Isaiah 61:3
To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
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(3) To appoint unto them that mourn . . .—The verb (literally, to set) has no object either in the Hebrew or English, and it would seem as if the prophet corrected himself in the act of writing or dictating, and substituted for a word which would have applied only to the coronet one which was better fitted for the whole context.

Beauty for ashes.—Literally, a diadem, or coronet, which is to take the place of the ashes that had been sprinkled on the head of the mourners or penitents (2Samuel 1:2; 2Samuel 13:19; Joshua 7:6). The assonance of the two Hebrew words, ’epher, paer, deserves notice.

Oil of joy.—Same phrase as in Psalm 45:7.

The spirit of heaviness . . .—The second noun is that used for the “smoking” or “dimly burning” flax in Isaiah 42:3, and in its figurative sense in Isaiah 42:4; Ezekiel 21:7.

That they might be called trees of righteousness . . .—Strictly, terebinths, or oaks, as the symbols of perennial verdure—the “righteousness” being thought of as the gift of the Spirit of Jehovah,. and, therefore, life-giving and enduring—and in their beauty and strength manifesting His glory.



Isaiah 61:3

In the little synagogue of Nazareth Jesus began His ministry by laying His hand upon this great prophecy and saying, ‘It is Mine! I have fulfilled it.’ The prophet had been painting the ideal Messianic Deliverer, with special reference to the return from the Babylonian captivity. That was ‘the liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound,’ and about which he was thinking. But no external deliverance of that sort could meet the needs, nor satisfy the aspirations, of a soul that knows itself and its circumstances. Isaiah, or the man who goes by his name, spoke greater things than he knew. I am not going to enter upon questions of interpretation; but I may say, that no conception of Jewish prophecy can hold its ground which is not framed in the light of that great saying in the synagogue of Nazareth. So, then, we have here the ‘Man of Sorrows,’ as this very prophet calls Him in another place, presenting Himself as the Transformer of sorrow and the Bringer of joy, in regard to infinitely deeper griefs than those which sprang in the heart of the nation because of the historical captivity.

There is another beautiful thing in our text, which comes out more distinctly if we follow the Revised Version, and read ‘to give unto them a garland for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.’ There we have two contrasted pictures suggested: one of a mourner with grey ashes strewed upon his dishevelled locks, and his spirit clothed in gloom like a black robe; and to him there comes One who, with gentle hand, smoothes the ashes out of his hair, trains a garland round his brow, anoints his head with oil, and, stripping off the trappings of woe, casts about him a bright robe fit for a guest at a festival. That is the miracle that Jesus Christ can do for every one, and is ready to do for us, if we will let Him. Let us look at this wonderful transformation, and at the way by which it is effected.

The first point I would make is that-

I. Jesus Christ is the Joy-bringer to men because He is the Redeemer of men.

Remember that in the original application of my text to the deliverance from captivity, this gift of joy and change of sorrow into gladness was no independent and second bestowment, but was simply the issue of the one that preceded it, viz., the gift of liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound. The gladness was a gladness that welled up in the heart of the captives set free, and coming out from the gloom of the Babylonian dungeon into the sunshine of God’s favour, with their faces set towards Zion ‘with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.’

Now you have only to keep firm hold of this connection between these two thoughts to come to the crown and centre-point of this great prophecy, as far as it applies to us, and that is that it is Christ as the Emancipator, Christ as the Deliverer, Christ as He who brings us out of the prison of bondage of the tyranny of sin, who is the great Joy-Giver. For there is no real, deep, fundamental and impregnable gladness possible to a man until his relations to God have been rectified, and until, with these rectified relations, with the consciousness of forgiveness and the divine love nestling warm at his heart, he has turned himself away from his dread and his sin, and has recognised in his Father God ‘the gladness of his joy.’

