Isaiah 60 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Isaiah 60
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.

(1) Arise, shine . . .—The description of the redeemed Zion—i.e., the new Jerusalem—seen in the prophet’s vision as under the forms of the old. She has been prostrate, as in the darkness of Sheol (as in Isaiah 51:23; Isaiah 57:9). The word comes that bids her rise to a new life, radiant with the glory of the Lord. In Ephesians 5:14 we have, perhaps, an echo, though not a quotation, of the prophet’s words.

For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
(2) The darkness shall cover the earth . . .—The darkness which had shrouded Zion still spreads its veil over the heathen nations of the world, but they also are to share in the light which is to stream forth from the new Jerusalem. (Comp. Malachi 4:2; Psalm 84:11.)

And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.
Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all they gather themselves together, they come to thee: thy sons shall come from far, and thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side.
(4) Lift up thine eyes . . .—Repeated from Isaiah 49:18.

Thy daughters shall be nursed at thy side . . .—Asin Isaiah 66:12, the words point to the Eastern custom of carrying young children on the hip of their mother, with their arms clasped round her waist.

Then thou shalt see, and flow together, and thine heart shall fear, and be enlarged; because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee.
(5) Then thou shalt see.—A various reading adopted by many commentators gives thou shalt Jear.

Thine heart shall fear . . .—Literally, shall throb, as with an awe-stricken joy at the marvellous prosperity, but that throb of awe is followed by the expansion of ecstatic joy.

The abundance of the sea—i.e., the riches of the Western isles, with which the new Jerusalem was to be filled, as Tyre and Zidon had been of old. (Ezekiel 27:1-25).

The multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense; and they shall shew forth the praises of the LORD.
(6) The multitude of camels . . .—The verse paints the commerce of the East, as Isaiah 60:5 had described that of the West. For the camels and riches of Midian, see Judges 6:5; Judges 8:26. “Ephah” appears in Genesis 25:4 among the sons of Midian. “Sheba” keeps up its traditional fame for gold and incense (Psalm 72:10; Strabo xvi. 4, 19).

All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee: they shall come up with acceptance on mine altar, and I will glorify the house of my glory.
(7) Kedar.—The nomad tribes (Isaiah 21:17) come as well as the trading ones. Nebaioth, mentioned with Kedar, in Genesis 25:13, among the descendants of Ishmael, expanded iii the centuries preceding the Christian era, into the kingdom of the Nabathœan Arabs, spreading from the Ælanitic Gulf to the Haurân. The two names together include what were known to the Roman geographers as Arabia Felix and Arabia Petræa. The primary thought is that the Temple of the new Jerusalem will be supplied with its sacrifices from the inexhaustible flocks of these regions.

Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?
(8) Who are these . . .—The vision of the prophet brings before him the cloud-like sails of the ships that. are bringing back the exiles over the Mediterrauear and the Red Seas, hastening to their home like doves to their dove-cote. (Comp. Hosea 11:11.)

Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.
(9) The isles . . .i.e., as in Isaiah 49:1, the far-off maritime regions of the West.

Ships of Tarshish.—These are, as in Isaiah 2:16, the first-class trading ships, whether trading with that country (Spain) or in the Indian Ocean. (Comp. 1 Kings 10:22; 1 Kings 22:48.) The mention of silver and gold may, therefore, point to Ophir as well as Spain.

The Holy One of Israel.—We note once more the recurrence of the characteristic Name.

And the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee: for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee.
(10) The sons of strangers shall build . . .—Either as willing proselytes or as being brought into subjection. (Comp. Zechariah 6:15.) To build the temples or palaces of conquerors was, as in the case of the Egyptian and Babylonian bondage, the almost inevitable lot of the conquered.

Therefore thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought.
(11) Thy gates shall be open continually.—The words imply (1) a state of peace in which there would be no danger of attack; and (2) the constant stream of caravans of pilgrims, With their offerings, entering by night as well as day. It is interesting to note St. John’s transfer of the thought to the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:25-26).

The forces of the Gentiles.—Better, the riches, or the possessions.

That their kings may be brought . . .—The verb, as in Isaiah 20:4, 1 Samuel 30:2, implies that they are brought as captives, acknowledging, with or against their will, the sovereignty of Zion.

For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.
The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious.
(13) The glory of Lebanon . . .—The prophet sees in the new Jerusalem a revival of the glories of the days of Solomon. The cedars of Lebanon, and other trees of the forest, are to furnish timber for its buildings, or even to be planted in the courts of the Temple, or in its open places and streets (Psalm 52:8; Psalm 92:12-13; Isaiah 35:2).

The box is probably, as in Isaiah 41:19, a species of cedar.

The place of my feet is clearly parallel with the “sanctuary” of the previous clause. So the word “footstool” is used of the Temple in Psalm 99:5; Psalm 132:7.

The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call thee, The city of the LORD, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
(14) The sons also of them that afflicted thee . . .—The explanation commonly given is that the “sons” are named because the persecutors themselves are thought of as no more. It seems better, however, to see in the words an expression of the law of inherited retribution, which entered so largely into the Hebrew’s thought of the moral government of the world. That law will show itself in the prostrate homage with which the descendants of the old oppressors will recognise that the restored city is indeed the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.
(15) Whereas thou hast been forsaken . . .—The figure of the daughter of Zion, who had been as a forsaken and slighted wife (comp. Isaiah 62:4), mingles with the literal picture of a city in ruins, abandoned and unvisited.

Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.
(16) Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles . . .—The metaphor is bold, but the prophet had already presented it in a less startling form in Isaiah 49:23. What is meant in either case is that the new Jerusalem shall be supported by the offerings of the Gentiles.

For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers peace, and thine exactors righteousness.
(17) For brass I will bring gold . . . The material wealth of the days of Solomon (1 Kings 10:21-27) furnishes another element in the picture of the ideal city, but with this striking difference: that there the “officers” and “exactors” of the king had been instruments of oppression (1 Kings 12:4), while now they were to be the very embodiment of righteousness, and, in the widest sense, of “peace,” and, therefore, of prosperity.

Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.
(18) Violence shall no more . . .—Following the thought of the previous verse, we see in the words a picture of freedom from internal misgovernment rather than from external invasion.

Thou shalt call thy walls Salvation . . . The idea, almost the very phrase, has met us before in Isaiah 26:1. They probably found a starting-point in the Eastern practice of giving to the walls of a city names that implied a consecration. Thus the walls of Babylon were named Imgur Bel and Nimetti Belkit (Records of the Past, v. 124, 125).

The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.
(19) The sun shall be no more . . .—The ideal picture becomes bolder and more transcendent. Sun and moon may still shine, but, as in Revelation 21:23 (obviously derived from this), they shall not be needed in the radiance of the greater glory of the presence of Jehovah. Here on earth the sun sets and the moon wanes, but in that Divine glory there is no waning and no setting. “Mourning” will belong to the past (comp. Revelation 21:4), everlasting joy to the future.

Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.
Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.
(21) Thy people also shall be all righteous . . .—The city is to realise the as yet unfulfilled ideal of Psalms 15 and Psalm 21:5 Evil will be blotted out, and, therefore, there will be no forfeiture of the inheritance. In the “branch” we have the words which had been prominent in Isaiah 11:1, and which is now extended from the ideal representative of the nation to the whole body of the people.

A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.
(22) A little one shall become a thousand.—The noun is probably to be taken not in its merely numerical value, but, as in Judges 6:15, 1 Samuel 23:23, Micah 5:2, for a clan or sub-division of a tribe.

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