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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 35

Verses 1-10

Isaiah 35:1 . The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad. After giving the people bright hopes of recovery from the devastations of invading armies, the prophet dwells at large on the glory and grace of the Messiah’s kingdom. Dr. Lowth has here left the Versions behind, by reading, “The well-watered plains of Jordan shall rejoice.” His authorities for reading Jordan instead of desert are very few. He has refined on the original, and gaited the pure and beautiful simplicity of the English version, which very happily expresses the original. For the Jordan to rejoice was no new thing: its vallies and plains, from one to ten miles broad, were fertile and greatly coveted by Lot. They were adorned, as a prophet says, with all “the pride of Jordan.” Jeremiah 12:5.

Isaiah 35:8 . A highway shall be there, and a (plain) way. The Hebrew ודרךְ ve-derek, “and a way,” is repeated, which some have thought an error of the scribe. The Greek is, a clean, a clear, or an open way. The Latin is, Semîta et via, which requires some expletive, as above.

It shall be called the way of holiness: the unclean, the uncircumcised in heart, shall not pass over it. At the same time it shall be so open, and so crowded with nations of devout travellers, that the wayfaring man, though unskilled in travelling, shall not lose his way. This text and song must therefore be understood in unison with Isaiah 2:0. and Micah 4:0., which spake of mount Zion as being established on the tops of the mountains, to which all nations shall go up, and crowd the courts of the Lord. The Zion below derived much hope and comfort from this beautiful song; but Jerusalem above, the new-testament church, the mother of us all, is the real Zion, whose temple can contain all nations, and which could not be built and established by human hands.

Isaiah 35:10 . The ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion. Joyful tidings to the Hebrews: they shall be liberated from captivity, they shall return and build the city and sanctuary of the Lord, and once more rejoice in his courts. Aye; but short were their joys, and long their troubles. Yet those who return to Christ, being the ransomed of the Lord from all iniquity, shall find a city and temple already built, and her twelve gates, wide as the arch of a rainbow, always open. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Crowns of glory shall be given them, and an unalienable inheritance; and wars and death shall be no more. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates into the city. Revelation 22:14.


After the storms of war, after the land had been washed in blood, and stained with every crime, we see the Lord laying aside his anger, and returning again with love to his people. The prophet, in a sublime and beautiful song, consoles them with national felicity, a figure of the more glorious kingdom of Christ. As the bloody Assyrians had devastated the country in the career of conquest, so now the cedars of Lebanon, the flocks of Carmel, and the fruitful Sharon, are made to exult in their destruction. Those beautiful hills saw once more the glory of God in his covenant prosperity under Hezekiah’s happy reign. When God came with vengeance on the enemy, and with a recompense of their spoil, they who were as blind and deaf both saw and heard his work; yea, the lame man leaped as a hart. A highway was opened for all who had fled to return, a way of holiness, for the people came back to worship the Lord with better minds. It was so crowded and so plain that the wayfaring man, though ignorant of the country, could not err. The peace and protection were so great that neither lions nor robbers dared to annoy the worshippers in their journey. And the captured Hebrews, ransomed by the munificence of their country, returned to Zion with garlands of joy, or crowns of flowers on their heads.

But to restrict this prophecy to the prosperity in Hezekiah’s reign would be injurious to Israel’s hope, and totally dissonant to the method of prophets who referred all their joys to the Messiah, and who connected every temporal deliverance with the grand chain of blessings extending from the everlasting covenant. Hence we look forward with the prophet, from the glory and peace of his king to the greater glory of the Messiah, and the happiness of the converted. The gentile world is called a wilderness, Song of Solomon 8:5, which was made to bud and blossom as the rose by the grace of the gospel. It lay in a dark and desolate state, but when the gospel came, truth, righteousness, and piety flourished in myriads of converts to the Lord. In like manner, the gospel not only converts, but it comforts: it strengthens the weak hands, and confirms the feeble knees. Hebrews 12:12. It brings a thousand motives, and adduces a cloud of witnesses to encrease our faith and confidence in the Lord. John the baptist himself was strengthened in prison by the evangelical accomplishment of this prophecy. Go and tell John, said Jesus, the things which ye do see and hear, that the blind see, that the deaf hear, &c. Matthew 11:6. Yea, the eyes of the gentile world were open to see the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The preaching of the gospel was also accompanied with an effusion of the Spirit. Waters broke out in the wilderness, and pools in the parched ground, when the Spirit in all his grace and fulness descended from on high. Churches were everywhere formed, and the waste places of the gentiles became the garden of the Lord. The way of faith and holiness was laid open as a highway to heaven; and this good old way was made so plain by divine instruction everywhere abounding in the church, that the most simple and inexperienced enquirers would not err in any hurtful degree, provided they were truly sincere. At first indeed there were many lions in the way, the fierce beasts or persecutors, with some of whom Paul fought at Ephesus; but in the glory of the latter day, kings shall more eminently than ever be nursing fathers to the church. Then the Hebrews, ransomed from the sentence of exile, oppression and sin, shall return to Zion with singing and everlasting joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 35". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.