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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Isaiah Chapter 26

Isaiah 26:1

isa 26:1

Thus the second hymnic echo has its confirmation in a prophecy against Moab, on the basis of which a third hymnic echo now arises. Whilst on the other side, in the land of Moab, the people are trodden down, and its lofty castles demolished, the people in the land of Judah can boast of an impregnable city. "In that day will this song be sung in the land of Judah: A city of defence is ours; salvation He sets for walls and bulwark." According to the punctuation, this ought to be rendered, "A city is a shelter for us;" but עז עיר seem rather to be connected, according to Pro 17:19, "a city of strong, i.e., of impregnable offence and defence." The subject of ישׁית is Jehovah. The figure indicates what He is constantly doing, and ever doing afresh; for the walls and bulwarks of Jerusalem (chēl, as in Lam 2:8, the small outside wall which encloses all the fortifications) are not dead stone, but yeshuâh, ever living and never exhausted salvation (Isa 60:18). In just the same sense Jehovah is called elsewhere the wall of Jerusalem, and even a wall of fire in Zac 2:9 - parallels which show that yeshuâh is intended to be taken as the accusative of the object, and not as the accusative of the predicate, according to Isa 5:6; Psa 21:7; Psa 84:7; Jer 22:6 (Luzzatto).

Isaiah 26:2

isa 26:2

In Isa 26:1 this city is thought of as still empty: for, like paradise, in which man was placed, it is first of all a creation of God; and hence the exclamation in Isa 26:2 : "Open ye the gates, that a righteous people may enter, one keeping truthfulness." The cry is a heavenly one; and those who open, if indeed we are at liberty to inquire who they are, must be angels. We recall to mind Psa 24:1-10, but the scene is a different one. The author of Ps 118 has given individuality to this passage in Psa 118:19, Psa 118:20. Goi tzaddik (a righteous nation) is the church of the righteous, as in Isa 24:16. Goi (nation) is used here, as in Isa 26:15 and Isa 9:2, with reference to Israel, which has now by grace become a righteous nation, and has been established in covenant truth towards God, who keepeth truth ('emunim, from 'ēmūn, Psa 31:24).

Isaiah 26:3

isa 26:3

The relation of Israel and Jehovah to one another is now a permanent one. "Thou keepest the firmly-established mind in peace, peace; for his confidence rests on Thee." A gnome (borrowed in Psa 112:7-8), but in a lyrical connection, and with a distinct reference to the church of the last days. There is no necessity to take סמוּ יצר as standing for יצר סמוּך, as Knobel does. The state of mind is mentioned here as designating the person possessing it, according to his inmost nature. יצר (the mind) is the whole attitude and habit of a man as inwardly constituted, i.e., as a being capable of thought and will. סמוּך is the same, regarded as having a firm hold in itself, and this it has whenever it has a firm hold on God (Isa 10:20). This is the mind of the new Israel, and Jehovah keeps it, shâlom, shâlom (peace, peace; accusative predicates, used in the place of a consequential clause), i.e., so that deep and constant peace abides therein (Phi 4:7). Such a mind is thus kept by Jehovah, because its trust is placed in Jehovah. בּטוּח refers to יצר, according to Ewald, 149, d, and is therefore equivalent to הוּא בּטוּח (cf., Psa 7:10; Psa 55:20), the passive participle, like the Latin confisus, fretus. To hang on God, or to be thoroughly devoted to Him, secures both stability and peace.

Isaiah 26:4

isa 26:4

A cry goes forth again, as if from heaven, exhorting Israel to continue in this mind. "Hang confidently on Jehovah for ever: for in Jah, Jehovah, is an everlasting rock." The combination Jah Jehovah is only met with here and in Isa 12:2. It is the proper name of God the Redeemer in the most emphatic form. The Beth essentiae frequently stands before the predicate (Ges. 151, 3); here, however, it stands before the subject, as in Psa 78:5; Psa 55:19. In Jah Jehovah (munach, tzakeph) there is an everlasting rock, i.e., He is essentially such a rock (compare Deu 32:4, like Exo 15:2 for Isa 12:2).

