Isaiah 61:5
And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
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(5) Strangers shall stand . . .—i.e., like servants waiting for their master’s orders. The implied thought of the whole passage is, as in the next verse, that all Israel is raised to the dignity of a priestly caste, leaving the rough work of the world to be done by foreigners, who stood on a lower level. (Comp. Ecclesiasticus 38:31-34.)

61:4-9 Promises are here made to the Jews returned out of captivity, which extend to all those who, through grace, are delivered out of spiritual thraldom. An unholy soul is like a city that is broken down, and has no walls, like a house in ruins; but by the power of Christ's gospel and grace, it is fitted to be a habitation of God, through the Spirit. When, by the grace of God, we attain to holy indifference as to the affairs of this world; when, though our hands are employed about them, our hearts are not entangled with them, but preserved entire for God and his service, then the sons of the alien are our ploughmen and vine-dressers. Those whom He sets at liberty, he sets to work. His service is perfect freedom; it is the greatest honour. All believers are made, to our God, kings and priests; and always ought to conduct themselves as such. Those who have the Lord for their portion, have reason to say, that they have worthy portion, and to rejoice in it. In the fulness of heaven's joys we shall receive more than double for all our services and sufferings. God desires truth, and therefore hates all injustice. Nor will it justify any man's robbery to say, it was for burnt-offerings; and that robbery is most hateful which is under this pretence. Let the children of godly parents be such, that all may see the fruits of a good education; an answer to the prayers for them, in the fruit of God's blessing.And strangers shall stand - (See the notes at Isaiah 14:1-2; Isaiah 60:10).

And feed your flocks - The keeping of flocks constituted a very considerable part of the husbandry of those who dwelt in Palestine. Of course, any considerable prosperity of a spiritual nature would be well represented by an accession of foreigners, who should come to relieve them in their toil. It is not necessary to suppose that this is to be taken literally, nor that it should be so spiritualized as to suppose that the prophet refers to churches and their pastors, and to the fact, that those churches would be put under the care of pastors from among the pagan. The idea is, that it would be a time of signal spiritual prosperity, and when the accession would be as great and important as if foreigners were to come in among a people, and take the whole labor of attending their flocks and cultivating their fields.

Your plowmen - Hebrew, אכר 'ikkâr, from which probably is derived the Greek ἀγρός agros; the Gothic akr; the German acker; and the English acre. It means properly a digger or cultivator of the soil, or farmer Jeremiah 51:26; Amos 5:16.

And vine-dressers - The sense here accords with that which has been so repeatedly said before, that the pagan world would yet become tributary to the church (see the notes at Isaiah 9:5-7, Isaiah 9:9-10).

5. stand—shall wait on you as servants (Isa 14:1, 2; 60:10). Strangers, viz. Gentiles, such as are not of, the natural race of the Jews, but Gentile converts. Or such as shall have no more than an outward profession, strangers to tho true work of grace.

Shall stand; ready to be at thy service; a like expression Isaiah 48:13.

Feed your flocks, the churches, with, the word of God. The sons of the alien; the same with strangers, or their successors.

Shall be your ploughmen and your vine-dressers: as the words describe the prosperous estate of the Jews, the meaning of them is, that they should be in such a flourishing and prosperous condition, that without their own labour they should have all inferior offices executed, either by slaves taken in war, or by persons hired for reward, which they should have riches and wealth enough to accomplish; but as they principally relate to the spiritual state of the church, so probably by strangers we may understand converted Gentiles, with their successors, meant by the

sons of aliens, which should be ready to discharge all offices for the advantage of the church, feeding the flocks, viz. the churches of Christ, with the word of God, and should manage the whole work of God’s spiritual husbandry therein: see 1 Corinthians 3:6-9. Or by strangers may be meant members of the church only by an outward profession, even they shall be some way serviceable to her in ordinary and inferior matters: The earth shall help the woman, Revelation 12:16.

