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1. The wilderness and the solitary place “The solitary place” spoken of in the previous chapter, but now the home of the wild beasts no longer. See on Isaiah 35:7. The change is described under the still-used figure of a desert, but a desert now clothed with a luxuriant growth of blooming vegetation.
Shall be glad for them Aben Ezra, Furst, and Delitzsch deny that “for them” is a correct reading; they claim the verb to end with a strengthened form only, not with a suffix requiring “for them.” This relieves the difficulty as to the meaning. Then it reads, Desert and waste shall rejoice; desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose, (or better, as the narcissus, or crocus, or the anemone.) Passing north from the Sinaitic range over the blanched and broken, yet generally level, plateau et-Tih, one is cheered on reaching the “South Land” by the sight of bulbous plants of the genera Scilla squills, iris, narcissus, etc. which cover frequent localities from as far south as the travel of a day and a half to Beer-sheba. The anemone blooms beautifully as the travel in March is continued northward, and this, by Tristram, is believed to be the “rose” the “rose of Sharon.”
2. The glorious moral transformation is continued under the figure of extreme physical changes occurring in the desert and parched land.
Shall blossom abundantly… rejoice… with joy and singing The words express the intensified conviction of the prophet that triumphs grand and complete are to come to the friends of Jehovah in place of the powers of evil hitherto ruling. Nor can the rapt mind of the prophet cease its utterances till it has exhausted its glow of expectation and joy by combining every appropriate object of nature around him into a glorious physical picture. The strong and spreading cedars of Lebanon, and the luxuriant plains of Sharon and hills of Carmel, in the prophet’s eye are seen to extend over all that but recently was a waterless waste, gloomy, fearful, terrific. In view of moral changes so great, and so soon to occur, the prophet exhorts the afflicted people of God to bemoan their condition no longer.
3, 4. Strengthen… hands… confirm… knees The officials of the nation are here addressed. They are to infuse new life into the desponding, and to “strengthen” and “confirm” them by holding up to them the promised hastening blessings. With such prospects, it is no time now for discouragement. It is none other than Jehovah of hosts who is interposing. Vengeance for foes, and recompense for his hitherto suffering ones, are both lodged with him, and he is now coming to exercise both. To the prophet these things seemed not far in the future. The validity of these promises was by him undoubted, though his vision did overleap centuries. His was a present faith.
5, 6. Then In that glorious future time.
Lame… dumb The physical imperfections in these verses are also images of moral disease and infirmity, which in the coming Messianic days are to be removed, as indeed they were removed in Christ’s earthly mission, and as they have been and ever will be in these ends of the world. All nature around us, animate and inanimate, yearns for the deliverance of the sons of God. Romans 8:19-23.
7. And the parched ground This means the mirage, which shall really become a pool, or lake of water, as to the traveller over the desert it appears. From ten to twelve o’clock every sunshiny day the present writer witnessed, in the month of February, 1870, the phenomenon of the mirage in the desert et-Tih, between Sinai and Palestine. It seemed a pool or lake receding with each advancing step of the camels which our party were riding. Wherever it was not level, the hummocks and elevations seemed as islands. The figure of the sharab that is, the mirage is most true to nature.
Grass… reeds… rushes That is, all kinds of verdure suitable to such spots, shall exist where now all is blank desolation. Amid miracles like this, by which all nature shall be glorified, the people of Jehovah shall be redeemed.
8-10. And they shall be led home to Zion.
A highway shall be there, and a way The one a cast up, well-prepared road, in distinction from the faint camel tracks of the desert, and the other a more general term characterizing the whole thoroughfare.
Way of holiness No impure person, either of desert Bedouins or of the unreformed Israelites, shall travel over it. Such will have no desire to do so, for it is a holy way. Only the redeemed will be found thereon, travelling as pilgrims to the better land.
Wayfaring men Any redeemed ones walking this road.
Though fools Though ever so humble, ever so wanting in the world’s esteem, shall not go astray while on this blessed thoroughfare.
No lion… there On this elevated pathway no beast of prey nor ravenous adversary can harass the joyous traveller. He, unlike the lone desert wanderer, is high and secure above this trouble. Lions abounded in the regions adjacent to Palestine, and the sacred writers often referred to them as objects of dread and alarm. The scene of these glorious times is yet in this world. The Church is militant: yet, under Messianic rule, triumphant. Redeemed ones ever walk in this highway “of holiness.” After dreary trials and captivities, they shall come out with shoutings, and return to the Lord’s courts in Zion with the joy of permanent victoriousness. This joy is in their aspect upon their heads. It lights up the countenance. Possibly the allusion is to the anointing of the head in a time of joy, in contrast with ashes on the head in a time of mourning; or possibly, to the wearing of chaplets on the head in times of festivity.
Sorrow and sighing shall flee away The enemies of God shall no more give trouble, they shall be scattered and destroyed; that is, evil shall diminish in power till, in the full coming of the Messiah, at the last days, it shall be no more felt. In this closing prophetic summary all the Gospel promises are included and summed up in that of complete redemption.
In the foregoing portions of prophecy the people of God were seen to be in danger respectively from Syrians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Moabites, Edomites, and Babylonians; and from each and all their deliverance was achieved, and their enemies destroyed as predicted. Now the conclusion is, that all God’s foes shall ultimately and forever be put to naught. The rule of Messiah shall be universal and eternal; and security and joy shall come upon God’s ransomed ones. A close most fitting to this prophetic series.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 35". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany