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Isaiah 52:1-12

Isaiah 52:1 Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; For the uncircumcised and the unclean Will no longer come into you.

Awake, awake…

The pattern seen in this section:
51:9: Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord.
51:17: Rouse yourself, rouse yourself (same word as 51:9, 52:1)…Jerusalem
52:1: Awake, awake…Zion
52:11: Depart, depart…

The section calls first out to God in a plea for his redemptive arm to act (51:9-16). It is a call out to God to bring about his saving purpose, moving from the redemption of Israel in their current distress to the ultimate redemption found in Christ described in 51:16. 51:17-23 is a call for God’s people to respond appropriately to the discipline of the Lord, His “cup of anger.”

This leads to the current chapter’s opening: Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments.

Israel’s strength was in God. The imagery of clothing themselves in strength/beautiful garments had to do with the garb of the priesthood.

Exodus 28:2 “You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty

But as Isaiah continues to paint the picture he talks of the granting of restored Zion in the clothing of garlands, oil of gladness, mantle of praise.

Isaiah 61:3 To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.

The picture here is of a returning Israel, the Gentile conquerors are no longer trampling the purity of the temple, rather the priests have taken up their call and are performing their duties before the Lord and the temple. So the “uncircumcised and unclean will no longer come into you.”

This language of clothing is used in the prophets and in the New Testament as indicative of forgiveness and redemption.

Zechariah 3:4 He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”

Ephesians 4:24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Revelation 19:8 It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Revelation 19:14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.

Note: Ephesians 6:10 for clothe yourselves with your strength.

Isaiah 52:2 Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

This is another picture of the redemptive work of God accomplished for his people. They are not humiliated anymore, they are not in bondage anymore.

Isaiah 52:3 For thus says the LORD, “You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money.”

This was not a legitimate slavery. The captors did not pay for the slaves. See 1:27; 50:1

Isaiah 52:4 For thus says the Lord 1GOD, “My people went down at the first into Egypt to reside there; then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.5 “Now therefore, what do I have here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that My people have been taken away without cause?” Again the LORD declares, “Those who rule over them howl, and My name is continually blasphemed all day long.6 “Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, ‘Here I am.'”

This passage is reminiscent of Moses’ plea with God to repent from destroying Israel in the wilderness. Essentially, Moses says: If you kill them, then Egypt will doubt your power, and they will tell others of your inability to redeem your people (Numbers 14:11-19). In pardoning Israel in that context God says: “but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD.”

Here the same sort of reasoning is used. My name is continually blasphemed, in redeeming them “My people will know my name.”

Redemption, salvation are both activities which although they benefit us without question, ultimately are intended not for our glory, but for the glory of God.

Isaiah 52:7 How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices, They shout joyfully together; For they will see with their own eyes When the LORD restores Zion. 9 Break forth, shout joyfully together, You waste places of Jerusalem; For the LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem.10 The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, That all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God.

The Hebrew word for good news is Basar: publish, bear (good) tidings, preach, show forth.

This term is an important one in Isaiah and for the New Testament. It is the Hebrew equivalent to the term “gospel.” Here is what the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about this term:

This root and its derivative occur thirty times in the OT. Sixteen of these are in Samuel-Kings and seven are in Isaiah. The root is a common one in Semitic, being found in Akkadian, Arabic, Ugaritic, Ethiopic, etc. The root meaning is “to bring news, especially pertaining to military encounters.” Normally this is good news, but (contra Friedrich, TDNT, II, p. 707) it need not necessarily be so (1Sam 4:17; 2Sam 18:20)”

In the historical literature, the occurrences of b¹́ar cluster around two events: the death of Saul (1Sam 31:9; 2Sam 1:20; 2Sam 4:10), and the defeat and death of Absalom (2Sam 18:19) Although David received them differently, both were felt by the messenger to be good news. This concept of the messenger fresh from the field of battle is at the heart of the more theologically pregnant usages in Isaiah and the Psalms, Here it is the Lord who is victorious over his enemies. By virtue of this success, he now comes to deliver the captives (Psa 68:11 [H 12]; Isa 61:1). The watchman waits eagerly for the messenger (Isa 52:7; cf. 2Sam 18:25ff) who will bring this good news. At first, only Zion knows the truth (Isa 40:9; Isa 41:27), but eventually all nations will tell the story (Isa 60:6). The reality of this concept is only finally met in Christ (Lk 4:16-21; 1Cor 15:54-56; Col 1:5, 6; Col 2:13-15).

Isaiah’s use of basar:

  • Isaiah 40:9 Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!”
  • Isaiah 41:27 “Formerly I said to Zion, ‘Behold, here they are.’ And to Jerusalem, ‘I will give a messenger of good news.’
  • Isaiah 52:7 How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
  • Isaiah 60:6 “A multitude of camels will cover you, The young camels of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba will come; They will bring gold and frankincense, And will bear good news of the praises of the LORD.
  • Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners;

The Psalmist uses it in an interesting way in Psalm 68:11 The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host:

The women would be waiting for the news from the battlefield. When the messenger came with the good news they would disseminate the news into the city. A wonderful picture of this fulfillment is the women finding the empty tomb in the gospels.

It is no mistake that the Paul picks up on this theme of the beautiful feet of the messenger (Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:15). This passage looks ahead to the fulfilment of the gospel purpose: All the ends of the earth may see the salvation of our God. See also Isaiah 49:26 where the usage of basar means not good news but flesh: Isaiah 49:26 “I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh, And they will become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine; And all flesh will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Isaiah 52:11 Depart, depart, go out from there, Touch nothing unclean; Go out of the midst of her, purify yourselves, You who carry the vessels of the LORD. 12 But you will not go out in haste, Nor will you go as fugitives; For the LORD will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

The final part of this package is the call to depart. Come out of the bondage of captivity, in your coming out God will go before you and be your rear guard. This language is reminiscent of the Exodus. God was their guide in a pillar of fire and a cloud.

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