Isaiah 61:3 MEANING

Isaiah 61:3
(3) To appoint unto them that mourn . . .--The verb (literally, to set) has no object either in the Hebrew or English, and it would seem as if the prophet corrected himself in the act of writing or dictating, and substituted for a word which would have applied only to the coronet one which was better fitted for the whole context.

Beauty for ashes.--Literally, a diadem, or coronet, which is to take the place of the ashes that had been sprinkled on the head of the mourners or penitents (2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 13:19; Joshua 7:6). The assonance of the two Hebrew words, 'epher, paer, deserves notice.

Oil of joy.--Same phrase as in Psalm 45:7.

The spirit of heaviness . . .--The second noun is that used for the "smoking" or "dimly burning" flax in Isaiah 42:3, and in its figurative sense in Isaiah 42:4; Ezekiel 21:7.

That they might be called trees of righteousness . . .--Strictly, terebinths, or oaks, as the symbols of perennial verdure--the "righteousness" being thought of as the gift of the Spirit of Jehovah,. and, therefore, life-giving and enduring--and in their beauty and strength manifesting His glory.

Verse 3. - To appoint... to give. The latter expression is a correction of the former, which was not wide enough. Messiah is sent to give to the godly mourners

(1) beauty for ashes; or "a crown for ashes," i.e. a crown of glory in lieu of the ashes of repentance which it was customary to sprinkle upon the head;

(2) the oil of joy for mourning; or the anointing of the Spirit in lieu of that plenteousness of tears which naturally belonged to mourners; and

(3) the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, or a glad heart inclined to praise God, in lieu of a heavy one inclined to despair. Christian experience witnesses to the abundant accomplishment of all these purposes. That they might be called trees of righteousness; literally, oaks of righteousness, or strong and enduring plants in the garden of God, planted by him, in order that through them he might be glorified. Nothing gives so much glory to God as the proved righteousness of his saints. The planting of the Lord; i.e. "which he has planted" and caused to grow, and rendered righteous. The righteousness, though it is their own, an indwelling quality, has nevertheless come from him (comp. Isaiah 60:21).

61:1-3 The prophets had the Holy Spirit of God at times, teaching them what to say, and causing them to say it; but Christ had the Spirit always, without measure, to qualify him, as man, for the work to which he was appointed. The poor are commonly best disposed to receive the gospel, Jas 2:5; and it is only likely to profit us when received with meekness. To such as are poor in spirit, Christ preached good tidings when he said, Blessed are the meek. Christ's satisfaction is accepted. By the dominion of sin in us, we are bound under the power of Satan; but the Son is ready, by his Spirit, to make us free; and then we shall be free indeed. Sin and Satan were to be destroyed; and Christ triumphed over them on his cross. But the children of men, who stand out against these offers, shall be dealt with as enemies. Christ was to be a Comforter, and so he is; he is sent to comfort all who mourn, and who seek to him, and not to the world, for comfort. He will do all this for his people, that they may abound in the fruits of righteousness, as the branches of God's planting. Neither the mercy of God, the atonement of Christ, nor the gospel of grace, profit the self-sufficient and proud. They must be humbled, and led to know their own character and wants, by the Holy Spirit, that they may see and feel their need of the sinner's Friend and Saviour. His doctrine contains glad tidings indeed to those who are humbled before God.To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,.... Or, "to the mourners of Zion" (u); such who are of Zion, belong to the church of God, and mourn for the corruptions in Zion's doctrines; for the perversion, abuse, and neglect of Zion's ordinances; for the disorders and divisions in Zion; for the declensions there, as to the exercise of grace, and the power of godliness; for the few instances of conversions there, or few additions to it; for the carelessness, ease, and lukewarmness of many professors in Zion; and for their unbecoming lives and conversations. Now one part of Christ's work is to "appoint" comfort to such; he has appointed it in counsel and covenant from eternity; made provision for it in the blessings and promises of his grace; he has "set" (w) or put it in the ministry of the word; be has ordered his ministering servants to speak comfortably to his people; yea, by his Spirit he "puts" comfort into the hearts of them, who through their unbelief refuse to be comforted; and he has fixed a time when he will arise and have mercy on Zion, and bring her into a better state than she is now in, when there will be none of these causes of complaint and mourning:

