The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
The Spirit of the Lord God - Hebrew, The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh.' The Chaldee renders this, 'The prophet said, the spirit of prophecy from the presence of Yahweh God is upon me.' The Syriac, 'The Spirit of the Lord God.' The Septuagint, Πνεῦμα Κυρίου Pneuma Kuriou - 'The Spirit of the Lord,' omitting the word אדני 'ădonāy. So Luke quotes it in Luke 4:18. That this refers to the Messiah is abundantly proved by the fact that the Lord Jesus expressly applied it to himself (see Luke 4:21). Rosenmuller, Gesenius, and some others, suppose that it refers to Isaiah himself, and that the idea is, that the prophet proclaims his commission as authorized to administer consolation to the suffering exiles in Babylon. It cannot be denied that the language is such as may be applied in a subordinate sense to the office of the prophet, and that the work of the Redeemer is here described in terms derived from the consolation and deliverance afforded to the long-suffering exiles. But in a much higher sense it refers to the Messiah, and received an entire completion only as applied to him and to his work. Even Grotius, who has been said to 'find Christ nowhere in the Old Testament,' remarks, 'Isaiah here speaks of himself, as the Chaldee observes; but in him we see not an obscure image of Christ.' Applied to the Redeemer, it refers to the time when, having been baptized and set apart to the work of the Mediatorial office, he began publicly to preach (see Luke 4:21). The phrase 'the Spirit of Yahweh is upon me,' refers to the fact; that he had been publicly consecrated to his work by the Holy Spirit descending on him at Iris baptism Matthew 3:16; John 1:32, and that the Spirit of God had been imparted to him 'without measure' to endow him for his great office (John 3:34; see the notes at Isaiah 11:2).
Because the Lord hath anointed me - The word rendered 'hath anointed' (משׁח mâshach), is that from which the word Messiah is derived (see the notes at Isaiah 45:1). prophets and kings were set apart to their high office, by the ceremony of pouring oil on their heads; and the idea here is that God had set apart the Messiah for the office which he was to bear, and had abundantly endowed him with the graces of which the anointing oil was an emblem. The same language is used in reference to the Messiah in Psalm 45:7 (compare Hebrews 1:9).
To preach good tidings - On the meaning of the word (בשׂר bâs'ar) rendered here 'to preach good tidings,' see the notes at Isaiah 52:7. The Septuagint renders it, Εὐαγγελίσασθαι Euangelisasthai - 'To evangelize,' to preach the gospel.
Unto the meek - The word rendered 'meek' (ענוים ‛ănâviym) properly denotes the afflicted, the distressed, the needy. The word 'meek' means those who are patient in the reception of injuries, and stands opposed to revengeful and irascible. This is by no means the sense of the word here. It refers to those who were borne down by calamity in any form, and would be particularly applicable to those who had been sighing in a long captivity in Babylon. It is not improperly rendered by the Septuagint by the word πτωχοῖς ptōchois, 'poor,' and in like manner by Luke Luk 4:18; and the idea is, that the Redeemer came to bring a joyful message to those who were oppressed and borne down by the evils of poverty and calamity (compare Matthew 11:5).
To bind up the broken-hearted - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:6). The broken-hearted are those who are deeply afflicted and distressed on any account. It may be either on account of their sins, or of captivity and oppressionk, or of the loss of relations and friends. The Redeemer came that he might apply the balm of consolation to all such hearts, and give them joy and peace. A similar form of expression occurs in Psalm 147:3 :
He healeth the broken in heart,
And bindeth up their wounds.
To proclaim liberty to the captives - This evidently is language which is taken from the condition of the exiles in their long captivity in Babylon. The Messiah would accomplish a deliverance for those who were held under the captivity of sin similar to that of releasing captives from long and painful servitude. The gospel does not at once, and by a mere exertion of power, open prison doors, and restore captives to liberty. But it accomplishes an effect analogous to this: it releases the mind captive under sin; and it will finally open all prison doors, and by preventing crime will prevent the necessity of prisons, and will remove all the sufferings which are now endured in confinement as the consequence of crime. It may be remarked further, that the word here rendered 'liberty' (דרור derôr) is a word which is properly applicable to the year of Jubilee, when all were permitred to go free Leviticus 25:10 : 'And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty (דרור derôr) throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.' So in Jeremiah 34:8-9, it is used to denote the manumission of slaves: 'To proclaim liberty (דרור derôr) unto them; that every man should let his man-servant and every man his maid-servant, being an Hebrew, or an Hebrewess, go free.' So also Isaiah 61:1, of the same chapter.
