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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Isaiah 52

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Joy When the LORD Reigns in Zion

A. When the LORD brings back Zion.

1. (Isaiah 52:1-3) Wake up to the LORD’s redemption of Zion.

Awake, awake!
Put on your strength, O Zion;
Put on your beautiful garments,
O Jerusalem, the holy city!
For the uncircumcised and the unclean
Shall no longer come to you.
Shake yourself from the dust, arise;
Sit down, O Jerusalem!
Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck,
O captive daughter of Zion!
For thus says the LORD:
“You have sold yourselves for nothing,
And you shall be redeemed without money.”

a. Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion: The first Awake, awake! asked the LORD to put on strength (Isaiah 51:9). The second Awake, awake! asked Jerusalem to remember the LORD’s judgments and promises. Now, the third Awake, awake! tells Zion to put on strength in light of the first two awakenings.

b. Put on your beautiful garments…for the uncircumcised and the unclean shall no longer come to you: Jerusalem could put on clothes of beauty and glory because the time of judgment was over. This shows that this passage has ultimate fulfillment in the very last days.

c. You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money: Tragically, Jerusalem went after other gods like someone selling themselves for nothing. Yet, they would be blessed by being redeemed without money. God’s mercy answered to their tragic sin.

i. You shall be redeemed without money — but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cost anything. The end of Isaiah 52 begins to describe the great cost of redemption, but it is a cost paid by another.

2. (Isaiah 52:4-6) The LORD vindicates His name before those who blaspheme His name.

For thus says the Lord GOD:
“My people went down at first
Into Egypt to dwell there;
Then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause.
Now therefore, what have I here,” says the LORD,
“That My people are taken away for nothing?
Those who rule over them
Make them wail,” says the LORD,
“And My name is blasphemed continually every day.
Therefore My people shall know My name;
Therefore they shall know in that day
That I am He who speaks:
‘Behold, it is I.’”

a. Those who rule over them make them wail…and My name is blasphemed continually every day: God looks down and sees how the nations have oppressed His people. Egypt held them in captivity. The Assyrian oppressed them, and the Babylonians took them away for nothing, and ruled cruelly over them. Worse than how they treated God’s people was their disrespect for the LORD Himself, whom they blasphemed continually every day.

b. Therefore My people shall know My name: Yet God will glorify Himself; first, He will do it among His own people. It is almost as if God said, “I can abide with My name being blasphemed continually every day among the nations. Just let it be known and praised among My people.”

i. It is bad enough that the world does not know or honor God, but it is far more tragic when His own people do not know or honor Him.

c. Therefore they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks: In Isaiah’s day, they didn’t know that the LORD had spoken through His Word. This is to be expected among the nations but should never be so among God’s people. But God promises there will come a day when they shall know in that day that I am He who speaks.

3. (Isaiah 52:7-10) The whole earth sees that the LORD redeems Zion.

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Your watchmen shall lift up their voices,
With their voices they shall sing together;
For they shall see eye to eye
When the LORD brings back Zion.
Break forth into joy, sing together,
You waste places of Jerusalem!
For the LORD has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
The LORD has made bare His holy arm
In the eyes of all the nations;
And all the ends of the earth shall see
The salvation of our God.

a. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news: Isaiah prophesies of the beautiful feet of those who bring the Gospel — the good news.

i. No wonder those who bring good news have beautiful feet; they are out partnering with God for the salvation of men. The feet speak of activity, motion, and progress, and those who are active and moving in the work of preaching the gospel have beautiful…feet.

b. Who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” The good news — news of peace, glad tidings, and salvation — can all be summed up in the glorious proclamation, “Your God reigns!” Where God reigns, peace reigns. Where God reigns, glad tidings reign. Where God reigns, salvation reigns. What a marvelous declaration — Our God reigns.

i. “The watchmen who see this happy return are probably those in Jerusalem who had long awaited the messengers. According to Ezekiel, the prophets were the leading ‘watchmen’ for the nation.” (Wolf)

c. The LORD has made bare His holy arm: The thought beginning at Isaiah 51:9 (Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the LORD!) is completed. The LORD has shown His strength, the strength of His holy arm. No wonder it is a time for joy and singing.

i. “The expression made bare his holy arm is a Hebrew idiom derived from rolling up long, loose sleeves before starting to work. Then the arm was bared — the symbol of any mighty undertaking or initiative.” (Bultema)

d. In the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God: God does not make His saving strength known just for those who are immediately rescued. He also does it as a witness and a testimony to others, so they can see the salvation of our God.

4. (Isaiah 52:11-12) A call to and confidence for those who will return.

