Isaiah 60
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 60. The Glory of the New Jerusalem

At length the dark clouds of sin and impending judgement roll away before the prophet’s vision, and in three magnificent chapters (60–62) he hails the rising sun of Jerusalem’s prosperity. Ch. 60, a prophecy complete in itself, is a continuous apostrophe to the ideal Zion, describing her future splendour, the restoration of her children, the submission of the nations, the influx of costly tribute from all parts of the earth, &c. All the main features can be paralleled from ch. 40–55, and the strong resemblance to ch. Isaiah 49:14 ff., Isaiah 51:17 ff., Isaiah 54 would naturally lead to its being assigned to the same author. Had the chapter occupied a different position doubt on this point would hardly arise; it would be accepted without difficulty as a prophecy of return from Exile, written in Babylon. But the fact that it follows a series of chapters which there are strong reasons to regard as post-exilic, raises the question whether it be a misplaced discourse of the second Isaiah, or whether it may not have been composed in the same circumstances as the gloomy oracles with which it is immediately connected. A closer examination of the passage reveals little that is decisive on either side, but apparently nothing inconsistent with the latter hypothesis. The promise of the return of the exiles (Isaiah 60:4; Isaiah 60:9) obviously refers to the Jews dispersed throughout the world, whose ingathering remained an object of prophetic anticipation long after the restoration of the Jewish community in Palestine. Equally indeterminate are the allusions to the sanctuary in Isaiah 60:7; Isaiah 60:13; it does not appear whether the Temple has yet to be rebuilt or only to be beautified. That the walls are still unbuilt (Isaiah 60:10) only proves that the date is earlier than the governorship of Nehemiah. In the absence of definite indications, all that can safely be said is that the theory of post-exilic authorship is perfectly admissible, and is probably to be preferred in the interests of critical simplicity. The prophecy at all events loses none of its significance if it is regarded as a message of consolation to the depressed and misgoverned and poverty stricken community depicted in the foregoing chapters.

The poem, according to Duhm and Cheyne, consists of ten strophes. The order of ideas may be thus exhibited:—

i. Isaiah 60:1-3. An introductory strophe. While the rest of the world is shrouded in darkness, the light of Jehovah’s glory breaks on Zion, and the nations are attracted to it.

ii. Isaiah 60:4-9. The main subject of the next three strophes is the return of the exiled children of Zion from East and West. As in ch. Isaiah 49:22, they are represented as brought home by the nations among whom they have sojourned; the resources of the world are placed at their disposal, and they bring with them the wealth of distant countries as tribute to the God of Israel.

iii. Isaiah 60:10-16. The relation of the new Israel to the outer world (again three strophes). Zion becomes the mistress of the nations; her walls are built by strangers, and kings are her servants (Isaiah 60:10); through her open gates a constant stream of treasure flows to beautify the sanctuary (Isaiah 60:11-13); she is the joy and praise of the whole earth, and is nourished by the “milk of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 60:14-16).

iv. Isaiah 60:17-22. The last three strophes describe the internal prosperity, both material and moral, of the future community. Peace and righteousness are the ruling powers within its borders; perfect order and security prevail (Isaiah 60:17 f.); instead of the natural luminaries of heaven, Jehovah Himself is its “everlasting light” (Isaiah 60:19 f.); the inhabitants are all righteous, possessing the land for ever, as the branch of the Lord’s planting (Isaiah 60:21 f.).

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.
1. for thy light is come] Cf. ch. Isaiah 58:8; Isaiah 58:10, Isaiah 59:9. It is the light of the promised salvation, so long looked for in vain. The perfect tenses are used from the ideal standpoint of the future.

1–3. The image in these strikingly beautiful verses is that of a city glittering in the first rays of the morning sun. Zion is no doubt addressed in the feminine gender, but the personification is much less complete than in ch. Isaiah 49:18 ff., Isaiah 51:17 ff., Isaiah 52:1 ff., Isaiah 54:1 ff. The name “Jerusalem” is inserted by the LXX., Targ. and Vulg., but the addition is unnecessary (cf. Isaiah 54:1).

For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
2, 3. While Zion is thus illuminated by the presence of Jehovah the heathen world still lies in darkness. Jerusalem is the one point of light on the earth’s surface, to which the nations and their kings are attracted. For people read with R.V. peoples.

but the Lord &c.] Better: but upon thee (emphatic) shall Jehovah arise.

And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
3. And the Gentiles] And nations (R.V.).

Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
4. shall be nursed at thy side] Rather, shall be nursed on the side, i.e. carried on the hip, the Eastern mode of carrying young children. Cf. ch. Isaiah 66:12, Isaiah 49:22. The idea, therefore, is the same as in ch. Isaiah 49:22 f.; the nurses who bring back the children representing the heathen nations. see Muir, Life of Mahomet, p. 8 (abridged Ed.): ‘Thou gavest me this bite upon my back, when I carried thee on my hip’.

4, 5. In this and the two following strophes two things are closely associated: the restoration of Zion’s banished children, and the influx of wealth from all parts of the world. The first half of Isaiah 60:4 is repeated literally from ch. Isaiah 49:18.

Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
5. and flow together] See ch. Isaiah 2:2. But the right translation is that of R.V. and be lightened (cf. Psalm 34:5). The two verbs are identical in form but belong to distinct roots.

thine heart shall fear] Lit., shall throb, obviously from joy, as in Jeremiah 33:9. These are perhaps the only two instances where the word is so used. Usually it means to tremble from fear.

and be enlarged] Psalm 119:32.

the abundance of the sea] “Abundance” is lit. “tumult”; it often means “multitude” (see ch. Isaiah 5:13 f., Isaiah 13:4, Isaiah 33:3), but in late usage it acquires the sense of “wealth” (Ecclesiastes 5:9; Psalm 37:16). The wealth of the sea is not the produce of the sea, but seaborne wealth, the wealth of maritime nations.

shall be converted unto thee] shall be turned to thee (R.V.). The stream of commerce shall be diverted from its old channels and flow to Zion.

the forces of the Gentiles] the riches of nations. Cf. Haggai 2:7 (R.V. “the desirable things of all nations”).

The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.
6. A multitude of camels] Cf. Ezekiel 26:10; Job 22:11. The word for “multitude” is used of Jehu’s small escort in 2 Kings 9:17. Perhaps “train of camels.”

dromedaries] properly “young camels.” The word does not occur in the O.T. elsewhere; amongst the Arabs it denotes, according to some of the native lexicographers, a camel less than nine years old (Lane’s Lexicon).

Ephah] a Midianite tribe (Genesis 25:4). The Midianites are often mentioned in the O.T., although nearly always (except Habakkuk 3:7) in connexion with the early history. In Genesis 37:28; Genesis 37:36 they appear as traders between the desert and Egypt (in another source—Genesis 37:25; Genesis 37:28—they are called Ishmaelites); in Exodus 2, 18 we find them occupying the Sinaitic peninsula; in Numbers 22, 25, 31 on the east of the Jordan; in Judges 6-8 their hordes invade Palestine. Their proper territory is said to have been east of the Gulf of Akaba, where Ptolemy and the Arabian geographers mention a city of Madian.

all they from Sheba] i.e. (probably) all those of Sheba; although the Hebrew accentuation implies that the subject is the “dromedaries of Midian”; hence R.V. “they all shall come from Sheba.” The meaning would then be that the produce of Sheba was conveyed by Midianite caravans. Sheba (Genesis 10:7 &c.) is a people and country in Arabia Felix (Yemen).

gold and incense] See 1 Kings 10:2; Ezekiel 27:22; Psalm 72:15; Jeremiah 6:20.

shew forth the praises of the Lord] Lit. “proclaim the glad tidings of” His praiseworthy deeds; cf. ch. Isaiah 63:7.

