|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
49:13-17 Let there be universal joy, for God will have mercy upon the afflicted, because of his compassion; upon his afflicted, because of his covenant. We have no more reason to question his promise and grace, than we have to question his providence and justice. Be assured that God has a tender affection for his church and people; he would not have them to be discouraged. Some mothers do neglect their children; but God's compassions to his people, infinitely exceed those of the tenderest parents toward their children. His setting them as a mark on his hand, or a seal upon his arm, denotes his being ever mindful of them. As far as we have scriptural evidence that we belong to his ransomed flock, we may be sure that he will never forsake us. Let us then give diligence to make our calling and election sure, and rejoice in the hope and glory of God.
Verse 16. - Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. The prophet has passed here from the living Zion, Isabel, to their material home, Jerusalem. The metaphor which he uses is no doubt drawn from the practice, common both in ancient and in modern days, of burning or puncturing figures and other mementos upon the hand, the arm, or some other part of the body, and then rendering the figures indelible by rubbing in henna, indigo, gunpowder, or some other coloured substance. Pilgrims in the East have almost always such marks put upon them when they have accomplished their pilgrimage. English sailors are fond of them, and few are without some such mark on their breast or limbs. The meaning here is that God has the thought of Zion as constantly present with him as if her image were indelibly marked on the palms of his hands. (On the anthropomorphic representation of God as having "arms" and "hands," see the comment on Isaiah 40:10.) Thy walls. It is the city, Zion, the emblem of the people, that can alone be "graven" or "portrayed." This city has, of course, walls. God bears them in mind perpetually, since he is about to cause them to be built up (Nehemiah 3, 4.).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands,.... Not upon his thick clouds, the clouds of heaven under him, always in view, as R. Saadiah Gaon, mentioned by Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi: much better the Targum,
"lo, as upon the hands thou art engraven before me;''
signifying that his people were always in his sight, his eyes were ever upon them, and never withdrawn from them; as anything held in the hand, or tied to or wore upon it, as a signet or ring that has the name of a person on it, to which the allusion may be; which shows how near and dear they are to him, what affection he has for them, and care of them; see Sol 8:6. Some think respect is had to the wounds in the hands of Christ, which, being on their account, are looked upon and remembered by him; or, however, to their being in his hands, out of which none can pluck them, John 10:28,
thy walls are continually before me; not the walls of Jerusalem to rebuild, though there may be an allusion to them; but either the walls of their houses where they dwell; his delights being in the habitable parts of his earth, where his saints are; or rather the walls of the church of God, for the erecting and establishing of which he is concerned. The metaphor seems to be taken from an architect that has the plan of a building, a house, or a city and its walls, in his hand, or lying before him. The phrase denotes the constant care and concern of Jehovah for the protection and safety of his church and people; who places angels about them, salvation for walls and bulwarks to them, yea, he himself is a wall of fire about them, Isaiah 26:1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
16. Alluding to the Jews' custom (perhaps drawn from Ex 13:9) of puncturing on their hands a representation of their city and temple, in token of zeal for them [Lowth], (So 8:6).
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