Of course, there are many of us who feel that life is sufficiently comfortable and moderately happy, or at least quite tolerable, without any kind of reference to God at all. And in this day of growing materialism, and growing consequent indifference to the deepest needs of the spirit and the claims of religion, more and more men are finding, or fancying that they find, that they can rub along somehow, and have a fair share of gladness and satisfaction, without any need for a redeeming gospel and a forgiving Christ. But about all that kind of surface-joy the old words are true, ‘even in laughter the heart is sorrowful,’ and hosts of us are satisfied with joys which Jesus has no part in bringing, simply because our truest self has never once awakened. When it does-and perhaps it will do so with some of you, like the sleeping giant that is fabled to lie beneath the volcano whose sunny slopes are smiling with flowers-then you will find out that no one can bring real joy who does not take away guilt and sin.

Jesus Christ is the Joy-bringer, because Jesus Christ is the Emancipator. And true gladness is the gladness that springs from the conscious possession of liberty from the captivity which holds men slaves to evil and to their worst selves. Brethren, let us not fancy that these surface-joys are the joys adequate to a human spirit. They are ignoble, and they are infinitely foolish, because a touch of an awakened conscience, a stirring of one’s deeper self, can scatter them all to pieces. So then, that is my first thought.

Let us suggest a second, that-

II. Jesus Christ transforms sorrow because He transforms the mourner.

In my text, all that this Joy-bringer and Transmuter of grief into its opposite is represented as doing is on the man who feels the sorrow. And although, as I have said, the text, in its original position, is simply a deduction from the previous great prophecy which did point to a change of circumstances, and although Jesus does bring the ‘joy of salvation’ by a great change in a man’s relations, yet in regard to the ordinary sorrows of life, He affects these not so much by an operation upon our circumstances as by an operation upon ourselves, and transforms sorrow and brings gladness, because He transforms the man who endures it. The landscape remains the same, the difference is in the colour of the glass through which we look at it. Instead of having it presented through some black and smoked medium, we see it through what the painter calls a ‘Claude Lorraine’ glass, tinged golden, and which throws its own lovely light upon all that it shows us. It is possible-the eye that looks being purged and cleansed, so as to see more clearly-that the facts remaining identical, their whole aspect and bearing may be altered, and that which was felt, and rightly felt, to be painful and provocative of sadness and gloom, may change its character and beget a solemn joy. It would be but a small thing to transform the conditions; it is far better and higher to transform us. We all need, and some of us, I have no doubt, do especially need, to remember that the Lord who brings this sudden transformation for us, does so by His operation within us, and, therefore, to that operation we should willingly yield ourselves.

How does He do this? One answer to that question is-by giving to the man with ashes on his head and gloom wrapped about his spirit, sources of joy, if he will use them, altogether independent of external circumstances.’ Though the fig-tree shall not blossom, and there be no fruit in the vine . . . yet will I rejoice in the Lord.’ And every Christian man, especially when days are dark and clouds are gathering, has it open to him, and is bound to use the possibility, to turn away his mind from the external occasions of sadness, and fix it on the changeless reason for deep and unchanging joy-the sweet presence, the strong love, the sustaining hand, the infinite wisdom, of his Father God.

Brethren, “the paradox of the Christian life” is, ‘as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.’ Christ calls for no hypocritical insensibility to ‘the ills that flesh is heir to.’ He has sanctioned by His example the tears that flow when death hurts loving hearts. He commanded the women of Jerusalem to ‘weep for themselves and for their children.’ He means that we should feel the full bitterness and pain of sorrows which will not be medicinal unless they are bitter, and will not be curative unless they cut deep. But He also means that whilst thus we suffer as men, in the depths of our own hearts we should, at the same time, be turning away from the sufferings and their cause, and fixing our hearts, quiet even then amidst the distractions, upon God Himself. Ah! it is hard to do, and because we do not do it, the promise that He will turn the sorrow into joy often seems to be a vain word for us.

