Isaiah 54:1-17 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How is Jerusalem portrayed in Isaiah 54:1-3 (printed below?)

Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who never experienced the labor of childbirth, because the children of the desolate woman are more numerous than the children of the married woman, declares Jehovah. (2) Enlarge the place of your tent, let them stretch out the curtains of your tent—do not hold back! Lengthen your cords; strengthen your stakes! (3) You will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess the nations and settle in their desolate cities. (Isaiah 54:1-3)

In verse 1 Jerusalem, personified and portrayed as a barren woman, is instructed to sing for joy—because the Lord shall bless her with an abundance of children. The tent in which this woman presently lives in a solitary existence must be enlarged, because it is no longer adequate to house all the children the Lord will give her (verse 2). Indeed, the Lord declares, “You will spread out to the right and to the left” (verse 3a); that is to say, God’s people will expand in every direction.

2. How does the Lord (Jehovah) describe His people and His relationship to them in verses 6-8 (printed below?)

Jehovah has called you back like a wife who was deserted and distressed in spirit—a wife who married at a young age, only to be rejected, declares your God. (7) For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will bring you back. (8) In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, declares Jehovah your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:6-8)

The Lord describes His people as a wife who has been restored to her husband. Israel in her rebellion is compared to a wife who has been divorced for her unfaithfulness, but now she is restored and brought back into covenant relationship with her husband who is none other than the Lord Himself (verse 6). The Lord declares, “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will bring you back. (8) In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you, declares Jehovah your Redeemer.” (verses 7-8) In Old Testament terms, here is a reference to Israel’s exile into Babylon and their restoration to the Lord and His presence in the Promised Land of Canaan. In ultimate terms, here is a reference to Christ’s atoning death at Calvary and the believer’s union with Christ in His crucifixion and resurrection and subsequent restoration to God.

3. To what previous promise does the Lord refer His people as evidence that they can trust the promise He has now made to them as recorded in verses 7-8? See Isaiah 54:9-10 (printed below)

To me this is like the waters of Noah: just as I have sworn that the waters of Noah shall never again overflow the land, so now I have sworn that I will not be angry with you or rebuke you. (10) The mountains may depart and the hills may shake; but my loving kindness will not depart from you and my covenant of peace will not be shaken, declares Jehovah, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:9-10)

In verses 9-10 the Lord alludes to His sure covenant with Noah (the divine pledge that He would never again destroy this present world with a flood) as evidence and assurance that His restored “wife” can have full confidence in her husband’s renewed marriage vows. In describing that moment of absolute abandonment (experienced by His people in the Babylonian Captivity and ultimately experienced at Calvary), the Lord had used the term “a surge of anger,” or, “overflowing wrath” (verse 8). Now, picking up on that term, the Lord compares that outpouring of righteous wrath to “the waters of Noah” (i.e.; the universal flood with which He judged the world in the days of Noah)—and He does so as a further means of providing comfort and assurance for His people. The Lord swore to Noah that never again would He cause the flood waters to cover the whole land (verse 9a). Likewise, the Lord now swears that He shall never again inflict His judgment against His people (verse 9b); note, also, Romans 8:1.

4. What promise does the Lord make with regard to Jerusalem in Isaiah 54:11-12 (printed below?)

O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, look—I will rebuild you with beautiful stones, I will lay your foundation with sapphires. (12) I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparking jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. (Isaiah 54:11-12)

In verses 11-12 the Lord promises to rebuild Jerusalem into a city of priceless and breath-taking beauty: the foundation stones will be sapphires, the towers will be made of rubies, the gates will be sparkling jewels, and the walls shall be precious gem stones.

5. What does the Lord say about the residents (the children) of the re-built Jerusalem? See Isaiah 54:13-14a (printed below)

All your children will receive instruction from Jehovah, and the well-being of your children will be great. (14) You shall be established by righteousness (Isaiah 54:13-14a)

In verses 13-14a the residents of the heavenly city are described in the following terms: they shall be taught by the Lord; that is to say, they shall willing accept His instruction and walk in His ways (verse 13a). Consequently, “the well-being of your children will be great.” The Lord’s good desire for His people shall be fully realized (verse 13b); note, also, Isaiah 48:18a. Because it shall be a city of righteousness, inhabited by a people made righteous by the Lord Himself, it shall be established as an everlasting city (verse 14a).