The brilliant tale of Judah’s national resurrection in the Book of Isaiah’s sixtieth chapter is populated with glimpses of the nations’ contribution to Jerusalem’s beautification.
It seems that distant nations streaming to glorified Zion carry with then not only Jerusalem’s long-lost children as these come finally home. As remote peoples ‘come to (Zion’s) light and kings to the brightness of (Zion’s) shining’, they also bring with them the richest product of their culture and economy. They import into the now glorified city the ‘abundance of the sea’ (המון ים) and the ‘wealth of the nations’ (חיל גוים), even the representative ‘glory of Lebanon’ (כבוד הלבנון).
Whatever the ratio of willingness to obligation that we should perceive in the motivation of these pilgrimage-making nations and islands, whose ‘coastlands hope for (YHWH)’, the fact is that the best of who they are and what they produce is crucial to the fantastic beautification of the now joy-filled city of Zion. My own sense is that the nations’ participation is mostly willing and enthusiastic. Zion is become a world city, in fact the world city.
The repurposing of the city’s gates stands out poignantly at the core of the prophet’s depiction.
City gates have a filtering purpose. They are opened up when the forthright defensive purpose of the gates and the city walls whose perimeter they briefly interrupt is not required. Yet the opening of the gates is transparently an interruption of what walls do, an exception to their crucial purpose of defense and exclusion.
As Zion is glorified, defensive need declines almost to the vanishing point. The gates are flung open day and night, for threat (along with darkness and mourning) has disappeared. The gates have been repurposed.
Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession. (Isaiah 60:11 ESV)
As YHWH’s momentary wrath gives way to his restorative mercy upon Judah (v. 10) and the city’s desolation cedes to the murmurs and shouts of happy crowds, the space occupied by gates loses its reason for being. Unless, that is, its artificial barriers are eradicated and the influx of the city’s former despisers—having themselves experienced a repurposing—are waved in with their heavy, glorious cargo.