And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks,.... The several congregated churches of Christ, which shall be set among them, compared to flocks of sheep, as they often are; and which shall be fed with knowledge and understanding, with the words of faith and sound doctrine, by pastors of the Gentile race; who shall be raised up by Christ, and shall freely, and faithfully, and constantly perform the office they are called unto; see Acts 20:28,

and the sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen, and your vinedressers: the sons of Gentiles, who were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, Ephesians 2:12, but now being converted and brought to the knowledge of Christ, and gifted by him, will be of eminent service in his church; which, as it is "God's husbandry", 1 Corinthians 3:9 shall be filled and cultivated by them; the fallow ground of men's hearts shall be ploughed up by them, with the plough of the Gospel the Lord succeeding their labours; and the seed of the word sown in them, which, by the blessing of God, shall take root, spring up, and bring forth fruit. And whereas the church of God is compared to a vineyard, and particular churches of Christ to vines; such men as are called by grace from among the Gentiles, and have received gifts from Christ, shall be the keepers and dressers of these vines, plant, and prune, and water them, and do everything requisite unto them; see Sol 2:15.

And foreigners shall {i} stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.

(i) They will be ready to serve you in all your needs.

5. the sons of the alien] Render with R.V. aliens (as ch. Isaiah 56:3).

5, 6. Israel’s priesthood among the nations, and the services rendered to it by the latter. The meaning of course is not that all Israelites shall minister in the Temple or that a separate sacerdotal order shall not exist (see on the contrary ch. Isaiah 66:21) but simply that in relation to the Gentiles, Israel shall enjoy a position of privilege analogous to the relation between priests and laymen. The fundamental idea of priesthood in the O.T. being the right of approach to God, this idea is conceived as realised in a system which may be likened to a series of concentric circles,—priests, Levites, ordinary Israelites, Gentiles,—each grade standing nearer to God than the next. It was Israel’s calling to be a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), and in the latter days this destiny will be fulfilled in their mediatorial relation to the outer world. Although prophecy in general accords a position of supremacy to Israelites in the future kingdom of God, the distinction is perhaps nowhere so definitely formulated as here.

