O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.
Verses 1-12. - ISAIAH'S SONG OF PRAISE ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF GOD'S KINGDOM. AS in Isaiah 12, after describing the first setting up of Christ's kingdom and the call of the Gentiles, the prophet broke out into song, through joy at the tidings he was commissioned to announce, so now, having proclaimed the final establishment of the same kingdom in the heavenly Zion, he is again carried away by the sense of exultant gladness into a fresh Lobgesang, which he utters in his own person - not, as the former one, in the person of the Church. His song divides itself into three sections:
(1) vers. 1-5, a thanksgiving for deliverance;
(2) vers. 6-8, a commemoration of blessings granted; and
(3) vers. 9-12, exultation in the security obtained. Verse 1. - Thou art my God; I will exalt thee (comp. Exodus 15:2 and Psalm 118:28). To Isaiah the "Song of Moses" seems to have been a pattern thanksgiving, from which he delighted to draw his phrases when he was bent on formally singing praise to God. Compare the following: Exodus 15:2 with Isaiah 12:2, "He is become my salvation;" the same with Isaiah 25:1, "He is my God; I will exalt him;" Exodus 15:6 with Isaiah 13:16, "Hath dashed in pieces;" Exodus 15:7 with Isaiah 47:14, "Consumed them as stubble;" Exodus 15:11 with Isaiah 46:5, "Who is like," etc.? the same with Isaiah 25:1, "Doing wonders;" Exodus 15:16 with Isaiah 8:13, "Fear and dread;" Exodus 15:18 with Isaiah 24:23, "The Lord shall reign." Wonderful things; thy counsels of old are, etc.; rather, thou hast wrought wonders, counsels of old, faithfulness and truth. The wonders for which God is praised were decreed in his counsels from all eternity; their accomplishment shows forth God's "faithfulness" and "truth."
For thou hast made of a city an heap; of a defenced city a ruin: a palace of strangers to be no city; it shall never be built.
Verse 2. - Thou hast made of a city an heap. No particular city is pointed at. The prophet has in his mind the fate of all those cities which have been enemies of Jehovah and persecutors of the saints upon earth. A defended city; i.e. "a fenced, or fortified, city." A palace of strangers. As the "city" of this passage is not an individual city, so the "palace" is not an individual palace. All the palaces of those who were "strangers" to God and his covenant have ceased to be - they are whelmed in the general destruction (see Isaiah 24:20). They will never rise again out of their ruins.
Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee, the city of the terrible nations shall fear thee.
Verse 3. - Therefore shall the strong people glorify thee; rather, strong peoples. God's judgments on the nations specially hostile to him would cause some among the heathen peoples to range themselves on his side. Perhaps Persia is mainly intended (see Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1, etc.; and comp. Ezra 1:1-4; Ezra 6:3-12, etc.). The city of the terrible nations; rather, cities of terrible nations. Though the noun is singular, the verb is plural, showing that the word "city" is again used distributively.
For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.
Verse 4. - The poor... the needy. The "poor and needy" are especially the afflicted saints, whom the ungodly of the earth have so long injured and oppressed. God is ever a "Strength" and "Refuge" to such (comp. Isaiah 14:30; Isaiah 29:19; and see also Psalm 72:12-14). A Refuge from the storm (comp. Isaiah 4:6; and the Psalms passim). A Shadow from the heat. The idea is a little enlarged in Isaiah 32:2. Its germ is, perhaps, to be found in Psalm 121:5, 6. No writer accumulates striking images with such force and beauty as Isaiah. Primarily, the entire imagery has reference to what God will have done for his people when the final consummation arrives. Secondarily, a precious encouragement is held out to all who are undergoing their earthly trial and probation, who are taught where to look for a sure refuge in time of trouble.
Thou shalt bring down the noise of strangers, as the heat in a dry place; even the heat with the shadow of a cloud: the branch of the terrible ones shall be brought low.
