Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 41:19

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar - The two preceding verses express God's mercy to them in their passage through the dry deserts, in supplying them with abundant water, when distressed with thirst, in allusion to the exodus. This verse expresses the relief afforded to them, fainting with heat in their journey through that hot country, destitute of shelter, by causing shady trees, and those of the tallest and most beautiful kinds, to spring up for their defense. The apocryphal Baruch, speaking of the return from Babylon, expresses God's protection of his people by the same image: "Even the woods and every sweet-smelling tree shall overshadow Israel by the commandment of God." 5:8.

The oil tree - This, Kimchi says, is not to be understood of the olive tree, for the olive is distinguished, Nehemiah 8:15; but it means the pine or fir, from which pitch is extracted.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

I will plant in the wilderness - The image in this verse is one that is frequent in Isaiah. It is designed to show that God would furnish for his people abundant consolations, and that he would furnish unanticipated sources of comfort, and would remove from them their anticipated trials and calamities. The image refers to the return of the exiles to their own land. That journey lay through Arabia Deserta - a vast desert - where they would naturally expect to meet with nothing but barren hills, naked rocks, parched plains, and burning sands. God says that he would bless them in the same manner as if in that desolate wilderness he should plant the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the fir-tree, and should make the whole distance a grove, where fountains would bubble along their way, and streams burst forth from the hills (compare the notes at Isaiah 32:15).

The cedar - The large and beautiful cedar, with lofty height, and extended branches such as grew on Lebanon (compare Isaiah 9:10, note; Isaiah 37:24, note).

The shittah-tree - This is the Hebrew name without change, שׁטה shı̂ṭṭâh The Vulgate is spinam. The Septuagint renders it, Πύξον Puchon - ‹The box.‘ Lowth renders it, ‹The acacia.‘ Probably the acacia, or the spina AEgyptiaca - the Egyptian thorn of the ancients - is intended by it. It is a large tree, growing abundantly in Egypt and Arabia, and is the tree from which the gum-arabic is obtained. It is covered with large black thorns, and the wood is hard, and, when old, resembles ebony.

And the myrtle - The myrtle is a tree which rises with a shrubby upright stem, eight or ten feet high. Its branches form a dense, full head, closely garnished with oval lanceolate leaves. It has numerous small pale flowers from the axillas, singly on each footstalk (Encyc.) There are several species of the myrtle, and they are especially distinguished for their forming a dense and close top, and thus constituting a valuable tree for shade. It is a tree that grows with great rapidity.

And the oil-tree - Hebrew, ‹Tree of oil‘ that is, producing oil. Doubtless the olive is intended here, from whose fruit oil was obtained in abundance. This was a common tree in Palestine, and was one of the most valued that grew.

The fir-tree - The word used here (ברושׁ berôsh ) is commonly rendered, in our version, ‹fir-tree‘ (Isaiah 60:13; Isaiah 55:13; Zechariah 11:2; Hosea 14:8-9; 2 Samuel 6:5; 1 Kings 5:8, 1 Kings 5:10; 1 Kings 6:15, 1 Kings 6:34; Nahum 2:3, and in other places). Our translators understood it evidently as referring to the cedar. It is often joined, however, with the cedar (see the note at Isaiah 14:8; compare Isaiah 37:24; Zechariah 11:1-2), and evidently denotes another tree, probably of the same class. It is probable that the word usually denotes the cypress. There are various kinds of cypress. Some are evergreen, and some are deciduous, as the American white cedar. The wood of these trees is remarkable for its durability. Among the ancients, coffins were made of it, and the tree itself was an emblem of mourning. It is mentioned here because its extended branches and dense foliage would produce a grateful shade.

And the pine - The Septuagint renders this Λεύκην Leukēn And - ‹The white poplar.‘ The Vulgate renders it, ‹The elm.‘ Gesenius supposes that a species of hard oak, holm or ilex, is intended. It is not easy, however, to determine what species of tree is meant.

The box-tree - Gesenius supposes that by this word is denoted some tall tree - a species of cedar growing on mount Lebanon that was distinguished by the smallness of its cones, and the upward direction of its branches. With us the word box denotes a shrub used for bordering flower-beds. But the word here denotes a tree - such as was sufficient to constitute a shade.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
God speaks with tenderness; Fear thou not, for I am with thee: not only within call, but present with thee. Art thou weak? I will strengthen thee. Art thou in want of friends? I will help thee in the time of need. Art thou ready to fall? I will uphold thee with that right hand which is full of righteousness, dealing forth rewards and punishments. There are those that strive with God's people, that seek their ruin. Let not God's people render evil for evil, but wait God's time. It is the worm Jacob; so little, so weak, so despised and trampled on by every body. God's people are as worms, in humble thoughts of themselves, and in their enemies' haughty thoughts of them; worms, but not vipers, not of the serpent's seed. Every part of God's word is calculated to humble man's pride, and to make him appear little in his own eyes. The Lord will help them, for he is their Redeemer. The Lord will make Jacob to become a threshing instrument. God will make him fit for use, new, and having sharp spikes. This has fulfilment in the triumphs of the gospel of Christ, and of all faithful followers of Christ, over the power of darkness. God has provided comforts to supply all their wants, and to answer all their prayers. Our way to heaven lies through the wilderness of this world. The soul of man is in want, and seeks for satisfaction; but becomes weary of seeking that in the world, which is not to be had in it. Yet they shall have a constant supply, where one would least expect it. I will open rivers of grace, rivers of living water, which Christ spake of the Spirit, Joh 7:38,39. When God sets up his church in the Gentile wilderness, there shall be a great change, as if thorns and briers were turned into cedars, and fir-trees, and myrtles. These blessings are kept for the poor in spirit, who long for Divine enlightening, pardon, and holiness. And God will render their barren souls fruitful in the grace of his Spirit, that all who behold may consider it.