It is not ours to rejoice as the world does, nor is it ours to sorrow as those who have no hope, or as those who have no God with them. But the two opposite emotions may, to a large extent, be harmonised and co-existent in a Christian heart, and, since they can be, they should be. The Christian in sorrow should be as an island set in some stormy sea, with wild waves breaking against its black, rocky coast, and the wind howling around it, but in the centre of it there is a deep and shady dell ‘that heareth not the loud winds when they call,’ and where not a leaf is moved by the tempest. In a like depth of calm and central tranquillity it is possible for us to live, even while the storm hurtles its loudest on the outermost coasts of our being; ‘as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing,’ because the Joy-bringer has opened for us sources of gladness independent of externals.

And then there is another way by which, for us, if we will use our privileges, the sorrows of life may be transmuted, because we, contemplating them, have come to a changed understanding of their meaning. That is, after all, the secret charm to be commended to us at all times, but to be commended to us most when our hearts are heavy and the days are dark around us. We shall never understand life if we class its diverse events simply under the two opposite categories of good- evil; prosperity-adversity; gains-losses; fulfilled expectations- disappointed hopes, Put them all together under one class-discipline and education; means for growth; means for Christlikeness. When we have found out, what it takes a long while for us to learn, that the lancet and the bandage are for the same purpose, and that opposite weathers conspire to the same end, that of the harvest, the sting is out of the sorrow, the poison is wiped off the arrow. We can have, if not a solemn joy, at least a patient acquiescence, in the diversities of operation, when we learn that the same hand is working in all for the same end, and that all that contributes to that end is good.

Here we may suggest a third way by which a transformation wrought upon ourselves transforms the aspect of our sorrows, and that is, that possessing independent sources of joy, and having come to learn the educational aspect of all adversity, we hereby are brought by Jesus Christ Himself to the position of submission. And that is the most potent talisman to transform mourning into praise. An accepted grief is a conquered grief; a conquered grief will very soon be a comforted grief; and a comforted grief is a joy. By all these means Jesus Christ, here and now, is transmuting the lead and iron of our griefs into the gold of a not ignoble nor transient gladness.

And may I say one last word? My text suggests not only these two points to which I have already referred-viz. that Jesus Christ is the Joy-bringer because He is the Emancipator, and that He transforms sorrow by transforming the mourner-but, lastly, that III. Jesus gives joy after sorrow.

‘Nevertheless, afterward’ is a great word of glowing encouragement for all sad hearts. ‘Fools and children,’ says the old proverb, ‘should not see half-done work ‘; at least, they should not judge it. When the ploughshare goes deep into the brown, frosty ground, the work is only begun. The earth may seem to be scarped and hurt, and, if one might say, to bleed, but in six months’ time ‘you scarce can see’ the soil for waving corn. Yes; and sorrow, as some of us could witness, is the forecast of purest joy. I have no doubt that there are men and women here who could say, ‘I never knew the power of God, and the blessedness of Christ as a Saviour, until I was in deep affliction, and when everything else went dark, then in His light I saw light.’ Do not some of you know the experience? and might we not all know it? and why do we not know it?

Jesus Christ, even here and now, gives these blessed results of our sorrows, if they are taken to the right place, and borne in right fashion. For it is they ‘that mourn in Zion’ that He thus blesses. There are some of us, I fear, whose only resource in trouble is to fling ourselves into some work, or some dissipation. There are people who try to work away their griefs, as well as people who try feverishly to drink them away. And there are some of us whose only resource for deliverance from our sorrows is that, after the wound has bled all it can, it stops bleeding, and the grief simply dies by lapse of time and for want of fuel. An affliction wasted is the worst of all waste. But if we carry our grief into the sanctuary, then, here and now, it will change its aspect and become a solemn joy.

I say nothing about the ultimate result where every sorrow rightly borne shall be represented in the future life by some stage in grace or glory, where every tear shall be crystallised, if I might say so, into a flashing diamond, which flings off the reflection of the divine light, where ‘there shall be no sorrow nor sighing, nor any more pain, for the former things are passed away.’ When the lesson has been learned, God burns the rod.

