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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 4

 

 

Verse 1

1. The first verse completes the picture of domestic desolation on account of the scarcity of male inhabitants, destroyed by war or carried to Babylon as captives.

In that day — That calamitous period described as yet to come to Jerusalem.

Seven women — An indefinite, but a large, full number. Native modesty is laid aside; all sue to become wives to one man, on account of the great reproach of unwedded life among Jewish women. For this, they will even surrender their rights of dowry and support.

The primeval institution of marriage (Genesis 2:24) permitted the union only of one man and one woman. But, long before the times of Moses, morals on this subject suffered degradation. Unlimited polygamy became, in the East, the rule, not the exception; nay, worse than this, prostitution of females and boys became a religious institution.* See Whedon’s note on Revelation 2:14-15. The disgraceful evil of prostitution Moses required to be punished and rooted out by the severest laws. Polygamy he suffered, because compelled by social necessity; but he aimed so to regulate it that in the end it would virtually cease to exist — a fact near to realization till monarchy reopened the floodgates of the evil. Wars so diminished the number of males, and the reproach of childlessness among females was so great, that in the text above, though the situation was evil, the sentiment in the urgent request of the women was in their own estimation virtuous. “The times of this ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.”

[* See “Phoenica and Israel,” published by Phillips & Hunt: an important work in Old Testament exegesis bearing on this subject.]


Verse 2

2. And now the counterpart to this fearful prophecy, which was begun in chap. Isaiah 2:1-5, is resumed, and brings this long discourse to an end. Isaiah, as with a single bound, retires from the dreary scene he has pictured, and is again rejoicing in engrossment with the future Messianic times.

In that day — The day of Messiah, the antitype of David.

Shall the branch צמח, (tzemach,) sprout, the outgrowth from Jehovah. Jeremiah 23:5 ; Jeremiah 33:15. In these citations the word “branch” directly, and in other passages indirectly, refers evidently to the Messiah. It is that which shoots up, or sprouts, from the root of a tree. The Messiah is, in chap. Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 11:10, (where see notes,) said to be a root of Jesse. David is ever the type of a more glorious ruler, whose sway shall be over the whole earth.

Beautiful… glorious — It shall be for ornament and glory. Nouns, in the Hebrew, expressive of quality indeed, but of stronger meaning as nouns than as adjectives.

Fruit… excellent and comely — Literally, for majesty and honour. The Messiah’s reign shall ennoble its subjects by the moral beauty, glory, dignity, and honour conferred on them.

Them that are escaped of Israel — The remnant, the small number that escaped calamities. The emphasis is not on small number, but on the “escaped of Israel.” Figuratively this means those who continue true to Jehovah; who, against all odds, remain his firm and believing followers, of whom those who stood the test at Babylon, and were restored to Jerusalem, were types. The Messiah’s reign is to extend on to the end of the world.


Verse 3-4

3, 4. He that is left in Zion — The true descendants of the few who, amid the immoralities of Jerusalem life, and despite surrounding temptations to the contrary, preserve themselves pure and loyal to Jehovah.

Shall be called holy Shall be holy. The idiom “shall be called” means this.

Written among the living — Those who are alive in Jerusalem; typically, who continue unto eternal life.

Filth of the daughters of Zion — Their vain-gloriousness; their silly and demoralizing pride and defilements. The judgments upon Judah and Jerusalem are to remove — wash away —

these, and the guiltiness of the people likewise.

Spirit of burning — An intensified expression of the idea of the previous clause. The people, by a long but thorough process of spiritual cleansing, shall cease to love idolatry and crime, and shall learn truly to serve Jehovah.


Verse 5

5. When such times come, the Lord will create — Renew, and make holy.

Every dwelling place — Every household in mount Zion. “Zion,” the local, prefigures “Zion,” the universal — the “Zion” of all ages and places. The palmy days of specific revelations and protections in the wilderness were a type of what, in a degree indefinably more glorious, shall be wrought upon the “Zion” of the future ages.


Verse 6

6. Tabernacle — That of Moses in the wilderness prefigures God’s pavilion, which, by Messiah, he spreads everywhere over his people. As its bridegroom, Messiah overshadows his Church. He is its canopy (an idea of which the canopy at the oriental wedding is the symbol) to shield from fierce heats and violent rains; in other words, he secures perfect protection from all moral disasters. This security the renewed Jerusalem, or Zion, shall enjoy for ever — not merely in the best days of the Church on earth, but in the eternally better days of the New Jerusalem above. Revelation 21.

The prophecy begun at chapter ii closes here. Its leading thought is the overthrow of the false glory of Israel, and the perfect establishment of its true glory by means of judgment and of severe discipline. Doubtless the prophecy covers the whole area of history to Judah as a nation, and an indefinite outlook thence onward into Messianic times. The themes touched upon here are often a burden with this prophet in other modes of warning, illustration, or enforcement, nearly all of which have more or less the same hopeful closing.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 4:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/isaiah-4.html. 1874-1909.

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