Verse 5. - Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks (comp. Isaiah 14:1, 2; Isaiah 45:14; Isaiah 60:10). The Gentiles who join themselves with the Jews, and form with them one community, are constantly represented in the writings of Isaiah as occupying a subordinate position. In the New Testament, Jew and Gentile are put upon a par. Is the explanation that Isaiah assumes that the Jews generally will accept the gospel, and therefore, to some extent, retain their privileges in the new community, whereas, in fact, they rejected the gospel, and so lost their natural position (see Romans 11:7-20)? Or does Isaiah look onward to a later date? And is there to be a restoration of "Israel according to the flesh" upon their conversion, and a reinstatement of them in a position of privilege? Such a condition of things seems glanced at in Romans 11:23-29, and in Revelation 7:4-9; Revelation 14:1. The sons of the alien shall be your ploughmen and your vinedressers. Not so much compelled, like the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:21-27), to perform menial offices, as undertaking them voluntarily out of good will. Isaiah 61:5Even in Isaiah 61:3 with להם וקרא a perfect was introduced in the place of the infinitives of the object, and affirmed what was to be accomplished through the mediation of the Servant of Jehovah. The second turn in the address, which follows in Isaiah 61:4-9, continues the use of such perfects, which afterwards pass into futures. But the whole is still governed by the commencement in Isaiah 61:1. The Servant of Jehovah celebrates the glorious office committed to him, and expounds the substance of the gospel given him to proclaim. It points to the restoration of the promised land, and to the elevation of Israel, after its purification in the furnace of judgment, to great honour and dignity in the midst of the world of nations. "And they will build up wastes of the olden time, raise up desolations of the forefathers, and renew desolate cities, desolations of former generations. And strangers stand and feed your flocks, and foreigners become your ploughmen and vinedressers. But ye will be called priests of Jehovah; Servants of our God, will men say to you: ye will eat the riches of the nations, and pride yourselves in their glory." The desolations and wastes of ‛ōlâm and dōr vâdōr, i.e., of ages remote and near (Isaiah 58:12), are not confined to what had lain in ruins during the seventy years of the captivity. The land will be so thickly populated, that the former places of abode will not suffice (Isaiah 49:19-20); so that places must be referred to which are lying waste beyond the present bounds of the promised land (Isaiah 54:3), and which will be rebuilt, raised up, and renewed by those who return from exile, and indeed by the latest generations (Isaiah 58:12, מםּ; cf., Isaiah 60:14). Chōrebh, in the sense of desolation, is a word belonging to the alter period of the language (Zeph., Jer., and Ezek.). The rebuilding naturally suggests the thought of assistance on the part of the heathen (Isaiah 60:10). But the prophet expresses the fact that they will enter into the service of Israel (Isaiah 61:5), in a new and different form. They "stand there" (viz., at their posts ready for service, ‛al-mish-martâm, 2 Chronicles 7:6), "and feed your flocks" (צאן singularetantum, cf., Genesis 30:43), and foreigners are your ploughmen and vinedressers. Israel is now, in the midst of the heathen who have entered into the congregation of Jehovah and become the people of God (ch Isaiah 19:25), what the Aaronites formerly were in the midst of Israel itself. It stands upon the height of its primary destination to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6). They are called "priests of Jehovah," and the heathen call them "servants of our God;" for even the heathen speak with believing reverence of the God, to whom Israel renders priestly service, as "our God." This reads as if the restored Israelites were to stand in the same relation to the converted heathen as the clergy to the laity; but it is evident, from Isaiah 66:21, that the prophet has no such hierarchical separation as this in his mind. All that we can safely infer from his prophecy is, that the nationality of Israel will not be swallowed up by the entrance of the heathen into the community of the God of revelation. The people created by Jehovah, to serve as the vehicle of the promise of salvation and the instrument in preparing the way for salvation, will also render Him special service, even after that salvation has been really effected. At the same time, we cannot take the attitude, which is here assigned to the people of sacred history after it has become the teacher of the nations, viz., as the leader of its worship also, and shape it into any clear and definite form that shall be reconcilable with the New Testament spirit of liberty and the abolition of all national party-walls. The Old Testament prophet utters New Testament prophecies in an Old Testament form. Even when he continues to say, "Ye will eat the riches of the Gentiles, and pride yourselves in their glory," i.e., be proud of the glorious things which have passed from their possession into yours, this is merely colouring intended to strike the eye, which admits of explanation on the ground that he saw the future in the mirror of the present, as a complete inversion of the relation in which the two had stood before. The figures present themselves to him in the form of contrasts. The New Testament apostle, on the other hand, says in Romans 11:12 that the conversion of all Israel to Christ will be "the riches of the Gentiles." But if even then the Gentile church should act according to the words of the same apostle in Romans 15:27, and show her gratitude to the people whose spiritual debtor she is, by ministering to them in carnal things, all that the prophet has promised here will be amply fulfilled. We cannot adopt the explanation proposed by Hitzig, Stier, etc., "and changing with them, ye enter into their glory" (hithyammēr from yâmar equals mūr, Hiph.: hēmı̄r, Jeremiah 2:11; lit., to exchange with one another, to enter into one another's places); for yâmar equals ‛âmar (cf., yâchad equals 'âchad; yâsham equals 'âsham; yâlaph equals 'âlaph), to press upwards, to rise up (related to tâmar, see at Isaiah 17:9; sâmar, Symm. ὀρθοτριχεῖν, possibly also ‛âmar with the hithpael hith‛ammēr, lxx καταδυναστεύειν), yields a much simpler and more appropriate meaning. From this verb we have hith'ammēr in Psalm 94:4, "to lift one's self up (proudly)," and here hithyammēr; and it is in this way that the word has been explained by Jerome (superbietis), and possibly by the lxx (θαυμασθήσεσθε, in the sense of spectabiles eritis), by the Targum, and the Syriac, as well as by most of the ancient and modern expositors.
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