Isaiah 51 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Isaiah 51)

Verse 1

[1] Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.

Look — Consider the state of Abraham and Sarah, from whom all of you sprang.

Verse 2

[2] Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.

Him alone — To follow me to an unknown land: him only of all his kindred.

Increased — Into a vast multitude, when his condition was desperate in the eye of reason. And therefore God can as easily raise his church when they are in the most forlorn condition.

Verse 3

[3] For the LORD shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.

Therefore — For the sake of Abraham, and of that covenant which I made with him.

Garden — Flourishing as the garden of Eden.

Verse 4

[4] Hearken unto me, my people; and give ear unto me, O my nation: for a law shall proceed from me, and I will make my judgment to rest for a light of the people.

My people — Ye Jews, whom I chose to be my peculiar people.

A law — A new law, even the doctrine of the gospel.

Judgment — Judgment is here the same thing with law, the word of God, or the evangelical doctrine, of which he saith that he will make it to rest, that is settle and establish it.

The people — People of all nations.

Verse 5

[5] My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust.

My righteousness — My salvation, the redemption of all my people, Jews and Gentiles, which is the effect of his righteousness, his justice, faithfulness, or mercy.

Is gone — Shall shortly go forth.

Judge — Shall subdue the Gentiles to my authority, and rule them by my word and spirit.

Isles — The remote countries shall expect this salvation from me, and from me only.

Verse 6

[6] Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.

The heavens — The heavens and earth shall pass away, in regard of their present state, and properties, and use, as smoak is said to vanish, tho' the substance of it be not destroyed.

Verse 7

[7] Hearken unto me, ye that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear ye not the reproach of men, neither be ye afraid of their revilings.

Know — That love and practise it.

Verse 8

[8] For the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool: but my righteousness shall be for ever, and my salvation from generation to generation.

Like wool — Like a woollen garment, which is sooner corrupted by moths or such creatures, than linen.

Verse 9

[9] Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD; awake, as in the ancient days, in the generations of old. Art thou not it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon?

Put on — Put forth thy strength.

Rahab — Egypt, from its pride or strength.

The dragon — Pharaoh so called, Psalms 74:13.

Verse 11

[11] Therefore the redeemed of the LORD shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.

Therefore — This verse contains an answer to the prophet's prayer. I did these great things, and I will do the like again.

Joy — Like a crown of glory.

Verse 13

[13] And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?

Where is the fury — Is it not all gone? He speaks of the thing as if it were already done, because it should certainly and suddenly be done.

Verse 16

[16] And I have put my words in thy mouth, and I have covered thee in the shadow of mine hand, that I may plant the heavens, and lay the foundations of the earth, and say unto Zion, Thou art my people.

I have — These words are spoken by God to his church and people, to whom he speaks both in the foregoing and following verses. For God's word is frequently said to be put into the mouths, not only of the prophets, but of the people also.

Covered — Have protected thee by my almighty power, that I may bring thee to that perfect and blessed estate which is reserved for the days of the Messiah, which in scripture phrase is called a making of new heavens, and a new earth, chap. 65:17.

Verse 17

[17] Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the LORD the cup of his fury; thou hast drunken the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out.

Awake — Heb. Rouse up thyself: come out of that forlorn condition in which thou hast so long been.

Stand up — Upon thy feet, O thou who hast been thrown to the ground.

Drunk — Who hast been sorely afflicted.

The cup — Which strikes him that drinks it with deadly horror.

And wrung — Drunk every drop of it.

Verse 18

[18] There is none to guide her among all the sons whom she hath brought forth; neither is there any that taketh her by the hand of all the sons that she hath brought up.

None to guide — When thou wast drunk with this cup, and not able to go.

Verse 19

[19] These two things are come unto thee; who shall be sorry for thee? desolation, and destruction, and the famine, and the sword: by whom shall I comfort thee?

These things — Those which follow, which tho' expressed in four words, may fitly be reduced to two things, the desolation or devastation of the land, and the destruction of the people by famine and sword. So famine and sword are not named as new evils, but only as the particular ways of bringing the destruction.

By whom — I cannot find any man who is able to comfort and relieve thee.

Verse 20

[20] Thy sons have fainted, they lie at the head of all the streets, as a wild bull in a net: they are full of the fury of the LORD, the rebuke of thy God.

Fainted — They are so far from being able to comfort thee, that they themselves faint away.

They lie — Dead by famine or the sword.

As a bull — Those of them who are not slain are struggling for life.

Verse 21

[21] Therefore hear now this, thou afflicted, and drunken, but not with wine:

Not with wine — But with the cup of God's fury.

Verse 22

[22] Thus saith thy Lord the LORD, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of his people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again:

That pleadeth — Who, tho' he has fought against thee, is now reconciled to thee, and will maintain thy cause against all thine adversaries.

Verse 23

[23] But I will put it into the hand of them that afflict thee; which have said to thy soul, Bow down, that we may go over: and thou hast laid thy body as the ground, and as the street, to them that went over.

Go over — That we may trample upon thee.