Isaiah 35:10
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy on their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(10) With songs and everlasting joy . . .—The first volume of Isaiah’s prophecy closes fitly with this transcendent picture, carrying the thoughts of men beyond any possible earthly fulfilment. The outward imagery probably had its starting-point in the processions of the pilgrims who came up to the Temple singing psalms, like those known as the “songs of degrees” at their successive halting-places (Psalms 120-134).

Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.—The words have a special interest as being the closing utterance of Isaiah’s political activity, written, therefore, probably, in his old age, and in the midst of much trouble, whether he wrote at the close of Hezekiah’s reign, or the beginning of Manasseh’s, which must have been sufficiently dark and gloomy. (See 2Chronicles 32:26; 2Chronicles 33:1-10.) The hopes of the prophet were, however, inextinguishable, and they formed a natural starting-point for the words: “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people,” with which the second collection opens, the intermediate chapters being obviously of the nature of an historical appendix. They find their echo in Revelation 7:17, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

Isaiah 35:10. And the ransomed of the Lord — They whom God shall rescue from their captivity and slavery in Babylon, say some; shall return and come to Zion — Shall be restored to their own land, from whence they had been carried captive. But the following expressions are far too magnificent and emphatical to be answered by the mere return of the Jews to Judea and Jerusalem, which was accompanied and followed by many sighs and sorrows, as appears both from sacred and profane historians. We must, therefore, of necessity, understand this verse as being intended, like the preceding verses, of gospel times, and therefore by the ransomed of the Lord we must understand those who are delivered from the guilt and power of sin, and from every kind of spiritual bondage, whether to the devil, the world, or the flesh. These may be said to return, and come to Zion, with songs, when they unite themselves to God’s church and people on earth, and more especially when they arrive at the heavenly Canaan, and are admitted into the New Jerusalem, the city of the living God, and incorporated in a glorious society, with an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect; with the general assembly and church of the firstborn, who are written in heaven. Then, indeed, are their heads crowned with everlasting joy; and they obtain joy and gladness in perfection, and sorrow and sighing flee away for ever. Thus these prophecies, which relate to the Assyrian invasion, conclude, for the support of the people of God, under that and other subsequent calamities, and to direct their joy, in their deliverance from them, to something higher. And thus should our joyful hopes and cheering prospects of eternal life swallow up both all the joys and all the sorrows of this present time. 35:5-10 When Christ shall come to set up his kingdom in the world, then wonders, great wonders, shall be wrought on men's souls. By the word and Spirit of Christ, the spiritually blind were enlightened; and those deaf to the calls of God were made to hear them readily. Those unable to do any thing good, by Divine grace were made active therein. Those that knew not how to speak of God or to God, had their lips opened to show forth his praise. When the Holy Ghost came upon the Gentiles that heard the word, then were the fountains of life opened. Most of the earth is still a desert; neither means of grace, spiritual worshippers, nor fruits of holiness, are to be found in it. But the way of religion and godliness shall be laid open. The way of holiness is the way of God's commandment; it is the good old way. And the way to heaven is a plain way. Those knowing but little, and unlearned, shall be kept from missing the road. It shall be a safe way; nothing can do them any real hurt. Christ, the way to God, shall be clearly made known; and the way of a believer's duty shall be plainly marked out. Let us then go forward cheerfully, assured that the end of this way shall be everlasting joy, and rest for the soul. Those who by faith are made citizens of the gospel Zion, rejoice in Christ Jesus; and their sorrows and sighs are made to flee away by Divine consolations. Thus these prophecies conclude. Our joyful hopes and prospects of eternal life should swallow up all the sorrows and all the joys of this present time. But of what avail is it to admire the excellence of God's word, unless we can call its precious promises our own? Do we love God, not only as our Creator, but because he gave his only Son to die for us? And are we walking in the ways of holiness? Let us try ourselves by such plain questions, rather than spend time on things that may be curious and amusing, but are unprofitable.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.'

10. Language: literally, applying to the return from Babylon; figuratively and more fully to the completed redemption of both literal and spiritual Israel.

joy upon … heads—(Ps 126:2). Joy manifested in their countenances. Some fancy an allusion to the custom of pouring oil "upon the head," or wearing chaplets in times of public festivity (Ec 9:8).

The ransomed of the Lord; they whom God shall rescue and redeem from their corporal slavery in Babylon, and especially from their spiritual bondage under sin and Satan.

Shall return, and come to Zion; shall come again to Zion, from whence they had been carried away captive. Or, shall return, to wit, to the Lord now mentioned, and come to Zion, i.e. join themselves to God’s church and people.