So also in Ezekiel 46:17, it is applied to the year in which the slave was by law restored to liberty. Properly, therefore, the word has reference to the freedom of those who are held in bondage, or to servitude; and it may be implied that it was to be a part of the purpose of the Messiah to proclaim, ultimately, universal freedom, and to restore all people to their just rights. If this is the sense - and I see no reason to doubt it - while the main thing intended was that he should deliver people from the inglorious servitude of sin, it also means, that the gospel would contain principles inconsistent with the existence of slavery, and would ultimately produce universal emancipation. Accordingly it is a matter of undoubted fact that its influence was such that in less than three centuries it was the means of abolishing slavery throughout the Roman empire; and no candid reader of the New Testament can doubt that if the principles of Christianity were universally followed, the last shackle would soon fall from the slave. Be the following facts remembered:
1. No man ever made another originally a slave under the influence of Christian principle. No man ever kidnapped another, or sold another, BECAUSE it was done in obedience to the laws of Christ.
2. No Christian ever manumitted a slave who did not feel that in doing it he was obeying the spirit of Christianity, and who did not have a more quiet conscience on that account.
3. No man doubts that if freedom were to prevail everywhere, and all men were to be regarded as of equal civil rights, it would be in accordance with the mind of the Redeemer.
4. Slaves are made in violation of all the precepts of the Saviour. The work of kidnapping and selling men, women, and children; of tearing them from their homes, and confining them in the pestilential holds of ships on the ocean, and of dooming them to hard and perpetual servitude, is not the work to which the Lord Jesus calls his disciples.
5. Slavery, in fact, cannot be maintained without an incessant violation of the principles of the New Testament. To keep people in ignorance; to witchold from them the Bible; to prevent their learning to read; to render nugatory the marriage contract, or to make it subject to the will of a master; to deprive a man of the avails of Iris own labor without his consent; to make him or his family subject to a removal against his will; to prevent parents from training up their children according to their own views of what is right; to fetter and bind the intellect and shut up the avenues to knowledge as a necessary means of continuing the system; and to make people dependent wholly on others whether they shall hear the gospel or be permitted publicly to embrace it, is everywhere deemed essential to the existence of slavery, and is demanded by all the laws which rule over the regions of a country cursed with this institution. In the whole work of slavery, from the first capture of the unoffending person who is made a slave to the last act which is adopted to secure his bondage, there is an incessant and unvarying trampling on the laws of Jesus Christ. Not one thing is done to make and keep a slave in accordance with any command of Christ; not one thing which would be done if his example were followed and his law obeyed. Who then can doubt that he came ultimately to proclaim freedom to all captives, and that the prevalence of his gospel will yet be the means of universal emancipation? (compare the notes at Isaiah 58:6).
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord - (see the notes at Isaiah 49:8). There is probably an allusion here to the year of Jubilee, when the trumpet was blown, and liberty was proclaimed throughout all the land (so Leviticus 25:9-10). In like manner the Messiah would come to proclaim universal liberty - liberty to all the world from the degrading servitude of sin. The time of his coming would be a time when Yahweh would be pleased to proclaim through him universal emancipation from this ignoble bondage, and to restore to all the privilege of being the freedmen of the Lord.
And the day of vengeance of our God - (See the notes at Isaiah 34:8). This is language adapted to the deliverance from Babylon. The rescue of his people would be attended with vengeance on their enemies. This was not quoted by the Saviour in his discourse at Nazareth, or if quoted, the fact is not recorded by Luke (see Luke 4:19). The text which the Saviour took then as the foundation of his discourse Luke 4:21, seems to have ended with the clause before this, It is not to be inferred, however, that he did not consider the subsequent expressions as referring to himself, but it was not necessary to his purpose to quote them. Regarded as applicable to the Redeemer and his preaching, this doubtless refers to the fact that his coming would be attended with vengeance on his foes. It is a great truth, manifest everywhere, that God's coming forth at any time to deliver his people is attended with vengeance on his enemies. So it was in the destruction of Idumea - regarded as the general representative of all the foes of God (see the notes at Isaiah 34; Isaiah 35:1-10); so it was in the deliverance from Egypt - involving the destruction of Pharaoh and his host; so in the destruction of Babylon and the deliverance of the captives there. So in like manner it was in the destruction of Jerusalem; and so it will be at the end of the world Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10.
