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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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ISAIAH 12

This chapter is composed of a beautiful song of thanksgiving. The closing verses of the previous chapter had made what is probably a symbolical mention of the deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage by their passage over the Red Sea by the hand of God. Of course there was a song of thanksgiving, the Song of Moses and of Miriam (Exodus 15:1-27). This song seems to have been prompted by that previous deliverance; for in some ways this song resembles the first. Certainly the deliverance celebrated in this chapter is just as important as that first one and even more comprehensive, because this is the great deliverance from sin that comes to God's people under the New Covenant, as certified by the words,"in that day," standing at the head of the chapter.

Commentators have expressed widely different opinions on who the singers are who will sing this wonderful song. Archer believed that, "(This is) the song of Millennial believers (to be) realized at the end of human history."F1 Peake thought, "They are the redeemed of Israel."F2 Jamieson titled this chapter, "Thanksgiving hymn of the Restored and Converted Jews."F3 Rawlinson called it, "The Song of Thanksgiving of the United Church."F4 Our conviction is that Homer Hailey's analysis of this is correct. He wrote:

"The opening phrase, in that day, identifies what follows with the redemption of the remnant...This is the blessing of the redeemed; sin has been forgiven ... Jehovah is recognized and praised as the source of salvation."F5

Whenever any Biblical passage indicates that God's people are forgiven, as is clearly the case here, it is invariably an indication that the era of the New Covenant is being spoken of, since "forgiveness" is the unique blessing of that New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-35). Under the Old Covenant, sins were remembered over and over again year by year, not absolutely forgiven until the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In addition, the observation of Lowth on this is undeniably true: "This hymn by its whole tenor, and by many expressions in it, seems to be much better calculated for the use of the Christian church, than for the Jewish in any circumstances, either then or at any time that can be assigned. The Jews themselves seem to have applied it to the times of Messiah."F6

Isa. 12:1-6


 
Verses 1-6
And in that day thou shalt say, I will give thanks unto thee, O Jehovah; for though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away and thou comfortest me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for Jehovah, [even] Jehovah, is my strength and song; and he is become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Give thanks unto Jehovah, call upon his name, declare his doings among the peoples, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto Jehovah; for he hath done excellent things: let this be known in all the earth. Cry aloud and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great in the midst of thee is the Holy One of Israel.

In 1924 and for some time previously, critical commentators arrogantly rejected this song as having any right to be in Isaiah at all. Typical of what critics were saying at that time is this blunt, unsupported assertion by Peake, "This is a late appendix."F7 However, by 1937, such assertions had lost their appeal to most scholars. Dummelow, for example, wrote, "Some scholars doubt its Isaianic authorship and date it after the return from the exile."F8 What a difference! In 1924 the radical critics were proclaiming their denials as the gospel truth; but in Dummelow's period such denials were relegated to a far lesser status, being merely what "some scholars" alleged.

However, the advance beyond those radical denials so characteristic of the first half of this century is illustrated by this quotation from Payne:

"The prophet seeks to reassure the inhabitants of Zion and instill into his fellow citizens his own confident faith in the Holy One of Israel. With this phrase, so characteristic of Isaiah, the section is brought to an end."F9

Marvelous! Payne writing only recently did not even mention the former position of critics, but completely ignored them as he should have done. We truly believe that, as time passes, discerning commentators will more and more stop wasting their time by repeating, and discussing the allegations of unbelievers. A great many faithful and discerning scholars today are doing that very thing. Homer Hailey should be added to this list already.

The last three verses here carry repeated instructions to God's people of all ages: (1) give thanks to Jehovah; (2) call upon his name; (3) declare his doings among the people; (4) make mention that his name is exalted; (5) sing unto Jehovah; (6) God hath done excellent things; let this be known in all the earth; (7) Cry aloud and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great in the midst of thee is the Holy One of Israel.

All of this adds up to an elaboration of the Biblical injunction, "Let the redeemed of Jehovah say so" (Psalms 107:2).

The Messianic import of the chapter is further indicated by the expression, "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." On the great day (the last day) of the feast of tabernacles, there was a ceremony connected with drawing water from the Pool of Siloam in a golden pitcher and pouring it upon the sacrifices that day with great rejoicing. Obviously the text in the hymn does not apply to anything ordained in the Law of Moses. And what is said here "can hardly be understood of any benefits provided by the Mosaic dispensation. Our Saviour applied Isaiah's words here to himself and to the effusion of the Holy Spirit" (John 7:37ff).F10

This brings us to the conclusion of the first great division of Isaiah's prophecy; and in these brief chapters there has emerged the great majority of the themes that Isaiah will discuss throughout the book, "line upon line, here a little and there a little" as noted in the introduction. Such things as the apostasy of Israel, their rejection as the chosen people, the ruin and captivity of Israel, the return of a remnant, God's judgments upon wicked nations, the salvation of an obedient remnant, the accomplishment of that redemption by the hand of Immanuel (the Messiah), the coming of the Messiah through the Davidic line, the virgin birth of Messiah, the Messiah's character, his endowment, his ability, the nature of God's kingdom, the calling of the Gentiles and their reception into God's fellowship and kingdom along with a remnant of the Jews, etc. etc.

(The End of Division I)


Footnotes for Isaiah 12
1: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 621.
2: Peake's Commentary Series, p. 445.
3: Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary, p. 444.
4: The Pulpit Commentary, p. 218.
5: Homer Hailey, p. 126.
6: Robert Lowth's Commentary, p. 312.
7: Peake's Commentary Series, p. 444.
8: J. R. Dummelow's Commentary, p. 424.
9: The New Layman's Bible Commentary, p. 1780.
10: Robert Lowth's Commentary, p. 218.

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 12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=isa&chapter=012>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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