"by his word:''
and his hand hath divided it unto them by line; the same adds,
"by his will.''
The allusion is to the dividing of the land of Canaan by lot and line, to the children of Israel, for their inheritance and possession; and in like manner, it is suggested, shall Rome and its territories be distributed to those wild beasts and birds of prey, and everyone shall know and take its proper place and portion:
they shall possess it for ever; as their inheritance, allotted and appointed to them:
from generation to generation shall they dwell therein: See Gill on Isaiah 34:10 where Jarchi, out of the Derash, has this note,
"this is the curse of Moses; the war of the Lord against Amalek, from generation to generation; from the generation of Moses to the generation of Saul; from thence to the generation of Mordecai; and from thence to the generation of the King Messiah.''
INTRODUCTION TO Isaiah 35
This chapter is a prediction of the glory and flourishing estate of the Gospel church, and of the blessings received by it from Christ. Its flourishing state is expressed by the fruitfulness of the desert, being made like to Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon; and by the inhabitants of it seeing the glory and excellency of Christ, Isaiah 35:1 the ministers of the word are directed and exhorted to strengthen the weak, and comfort the feeble minded, by assuring them of the coming of Christ to save them, Isaiah 35:3 when miracles, both in nature and grace, should be wrought; and great alterations should be made in the wilderness, by the power of God, Isaiah 35:5 when a way should be cast up, described; and the persons that should walk in it are pointed at; and the end it should bring them to, everlasting joy and happiness, Isaiah 35:8.
"they that dwell in the wilderness, in the dry land, shall rejoice;''
the church, in the wilderness, being obliged to fly there from the persecution of antichrist, and thereby become desolate as a wilderness; and so called, in allusion to the Israelites in the wilderness, Acts 7:38 shall now rejoice at the ruin of Rome, and the antichristian states; by which means it shall come into a more flourishing condition; see Revelation 12:14,
and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose; or "as the lily", as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Arabic versions; and so the Targum,
"as the lilies:''
not Judea or Jerusalem, as the Jewish writers, become like a desert, through the devastations made in it by the king of Assyria's army; and now made glad, and become flourishing, upon the departure of it from them: rather the Gentile world, which was like a wilderness, barren and unfruitful, before the Gospel came into it; but by means of that, which brought joy with it, and was attended with fragrancy, it diffusing the savour of the knowledge of Christ in every place, it became fruitful and flourishing, and of a sweet odour, and looked delightful, and pleasant: though it seems best to understand it of the Gentile church in the latter day, after the destruction of antichrist, when it shall be in a most desirable and comfortable situation. These words stand in connection with the preceding chapter Isaiah 34:1, and very aptly follow upon it.
the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it; a mountain in Judea, famous for its choice and tall cedars, which were the glory of it; signifying hereby, that the church of God, which had been in a desolate condition, should abound with choice and excellent Christians, comparable to the cedars of Lebanon. Jarchi interprets it of the sanctuary or temple; which may be so called, because built of the wood of Lebanon. This was an emblem and type of the Gospel church; and the glory of it lay not only in its outward form and building, but in those things which were in the holy places of it, especially the most holy, which were all typical of spiritual things in Gospel times; so that all the glory of the Jewish church state and temple is brought into the Gentile church, into the Christian or Gospel church state; and which will still more appear in the latter day, when the temple of God will be opened in heaven, and the ark of the testament; see Revelation 11:19,
the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; two places in the land of Judea, famous for fruitfulness and pasturage; and so denote the very great fruitfulness of the Gospel church; the word and ordinances of which are as green pastures for the sheep of Christ to feed upon, and by which they become fat and flourishing:
they shall see the glory of our Lord, and the excellency of our God; the Targum introduces this clause thus,
"the house of Israel, to whom these things are said, they shall see,'' &c.;
but not Israel in a literal sense is here meant, but the Gentile church, formerly in the wilderness; or, however, converted persons, be they Jews or Gentiles, in the latter day, who shall see the glory of divine power, in the destruction of their enemies; and the excellency and beauty of divine grace, in the blessings of it bestowed upon them; they shall see the glory of the Lord, which shall then be risen upon them, Isaiah 60:1 the Lord our God is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Lord and God; the glory and excellency of whose person and offices, and of his righteousness and salvation, is seen in the Gospel, by those whose eyes are enlightened by the Spirit of God; and will be more clearly discerned, when there will be a greater effusion of the Spirit, as a spirit, of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; and to this sight of the glory and excellency of Christ, the joy and fruitfulness of the church will be greatly owing. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "my people shall see", &c.
