Isaiah 61 Commentary

Good news for the exiles (61:1-62:12)

God’s Spirit gives the prophet some good news to pass on to the Jews held captive in Babylon. They will be released to return to their land, but their captors will be punished (61:1-2). When they arrive in Jerusalem, they may be overcome with grief because of the ruin and devastation they see around them. But God will encourage and strengthen them so that they can rebuild their beloved city (3-4).

Foreigners will carry out the everyday duties for the Jews and contribute liberally to the national income. This will enable the Jews to concentrate on the more important matters of worshipping and serving God (5-6). God will give blessings to his people that are far beyond anything they have ever expected. In justice he will compensate them for the plundering they have suffered at the hands of their enemies (7-9).

In thanks the prophet praises God in advance for saving Israel and giving it glory, a glory that he likens to the beauty of wedding garments. As surely as seeds sprout and grow, so just as surely will God save Israel and bring praise to himself from people of all nations (10-11).

But at the time of writing, the prophet is still in Babylon and Israel has not yet been saved. The prophet will therefore not cease praying for Israel till it has been restored to its land in glory (62:1-3). The nation will then no longer be like an unfaithful wife living alone and in disgrace. Her husband still loves her and will take her back. As the deserted woman becomes happily married again, so the desolate nation will again rejoice in fellowship with Yahweh (4-5).

In Jerusalem watchmen wait expectantly for the first returning exiles. The prophet urges these watchmen to join him in unceasing prayer that God will soon fulfil his promise and bring his people back, never to be plundered again (6-9). He then commands people to go out and prepare the way for Israel’s release from Babylon and return to Jerusalem. Israel will again be known as the people whom God has redeemed (10-12).

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