Verse 5. - Thou shalt bring down. The past foreshadows the future. What God had done in "bringing down" the enemies of his saints, he would do again and again. He could as easily bring to naught the clamorous uprising of heathen nations (strangers) against his people, as temper the sun's heat by the interposition of a thick cloud. The branch; rather, the song (comp. Isaiah 24:16; Job 35:10; Psalm 95:2; Psalm 119:51). The exultant chant of triumph which the ungodly are sure to raise as they deem their victory over the people of God complete, will be stopped in mid-career, and "brought low," or reduced to silence, by the crushing overthrow predicted in Isaiah 24.
And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
Verses 6-8. - The blessings of the final state are now touched upon, as a special subject for thanksgiving. They are not enumerated; but a certain number are set forth, as specimens from which we may form a conception of the general condition of the "saved." These are:
(1) a heavenly feast, in which they will all participate (ver. 6);
(2) a removal of the "veil," or "covering," which is in this life over all things, causing men to have an indistinct vision, and an erroneous estimate of their value;
(3) the abolition of death, which will no longer hang over them as a thing to be feared; and
(4) the cessation of tears, or the entire freedom of the saved from all sorrow. Verse 6. - In this mountain; i.e. the heavenly Zion - the "mountain of the Lord's house" (Isaiah 2:2; comp. Isaiah 24:23). Unto all people; rather, unto all peoples. There is no restriction of salvation to any particular race or nation - "Jew, Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond, free" (Colossians 3:11), are equally invited, and some of each come in (comp. Daniel 7:14; Matthew 8:11; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9). The Church of the redeemed contains men and women of all "nations and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues." A feast of fat things. It follows from many passages of Holy Scripture that there is something in the final beatitude of man which is best represented to us in our present condition by the image of a "feast" - something very different, no doubt, from the festive joy of which our Teutonic ancestors hoped to partake in the halls of Odin, but yet figured to us most fitly and appropriately by terms ordinarily used to describe earthly feasting. Our Lord tells of a "marriage supper," to which he will invite his friends (Matthew 22:2-12); and the scene of the "marriage supper of the Lamb, "according to St. John in the Revelation" (Revelation 19:7-9), is heaven. There man, it would seem, will partake of a sacrificial feast with his glorified Lord (Matthew 26:29) - will eat the "heavenly manna," which is "angels' food" (Psalm 78:25), and drink a spiritual drink which may be called "the fruit of the vine," deriving from this "eating" and "drinking" life and joy and strength. It has been already observed, in the Commentary upon Exodus (p. 581), that the sacrificial meal on Sinai, whereto the seventy elders were admitted (Exodus 24:9-11), prefigured this heavenly feasting, and throws a certain light upon it. All gross and carnal ideas must, of course, be subtracted from the conception of the heavenly festivity; but it seems to be true to say that our author, and also St. John and our Lord himself, imply that in the world to come there will be a feast, at which God will be the Host, and all men, priests and laity alike, his guests, and receive from him the choicest and most exquisite gifts - gifts which will make them supremely happy (see Mr. Cheyne's note on the passage, p. 148). A feast of wines on the lees. 'Wine which remained on its Ices, and was not poured off them into another vessel, was considered to be of especial strength (see Jeremiah 48:11). Its defect was a want of clearness. The wine of the heavenly banquet is to be at once strong and perfectly clear or "well refined."
And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.
Verse 7. - He will destroy... the face of the covering. According to some, the "covering cast ever all people" is death, and the second clause of the verse is a mere repetition of the first. But, though the heads of criminals were covered when they were led to execution (Esther 7:8), yet death itself is never elsewhere called a "covering." May not the prophet have in view that "veil" or "covering" of misconception and prejudice, whereof St. Paul speaks as lying "on the hearts of the Jewish nation," and preventing them from discerning the true sense of Scripture (2 Corinthians 3:15)? Certainly one of the great curses of humanity while here is its inability to see things as they really are - its colored, distorted, prejudiced, views of life and death, of this world and the next, of self-interest, duty, happiness. This "veil" is certainly to be done away; for "now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face; now we know in part, but then shall we know even as we are known" (2 Corinthians 13:12).
He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.
