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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Isaiah 35

Isaiah 35:0

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASBNKJVNRSVTEVNJB
Zion's Happy FutureThe Future Glory of ZionZion RestoredThe Road to HolinessThe Triumph of Jerusalem
Isaiah 35:1-10(1-10)Isaiah 35:1-7(1-2)Isaiah 35:1-10(1-2)Isaiah 35:1-10(1-2)Isaiah 35:1-10(1-7)
(3-4)(3-4)(3-4)
(5-7)(5-7)(5-7)
Isaiah 35:8-10(8-10) (8-10)(8-10)(8-10)

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compareyour subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This chapter is obviously the reversal of Isaiah 34:0.

B. The question is to whom it is addressed and when.

1. Does this refer to the agricultural splendor of the Promised Land in the eschaton (i.e., believing faithful Jews and Gentiles)?

2. Does this refer to the return of the Assyrian captives to Palestine (i.e., Israel)?

3. Does this refer to the return of the Babylonian exiles by Cyrus' decree (i.e., Judah)?

4. Does this refer to the desert between Mesopotamia and Palestine being transformed into a lush highway for God's people to return to Palestine?

Verses 1-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 35:1-10 1The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; Like the crocus 2It will blossom profusely And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, The majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the LORD, The majesty of our God. 3Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. 4Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.” 5Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. 6Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah. 7The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes. 8A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. 9No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, 10And the ransomed of the LORD will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Isaiah 35:1 “wilderness” This word refers to the uninhabited pasture (BDB 184, cf. Joel 1:19-20).

“the desert” This word (BDB 851) refers to the arid, sterile land (cf. Isaiah 41:18; Isaiah 53:2; Joel 2:20). Notice that “wilderness” is linked to “desert” and parallel with “Arabah.”

“Arabah” This word (BDB 787) refers to the Jordan rift valley south of the Dead Sea (cf. Isaiah 33:9).

“will rejoice and blossom” The first two VERBS of Isaiah 35:1 are also a parallel personification of the plants.

1. will be glad, BDB 965, KB 1314, Qal IMPERFECT (possibly JUSSIVE in meaning), this VERB is used eight times in chapters 61-66

2. will rejoice, BDB 162, KB 189, Qal JUSSIVE, cf. Isaiah 35:2; Isaiah 25:9; this VERB is used four times in chapters 61-66, cf. Joel 2:21, Joel 2:23

The third VERB “blossom”, “bud” (BDB 897, KB 965, Qal IMPERFECT) shows how the plants (i.e., personification) rejoice. Isaiah often uses personification of natural items (cf. Isaiah 33:9; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 55:12, cf. NASB Study Bible, p. 1004). The conditions of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1-2) are restored; the new age has come!

Verse Isaiah 35:10 is repeated in Isaiah 51:11. This is a sign of the new age of restoration (cf. Isaiah 7:21-25; Isaiah 27:6; Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 41:8-19; Isaiah 55:12-13).

NASB, NRSV, PESHITTA“crocus” NKJV, JPSOA“rose” NJB, REB“asphodel” JB“jonquil” LXX“lily”

It is almost impossible to accurately identify (TEV “flowers”) the flora and fauna of the Bible. The rabbis say this (BDB 287) refers to the rose, while Luther and Calvin say it refers to the lily. Anybody's guess is still a guess! A good resource about these issues is “Helps for Translators” series, Fauna and Flora of the Bible, UBS.

Isaiah 35:2 “Lebanon. . .Carmel and Sharon” These three areas were famous for their lush foliage. The phrase “blossom profusely” is the Qal INFINITE ABSOLUTE and Qal IMPERFECT VERB of the same root (BDB 827, KB 965) which denotes intensity or here, lush growth.

“They will see” This seems to be a continuing of the personification of the plants.

Isaiah 35:3-6 These verses mention several kinds of people.

1. the exhausted (lit. “weak hands”)

2. the feeble (lit. “weak knees”)

3. those with anxious hearts (lit. “the hurried”)

4. the blind (BDB 734)

5. the deaf (BDB 361)

6. the lame (BDB 820)

7. the dumb (BDB 48)

It also describes what God will do for them in this new day of restoration.

