And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.Isaiah 4:1. In that day — Of which he has hitherto been speaking, chap. 2. and 3., and still continues to speak; in that calamitous time; seven women shall take hold on one man — “The war and captivity shall make such a prodigious scarcity in the male sex, that seven women shall be glad to apply to a single man for protection, preservation, and marriage: and shall importune him, though contrary to the natural modesty of their sex, to consent to take away their reproach — For not barrenness only, but a single state also was reckoned opprobrious among the Jews.” “And in spite of the natural suggestions of jealousy, they will each be content with a share only of the rights of marriage in common with several others; and that on hard conditions, renouncing the legal demands of the wife on the husband, (see Exodus 21:10,) and begging only the name and credit of wedlock, to be freed from the reproach of celibacy.” See Vitringa and Bishop Lowth.
In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.Isaiah 4:2. In that day — About and after that time, when the Lord shall have washed away (as this time is particularly expressed, Isaiah 4:4,) the filth of Zion, by those dreadful judgments now described. The third part of this discourse, the reader will observe, begins here, in which is set forth the flourishing state of the remnant of the Jews after the times of the former calamity. Shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious — The church and people of Israel may be here intended by the branch of the Lord, being often called God’s vine, or vineyard, as we have seen before, and the branch of his planting, Isaiah 60:21. It is a metaphorical expression, taken from a tree cut down, which, notwithstanding, sprouts forth anew from the root, by young suckers, and brings forth many trees. And thus the prophet foretels, that, notwithstanding the grievous calamities and great destructions which he had predicted, and which would certainly come to pass, yet, nevertheless, the small remainder of them which should return out of captivity, with those that should be left in the land, when it was laid desolate by the Chaldeans, should increase into a great people. And to them the fruit of the earth should be excellent and comely — That is, through the abundant produce of the land they should be made rich, and should be rendered respectable to the neighbouring nations. This seems to be the primary and most obvious meaning of the passage, considered in connection with what precedes and follows. The Chaldee Paraphrast, however, says, the branch here means the Messiah of Jehovah, and of him many Jewish doctors, as well as Christian commentators, understand the expression. Certainly he is frequently signified, in Scripture, by this title, the branch: see Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:1; and, in one place, namely, Zechariah 6:12, his name is expressly said to be the branch. Understood of him, the meaning of the passage must be, that after the foregoing miseries had been brought upon the Jews, and they had been restored to their own land; and after they had been chastised and purified still more, by the calamities brought upon them by Antiochus Epiphanes and other princes of the Grecian empire, and by the Romans under Pompey, the Messiah should be born; and that, after the utter destruction which should be brought upon the Jewish city, temple, and nation, by Titus, the Roman general, the kingdom of the Messiah should become beautiful and glorious, as is here expressed. According to this interpretation, the expression, in that day, in the beginning of the verse, must be considered as used with great latitude, as it often is by this prophet, signifying, as Lowth observes, “not the same time with that which was last mentioned, but an extraordinary season, remarkable for some signal events of providence, called elsewhere, by way of excellence, the day of the Lord, just as that day denotes the day of judgment in the New Testament, as being a time of all others the most remarkable; see 2 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 1:18; 2 Timothy 4:8. “It is usual,” says Grotius, “for the prophets to pass from the threatenings that relate to their own times, to the promises which belong to the times of the gospel.” It may be further observed here, that the Scriptures often speak of great tribulations, as preceding, and preparing the way for, the enlargement and prosperity of Christ’s kingdom. In consistency with this application of the passage, by the fruit of the earth, here said to be excellent and comely, must be meant the spiritual blessings of the gospel, frequently described under the emblems of the fruitfulness of the earth and plenty. And by them that are escaped of Israel, we must understand those Jews who, the prophet foresaw, would be converted by the preaching of Christ and his apostles, and should thereby escape that vengeance which would involve the rest of their nation. This accords well with the following verses of the chapter.
