Isaiah 51-52: Prophesy of Christ

We will be reading Isaiah chapter 51-52. These chapters will highlight the problem that Israel has with sin and how God will fix the problem through the Servant (Jesus Christ). This all leads up to the grand climax in Isa 53 -- which we will try to cover next time.

Read Isa 51:9-15


  • This seems to be a prayer for God to perform miraculous rescues as He did in the past.


  • This is a statement (which could be considered part of the prayer?) about the new miracle that God will perform where those He has “ransomed” will return (saved through the blood of Christ)

    • see Rev 21:4


  • Here the Lord responds to the prayer. He rhetorically asks why they are afraid of mere human beings (Isa 51:12) and forget the LORD who made them (Isa 51:13). The LORD then promises that he will not allow his oppressed people to perish (Isa 51:14). This refers to not only physical bondage but bondage to sin as well. Isa 51:15 says that verse 14 is true because of who God is!

Read Isa 51:16-23


  • God now speaks to the Servant (internal evidence suggests this). This is not hard to conclude that God is suddenly shifting towards speaking to the Servant because the Servant stands in the background of every address of the Lord to his people throughout chapters 49-55. It is as if the Lord is speaking to his people with the Servant looking on [1]. At this point, however, we can see that the Servant is not just an onlooker but is actually a participant!

  • John 8:58

  • 1 Peter 1:20

  • Col 1:15-20


  • Israel is now called to “wake up, wake up” -- which is, they are aroused to faith. It is not God who is asleep - it is Israel. They had already received God’s wrath. Now, sovereign God removes the cup of wrath (Isa 51:22) and will instead give it to Israel’s enemies (Isa 51:23). God is a God of justice (Col 3:25) and mercy (Deut 4:31).

  • drinking from the cup represents God’s wrath (Luke 22:42, Mat 20:21-23, Rev 14:9-12). Jesus drank the cup of God’s wrath on our behalf. We may drink from the cup of suffering but not wrath. There is more information here:

Zion’s time to celebrate (read Isa 52:1-12)


  • Zion is called to “wake up, wake up” paralleling Isa 52:17 (see John 11:43; it is God who breathes new life and enables us to be clothed in righteousness).

  • beautiful clothes (means no sin guilt; Rev 3:18). Instead of being weak and succumbing to enemies, Israel will be clothed in strength.


  • “take off the iron chains around your neck” this freedom originates from God. This is an obvious allusion to the exile. They are not being told to save themselves. They are being told “you are free”. Charles Spurgeon says the following about this verse [2]: 

“Stand up, shake the dust off yourself! Take your seat, Jerusalem. Remove the bonds from your neck, captive Daughter Zion.” At the time of their difficulty, these words to the Hebrew people were filled with counsel and bright with hope. But from the connection in which it stands, this verse supplies a pointed practical address of sterling value not to be limited by any private interpretation. Such a charge was well fitted for Israel of old. Such counsel would be suitable to any church in a low condition. Such advice is equally adapted to any Christian who has fallen into a low state, who is groveling in the dust or among the ashes of Sodom. He is told to rise from the ground and sit down on a throne, for Christ has made him a king and a priest. He is admonished to unbind all the cords that are on him, that he may be free and happy in the Lord.” 


  • here is the “why” from verse 2. “you were sold for nothing and you will not be redeemed for money”. Israel was enslaved but the enslavement transaction was not completed: money was not exchanged. Israel will be redeemed but not based on payment from them or by money. The payment will be the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:18–19).


  • here is another why with the emphasis on God’s sovereignty. Israel was carried away to live in Egypt (in Exodus; 2nd millennium BC) and also oppressed by Assyria when they invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel in Isaiah’s lifetime (722 B) [3].


  • As in verse 3, God retains ownership of Israel (carried away for nothing = no transaction completed). God was not forced to give them up. God’s name is slandered by the Assyrians because it seems to the world that He is not able to defend his people. God will not stand for it.


  • The NET translation falls short for this verse. The ESV says “Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”. As we have learned in previous studies, “in that day” often looks forward to the new heavens and the new earth and it may or may not be doing that in this case. The EBC commentary says the following [4]: 

    • “The expression “in that day” (v.6) points forward to a period in which God will act decisively for his people in vindication of his name (see note at 2:11). The prediction would be called to mind when it was fulfilled, thus establishing the true and exclusive deity of the God of Israel (cf. 45:21).”


  • talking about the one who brings good news (gospel) and announces deliverance.

    • Christ sent his disciples: Mat 10:1-7

    • Paul mentioned it: Rom 10:15


  • people shout for joy over God returning to Zion (Christ incarnation)

    • means the messengers of the truth (“watchmen”) will see the Lord return to Zion as vividly as they see each other looking eye to eye [5].


  • the entire earth sees God’s royal power; all nations (jews and gentiles) see God deliver us from our sins


  • calling on Israel to leave the lands of their exiles to return to Jerusalem. It may be referring to the priests specifically. This departure from pagan Babylon prefigures the departure of believers from the contamination of the world (2 Cor 6:14-7:1) [6].


  • be pure but don’t be scared because the Lord protects you (Holy Spirit?). The Lord is the rear guard. MacArthur says the following [5]:

    • “Delivered captives will not have to hurry in their return to Jerusalem, as their ancestors did when delivered from Egypt (Ex. 12:11, 33, 39; Deut. 16:3). They can move deliberately and safely, with the Messiah in front and God in back. Cf. 58:8.”


Oswalt says the following in the NIVAC commentary [7]:

“When we live as captives to sin, we make it appear to the watching world that God is unable to deliver us. When our lives are not marked by his holiness, we make it appear as if he is just one more of the gods, not the unique Creator and Redeemer of the world, whose moral character is unlike that of any of the so-called gods. For us to “know his name” (Isa. 52:6) is not merely to know facts about God and his nature. Rather, it is so to participate in his life that his nature and character become ours. This is what Jesus meant when he prayed, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave to me—so that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11).

What are some of the ways your life has changed since putting your faith in Christ that is visible to the world? (maybe it’s a changed habit, attitude, something a believer or non-believer has observed about you)


  1. Oswalt, J. N. (1998). The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66 (p. 349). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

  2. Spurgeon. (2017). The Spurgeon Study Bible: Notes (p. 957). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

  3. Longman, T., III. (2017). Isaiah. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1118). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

  4. Grogan, G. W. (1986). Isaiah. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel (Vol. 6, p. 296). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

  5. MacArthur, J., Jr. (Ed.). (1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed., p. 1036). Nashville, TN: Word Pub.

  6. Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1337). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

  7. Oswalt, J. N. (2003). Isaiah (pp. 579–580). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.