Isaiah 9:2
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, on them has the light shined.
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9:1-7 The Syrians and Assyrians first ravaged the countries here mentioned, and that region was first favoured by the preaching of Christ. Those that want the gospel, walk in darkness, and in the utmost danger. But when the gospel comes to any place, to any soul, light comes. Let us earnestly pray that it may shine into our hearts, and make us wise unto salvation. The gospel brings joy with it. Those who would have joy, must expect to go through hard work, as the husbandman, before he has the joy of harvest; and hard conflict, as the soldier, before he divides the spoil. The Jews were delivered from the yoke of many oppressors; this was a shadow of the believer's deliverance from the yoke of Satan. The cleansing the souls of believers from the power and pollution of sin, would be by the influence of the Holy Spirit, as purifying fire. These great things for the church, shall be done by the Messiah, Emmanuel. The Child is born; it was certain; and the church, before Christ came in the flesh, benefitted by his undertaking. It is a prophecy of him and of his kingdom, which those that waited for the Consolation of Israel read with pleasure. This Child was born for the benefit of us men, of us sinners, of all believers, from the beginning to the end of the world. Justly is he called Wonderful, for he is both God and man. His love is the wonder of angels and glorified saints. He is the Counsellor, for he knew the counsels of God from eternity; and he gives counsel to men, in which he consults our welfare. He is the Wonderful Counsellor; none teaches like him. He is God, the mighty One. Such is the work of the Mediator, that no less power than that of the mighty God could bring it to pass. He is God, one with the Father. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us to God; he is the Giver of peace in the heart and conscience; and when his kingdom is fully established, men shall learn war no more. The government shall be upon him; he shall bear the burden of it. Glorious things are spoken of Christ's government. There is no end to the increase of its peace, for the happiness of its subjects shall last for ever. The exact agreement of this prophecy with the doctrine of the New Testament, shows that Jewish prophets and Christian teachers had the same view of the person and salvation of the Messiah. To what earthly king or kingdom can these words apply? Give then, O Lord, to thy people to know thee by every endearing name, and in every glorious character. Give increase of grace in every heart of thy redeemed upon earth.The people that walked in darkness - The inhabitants of the region of Galilee. They were represented as walking in darkness, because they were far from the capital, and from the temple; they had few religious privileges; they were intermingled with the pagan, and were comparatively rude and uncultivated in their manners and in their language. Allusion to this is several times made in the New Testament; John 1:46 : 'Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?' John 7:52 : 'Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet;' Matthew 26:69; Mark 14:70. The word walked here is synonymous with lived, and denotes that thick darkness brooded over the country, so that they lived, or walked amidst it.

Have seen a great light - Light is not only an emblem of knowledge in the Scriptures, but of joy, rejoicing, and deliverance. It stands opposed to moral darkness, and to times of judgment and calamity. What is the particular reference here, is not agreed by expositors. The immediate connection seems to require us to understand it of deliverance from the calamities that were impending over the nation then. They would be afflicted, but they would be delivered. The tribes of Israel would be carried captive away; and Judah would also be removed. This calamity would particularly affect the ten tribes of Israel - the northern part of the land, the regions of Galilee - "for those tribes would be carried away not to return." Yet this region also would be favored with a especially striking manifestation of light. I see no reason to doubt that the language of the prophet here is adapted to extend into that future period when the Messiah should come to that dark region, and become both its light and its deliverer. Isaiah may have referred to the immediate deliverance of the nation from impending calamities, but there is a fullness and richness of the language that seems to be applicable only to the Messiah. So it is evidently understood in Matthew 4:13-16.

They that dwell - The same people are referred to here as in the former member of the verse.

In the land of the shadow of death - This is a most beautiful expression, and is special to the Hebrew poets. The word צלמות tsalmâveth, is exceedingly poetical. The idea is that of death, as a dark substance or being, casting a long and chilly shade over the land - standing between the land and the light - and thus becoming the image of ignorance, misery, and calamity. It is often used, in the Scriptures, to describe those regions that were lying as it were in the penumbra of this gloomy object, and exposed to all the chills and sorrows of this melancholy darkness. Death, by the Hebrews, was especially represented as extending his long and baleful shadow ever the regions of departed spirits; Job 38:17 :

Have the gates of death been opened to thee?

Hast thou seen the gates of the shadow of death?

Before I go - I shall not return -

To the land of darkness

And of the shadow of death.

The people that walked in darkness,.... Meaning not the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem, in the times of Hezekiah, when Sennacherib besieged them, as Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it; and much less the people of Israel in Egypt, as the Targum paraphrases it; but the inhabitants of Galilee in the times of Christ; see Matthew 4:16, John 1:48 and is a true character of all the people of God before conversion, who are in a state of darkness, under the power of sin, shut up in unbelief; are in gross ignorance of themselves, and their condition; of sin, and the danger they are exposed to by it; of divine and spiritual things; of the grace of God; of the way of peace, life, and salvation by Christ; and of the work of the blessed Spirit; and of the truths of the Gospel; they are in the dark, and can see no objects in a spiritual sense; not to read the word, so as to understand it; or to work that which is good; and they "walk" on in darkness, not knowing where they are, and whither they are going; and yet of these it is said, they

have seen a great light; Christ himself, who conversed among the Galilaeans, preached unto them, and caused the light of his glorious Gospel to shine into many of their hearts; by which their darkness was removed, so that they not only saw Christ, this great light, with their bodily eyes, but with the eyes of their understanding; who may be called the "light", because he is the author and giver of all light, even of nature, grace, and glory; and a "great" one, because he is the sun, the greatest light, the sun of righteousness, the light of the world, both of Jews and Gentiles; he is the true light, in distinction from all typical ones, and in opposition to all false ones, and who in his person is God over all.

