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

Isaiah Chapter 35

Isaiah 35:1

isa 35:1

Edom falls, never to rise again. Its land is turned into a horrible wilderness. But, on the other hand, the wilderness through which the redeemed Israel returns, is changed into a flowery field. "Gladness fills the desert and the heath; and the steppe rejoices, and flowers like the crocus. It flowers abundantly, and rejoices; yea, rejoicing and singing: the glory of Lebanon is given to it, the splendour of Carmel and the plain of Sharon; they will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendour of our God." מדבּר ישׂשׂוּם (to be accentuated with tiphchah munach, not with mercha tiphchah) has been correctly explained by Aben-Ezra. The original Nun has been assimilated to the following Mem, just as pidyōn in Num 3:49 is afterwards written pidyōm (Ewald, 91, b). The explanation given by Rashi, Gesenius, and others (laetabuntur his), is untenable, if only because sūs (sı̄s) cannot be construed with the accusative of the object (see at Isa 8:6); and to get rid of the form by correction, as Olshausen proposes, is all the more objectionable, because "the old full plural in ūn is very frequently met with before Mem" (Bttcher), in which case it may have been pronounced as it is written here.

(Note: Bttcher calls ûm the oldest primitive form of the plural; but it is only a strengthening of ûn; cf., tannı̄m = tannı̄n, Hanameel = Hananeel, and such Sept. forms as Gesem, Madiam, etc. (see Hitzig on Jer 32:7). Wetzstein told me of a Bedouin tribe, in whose dialect the third pers. praet. regularly ended in m, e.g., akalum (they have eaten).)

According to the Targum on Sol 2:1 (also Saad., Abulw.), the chăbhatstseleth is the narcissus; whilst the Targum on the passage before us leaves it indefinite - sicut lilia. The name (a derivative of bâtsal) points to a bulbous plant, probably the crocus and primrose, which were classed together.

(Note: The crocus and the primrose (המצליתא in Syriac) may really be easily confounded, but not the narcissus and primrose, which have nothing in common except that they are bulbous plants, like most of the flowers of the East, which shoot up rapidly in the spring, as soon as the winter rains are over. But there are other colchicaceae beside our colchicum autumnale, which flowers before the leaves appear and is therefore called filius ante patrem (e.g., the eastern colchicum variegatum).)

The sandy steppe would become like a lovely variegated plain covered with meadow flowers.

(Note: Layard, in his Nineveh and Babylon, describes in several places the enchantingly beautiful and spring-like variation of colours which occurs in the Mesopotamian "desert;" though what the prophet had in his mind was not the real midâr, or desert of pasture land, but, as the words tsiyâh and ‛arâbhâh show, the utterly barren sandy desert.)

On gı̄lath, see at Isa 33:6 (cf., Isa 65:18): the infin. noun takes the place of an inf. abs., which expresses the abstract verbal idea, though in a more rigid manner; 'aph (like gam in Gen 31:15; Gen 46:4) is an exponent of the increased emphasis already implied in the gerunds that come after. So joyful and so gloriously adorned will the barren desert, which has been hitherto so mournful, become, on account of the great things that are in store for it. Lebanon, Carmel, and Sharon have, as it were, shared their splendour with the desert, that all might be clothed alike in festal dress, when the glory of Jehovah, which surpasses everything self in its splendour, should appear; that glory which they would not only be privileged to behold, but of which they would be honoured to be the actual scene.

Isaiah 35:3

isa 35:3

The prophet now exclaims to the afflicted church, in language of unmixed consolation, that Jehovah is coming. "Strengthen ye the weak hands, and make the trembling knees strong! Say to those of a terrified heart, Be strong! Fear ye not! Behold, your God will come for vengeance, for a divine retribution: He will come, and bring you salvation." Those who have become weak in faith, hopeless and despairing, are to cheer up; and the stronger are to tell such of their brethren as are perplexed and timid, to be comforted now: for Jehovah is coming nâqâm (i.e., as vengeance), and gemūl 'Elōhı̄m (i.e., as retribution, such as God the highly exalted and Almighty Judge inflicts; the expression is similar to that in Isa 30:27; Isa 13:9, cf., Isa 40:10, but a bolder one; the words in apposition stand as abbreviations of final clauses). The infliction of punishment is the immediate object of His coming, but the ultimate object is the salvation of His people (וישעכם a contracted future form, which is generally confined to the aorist).