Verse 8. - He will swallow up death in victory; rather, he will abolish death forever. Hosea, a contemporary, was inspired to write! "Will ransom Israel from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction" (Hosea 13:14); but otherwise this was the first announcement that death was to disappear and to cease to be a possibility. It was an enormous advance on the dim and vague conceptions of a future life hitherto current (Job 19:25, 27; Psalm 17:15) to have such an announcement made as this. Hitherto men had been "through fear of death all their life subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). Now they were taught that, in the resurrection-life, there would be no tear, no possibility of death. The joyous outburst of the apostle, when he quotes the present passage (2 Corinthians 15:54), is the natural thanksgiving song of reassured humanity, on recognizing its final deliverance from the unspeakable terror of death and annihilation. The Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces. A recent commentator asks, "What place is left for tears?" But surely death is not the only cause of human mourning. Our own sins, the sins and sufferings of our dear ones, are the main provocatives of our tears. When it is promised, as here and in Revelation 7:17 and Revelation 21:4, that "there shall be no more pain, neither sorrow nor crying," the revelation is made that there shall be no more sin; for where sin is, sorrow must be. The rebuke of his people shall he take away. It will be among the lesser satisfactions of the final condition of the saved that they are no longer subject to reproach. In this life they have to endure continually reproach, rebuke, contumely (Psalm 74:10; Psalm 89:50, 51, etc.). In the resurrection-life they will be exempt from any such annoyance. The Lord hath spoken it. God's word has gone forth. There can be no retractation. The blessings promised are certain to be obtained.
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
Verses 9-12. - After thanksgiving for deliverance in the past, and commemoration of blessings in the present, confidence is expressed in the future.
(1) The redeemed declare their joy that they have "waited for God," trusted in him, and looked to him for salvation. They feel that they "have their reward."
(2) The prophet declares his conviction that the enemies of God's elect are henceforth powerless. They are personified under the name of "Moab," and regarded as still animated by sentiments of hostility; but their absolute impotency for working evil is insisted on (vers, 11, 12). Verse 9. - It shall be said; literally, one shall say; i.e. the redeemed generally shall thus express themselves. We have waited for him. During all the weary time of their oppression and persecution, the godly remnant (Isaiah 24:13-15) was "waiting fur the Lord," i.e. trusting in him, expecting him to arise and scatter his enemies, won-daring that he endured so long the "contradiction of sinners against himself" (Hebrews 12:3), but content to abide his determination of the fitting season for coming forward as their Avenger, and now quite satisfied that he has avenged them in his own good time and in his own good way. We will be glad and rejoice (comp. Psalm 118:24 and Song of Solomon 1:4).
For in this mountain shall the hand of the LORD rest, and Moab shall be trodden down under him, even as straw is trodden down for the dunghill.
Verse 10. - In this mountain shall the hand of the Lord rest. The protecting hand of God will ever be stretched out over the spiritual Zion - the Church of the Redeemed - to defend it and keep it safe throughout eternity. Moab shall be trodden down. Various reasons have been given for the selection of Moab to represent the enemies of the redeemed. Perhaps, as the Moabites were, on the whole, the bitterest of all the adversaries of the Jews (see 2 Kings 24:2; Ezekiel 25:8-11), they are regarded as the fittest representatives of the human adversaries of God. For the dung-hill; rather, in the water of a dung-pit. The image is, perhaps, selected with conscious reference to Psalm 83, where the psalmist prays that the "children of Lot" and their helpers may become "as the dung of the earth" (ver. 10).
And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.
Verse 11. - He shall spread forth his hands... as he that swimmeth. Moab will endeavor to save himself from sinking in the water of the dung-pit; but in vain. God will bring down his pride, or abase his haughtiness, together with all the plots and snares that he contrives. A continued plotting of the enemies of God against his Church seems to be assumed, even after the Church is established in the spiritual Zion under the direct protection and rule of Jehovah.
And the fortress of the high fort of thy walls shall he bring down, lay low, and bring to the ground, even to the dust.
Verse 12. - The fortress of the high fort... shall he bring down, etc.; rather, hath he bowed down, laid low, brought down to earth. The past mercies of God in abasing the pride of the Church's foes, rather than any further mercies of the same kind, seem to be here spoken cf. Mr. Cheyne suggests that the verse is out of place.