Isaiah 35:1
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XXXV.

(1) The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them . . .—The desolation of the chief enemy of Israel is contrasted with the renewed beauty of Israel’s own inheritance. The two last words are better omitted. The three nouns express varying degrees of the absence of culture, the wild pasture-land, the bare moor, the sandy steppe.

Shall . . . blossom as the rose.—Better, as the narcissus, but the primrose and the crocus (Colchicum autumnale) have also been suggested. The words paint the beauty of the chosen land flourishing once more as “the garden of Jehovah” (Genesis 13:10), and therefore a fit type of that which is in a yet higher sense the “Paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7).

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.35:1-4 Judea was prosperous in the days of Hezekiah, but the kingdom of Christ is the great subject intended. Converting grace makes the soul that was a wilderness, to rejoice with joy and singing, and to blossom abundantly. The feeble and faint-hearted are encouraged. This is the design of the gospel. Fear is weakening; the more we strive against it, the stronger we are, both for doing and suffering; and he that says to us, Be strong, has laid help for us upon One who is mighty. Assurance is given of the approach of Messiah, to take vengeance on the powers of darkness, to recompense with abundant comforts those that mourn in Zion; He will come and save. He will come again at the end of time, to punish those who have troubled his people; and to give those who were troubled such rest as will be a full reward for all their troubles.The wilderness and the solitary place - This is evidently figurative language, such as is often employed by the prophets. The word rendered 'solitary place' (ציה tsı̂yâh), denotes properly a dry place, a place without springs and streams of water; and as such places produce no verdure, and nothing to sustain life, the word comes to mean a desert. Such expressions are often used in the Scriptures to express moral or spiritual desolation; and in this sense evidently the phrase is used here. It does not refer to the desolations of Judea, but to all places that might be properly called a moral wilderness, or a spiritual desert; and thus aptly expresses the condition of the world that was to be benefited by the blessings foretold in this chapter. The parallel expressions in Isaiah 41:17-19; Isaiah 44:3-4, show that this is the sense in which the phrase is here used; and that the meaning is, that every situation which might be appropriately called a moral wilderness - that is, the whole pagan world - would ultimately be made glad. The sense is, that as great and happy changes would take place in regard to those desolations as if the wilderness should become a vast field producing the lily and the rose; or as if Isaiah 35:2 there should be imparted to such places the glory of Lebanon, and the beauty of Sharon and Carmel.

Shall be glad for them - This is evidently a personification, a beautiful poetic figure, by which the wilderness is represented as expressing joy. The sense is, the desolate moral world would be filled with joy on account of the blessings which are here predicted. The phrase 'for them,' expressed in Hebrew by the affix מ (m) means, doubtless, on account of the blessings which are foretold in this prophecy. Lowth supposes, however, that the letter has been added to the word 'shall be glad' (ישׂשׂוּ yes'us'û), by mistake, because the following word (מדבר midbâr) begins with a מ (m). The reading of the present Hebrew text is followed by none of the ancient versions; but it is nevertheless probably the correct reading, and there is no authority for changing it. The sense is expressed above by the phrase 'shall rejoice on account of the things contained in this prophecy;' to wit, the destruction of all the foes of God, and the universal establishment of his kingdom. Those who wish to see a more critical examination of the words used here, may find it in Rosenmuller and Gesenius.

And blossom as the rose - The word rendered 'rose' (חבצלת chăbı̂tsâleth) occurs only here and in Sol 2:1, where it is also rendered a 'rose.' The Septuagint renders it, Κρίνον Krinon 'Lily.' The Vulgate also renders it, Lilium - the lily. The Syriac renders it also by a word which signifies the lily or narcissus; or, according to the Syriac lexicographers, 'the meadow-saffron,' an autumnal flower springing from poisonous bulbous roots, and of a white and violet color. The sense is not, however, affected materially whatever be the meaning of the word. Either the rose, the lily, or the saffron, would convey the idea of beauty compared with the solitude and desolation of the desert. The word 'rose' with us, as being a flower better known, conveys a more striking image of beauty, and there is no impropriety in retaining it.

CHAPTER 35

Isa 35:1-10. Continuation of the Prophecy in the Thirty-fourth Chapter.

See on [760]Isa 34:1, introduction there.

1. solitary place—literally, "a dry place," without springs of water. A moral wilderness is meant.

for them—namely, on account of the punishment inflicted according to the preceding prophecy on the enemy; probably the blessings set forth in this chapter are included in the causes for joy (Isa 55:12).

rose—rather, "the meadow-saffron," an autumnal flower with bulbous roots; so Syriac translation.The joyful flourishing of Christ’s kingdom, Isaiah 35:1,2. The weak he strengthens and comforts, Isaiah 35:3,4. His miracles, Isaiah 35:5,6. The prosperity and peace of his people, Isaiah 35:7-10.

And as the land of God’s enemies, which was exceeding fruitful, 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 deserted and despised like a wilderness, and which the rage and malice of their enemies had brought to desolation, shall flourish exceedingly.

For them; for the wilderness and solitary place; or,

for these things, which were prophesied in the foregoing destruction, concerning the ruin of the implacable enemies of God and his church. But that Hebrew letter which is in the end of this Hebrew verb, and is here rendered for them, is by all the ancient translators, and by divers others, neglected in their translations, as if it were only added to the verb paragogically, as grammarians speak; and therefore those two words may well be omitted.