To comfort all that mourn - The expression, 'all that mourn,' may refer either to those who mourn over the loss of earthly friends and possessions, or to those who mourn over sin. In either case the gospel has afforded abundant sources of consolation (see the notes at Isaiah 25:8).
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
To appoint unto them - Hebrew, 'To place;' that is, to place happiness before them; to give them joy arid consolation.
That mourn in Zion - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:8). The mourners in Zion mean those who dwelt in Jerusalem; then all those who are connected with the church of God - his poor and afflicted people.
To give unto them beauty for ashes - In the Hebrew there is here a beautiful paronomasia, which cannot be transferred to our language - אפר תחת פאר pe'ēr tachath 'êpher. The word rendered 'beauty' (פאר pe'ēr) means properly a head-dress, turban, tiara, or diadem; and the idea is, that the Redeemer would impart to his mourning people such an ornament instead of the ashes which in their grief they were accustomed to easy on their heads. For the use of the word, see Isaiah 3:20; Isaiah 61:10; Exodus 39:29; Ezekiel 24:17-23. It was common among the Orientals to east dust and ashes upon their heads in time of mourning, and as expressive of their grief (compare the notes at Isaiah 57:5; 2 Samuel 13:19).
The oil of joy - The oil of joy denotes that which was symbolic or expressive of joy. Oil or ointment was employed on occasions of festivity and joy (see the notes at Isaiah 57:9); but its use was abstained from in times of public calamity or grief (see 2 Samuel 14:2).
The garment of praise - That is, the garment or clothing which shall be expresive of praise or gratitude instead of that which shall indicate grief.
For the spirit of heaviness. - Instead of a heavy, burdened, and oppressed spirit. The word used here (כהה kēhâh), usually means faint, feeble, weak (see the notes at Isaiah 42:3). It is applied to a lamp about to go out Isaiah 42:3; to eyes bedimmed, or dull 1 Samuel 3:2; to a faint or pale color Leviticus 13:39. Here it denotes those of a faint and desponding heart. These expressions are figurative, and are taken from the custom which prevailed more in Oriental countries than elsewhere - and which is founded in nature - of expressing the emotions of the mind by the manner of apparel. These customs are stated in the book of Judith. She 'pulled off the sackcloth which she had on, and pus off the garments of her widowhood, and washed her body all over with water, and anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head, and put on a tire upon it (Greek, μιτρε mitre), and put on her garments of gladness wherewith she was clad during the life of Manasses her husband. And she took sandals upon her feet, and put about her her bracelets, and her chains, and her rings, and her ear-rings, and all her ornaments, and decked herself bravely to allure the eyes of all men that should see her' Isaiah 10:3-4.
That they might be called - That is, those who had mourned in Zion.
Trees of righteousness - In the Hebrew, 'Oaks,' or terebinth trees. By their being oaks of righteousness is meant people distinguished for righteousness or justice. The Septuagint renders it, Γενεαὶ Geneai - 'Generations;' Jerome, Fortes - 'Strong;' the Chaldee, 'Princes;' the Syriac, 'Rams;' but the word properly denotes the oak, or the terebinth tree - a lofty, strong, and magnificent tree. It is not uncommon to represent people by trees (see Isaiah 1:29-30; Psalm 92:12-14):
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree;
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon,
Those that be planted in the house of the Lord,
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
They shall be fat and flourishing.
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
And they shall build the old wastes - (See the notes at Isaiah 58:12).
And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
And strangers shall stand - (See the notes at Isaiah 14:1-2; Isaiah 60:10).
And feed your flocks - The keeping of flocks constituted a very considerable part of the husbandry of those who dwelt in Palestine. Of course, any considerable prosperity of a spiritual nature would be well represented by an accession of foreigners, who should come to relieve them in their toil. It is not necessary to suppose that this is to be taken literally, nor that it should be so spiritualized as to suppose that the prophet refers to churches and their pastors, and to the fact, that those churches would be put under the care of pastors from among the pagan. The idea is, that it would be a time of signal spiritual prosperity, and when the accession would be as great and important as if foreigners were to come in among a people, and take the whole labor of attending their flocks and cultivating their fields.