They that dwell in the land of the shadow of death; as Galilee might be called, because it was a poor, miserable, and uncomfortable place, from whence no good came; and this character fitly describes God's people in a state of nature and unregeneracy, who are dead in Adam, dead in law, and dead in trespasses and sins, dead as to the spiritual use of the powers and faculties of their souls; they have no spiritual life in them, nor any spiritual sense, feeling, or motion; and they "dwell", continue, and abide in this state, till grace brings them out of it; see John 12:46,

upon them hath the light shined: Christ in human nature, through the ministration of his Gospel, by his spirit, so as to enlighten them who walk in darkness, and to quicken them who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, and to comfort them in their desolate estate; and this light not only shone upon them in the external ministration of the word, as it did "upon" the inhabitants in general, but it shone "into" the hearts of many of them in particular, so that in this light they saw light.

The people that {d} walked in darkness have seen a great {e} light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the {f} light shined.

(d) Which were in captivity in Babylon and the prophets speaks of that thing which would come to pass 60 years later as though it were now done.

(e) Meaning, the comfort of their deliverance.

(f) This captivity and deliverance were figures of our captivity by sin and of our deliverance by Christ through the preaching of the Gospel, Mt 4:15,16.

His home was the future, and to this he was subservient, even with all his house. "Behold, I and the children which Jehovah hath given me for signs and types in Israel, from Jehovah of hosts, who dwelleth upon Mount Zion." He presents himself to the Lord with his children, puts himself and them into His hands. They were Jehovah's gift, and that for a higher purpose than every-day family enjoyment. They subserved the purpose of signs and types in connection with the history of salvation. "Signs and types:" 'oth (sign) was an omen or prognostic (σημεῖον) in word and deed, which pointed to and was the pledge of something future (whether it were in itself miraculous or natural); mopheth was either something miraculous (τέρας) pointing back to a supernatural cause, or a type (τύπος, prodigium equals porridigium) which pointed beyond itself to something future and concealed, literally twisted round, i.e., out of the ordinary course, paradoxical, striking, standing out (Arab. aft, ift, res mira, δεινόν τι), from אפת (related to הפך, אבך) equals מאפת, like מוסר equals מאסר. His children were signs and enigmatical symbols of the future, and that from Jehovah of hosts who dwelt on Zion. In accordance with His counsel (to which the עם in מעם points), He had selected these signs and types: He who could bring to pass the future, which they set forth, as surely as He was Jehovah of hosts, and who would bring it to pass as surely as He had chosen Mount Zion for the scene of His gracious presence upon earth. Shear-yashub and Mahershalal were indeed no less symbols of future wrath than of future grace; but the name of the father (Yesha'hâhu) was an assurance that all the future would issue from Jehovah's salvation, and end in the same. Isaiah and his children were figures and emblems of redemption, opening a way for itself through judgment. The Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 2:13) quotes these words as the distinct words of Jesus, because the spirit of Jesus was in Isaiah - the spirit of Jesus, which in the midst of this holy family, bound together as it was only to the bands of "the shadow," pointed forward to that church of the New Testament which would be found together by the bands of the true substance. Isaiah, his children, and his wife, who is called "the prophetess" (nebi'ah) not only because she was the wife of the prophet but because she herself possessed the gift of prophecy, and all the believing disciples gathered round this family - these together formed the stock of the church of the Messianic future, on the foundation and soil of the existing massa perdita of Israel.
2. the people—the whole nation, Judah and Israel.

shadow of death—the darkest misery of captivity.

Dimness "Accumulated darkness" - Either מנדחה menuddechah, fem. to agree with אפלה aphelah; or אפל המנדח aphel hammenuddach, alluding perhaps to the palpable Egyptian darkness, Exodus 10:21.

The land of Zebulun - Zebulun, Naphtali, Manasseh, that is, the country of Galilee all round the sea of Gennesareth, were the parts that principally suffered in the first Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-pileser; see 2 Kings 15:29; 1 Chronicles 5:26. And they were the first that enjoyed the blessings of Christ's preaching the Gospel, and exhibiting his miraculous works among them. See Mede's Works, p. 101, and 457. This, which makes the twenty-third verse of chap. 8 in the Hebrew, is the first verse in chap. 9 in our authorized version. Bishop Lowth follows the division in the Hebrew.

9:2 The people - Israel and Judah. Darkness - The expression is general and so may well comprehend both calamity and ignorance, idolatry and profaneness, in which those parts were eminently involved. Have seen - Shall see at the coming of the Messiah.
Isaiah 9:1
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