Isaiah 26:5

isa 26:5

He has already proved Himself to be such a rock, on which everything breaks that would attack the faithful whom He surrounds. "For He hath bent down them that dwell on high; the towering castle, He tore it down, tore it down to the earth, cast it into dust. The foot treads it to pieces, feet of the poor, steps of the lowly." Passing beyond the fall of Moab, the fall of the imperial city is celebrated, to which Moab was only an annex (Isa 25:1-2; Isa 24:10-12). The futures are determined by the preterite; and the anadiplosis, which in other instances (e.g., Isa 25:1, cf., Psa 118:11) links together derivatives or variations of form, is satisfied in this instance with changing the forms of the suffix. The second thought of Isa 26:6 is a more emphatic repetition of the first: it is trodden down; the oppression of those who have been hitherto oppressed is trodden down.

Isaiah 26:7

isa 26:7

The righteous, who go astray according to the judgment of the world, thus arrive at a goal from which their way appears in a very different light. "The path that the righteous man takes is smoothness; Thou makest the course of the righteous smooth." ישׁר is an accusative predicate: Thou rollest it, i.e., Thou smoothest it, so that it is just as if it had been bevelled with a rule, and leads quite straight (on the derivative peles, a level, see at Job 37:16) and without interruption to the desired end. The song has here fallen into the language of a mashal of Solomon (vid., Pro 4:26; Pro 5:6, Pro 5:21). It pauses here to reflect, as if at the close of a strophe.

Isaiah 26:8

isa 26:8

It then commences again in a lyrical tone in Isa 26:8 and Isa 26:9 : "We have also waited for Thee, that Thou shouldest come in the path of Thy judgments; the desire of the soul went after Thy name, and after Thy remembrance. With my soul I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit deep within me, I longed to have Thee here: for when Thy judgments strike the earth, the inhabitants of the earth learn righteousness." In the opinion of Hitzig, Knobel, Drechsler, and others, the prophet here comes back from the ideal to the actual present. But this is not the case. The church of the last days, looking back to the past, declares with what longing it has waited for that manifestation of the righteousness of God which has now taken place. "The path of Thy judgments:" 'orach mishpâtēkâ belongs to the te; venientem (or venturum) being understood. The clause follows the poetical construction ארח בּוא, after the analogy of דרך הלך. They longed for God to come as a Redeemer in the way of His judgments. The "name" and "remembrance" ad the nature of God, that has become nameable and memorable through self-assertion and self-manifestation (Exo 3:15). They desired that God should present Himself again to the consciousness and memory of man, by such an act as should break through His concealment and silence. The prophet says this more especially of himself; for he feels himself "in spirit" to be a member of the perfected church. "My soul" and "my spirit" are accusatives giving a more precise definition (Ewald, 281, c). "The night" is the night of affliction, as in Isa 21:11. In connection with this, the word shichēr (lit. to dig for a thing, to seek it eagerly) is employed here, with a play upon shachar. The dawning of the morning after a night of suffering was the object for which he longed, naphshi (my soul), i.e., with his entire personality (Pyschol. p. 202), and ruchi b'kirbi (my spirit within me), i.e., with the spirit of his mind, πνεῦμα τοῦ νοός (Psychol. p. 183). And why? Because, as often as God manifested Himself in judgment, this brought men to the knowledge, and possibly also to the recognition, of what was right (cf., Psa 9:17). "Will learn:" lâmdu is a praet. gnomicum, giving the result of much practical experience.

