To hear the groaning - By sin, all the inhabitants of the earth are miserable. They have broken the Divine laws, are under the arrest of judgment, and all cast into prison, They have been tried, found guilty, and appointed to die; they groan under their chains, are alarmed at the prospect of death, and implore mercy.
To hear the groaning of the prisoner - Meaning here, probably, the captives in Babylon; those who were held as prisoners there, and who were subjected to such hardships in their long captivity. See the notes at Psalm 79:11.
To loose those that are appointed to death - Margin, as in Hebrew, “the children of death.” Compare the notes at Matthew 1:1. This may mean either those who were sentenced to death; those who were sick and ready to die; or those who, in their captivity, were in such a state of privation and suffering that death appeared inevitable. The word rendered “loose” means, properly, to “open,” applied to the mouth, for eating, Ezekiel 3:2; or in song, Psalm 78:2; or for speaking, Job 3:1; - or the ear, Isaiah 50:5; or the hand, Deuteronomy 15:8; or the gates of a city, a door, etc., Deuteronomy 20:11. Them it means to set free, as by opening the doors of a prison, Isaiah 14:17; Job 12:14. Here it means to “set free,” to deliver. Compare Isaiah 61:1.
In the years that followed the occupation of the Promised Land, the beneficent designs of Jehovah for the salvation of the heathen were almost wholly lost sight of, and it became necessary for Him to set forth His plan anew. “All the ends of the world,” the psalmist was inspired to sing, “shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Thee.” “Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” “The heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory.” “This shall be written for the generation to come: and the people which shall be created shall praise the Lord. For He hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth; to hear the groaning of the prisoner; to loose those that are appointed to death; to declare the name of the Lord in Zion, and His praise in Jerusalem; when the people are gathered together, and the kingdoms, to serve the Lord.” Psalm 22:27; 68:31; Psalm 102:15, 18-22. PK 370.1
Had Israel been true to her trust, all the nations of earth would have shared in her blessings. But the hearts of those to whom had been entrusted a knowledge of saving truth, were untouched by the needs of those around them. As God's purpose was lost sight of, the heathen came to be looked upon as beyond the pale of His mercy. The light of truth was withheld, and darkness prevailed. The nations were overspread with a veil of ignorance; the love of God was little known; error and superstition flourished. PK 371.1
Such was the prospect that greeted Isaiah when he was called to the prophetic mission; yet he was not discouraged, for ringing in his ears was the triumphal chorus of the angels surrounding the throne of God, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:3. And his faith was strengthened by visions of glorious conquests by the church of God, when “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Isaiah 11:9. “The face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations,” was finally to be destroyed. Isaiah 25:7. The Spirit of God was to be poured out upon all flesh. Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness were to be numbered among the Israel of God. “They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses,” said the prophet. “One shall say, I am the Lord's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.” Isaiah 44:4, 5. PK 371.2Read in context »