Isaiah 42:11
Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar does inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
42:5-12 The work of redemption brings back man to the obedience he owes to God as his Maker. Christ is the light of the world. And by his grace he opens the understandings Satan has blinded, and sets at liberty from the bondage of sin. The Lord has supported his church. And now he makes new promises, which shall as certainly be fulfilled as the old ones were. When the Gentiles are brought into the church, he is glorified in them and by them. Let us give to God those things which are his, taking heed that we do not serve the creature more than the Creator.Let the wilderness - (See the note at Isaiah 35:1). The word here denotes the most uncultivated countries, intimating that even the most rude and barbarous people would have occasion to rejoin, and would be interested in the mercy of God.

And the cities thereof - To us there seems to be something incongruous in speaking of the 'cities' in a 'wilderness.' But we are to remember that the Hebrews gave the name wilderness or desert to those regions that were mostly uncultivated, or sparsely inhabited. They were places that were chiefly devoted to pasturage, and not cultivated by the plow, or regions of vast plains of sand and far-extended barrenness, with here and there an oasis on which a city might be built. Josephus, speaking of the desert or wilderness lying between Jerusalem and Jericho enumerates several villages or towns in it, showing that though it was mainly a waste, yet that it was not wholly without towns or inhabitants. We are to remember also that large towns or cities for commercial purposes, or thorough fares, were often built in the few fertile or advantageous places which were found in the midst of desert wastes. Thus we are told of Solomon 2 Chronicles 8:4, that 'he built Tadmor in the wilderness;' and we know that Palmyra, and Bozrah, and Sela, were large cities that were built in the midst of regions that were generally to be regarded as deserts, or wastes.

The villages that Kedar doth inhabit - Where the inhabitants of Kedar dwell. Kedar was a son of Ishmael Genesis 25:13, the father of the Kedarenians or Cedrei, mentioned by Pliny (Nat. Hist. v. 2), who dwell in the vicinity of the Nabathaeans in Arabia Deserta. They often changed their place, though it would seem that they usually dwelt in the neighborhood of Petra, or Sela. The name Kedar is often given to Arabia Deserta, and the word may in some instances denote Arabia in general. The inhabitants of those countries usually dwell in tents, and lead a nomadic and wandering life.

Let the inhabitants of the rock sing - It is uncertain whether the word 'rock' here (Hebrew, סלע sela‛, Greek Πέτραν Petran, 'Petra' or 'rock') is to be regarded as a proper name, or to denote in a general sense those who dwell in the rocky part of Arabia. Sela, or Petra, was the name of the celebrated city that was the capital of Idumea (see the notes at Isaiah 16:1); and the connection here would rather lead us to suppose that this city was intended here, and that the inhabitants of the capital were called upon to join with the dwellers in the surrounding cities and villages in celebrating the goodness of God. But it may denote in general those who inhabited the desolate and stony region of Arabia Petrea, or whose home was among the cliffs of the rocks. If so, it is a call upon Arabia in general to rejoice in the mercy of God, and to give glory to him for providing a plan of redemption - an intimation that to the descendants of Ishmael the blessings of the gospel would be extended.

Let them shout from the top of the mountains - They who had taken refuge there, or who had made their permanent abode there. Vitringa supposes that the mountains of Paran are meant, which are situated on the north of Mount Sinai. The idea in the verse is, that all the dwellers in Arabia would celebrate the goodness of God, and join in praising him for his mercy in giving a deliverer. They were yet to partake of the benefits of his coming, and to have occasion of joy at his advent. It is possible that Cowper may have had this passage in his eye in the following description of the final and universal prevalence of the gospel:

The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks,

Shout to each other, sad the mountain-tops,

From distant mountains catch the flying joy:

Till nation after nation taught the strain,

Earth rolls the rapturous hosannas round.

Task.

11. cities—in a region not wholly waste, but mainly so, with an oasis here and there.

Kedar—in Arabia-Deserta (Isa 21:16; Ge 25:13). The Kedarenians led a nomadic, wandering life. So Kedar is here put in general for that class of men.

rock—Sela, that is, Petra, the metropolis of Idumea and the Nabathœan Ishmaelites. Or it may refer in general to those in Arabia-Petræa, who had their dwellings cut out of the rock.

the mountains—namely, of Paran, south of Sinai, in Arabia-Petræa [Vitringa].

The wilderness; those parts of the world which are now like a wilderness; not literally, for he speaks of their cities in the next clause, but spiritually, desolate and forsaken of God, dry and destitute of the waters of God’s grace, and barren of all good fruits.

Kedar; the Arabians; which were a heathenish and barbarous people, and well known to the Jews, and are synecdochically put for all nations in the same circumstances.