Isaiah 26:10

isa 26:10

Here again the shiir has struck the note of a mâshâl. And proceeding in this tone, it pauses here once more to reflect as at the close of a strophe. "If favour is shown to the wicked man, he does not learn righteousness; in the most upright land he acts wickedly, and has no eye for the majesty of Jehovah." רשׁע יחן is a hypothetical clause, which is left to be indicated by the emphasis, like Neh 1:8 (Ewald, 357, b): granting that favour (chēn = "goodness," Rom 2:4) is constantly shown to the wicked man. "The most upright land:" 'eretz necochoth is a land in which everything is right, and all goes honourably. A worthless man, supposing he were in such a land, would still act knavishly; and of the majesty of Jehovah, showing itself in passing punishments of sin, though still sparing him, he would have no perception whatever. The prophet utters this with a painful feeling of indignation; the word bal indicating denial with emotion.

Isaiah 26:11

isa 26:11

The situation still remains essentially the same as in Isa 26:11-13 : "Jehovah, Thy hand has been exalted, but they did not see: they will see the zeal for a people, being put to shame; yea, fire will devour Thine adversaries. Jehovah, Thou wilt establish peace for us: for Thou hast accomplished all our work for us. Jehovah our God, lords besides Thee had enslaved us; but through Thee we praise Thy name." Here are three forms of address beginning with Jehovah, and rising in the third to "Jehovah our God." The standpoint of the first is the time before the judgment; the standpoint of the other two is in the midst of the redemption that has been effected through judgment. Hence what the prophet states in Isa 26:11 will be a general truth, which has now received its most splendid confirmation through the overthrow of the empire. The complaint of the prophet here is the same as in Isa 53:1. We may also compare Exo 14:8, not Psa 10:5; (rūm does not mean to remain beyond and unrecognised, but to prove one's self to be high.) The hand of Jehovah had already shown itself to be highly exalted (râmâh, 3 pr.), by manifesting itself in the history of the nations, by sheltering His congregation, and preparing the way for its exaltation in the midst of its humiliation; but as they had no eye for this hand, they would be made to feel it upon themselves as the avenger of His nation. The "zeal for a people," when reduced from this ideal expression into a concrete one, is the zeal of Jehovah of hosts (Isa 9:6; Isa 37:32) for His own nation (as in Isa 49:8). Kin'ath ‛âm (zeal for a people) is the object to yechezū (they shall see); v'yēbōshū (and be put to shame) being a parenthetical interpolation, which does not interfere with this connection. "Thou wilt establish peace" (tishpōt shâlom, Isa 26:12) expresses the certain hope of a future and imperturbable state of peace (pones, stabilies); and this hope is founded upon the fact, that all which the church has hitherto accomplished (ma‛aseh, the acting out of its calling, as in Psa 90:17, see at Isa 5:12) has not been its own work, but the work of Jehovah for it. And the deliverance just obtained from the yoke of the imperial power is the work of Jehovah also. The meaning of the complaint, "other lords beside Thee had enslaved us," is just the same as that in Isa 63:18; but there the standpoint is in the midst of the thing complained of, whereas here it is beyond it. Jehovah is Israel's King. He seemed indeed to have lost His rule, since the masters of the world had done as they liked with Israel. But it was very different now, and it was only through Jehovah ("through Thee") that Israel could now once more gratefully celebrate Jehovah's name.

Isaiah 26:14

isa 26:14

The tyrants who usurped the rule over Israel have now utterly disappeared. "Dead men live not again, shades do not rise again: so hast Thou visited and destroyed them, and caused all their memory to perish." The meaning is not that Jehovah had put them to death because there was no resurrection at all after death; for, as we shall see further on, the prophet was acquainted with such a resurrection. In mēthim (dead men) and rephâ'im (shades) he had directly in mind the oppressors of Israel, who had been thrust down into the region of the shades (like the king of Babylon in chapter 14), so that there was no possibility of their being raised up or setting themselves up again. The לכן is not argumentative (which would be very freezing in this highly lyrical connection), but introduces what must have occurred eo ipso when the other had taken place (it corresponds to the Greek ἄρα, and is used here in the same way as in Isa 61:7; Jer 5:2; Jer 2:33; Zac 11:7; Job 34:25; Job 42:3). They had fallen irrevocably into Sheol (Psa 49:15), and consequently God had swept them away, so that not even their name was perpetuated.

