A New Commentary On Isaiah

Good conservative commentaries on Isaiah are somewhat difficult to find. There is Alexander, Young, Oswalt, Grogan, Calvin, Keil/Delitzsch, Motyer, Webb, Thomas, and Barnes. To these we can now add the tome of John Mackay, one of my four favorite living OT commentators (the others being Iain Duguid, John Currid, and Dale Ralph Davis). John Mackay has put an enormous amount of effort into his Isaiah commentary, and it shows. First of all, it is massive. This is just volume 1, which goes through chapter 39, and it is 864 pages. Secondly, it is focused on the meaning of the text. Thirdly, it is aimed at pastors and teachers, not primarily scholars (although scholars should definitely not ignore this work). Fourthly, it is practical (he has, in keeping with the rest of this series, a practical reflection at the end of each section). Fifthly, it is Christ-centered. Mackay does not shy away from Messianic interpretation, although he does not allow typology to run haywire. It is responsible exegesis. Sixthly, it is helpful. It would be very difficult to say which is the very best commentary on Isaiah. But certainly this commentary is one of the better ones. I have read every page of this commentary, and have derived great benefit from it. By “conservative” I mean that he believes that Isaiah actually wrote the entire book that has his name on it, and that Mackay is firmly committed to the inerrancy of Scripture. Here are a couple of excellent insights I picked up from his book:

On Isaiah 23:16, here is Mackay’s comment:

‘Forgotten’ picks up the same word in the previous verse. After being out of the public eye for a time, she has aged and been neglected. If she would ply her trade once more, she must attract attention by walking the streets and playing her harp. She must do so really well, and one song will not be enough to reinstate her in favour and lure her lovers back. It is a forlorn picture of someone trying to recapture the past and not realizing how pathetic she looks in the eyes of others. Her conduct is really an invitation to deride and mock (p. 494).

And on 29:4, he says this:

She will not be able to speak in strident tones, but only in the piteous whisper (cf. ‘chirp,’ 8:19) of those who are not really part of this world at all, as they make squeaking sounds like those produced by spiritists (perhaps using ventriloquism) when they claimed to conjure up the spirits of the dead (p. 603).


  1. revkev1967 said,

    June 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I’m not sure I would call Keil or Delitzsch conservative!

  2. Stephen said,

    June 25, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Yes, Keil & Delitzsch are certainly not conservative, but they are an excellent source for the O.T. They deal more with the Hebrew text then your typical commentary. E. J. Young is still the best on Isaiah. Oswalt in the NICOT series is excellent.

  3. JPC said,

    June 25, 2009 at 10:06 pm

    Awesome! A new commentary on Isaiah!

    Pastor (guarder of the sheep), can you lead us in a biblical discussion of women as deacons, the public education of our children, the woman working outside the home, the man who lets his wife and daughters display their thighs and cleavage to the congregation, the pagan women’s suffrage presented as individual congregational voting, the theory of Christian just war, the Christian’s response to tyranny?

    I’m sure you’ve written on these topics, and linked to the multitude of books written on these issues,–available of course at http://www.wts.edu. But please provide the links. I need to know!

    My soul is perishing. I’m called to be salt and light, to scatter darkness, and to call down wicked deeds in all their places. Instead, I get theology. I need ethics!

    What does God require of me?

    “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Wherever the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that one point.” ~ Martin Luther

  4. Rob de Roos said,

    June 26, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Just as an aside … the Isaiah commentary by J. Alec Motyer in the Tyndale OT series s quite good and quite conservative.

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