Therefore with joy shall you draw water out of the wells of salvation.
Two events, separated from each other by fifteen hundred years, bear upon these words. One was the origin of the peculiar form of this prophecy, the other contains its interpretation and claims to be its fulfilment.
1. The wandering march of the children of Israel had brought them to Rephidim, where there was no water. Their parched lips opened to murmur and rebel against their unseen Leader and His visible lieutenant. At his wits' end, Moses cried to God, and the answer is the command to take with him the elders of Israel, and with his rod in his hand to go up to Horeb; and then come grand words, "Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock, and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it." It is not the rock, nor the rod, nor the uplifted hand, but it is the presence of God which makes the sparkling streams pour out. How the thirsty men would drink, how gladly they would fling themselves on the ground and glue their lips to the glancing blessing, or dip their cups and skins into it, as it flashed along! Many a psalm and prophecy refer to this old story, and clearly Isaiah had it in his mind here, for the whole context is full of allusions to the history of the Exodus, as a symbol of the better deliverance from a worse bondage, which the "Root of Jesse" was to effect. The lyric burst of praise, of which the text is part, carries on the same allusion. The joyful band of pilgrims returning from this captivity sing the "Song of Moses," chanted first by the banks of the Red Sea, "The Lord is my strength and song and He is become my salvation." This distinct quotation, which immediately precedes our text, makes the reference in it which we have pointed out, most probable and natural. The connection of these words with the story in the Exodus was recognised by the Jews at a very early period, as is plain from their use in the remarkable ritual of the Feast of Tabernacles. That festival was originally appointed to preserve the remembrance of Israel's nomad life in the wilderness. In the later days of the nation, a number of symbolical observances were added to those of the original institution. Daily, amidst loud jubilations, the priests wound in long procession down the slope from the temple to the fountain of Siloam in the valley beneath, and there drew water in golden urns. They bore it back, the crowd surging around them, and then amidst the blast of trumpets, and a tumult of rejoicing, they poured it on the altar, while thousands of voices chanted Isaiah's words, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation."
2. So much for the occasion of the prophecy; now for its meaning and fulfilment. Nearly eight hundred years have passed. Again the festival has come round. For seven days the glad ceremonial has been performed. For the last time the priestly procession has gone down the rocky road; for the last time the vases have been filled at the cool fountain below; for the last time the bright water has been poured out sparkling in the sunlight; for the last time the shout of joy has risen and fallen, and as the words of the ancient chant were dying on the ear, a sudden stir began among the crowd, and from the midst of them, as they parted for his passage, came a young man, rustic in appearance, and there, before all the silence-stricken multitude, and priests with their empty urns, "in the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink." Surely such words, in such a connection, at such a time, from such lips, are meant to point the path to the true understanding of the text.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.