast and deep sea.' The Arabians often refer to this in their writings, and draw images from it. 'Like the serab of the plain, which the thirsty take to be water.' 'He runs for the spoil of the serab;' a proverb. 'Deceitful as the appearance of water;' also a proverb. 'Be not deceived by the glimmer of the scrub;' another proverb. This appearance has been often described by modern travelers, (see Shaw's Travels, p. 375; Clarke's Travels, vol ii. p. 295; Belzoni's Travels and Operations in Egypt and Nubia, p. 196).

The same appearance has been observed in India, and in various parts of Africa. 'During the French expedition to Egypt, the phenomena of unusual refractions were often seen. The uniformity of the extensive sandy plains of Lower Egypt is interrupted only by small eminences, on which the villages are situated, in order to escape the inundations of the Nile. In the morning and the evening, as many have remarked, objects appear in their natural position; but when the surface of the sandy ground is heated by the sun, the land seems at a certain distance terminated by a general inundation. The villages which are beyond it appear like so many islands situated in the middle of a great lake; and under each village is an inverted image of it. As the observer approaches the limits of the apparent inundation, the imaginary lake which seemed to encircle the village withdraws itself, and the same illusion is reproduced by another village more remote.' (Edin. Encyclopaedia, vol. xiv. p. 754.) 'In the desert,' says Prof. Robinson, 'we had frequent instances of the mirage presenting the appearance of lakes of water and islands; and as we began to descend toward Suez, it was difficult to distinguish between these appearances and the distant real waters of the Red Sea.' (Travels in Palestine and the adjacent regions, in 1838, Bib. Repos. April, 1839, p. 402.) Major Skinner, in his recently published Journey Overland to India, describes the appearance of the scrub in that very desert, between Palestine and the Euphrates, which probably supplied the images which the prophet employs: 'About noon the most perfect deception that can be conceived exhilarated our spirits, and promised an early restingplace.

We had observed a slight mirage two or three times before, but this day it surpassed all I have ever fancied. Although aware that these appearances have often led people astray, I could not bring myself to believe that this was unreal. The Arabs were doubtful, and said that, as we had found water yesterday, it was not improbable that we should find some today. The seeming lake was broken in several parts by little islands of sand that gave strength to the delusion. The dromedaries of the Sheikhs at length reached its borders, and appeared to us to have commenced to ford as they advanced, and became more surrounded by the vapor. I thought they had got into deep water, and moved with greater caution. In passing over the sand banks their figures were reflected in the water. So convinced was Mr. Calmun of its reality, that he dismounted and walked toward the deepest part of it, which was on the right hand. He followed the deceitful lake for a long time, and to our sight was strolling on the bank, his shadow stretching to a great length beyond. There was not a breath of wind; it was a sultry day, and such an one as would have added dreadfully to our disappointment if we had been at any time without water.'

Southey has beautifully described this appearance and its effects on the traveler:

Still the same burning sun! no cloud in heaven!

The hot air quivers, and the sultry mist

Floats o'er the desert, with a show

Of distant waters mocking their distress.

The idea of the prophet, if he refers to this phenomenon, is exceedingly beautiful. It is that the mirage, which has the appearance Only of a sheet of water, and which often deceives the traveler, shall become a real lake; that there shall be hereafter no deception, no illusion; that man, like a traveler on pathless sands, weary and thirsty, shall no more be deceived by false appearances and unreal hopes. The hopes and promises which this world can furnish are as delusive as is the mirage to the exhausted and thirsty traveler. Man approaches them, and, like that delusive appearance, they recede or vanish. If they are still seen, they are always at I a distance, and he follows the false and deceptive vision until he comes to the end of life. But the promises of God through the Messiah, are like real lakes of water and running streams to the thirsty traveler. They never deceive, never recede, never vanish, never are unsatisfactory. Man may approach them, knowing that there is no illusion; he may satisfy his needs, and still the supply is unexhausted and inexhaustible. Others also may approach the same fountain of pure joy, with as much freedom as travelers may approach the running stream in the desert.

In the habitation of dragons - (see the note at Isaiah 13:22). The sense of this is, that the blessings which are promised shall be as great as if in such dry and desolate places there should be verdure and beauty.

Where each lay - In every place which the wild beast had occupied.

Shall be grass - Margin, 'A court for.' The Hebrew word (חציר châtsı̂yr) may mean either grass, or a court, or habitation. The latter is undoubtedly the meaning of the word here, and thus it responds in the parallelism to the 'habitation of dragons.'

