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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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ISAIAH 4

Isa. 4:1-6

And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name; take thou away our reproach.

"In that day shall the branch of Jehovah be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem shall be called holy, even everyone that is written among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of justice, and by the spirit of burning. And Jehovah will create over the whole habitation of mount Zion, and over her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flame of fire by night; for over all the glory shall be spread a covering. And there shall be a pavilion for a shade in the day-time from the heat, and for a refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain."

Isa. 4:1 is joined to Isa. 3 in most versions of the Bible, because it is further prophecy of the ruin of the chosen people. What is meant is that at the time of fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, men shall be so scarce, having been slain in war, that seven women desiring to have children to take away their reproach would offer to eat their own bread and provide their own clothing, if only the available man would have children by them and thus take their reproach away. Every Jewish woman considered childlessness the most terrible earthly reproach.

"The general tenor of this chapter, in its context, is that salvation lies on the far side of judgment. Israel's glory must be that of new growth after destruction, and of holiness after a fiery cleansing, and of God's `Shekinah' -- His manifested presence, as in the Exodus days."F1

Isa. 4:5 here recalls the days during Israel's wilderness wanderings when the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night were constant witnesses of the presence and power of God to protect his people.

Isa. 4:2 in this chapter mentions "the Branch of Jehovah," using exactly the same word that is found in Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; and Zech. 6:12, where in every instance the plain reference is to the Messiah; and it is our firm conviction that there is no reason to drop the capital letter and downgrade this reference to the fertility of the land or to anything else. We are aware, of course, of the radically conflicting views of commentators on this; and we shall note each position.

Kidner has this:

"Branch is a misleading term for `the shoot of new growth' which is paralleled by `the fruit of the land.' The point is that Israel must be reborn: from her roots a new crop must spring up when judgment has removed all her present glory and all but a few survivors. It is the renewed community that is in mind at this point; later, it will emerge that One Man will be this new growth."F2

We acknowledge that many commentators follow this line, thus editing out of the sacred Old Testament another plain reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is what is wrong with the viewpoint: (1) We do not allow that Kidner, or any other scholar, has the right to belittle the words of the sacred prophets as "misleading." It is the inaccurate opinion of alleged scholars that is misleading. (2) The Branch is here represented as springing up out of the ground, whereas, Isaiah noted this Branch was to be a "Branch of Jehovah," not a branch of the roots in the Old Israel, nor a branch out of the ground, but a "Branch of Jehovah!" Furthermore, in all the history of the human family, who else? pray tell, was ever a legitimate "Branch of Jehovah" except the Lord Jesus Christ? (3) Also, note the ridiculous postulation here that "Israel is to be reborn from her roots!" Contrast that impossible proposition with the statement of Jesus Christ that men must be born "from above" (John 3:3 ASV).

We are delighted that Gleason L. Archer has properly discerned the true meaning of the word "Branch" in Isa. 4:2 --

"`The Branch of Jehovah' (American Standard Version) refers to Christ himself, as the descendant of the promised line of David. The same word, literally sprout is used with reference to Messiah in Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; and Zech. 6:12...Note that the ultimate prosperity is promised only to the escaped of Israel, although the nation as a whole must be rejected for disobedience. Only those who have been sanctified by the new birth, and inwardly transformed to mirror forth Christ's holiness will be enrolled as citizens in the spiritual Jerusalem."F3

That this is indeed the true meaning of the passage is indicated in what immediately follows in Isa. 5, where it is revealed that the Old Israel, the vineyard of the Lord, is no true vine at all, but a corrupt or degenerate vine, carrying the simple meaning that no "sprout" from that evil vine could be the Branch spoken of here. All of this becomes crystal clear in the light of Jesus' teaching in John 15:1ff. Jesus alone is the "true vine," the new sprout, not off the old vine, but from God Himself as given to men in the person of God's Son, Jesus Christ.

There is also a contrast in this short chapter (Isa. 4) between the "filth of the daughters of Zion" and the glorious beauty that shall pertain to the glorified remnant of Israel in the new kingdom of Messiah.


Footnotes for Isaiah 4
1: Derek Kidner, New Bible Commentary Revised, p. 593,
2: Ibid., p. 594.
3: Gleason L. Archer, Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 615.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=isa&chapter=004>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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