(1) And in that day seven women . . .—The chapter division wrongly separates this verse from the foregoing. It comes as the climax of the chastisement of the daughters of Zion, as the companion picture to Isaiah 3:6. As men sought eagerly, yet in vain, a protector, so women should seek for a husband. Those who had been wooed and courted, and had been proudly fastidious, should supplicate in eager rivalry (the seven women to one man implies a land depopulated by war, and so making polygamy natural) for the protection of marriage, and that not on the usual conditions of having food and clothing found for them (Exodus 21:10), but as working for their own livelihood.
To take away our reproach.—Better, as an imperative, take thou away. The reproach is that of being childless. From the Jewish standpoint that was not only the great sorrow, but the great shame, of womanhood, implying, as men thought, a sin of which it was the chastisement (Genesis 30:23; 1 Samuel 1:6; Luke 1:25).
The branch of the Lord . . .—The thought of the “branch,” though not the Hebrew word, is the same as in Isaiah 11:1. The word itself is found in the Messianic prophecies of Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12. The two latter probably inherited both the thought and the word from this passage. Here, then, if we thus interpret the words, we have the first distinct prophecy in Isaiah of a personal Messiah. He is the “Branch of Jehovah,” raised up by Him, accepted by Him. And the appearance of that Branch has as its accompaniment (the poetic parallelism here being that at once of a resemblance and of contrast) the restoration of outward fertility. That thought Isaiah had inherited from Psalm 72:16; Hosea 2:21-22; Joel 3:18; Amos 9:13. He transmitted it to Ezekiel 34:27; Zechariah 9:16-17. The interpretation which takes “the branch [or growth] of the Lord” in its lower sense, as used collectively for “vegetation,” and, therefore, parallel and all but synonymous with the “fruits of the earth,” seems to miss the true meaning. Rabbinic exegesis may be of little weight, but the acceptance of the term as Messianic by Jeremiah and Zechariah is surely conclusive. It will be noted that the prophecy of the Branch (tsemach) here comes after a picture of desolation, just as that of the Branch (netzer) does in Isaiah 11:1. The thought seems applied by our Lord to Himself in John 12:24.
For them that are escaped of Israel.—These are, of course, identical with the “remnant” of Isaiah 1:9; Isaiah 6:13, to whom the prophet had been taught to look as to the trusted depositaries of the nation’s future.
Every one that is written among the living.—Literally, for life. The idea is that of “the book” or “register” of life in which are written the names of those who are worthy of living in the heavenly city. It meets us as early as Exodus 32:32, and appears in Psalm 56:8; Psalm 69:28; Ezekiel 13:9.; Malachi 3:16; Daniel 12:1; Acts xiii 48; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 21:27. An examination of the passages, especially the first, will show that while it involves the idea of an election, it excludes that of an irreversible predestination, and that the election has to be “made sure” by a life in harmony with it. (2 Peter 1:10.)
By the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.—The word for “spirit” is better taken in its more literal meaning, as breath or blast, as in Isaiah 30:27-28; Isaiah 40:7. The words indicate that the prophet saw in the “blood” of which he speaks a greater enormity than that of the daughters of Zion. The one might be washed away. The other needed, as it were, the “fiery baptism” of the wrath of Jehovah. (Comp. Isaiah 30:27; Matthew 3:11.) The Authorised Version “burning” represents the root-meaning of the word, but it is elsewhere (Isaiah 6:13; Deuteronomy 13:5; Deuteronomy 17:7) used for “destruction” generally.
Upon all the glory shall be a defence.—The phrase is almost startlingly abrupt. The thought seems to be that over the “glory” of the new Jerusalem, as just described, there shall be stretched the overarching canopy of the Divine Love. The word for “defence” occurs in this sense in Psalm 19:5, Joel 2:16, and is still used by Jews of the “canopy” held over bride and bridegroom at a wedding. The “baldacchino” over the altar of an Italian church probably represents the image that was present to Isaiah’s mind.