And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem:Isaiah 4:3. And he that is left in Zion — Those that escape the common destruction brought on their countrymen; see Isaiah 4:2; shall be called holy — Shall be really such. The Jews that survived the Babylonish captivity, and returned into their own land, were greatly reformed, especially in one point, they relapsed no more into idolatry: and in other respects also a spirit of religion was revived among them. But the prophecy was much more eminently fulfilled in the first converts from Judaism to Christianity, to whose purity and holiness the apostles often bear witness, and of which they glory in their writings. Even every one that is written among the living, &c. — Whose names are recorded in the book of life, or the book of the divine knowledge and remembrance, as persons who, by repentance toward God and faith in the Messiah, expected, or already revealed, have passed from death unto life. The phrase is used in allusion to the registers which were kept of the Jewish tribes and families: see notes on Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28.
When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.Isaiah 4:4. When the Lord shall have washed away the filth, &c. — This shall be accomplished when God shall have thoroughly cleansed the Jewish nation from their sins; and shall have purged away the blood of Jerusalem — The sins of cruelty and oppression, (Isaiah 5:7,) or of bloodshed and murder, particularly in killing the prophets, and persecuting God’s servants. By the spirit of judgment and burning — By the effects of his justice and wrath in punishing them severely; by making them pass through the furnace of affliction, as it is expressed Isaiah 48:10 : or the Holy Spirit’s influences may be chiefly intended, especially as this mode of purification is opposed to the legal way, which was by water. The Holy Spirit may well be called a spirit of judgment, because he executes judgment in the church, and in the consciences of men, convincing sinners of sin, leading them to judge and condemn themselves, and humbling them before God. And the same Spirit may be properly called a spirit of burning, because he burns up and consumes the dross which is in the church, and in the hearts of sinners, operates like refiners’ fire, purges believers as gold and silver are purged, (Malachi 3:3,) inflames their souls with love to God and zeal for his glory, and transforms them into his holy nature and image. This was effectually done with respect to those Jews that embraced the gospel in the early days of Christianity.
And the LORD will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.Isaiah 4:5. And the Lord will create — Will, in a marvellous manner, produce, as it were, by a new work of creation; upon every dwelling-place of mount Zion — Upon all the private habitations of his people; and upon her assemblies — Upon the places of their public worship, and the persons assembled therein; a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining, &c. — He alludes to the pillar of a cloud and fire, which conducted and protected the Israelites in the wilderness, and afterward rested upon the tabernacle; and his words imply, that God would be the protector and glory of Zion. Such he was to Jerusalem after the return from Babylon; directing the Jews in their various difficulties, and defending them in their weak state against all the contrivances and attempts of their enemies, as we learn from the book of Nehemiah: and thus especially he was present with, and guided, protected, and preserved the first Christian Church, when he destroyed their unbelieving and disobedient countrymen. Upon all the glory shall be a defence — Upon all that church and people, which God will make glorious: upon the literal, but especially upon the mystical Jerusalem, upon all holy societies, or assemblies of sincere Christians. A learned commentator, who says the dwelling-places and assemblies of Sion “refer to the meetings of the apostles and other Christians at Jerusalem;” and that the next clause, upon all the glory, &c., means that the divine protection shall be afforded wherever God manifests himself by the extraordinary signs of his gracious presence, adds as follows: “Every symbol of the divine grace and glory, such as was the cloud, brings with it the protection and defence of that place or assembly, which is blessed with this prerogative. The event proves the truth of this interpretation. So long as God was in the temple, that place rejoiced in the benefit of the divine protection. When the voice was heard, ‘Let us depart hence,’ it was left to the desolation of its enemies.” Now the same, as he says, holds good in the Christian Church. While she cleaves to God, adheres to his truth, possesses his grace, obeys his laws, and worships him in the beauty of holiness, she has his presence with her, and is safe and happy. But, when the reverse of all this takes place, when his truth is disbelieved, his grace neglected, his laws broken, and his ordinances slighted, or attended in a mere formal way, his presence is withdrawn, and her glory and defence depart together.
And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain.Isaiah 4:6. And there shall be, &c. — Or, He, that is, the Lord, shall be, a tabernacle, or a tent, for a shadow from the heat, &c. — He alludes to the circumstance of tents being necessary, in those eastern countries, to defend people from the intolerable heat of the sun, and the violent tempests which frequently happen; in consequence of which a portable tent becomes an important part of a traveller’s baggage, for defence and shelter. Thus, he signifies, the Christian Church, in its early ages, exposed as it was to the heat and violent storms of repeated persecutions, stood in peculiar need of the divine protection, and was favoured therewith, and that frequently, in a very extraordinary and even miraculous way.