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Exaltation of the Afflicted The Good News of Salvation The Mission to Zion The Good News of Deliverance
A Prophet's Mission

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Bible Interpretation Seminar")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

  1. First paragraph
  2. Second paragraph
  3. Third paragraph, etc.


A. Isaiah 60 describes the end result, while Isaiah 61 describes the means of God's blessing.


B. Jesus uses this passage of Himself in Luke 4:16-21; 7:18-23. Because of this, this passage must be Messianic (i.e., the Servant).


C. The Spirit of the Lord here is obviously analogous (i.e., foreshadowing) to the Spirit in the NT Trinitarian sense.

1. Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible

2. Special Topic: The Trinity

3. Special Topic: The Personhood of the Spirit


D. It is obvious that this is an example of a local historical situation in the life of Israel being used to depict future events in the time of the Messiah (i.e., typology). See Special Topic: Messiah.



1The 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;
2To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3To 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.

61:1-3 Notice the series of infinitive constructs in Isa. 61:1-3 that describe the Messiah's task.

  1. to bring good news to the afflicted ‒ Piel, BDB 142, KB 163
  2. to proclaim liberty to captives ‒ Qal, BDB 894, KB 1128
  3. to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord ‒ same as #2
  4. to comfort all who mourn ‒ Piel BDB 636, KB 688
  5. to grant those who mourn in Zion a garland instead of ashes
    1. grant ‒ Qal, BDB 962, KB 1321
    2. give ‒ Qal BDB 678, KB 733
  6. another infinitive construct but directed towards the Messiah, Himself ‒ "that He may be glorified" ‒ Hithpael, BDB 802, KB 908

61:1 "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me" This occurred visibly in Jesus' life at His baptism (cf. Isa. 11:1-2; 42:1; Matt. 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21,22; John 1:31-34), but the Spirit had always been with Jesus.

Special Topic: The Personhood of the Spirit

Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible

▣ "anointed" This is the same word meaning "Messiah" (BDB 602, see Special Topic: Messiah) or the Anointed One. This was a sign of God's unique blessing and equipping for a task (cf. Ps. 23:5). In the OT prophets, priests, and kings were anointed as a symbolic act of God's unique presence and call upon their lives. From this John Calvin derived his threefold category for describing Christ's ministry as prophet, priest, and king (cf. Heb. 1:2-3).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Anointing in the Bible (BDB 603)

▣ "To bring good news to the afflicted" The Messiah's message will be one of hope and forgiveness to the outcast, ostracized, and socially oppressed (cf. Isa. 35:5-6).

61:2 "the favorable year of the Lord" This is an allusion to the Year of Jubilee (cf. Lev. 25:10). This was a year of release from all debts and a return of all lands to the original owners every fifty years. There is not one example in the OT that this was ever historically enacted.

Special Topic: Feasts of Israel

▣ "the day of vengeance of our God" It is significant to notice that the favorable year and the day of vengeance occur at the same time. To those who know God in the Messiah, it is a day of reward. To those who do not know our Christ, it is a day of judgment and great sorrow. There must be bad news before there is good news! (cf. Romans 1-3).

Special Topic: Judgment in the NT

▣ "comfort" See Special Topic: Comfort

61:3 Notice the contrasts (i.e., "instead").

  1. a garland instead of ashes
  2. oil of gladness instead of mourning
  3. the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting

Also notice the same contrast in Isa. 61:7.

  1. double portion instead of shame
  2. shout of joy instead of humiliation

▣ "garland. . .ashes" These are examples of types of things put on the head (cf. Ezek. 24:17).

▣ "The oil of gladness" The ancients lacked the availability of makeup, therefore, to prepare themselves for times of joy and festival, they anointed themselves with olive oil (cf. Ps. 45:7).

▣ "The mantle of praise" Here is an OT example of clothing used as a metaphor for attitude and spiritual position.

▣ "oaks of righteousness. . .The planting of the Lord" In Psalm 1 it refers to God's initiating love and ongoing support and provision (cf. Jer. 17:7-8). Here it refers to the Messiah (cf. Isa. 60:1-2).

4Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins,
They will raise up the former devastations;
And they will repair the ruined cities,
The desolations of many generations.
5Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,
And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.
6But you will be called the priests of the Lord;
You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.
You will eat the wealth of nations,
And in their riches you will boast.
7Instead of your shame you will have a double portion,
And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion.
Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land,
Everlasting joy will be theirs.
8For I, the Lord , love justice,
I hate robbery in the burnt offering;
And I will faithfully give them their recompense
And make an everlasting covenant with them.
9Then their offspring will be known among the nations,
And their descendants in the midst of the peoples.
All who see them will recognize them
Because they are the offspring whom the Lord has blessed.

