The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.Isaiah 35:1. The wilderness and solitary place, &c. — As the land of the church’s enemies, which had enjoyed many external blessings and comforts, shall be turned into a desolate wilderness, as was declared in the foregoing chapter, so, on the contrary, Emmanuel’s land, or the seat of God’s church and people, which formerly was barren and despised, like a wilderness, shall flourish exceedingly. We have more than once had occasion to observe, that by the wilderness is generally meant the Gentile world: now, it is here foretold, that, through the influence of the gospel and the grace of God, it should put on a new face, and become like a pleasant and fruitful garden; that multitudes of converts to the true religion should be made therein, and a vast number of spiritual and holy worshippers should be raised up to God in it. Some, indeed, would interpret this chapter as referring merely to the flourishing state of Hezekiah’s kingdom in the latter part of his reign, or to the cultivation of Judea again after the return of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon. But, as Bishop Lowth observes, that it has a view beyond any such events as these, “is plain from every part, especially from the middle of it, where the miraculous works wrought by our blessed Saviour are so clearly specified that we cannot avoid making the application. And our Saviour himself has, moreover, plainly referred to this very passage, as speaking of him and his works, Matthew 11:4-5. He bids the disciples of John to go and report to their Master the things which they heard and saw; that the blind receive their sight, &c., and leaves it to him to draw the conclusion in answer to his inquiry, whether he, who performed the very works which the prophets foretold should be performed by the Messiah, was not indeed the Messiah himself. And where are these works so distinctly marked by any of the prophets as in this place? And how could they be marked more distinctly? To these the strictly literal interpretation of the prophet’s words directs us. According to the allegorical interpretation, they may have a further view; and this part of the prophecy may run parallel with the former, and relate to the future advent of Christ; to the conversion of the Jews, and their restitution to their land; to the extension and purification of the Christian faith, events predicted in Scripture as preparatory to it.” We may conclude, therefore, with certainty, that as the slaughters and desolations foretold in the former chapter look far beyond the calamities brought on Idumea and the neighbouring nations, by the Assyrians or Chaldeans; so does the bright and pleasant picture of the prosperity and happiness of God’s people, drawn in this chapter, look far beyond any felicity experienced by the Jews, either in any part of Hezekiah’s reign, or after the return from Babylon. It is undoubtedly the flourishing state of the kingdom of Christ, or of the gospel church, composed of Jews and Gentiles, which is here predicted, and especially as it shall exist in the latter days, after the destruction of all the anti-christian powers, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in, and all Israel shall be saved.
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.Isaiah 35:2. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice — Great shall be the prosperity and felicity of God’s church in these gospel days. Spiritual blessings are often set forth under the emblems of fruitfulness and plenty, as the reader may see, Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 30:23; Isaiah 32:15, and elsewhere. The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, &c. — The prophet goes on to express the great change which should be made in the Gentile world by the gospel. For Lebanon was a mountain famous for its excellent cedars, Carmel was a most delightful woody mountain, and Sharon a most pleasant place for pasture; so that all these added together express great excellence: as if he had said, Whatever was valuable and desirable in the Mosaic economy shall be translated into, and appear in perfection in, the gospel of Christ; and the Gentile world, formerly a wilderness, shall be as much enriched with spiritual blessings, and be as fruitful in all the graces and virtues which belong to true and genuine religion, as ever Judea was, and abundantly more. They — Who formerly were in the wilderness of heathenism; shall see the glory of the Lord — The glorious discoveries and effects of God’s power and goodness to his people.
Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.Isaiah 35:3-4. Strengthen ye the weak hands — Ye prophets and ministers of God, comfort and encourage his people, who are now ready to faint, with hopes of that salvation which, in due time, he will work for them. The prophet mentions hands and knees, because the strength or weakness of any man eminently appears in those parts. Say to them that are of a fearful heart — Who, because of their own weakness and the strength of their enemies, are discouraged and cast down: Hebrew, לנמהרי לב, that are hasty of heart, that are for betaking themselves to flight, upon the first alarm, and for giving up the cause. Be strong, fear not — Resist your fears, confide in the power, love, and faithfulness of God, who has promised to deliver those that trust in him, and has engaged, that as your day is your strength shall be, and you shall become strong. Behold, your God will come — Though he seem to be absent, and to have departed from you, he will come and abide with you. He will come with vengeance — Namely, upon your enemies; and save you — The destruction he brings upon your enemies will be the means of your deliverance and salvation. If we suppose this to be spoken with any reference to the state of the Jews in Babylon, God avenged them when he overthrew the Babylonish empire, and brought them back to their own land. But, undoubtedly, the words are primarily intended of the coming of the Messiah in the flesh, and of the redemption and deliverance of God’s people through him; that is, of such as embraced Christianity, whom God signally avenged for all the malice and cruelty which the Jews had exercised upon them, when, by the Romans, he laid Jerusalem even with the ground, and cut off many hundreds of thousands of them by the sword, by famine, and other ways, for their obstinate rejection of the gospel, and crucifying of their Messiah. Thus Christ is said to have been set for the fall, as well as rising again, of many in Israel.