"the prophet said, strengthen the weak hands;''
or rather of God, by the prophet, to the converted Gentiles, to those who saw the glory of the Lord; particularly to the ministers of the Gospel, who have to do with weak and feeble persons, who can scarcely lift up their hands, or stand upon their legs, under a sense of sin, in a view of wrath, and immediate ruin and destruction, ready to sink and faint, because of their enemies, or through want of food; and their business is to comfort and strengthen them, by preaching the Gospel, and pointing out the promises of it to them:
and confirm the feeble knees; that so they may keep their ground against their enemies; shake off their fears and trembling; go on their way courageously and rejoicing; run, and not be weary; walk, and not faint: "hands" and "knees" are mentioned particularly, because a man's strength lies greatly in them; and his weakness is seen by the languor and trembling of them.
Be strong, fear not; be strong in faith, fear not the enemy, nor doubt of the fulfilment of divine promises, relating to their ruin and your safety:
behold, your God will come with vengeance; Christ, who is God in our nature, God manifest in the flesh, and who came by the assumption of human nature; and when he first came, he came with vengeance, and took vengeance on Satan and his works; on him, and his principalities, and powers, whom he spoiled and destroyed, as well as made an end of sin and abolished death; see Isaiah 61:2 so likewise he came in his kingdom and power, and took vengeance on the Jewish nation, for their disbelief and rejection of him; and which time is expressly called the days of vengeance, Luke 21:22 and at the time of his spiritual coming he will destroy antichrist with the brightness of it, and avenge the blood of his servants, Revelation 18:20 and at his personal coming he will take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not his Gospel, 2 Thessalonians 1:8 and the words are so expressed as to take in the several times of his coming: and since he has already come, and taken vengeance in some instances, this may serve to encourage, and perhaps the design of it is to encourage, the faith of God's people, with respect to his future coming, and the end and issue of it:
even God with a recompence: or, "the God of recompence" (x); and so the Targum,
"the Lord of recompences;''
both to the wicked a just recompence of reward or punishment for their sins, it being just with him to recompense tribulation to them that trouble his people; and to the saints, the time of his spiritual reign being the time, as to destroy them that destroy the earth, so to give a reward to his servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them that fear his name, Revelation 11:18,
he will come and save you; the end of his first coming was to save his people from sin, the curse and condemnation of the law, from hell, wrath, ruin, and destruction; and the end of his spiritual coming, at the latter day, will be to save his people from their antichristian enemies, from idolatry, superstition, and slavery.
(w) "festinis corde", Vatablus; "praecipitantibus corde", Cocceius; "inconsideratis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (x) "praemiator Deus ipse veniet", Castalio.
and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; which was literally true of some when Christ came in the flesh, Matthew 11:5 and spiritually of many who had not ears to hear in a spiritual sense; stopped what ears they had to the charming voice of the Gospel; and, though they might externally hear, did not understand it: yet these having ears given them to hear, and their ears and hearts opened by the Spirit of God, heard the Gospel spiritually, profitably, pleasantly, comfortably, and with wonder and astonishment; and a multitude of such instances there will be in the latter day glory. Jarchi interprets it of such who were blind as to the knowledge of the fear of God, and deaf to the voice of the prophets.
and the tongue of the dumb shall sing; this had its accomplishment, in a literal sense, at the first coming of Christ, Matthew 9:32, Matthew 12:22 and, in a spiritual sense, in many who before had nothing to say to God in prayer, nor in praise; nothing to say of Christ, or for him; or of the blessed Spirit, and his divine operations; but now, by divine grace, are made to speak unto God, both in a petitionary way, and in a way of thankfulness; and of Christ, and of the blessed Spirit; and of the great things each have done for them; and even to sing for joy, because of the wondrous blessings of grace they were made partakers of; and many more such there will be in the latter day, when the Spirit is poured down from on high. Kimchi interprets all this of the Israelites, who were in captivity as blind, deaf, lame, and dumb. So the Targum of this and the preceding verse Isaiah 35:5,
"then shall the eyes of the house of Israel be opened, who were as blind men as to the law; and the ears of them that are as deaf men, to attend to the words of the prophets shall hear; then when they shall see the captives of Israel gathered to go up to their own land as the swift harts, and not tarry,'' &c.;
but it may be better applied to their present state, and to their case when they shall be turned to the Lord in the latter day:
for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert; not literally, but mystically; and may be understood both of the doctrines of the Gospel breaking out in the ministry of them, in such places as were like unto the wilderness and desert, quite barren, and destitute of the knowledge, grace, and fear of God; see Joel 3:18 and of the abundance of grace, and the efficacy of it, making the word effectual to the conversion and fruitfulness of multitudes of souls, bringing along with it a vast variety of spiritual blessings; see John 7:37 to both which, the one as the means, and the other as the cause, all the above wonderful things are owing.