But, brethren, there is another sadder transformation. I have been speaking about the transformation of sorrow into joy. There is also the transformation of joy into sorrow. I spoke a little while ago about the ‘laughter’ in which the heart is ‘sorrowful,’ and the writer from whom I quoted the words goes on to say, ‘The end of that mirth is heaviness.’ ‘Thereof cometh in the end despondency and madness.’ I saw, on a hilltop, a black circle among the grass and heather. There had been a bonfire there on Coronation Night, and it had all died down, and that was the end-a hideous ring of scorched barrenness amidst the verdure. Take care that your gladnesses do not die down like that, but that they are pure, and being pure are undying. Union with Jesus Christ makes sorrow light, and secures that it shall merge at last into ‘joy unspeakable and full of joy.’ I believe that separation from Christ makes joy shallow, and makes it certain that at last, instead of a garland, shall be ashes on the head, and that, instead of a festal robe, the spirit shall be wrapped in a garment of heaviness.61:1-3 The prophets had the Holy Spirit of God at times, teaching them what to say, and causing them to say it; but Christ had the Spirit always, without measure, to qualify him, as man, for the work to which he was appointed. The poor are commonly best disposed to receive the gospel, Jas 2:5; and it is only likely to profit us when received with meekness. To such as are poor in spirit, Christ preached good tidings when he said, Blessed are the meek. Christ's satisfaction is accepted. By the dominion of sin in us, we are bound under the power of Satan; but the Son is ready, by his Spirit, to make us free; and then we shall be free indeed. Sin and Satan were to be destroyed; and Christ triumphed over them on his cross. But the children of men, who stand out against these offers, shall be dealt with as enemies. Christ was to be a Comforter, and so he is; he is sent to comfort all who mourn, and who seek to him, and not to the world, for comfort. He will do all this for his people, that they may abound in the fruits of righteousness, as the branches of God's planting. Neither the mercy of God, the atonement of Christ, nor the gospel of grace, profit the self-sufficient and proud. They must be humbled, and led to know their own character and wants, by the Holy Spirit, that they may see and feel their need of the sinner's Friend and Saviour. His doctrine contains glad tidings indeed to those who are humbled before God.To appoint unto them - Hebrew, 'To place;' that is, to place happiness before them; to give them joy arid consolation.

That mourn in Zion - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:8). The mourners in Zion mean those who dwelt in Jerusalem; then all those who are connected with the church of God - his poor and afflicted people.

To give unto them beauty for ashes - In the Hebrew there is here a beautiful paronomasia, which cannot be transferred to our language - אפר תחת פאר pe'ēr tachath 'êpher. The word rendered 'beauty' (פאר pe'ēr) means properly a head-dress, turban, tiara, or diadem; and the idea is, that the Redeemer would impart to his mourning people such an ornament instead of the ashes which in their grief they were accustomed to easy on their heads. For the use of the word, see Isaiah 3:20; Isaiah 61:10; Exodus 39:29; Ezekiel 24:17-23. It was common among the Orientals to east dust and ashes upon their heads in time of mourning, and as expressive of their grief (compare the notes at Isaiah 57:5; 2 Samuel 13:19).

The oil of joy - The oil of joy denotes that which was symbolic or expressive of joy. Oil or ointment was employed on occasions of festivity and joy (see the notes at Isaiah 57:9); but its use was abstained from in times of public calamity or grief (see 2 Samuel 14:2).

The garment of praise - That is, the garment or clothing which shall be expresive of praise or gratitude instead of that which shall indicate grief.