Your plowmen - Hebrew, אכר 'ikkâr, from which probably is derived the Greek ἀγρός agros; the Gothic akr; the German acker; and the English acre. It means properly a digger or cultivator of the soil, or farmer Jeremiah 51:26; Amos 5:16.
And vine-dressers - The sense here accords with that which has been so repeatedly said before, that the pagan world would yet become tributary to the church (see the notes at Isaiah 9:5-7, Isaiah 9:9-10).
But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
But ye shall be named - The idea here literally is, 'There will be no need of your engaging in the business of agriculture. All that will be done by others; and you, as ministers of God, may engage wholly in the duties of religion. The world shall be tributary to you, and you shall enjoy the productions of all lands; and you may, therefore, devote yourselves exclusively to the service of Yahweh, as a kingdom of priests.' A similar promise occurs in Exodus 19:6 : 'And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.' The idea is, that there would be a degree of spiritual prosperity, as great as if they were permitted to enjoy all the productions of other climes; as if all menial and laborious service were performed by others; and as if they were to be entirely free from the necessity of toil, and were permitted to devote themselves exclusively to the services of religion.
Ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles - (See the notes at Isaiah 60:5-11).
And in their glory - In what constitutes their glory, or what they regard as valuable; that is, their wealth, their talents, and their power.
Shall you boast yourselves? - There has been considerable variety of interpretation in regard to the meaning of the word used here. Jerome renders it, Et in gloria earum superbietis. The Septuagint, 'In their wealth ye shall be admired' (θαυμασθήσεσθε thaumasthēsesthe). The Chaldee and Syriac render it, 'In their splendor ye shall glory.' The word used is ימר yâmar. It occurs nowhere else, it is believed, except in Jeremiah 2:11, twice, where it is tendered 'changed.' 'Hath a nation changed (ההימיר hahēymiyr) their gods, which are yet no gods? But my people have changed ( המיר hēmiyr) their glory for that which doth not profit.' In the passage before us, it is used in Hithpael, and means properly to exchange oneself with anyone. Here it means, 'In their splendor we shall take their places,' that is, we shall enjoy it in their stead. We shall avail ourselves of it as if we were to enter into their possessions, and as if it were our own. The sense is, it shall come to enrich and adorn the church. It shall cleavage places, and shall all belong to the penple of God - in accordance with that which has been so often said by Isaiah, that the wealth of the world would become tributary to the church.
For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
For your shame - That is, instead of the reproach and humiliation which you have been called to experience.
You shall have double - A double inheritance or reward (see the notes at Isaiah 40:2).
And for confusion - The word 'confusion' here means the same as a blush of shame, and refers to the scenes of humiliation and sorrow which the nation had passed through on account of its sins.
They shall rejoice - There is here a change from the second to the third person - a change which is not unfrequent in Isaiah. The same persons, however, are intended.
In their portion - That is, you shall be permitted to rejoice in the augmented privileges which you shall enjoy. They will be more than a compensation for all the calamities which you have been called to endure.
Therefore in their land - This is to be regarded as addressed to the exiles in Babylon, and the promise is, that the people of God would be restored again to their own land, and to more than their former privileges and blessings there.
The double - Double of what they formerly possessed; that is, their blessings would be greatly increased and multiplied. Applied to the times of the Messiah, to which the prophet undoubtedly refers, it means that the privileges of the friends of God would be far greater than had been enjoyed even in the most favored times under the former dispensation.
Everlasting joy - (See the notes at Isaiah 35:10).
For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
For I the Lord love judgment - That is, 'I shall delight in rendering to my people what is right. It is right that they should enjoy my protection, and be favored with the tokens of my kindness. Loving justice and right, therefore, I will confer on them the privileges and blessings which they ought to enjoy, and which will be a public expression of my favor and love.'
