Isaiah 52:8 Commentaries: Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes When the LORD restores Zion.
Isaiah 52:8
Your watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) Thy watchmen . . .—The sentinels see the heralds from their watch-towers (Isaiah 21:6; Habakkuk 2:1), and sing out for joy, as they see, not only afar off, but “eye to eye,” the presence of the God who has become the King.

Isaiah 52:8. Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice — Partly to give notice to all people of these glad tidings, and partly by way of exultation, to sing forth the praises of God for this glorious season and exercise of mercy. If we consider this passage as referring to the deliverance from Babylon, by the watch-men here, we must understand those prophets who prophesied at or after the time of that deliverance, such as Haggai and Zechariah: but if the good tidings be interpreted of the publication of peace and salvation by the gospel, then by the watchmen its ministers are meant, and especially the apostles and evangelists, and other first messengers of Christ. For they shall see eye to eye — Those prophets that shall witness the release of the Jews from captivity shall see an exact agreement and correspondence between the prophecy and the event whereby it is accomplished, between the promise and the performance. It may still be affirmed with more propriety, that the preachers of the gospel saw eye to eye when the Messiah was manifested in the flesh, and they saw his glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, John 1:14; when they saw with their eyes, looked upon, and their hands handled the word of life; when the life was manifested, and they saw it and bore witness, and could show unto others that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto men, 1 John 1:2. And being eye and ear witnesses of the words and works of Christ, their testimony became more certain and more valuable. Add to this, that true gospel ministers in general, and even ordinary Christians, who receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, (Ephesians 1:17,) have a more distinct and clear view of the grace of God in Christ than the Old Testament saints could have. When the Lord shall bring again Zion — When God shall complete the work of bringing his church out of captivity, which was begun at the return out of Babylon, and perfected by Christ’s coming into the world. Bishop Lowth, however, reads the clause, When Jehovah returneth to Zion; a translation which the Hebrew text will certainly bear. Thus the Chaldee: When he shall bring back his presence to Zion. “God is considered as having deserted his people during their captivity; and, at the restoration, as returning himself with them to Zion, his former habitation.” But in a much higher degree was God present in his church, when he was manifested in the flesh, and they could call him, Immanuel, God with us.52:1-12 The gospel proclaims liberty to those bound with fears. Let those weary and heavy laden under the burden of sin, find relief in Christ, shake themselves from the dust of their doubts and fears, and loose themselves from those bands. The price paid by the Redeemer for our salvation, was not silver or gold, or corruptible things, but his own precious blood. Considering the freeness of this salvation, and how hurtful to temporal comfort sins are, we shall more value the redemption which is in Christ. Do we seek victory over every sin, recollecting that the glory of God requires holiness in every follower of Christ? The good news is, that the Lord Jesus reigns. Christ himself brought these tidings first. His ministers proclaim these good tidings: keeping themselves clean from the pollutions of the world, they are beautiful to those to whom they are sent. Zion's watchmen could scarcely discern any thing of God's favour through the dark cloud of their afflictions; but now the cloud is scattered, they shall plainly see the performance. Zion's waste places shall then rejoice; all the world will have the benefit. This is applied to our salvation by Christ. Babylon is no place for Israelites. And it is a call to all in the bondage of sin and Satan, to use the liberty Christ has proclaimed. They were to go with diligent haste, not to lose time nor linger; but they were not to go with distrustful haste. Those in the way of duty, are under God's special protection; and he that believes this, will not hasten for fear.Thy watchmen - This language is taken from the custom of placing watchmen on the walls of a city, or on elevated towers, who could see if an enemy approached, and who of course would be the first to discern a messenger at a distance who was coming to announce good news. The idea is, that there would be as great joy at the announcement of the return of the exiles, as if they who were stationed on the wall should see the long-expected herald on the distant hills, coming to announce that they were about to return, and that the city and temple were about to be rebuilt. It was originally applicable to the return from Babylon. But it contains also the general truth that they who are appointed to watch over Zion and its interests, will rejoice at all the tokens of God's favor to his people, and especially when he comes to bless them after long times of darkness, depression, and calamity. It is by no means, therefore, departing from the spirit of this passage, to apply it to the joy of the ministers of religion in the visits of divine mercy to a church and people. 'Shall lift up the voice.' That is, with rejoicing.

