19. For he hath looked down from the high place of his holiness; 1 Jehovah hath looked down from the heavens unto the earth, 20. To hear the groaning of the prisoner; to release the sons of death; 221. That the name of Jehovah may be declared in Zion, and his praise in Jerusalem; 22. When the peoples [or the nations] shall be gathered together, and the kingdoms to serve Jehovah.
19. For he hath looked down from the high place of his holiness. Now the prophet contemplates the deliverance after which he breathes with anxious desire, as if it had been already accomplished. That the malignity of men might not attempt to obscure such a signal blessing of Heaven, he openly and in express terms claims for God his rightful praise; and the people were constrained in many ways to acknowledge therein the divine hand. Long before they were dragged into captivity, this calamity had been foretold, that when it took place the judgment of God might be clearly manifested; and at the same time deliverance had been promised them, and the time specified to be after the lapse of seventy years. The ingratitude of men therefore could not devise or invent any other cause to which to ascribe their return but the mere goodness of God. Accordingly, it is said, that God looked down from heaven, that the Jews might not attribute to the grace and favor of Cyrus the deliverance which evidently proceeded from Heaven. The high place of his holiness or sanctuary is here equivalent to heaven. As the temple, in some parts of Scripture, (Psalm 26:8 and Psalm 76:2) is called "the habitation of God," in respect of men, so, that we may not imagine that there is any thing earthly in God, he assigns to himself a dwelling-place in heaven, not because he is shut up there, but that we may seek him above the world.
20. To hear the groaning of the prisoner. Here the prophet repeats once more what he had previously touched upon concerning prayer, in order again to stir up the hearts of the godly to engage in that exercise, and that after their deliverance they might know it to have been granted to their faith, because, depending on the divine promises, they had sent up their groanings to heaven. He calls them prisoners; for although they were not bound in fetters, their captivity resembled a most rigorous imprisonment. Yea, he affirms a little after that they were devoted to death, to give them to understand that their life and safety would have been altogether hopeless, had they not been delivered from death by the extraordinary power of God.
21. That the name of Jehovah may be declared in Zion. Here is celebrated a still more ample and richer fruit of this deliverance than has been previously mentioned, which is, that the Jews would not only be united into one body to give thanks to God, but that, when brought back to their own country, they would also gather kings and nations into the same unity of faith, and into the same divine worship with themselves. At that time it was a thing altogether incredible, not only that the praises of God should within a short period resound, as in the days of old, in that temple which was burnt and completely overthrown, 3 but also that the nations should resort thither from all quarters, and be associated together in the service of God with the Jews, who were then like a putrefied carcase. The prophet, to inspire the people with the hope of returning to their own land, argues that it was impossible that the place which God had chosen for himself should be left in perpetual desolation; and declares, that so far from this being the case there would be new matter for praising God, inasmuch as His name would be worshipped by all nations, and the Church would consist not of one nation only, but of the whole world. This we know has been fulfilled under the administration of Christ, as was announced in prophecy by the holy patriarch,
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the Gentiles be," (Genesis 49:10.)
But as the prophets are wont, in celebrating the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity, to extend it to the coming of Christ, the inspired bard in this place does not lay hold on merely a part of the subject, but carries forward the grace of God, even to its consummation. And although it was not necessary that all who were converted to Christ should go up to Jerusalem, yet following the manner of expression usual with the prophets, he has laid down the observance of the divine worship which was appointed under the law, as a mark of true godliness. Farther, we may learn from this passage, that the name of God is never better celebrated than when true religion is extensively propagated, and when the Church increases, which on that account is called,
"The planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified," (Isaiah 61:3.)