For the spirit of heaviness. - Instead of a heavy, burdened, and oppressed spirit. The word used here (כהה kēhâh), usually means faint, feeble, weak (see the notes at Isaiah 42:3). It is applied to a lamp about to go out Isaiah 42:3; to eyes bedimmed, or dull 1 Samuel 3:2; to a faint or pale color Leviticus 13:39. Here it denotes those of a faint and desponding heart. These expressions are figurative, and are taken from the custom which prevailed more in Oriental countries than elsewhere - and which is founded in nature - of expressing the emotions of the mind by the manner of apparel. These customs are stated in the book of Judith. She 'pulled off the sackcloth which she had on, and pus off the garments of her widowhood, and washed her body all over with water, and anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head, and put on a tire upon it (Greek, μιτρε mitre), and put on her garments of gladness wherewith she was clad during the life of Manasses her husband. And she took sandals upon her feet, and put about her her bracelets, and her chains, and her rings, and her ear-rings, and all her ornaments, and decked herself bravely to allure the eyes of all men that should see her' Isaiah 10:3-4.

That they might be called - That is, those who had mourned in Zion.

Trees of righteousness - In the Hebrew, 'Oaks,' or terebinth trees. By their being oaks of righteousness is meant people distinguished for righteousness or justice. The Septuagint renders it, Γενεαὶ Geneai - 'Generations;' Jerome, Fortes - 'Strong;' the Chaldee, 'Princes;' the Syriac, 'Rams;' but the word properly denotes the oak, or the terebinth tree - a lofty, strong, and magnificent tree. It is not uncommon to represent people by trees (see Isaiah 1:29-30; Psalm 92:12-14):

The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree;

He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon,

Those that be planted in the house of the Lord,

Shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;

They shall be fat and flourishing.


3. To appoint … to give—The double verb, with the one and the same accusative, imparts glowing vehemence to the style.

beauty for ashes—There is a play on the sound and meaning of the Hebrew words, peer, epher, literally, "ornamental headdress" or tiara (Eze 24:17), worn in times of joy, instead of a headdress of "ashes," cast on the head in mourning (2Sa 13:19).

oil of joy—Perfumed ointment was poured on the guests at joyous feasts (Ps 23:5; 45:7, 8; Am 6:6). On occasions of grief its use was laid aside (2Sa 14:2).

garment of praise—bright-colored garments, indicative of thankfulness, instead of those that indicate despondency, as sackcloth (Joh 16:20).

trees of righteousness—Hebrew, terebinth trees; symbolical of men strong in righteousness, instead of being, as heretofore, bowed down as a reed with sin and calamity (Isa 1:29, 30; 42:3; 1Ki 14:15; Ps 1:3; 92:12-14; Jer 17:8).

planting of … Lord—(See on [863]Isa 60:21).

that he might be glorified—(Joh 15:8).

To appoint; supply it, viz. comfort or joy; or else it may refer to those accusative cases following, beauty, oil, garments. In Zion; put by a metonymy for the Jews; q.d. among the Jews; and they for the church of God, or, according to the Hebrew, for Zion.

Beauty for ashes: by ashes understand whatever is most proper for days of mourning, as sackcloth sprinkled with ashes; and these ashes, which were sprinkled on their heads, mixing themselves with their tears, would render them of a woeful aspect, which was wont to be the habit of mourners; as by beauty whatever may be beautiful or become times of rejoicing.

The oil of joy for mourning: the sense is the same with the former; he calls it

oil of joy, in allusion to those anointings they were wont to use in times of joy, Psalm 104 15: and also the same with what follows, viz. gladness for heaviness; gladness brings forth praise to God: and it is called a garment in allusion to their festival ornaments, for they had garments appropriated to their conditions, some suitable to times of rejoicing, and some to times of mourning; or else an allusion to comely garments; and

the spirit of heaviness, because heaviness doth oppress and debase the spirits. It is all but an elegant description of the same thing by a threefold antithesis.

That they might be called; that is, that they may be so, as it is usually expressed, Isaiah 58:12 60:18; they shall be acknowledged so, Isaiah 61:9.

