on Isaiah 61 :3
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion "To impart gladness to the mourners of Zion" - A word necessary to the sense is certainly lost in this place, of which the ancient Versions have preserved no traces. Houbigant, by conjecture, inserts the word ששון sason, gladness, taken from the line next but one below, where it stands opposed to אבל ebel, sorrow or mourning, as the word lost here was to אבלי abeley, mourners: I follow him. - L.
Beauty for ashes "A beautiful crown instead of ashes" - In times of mourning the Jews put on sackcloth, or coarse and sordid raiment, and spread dust and ashes on their heads; on the contrary, splendid clothing and ointment poured on the head were the signs of joy. "Feign thyself to be a mourner," says Joab to the woman of Tekoah, "and put on now mourning apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil," 2 Samuel 14:2. These customs are at large expressed in the Book of Judith: "She pulled off the sackcloth which she had on, and put off the garments of her widowhood, and washed her body all over with water and anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head, and put on a tire [mitre, marg.] upon it; and put on her garments of gladness;" chap. 10:3.-- L.
פאר תחת אפר peer tachath ephar, glory for ashes; a paronomasia which the prophet often uses: a chaplet, crown, or other ornament of the head (for so the Vulgate renders the word here and in the both verse; in which last place the Septuagint agree in the same rendering), instead of dust and ashes, which before covered it; and the costly ointments used on occasions of festivity, instead of the ensigns of sorrow. - L.
Trees of righteousness "Trees approved" - Hebrews oaks of righteousness or truth; that is, such as by their flourishing condition should show that they were indeed "the scion of God's planting, and the work of his hands;" under which images, in the preceding chapter, Isaiah 60:21, the true servants of God, in a highly improved state of the Church, were represented; that is, says Vitringa on that place, "commendable for the strength of their faith, their durability, and firmness."
on Isaiah 61 :3
To appoint unto them - Hebrew, 'To place;' that is, to place happiness before them; to give them joy arid consolation.
That mourn in Zion - (See the notes at Isaiah 1:8). The mourners in Zion mean those who dwelt in Jerusalem; then all those who are connected with the church of God - his poor and afflicted people.
To give unto them beauty for ashes - In the Hebrew there is here a beautiful paronomasia, which cannot be transferred to our language - אפר תחת פאר pe'ēr tachath 'êpher. The word rendered 'beauty' (פאר pe'ēr) means properly a head-dress, turban, tiara, or diadem; and the idea is, that the Redeemer would impart to his mourning people such an ornament instead of the ashes which in their grief they were accustomed to easy on their heads. For the use of the word, see Isaiah 3:20; Isaiah 61:10; Exodus 39:29; Ezekiel 24:17-23. It was common among the Orientals to east dust and ashes upon their heads in time of mourning, and as expressive of their grief (compare the notes at Isaiah 57:5; 2 Samuel 13:19).
The oil of joy - The oil of joy denotes that which was symbolic or expressive of joy. Oil or ointment was employed on occasions of festivity and joy (see the notes at Isaiah 57:9); but its use was abstained from in times of public calamity or grief (see 2 Samuel 14:2).
The garment of praise - That is, the garment or clothing which shall be expresive of praise or gratitude instead of that which shall indicate grief.
For the spirit of heaviness. - Instead of a heavy, burdened, and oppressed spirit. The word used here (כהה kēhâh), usually means faint, feeble, weak (see the notes at Isaiah 42:3). It is applied to a lamp about to go out Isaiah 42:3; to eyes bedimmed, or dull 1 Samuel 3:2; to a faint or pale color Leviticus 13:39. Here it denotes those of a faint and desponding heart. These expressions are figurative, and are taken from the custom which prevailed more in Oriental countries than elsewhere - and which is founded in nature - of expressing the emotions of the mind by the manner of apparel. These customs are stated in the book of Judith. She 'pulled off the sackcloth which she had on, and pus off the garments of her widowhood, and washed her body all over with water, and anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head, and put on a tire upon it (Greek, μιτρε mitre), and put on her garments of gladness wherewith she was clad during the life of Manasses her husband. And she took sandals upon her feet, and put about her her bracelets, and her chains, and her rings, and her ear-rings, and all her ornaments, and decked herself bravely to allure the eyes of all men that should see her' Isaiah 10:3-4.
That they might be called - That is, those who had mourned in Zion.
Trees of righteousness - In the Hebrew, 'Oaks,' or terebinth trees. By their being oaks of righteousness is meant people distinguished for righteousness or justice. The Septuagint renders it, Γενεαὶ Geneai - 'Generations;' Jerome, Fortes - 'Strong;' the Chaldee, 'Princes;' the Syriac, 'Rams;' but the word properly denotes the oak, or the terebinth tree - a lofty, strong, and magnificent tree. It is not uncommon to represent people by trees (see Isaiah 1:29-30; Psalm 92:12-14):
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree;
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon,
Those that be planted in the house of the Lord,
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
They shall be fat and flourishing.
on Isaiah 61 :3
61:3 Ashes - By ashes understand whatever is proper for days of mourning, as by beauty whatever may become times of rejoicing. Oil of joy - He calls it oil of joy in allusion to those anointings they were wont to use in times of joy, gladness for heaviness; and it is called a garment in allusion to their festival ornaments, for they had garments appropriated to their conditions, some suitable to times of rejoicing, and some to times of mourning. Called - That they may be so. Trees - That they shall be firm, solid, and well rooted, being by faith engrafted into Christ, and bringing forth fruit suitable to the soil wherein they are planted.