Isaiah 26:15

isa 26:15

Israel, when it has such cause as this for praising Jehovah, will have become a numerous people once more. "Thou hast added to the nation, O Jehovah, hast added to the nation; glorified Thyself; moved out all the borders of the land." The verb יסף, which is construed in other cases with על, אל ,, here with ל, carried its object within itself: to add, i.e., to give an increase. The allusion is to the same thing as that which caused the prophet to rejoice in Isa 9:2 (compare Isa 49:19-20; Isa 54:1., Mic 2:12; Mic 4:7; Oba 1:19-20, and many other passages; and for richaktâ, more especially Mic 7:11). Just as Isa 26:13 recals the bondage in Egypt, and Isa 26:14 the destruction of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, so Isa 26:16 recals the numerical strength of the nation, and the extent of the country in the time of David and Solomon. At the same time, we cannot say that the prophet intended to recall these to mind. The antitypical relation, in which the last times stand to these events and circumstances of the past, is a fact in sacred history, though not particularly referred to here.

Isaiah 26:16

isa 26:16

The tephillâh now returns to the retrospective glance already cast in Isa 26:8, Isa 26:9 into that night of affliction, which preceded the redemption that had come. "Jehovah, in trouble they missed Thee, poured out light supplication when Thy chastisement came upon them. As a woman with child, who draws near to her delivery, writhes and cries out in her pangs, so were we in Thy sight, O Jehovah. We went with child, we writhed; it was as if we brought forth wind. We brought no deliverance to the land, and the inhabitants of the world did not come to the light." The substantive circumstantial clause in the parallel line, למו מוּסר, castigatione tua eos affilgente (ל as in Isa 26:9), corresponds to בּצּר; and לחשׁ צקוּן, a preterite עצוּק etire = יצק, Job 28:2; Job 29:6, to be poured out and melt away) with Nun paragogic (which is only met with again in Deu 8:3, Deu 8:16, the yekōshūn in Isa 29:21 being, according to the syntax, the future of kōsh), answers to pâkad, which is used here as in Isa 34:16; Sa1 20:6; Sa1 25:15, in the sense of lustrando desiderare. Lachash is a quiet, whispering prayer (like the whispering of forms of incantation in Isa 3:3); sorrow renders speechless in the long run; and a consciousness of sin crushes so completely, that a man does not dare to address God aloud (Isa 29:4). Pregnancy and pangs are symbols of a state of expectation strained to the utmost, the object of which appears all the closer the more the pains increase. Often, says the perfected church, as it looks back upon its past history, often did we regard the coming of salvation as certain; but again and again were our hopes deceived. The first כּמו is equivalent to כּ, "as a woman with child," etc. (see at Isa 8:22); the second is equivalent to כּאשׁר, "as it were, we brought forth wind." This is not an inverted expression, signifying we brought forth as it were wind; but כמו governs the whole sentence in the sense of "(it was) as if." The issue of all their painful toil was like the result of a false pregnancy (empneumatosis), a delivery of wind. This state of things also proceeded from Jehovah, as the expression "before Thee" implies. It was a consequence of the sins of Israel, and of a continued want of true susceptibility to the blessings of salvation. Side by side with their disappointed hope, Isa 26:18 places the ineffectual character of their won efforts. Israel's own doings - no, they could never make the land into ישׁוּעת (i.e., bring it into a state of complete salvation); and (so might the final clause be understood) they waited in vain for the judgment of Jehovah upon the sinful world that was at enmity against them, or they made ineffectual efforts to overcome it. This explanation is favoured by the fact, that throughout the whole of this cycle of prophecies yōshbē tēbēl does not mean the inhabitants of the holy land, but of the globe at large in the sense of "the world" (Isa 26:21; Isa 24:5-6). Again, the relation of יפּלוּ to the תּפּיל in Isa 26:19, land the figure previously employed of the pains of child-birth, speak most strongly in favour of the conclusion, that nâphal is here used for the falling of the fruit of the womb (cf., Wis. 7:3, Il. xix. 110, καταπεσεῖν and πεσεῖν). And yōshbē tēbēl (the inhabitants of the world) fits in with this sense (viz., that the expected increase of the population never came), from the fact that in this instance the reference is not to the inhabitants of the earth; but the words signify inhabitants generally, or, as we should say, young, new-born "mortals." The punishment of the land under the weight of the empire still continued, and a new generation did not come to the light of day to populate the desolate land (cf., Psychol. p. 414).