In the habitation where each lay,

Shall be a court for reeds and rushes.

Reeds and rushes - These usually grew by ponds and marshes. The image which the prophet had been employing was that era desert of sands and arid plains. He here says, that there would be verdure. In those pathless wastes there would spring up that which was nourished by water. The sense is, that those portions of the earth which are covered with moral desolation, like the pathless wastes of the desert, shall put on the appearance of moral cultivation and verdure.

And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
And an highway shall be there - (see the note at Isaiah 11:16). This is language which is derived from the return of the Jews from captivity. The idea is, that there would be easy and uninterrupted access to their own land. The more remote, though main idea in the mind of the prophet seems to have been, that the way of access to the blessings of the Messiah's reign would be open and free to all (compare Isaiah 40:3-4).

And a way - It is not easy to mark the difference between the word "way" (דרך derek) and "a highway" (מסלוּל maselûl). Probably the latter refers more particularly to a raised way (from סלל salal, to cast up), and would be expressed by our word "causeway" or "turnpike." It was such a way as was usually made for the march of armies by removing obstructions, filling valleys, etc. The word "way" (דרך derek) is a more general term, and denotes a path, or road of any kind.

And it shall be called the way of holiness - The reason why it should be so called is stated; - no impure person should travel it. The idea is, that all who should have access to the favor of God, or who should come into his kingdom, should be holy.

The unclean shall not pass over it - There shall be no idolater there; no one shall be admitted who is not a pure worshipper of Yahweh. Such is the design of the kingdom which is set up by the Messiah, and such the church of Christ should be (see Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 49:11; Isaiah 62:10).

But it shall be for those - For those who are specified immediately, for the ransomed of the Lord. The Margin is, 'For he shall be with them.' Lowth reads it,

'But he himself shall be with them, walking in the way.'

And this, it seems to me, is the more probable sense of the passage, indicating that they should not go alone or unprotected. It would be a holy way, because their God would be with them; it would be safe, because he would attend and defend them.

The wayfaring men - Hebrew, 'He walking in the way.' According to the translation proposed above, this refers to God, the Redeemer, who will be with his people, walking in the way with them.

Though fools - Hebrew, 'And fools.' That is, the simple, the unlearned, or those who are regarded as fools. It shall be a highway thrown up, so direct, and so unlike other paths, that there shall be no danger of mistaking it. The friends of God are often regarded as fools by the world. Many of them are of the humbler class of life, and are destitute of human learning, and of worldly wisdom. The sense here is, that the way of salvation shall be so plain, that no one, however ignorant and unlearned, need err in regard to it. In accordance with this, the Saviour said that the gospel was preached to the poor; and he himself always represented the way to life as such that the most simple and unlettered might find it.

No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
No lion shall be there - Lions abounded in all the countries adjacent to Palestine. They are, therefore, often referred to by the sacred writers, as objects of dread and alarm. The leading idea in the language of Isaiah in this whole passage, is that of a way constructed from Babylon to Judea, so straight and plain that the most simple of the people might find it and walk in it. But such a path would lie through desert sands. It would be in the region infested with lions and other wild beasts. The prophet, therefore, suggests that there should be no cause for such dread and alarm. The sense is, that in that kingdom to which he had made reference all would be safe. They who entered it should find security and defense as they traveled that road. And it is true. They who enter the path that leads to life, find there no cause of alarm. Their fears subside; their apprehensions of punishment on account of their sins die away; and they walk that path with security and confidence. There is nothing in that way to alarm them; and though there may be many foes - fitly represented by lions and wild beasts - lying about the way, yet no one is permitted to 'go up thereon.' This is a most beautiful image of the safety of the people of God, and of their freedom from all enemies that could annoy them.