6, 7. The promise of Isaiah 60:5 is expanded in two pictures, seen from Jerusalem’s commanding position between the desert and the sea. The first is a procession of camels and flocks representing the tribute of the East.

All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.
7. Kedar (see on ch. Isaiah 21:16) … Nebajoth] Cf. Genesis 25:13 &c. The identification of the latter tribe with the Nabatæans of the classical writers is disputed by some eminent authorities, but it is at least a significant circumstance that “Nabataei et Cedrei” are bracketed together by Pliny, as Nabaitai and Kidrai are associated in Assyrian inscriptions (Schrader, Cuneiform Inscriptions, on Genesis 25:13 f.). The Nabatæans were as powerful in the last three centuries b.c. as the Midianites appear to have been in the days of Moses and the Judges (see on ch. 34 Introd. Note).

shall minister unto thee] serve thee for sacrificial victims. The verb has a liturgical sense (see ch. Isaiah 56:6) and the somewhat peculiar expression is explained by the following clause.

I will glorify &c.] my beautiful house I will beautify (Isaiah 60:13). It is difficult to say whether these words imply that the Temple was already in existence.

Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?
8. as doves to their windows] Genesis 8:9. The point of comparison is rather the swiftness of the flight, than the whiteness of the wings and sails.

8, 9. From the East the prophet turns to the West, and describes the ships of the Mediterranean “like white doves upon the wing” converging on Jerusalem. These also bring from afar the exiled sons of Zion, as well as rich treasures from the nations.

Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.
9. Surely the isles shall wait for me] ch. Isaiah 42:4, Isaiah 51:5. Duhm proposes to read “For to me shall the seafarers be gathered” (substituting ציים [see on ch. Isaiah 23:13] for איים, and slightly changing the verb). Some such sense would better explain the word “first” in the following line.

ships of Tarshish] See on ch. Isaiah 2:16.

glorified thee] beautified thee (as Isaiah 60:7).

10 ff. The restoration of Zion’s material prosperity through the labour and gifts of foreign peoples.

And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee.
10. the sons of strangers] strangers (R.V.), as in ch. Isaiah 56:3; although the reference here is not to individual proselytes, but to foreigners in general. It is not even certain that the verse implies a willing cooperation of heathen converted to the religion of Israel, although this is to be presumed. In either case the rebuilding of the walls by the heathen who had destroyed them is the sign of the complete removal of the divine anger against Israel.

for in my wrath &c.] Cf. ch. Isaiah 54:7-8.

Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.
11. For Therefore read And (R.V. “also”).

the riches of nations] as Isaiah 60:5.

and that their kings may be brought] R.V. and their kings led with them;—a circumstantial clause. Some commentators would change the passive participle into an active: “their kings being the leaders.” The alteration seems unnecessary.

For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.
12. Comp. Zechariah 14:17-18. The verse is objected to by Duhm and Cheyne on account of its prosaic character and unrhythmical structure, and also because it violates the strophic arrangement which these writers find in the chapter. It certainly seems to intrude awkwardly between Isaiah 60:11 and Isaiah 60:13.

shall be utterly wasted] The verb applies strictly to the lands rather than to the peoples (see the notes on ch. Isaiah 37:18).

The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
13. Forest trees from Lebanon shall be brought for the adornment of the Temple. It is difficult to say whether the reference be to building materials for the sacred edifice, or to ornamental trees planted in the Temple-courts. The former view, though less poetic, is more probable; and it is certainly unfair to cite the proverbial expressions of Isaiah 60:17 as an argument against it.

the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together] See ch. Isaiah 41:19.

the place of my sanctuary] is the Temple (Jeremiah 17:12), not the city of Jerusalem, as the place where the Temple is situated.

the place of my feet] Cf. Ezekiel 43:7 (“the place of the soles of my feet”).