1. for #1 “encourage” (BDB 304, KB 302, Piel IMPERATIVE)

2. for #2 “strengthen” (BDB 54, KB 65, Piel IMPERATIVE)

3. for #3

a. take courage, BDB 304, KB 302, Qal IMPERATIVE

b. fear not, BDB 431, KB 432, Qal IMPERFECT but JUSSIVE in meaning

4. for #4 “open the eyes,” BDB 824, KB 959, Niphal IMPERFECT

5. for #5 “open the ears,” same VERB as #4

6. for #6 “leap like a deer,” BDB 194, KB 222, Piel IMPERFECT

7. for #7 “tongue of dumb will shout for joy,” BDB 943, KB 1247, Qal IMPERFECT

This is the message that Jesus sent to John the Baptist while he was in prison (cf. Matthew 11:4-5; Luke 7:20-22). The new age is reflected in the ministry of Jesus!

Isaiah 35:4 Notice what YHWH promises to do for His covenant people.

1. He comes with vengeance, BDB 668, cf. Isaiah 34:8; Isaiah 59:17; Isaiah 61:2; Isaiah 63:4; Deuteronomy 32:25; Jeremiah 50:28

2. His recompense also comes, BDB 168, cf. Isaiah 59:18 (twice); Isaiah 66:6, also note Isaiah 65:6

3. He will save them, BDB 446, KB 448, Hiphil JUSSIVE, cf. Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 33:22; Isaiah 38:20; Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 49:25; Isaiah 59:1; Isaiah 63:1, Isaiah 63:5, Isaiah 63:9; Isaiah 64:5

Isaiah 35:6 “For waters will break forth in the wilderness” The blooming of nature goes back to Isaiah 35:1, Isaiah 35:2. The outward sign of God's spiritual presence and blessing is nature's wonderful display of beauty and growth (cf. Isaiah 35:7).

Isaiah 35:7 “In the haunt of jackals” The Peshitta and KJV translate this word (BDB 1072) “dragons.” We have found from the Dead Sea Scrolls that animals listed in the OT often refer to the idols of the surrounding nations, therefore, this either refers to (1) a deserted place or (2) the residence of the demonic (cf. Isaiah 34:11-15).

The literary reason for this poetic line is that the dry dens of the jackals are now filled with water and can support swamp grass.

NASB“its resting place” NKJV“where each lay” NRSV“a swamp” REB“their lairs”

The MT has רבצה, BDB 918, “its resting place.” The NRSV changes it to לבצה, (see NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 692-693). The DSS scroll of Isaiah has “he lies down.”

“Grass becomes reeds and rushes” The grass will grow as tall as reeds and rushes to show the luxurious growth of God's blessing symbolized in nature.

Isaiah 35:8 “the Highway of Holiness” This is a common theme in the book of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 26:7; Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 42:13). This same metaphor of a royal visit is used to describe the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist claims he fulfilled the prophecy of Malachi 4:5 in preparing the way for the Lord. This is a metaphor for preparation of a physical road, but it has spiritual implications referring to repentance.

Isaiah 35:9 “No lion will be there” The fact that vicious animals will be absent or changed into tame companions is a sign of a blessing of God (cf. Isaiah 11:6-9). It is also a reversal of the threat of Leviticus 26:22.

“the redeemed” This term was first used in connection with the dedication of the firstborn child to God (cf. Exodus 13:13, Exodus 13:15). The primary idea here is of deliverance from bondage at a set price. The relationship between “redeemed” (BDB 145 I, KB 169, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE) in Isaiah 35:9 and “ransomed” (BDB 804, KB 911, Qal PASSIVE PARTICIPLE) in Isaiah 35:10 is repeated in Isaiah 51:11. See Special Topic at Isaiah 29:22.

Isaiah 35:10 “will return” This VERB (BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERFECT) means “turn back” (i.e., repentance or change of direction). Many commentators see this (and Isaiah 35:8) as a reference to the return from Babylonian exile (i.e., therefore is connected to chapters 40-66). This is surely possible because Isaiah's poems are not always arranged in chronological order. It could express “repentance” as a lifestyle (i.e., way of highway of holiness).

“Zion” This later came to be a designation for the entire city of Jerusalem (built on seven hills), in particular the temple, although the Temple is geographically located on Mt. Moriah, not on Mt. Zion.

The returnees are characterized as

1. the ransomed of the LORD

2. coming with singing

3. coming with everlasting joy

4. having on their heads as a crown

a. joy

b. gladness

5. having no sorrow

6. having no sighing

“With everlasting joy upon their heads” The term “everlasting” is 'olam (BDB 761). See Special Topic at Isaiah 32:14.

“And sorrow and sighing will flee away” See Isaiah 25:8 and Revelation 21:4.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. This kind of joy and physical blessing seems to never have accompanied the return from Exile, if this is so, what does this chapter refer to?

2. Explain the significance and the difference between the two terms: “redeemed” and “ransomed”

3. Why is nature used to symbolize God's presence and blessing?

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 35". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/isaiah-35.html. 2021.