Isaiah 51


The prophet exhorts the children of Abraham to trust in the

Lord; and briefly, but beautifully, describes the great

blessedness which should be the consequence, 1-3.

Then, turning to the Gentiles, encourages them to look for a

portion in the same salvation, 4, 5;

the everlasting duration of which is majestically described, 6.

And as it is everlasting, so is it sure to the righteous,

notwithstanding all the machinations of their enemies, 7, 8.

The faithful, then, with exultation and joy, lift their voices,

reminding God of his wondrous works of old, which encourage

them to look now for the like glorious accomplishment of these

promises, 9-11.

In answer to this the Divinity is introduced comforting them

under their trials, and telling them that the deliverer was

already on his way to save and to establish them, 12-16.

On this the prophet turns to Jerusalem to comfort and

congratulate her on so joyful a prospect. She is represented,

by a bold image, as a person lying in the streets, under the

intoxicating effects of the cup of the Divine wrath, without a

single person from among her own people appointed to give her

consolation, and trodden under the feet of her enemies; but, in

the time allotted by the Divine providence, the cup of

trembling shall be taken out of her hand, and put into that of

her oppressors; and she shall drink it no more again for ever,



Verse 1. Ye that follow after righteousness] The people who,

feeling the want of salvation, seek the Lord in order to be


The rock] Abraham.

The hole of the pit] Sarah; as explained in Isa 51:2.

Verse 2. I called him alone] As I have made out of one a great

nation; so, although ye are brought low and minished, yet I can

restore you to happiness, and greatly multiply your number.

Verse 4. My people-O my nation-"O ye peoples-O ye nations"] For

ammi, my people, the Bodleian MS. and another read

ammim, ye peoples; and for leumi, my nation, the Bodleian

MS. and eight others, (two of them ancient,) and four of De

Rossi's, read leummim, ye nations; and so the Syriac in

both words. The difference is very material; for in this case the

address is made not to the Jews, but to the Gentiles, as in all

reason it ought to be; for this and the two following verses

express the call of the Gentiles, the islands, or the distant

lands on the coasts of the Mediterranean and other seas. It is

also to be observed that God in no other place calls his people

leummi, my nation. It has been before remarked that

transcribers frequently omitted the final mem of nouns plural,

and supplied it, for brevity's sake, and sometimes for want of

room at the end of a line, by a small stroke thus ; which

mark, being effaced or overlooked, has been the occasion of many

mistakes of this kind.

A law shall proceed from me] The new law, the Gospel of our Lord

Jesus. Kimchi says, "After the war with Gog and Magog the King

Messiah will teach the people to walk in the ways of the Lord."

Verse 5. My righteousness is near] The word tsedek,

righteousness, is used in such a great latitude of signification,

for justice, truth, faithfulness, goodness, mercy, deliverance,

salvation, &c., that it is not easy sometimes to give the precise

meaning of it without much circumlocution; it means here the

faithful completion of God's promises to deliver his people.

Verse 6. My salvation shall be for ever] Aben Ezra says, From

this verse divines have learnt the immortality of the soul. Men

shall perish as the earth does, because they are formed from it;

but they who are filled with the salvation of God shall remain for

ever. See Kimchi.

Verse 11. They shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and

mourning shall flee away.] Nineteen MSS. and the two oldest

editions have yasigu; and forty-six MSS. of Kennicott's

and ten of De Rossi's, and the same two editions, and agreeably

to them the Chaldee and Syriac, have venasu; and so

both words are expressed, Isa 35:10, of which place this is a

repetition. And from comparing both together it appears that the

vau in this place is become by mistake in the present text final,

nun of the preceding word.

Verse 13. Of the oppressor, as if he, &c.] "The caph in

keasher seems clearly to have changed its situation from the end

of the preceding word to the beginning of this; or rather, to have

been omitted by mistake there, because it was here. That it was

there the Septuagint show by rendering hammetsikech

θλιβοντος, of him that oppressed thee. And so they render this

word in both its places in this verse. The Vulgate also has the

pronoun in the first instance; furoris ejus qui te tribulabat."

Dr. Jubb. The correction seems well founded; I have not conformed

the translation to it, because it makes little difference in the


Verse 14. The captive exile hasteneth that he may be loosed-"He

marcheth on with speed, who cometh to set free the captive"]

Cyrus, if understood of the temporal redemption from the captivity

of Babylon; in the spiritual sense, the Messiah, who comes to open

the prison to them that are bound.

Verse 16. That I may plant the heavens-"To stretch out the

heavens"] In the present text it is lintoa, "to plant the

heavens:" the phrase is certainly very obscure, and in all

probability is a mistake for lintoth. This latter is the

word used in Isa 51:13 just before, in the very same sentence;

and this phrase occurs very frequently in Isaiah,

Isa 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; the former in no other place. It

is also very remarkable, that in the Samaritan text, Nu 24:6,

these two words are twice changed by mistake, one for the other,

in the same verse.