to give unto them beauty for ashes; in the Hebrew text there is a beautiful play on words, which cannot be so well expressed in our language, "to give peer for epher" (x); in times of mourning, it was usual to put on sackcloth and ashes, Esther 4:1, instead of this, Christ gives his mourners the beautiful garments of salvation, and the robe of his righteousness, and the graces of his Spirit, and his gracious presence, together with his word and ordinances, and sometimes a large number of converts; all which, as they are ornamental to his people, they yield them joy, peace, and comfort: and this is a beauty that is not natural to them, but is of grace; not acquired, but given; not fictitious, but real; is perfect and complete, lasting and durable, and desired by Christ himself, who gives it:

the oil of joy for mourning; oil used to be poured on the heads of persons at entertainments and festivals, and at times of rejoicing; and so is opposed to the state of mourners, who might not be anointed, as the Jewish commentators observe; see Psalm 23:5 the grace of the Spirit without measure, with which Christ was anointed, is called "the oil of gladness", Psalm 45:7 and of the same nature, though not of the same measure, is the grace which saints have from Christ; the effect of which is joy and gladness, even joy unspeakable, and full of glory; which is had in believing in Christ, and through a hope of eternal life by him; hence we read of the joy of faith, and of the rejoicing of hope: this oil is Christ's gift, and not to be bought with money; this holy unction comes from him; this golden oil is conveyed from him, through the golden pipes of the word and ordinances; is very valuable, of great price, and to be desired; and, being had, cannot be lost; it is the anointing that abides:

the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; such as is in persons under afflictions, or under a sense of sin, a load of guilt, and expectation of wrath; such as have heavy hearts, contrite and contracted (y) ones, as the word is observed to signify; for as joy enlarges the heart, sorrow contracts it; instead of which, a garment of praise, or an honourable one, is given; alluding to persons putting on of raiment suitable to their characters and circumstances, at seasons of rejoicing, such as weddings, and the like, Ecclesiastes 9:7 by which may be meant here the robe of Christ's righteousness later mentioned, Isaiah 61:10 so called because worthy of praise, for the preferableness of it to all others, being the best robe; for its perfection and purity; for the fragrancy and acceptableness of it to God, and for its eternal duration; also, because it occasions and excites praise in such on whom it is put; and such likewise shall have praise of God hereafter, when on account of it they shall be received into his kingdom and glory:

that they might be called trees of righteousness; that is, that the mourners in Zion, having all these things done for them, and bestowed on them, might be called, or be, or appear to be, like "trees" that are well planted; whose root is in Christ, whose sap is the Spirit and his grace, and whose fruit are good works; and that they might appear to be good trees, and of a good growth and stature, and be laden with the fruits of righteousness, and be truly righteous persons, made so by the imputation of Christ's righteousness to them: "the planting of the Lord"; planted by him in Christ, and in his church, and so never to be rooted out:

that he might be glorified; by their fruitfulness and good works, John 15:8 or that he might glorify himself, or get himself glory by them; See Gill on Isaiah 60:21.

(u) "lugentibus Sionis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator Vitrtnga. So Syr. (w) "ad ponendum" Montanus; "ut ponerem" Munster Pagninus. (x) the Targum and Vulgate Latin version render it a "crown for ashes" and the word is used for the tire of the head in Ezekiel 24:17. The Syriac and Arabic versions read, "for ashes sweet ointment", or "oil of gladness", joining it to the next clause; and mention being made of oil or ointment there, Fortunatus Scacchus thinks the allusion is to crowns of roses and, lilies moistened with, ointment of myrrh, and like ointment, which used to be wore at nuptial solemnities; and so opposed to ashes put on the head in times of mourning, which falling from thence, and moistened with tears on the cheeks, were clotted there, and so expressed the miserable condition they were in; but these things the reverse. See his Sacror. Eleaoehr. Myrothec. I. 1. c. 28. Colossians 139. (y) "pro spiritu stricto", Montanus, Paganinus; "loco spiritus contracti", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "constricto", Vatablus.

Courtesy of Open Bible