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.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.Isaiah 35:5-7. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened — The poor Gentiles, who before were blind and deaf, shall now have the eyes and ears of their minds opened to see God’s works, and to hear and receive his word. And, in token hereof, many persons who are literally and corporally blind and deaf, shall have sight and hearing miraculously conferred upon them; all which things being so fully accomplished in Christ, and, as has been just observed, applied by him to himself, it is plain that this prophecy belongs primarily to the times of the gospel. Then shall the lame leap as a hart — For joy, or shall proceed readily and nimbly in the way of duty. And the tongue of the dumb shall sing — The praises of his Redeemer and Saviour. For in the wilderness shall waters break out — The most dry and barren places shall be made moist and fruitful: which is principally meant of the plentiful effusion of God’s grace upon such persons and nations as had been wholly destitute of it. In the habitation of dragons shall be grass, &c. — Those dry and parched deserts, in which dragons have their abode, shall yield abundance of grass, and reeds, and rushes, which grow only in moist ground. Thus it was when Christian churches were planted and flourished in the cities of the Gentiles, which for many ages had been habitations of dragons, or rather of devils, Revelation 18:2. When the property of the idols’ temples was altered, and they were converted to the service of Christianity, then the habitations of dragons became fruitful fields.
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.
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 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.Isaiah 35:8. And a highway shall be there, and a way — The highway and the way are not to be taken for two different ways, but for one and the same way, even a cast-way, which is both raised ground, as the former Hebrew word מסלול signifies, and a way for persons to travel in, as the latter word here used means, both signifying a convenient, prepared, plain, and common road or path for travellers; namely, the way of truth and duty marked out by the gospel, which is the rule both of our faith and practice. “The knowledge of the truth and will of God,” says Mr. Scott, “when made very plain and clear to any people, is like casting up a highway through a country that was before impassable. The Gentile world was a desert, in this as well as in other respects; no highway to God, and heaven was to be there met with. But this advantage began to be vouchsafed to the nations when the gospel was sent to them,” and the way of duty was plainly marked out. And it shall be called, The way of holiness — Trodden by holy men, and filled with holy practices; the way of holy worship, and a holy conversation. The way of holiness is that course of religious duties in which men ought to walk and press forward, with an eye to the glory of God and their own felicity, in the enjoyment of him. It is “not a way of sufferance,” says Henry, “but an appointed way, a way into which we are directed by a divine authority, and in which we are protected by a divine warrant: it is the king’s, yea, the King of kings’ highway, in which we may be waylaid, but cannot be stopped. It is the good old way, (Jeremiah 6:16,) the way of God’s commandments. The unclean shall not pass over it — Either to defile it, or to disturb those that walk in it. It is a way by itself, distinguished from the way of the world; for it is a way of separation from, and nonconformity to, this world.” The expression further means, that unclean persons shall, by a proper exercise of good discipline, be kept out of Christ’s church on earth, as they certainly shall not be admitted into his kingdom in heaven. But it shall be for those — Termed afterward the redeemed, who shall walk there, Isaiah 35:9. But Bishop Lowth and some interpreters think the clause may be better rendered, He, namely, God, shall be with them walking in the way; that is, he shall be their companion and guide in the way. Hence, though fools, they shall not err therein — The way shall be so plain and straight, that even the most foolish travellers cannot easily mistake 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:Isaiah 35:9. No lion shall be there, &c. — It shall not only be a plain, but a safe way. They that keep close to God in this way, keep out of the reach of Satan, the roaring lion: that wicked one toucheth them not; nor shall any of their other spiritual enemies be suffered to destroy, subdue, or bring them into bondage. They may proceed with a holy security and serenity of mind, and may be quiet from the fear of evil. This is the same promise with that of Isaiah 11:9 : They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.
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.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.