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Isaiah 26:1–6 A Song about a “Strong City” Versus the “Lofty Town”
This song, sung by the Lord’s covenant people, contrasts two unique cities—a “strong city” and a “lofty town.” The singers address the Lord directly in verses 2–3; He is the chief focus of the song. The strong city is not typical because its walls and rampart are not made of stone and mortar; rather, the Lord makes them “salvation” (26:1). This means that the Lord, who is called “Salvation” (12:2), is symbolically its walls and rampart—He saves or protects the city and its inhabitants. The “strong city” symbolizes Zion, “the righteous nation” that “keeps faith” and enters the city (26:2). The “lofty town” is none other than Babylon, or, the dwelling of the proud and wicked (in any generation and place). The Lord will bring it, and its inhabitants, down; He will lay it low, even to the dust (26:4–6).
In that day. This expression harks back to 25:9; “And it will be said on that day.” land of Judah. The land of the Jews.
Your gates. DSS Isaiah has the personal pronoun “Your,” which refers to the Lord. It is His city and His gates. Inasmuch as the gates belong to Him, He allows the “righteous nation, which keeps faith” to enter in. The righteous nation refers to God’s covenant people, who obey His commandments.
in perfect peace. Inhabitants of the city will enjoy “perfect peace” (the literal reading of the Hebrew is “peace, peace,” for example, shalom, shalom) because the Lord is the Protector of it (remember, He is its walls and rampart).
Lord is the Everlasting Rock. The implication here is that the city is founded or built on a rock—not any rock, however, its foundation is the Lord, “the Everlasting Rock.”
The singers emphasize the Lord’s debasement of “those who dwell on high” and “the lofty town”; they sing, “He has brought low,” “He lays it low” (twice), “He casts it to the dust.” lofty town. “The lofty town” is Babylon, the city of worldliness, or any city in which the wicked dwell. “Lofty” refers to its pride and arrogance. God will bring down the lofty town and its people: “He lays her low” (stated twice), and “He casts it to the ground.”
The debasement of the lofty town continues because the footsteps of the poor and needy trample it. The words “ground” and “dust” emphasize the the mortal nature of the proud, who were created from the dust.
Isaiah 26:7–18 A Prayer about the Lord’s Judgments
This prayer, which addresses the Lord directly—“O Lord” appears seven times (once as “O Lord, our God”)—consists of three parts: verses 7–8 are expressed by the Lord’s covenant people (note the use of the plural “we”); verses 9–11 are uttered by an unnamed individual, as indicated by the singular pronouns “my” and “I”; and verses 12–18 are again professed by the Lord’s covenant people. The Lord’s judgments, grace, and peace are major themes in the prayer.
way/path of the righteous. The covenant path, which leads us to God’s presence. In other scriptural passages, we are to make the Lord’s paths straight (40:3; Doctrine and Covenants 33:10; 65:1; 45:2), but in the present passage the Lord makes the path “level” (or easier) for us.
when Your judgments are on the earth, the inhabitants . . . learn righteousness. God’s judgments serve two major purposes: to halt the evil deeds of the wicked and to humble the wicked so that they will turn to God and “learn righteousness.” However, some of the wicked do not repent and “do not learn righteousness.” land of uprightness. Where the righteous dwell.
O Lord, Your hand is lifted up. In covenant or in judgment.
lords . . . have ruled over us. Wicked leaders and foreign rulers have dominated God’s people over many centuries. But, “they are dead; they live no more.” God has “punished . . . and destroyed them” and “made all memory of them to perish.” Indeed, how many of us can name more than a handful of the evil, foreign rulers of the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Babylonians that dominated God’s people?
You have increased the nation. Twice repeated for emphasis. On the one hand, God destroys the wicked (26:14), but on the other, He increases His people, in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 13:16; 15:5; 17:2). You have extended all the boundaries. See Isaiah 54:1–3.
Like a woman with child when she is about to give birth. God’s covenant people compared themselves to a pregnant woman who was about to give birth. She suffers the birth pangs and cries out in pain. But in the end, she does not give birth to a child, but “it is though [she has] given birth to wind,” or nothing.
We have not brought salvation . . . inhabitants, . . . have not come to life. God had commanded His covenant people, as part of the Abrahamic covenant, “to bear [His] ministry and Priesthood unto all nations” (Abraham 2:9; see also 1:19). But they, at that point in time, had failed to do so. They had not “brought salvation” to earth’s inhabitants so that they did not “come to life,” speaking spiritually.
Isaiah 26:19–21 The Lord Responds to Israel’s Prayer and Promises the Resurrection
The Lord’s covenant people prayed to the Lord in the previous section, contemplating His righteous judgments (26:7–18). Here the Lord responds to that prayer with a promise of the Resurrection, which is an ultimate assertion of safety from devastation. The Lord’s promise is clearly stated: “Your dead will live; their bodies will rise” (26:19).
Awake and sing gladly, O you who dwell in the dust. Two commands are given to the dead (those “who dwell in the dust”)—“awake” and “sing gladly.” The Resurrection is an astounding blessing, so astounding that we will “sing gladly” at the Resurrection. Joseph Smith also prophesied, “And the graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb . . . and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:56; emphasis added). For your dew is a dew of lights. “dew of lights,” a literal translation from the Hebrew tal ’orot, is a poetic expression that beautifully compares the glistening light on the morning dew to the Resurrection. the earth will cast out the dead. The earth itself will yield the dead who are buried in it.
Go, My people, enter your chambers and shut your doors behind you. The Lord commands His people to hide in their chambers while He destroys the wicked (see verse 21). The shut doors call to mind Noah’s family, shut in the ark until the destructive floods had passed (Genesis 7:1, 16); the shut doors also recall the Passover, when the people of Israel remained within their homes while the angel destroyed Egypt’s firstborn (Exodus 12:21–27). “Chambers” may be symbolic, referring to our homes, or to our temples, which are spiritual places of refuge.
Lord is coming forth out of His place. The Lord will come forth from His Temple in Heaven to cleanse the world of sin. the earth will reveal the bloodshed upon it. The blood of the innocent, speaking figuratively, has long called out from the earth for vengeance (Genesis 4:10; Job 16:18; Ezekiel 24:7–8).
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