I hate robbery for burnt-offering - There has been great variety in the interpretation of this phrase. Lowth renders it, 'Who hate rapine and iniquity.' Noyes, 'I hate rapine and iniquity.' Jerome, as in our translation, Et odio habens rapinam in holocausto. The Septuagint, Μισῶν ἁρπάγματα ἐξ ἀδικίας Misōn harpagmata ech adikias - 'Hating the spoils of injustice.' The Chaldee, 'Far from before me be deceit and violence.' The Syriac, 'I hate rapine and iniquity.' This variety of interpretation has arisen from the different views taken of the Hebrew בעולה be‛ôlâh. The Syriac evidently prefixed the conjunction, ו (v), "and," instead of the preposition, ב (b), "with" or "for"; and, perhaps, also the Septuagint so read it. But this change, though slight, is not necessary in order to give a consistent rendering to the passage. The connection does not necessarily lead us to suppose that any reference would be made to 'burnt-offering,' and to the improper manner in which such offerings were made; but the idea is rather, that God hated rapine and sin; he hateth such acts as those by which his people had been removed from their land, and subjected to the evils of a long and painful captivity. And this is undoubtedly the sense of the passage. The Hebrew word עולה ‛ôlâh, usually without the ,ו means properly "a holocaust," or "what is made to ascend" (from עלה ‛âlâh, to ascend) from an altar. But the word here is the construct form for עולה ‛avı̂lâh, "evil, wickedness"; whence our word "evil" (see Job 24:20; Psalm 107:42). And the sense here is, hate rapine or plunder (גזל gāzēl) with iniquity;' that is, accompanied, as it always is, with iniquity and sin. And hating that as I do, I will vindicate my people who have been plundered in this way; and who have been borne into captivity, accompanied with deeds of violence and sin.
And I will direct their work in truth - literally, 'I will give them work in truth or faithfulness;' that is, I will give them the reward of their work faithfully. They shall be amply recompensed for all that they have done and suffered in my cause.
And I will make - (See the notes at Isaiah 55:3).
And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.
And their seed - The figure here is taken from the feelings of a parent who desires his children to be esteemed, and who regards it as an honor that they become so distinguished that their fame extends to distant lands.
And their offspring - (See the notes at Isaiah 48:19). The Chaldee and the Syriac render this, 'Their children's children.' The sense is, that the true friends of the church shall be everywhere honored. Distant lands shall be acquainted with them, and shall be disposed to show them distinguished respect.
Among the people - The people of distant lands.
All that see them shall acknowledge them - The time shall come when the true friends of the Redeemer will be universally honored. They shall be regarded as the favored of the Lord; and instead of being persecuted and despised, the nations of the earth will regard them as worthy of their confidence and esteem.
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
Compare Revelation 19:8, and Paul's beautiful description in Ephesians 6:13-17. In like manner, vice and wickedness are sometimes represented as so closely adhering to a man as to be a part of his very clothing; Psalm 109:18-19 :
He clothed himself with cursing, like as with a garment.
Let it be unto him as the garment which covereth him,
And for a girdle, wherewith he is girded continually.
The Chaldee renders this, 'And the just shall be round about him on every side - סחור סחור sehôr sehôr - and the servants of truth shall come near to him.' The idea is, that he shall be distinguished for justice and truth, and that a zeal for these shall make him strong and active in executing the purposes of his reign. This closes the description of the "personal" qualities of the Messiah. The account of the effects of his reign follows in the subsequent verses.
Isaiah 61:10I wilt greatly rejoice in the Lord - This is the language of the prophet in the name of the church; or, as Vitringa supposes, the language of a chorus introduced here by the prophet. The Chaldee regards it as the language of Jerusalem, and renders it, 'Jerusalem said, I will surely rejoice in the Lord.' The sentiment is, that the prosperity and enlargement of Zion is an occasion of joy, and should lead to thanksgiving and praise. The phrase, 'I will rejoice in the Lord,' means that the joy would arise from the view of the faithfulness and perfections of Yahweh manifested in the redemption of his people. See similar expressions of joy in the song of Mary Luke 1:46-47.
For he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation - That is, Jerusalem or the church.
He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness - The word rendered 'robe' here means mantle, or a large and loose garment thrown over the other parts of the dress. Such garments are for protection and for ornament, and the image is that of the church defended and ornamented by God (see the notes at Isaiah 49:18).
For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
For as the earth bringeth forth - This figure is several times used by the prophet (see the notes at Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 55:10-11). The idea is an exceedingly beautiful one, that, on the coming of the Messiah, truth and righteousness would spring up and abound like grass and fruits in the vegetable world when the earth is watered with rain.
Her bud - The word 'bud' we now apply usually to the small bunch or protuberance on the branches of a plant, containing the rudiments of the future leaf or flower. The Hebrew word, however, (צמח tsemach), rather means the germ, the shoot, or the young and tender plant as it comes up from the earth; that which first appears from the seed.
Before all the nations - The sense is, that righteousness would abound over all the earth, and that all the world would yet join in celebrating the praises of God.