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. The next v. shows how deep was his consciousness of the close connection between darkness, wrath, and sin. "And thy people, they are all righteous; they possess the land for ever, a sprout of my plantations, a work of my hands for glorification." The church of the new Jerusalem consists of none but righteous ones, who have been cleansed from guilt, and keep themselves henceforth pure from sinning, and therefore possess the land of promise for ever, without having to fear repeated destruction and banishment: a "sprout" (nētser as in Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 14:19; Arab. nadr, the green branch) "of my plantations" (מטּעי chethib, erroneously מטּעו or מטּעו), i.e., of my creative acts of grace (cf., Isaiah 5:7), a "work of my hands" (cf., Isaiah 19:25), "to glorify me," i.e., in which I possess that in which I glory (להתפּאר as in Isaiah 61:3).
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