Verse 17. The cup of trembling] cos hattarelah,

"the cup of mortal poison," veneni mortiferi.-MONTAN. This may

also allude to the ancient custom of taking off criminals by a cup

of poison. Socrates is well known to have been sentenced by the

Areopagus to drink a cup of the juice of hemlock, which occasioned

his death. See Clarke on Heb 2:9, and see also Bishop Lowth's

note on Isa 51:21.

Verse 19. These two things-desolation, and destruction, and the

famine, and the sword] That is, desolation by famine, and

destruction by the sword, taking the terms alternately: of which

form of construction see other examples. De S. Poesi, Heb. Prael.

xix., and Prelim. Dissert. p. xxx. The Chaldee paraphrast, not

rightly understanding this, has had recourse to the following

expedient: "Two afflictions are come upon thee, and when four

shall come upon thee, depredation, and destruction, and the

famine, and the sword-" Five MSS. haraab, without the

conjunction vau; and so the Septuagint and Syriac.

By whom shall I comfort thee-"Who shall comfort thee"] A MS.,

the Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, and Vulgate have it in the third

person, yenachamech, which is evidently right.

Verse 20. As a wild bull in a net: they are full, &c.-"Like the

oryx taken in the toils; drenched to the full"] "Perhaps

michmerah meleim." SECKER. The demonstrative

he, prefixed to meleim, full, seems improper in this place.

Verse 21. Drunken, but not with wine] AEschylus has the same


αοινοιςεμμανειςθυμωμασι Eumen. 863.

Intoxicated with passion, not with wine.

Schultens thinks that this circumlocution, as he calls it, gradum

adfert incomparabiliter majorem; and that it means, not simply

without wine, but much more than with wine. Gram. Heb. p. 182.

The bold image of the cup of God's wrath, often employed by the

sacred writers, (See Clarke on Isa 1:22,) is nowhere handled

with greater force and sublimity than in this passage of Isaiah,

Isa 51:17-23. Jerusalem is represented in person as staggering

under the effects of it, destitute of that assistance which she

might expect from her children; not one of them being able to

support or to lead her. They, abject and amazed, lie at the head

of every street, overwhelmed with the greatness of their distress;

like the oryx entangled in a net, in vain struggling to rend it,

and extricate himself. This is poetry of the first order,

sublimity of the highest character.

Plato had an idea something like this: "Suppose," says he, "God

had given to men a medicating potion inducing fear, so that the

more any one should drink of it, so much the more miserable he

should find himself at every draught, and become fearful of every

thing both present and future; and at last, though the most

courageous of men, should be totally possessed by fear: and

afterwards, having slept off the effects of it, should become

himself again." De Leg. i., near the end. He pursues at large this

hypothesis, applying it to his own purpose, which has no relation

to the present subject. Homer places two vessels at the disposal

of Jupiter, one of good, the other of evil. He gives to some a

potion mixed of both; to others from the evil vessel only: these

are completely miserable. Iliad xxiv. 527-533.








"Two urns by Jove's high throne have ever stood,

The source of evil one, and one of good;

From thence the cup of mortal man he fills,

Blessings to these, to those distributes ills;

To most he mingles both: the wretch decreed

To taste the bad unmixed, is cursed indeed:

Pursued by wrongs, by meagre famine driven,

He wanders outcast both of earth and heaven."


Verse 23. Them that afflict thee-"Them who oppress thee"] The

Septuagint, Chaldee, Syriac, and Vulgate appear to have read

monayich, as in Isa 40:26."-SECKER.

Which have said to thy soul, Bow down-"Who say to thee, Bow down

thy body"] A very strong and most expressive description of the

insolent pride of eastern conquerors; which, though it may seem

greatly exaggerated, yet hardly exceeds the strict truth. An

example has already been given of it in the note, See Clarke on Isa 49:23.

I will here add one or two more. "Joshua called for all the men of

Israel; and said unto the captains of the men of war that went

with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings,"

Jos 10:24. "Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having

their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat

under my table: As I have done, so hath God requited me,"

Jud 1:7. The Emperor Valerianus, being through treachery

taken prisoner by Sapor king of Persia, was treated by him as the

basest and most abject slave: for the Persian monarch commanded

the unhappy Roman to bow himself down, and offer him his back, on

which he set his foot, in order to mount his chariot or horse

whenever he had occasion.-LACTANTIUS, De Mort. Persec. cap. v.

AUREL. VICTOR. Epitome, cap. xxxii.-L.

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