With the voice together shall they sing - They shall mingle their praises and thanksgivings. The idea is, that all who are appointed to guard Zion, should feel a common interest in her welfare, and rejoice when the Lord comes to visit and bless his people. The Hebrew here is more abrupt and emphatic than our common translation would make it. It is literally, 'The voice of thy watchmen! They lift up the voice together; they sing' - as if the prophet suddenly heard a shout. It is the exultling shout of the watchmen of Zion; and it comes as one voice, with no discord, no jarring.

For they shall see eye to eye - Lowth renders this, 'For face to face shall they see.' Noyes, 'For with their own eyes shall they behold.' Jerome renders it, Oculo ad oculum - 'Eye to eye.' The Septuagint renders it, Ὀφθαλμοὶ πρός ὀφθαλμοὺς, κ.τ.λ. Ophthalmoi pros ophthalmous, etc. 'Eyes shall look to eyes when the Lord shall have mercy upon Zion.' Interpreters have been divided in regard to its meaning. The sense may be, either that they shall see face to face, that is, distinctly, clearly, as when one is near another; or it may mean that they shall be united - they shall contemplate the same object, or look steadily at the same thing. Rosenmuller, Gesenius, Forerius, Junius. and some others, understand it in the former sense. So the Chaldee, 'For they shall see with their own eyes the great things which the Lord will do when he shall bring back his own glory to Zion.' The phrase in Hebrew occurs in no other place, except in Numbers 14:14, which our translators have rendered, 'For thou, Lord, art seen face to face.' Hebrew, 'Eye to eye;' that is, near, openly, manifestly, without any veil or interposing medium.

The expression, 'face to face,' meaning openly, plainly, manifestly, as one sees who is close to another, occurs frequently in the Bible (see Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 5:4; Deuteronomy 34:10; Judges 6:22; Proverbs 27:19; Ezekiel 20:35; Acts 25:16; 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 John 1:12; 3 John 1:14). So the phrase, 'mouth to mouth,' occurs in a similar sense Numbers 12:8. And there can be but little doubt, it seems to me, that this is the sense here, and that the prophet means to say, that the great and marvelous doings of Yahweh would be seen openly and manifestly, and that the watchmen would thence have occasion to rejoice. Another reason for this opinion, besides the fact that it accords with the common usage, is, that the phrase, 'to see eye to eye,' in the sense of being united and harmonious, is not very intelligible. It is not easy to form an image or conception of the watchman in this attitude as denoting harmony. To look into the eyes of each other does not of necessity denote harmony, for people oftentimes do this for other purposes. The idea therefore is, that when Yahweh should bring back and bless his people, the watchmen would have a full and glorious exhibition of his mercy and goodness, and the result would be, that they would greatly rejoice, and unitedly celebrate his name. According to this interpretation, it does not mean that the ministers of religion would have the same precise views, or embrace the same doctrines, however true this may be, or however desirable in itself, but that they would have an open, clear, and bright manifestation of the presence of God, and would lift up their voices together with exultation and praise.

When the Lord shall bring again Zion - Zion here denotes the people who dwelt in Jerusalem; and the idea is, when the Lord shall again restore them to their own land. It is not a departure from the sense of the passage, however, to apply it in a more general manner, and to use it as demonstrating that any signal interposition of God in favor of his people should be the occasion of joy, and shall lead the ministers of religion to exult in God, and to praise his name.

8. watchmen—set on towers separated by intervals to give the earliest notice of the approach of any messenger with tidings (compare Isa 21:6-8). The Hebrew is more forcible than English Version, "The voice of thy watchmen" (exclamatory as in So 2:8). "They lift up their voice! together they sing."

eye to eye—that is, close at hand, and so clearly [Gesenius]; Nu 14:14, "face to face"; Nu 12:8, "mouth to mouth." Compare 1Co 13:12; Re 22:4, of which Simeon's sight of the Saviour was a prefiguration (Lu 2:30). The watchmen, spiritually, are ministers and others who pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Isa 62:6, 7),

bring again—that is, restore. Or else, "return to" [Maurer].