61:4 "they will rebuild the ancient ruins" It is hard for a non-Jew to imagine the intensity of the feeling that is connected with the Promised Land (cf. Isa. 49:8; 58:12; 60:10).

This verse lists several things the one set free will do.

  1. rebuild the ancient ruins
  2. raise up the former devastations
  3. repair the ruined cities

The last line of Isa. 61:4 shows that the author is addressing those returning from Mesopotamian exile.

Special Topic: Forever ('olam)

61:5 Verse 5 continues the theme of foreigners coming to Jerusalem with gifts and service, to worship the God of Israel.

From NT revelation we now know that this refers to the new covenant in Christ available for all through repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21)!

I interpret the OT promises to national Israel as multiple fulfillment prophecies. They were never fulfilled in Israel's history because of their sin and rebellion. They only find fulfilment in Christ.

Special Topic: Why are End-time Events so Controversial?

61:6 "you will be called the priests of the Lord" Israel was meant to be a nation of priests, now they will be! Peter uses this very same phrase to describe the church in 1 Pet. 2:5,9 (cf. Exod. 19:56-6; also see the usage in Rev. 1:6).

61:7 "double portion" This seems to refer to the inheritance of the eldest son in the inheritance structure of ancient Israel (cf. Deut 21:17). As Israel had a double portion of YHWH's wrath (cf. Isa. 40:2), now a double reward.

▣ "Everlasting joy will be theirs" This same wonderful promise is found in Ps. 16:11. The question is when will this happen.

  1. it did not happen to the returnees from Mesopotanian exile
  2. it did not happen to the Jews under Greece or Rome
  3. the future then
    1. Israel after the Messiah comes
    2. the church
    3. the millennium
    4. restored Garden of Eden

This is ancient, inspired poetry! It does not address all the modern questions. It is best to take the central meaning of the strophe and view it through NT revelation!

61:8 "For I, the Lord, love justice" YHWH is an ethical, moral being. He demands ethical, moral actions from His people!

Note His listed characteristics.

  1. loves justice
  2. hates robbery in sacrifices (i.e. burnt offerings)

Other wonderful texts that describe YHWH's character are Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; 103:8-14; 145:8-9!

Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God

▣ "in burnt offerings" The Septuagint and possibly some variations of the Masoretic Text have "with iniquity" (same consonants). The UBS Text Project gives the sacrificial phrase a "B" rating (some doubt), p.156.

▣ "I will. . .make an everlasting covenant with them" The Jews continually broke the first covenant, as a reading of I and 2 Kings and I and 2 Chr. will show. Because of this, God finally allowed the Covenant to be terminated (His Spirit leaving the temple; Fall of Jerusalem). The purpose of this termination was the beginning of a new covenant with even greater spiritual significance (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38).

Special Topic: Forever ('olam)

Special Topic: Covenant

61:9 Here is another reference to Israel as a sign and message (i.e., a light, cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; Acts 13:47) about the nature of God to other nations.

10I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
And as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up,
So the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
To spring up before all the nations.

61:10 "I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,

My soul will exult in my God"

This verse could refer to the Messiah or the nation (cf. Isa. 12:1-2; 25:9; 41:16) rejoicing in YHWH's provision. The AB suggests that this chapter has three speakers.

  1. the prophet, Isa. 61:1-7 (possibly the Servant)
  2. YHWH, Isa. 61:8-9
  3. personified Zion, Isa. 61:10-11 (p. 181)

This shows the ambiguity of these poems as to speakers and recipients (i.e., period of time). Many commentators think 61:1-3 is a fifth Servant Song.

I think Isa. 61:10-11 are the restored and redeemed humanity (cf. Gen. 3:15), which is described in Eph. 2:11-3:13; Romans 9-11.

The verbal phrase, "I will rejoice greatly," is a Qal infinitive absolute and a Qal imperfect verb of the same root (BDB 965, KB 1314). It was a Hebraic grammatical way of showing intensity.

The next line is parallel and the verb "exalt" is a Qal jussive (BDB 162, KB 189).

Special Topic: Hebrew Grammar

▣ "He has clothed me with garments of salvation" Here is an example of the joy of a wedding feast used as a metaphor for the spiritual joy of knowing God. This metaphor is extended to the NT to refer to believers as having Christ's robes of righteousness (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21).

61:11 See Isa. 40:8 and 55:10-11.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. If this refers to the Messiah, why is it phrased in such nationalistic terms?

2. Define the term Messiah.

3. In what sense and to what purpose are the Jews a kingdom of priests?

4. Why did God break His first everlasting covenant with the Jewish nation?

5. Why is the use of a clothing metaphor in Isa. 61:10 so significant? How is it used in the NT for the believer standing before God?


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