The wilderness, and the solitary place, shall be glad for them,.... Either for the wild beasts, satyrs, owls, and vultures, that shall inhabit Edom or Rome, and because it shall be an habitation for them: or they shall be glad for them, the Edomites, and for the destruction of them; that is, as the Targum paraphrases it,

"they that dwell in the wilderness, in the dry land, shall rejoice;''

the church, in the wilderness, being obliged to fly there from the persecution of antichrist, and thereby become desolate as a wilderness; and so called, in allusion to the Israelites in the wilderness, Acts 7:38 shall now rejoice at the ruin of Rome, and the antichristian states; by which means it shall come into a more flourishing condition; see Revelation 12:14,

and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose; or "as the lily", as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions; and so the Targum,

"as the lilies:''

not Judea or Jerusalem, as the Jewish writers, become like a desert, through the devastations made in it by the king of Assyria's army; and now made glad, and become flourishing, upon the departure of it from them: rather the Gentile world, which was like a wilderness, barren and unfruitful, before the Gospel came into it; but by means of that, which brought joy with it, and was attended with fragrancy, it diffusing the savour of the knowledge of Christ in every place, it became fruitful and flourishing, and of a sweet odour, and looked delightful, and pleasant: though it seems best to understand it of the Gentile church in the latter day, after the destruction of antichrist, when it shall be in a most desirable and comfortable situation. These words stand in connection with the preceding chapter Isaiah 34:1, and very aptly follow upon it.

The {a} wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

(a) He prophecies of the full restoration of the Church both of the Jews and Gentiles under Christ, which will be fully accomplished at the last day: although as yet it is compared to a desert and wilderness.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.Verses 1-10. - THE GLORY OF THE LAST TIMES. On the punishment of God's enemies will follow the peace, prosperity, and glory of his Church. Previously, the Church is in affliction, waste, and desolate. Its enemies once removed, destroyed, swept out of the way, it rises instantly in all its beauty to a condition which words are poor to paint. The highest resources of the poetic art are called in to give some idea of the glory and happiness of the final Church of the redeemed. Verse 1. - The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; rather, the wilderness, and the dry place, shall be glad. The Church, that has been long wasted and kept under by the wicked, shall, at their destruction, feel a sense of relief, and so of joy. The desert shall rejoice, and blossom. The first result of the joy shall be a putting forth of lovely products. Blossoms, beautiful as the rose or the narcissus (Kay), shall spring up all over the parched ground, and make it a parterre of flowers. The blossoms are either graces unknown in the time of affliction, or saintly characters of a new and high type. The land of Edom, in this geographical and also emblematical sense, would become a wilderness; the kingdom of Edom would be for ever destroyed. "And pelican and hedgehog take possession of it, and eared-owl and raven dwell there; and he stretches over it the measure of Tohu and the level of Bohu. Its nobles - there is no longer a monarchy which they elected; and all its princes come to nought." The description of the ruin, which commences in Isaiah 34:11 with a list of animals that frequent marshy and solitary regions, is similar to the one in Isaiah 13:20-22; Isaiah 14:23 (compare Zephaniah 2:14, which is founded upon this). Isaiah's was the original of all such pictures of ruin which we meet with in the later prophets. The qippōd is the hedgehog, although we find it here in the company of birds (from qâphad, to draw one's self together, to roll up; see Isaiah 14:23). קאת is written here with a double kametz, as well as in Zephaniah 2:14, according to codd. and Kimchi, W.B. (Targ. qâth, elsewhere qâq; Saad. and Abulwalid, qûq: see at Psalm 102:7). According to well-established tradition, it is the long-necked pelican, which lives upon fish (the name is derived either from קוא, to vomit, or, as the construct is קאת, from a word קאה, formed in imitation of the animal's cry). Yanshūph is rendered by the Targum qı̄ppōphı̄n (Syr. kafûfo), i.e., eared-owls, which are frequently mentioned in the Talmud as birds of ill omen (Rashi, or Berachoth 57b, chouette). As the parallel to qâv, we have אבני (stones) here instead of משׁקלת, the level, in Isaiah 28:17. It is used in the same sense, however - namely, to signify the weight used in the plumb or level, which is suspended by a line. The level and the measure are commonly employed for the purpose of building up; but here Jehovah is represented as using these fore the purpose of pulling down (a figure met with even before the time of Isaiah: vid., Amos 7:7-9, cf., 2 Kings 21:13; Lamentations 2:8), inasmuch as He carries out this negative reverse of building with the same rigorous exactness as that with which a builder carries out his well-considered plan, and throws Edom back into a state of desolation and desert, resembling the disordered and shapeless chaos of creation (compare Jeremiah 4:23, where tōhū vâbhōhū represents, as it does here, the state into which a land is reduced by fire). תהוּ has no dagesh lene; and this is one of the three passages in which the opening mute is without a dagesh, although the word not only follows, but is closely connected with, one which has a soft consonant as its final letter (the others are Psalm 68:18 and Ezekiel 23:42). Thus the primeval kingdom with its early monarchy, which is long preceded that of Israel, is brought to an end (Genesis 36:31). חריה stands at the head as a kind of protasis. Edom was an elective monarchy; the hereditary nobility electing the new king. But this would be done no more. The electoral princes of Edom would come to nothing. Not a trace would be left of all that had built up the glory of Edom.
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