Depart! Depart! Go out from there,
Touch no unclean thing;
Go out from the midst of her,
Be clean,
You who bear the vessels of the LORD.
For you shall not go out with haste,
Nor go by flight;
For the LORD will go before you,
And the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

a. Depart! Depart! Go out from there: Prophetically, this has both a near and a distant application. It was intended for the Babylonian captives Isaiah has prophesied to; but also, for those gathered to the LORD in the very end times. The call to separate from Babylon — both literal and spiritual — is a call to purity, for those who bear the vessels of the LORD.

i. 2 Timothy 2:21 has a wonderful promise for those vessels of the LORD who pursue purity: Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

b. For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for the LORD will go before you: When the salvation of the LORD comes — both in its near and its ultimate fulfillment — there is a sense of peace in the glorious work of the LORD, not a striving in haste or by flight.

B. The Servant of the LORD brings salvation to many nations.

1. (Isaiah 52:13-14) The exaltation and humiliation of the Servant of the LORD.

Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
Just as many were astonished at you,
So His visage was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men.

a. Behold, My Servant: This passage, through the end of Isaiah 53, has in focus the Servant of the LORD. This is the Servant previously spoken of in Isaiah 42:1, and Isaiah 49:3 and 6.

i. The Ethiopian in Acts 8:34 asked a question about Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12: Of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man? This question is still asked today, and the answer is extremely important.

ii. Through the book of Isaiah, many have been called servants of the LORD in one way or another. This includes Isaiah himself (Isaiah 20:3), Eliakim (Isaiah 22:20), David (Isaiah 37:35), and Israel (Isaiah 41:8-9). But there is no doubt that the phrase is also used as a specific title for the Messiah, and this is what is in view here.

iii. The New King James Version rightly capitalizes Servant, because the context demonstrates this is a clear reference to Jesus. Additionally, Matthew quotes Isaiah 42:1-5 and plainly says it is a prophecy fulfilled in Jesus (Matthew 12:16-21). Additionally, in Matthew 8:16-17, the Bible takes this passage of Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12 and says it specifically applies to Jesus.

iv. Many are amazed that people — especially Jewish people — can read a chapter like this and miss Jesus. But really it isn’t surprising. When we make up our minds about who Jesus is, it’s easy to become blind and deaf to the plain, simple message of the word of God. Put away your pre-conceived notions and your cultural Jesus. Let the word of God tell you who He is.

b. He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high: The first words of the LORD in the mouth of the prophet regarding His Servant declare His victory. He shall be exalted and extolled means that the Messiah will triumph. There is no doubt about it. Before any of His suffering is announced, His glorious triumph is assured.

c. His visage was marred more than any man: This speaks of the cruel and vicious beating Jesus endured at the hands of His enemies. Jesus was beaten so badly on His face that He hardly looked like a man. The result was so shocking that many were astonished when they saw Jesus.

i. Now the men who held Jesus mocked Him and beat Him. And having blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face and asked Him, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?” (Luke 22:63-64)

ii. The astonishment mentioned may be subtly referred to in the New Testament. On several occasions after His resurrection, the followers of Jesus were slow to recognize Him (Luke 24:16, John 20:14 and 21:4). On one occasion, they even seem awkward about His appearance: Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” — knowing that it was the Lord. (John 21:12) This may indicate that the marred visage of Jesus remained after His resurrection. We know that Jesus retained some of the scars of His crucifixion (Luke 24:40, John 20:25-28), perhaps this extends to His face as well. However, we should not be troubled by the thought of seeing an “ugly Jesus” in heaven. If those scars do remain, they will only increase His glory and beauty to our eyes, standing as badges of His matchless love.

iii. More than any man does not literally mean that by appearances, Jesus was beaten more severely than any man would ever be beaten. It is a poetic hyperbole used to express the terrible effect of the beating He endured.

2. (Isaiah 52:15) The cleansing of many nations.

So shall He sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;
For what had not been told them they shall see,
And what they had not heard they shall consider.

a. So shall He sprinkle many nations: Sprinkling is often associated with cleansing from sin in the Old Testament (Exodus 24:8, Leviticus 3:8, Numbers 19:21, Ezekiel 36:25). Here, the promise is that the work of the Messiah will bring cleansing to many nations.

i. The Messiah is certainly Israel’s Messiah, yet He belongs to more than Israel. His saving, cleansing work will extend far beyond Israel to many nations.

b. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him: Though all will be astonished at His appearance, they will have nothing to say against Him. His glory and His great work will stop every word. When they spoke against Him before, it was in blindness, but now what had not been told them they shall see.

© 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik — ewm@enduringword.com


  1. Bultema, Harry "Commentary on Isaiah" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1981)
  2. Wolf, Herbert M. "Interpreting Isaiah: The Suffering and Glory of the Messiah" (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1985)

Updated: August 2022

Study Guide for Song of Solomon 1 ← Prior Book
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