Thy watchmen, thy ministers, who shall descry the approach and coming of this heavenly King and kingdom, shall lift up the voice; partly to give notice to all people of these glad tidings; and partly by way of exultation, to sing forth the praises of God for this glorious day and mercy, as it here follows.

They shall see; they shall understand, and so be able to teach, Divine mysteries.

Eye to eye; very distinctly, and clearly, and familiarly, their eyes beholding the eyes of this King of glory; as it is said of Zedekiah, Jeremiah 34:3,

Thine eyes shall behold the eyes of the king of Babylon; and as it is said, mouth to mouth, Numbers 12:8, and face to face, Genesis 32:30 Exodus 33:11 Numbers 14:14. They shall see with their bodily eyes the King of the church, or the Word made flesh, as they are said to have done, John 1:14 1Jo 1:1. They shall be eye and ear witnesses of the words and works of Christ, and therefore their testimony of these things shall be more certain and valuable.

When the Lord shall bring again Zion; when God shall complete the work of bringing his church out of captivity; which was begun at the return out of Babylon, and perfected by Christ’s coming into the world. The watchmen shall lift up the voice,.... Not the Levites in the temple, nor the prophets of the Old Testament; rather the evangelists and apostles of Christ; best of all Gospel ministers in the latter day, so called in allusion to watch men on the walls of cities looking out, and giving notice of approaching danger; see Isaiah 62:6. The words may be rendered, "the voice of the watchmen; they shall lift up the voice; together shall they sing"; that is, this is the voice of the watchmen, namely, the voice of peace and salvation, which the bringer of good tidings, the same with these watchmen, publish. "Lifting up" their "voice" denotes the publicness of their ministrations, the vehemency of them, and their importance; "singing together", their joy and cheerfulness, their harmony and unity.

For they shall see eye to eye; most clearly, Zion's King reigning before his ancients gloriously; the great doctrines of peace and salvation published by them; and the great and wonderful things God will do for his church, in fulfilling prophecies relating thereunto. So the Targum,

"for with their eyes they shall see the great things which the Lord will do;''

and as their light and discerning will be most clear, like the light of seven days, so it will be alike in them; their sentiments and doctrines will exactly agree; there will be no difference nor dissension among them:

when the Lord shall bring again Zion: return his church and people to their former state, from whence they were declined; restore them as at the beginning; revive his work among them; cause his Gospel and ordinances to be professed and observed in their purity; call in his ancient people the Jews, and bring in the fulness of the Gentiles; pour out his spirit in a plentiful manner on them, and grant his gracious presence to them; so the Targum,

"when he shall return his Shechinah or divine Majesty to Zion.''

This text is by the Jews (n) applied to the times of the Messiah, and to the resurrection of the dead (o).

(n) Pesikta in Kettoreth Hassammim in Targ. in Numb. fol. 25. 4. (o) T. Bab. Sanhedrhin. fol. 91. 2.

{h} Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.

(h) The prophets who are your watchmen will publish your deliverance: this was begun under Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah, but was accomplished under Christ.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. Thy watchmen … sing] Render, Hark, thy watchmen! they lift up the voice, together do they sing (see R.V.). Although the prophets are often called “watchmen” (ch. Isaiah 56:10; Habakkuk 2:1; Jeremiah 6:17; Ezekiel 33:2 ff.) there is no reason to suppose that they are referred to here. Prophets are no longer required after the herald of salvation has arrived and Jehovah Himself is at hand. The word is used in its ordinary sense of the watchmen posted on the city walls, who are naturally represented as the first to see and announce the actual approach of the King.