Isaiah 26:19

isa 26:19

But now all this had taken place. Instead of singing what has occurred, the tephillah places itself in the midst of the occurrence itself. "Thy dead will live, my corpses rise again. Awake and rejoice, ye that lie in the dust! For thy dew is dew of the lights, and the earth will bring shades to the day." The prophet speaks thus out of the heart of the church of the last times. In consequence of the long-continued sufferings and chastisements, it has been melted down to a very small remnant; and many of those whom it could once truly reckon as its own, are now lying as corpses in the dust of the grave. The church, filled with hope which will not be put to shame, now calls to itself, "Thy dead will live" (מתיך יחיוּ, reviviscent, as in המּתים תּסהיּת, the resurrection of the dead), and consoles itself with the working of divine grace ad power, which is even now setting itself in motion: "my corpses will rise again" (יקמוּן נבלתי, nebēlah: a word without a plural, but frequently used in a plural sense, as in Isa 5:25, and therefore connected with יקמוּן, equivalent to תקמנה: here before a light suffix, with the ê retained, which is lost in other cases). It also cries out, in full assurance of the purpose of God, the believing word of command over the burial-ground of the dead, "Wake up and rejoice, ye that sleep in the dust," and then justifies to itself this believing word of command by looking up to Jehovah, and confessing, "Thy dew is dew born out of (supernatural) lights," as the dew of nature is born out of the womb of the morning dawn (Psa 110:3). Others render it "dew upon herbs," taking אורות as equivalent to ירקות, as in Kg2 4:39. We take it as from אורה (Psa 139:12), in the sense of החיּים אור. The plural implies that there is a perfect fulness of the lights of life in God ("the Father of lights," Jam 1:17). Out of these there is born the gentle dew, which gives new life to the bones that have been sown in the ground (Psa 141:7) - a figure full of mystery, which is quite needlessly wiped away by Hofmann's explanation, viz., that it is equivalent to tal hōrōth, "dew of thorough saturating." Luther, who renders it, "Thy dew is a dew of the green field," stands alone among the earlier translators. The Targum, Syriac, Vulgate, and Saad. all render it, "Thy dew is light dew;" and with the uniform connection in which the Scriptures place 'or (light) and chayyı̄m (life), this rendering is natural enough. We now translate still further, "and the earth (vâ'âretz, as in Isa 65:17; Pro 25:3, whereas וארץ is almost always in the construct state) will bring shades to the day" (hippil, as a causative of nâphal, Isa 26:18), i.e., bring forth again the dead that have sunken into it (like Luther's rendering, "and the land will cast out the dead" - the rendering of our English version also: Tr.). The dew from the glory of God falls like a heavenly seed into the bosom of the earth; and in consequence of this, the earth gives out from itself the shades which have hitherto been held fast beneath the ground, so that they appear alive again on the surface of the earth. Those who understand Isa 26:18 as relating to the earnestly descried overthrow of the lords of the world, interpret this passage accordingly, as meaning either, "and thou castest down shades to the earth" (ארץ, acc. loci, = עד־ארץ, Isa 26:5, לארץ, Isa 25:12), or, "and the earth causeth shades to fall," i.e., to fall into itself. This is Rosenmller's explanation (terra per prosopopaeiam, ut supra Isa 24:20, inducta, deturbare in orcum sistitur impios, eo ipso manes eos reddens). But although rephaim, when so interpreted, agrees with Isa 26:14, where this name is given to the oppressors of the people of God, it would be out of place here, where it would necessarily mean, "those who are just becoming shades." But, what is of greater importance still, if this concluding clause is understood as applying to the overthrow of the oppressors, it does not give any natural sequence to the words, "dew of the lights is thy dew;" whereas, according to our interpretation, it seals the faith, hope, and prayer of the church for what is to follow. When compared with the New Testament Apocalypse, it is "the first resurrection" which is here predicted by Isaiah. The confessors of Jehovah are awakened in their graves to form one glorious church with those who are still in the body. In the case of Ezekiel also (Ez. Eze 37:1-14), the resurrection of the dead which he beholds is something more than a figurative representation of the people that were buried in captivity. The church of the period of glory on this side is a church of those who have been miraculously saved and wakened up from the dead. Their persecutors lie at their feet beneath the ground.