Let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains: having mentioned cities and villages, he now adds those who dwell upon rocks and mountains, which are commonly more savage and ignorant than others, and therefore harder to be taught and reformed. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice,.... The eastern part of the world, Arabia Deserta, and the inhabitants of the cities which were in it:

the villages that Kedar doth inhabit; or the "courts" (t), or tents, the Kedarenes inhabited, who were Arabians, and dwelt in tents, which they pitched here and there, for the convenience of their flocks; and so the Targum,

"the Arabians that inhabit the wilderness shall praise:''

let the inhabitants of the rock sing: or of Petra, which Jerom says was a city of Palestine. It was the metropolis of Arabia Petraea, which whole country may be here meant, and the inhabitants of it, who had reason to sing for joy, when the Gospel was preached unto them; as it was by the Apostle Paul in Arabia, Galatians 1:17,

let them shout from the top of the mountains; the wild, savage, and barbarous people that dwell there, but now become civilized, as well as evangelized, by the Gospel; or the messengers and ministers of the word, whose feet on those mountains were beautiful, bringing the good tidings of peace and salvation by Christ. The Targum interprets this of the resurrection of the dead,

"the dead, when they shall go out of the house of their world, from the tops of the mountains shall lift up their voice (u).''

(t) "atria", Montanus; "tentoria", Grotius. (u) Ben Melech interprets the rocks and mountains of towers built on rocks and mountains, where men dwelt.

Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that {q} Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.

(q) Meaning, the Arabians, under whom he comprehends all the people of the East.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. the wilderness and the cities thereof] The “cities,” like the “villages” of the next line, are those in the oases, occupied by the settled Arabs; the former are probably the great centres of the caravan trade, like Tadmor and Petra. Kedar (see on ch. Isaiah 21:16) is sometimes referred to as a tribe of nomadic, tent-dwelling Arabs (Psalm 120:5; Song of Solomon 1:5; Jeremiah 49:28 f.); here they are villagers, what the modern Arabs call ḥaḍarîya (connected with the word ḥâc̨çr, used here) as opposed to the wabarîya or nomads (Delitzsch). In Jeremiah 2:10 Kedar stands, as here, in opposition to the Mediterranean countries.

the inhabitants of the rock] (i.e. “the rock-dwellers”). R.V. has “the inhabitants of Sela,” which would probably be Petra. It is difficult to say which translation is preferable. It should be mentioned that the identification of Sela, in any O.T. passage, with Petra is resisted by many scholars (see on ch. Isaiah 16:1).

sing] Rather, exult,—a different word at any rate from that used in Isaiah 42:10.Verse 11. - The wilderness and the cities thereof. The desert had its cities, built on some more or less fertile oases, where at any rate water was procurable. Instances of such cities are Tudmor, Petra, Kadesh (Numbers 20:1). Its villages were probably collections of tents, which were moved from time to time, since the Beni-Kedar were nomads (ch. 21:16; Psalm 120:5). The call is upon both the stationary and the wandering inhabitants of the Syro-Arabian desert to join in the song of praise. The inhabitants of the rock; rather, the iahabitants of Sela, or Petra, the rock-city, which was the capital of Idumaea, or Edom (see the comment on ch. 16. l). It is assumed that the return of the Israelites to their land ought to be a subject of rejoicing to all their neighbours. The words of Jehovah are now addressed to His servant himself. He has not only an exalted vocation, answering to the infinite exaltation of Him from whom he has received his call; but by virtue of the infinite might of the caller, he may be well assured that he will never be wanting in power to execute his calling. "Thus saith God, Jehovah, who created the heavens, and stretched them out; who spread the earth, and its productions; who gave the spirit of life to the people upon it, and the breath of life to them that walk upon it: I, Jehovah, I have called thee in righteousness, and grasped thy hand; and I keep thee, and make thee the covenant of the people, the light of the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners out of the prison, them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." The perfect 'âmar is to be explained on the ground that the words of God, as compared with the prophecy which announces them, are always the earlier of the two. האל (the absolutely Mighty) is an anticipatory apposition to Jehovah (Ges. 113**). The attributive participles we have resolved into perfects, because the three first at least declare facts of creation, which have occurred once for all. נוטיהם is not to be regarded as a plural, after Isaiah 54:5 and Job 35:10; but as בּורא precedes it, we may take it as a singular with an original quiescent Yod, after Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 26:12. On רקע (construct of רקע), see Isaiah 40:19. The ו of וצאצאיה (a word found both in Job and Isaiah, used here in its most direct sense, to signify the vegetable world) must be taken in accordance with the sense, as the Vav of appurtenance; since רקע may be affirmed of the globe itself, but not of the vegetable productions upon it (cf., Genesis 4:20; Judges 6:5; 2 Chronicles 2:3). Neshâmâh and rūăch are epithets applied to the divine principle of life in all created corporeal beings, or, what is the same thing, in all beings with living souls. At the same time, neshâmâh is an epithet restricted to the self-conscious spirit of man, which gives him his personality (Psychol. p. 76, etc.); whereas rūăch is applied not only to the human spirit, but to the spirit of the beast as well. Accordingly, עם signifies the human race, as in Isaiah 40:7. What is it, then, that Jehovah, the Author of all being and all life, the Creator of the heaven and the earth, says to His servant here? "I Jehovah have called thee 'in righteousness'" (betsedeq: cf., Isaiah 45:13, where Jehovah also says of Cyrus, "I have raised him up in righteousness"). צדק, derived from צדק, to be rigid, straight, denotes the observance of a fixed rule. The righteousness of God is the stringency with which He acts, in accordance with the will of His holiness. This will of holiness is, so far as the human race is concerned, and apart from the counsels of salvation, a will of wrath; but from the standpoint of these counsels it is a will of love, which is only changed into a will of wrath towards those who despise the grace thus offered to them. Accordingly, tsedeq denotes the action of God in accordance with His purposes of love and the plan of salvation. It signifies just the same as what we should call in New Testament phraseology the holy love of God, which, because it is a holy love, has wrath against its despisers as its obverse side, but which acts towards men not according to the law of works, but according to the law of grace. The word has this evangelical sense here, where Jehovah says of the Mediator of His counsels of love, that He has called Him in strict adherence to the will of His love, which will show mercy as right, but at the same time will manifest a right of double severity towards those who scornfully repel the offered mercy. That He had been called in righteousness, is attested to the servant of Jehovah by the fact that Jehovah has taken Him by the hand (ואחזד contracted after the manner of a future of sequence), and guards Him, and appoints Him גּוים לאור עם לברית. These words are a decisive proof that the idea of the expression "servant of Jehovah" has been elevated in Isaiah 42:1., as compared with Isaiah 41:8, from the national base to the personal apex. Adherence to the national sense necessarily compels a resort to artifices which carry their own condemnation, such as that עם ברית signifies the "covenant nation,"as Hitzig supposes, or "the mediating nation," as Ewald maintains, whereas either of these would require ברית עם; or "national covenant" (Knobel), in support of which we are referred, though quite inconclusively, to Daniel 11:28, where קדשׁ בּרית does not mean the covenant of the patriots among themselves, but the covenant religion, with its distinctive sign, circumcision; or even that עם is collective, and equivalent to עמים (Rosenmller), whereas עם and גוים, when standing side by side, as they do here, can only mean Israel and the Gentiles; and so far as the passage before us is concerned, this is put beyond all doubt by Isaiah 49:8 (cf., Isaiah 42:6).

