Isaiah 1:26
And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(26) I will restore thy judges as at the first.—The prophet looks back to the good old days, the time probably of David, or the early years of Solomon (1Kings 10:9)—as Englishmen look back to those of Elizabeth—when judges were faithful, and princes upright, and the people happy—to such an ideal polity as that of Psalms 15, 24.

The city of righteousness, the faithful city.—The two nouns are not the same, and the second has rather the meaning of “citadel,” the acropolis of Jerusalem. There is possibly an allusive reference to the idea embodied in the names of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:2) and Adonizedec (Joshua 10:3), as connected with Jerusalem. So in Jeremiah 33:16 the ideal city, no less than the ideal king, is to be called Jehovah Tsidkenu (“the Lord our righteousness”).

1:21-31 Neither holy cities nor royal ones are faithful to their trust, if religion does not dwell in them. Dross may shine like silver, and the wine that is mixed with water may still have the colour of wine. Those have a great deal to answer for, who do not help the oppressed, but oppress them. Men may do much by outward restraints; but only God works effectually by the influences of his Spirit, as a Spirit of Judgment. Sin is the worst captivity, the worst slavery. The redemption of the spiritual Zion, by the righteousness and death of Christ, and by his powerful grace, most fully accord with what is here meant. Utter ruin is threatened. The Jews should become as a tree when blasted by heat; as a garden without water, which in those hot countries would soon be burned up. Thus shall they be that trust in idols, or in an arm of flesh. Even the strong man shall be as tow; not only soon broken, and pulled to pieces, but easily catching fire. When the sinner has made himself as tow and stubble, and God makes himself as a consuming fire, what can prevent the utter ruin of the sinner?And I will restore ... - That is, I will give you such judges as the nation had in former days - in the times of Moses, Joshua, etc. Most of the charges in this chapter are against the magistrates. The calamities of the nation are traced to their unfaithfulness and corruption, Isaiah 1:17-23. God now says that he will remove this cause of their calamity, and give them pure magistrates.

Thy counselors - Thy advisers; that is, those occupying places of trust and responsibility. When this should be, the prophet does not say. The Jewish commentators suppose that he refers to the time after the return from captivity, and to such men as Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah; and to the times of Hyrcanus and Herod, Jerome supposes that the times of the Messiah are referred to. It is impossible to determine which is the correct opinion; though, as the Babylonian captivity was the punishment of those national sins which the prophet was denouncing, it is more probable that he refers to the time immediately succeeding that punishment, when the nation would be restored. I am inclined, therefore, to the opinion, that the prophet had reference solely to the prosperity of the Jewish nation, under a succession of comparatively virtuous princes, after the Babylonian captivity.

Thou shalt be called ... - The principal cause of your wickedness and calamity, that is, your unfaithful rulers being removed and punished, you shall afterward be distinguished as a city of righteousness.

The faithful city - That is, faithful to Yahweh - faithful in keeping his laws, and maintaining the rites of his religion as formerly; compare Isaiah 1:21.

26. As the degeneracy had shown itself most in the magistrates (Isa 1:17-23), so, at the "restoration," these shall be such as the theocracy "at the first" had contemplated, namely, after the Babylonish restoration in part and typically, but fully and antitypically under Messiah (Isa 32:1; 52:8; Jer 33:7; Mt 19:28).

faithful—no longer "an harlot."

I will restore thy judges, I will give thee such princes and magistrates,

as at the first, Heb. as thou hadst in the beginning; either,

1. Of thy commonwealth, such as Moses and Joshua; or,

2. Of thy kingdom, such as David.

Thy counsellors; thy princes shall have and hearken to wise and faithful counsellors, which is a singular blessing to a prince and people.

Thou shalt be called, to wit, justly and truly; thou shalt be such; for to be called is oft put for to be, as Isaiah 4:3 61:6 Matthew 5:9.

And I will restore thy judges as at the first,.... This refers not to the times after the Babylonish, captivity, when the Jews had judges and rulers, such as Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, as they had in the times of Moses, Joshua, and the judges, or as in the times of David and Solomon; but it refers, as Kimchi observes, to the times of the Messiah; and is true of the apostles of Christ, who were set on twelve thrones, had power and authority from Christ to preach his Gospel, and to judge the twelve tribes of Israel in a doctrinal way, Matthew 19:28 for which they were abundantly qualified, having the spirit of counsel and of judgment resting upon them, as the prophets of old; and will be again verified in the ministers of the Gospel, at the time of the Jews' conversion, when the watchmen shall see eye to eye, have a clear discerning and judgment of things as at the first, Isaiah 52:8.

and thy counsellors as at the beginning; which is to be understood of the same persons; the apostles at Jerusalem gave advice and counsel in matters of difficulty, and were consulted on special occasions, of which there is an instance in Acts 15:1 and ordinary ministers of the word are qualified, and especially will be in the latter day, to give advice both to sensible sinners, inquiring the way of salvation, and to saints when under desertion, and have lost their beloved, or have any matters of difficulty upon them, whether with respect to faith or practice.

