Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.XXV.
(1) O Lord, thou art my God.—The burst of praise follows, like St. Paul’s in Romans 11:33-36, upon the contemplation of the glory of the heavenly city.
Thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.—It is better to omit the words in italics, and to treat the words as standing in the objective case, in apposition with “wonderful things.” The “counsels of old” are the eternal purposes of God made known to His prophets. The absence of a conjunction in the Hebrew, emphasises the enumeration.
For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.(2) Thou hast made of a city an heap.—The city spoken of as “the palace of strangers” was, probably in the prophet’s thought, that which he identified with the oppressors and destroyers of his people—i.e., Nineveh or Babylon; but that city was also for him the representation of the world-power which in every age opposes itself to the righteousness of God’s kingdom. The Babylon of Isaiah becomes the type of the mystical Babylon of the Apocalypse. The words as they stand expand the thought of Isaiah 24:10. (Comp. Isaiah 27:10.)
Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee.(3) Therefore shall the strong people . . .—Better, “a fierce people and a city,” the Hebrew having no article before either noun. The words paint the effect of the downfall of the imperial oppressor on the outlying fiercer nations, who were thus taught to recognise the righteous judgments of the God of Israel. (Comp. Revelation 11:13; Revelation 15:4.)
For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.(4) Thou hast been a strength . . .—Literally, a fortress. The fierceness of the oppressor is represented by the intolerable heat, and the fierce tornado of an eastern storm, dashing against the wall, threatening it with destruction. From that storm the faithful servants of the Lord should find shelter as in the castle of the great King.
Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.(5) Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers . . .—The thought of Isaiah 25:4 is reproduced with a variation of imagery, the scorching “heat” in a “dry” (or parched) “land.” This is deprived of its power to harm, by the presence of Jehovah, as the welcome shadow of a cloud hides the sun’s intolerable blaze. (Comp. Isaiah 32:2.) It is noticeable that the LXX. in both passages gives “Sion” for “dry place” (Heb. tsayôn), perhaps following a various reading, perhaps interpreting.
The branch of the terrible ones . . .—Better, the song. The Hebrew noun is a rare one, but is found in this sense in Song Song of Solomon 2:12. The triumph song of the dread oppressors is thought of as blighting the world like a spell of evil; but this also is to be brought low, and hushed in silence.
And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.(6) And in this mountain shall the Lord . . .—The mountain is, as in Isaiah 2:1, the hill of Zion, the true representative type of the city of God. True to what we may call the catholicity of his character, Isaiah looks forward to a time when the outlying heathen nations shall no longer be excluded from fellowship with Israel, but shall share in its sacrificial feasts even as at the banquet of the great King. In the Hebrew, as even in the English, the rhythm flows on like a strain of music appropriate to such a feast. The “wines on the lees” are those that have been allowed to ripen and clarify in the cask, and so, like the “fat things full of marrow,” represent the crowning luxuries of an Eastern banquet.
And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.(7) The face of the covering cast over all people . . .—To cover the face was, in the East, a sign of mourning for the dead (2Samuel 19:4); and to destroy that covering is to overcome death, of which it is thus the symbol. With this there probably mingled another, though kindred, thought. The man whose face is thus covered cannot see the light, and the “covering” represents the veil (2Corinthians 3:15) which hinders men from knowing God. The final victory of God includes a triumph over ignorance and sorrow, as well as over sin and death.
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.(8) He will swallow up . . .—The verb is the same as the “destroy” of Isaiah 25:7. The words are an echo of the earlier promise of Hosea 13:14. They are, in their turn, re-echoed in the triumph-anthem of St. Paul in 1Corinthians 15:54. The clause, “the Lord God shall wipe away tears,” is in like manner reproduced in Revelation 7:17; Revelation 21:4.
The rebuke of his people . . .—The taunt to which they were exposed in the time of their affliction, when the heathen took up their proverb of reproach and asked, “Where is now their God?” (Psalm 79:10).
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.(9) It shall be said in that day.—The speakers are obviously the company of the redeemed, the citizens of the new Jerusalem. The litanies of supplication are changed into anthems of praise for the great salvation that has been wrought for them.
For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.(10) Moab shall be trodden down . . .—There seems at first something like a descent from the great apocalypse of a triumph over death and sin and sorrow, to a name associated with the local victories or defeats of a remote period in the history of Israel. The inscription of the Moabite stone, in connection with Isaiah 15, helps to explain the nature of the allusion. Moab had been prominent among the enemies of Israel; the claims of Chemosh, the god of Moab, had been set up against those of Jehovah, the God of Israel (Records of the Past, xi. 166), and so the name had become representative of His enemies. There was a mystical Moab, as there was afterwards a mystical Babylon, and in Rabbinic writings a mystical Edom (i.e., Rome). The proud nation was to lie wallowing in the mire of shame, trampled on by its s on the threshing-floor is trampled by the oxen till it looks like a heap of dung. In the Hebrew word for “dunghill” (madmēnah) we may probably trace a reference to the Moabite city of that name (Jeremiah 48:2), in which Isaiah sees an unconscious prophecy of the future condition of the whole nation.
And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.(11) As he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim.—The structure of the sentence leaves it uncertain whether the comparison applies (1) to Jehovah spreading forth His hands with the swimmer’s strength to repress the pride of Moab, or (2) to the outstretched hands upon the Cross, or (3) to Moab vainly struggling in the deep waters of calamity. Each view has the support of commentators. The last seems beyond question most in harmony with the context. Ineffective struggles for preservation naturally suggest the parallel, “like some strong swimmer in his agony” (Psalm 69:1-2; Psalm 69:14). In the second clause there is, of course, no reason for doubt. It is Jehovah who “brings down the pride” of the guilty nation.
And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.(12) And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls . . .—Primarily the words, as interpreted by Isaiah 25:10, point to Kir-Moab (Isaiah 15:1) as the stronghold of the nation. Beyond this they predict a like destruction of every stronghold, every rock-built fortress (2Corinthians 10:5) of the great world-power of which Moab was for the time the symbol.