An unprejudiced commentator must admit that the "servant of Jehovah" is pointed out here, as He in whom and through whom Jehovah concludes a new covenant with His people, in the place of the old covenant that was broken - namely, the covenant promised in Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 16:60. The mediator of this covenant with Israel cannot be Israel itself, not even the true Israel, as distinguished from the mass (where do we read anything of this kind?); on the contrary, the remnant left after the sweeping away of the mass is the object of this covenant.

(Note: This is equally applicable to V. F. Oehler (Der Knecht Jehova's im Deuterojesaia, 2 Theile, 1865), who takes the "servant of Jehovah" as far as Isaiah 52:14 in a national sense, and supposes "the transition from the 'servant' as a collective noun, to the 'servant' as an individual," to be effected there; whereas two younger theologians, E. Schmutz (Le Serviteur de Jhova, 1858) and Ferd. Philippi (Die bibl. Lehre vom Knechte Gottes, 1864), admit that the individualizing commences as early as Isaiah 42:1.)

Nor can the expression refer to the prophets as a body, or, in fact, have any collective meaning at all: the form of the word, which is so strongly personal, is in itself opposed to this. It cannot, in fact, denote any other than that Prophet who is more than a prophet, namely, Malachi's "Messenger of the covenant" (Isaiah 3:1). Amongst those who suppose that the "servant of Jehovah" is either Israel, regarded in the light of its prophetic calling, or the prophets as a body, Umbreit at any rate is obliged to admit that this collective body is looked at here in the ideal unity of one single Messianic personality; and he adds, that "in the holy countenance of this prophet, which shines forth as the idea of future realization, we discern exactly the loved features of Him to whom all prophecy points, and who saw Himself therein." This is very beautiful; but why this roundabout course? Let us bear in mind, that the servant of Jehovah appears here not only as one who is the medium of a covenant to the nation, and of light to the Gentiles, but as being himself the people's covenant and heathen's light, inasmuch as in his own person he is the band of a new fellowship between Israel and Jehovah, and becomes in his own person the light which illumines the dark heathen world. This is surely more than could be affirmed of any prophet, even of Isaiah or Jeremiah. Hence the "servant of Jehovah" must be that one Person who was the goal and culminating point to which, from the very first, the history of Israel was ever pressing on; that One who throws into the shade not only all that prophets did before, but all that had been ever done by Israel's priests of kings; that One who arose out of Israel, for Israel and the whole human race, and who stood in the same relation not only to the wider circle of the whole nation, but also to the inner circle of the best and noblest within it, as the heart to the body which it animates, or the head to the body over which it rules. All that Cyrus did, was simply to throw the idolatrous nations into a state of alarm, and set the exiles free. But the Servant of Jehovah opens blind eyes; and therefore the deliverance which He brings is not only redemption from bodily captivity, but from spiritual bondage also. He leads His people (cf., Isaiah 49:8-9), and the Gentiles also, out of night into light; He is the Redeemer of all that need redemption and desire salvation.

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