Isaiah 26:20

isa 26:20

The judgment upon them is not mentioned, indeed, till after the completion of the church through those of its members that have died, although it must have actually preceded the latter. Thus the standpoint of the prophecy is incessantly oscillating backwards and forwards in these four chapters (Isaiah 24-27). This explains the exhortation in the next verses, and the reason assigned. "Go in, my people, into thy chambers, and shut the door behind thee; hide thyself a little moment, till the judgment of wrath passes by. For, behold, Jehovah goeth out from His place to visit the iniquity of the inhabitants of the earth upon them; and the earth discloses the blood that it has sucked up, and no more covers her slain." The shı̄r is now at an end. The prophecy speaks once more as a prophet. Whilst the judgment of wrath (za‛am) is going forth, and until it shall have passed by (on the fut. exact., see Isa 10:12; Isa 4:4; and on the fact itself, acharith hazza‛am, Dan 8:19), the people of God are to continue in the solitude of prayer (Mat 6:6, cf., Psa 27:5; Psa 31:21). They can do so, for the judgment by which they get rid of their foes is the act of Jehovah alone; and they are to do so because only he who is hidden in God by prayer can escape the wrath. The judgment only lasts a little while (Isa 10:24-25; Isa 54:7-8,. cf., Psa 30:6), a short time which is shortened for the elect's sake. Instead of the dual דּלתיך (as the house-door is called, though not the chamber-door), the word is pointed דּלת (from דּלה = דּלת), just as the prophet intentionally chooses the feminine חבי instead of חבה. The nation is thought of as feminine in this particular instance (cf., Isa 54:7-8); because Jehovah, its avenger and protector, is acting on its behalf, whilst in a purely passive attitude it hides itself in Him. Just as Noah, behind whom Jehovah shut the door of the ark, was hidden in the ark whilst the water-floods of the judgment poured down without, so should the church be shut off from the world without in its life of prayer, because a judgment of Jehovah was at hand. "He goeth out of His place" (verbatim the same as in Mic 1:3), i.e., not out of His own divine life, as it rests within Himself, but out of the sphere of the manifested glory in which He presents Himself to the spirits. He goeth forth thence equipped for judgment, to visit the iniquity of the inhabitant of the earth upon him (the singular used collectively), and more especially their blood-guiltiness. The prohibition of murder was given to the sons of Noah, and therefore was one of the stipulations of "the covenant of old" (Isa 24:5). The earth supplies two witnesses: (1.) the innocent blood which has been violently shed (on dâmim, see Isa 1:15), which she has had to suck up, and which is now exposed, and cries for vengeance; and (2.) the persons themselves who have been murdered in their innocence, and who are slumbering within her. Streams of blood come to light and bear testimony, and martyrs arise to bear witness against their murderers.

Next: Isaiah Chapter 27