Sorrow and sighing shall flee away; which expressions are too magnificent and emphatical to be satisfied by the return of the Jews from Babylon to their own land, which was accompanied and followed with many sighs and sorrows, as appears, both from sacred and other historians; and therefore must necessarily be understood of gospel times, and of the joy and happiness purchased by Christ for his people, begun here, and continued to all eternity. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,.... The same with the "redeemed" in Isaiah 35:9 these shall return, or be converted, as the Vulgate Latin version; they are in the same state and condition with other men by nature, but, by virtue of their being ransomed by Christ, they are by the grace of God turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God; they are returned from the paths in which they had been straying to Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, in order to walk in his ways,

and come to Zion with songs; being called by grace, and converted, they turn their backs on the world, and the men of it, and ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherwards, even to the church of God; and they find their way, being directed and brought there by the Lord himself; where they come readily and willingly, not only to hear the Gospel, but to submit to all ordinances, and become members of a Gospel church; see Hebrews 12:20 and hither they "come with songs", for electing, redeeming, calling, justifying, and pardoning grace; everyone of which blessings requires a song, and with which they are now affected, seeing their interest in them, and cannot forbear speaking of them to the glory of divine grace:

and everlasting joy upon their heads; seen in their countenances, and by the lifting up of their heads; and which oil of gladness, is poured upon them, and diffused all over them, like the ointment on Aaron's head: and this is "everlasting": not as to the exercise of it, which is often interrupted by sin, temptation, and desertion; but as to the ground and foundation of it, the everlasting love of God, the everlasting covenant of his grace, and the everlasting righteousness and salvation by Christ; and, as to the principle and habit of it, which can never be lost, nor any man take it away:

they shall obtain joy and gladness; by having the presence of God, and communion with him; through his love being shed abroad in their hearts; by being favoured with views of Christ, and interest in him, and with the gracious influences of the blessed Spirit:

and sorrow and sighing shall flee away; which before attended them, through convictions of sin, but now removed by the discoveries and applications of pardoning grace and mercy; or what was occasioned by want of the divine Presence, now enjoyed; being come to Zion, they are made joyful in the house of prayer, and are satisfied with the marrow and fatness of Gospel ordinances, and continually hear the joyful sound of the Gospel itself: all this may be applied to the state of the saints in heaven; for the highway before described not only leads to Zion the church below, but to the Zion above, to the heavenly glory; and all the redeemed, all that walk in this way, shall come thither; at death their souls "return" to God that gave them, and are in immediate happiness with Christ; and in the resurrection shall return from their dusty beds, and shall appear before God in Zion above; and "with songs" to Father, Son, and Spirit, for what each have done for them, in election, redemption, and conversion; and for persevering grace, and for being safely brought over Jordan's river, and from the grave; see 1 Corinthians 15:54, they shall then enter into joy, which will never end; there will be nothing to interrupt it to all eternity; it will be "everlasting joy" indeed; and this will be "upon their heads", visible and manifest, and be upon them as a crown of life, righteousness, and glory, that shall never fade away; they shall then "obtain joy and gladness", in all the fulness thereof, their joy in the Lord will be complete; which these several words and phrases used are expressive of; and then there will be no more "sorrow and sighing"; for there will be no more sin and unbelief, or any other corruption of nature; no more darkness and desertion; no more of any of Satan's temptations; no more distresses, inward or outward; and so no more sighing within, nor sorrowing without; all tears will be wiped away. The Jews (b) apply this passage to the world to come.

(b) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 110. 2.

And the {l} 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.

(l) Whom the Lord will deliver from the captivity of Babylon.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
10. The verse is found verbatim in ch. Isaiah 51:11. Cf. also Isaiah 51:3, Isaiah 61:7.

everlasting joy shall be upon their heads] See ch. Isaiah 61:3—“a garland for ashes” (R.V.).Verse 10. - The ransomed of the Lord shall return. The blessedness of the last times would be incomplete to Jewish ideas without this crowning feature. There had already been a great dispersion of the faithful (Isaiah 1:7-9); there was to be a still greater one (Isaiah 11:11); Israel could not be content or happy until her "outcasts" were recalled, "the dispersed of Judah gathered together from the four corners of the earth" (Isaiah 11:12). The return here prophesied is again announced, in almost the same words, in Isaiah 51:11. With songs (see the comment on ver. 2). Everlasting joy upon their heads. Anointed, as it were, with "the oil of gladness" (Psalm 45:7) forever and ever. Sorrow and sighing shall rise away (comp. Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4).



The prophet now exclaims to the afflicted church, in language of unmixed consolation, that Jehovah is coming. "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and make the trembling knees strong! Say to those of a terrified heart, Be strong! Fear ye not! Behold, your God will come for vengeance, for a divine retribution: He will come, and bring you salvation." Those who have become weak in faith, hopeless and despairing, are to cheer up; and the stronger are to tell such of their brethren as are perplexed and timid, to be comforted now: for Jehovah is coming nâqâm (i.e., as vengeance), and gemūl 'Elōhı̄m (i.e., as retribution, such as God the highly exalted and Almighty Judge inflicts; the expression is similar to that in Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 13:9, cf., Isaiah 40:10, but a bolder one; the words in apposition stand as abbreviations of final clauses). The infliction of punishment is the immediate object of His coming, but the ultimate object is the salvation of His people (וישעכם a contracted future form, which is generally confined to the aorist).
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