for they shall see &c.] Rather, for eye to eye do they look upon Jehovah’s return to Zion. The expression eye to eye occurs only once again, in Numbers 14:14, where Jehovah is said to be “seen eye to eye” in Israel; i.e. He is visibly present there (cf. Jeremiah 32:4, “his eyes shall look on the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar”). The idea here must be similar; Jehovah shall be seen in person when He comes to Zion, as closely and clearly as when two men look one another in the face. The phrase certainly has not in Hebr. the sense of harmony and unity which it has come to bear in English. But it can hardly mean merely that the watchmen shall form a dense throng, looking each other in the face! That is a thought quite irrelevant in the context.Verse 8. - Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; literally, The voice of thy watchers. They have lifted up the voice; they sing (or, shout joyfully, Kay) together. The "watchmen" are regarded by some as the prophets of the Captivity-time (Delitzsch), by others - as the faithful who "waited for the redemption of Israel" (Kay); but are considered by the best critics (Cheyne, Alexander) to be "supersensible beings," or, in other words, angels, who "watch" over the fortunes of Israel, and sympathize with their weal and woe (see Daniel 4:13, 17, 23, etc.). These "watchers" now "sing" or "shout" with joy. They shall see eye to eye (compare the "face to face" of Numbers 14:14; Deuteronomy 34:10). The "watchers" would watch closely God's dealings with his Church, and would see them as clearly as a man sees his friend when he leeks into his face. When the Lord shall bring again Zion. It is, perhaps, best to translate, with Houbigant and Mr. Cheyne, "When the Lord shall return to Zion." The prophet sees God as the Leader of his people, not merely by his providence bringing them back, but "returning" at their head (camp. ver. 12). The same call, which was addressed in Isaiah 51:9 to the arm of Jehovah that was then represented as sleeping, is here addressed to Jerusalem, which is represented as a sleeping woman. "Awake, awake; clothe thyself in thy might, O Zion; clothe thyself in thy state dresses, O Jerusalem, thou holy city: for henceforth there will no more enter into thee one uncircumcised and unclean! Shake thyself from the dust; arise, sit down, O Jerusalem: loose thyself from the chains of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion!" Jerusalem is lying upon the ground stupefied with the wrath of God, and exhausted with grief; but this shameful prostration and degradation will now come to an end. She is to rise up and put on her might, which has long been broken down, and apparently has altogether disappeared, but which can and must be constantly renewed, because it rests upon the foundation of an inviolable promise. She is to wake up and recover her ancient power, and put on her state robes, i.e., her priestly and royal ornaments, which belong to her as a "royal city," i.e., as the city of Jehovah had His anointed one. For henceforth she will be what she was always intended to be, and that without any further desecration. Heathen, uncircumcised, and those who were unclean in heart and flesh (Ezekiel 44:9), had entered her by force, and desecrated her: heathen, who had no right to enter the congregation of Jehovah as they were (Lamentations 1:10). But she should no longer be defiled, not to say conquered, by such invaders as these (Joel 3:17; Nahum 2:1; compare Joel 3:7 with Nahum 2:1). On the construction non perget intrabit equals intrare, see Ges. 142, 3, c. In Isaiah 52:2 the idea of the city falls into the background, and that of the nation takes its place. ירולשׁם שׁבי does not mean "captive people of Jerusalem," however, as Hitzig supposes, for this would require שׁביה in accordance with the personification, as in Isaiah 52:2. The rendering supported by the lxx is the true one, "Sit down, O Jerusalem;" and this is also the way in which it is accentuated. The exhortation is the counterpart of Isaiah 47:1. Jerusalem is sitting upon the ground as a prisoner, having no seat to sit upon; but this is only that she may be the more highly exalted; - whereas the daughter of Babylon is seated as a queen upon a throne, but only to be the more deeply degraded. The former is now to shake herself free from the dust, and to rise up and sit down (viz., upon a throne, Targum). The captive daughter of Zion (shebhiyyâh, αἰχμάλωτος, Exodus 12:29, an adjective written first for the sake of emphasis, as in Isaiah 10:30; Isaiah 53:11) is to undo for herself (sibi laxare according to p. 62, note, like hithnachēl, Isaiah 14:2, sibi possidendo capere) the chains of her neck (the chethib התפתחו, they loosen themselves, is opposed to the beautiful parallelism); for she who was mourning in her humiliation is to be restored to honour once more, and she who was so shamefully laden with fetters to liberty.
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