Afterward thou shall be called the city of righteousness: when many shall be converted through the hand of the Lord turned upon them, and become incorporated into a church state, and having the apostles and other ministers of the Gospel among them, with proper officers over them, as the first Christian church at Jerusalem had; and the members of it were righteous persons, such as were justified by the righteousness of Christ, and lived righteously, walking in the ordinances of the Lord, and as became the Gospel of Christ, and will be the case of the churches of Christ in the latter day:

the faithful city; to Christ, his Gospel, ordinances, and one another, as the first Christians at Jerusalem were; see Acts 2:12. A true church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, who keep the ordinances as they were delivered; stand first in the faith of the Gospel; take care that the laws of Christ's house are put in execution; and do not suffer sin upon one another, nor bear them that are evil, whether in doctrine or practice; and which in the latter day will be the case of the churches of Christ in a remarkable manner, when they will justly bear this character.

{l} And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.

(l) It is once the work of God to purify the heart of man, which he does because of his promise, made concerning the salvation of his Church.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
26. The result will be the establishment of a pure administration in Jerusalem, as in the olden time, Zion once more worthy of her ancient name, citadel of righteousness (Cheyne), faithful city. The last expression, carrying us back to Isaiah 1:21, marks the close of the elegy.

Two things are noteworthy in this passage. (1) The ideal is political. The salvation of Israel is secured when all public offices are filled with good men (“judges” and “counsellers”). (2) The ideal will be realised by a restoration of the best days of the past. In later prophecies Isaiah looks forward to a state of things far transcending anything that had been achieved in Israel’s previous history. Such an anticipation as this is most naturally assigned to an early period of his career, before his eschatological conceptions had assumed a definite form.

27 describes the salutary and 28 the judicial aspect of the chastisement in more abstract terms than those hitherto employed. her converts] lit. “those in her who turn”; cf. “Remnant-shall-turn” in ch. Isaiah 7:3.

redeemed] A very rare word with Isaiah (only again in Isaiah 29:22). It is doubtful whether the meaning is that she shall be redeemed from her own sins, or from the troubles they shall have brought upon her. So it is uncertain whether judgment and righteousness (cf. Isaiah 1:21) are the virtues of the redeemed people, or the attributes of God manifested in the redemption. The former idea is most in accordance with Isaiah’s use of the words, but the latter, which is common in the later parts of the book, undoubtedly gives the best sense in this connexion.

Verse 26. - I will restore thy judges as at the first (see Exodus 19:25, 26). In the early times there was no bribery, no perversion of justice (Jeremiah 2:2, 3). God will bring back a time when the nation will renew its first love, and be as it was in the days of Moses and Joshua. Thy counselors (comp. 2 Samuel 15:12; 1 Chronicles 26:14; 1 Chronicles 27:32, 33, etc.). The city of righteousness; or, of justice. The prophecy may have been fulfilled in part by the earthly Jerusalem under Zerubhabel, Ezra, and the Maccabees. but is mainly fulfilled in the heavenly Jerusalem - the Church of God, the true Israel. The faithful city (comp. ver. 21). Certainly the post-Captivity Church was "faithful" to Jehovah, in the way of acknowledging him, and him only, to be God, to a very remarkable degree, and in strong contrast to its inclination during pro-Captivity times. Isaiah 1:26As the threat couched in the previous figure does not point to the destruction, but simply to the smelting of Jerusalem, there is nothing strange in the fact that in Isaiah 1:26 it should pass over into a pure promise; the meltingly soft and yearningly mournful termination of the clauses with ayich, the keynote of the later songs of Zion, being still continued. "And I will bring back thy judges as in the olden time, and thy counsellors as in the beginning; afterwards thou wilt be called city of righteousness, faithful citadel." The threat itself was, indeed, relatively a promise, inasmuch as whatever could stand the fire would survive the judgment; and the distinct object of this was to bring back Jerusalem to the purer metal of its own true nature. But when that had been accomplished, still more would follow. The indestructible kernel that remained would be crystallized, since Jerusalem would receive back from Jehovah the judges and counsellors which it had had in the olden flourishing times of the monarchy, ever since it had become the city of David and of the temple; not, indeed, the very same persons, but persons quite equal to them in excellence. Under such God-given leaders Jerusalem would become what it had once been, and what it ought to be. The names applied to the city indicate the impression produced by the manifestation of its true nature. The second name is written without the article, as in fact the word kiryah (city), with its massive, definite sound, always is in Isaiah. Thus did Jehovah announce the way which it had been irrevocably determined that He would take with Israel, as the only way to salvation. Moreover, this was the fundamental principle of the government of God, the law of Israel's history.
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