But the redeemed shall walk there - The language here referred at first doubtless to those who would be rescued from the captivity at Babylon; but the main reference is to those who would be redeemed by the blood of the atonement, or who are properly called 'the redeemed of the Lord.' That Isaiah was acquainted with the doctrine of redemption is apparent from Isaiah 53:1-12. There is not here, indeed, any express mention made of the means by which they would be redeemed, but the language is so general that it may refer either to the deliverance from the captivity at Babylon, or the future more important deliverance of his people from the bondage of sin by the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah. On the word rendered 'redeem,' see the note at Isaiah 43:1. The idea is, that the path here referred to is appropriately designed only for the redeemed of Lord. It is not for the profane, the polluted, the hypocrite. It is not for those who live for this world, or for those who love pleasure more than they love God. The church should not be entered except by those who have evidence that they are redeemed. None should make a profession of religion who have no evidence that they belong to 'the redeemed,' and who are not disposed to walk in the way of holiness. But, for all such it is a highway on which they are to travel. It is made by levelling hills and elevating valleys; it is made across the sandy desert and through the wilderness of this world; it is made through a world infested with the enemies of God and his people. It is made straight and plain, so that none need err; it is defended from enemies, so that all may be safe; it is rendered secure, because 'He,' their Leader and Redeemer, shall go with and guard that way.

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
And the ransomed of the Lord - The word rendered here 'ransomed,' is different from the word rendered 'redeemed' in Isaiah 35:9. This word is פדוּיי pedûyēy from פדה pâdâh; though it is not easy, perhaps not possible, to designate the difference in the sense. Doubtless there was a shade of difference among the Hebrews, but what it was is not now known. See this word explained in the note at Isaiah 1:27. The language here is all derived from the deliverance from Babylon, and the images employed by the prophet relate to that event. Still, there can be no doubt that he meant to describe the deliverance under the Messiah.

Shall return, and come to Zion - This language also is that which expresses the return from Babylon. In a more general sense, and in the sense intended particularly by the prophet, it means, doubtless, that all who are the redeemed of God shall be gathered under his protection, and shall be saved.

With songs - With rejoicing - as the ransomed captives would return from Babylon, and as all who are redeemed enter the church on earth, and will enter into heaven above.

And everlasting joy upon their heads - This may be an expression denoting the fact that joy is manifest in the face and aspect (Gesenius). Thus we say that joy lights up the countenance, and it is possible that the Hebrews expressed this idea by applying it to the head. Thus the Hebrews say Psalm 126:2 :

Then was our mouth filled with laughter.

And our tongue with singing.

Or it may refer to the practice of anointing the head with oil and perfume in times of festivity and joy - in contrast with the custom of throwing ashes on the head in times of grief and calamity (Rosenmuller). Or it may refer to a custom of wearing a wreath or chaplet of flowers in times of festivity, as is often done now, and as was commonly done among the ancients in triumphal processions (Vitringa). Whichever exposition be adopted, the idea is the same, that there would be great joy, and that that joy would be perpetual and unfading. This is true of all who return to Zion under the Messiah. Joy is one of the first emotions; joy at redemption, and at the pardon of sin; joy in view of the hopes of eternal life, and of the everlasting favor of God. But this joy is not short-lived and fading, like the garland of flowers on the head; it is constant, increasing, everlasting.

And sorrow and sighing shall flee away - (See the note at Isaiah 25:8).

This is a most beautiful close of the series or succession of prophecies which we have been thus far contemplating. The result of all is, that the redeemed of the Lord shall have joy and rejoicing; that all their enemies shall be subdued, and that they shall be rescued from all their foes. In the analysis of the prophecy contained in the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth chapters, it was stated that this prophecy seemed to be a summary of all that Isaiah had before uttered, and was designed to show that all the enemies of the people of God would be destroyed, and that they would be triumphantly delivered and saved. All these minor deliverances were preparatory to and emblematic of the greater deliverance under the Messiah; and accordingly all his predictions look forward to, and terminate in that. In the portions of prophecy which we have been over, we have seen the people of God represented as in danger from the Syrians, the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Moabites, the Edomites, the Babylonians; and in reference to them all, the same result has been predicted, that they would be delivered from them, and that their enemies would be destroyed.

This has been, in the chapters which we have passed over, successively foretold of Damascus, of Egypt, of Moab, of Ethiopia, of Babylon, of Edom, and of Sennacherib; and the prophet has reached the conclusion that all the enemies of God's people would ultimately be destroyed, and that they would be safe under the reign of the Messiah, to which all their deliverances were preparatory, and in which they all would terminate, Having pursued this course of the prophecy; having looked at all these foes; having seen them in vision all destroyed; having seen the Prince of Peace come; having seen the wonders that he would perform; having seen all danger subside, and the preparation made for the eternal security and joy of all his people, the prophet closes this series of predictions with the beautiful statement now before us, 'the redeemed of Yahweh shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy; and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.'

Notes on the Bible by Albert Barnes [1834].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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