Isaiah 35:5

isa 35:5

"Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame man leap as the stag, and the tongue of the dumb man shout; for waters break out in the desert, and brooks in the steppe. And the mirage becomes a fish-pond, and the thirsty ground gushing water-springs; in the place of jackals, where it lies, there springs up grass with reeds and rushes." The bodily defects mentioned here there is no reason for regarding as figurative representations of spiritual defects. The healing of bodily defects, however, is merely the outer side of what is actually effected by the coming of Jehovah (for the other side, comp. Isa 32:3-4). And so, also, the change of the desert into a field abounding with water is not a mere poetical ornament; for in the last times, he era of redemption, nature itself will really share in the doxa which proceeds from the manifested God to His redeemed. Shârâb (Arab. sarâb) is essentially the same thing as that which we call in the western languages the mirage, or Fata morgana; not indeed every variety of this phenomenon of the refraction of light, through strata of air of varying density lying one above another, but more especially that appearance of water, which is produced as if by magic in the dry, sandy desert

(Note: See. G. Rawlinson, Monarchies, i. p. 38.)

(literally perhaps the "desert shine," just as we speak of the "Alpine glow;" see Isa 49:10). The antithesis to this is 'ăgam (Chald. 'agmâ', Syr. egmo, Ar. agam), a fish-pond (as in Isa 41:18, different from 'âgâm in Isa 19:10). In the arid sandy desert, where the jackal once had her lair and suckled her young (this is, according to Lam 4:3, the true explanation of the permutative ribhtsâh, for which ribhtsâm would be in some respects more suitable), grass springs up even into reeds and rushes; so that, as Isa 43:20 affirms, the wild beasts of the desert praise Jehovah.

Isaiah 35:8

isa 35:8

In the midst of such miracles, by which all nature is glorified, the people of Jehovah are redeemed, and led home to Zion. "And a highway rises there, and a road, and it will be called the Holy Road; no unclean man will pass along it, as it is appointed for them: whoever walks the road, even simple ones do not go astray. There will be no lion there, and the most ravenous beast of prey will not approach it, will not be met with there; and redeemed ones walk. And the ransomed of Jehovah will return, and come to Zion with shouting, and everlasting joy upon their head: they lay hold of gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing flee away." Not only unclean persons from among the heathen, but even unclean persons belonging to Israel itself, will never pass along that holy road; none but the church purified and sanctified through sufferings, and those connected with it. למו הוּא, to them, and to them alone, does this road belong, which Jehovah has made and secured, and which so readily strikes the eye, that even an idiot could not miss it; whilst it lies to high, that no beast of prey, however powerful (perı̄ts chayyōth, a superlative verbal noun: Ewald, 313, c), could possibly leap up to it: not one is ever encountered by the pilgrim there. The pilgrims are those whom Jehovah has redeemed and delivered, or set free from captivity and affliction (גּאל, לג, related to חל, solvere; פּדה, פד, scindere, abscindere). Everlasting joy soars above their head; they lay fast hold of delight and joy (compare on Isa 13:8), so that it never departs from them. On the other hand, sorrow and sighing flee away. The whole of Isa 35:10 is like a mosaic from Isa 51:11; Isa 61:7; Isa 51:3; and what is affirmed of the holy road, is also affirmed in Isa 52:1 of the holy city (compare Isa 62:12; Isa 63:4). A prelude of the fulfilment is seen in what Ezra speaks of with gratitude to God in Ezr 8:31. We have intentionally avoided crowding together the parallel passages from chapters 40-66. The whole chapter is, in every part, both in thought and language, a prelude of that book of consolation for the exiles in their captivity. Not only in its spiritual New Testament thoughts, but also in its ethereal language, soaring high as it does in majestic softness and light, the prophecy has now reached the highest point of its development.

Next: Isaiah Chapter 36