A Study in the Word – Isaiah 52:1-12

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The vision moves forward to the end of the coming exile in 539 B.C. Israel will have completed her penance under the cruelty of Babylon. God’s plan for Judah’s liberation is marvelously detailed and picturesque. They are to “dress” for the occasion, not in the rags of servility but in the royal garments of God’s own people. They are to arise out of the dust and throw off their chains. Only those who are holy to the Lord will enter Jerusalem’s gates from that point on (52:1-2).

Their penalty was not a payment due Babylon, so they will not be ransomed with money (52:3). The Egyptians oppressed the Hebrews without cause, as did the Assyrians, so the Babylonians have no more of a claim on Judah than they (52:4-5a). Indeed, Babylon continually insults the holy name of God and is deserving of wrath (52:5b). His wrath upon them will be a sign to the exiles that God is sovereign: “For I myself am he, the one who is speaking; behold me!” (52:6, literal).

After Babylon is conquered by Cyrus the Persian, all exiles are freed to return home. Before the journey begins, though, celebrations are called for. Isaiah uses the figure of a messenger returning to his capital city with news of victory. The messenger comes to Jerusalem with the news that salvation has come to the people far away, proving once again that God reigns over all (52:7). The people and the Lord return to the holy city as a marvelous demonstration of His promises coming true (52:8), for “the LORD has comforted His people” (52:9; 40:1). “All the ends of the earth” will know it is God’s power that saves, and none else (52:10).

The people are to depart with holiness foremost in mind, especially regarding vessels for the temple. Pillaging among the uncleanness of Babylon is prohibited (52:11). Departure is not to be done like a jailbreak of the guilty but a journey home of the redeemed. They are to enjoy the journey, supplied and protected by the Lord Himself (52:12). Holiness is again to be paramount in their lives and worship. Their joy is tempered by the cost paid in the tortured ministry of God’s Servant. The scope of these prophecies reaches the ends of the earth and points beyond Cyrus to the work of the Servant of the Lord, a matter taken up in 52:13-55:13.

Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com.

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