in the habitation of dragons, where each lay; in kingdoms, cities, and towns, inhabited by men, comparable to dragons for their poison and cruelty; where the great red dragon Satan had his seat; and the Pagan emperors, and Papal powers, who have exercised the authority, power, and cruelty of the dragon, dwell; see Revelation 12:3,
shall be grass, with reeds and rushes; persons shall spring up, partakers of the grace of God, who, for their number and flourishing estate, shall be like the green grass; and others, still more eminent for their gifts and usefulness, like reeds, or canes and rushes; see Isaiah 44:3.
and it shall be called The way of holiness; or, "a holy way" (z); Christ is perfectly holy in nature and life, and the holiness of both is imputed to those that are in this way; all in this way are sanctified by the Spirit and grace of God; this way leads to perfect holiness in heaven, and none but holy persons walk here: salvation by Christ no ways discourages the practice of holiness, but is the greatest motive and incentive to it. Christ leads his people in paths of righteousness; in the paths of truth, of ordinances, and of worship, public and private, all which are holy; and in the path of Gospel conversation and godliness: this way is so holy, that
the unclean shall not pass over it; all men are unclean by nature; some are cleansed by the grace of God and blood of Christ; and though, as sanctified, they are not free from sin and the pollution of it, yet, as justified, they are "the undefiled in the way"; and none but such can pass over, or pass through this way to heaven, Revelation 21:27,
but it shall be for those; for holy men, not for the unclean; for Israel only, as Kimchi, for such who are Israelites indeed; for those who are before mentioned, Isaiah 35:5 as Jarchi; it is for those to walk in who have been blind, but now see, and these are led in a way that they knew not before; for the deaf, who now hear the voice behind them, saying, this is the way; for the lame man, that leaps like a hart, to walk and run in; for the dumb, now made to sing, and go on in it rejoicing; it is for the redeemed to walk in, as in the following verse. This clause may be rendered, "and he shall be with them" (a); that is, God shall be with them; they shall have his company and gracious presence in the way; he will be with them, to guide and direct them, to supply all their wants, and furnish them with everything convenient for them; to support and strengthen them, on whom they may lean and stay themselves; to guard and protect them from all their enemies; and being with them they shall not miss their way, or fail of coming to the end. Hence it follows,
the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein; or travellers; such the saints are, they are strangers, pilgrims, and sojourners here; they have no continuance here; they are like wayfaring men, that abide but for a night; they are bound for another country, a better, even a heavenly one, and at last shall arrive thither: now these, though they have been "fools" in their unregenerate state, with respect to spiritual things; or though they may not have that sharpness of wit, and quickness of natural parts, as some men have; and though they may not have that clear and distinct knowledge of Gospel truths as others, at least of some of them, yet shall not err as to the way of salvation; and though they may err or mistake in some things, yet not in the main, not fundamentally, nor finally; the way of salvation by Christ is so plain a way, that he that has any spiritual understanding of it shall not err in it.
(y) "semita strata", Montanus; "vel exaltata lapidibus", Vatablus. (z) "via sancta", V. L. Piscator. (a) "sed ipse illis ambulator vise" De Dieu; "ipse cum eis", Tigurine version.
"there shall not be there a king doing evil, nor an oppressive governor;''
and Jarchi applies it to Nebuchadnezzar, as in Jeremiah 4:7 and the sense may be, that when this way shall be more known on earth, in the latter day, there will be no persecutor of the church and people of God: or else Satan, the roaring lion, is here meant, who has no part nor lot in this way of salvation; and all that are in it are out of his reach; and though he may disturb in the paths of duty and ordinances, yet he can never destroy those who are in Christ the way:
nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon; upon the high way; the same may be intended as before:
it shall not be found there; walking, ravaging, and destroying:
but the redeemed shall walk there; without fear, as Kimchi adds, since no lion, or any beast of prey, shall be found upon it: the "redeemed" are the redeemed of the Lord, and by him, and are peculiarly his, being bought with his precious blood, redeemed from among men, and unto God, and from sin, the law, its curse, and condemnation; these "shall walk" in the way of life and salvation by Christ, in consequence of their being redeemed; which supposes life, strength, and wisdom, which are given them, and a proficiency or going forward: they "shall" walk here; though they have been blind, their eyes shall be opened to see this way; and, though weak, they shall have strength to walk in it; and, though foolish, they shall have wisdom to guide their feet with discretion; and, though they may stumble and fall, they shall rise again, and shall keep on walking to the end.