Trees of righteousness: he ascribes righteousness to trees, understanding thereby persons by a metaphor, by which he means that they shall be firm, solid, and well-rooted, being by faith ingrafted into Christ, and bringing forth fruit suitable to the soil wherein they are planted, that had been as dry trees; see on Isaiah 56:3; viz. the church, the vineyard of God, and the hand by which they are planted, as in the next words.

The planting of the Lord; planted by the holy Lord, who’ being himself holy and righteous, would plant none but such; which notes also their soundness and stability, an allusion to that passage in Moses’s song, Exodus 15:17.

That he might be glorified, either in that glory which he should confer upon them, or that glory he may expect and receive from them, that so it may be evident whose handiwork it was. See Isaiah 60 21. To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,.... Or, "to the mourners of Zion" (u); such who are of Zion, belong to the church of God, and mourn for the corruptions in Zion's doctrines; for the perversion, abuse, and neglect of Zion's ordinances; for the disorders and divisions in Zion; for the declensions there, as to the exercise of grace, and the power of godliness; for the few instances of conversions there, or few additions to it; for the carelessness, ease, and lukewarmness of many professors in Zion; and for their unbecoming lives and conversations. Now one part of Christ's work is to "appoint" comfort to such; he has appointed it in counsel and covenant from eternity; made provision for it in the blessings and promises of his grace; he has "set" (w) or put it in the ministry of the word; be has ordered his ministering servants to speak comfortably to his people; yea, by his Spirit he "puts" comfort into the hearts of them, who through their unbelief refuse to be comforted; and he has fixed a time when he will arise and have mercy on Zion, and bring her into a better state than she is now in, when there will be none of these causes of complaint and mourning:

to give unto them beauty for ashes; in the Hebrew text there is a beautiful play on words, which cannot be so well expressed in our language, "to give peer for epher" (x); in times of mourning, it was usual to put on sackcloth and ashes, Esther 4:1, instead of this, Christ gives his mourners the beautiful garments of salvation, and the robe of his righteousness, and the graces of his Spirit, and his gracious presence, together with his word and ordinances, and sometimes a large number of converts; all which, as they are ornamental to his people, they yield them joy, peace, and comfort: and this is a beauty that is not natural to them, but is of grace; not acquired, but given; not fictitious, but real; is perfect and complete, lasting and durable, and desired by Christ himself, who gives it:

the oil of joy for mourning; oil used to be poured on the heads of persons at entertainments and festivals, and at times of rejoicing; and so is opposed to the state of mourners, who might not be anointed, as the Jewish commentators observe; see Psalm 23:5 the grace of the Spirit without measure, with which Christ was anointed, is called "the oil of gladness", Psalm 45:7 and of the same nature, though not of the same measure, is the grace which saints have from Christ; the effect of which is joy and gladness, even joy unspeakable, and full of glory; which is had in believing in Christ, and through a hope of eternal life by him; hence we read of the joy of faith, and of the rejoicing of hope: this oil is Christ's gift, and not to be bought with money; this holy unction comes from him; this golden oil is conveyed from him, through the golden pipes of the word and ordinances; is very valuable, of great price, and to be desired; and, being had, cannot be lost; it is the anointing that abides:

the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; such as is in persons under afflictions, or under a sense of sin, a load of guilt, and expectation of wrath; such as have heavy hearts, contrite and contracted (y) ones, as the word is observed to signify; for as joy enlarges the heart, sorrow contracts it; instead of which, a garment of praise, or an honourable one, is given; alluding to persons putting on of raiment suitable to their characters and circumstances, at seasons of rejoicing, such as weddings, and the like, Ecclesiastes 9:7 by which may be meant here the robe of Christ's righteousness later mentioned, Isaiah 61:10 so called because worthy of praise, for the preferableness of it to all others, being the best robe; for its perfection and purity; for the fragrancy and acceptableness of it to God, and for its eternal duration; also, because it occasions and excites praise in such on whom it is put; and such likewise shall have praise of God hereafter, when on account of it they shall be received into his kingdom and glory:

