In this remarkable section of the Word of God we learn how Zion will be transformed by Yahweh. To emphasise the coming glory contrast after contrast is made with the past. These verses also provide us with significant pieces of the jigsaw that make up our vision of the coming Kingdom of God.

60:15–16 The transformed attitude of the nations to Zion

60:15 “Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency [rsv ‘I will make you majestic for ever’], a joy of many generations [rsv ‘a joy from age to age’].”

Verses 15 and 16 speak of the transformation of Zion by listing three items – “forsaken”, “hated” and “no man went through”; contrasted with and to be eclipsed by three dramatic changes – she will become an eternal excellency, a joy, and the source of nourishment and goodness of the Gentiles.

“Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated” The earliest mention of Zion’s people being forsaken was in Uzziah’s reign (2:6); this forsaking was the basis of complaint (49:14); but her fortunes will change and the time of her forsaking seem like a fleeting moment (54:7) in view of the mercies shown her. This verse builds on that assurance.

“I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations” In 1990 Jerusalem was proclaimed by the Israeli government to be the eternal undivided capital of Israel forever, a statement set against claims of the Palestinians who also want to make it their capital.

But what a different picture is presented here, when Christ sits upon the throne of David and rules over the tribes of Jacob and all nations forever! Indeed it shall be said, “Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion … the city of the great King” (Psa 48:2; Matt 5:35).

60:16 “Thou shalt also suck the milk of the Gentiles, and shalt suck the breast of kings: and thou shalt know that I Yahweh am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer [Heb goel], the mighty One [Heb abhir] of Jacob.”

This change in Zion’s relationship to the nations from being the off-scouring to the most favoured will be recognised in that day as attributable to Yahweh: His purpose expressed in His name will be realised (Mal 3:6; Jer 13:11; Exod 6:6–8).

“the mighty One [Heb abhir, ‘lofty one’] of Jacob” This title has special significance, being used to stress the fact that He is the One Who will not forsake His people in trouble but will save them, as so amply demonstrated in the life of Jacob (Gen 48:15–16). It is found six times in Scripture, in each case with the same significance (Gen 49:24; Psa 132:2, 5; Isa 1:24; 49:26; 60:16).

60:17–18 Further transformations in materials and leadership

“For brass I will bring gold, and for iron I will bring silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron: I will also make thy officers [rsv ‘overseers’] peace, and thine exactors [rsv ‘taskmasters’] righteousness.” “For brass I will bring gold, and for iron … silver”

Zion’s transformation is demonstrated by the use of the best quality building materials, giving the impression of abundant richness, transcending even the best ever seen before, even in Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 10:21, 27; cp Hag 2:9). Such superfine quality befits the King and the princes who will rule in righteousness.

“I will also make thy officers [rsv ‘overseers’] peace, and thine exactors [rsv ‘taskmasters’] righteousness” This is a huge change from what was the case in Manasseh’s reign when these words apparently were written (58:3,4, 6–8; 59:4–8). The word translated “exactors” is used of the Egyptian slavery (Exod 3:7). These echoes of past affliction serve to emphasise blessings of the coming age. Righteousness (justice) is the foundation for true peace: this in essence is what the new leaders are about (32:1,17,18), and the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, is King of Righteousness (Melchizedek) and King of Peace (Salem) (Heb 7:2).

60:18 “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise[speaking of Judah, 61:11].”

“Violence shall no more be heard” This is the result of the administration of righteousness and peace (v17), as in the promise to David (2 Sam 7:10; Ezek 34:23–31). There will be the abolition of all enemies and every force threatening disorder and devastation. But now hardly a day goes by without violence and threats.

“thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise” (mlb ‘thanksgiving’). Gates and walls provide safety, a refuge. Resulting from the new attitude of the nations to Zion (v5), there is the abandonment of all the old attitudes of defensiveness (walls and gates). Compare this with the wall built today to protect Israeli citizens from suicide bombers.

The blessedness and security of Messiah’s reign will evoke praise; there will be peace such as the world has not known; it will owe its existence to the King and his princes, the redeemed within the walls of Zion (26:1–4). Psalm 72 presents the same glorious picture of Eden restored (cp v2–7,12–20). From Yahweh to His people flows their every need; from them flows back an endless paeon of praise.

60:19–20 The Lamb and the Lord are Zion’s light

60:19 “The sun be shall no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee[rsv ‘by night’]: but Yahweh shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.

60:20 Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for Yahweh shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended.”

In graphic hyperbole Isaiah says the old physical forms of light are replaced by new spiritual light. Verse 19 is cited and interpreted in Revelation 21:23, “And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” Light is used as a metaphor for the understanding, the perception of wisdom; thus we speak of ‘enlightenment’. This finds its truest expression in the Word of God and in His Son (cp Psa 119:105; John 1:9; 8:12; Matt 4:16; Isa 9:1, 2): without the Father and Son there is only darkness and death.

There will be literal night and day in the Kingdom (v11; 4:5). But as natural light is essential for life and activity, so the Lord and the Lamb are essential to spiritual life.

The fluctuations of ‘night and day’ are past, due to the continuing divine presence bringing uninterrupted joy and praise. Mourning, so much part of the human experience now (61:3; Matt 5:4), especially inasmuch as our Lord is absent (Matt 9:15), will be a thing of the past for the saints. They will have transcended mortality, being made ‘like’ their Lord, their glory (1 John 3:1–2); and songs and everlasting joy shall be on their heads, sorrow and mourning having fled away (51:11). Notice how darkness and mourning are paired, as is the antithesis, light and joy.

60:21–22 Zion’s people, the work of Yahweh’s Hands

60:21 “Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified.”

Zion’s citizens, the saints, will “be all righteous”, not because of any works they have done but because they have been baptised into Christ, according to the commandment of God. The Servant’s work of dying unto Sin has destroyed its power: “by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify [make righteous] many” (53:11). The reward is the blessing promised Abraham and his seed, to inherit the land forever, as immortals (Gen 13:15; Matt 5:5; Psa 37:9–11).

The redeemed are not self-made but the result of the Lord’s work in their lives. They have been called by Him (Acts 15:14), taught by Him (54:13; John 6:45) and it is God, Who through the influence of His Spirit Word, “worketh in (them) both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13; Isa 26:12). Essentially then they are “the work of my [God’s] hands”, or as Paul expresses the same facts, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, that God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”(Eph 2:10).

Saints, Zion’s citizens, are also described as the “branch of my [God] planting”, that is, they have been planted, watered, and nurtured by Him (see also 61:3). Jesus, alluding to this, warned, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt 15:13).

“that I may be glorified” This is the objective of creation, that the world will be filled with Yahweh’s glory (Num 14:21; Isa 6:3; Rev 4:11).

60:22 “A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I Yahweh will hasten it in his time.”

This is a miracle and a fulfilment of the promise to Abraham that his seed would be as multitudinous as the sand and stars (Gen 13:16); that in his seed all nations would be blessed (22:18); and also that his new name would be Abraham, father of many nations (17:5). See also Isaiah 51:2. His seed, Jesus Christ, was promised that he would “see his seed” which would be “many” (53:10–12; cp Matt 13:31–32).

“I Yahweh will hasten it in his time” Yahweh is devoted to the accomplishment of His will, staking His reputation upon it happening. And lest any should be impatient for fulfilment, He cautions them to wait with the assurance that there is a set time when His purpose will be brought to a climax (Acts 17:31; Heb 2:3); no one can influence Him to alter that time.