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Isaiah Chapter 54 Notes

Posted by lehunt on February 16, 2015

Isaiah Ch 54 Commentary // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Chapter Fifty-four:

v. 1:  Isaiah uses a mixed metaphor to describe Jerusalem in verses four and seven.  In verse four she is a widow, whereas in verse seven she is a woman whose husband has divorced her because of her unfaithfulness.  Both metaphors, however, meet in the image of “the desolate woman” here in verse one.  The desolate woman has no husband.  And yet, says God, the woman who is desolate now will have more blessings (children) than the woman who is married.  By analogy, the woman who is married represents any nation whose current circumstances promise future prosperity.

v. 5:  Obviously pagans do not call God “the God of the whole earth,” but this is a true title of his, and all who know him use it.

Vs. 8-9:  God’s wrath was “overflowing” when he sent the Babylonians to destroy the Israelites and take them into captivity.  According to Barnes, this word “means a gushing out, an overflowing, an inundation, a flood” (299).  Thus, God’s wrath against the Israelites was like the flood of Noah’s day (v.9) in several ways.  It was a very destructive event that only a remnant of faithful people survived (though even these were swept away from their homeland), and to those survivors God promised that nothing like that would happen again.

God’s promise that nothing like the Babylonian captivity would happen again should be examined.  What does it mean?  If one takes this promise at face value and applies it to the Israelites, then one could make the argument that God broke his word.  After all, the second temple, which the Jews built upon returning from the Babylonian captivity was utterly destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. and has not been rebuilt since.  Of course, the situations are not exactly parallel; as far as I know, the Romans did not deport the Jews[1] wholesale from their homeland as did the Babylonians.  Nevertheless, the parallels are close enough to merit comparison.  I wonder how orthodox Jews today explain this passage.

As for me, I believe the passage refers ultimately to spiritual Israel (i.e. the kingdom of the Messiah) and this may explain how the promise is fulfilled by God: He made it to the returning Jews as he reestablished their physical kingdom on earth, but he referred to the spiritual kingdom of the Messiah (to which all who love God belong, and of which the physical kingdom was merely a type).  Notice how the description of Jerusalem in vs. 11-12 is similar to the description of the New Jerusalem (spiritual Israel) in Revelation 21.

Besides, the specific promise is that God will not strike his people in anger any more: “I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and will not rebuke you.”  Notice how the ministry of Christ reflects this sentiment.  On the cross, Christ asks God to forgive those who are crucifying him because they do not understand what they do.  When James and John want to call down fire on those who do not receive Christ hospitably, he admonishes the two brothers, presumably by telling them that his ministry was not one of righteous vengeance but of mercy (Luke 9:51-56).  Perhaps this is another facet of the promise as it applies specifically to the Jews.  God had acted on his righteous anger against the Jews earlier, and the result was the Babylonian captivity.  Perhaps God is saying he will no longer actively punish the Jews.  This would still leave open the possibility of their suffering at the hands of enemies if they chose to reject the protection God promises in vs. 15-17; in that case, they would not be suffering because God was actively punishing them but rather because they had rejected the protection of his kingdom.  I believe the Jews did just this when they rejected Christ as their king.  At the crucifixion, the Jews cried out, “We have no king but the [Roman] emperor” (John 19:15), and “His [Christ’s] blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25).  The results may look the same to us (Babylonian brutality and Roman brutality) but the causes may be different.


[1] Many Jews did disperse throughout the empire, but I think this was a voluntary flight (spanning generations of time) from the Roman oppression in Judea rather than a Roman-organized, official plan of resettlement.

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