that they might be called trees of righteousness; that is, that the mourners in Zion, having all these things done for them, and bestowed on them, might be called, or be, or appear to be, like "trees" that are well planted; whose root is in Christ, whose sap is the Spirit and his grace, and whose fruit are good works; and that they might appear to be good trees, and of a good growth and stature, and be laden with the fruits of righteousness, and be truly righteous persons, made so by the imputation of Christ's righteousness to them: "the planting of the Lord"; planted by him in Christ, and in his church, and so never to be rooted out:

that he might be glorified; by their fruitfulness and good works, John 15:8 or that he might glorify himself, or get himself glory by them; See Gill on Isaiah 60:21.

(u) "lugentibus Sionis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator Vitrtnga. So Syr. (w) "ad ponendum" Montanus; "ut ponerem" Munster Pagninus. (x) the Targum and Vulgate Latin version render it a "crown for ashes" and the word is used for the tire of the head in Ezekiel 24:17. The Syriac and Arabic versions read, "for ashes sweet ointment", or "oil of gladness", joining it to the next clause; and mention being made of oil or ointment there, Fortunatus Scacchus thinks the allusion is to crowns of roses and, lilies moistened with, ointment of myrrh, and like ointment, which used to be wore at nuptial solemnities; and so opposed to ashes put on the head in times of mourning, which falling from thence, and moistened with tears on the cheeks, were clotted there, and so expressed the miserable condition they were in; but these things the reverse. See his Sacror. Eleaoehr. Myrothec. I. 1. c. 28. Colossians 139. (y) "pro spiritu stricto", Montanus, Paganinus; "loco spiritus contracti", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "constricto", Vatablus.

To appoint to them that mourn in Zion, to give to them beauty for {f} ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called {g} trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.

(f) Which was the sign of mourning.

(g) Trees that bring forth good fruits, as in Mt 3:8.

3. them that mourn in Zion] Lit. “the mourners of Zion,” which may mean either “those that mourn for Zion” (as Isaiah 66:10) or those who mourn in her.

beauty for ashes] R.V. a garland (but it. “a turban”) for ashes. Ashes sprinkled on the head were a sign of mourning (2 Samuel 13:19); these shall be replaced by the headdress which betokened dignity or festivity (see on Isaiah 61:10). There is a paronomasia in the Hebrew which cannot be imitated in English; Germans render “Putz statt Schmutz.”

oil of joy for mourning] (Omit the art.) As anointing with oil was a mark of joy or honour (Psalm 45:7; Psalm 23:5; Luke 7:46) so its omission was one of the tokens of mourning (2 Samuel 14:2).

the spirit of heaviness] a failing spirit; the same word as “dimly burning” in ch. Isaiah 42:3.

that they might be called] Strictly: and they shall be called.

trees of righteousness] lit. “oaks” or “terebinths.” The evergreen tree is a favourite emblem of the life of the righteous: Jeremiah 17:8; Psalm 1:3; Psalm 92:14.

the planting … glorified] see ch. Isaiah 60:21.Verse 3. - To appoint... to give. The latter expression is a correction of the former, which was not wide enough. Messiah is sent to give to the godly mourners

(1) beauty for ashes; or "a crown for ashes," i.e. a crown of glory in lieu of the ashes of repentance which it was customary to sprinkle upon the head;

(2) the oil of joy for mourning; or the anointing of the Spirit in lieu of that plenteousness of tears which naturally belonged to mourners; and