The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
14. The homage done to Zion by her former oppressors is probably to be regarded as the consequence of the new glory which accrues to the Sanctuary (Isaiah 60:13).

The sons also … feet] The LXX. reads simply: “And there shall come crouching unto thee the sons of thine afflicters and despisers.” The words omitted (“all” and “shall bow … feet”) are probably a gloss.

The Zion of the Holy One of Israel] On the construction of the proper name followed by a genitive see Davidson, Syntax, § 24, R. 6.

Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.
15. Instead of thy being forsaken and hated] Cf. ch. Isaiah 49:14; Isaiah 49:21, Isaiah 54:6; Isaiah 54:11.

so that no man went through thee] with none passing by (or through).

15, 16. Instead of being shunned and hated by all nations, Zion shall become the joy of the whole earth, her wants being abundantly supplied from the best that the nations can bestow.

Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.
16. For the figure in the first half of the verse, cf. ch. Isaiah 49:23; the second half is repeated from Isaiah 49:26.

For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness.
17. For brass … gold &c.] Cf. ch. Isaiah 9:10; 1 Kings 10:21; 1 Kings 10:27, and the opposite experience, 1 Kings 14:26 f.

I will also make, &c.] Render: and I will appoint Peace as thy government, and Righteousness as thy ruler. The word for officers is an abstract noun (like “management” or “magistracy”) used in a concrete sense; exactors is a plural of majesty, precisely as in ch. Isaiah 3:12. Its use here is an oxymoron; it denotes a tyrannous, arbitrary ruler (see on ch. Isaiah 53:7), the idea conveyed being that the tyranny of the present shall be replaced by the genial rule of Righteousness. In other words, Peace and Righteousness (personified qualities, as ch. Isaiah 59:14) shall be the governing powers in the new Jerusalem. The other rendering, “I will make thy governors peaceful” &c. (so virtually the LXX.) is grammatically possible, but yields a sense feeble and unsatisfying.

17, 18. The inner order and security of the commonwealth shall correspond to its material splendour,—a double contrast to its present (or past) condition.

Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.
18. wasting nor destruction] ch. Isaiah 59:7, Isaiah 51:19.

thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, &c.] This rendering is decidedly preferable to that of most recent commentators: “thou shalt call Salvation thy walls, &c.” Moreover the rule in such cases (although Isaiah 60:17 furnishes an exception) is that “the nearer obj. is usually def. and the more remote indef.” (Davidson, Syntax, § 76). See also on ch. Isaiah 26:1.

The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.
19. thy glory] thy beauty; Isaiah 60:7, Isaiah 9:13.

19, 20. Comp. Revelation 21:23 : “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof”; and Isaiah 22:5. It is not implied that the sun and moon shall cease to exist; all that is said is that the new Jerusalem shall not be dependent on these natural luminaries. But that an actual physical illumination of the city by the glory of Jehovah is contemplated by the prophet can hardly be doubted. The basis of the conception is perhaps to be found in Ezekiel 43:2.

Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.
20. the days of thy mourning] Cf. ch. Isaiah 57:18, Isaiah 61:2.

Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.
21, 22. The community, composed exclusively of righteous persons, shall possess the land for ever; and Jehovah shall be glorified in them.

inherit] Better: possess.

the branch of my planting] i.e. “which I have planted.” Cf. ch. Isaiah 61:3. The word for branch denotes strictly a “shoot”; so also in ch. Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 14:19. For the figure cf. ch. Isaiah 5:7.

A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.
22. A little one … a small one] Better perhaps: The least … the smallest. The word for “thousand” (’éleph) means also a larger or smaller group of families,—“clan” or tribe. This is doubtless the sense in which it is employed here: comp. the parallel “nation” in the next line.

will hasten it in his time] The fulfilment shall be instantaneous when once the appointed time has arrived. The reference is to the whole of the preceding prophecy.

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