Home > Book of Isaiah, Heavenly Jerusalem > J. A. Alexander’s comments on Isaiah 2:2-4

J. A. Alexander’s comments on Isaiah 2:2-4

January 18, 2012

In his comments on Isaiah 2:2-4, J. A. Alexander acknowledged that the mountain of the Lord’s house represents the church, but he did not connect Isaiah’s prophecy of Jerusalem and mount Zion being raised up to attain the heavenly status assigned to them in the New Testament.

Isaiah said:

Isaiah 2:2
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

In his introductory comments to chapter 2 Alexander wrote: [1]

After a title similar to that in ch. 1:1, the Prophet sees the church, at some distant period, exalted and conspicuous, and the nations resorting to it for instruction in the true religion, as a consequence of which he sees war cease and universal peace prevail, vs. 2-4.

On verse 2 he commented: [2]

2. The prophecy begins with an abrupt prediction of the exaltation of the church, the confluence of nations to it, and a general pacification as the consequence, vs. 2-4. In this verse the Prophet sees the church permanently placed in a conspicuous position, so as to be a source of attraction to surrounding nations. To express this idea, he makes use of terms which are strictly applicable only to the local habitation of the church under the old economy. Instead of saying, in modern phraseology, that the church, as a society, shall become conspicuous and attract all nations, he represents the mountain upon which the temple stood as being raised and fixed above the other mountains, so as to be visible in all directions. And it shall be (happen, come to pass, a prefatory formula of constant use in prophecy) in the end (or latter part) of the days (i. e. hereafter) the mountain of Jehovah’s house (i. e. mount Zion, in the widest sense, including mount Moriah where the temple stood) shall be established (permanently fixed) in the head of the mountains (i. e. above them), and exalted from (away from and by implication more than or higher than) the hills (a poetical equivalent to mountains), and the nations shall flow unto it. It was not to be established on the top of the mountains, but either at the head or simply high among the mountains, which idea is expressed by other words in the parallel clause. and by the same words in 1 Kings 21:10, 12. The verb in the last clause is always used to signify a confluence of nations.

Alexander identified the mountain of the Lord’s house with the church. Mount Zion, where the temple stood, became a symbol of it. The symbolic meaning of mountains was revealed when Jacob blessed his son Joseph, to whom he gave the famous coat of many colors. In his blessing, Jacob said, “The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” [Genesis 49:26]

The blessings Jacob received were high, and lofty, because they were spiritual in nature, and they were also durable and eternal, like the “everlasting hills” of the land of promise. This suggests the mountains in Isaiah’s prophecy may represent blessings or promises. The kingdom of God, the mountain of the Lord’s house, is foremost among the prophecies and promises of the Bible, and it is higher than any earthly mountain, as its location is heaven. Paul said that believers “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” [Ephesians 2:6]

Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 2:3
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Alexander commented: [3]

3. This confluence of nations is described more fully, and its motive stated in their own words, namely, a desire to be instructed in the true religion, of which Jerusalem or Zion, under the old dispensation, was the sole depository. And many nations shall go (set out, put themselves in motion) and shall say (to one another), Go ye (as a formula of exhortation, where the English idiom requires come), and we will ascend (or let us ascend, for which the Hebrew has no other form) to the mountain of Jehovah (where his house is, where he dwells), to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways (the ways in which he requires us to walk), and we will go in his paths (a synonymous expression). For out of Zion shall go forth law (the true religion, as a rule of duty), and the word of Jehovah (the true religion as a revelation) from Jerusalem. These last words may be either the words of the gentiles, telling why they looked to Zion as a source of saving knowledge, or the words of the Prophet, telling why the truth must be thus diffused, namely, because it had been given to the church for this very purpose. The common version many people conveys to a modern ear the wrong sense many persons, and was only used for want of such a plural form as peoples, which, though employed by Lowth and others, has never become current, and was certainly not so when the Bible was translated, as appears from the circumlocution used instead of it in Gen. 25:23. The plural form is here essential to the meaning. Go is not here used as the opposite of come, but as denoting active motion. The word ascend is not used in reference to an alleged Jewish notion that the Holy Land was physically higher than all other countries, nor simply to the natural site of Jerusalem, nor even to its moral elevation as the seat of the true religion, but to the new elevation and conspicuous position just ascribed to it. The subjunctive construction that he may teach is rather paraphrastical and exegetical than simply expressive of the sense of the original, which implies hope as well as purpose.

The Jerusalem from which the living waters flow to the rest of the world is the heavenly one. In the New Testament, Jerusalem has been raised up to heaven. The mountain of the Lord’s house means the promise of the Lord’s house, or the promised kingdom of God. Those who have the Spirit of Christ are part of God’s family. When Jesus was raised up, Jerusalem was raised up too. Mount Zion, the true temple, represents the church. [Ephesians 2:20] In Hebrews, all the saints are come to the heavenly Jerusalem. [Hebrews 12:22-24]

Isaiah wrote:

Isaiah 2:4
And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Alexander commented: [4]

4. He who appeared in the preceding verses as the lawgiver and teacher of the nations, is now represented as an arbiter or umpire, ending their disputes by a pacific intervention, as a necessary consequence of which war ceases, the very knowledge of the art is lost, and its implements applied to other uses. This prediction was not fulfilled in the general peace under Augustus, which was only temporary; nor is it now fulfilled. The event is suspended on a previous condition, viz. the confluence of the nations to the church, which has not yet taken place; a strong inducement to diffuse the gospel, which, in the meantime, is peaceful in its spirit, tendency, and actual effect, wherever and so far as it exerts its influence without obstruction. And he shall judge (or arbitrate) between the nations, and decide for (or respecting) many peoples. And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning-hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. The whole idea meant to be expressed is the conversion of martial weapons into implements of husbandry. Hook, in old English, is a crooked knife, such as a sickle, which is not however here meant, but a knife for pruning vines. Not learning war is something more than not continuing to practise it, and signifies their ceasing to know how to practise it. To judge is here not to rule which is too vague, nor to punish which is too specific, but to arbitrate or act as umpire, as appears from the effect described, and also from the use of the preposition, meaning not merely among, with reference to the sphere of jurisdiction, but between, with reference to contending parties.

Paul said the saints will judge the world. “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” [1 Corinthians 6:2] This is evidently the time described in Isaiah 2:4.

References

1. J. A. Alexander, Isaiah translated and explained, Volume 1. John Wiley, NY. 1851. p. 36.
2. Ibid., p. 38.
3. Ibid., pp. 39-40.
4. Ibid., pp. 40-41.

 

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