(3) the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, or a glad heart inclined to praise God, in lieu of a heavy one inclined to despair. Christian experience witnesses to the abundant accomplishment of all these purposes. That they might be called trees of righteousness; literally, oaks of righteousness, or strong and enduring plants in the garden of God, planted by him, in order that through them he might be glorified. Nothing gives so much glory to God as the proved righteousness of his saints. The planting of the Lord; i.e. "which he has planted" and caused to grow, and rendered righteous. The righteousness, though it is their own, an indwelling quality, has nevertheless come from him (comp. Isaiah 60:21). The fifth turn celebrates the glorifying of Jerusalem, through the shining of Jehovah as its everlasting light and through the form of its ever-growing membership, which is so well-pleasing to God. The prophecy returns to the thought with which it set out, and by which the whole is regulated, viz., that Jerusalem will be light. This leading thought is now unfolded in the most majestic manner, and opened up in all its eschatological depth. "The sun will be no more thy light by day, neither for brightness will the moon shine upon thee: Jehovah will be to thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun will no more go down, and thy moon will not be withdrawn; for Jehovah will be to thee an everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning will be fulfilled." Although, in the prophet's view, the Jerusalem of the period of glory in this world and the Jerusalem of the eternal glory beyond flow into one another; the meaning of this prophecy is not that the sun and moon will no longer exist. Even of the Jerusalem which is not to be built by Israel with the help of converted heathen, but which comes down from heaven to earth, the seer in Revelation 21:23 merely says, that the city needs neither the shining of the sun nor of the moon (as the Targum renders the passage before us, "thou wilt not need the shining of the sun by day"), for the glory of God lightens it, and the Lamb is the light thereof, i.e., God Himself is instead of a sun to her, and the Lamb instead of a moon. Consequently we do not agree with Stier, who infers from this passage that "there is a final new creation approaching, when there will be no more turning round into the shadow (James 1:17), when the whole planetary system, including the earth, will be changed, and when the earth itself will become a sun, yea, will become even more than that, in the direct and primary light which streams down upon it from God Himself." We rather agree with Hofmann, that "there will still be both sun and moon, but the Holy Place will be illuminated without interruption by the manifestation of the presence of God, which outshines all besides." The prophet has here found the most complete expression, for that which has already been hinted at in such prophecies in Isaiah 4:5; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 24:23. As the city receives its light neither from the sun nor from the moon, this implies, what Revelation 21:25 distinctly affirms, that there will be no more night there. The prophet intentionally avoids a לילה לאור parallel to יומם לאור. We must not render the second clause in Isaiah 60:19, "and it will not become light to thee with the shining of the moon," for האיר never means to get light; nor "and as for the shining of the moon, it does not give the light," as Hitzig and Knobel propose, for וּלנגהּ is used alone, and not היּרח וּלנגהּ as the antithesis to יומם לאור, in the sense of "to light up the night" (compare נגהּ as applied to the shining of the moon in Isaiah 13:10, and נגהּ to the glittering of the stars in Joel 2:10), and even the use of הלילה is avoided. The true rendering is either, "and for lighting, the moon will not shine upon thee" (Stier, Hahn, etc.); or, what is more in accordance with the accentuation, which would have given ולנגה tifchah and not tsakeph gadol, if it had been intended to indicate the object, "and as for the lighting" (ל as in Isaiah 32:1). The glory of Jehovah, which soars above Jerusalem, and has come down into her, is henceforth her sun and her moon - a sun that never sets, a moon יאסף לא which is not taken in towards morning, like a lamp that has been hung out at night (compare נאסף, Isaiah 16:10, withdrawn, disappeared). The triumph of light over darkness, which is the object of the world's history, is concentrated in the new Jerusalem. How this is to be understood, is explained in the closing clause of Isaiah 60:20. The sum of the days of mourning allotted to the church is complete. The darkness of the corruption of sin and state of punishment is overcome, and the church is nothing but holy blessed joy without change or disturbance; for it walks no longer in sidereal light, but in the eternally unchangeable light of Jehovah, which with its peaceful gentleness and perfect purity illumines within as well as without. The seer of the Apocalypse also mentions the Lamb. The Lamb is also known to our prophet; for the "Servant of Jehovah" is the Lamb. But the light of transfiguration, in which he sees this exalted Lamb, is not great enough to admit of its being combined with the light of the Divine Nature itself.
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