Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Ch. 35. is full of reminiscences of earlier prophecies, chiefly from ch. 40 ff. Although there is no external mark of transition, there is no reason to doubt that it is the continuation of ch. 34, and that the brilliant contrast is designed.
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.1. solitary place] parched land (R.V. marg.).
The words for them should be omitted; what looks like a pronominal suffix in the Hebr. being produced by an assimilation of the verbal ending to the following consonant (so already Aben Ezra).
the rose is probably the autumn crocus (R.V. marg.). Song of Solomon 2:1 shews that a meadow-flower of striking beauty is meant. Many commentators prefer the narcissus, a spring flower exceptionally plentiful in the plain of Sharon. (Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, pp. 476 f.)
1, 2. Joy in the desert, now transformed into a fertile and luxuriant plain. Cf. ch. Isaiah 41:18 f.
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.2. the glory of Lebanon … Carmel and Sharon] Cf. ch. Isaiah 33:9, Isaiah 29:17 (Isaiah 32:15).
they (lit. these) shall see the glory of the Lord] ch. Isaiah 40:5.
Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.3, 4. An exhortation to the despondent. For the figures of Isaiah 35:3 see Job 4:3-4.
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.4. Cf. Isaiah 40:9-10. them that are of a fearful heart] Lit. “the hasty of heart.” The phrase occurs with a different sense in ch. Isaiah 32:4.
behold, your God … recompence] Better (as R.V. marg.): behold your God! vengeance cometh, the recompence of God; He Himself, &c.
5, 6 a. The removal of bodily infirmities. How far the language is to be taken figuratively it may be difficult to say. Comp. ch. Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 32:3-4.
6 b, 7. The transformation of the desert. Cf. ch. Isaiah 43:19-20, Isaiah 48:21, Isaiah 49:10.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
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.7. the parched ground] The Hebr. word (shârâb, only again in Isaiah 49:10) is generally thought to be identical with Serâb, the Arabic name for the mirage (so R.V. marg.). Allusions to this remarkable optical phenomenon, by which even experienced travellers are often deceived, are, as might be expected, common in Arabic literature. Cf. Koran (Sura 24:39):—
“The works of the unbelievers are like the mirage in the desert;
The thirsty takes it for water, till he comes up to it and finds that it is nothing.”
(Quoted by Gesenius.) The idea in the text, therefore, would be that the illusion which mocks the thirsty caravan shall become a reality; water shall be as common in the desert as the mirage now is. The rendering “parched ground,” however, corresponds with Jewish usage and the ancient versions; and the sense “mirage” is unsuitable in ch. Isaiah 49:10.
in the habitation … rushes] A literal rendering of the Hebr. would be: “in the habitation of jackals, its lair, a court (the word rendered habitation’ in E.V. of ch. Isaiah 34:13) for reeds and rushes.” This yields no sense. The text appears to have suffered extensive mutilation.
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.8. The words and a way are superfluous, and may have originated through dittography.
but it shall be for those] Better (with an emendation of the text): but it shall be for his people. It is probable also that the next words should be joined to this clause,—“it shall be for His people when it walks in the way,” i.e. goes on pilgrimage. The verse as a whole suggests that the way is for the permanent use of pilgrims (cf. ch. Isaiah 19:23), not for the temporary purpose of the Return from Babylon (as in ch. Isaiah 43:19, &c.). Another proposed rendering is “and He Himself (Jehovah) walks in the way for them” (cf. ch. Isaiah 52:12). But this is less natural.
fools shall net err therein] If this clause be (as suggested) independent of the preceding, the meaning possibly is that fools shall not be there at all. The Hebr. word for “fool” (’ěvîl) connotes moral perversity, not merely the simplicity of inexperience (Job 5:3; Proverbs 1:7).
8–10. The highway in the desert. The image is founded on ch. Isaiah 40:3, Isaiah 43:19, Isaiah 49:11 (Isaiah 11:16).
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:9. the redeemed] cf. ch. Isaiah 51:10, Isaiah 62:12, Isaiah 63:4.
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.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.).