"the Romans came to subdue Palestine, but their coming was the pouring out of the heat of the wrath of the Lord:''
and the strength of battle; or "war"; all the miseries and calamities that are the effects of war. The Targum is,
"he hath brought upon them the strength of his warriors;''
the Roman soldiers:
and it hath set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart; the Roman army set fire first to the lower part of the city of Jerusalem, and then the higher (f), and wholly consumed it; and yet this has not to this day brought this people to lay it to heart, to consider and observe the true reason of it, their rejection of the Messiah.
(e) Josephus apud Forerium in loc. (f) Josephus de Bello Jud. l. 7. c. 7. sect. 2. and c. 8. sect. 5.
INTRODUCTION TO Isaiah 43
Is this chapter the Lord comforts his own people, under their afflictions, with many precious promises; asserts his deity against the idols of the nations; promises deliverance from Babylon, and a greater redemption than that; one branch of which is forgiveness of sin; and closes the chapter with a prediction of the destruction of the Jews by the Romans, for their iniquities. The Lord claims his interest in his people, not only on the foot of creation, but of redemption and calling, and promises them his presence in the midst of afflictions, Isaiah 43:1, puts them in mind of what he had done for them; and assures them of future layouts, as the effect of his unchangeable love to them, Isaiah 43:3 and promises the conversion of their seed and offspring in the several parts of the world, Isaiah 43:5 then challenges the Heathen nations to give such proofs of the deity of their idols as he was capable of giving of his, as his people were witnesses, taken from his eternity and immutability, as the alone Jehovah, and from his omniscience and omnipotence, Isaiah 43:8, after which the destruction of Babylon is prophesied of, and the redemption of his people out of it; which they are encouraged to believe from his being Jehovah, their Sanctifier, Creator, and King; and from what he had done formerly for them, when he brought them out of Egypt, Isaiah 43:14, and which yet was not to be mentioned or remembered, in comparison of what he would do in the world, a new thing, redemption by the Messiah, and the conversion of the Gentiles to the glory of his grace, Isaiah 43:18, the sins of omission and commission the people of God had been guilty of are mentioned, which are freely pardoned for Christ's sake, Isaiah 43:22 when the body and bulk of the Jewish nation were given up to destruction, because of their sins, Isaiah 43:26.
and he that formed thee, O Israel; this creation and formation are not so much to be understood of their being the creatures of God, and the work of his hands, in a natural sense; but of their new creation and regeneration; of their being the spiritual workmanship of God, created in Christ, and formed for his glory:
fear not: for I have redeemed thee: though Jerusalem shall be destroyed, and Judea wasted, and though subject to the persecutions of wicked men in all places; yet since redeemed by Christ from sin, Satan, and the law, hell, and death, nothing is to be feared from either of them; redemption by Christ is an antidote against the fear of any enemy whatsoever:
I have called thee by thy name; with an effectual calling, which is of particular persons, and those by name, even the same that are redeemed by Christ; for whom he has redeemed by his precious blood, they are called by the grace of God to special blessings of grace, with a high, holy, and heavenly calling; and have no reason to fear anything, since they are the chosen of God; have a right to all spiritual blessings; all things work together for their good; they shall persevere to the end, and at last be brought to glory, to which they are called:
thou art mine; such as are redeemed by Christ, and called by his grace, they are his Father's gift, and his own purchase; they voluntarily give up themselves to him, under the influence of his Spirit and grace; they are his by profession and possession; they are his portion, people, sheep, and spouse; and his interest in them, and theirs in him, serve to prevent fear; such need not fear wanting anything, nor any enemy, nor perishing, or miscarrying of heaven and happiness, to which fears they are subject.
and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; because of the variety and multitude of them, as persecutions from men, those proud waves that go over them; the temptations of Satan, that enemy who comes in like a flood, and various others; and because of the rapidity and force of them, and their overflowing and overwhelming nature: now there are paths through which the people of God pass: their way lies through them to eternal glory; and though they are of some continuance, yet have an end, as paths have; and having a good guide, and sufficient strength given them, they wade through them safely; for they do not and shall not "overflow" them, so as to cause their faith utterly to fail, or to separate them from the love of God, or so as to destroy them; for though they come nigh them, and upon them, and may greatly affect and distress them, yet shall not hurt them, but turn to their advantage; for their God is with them, to sympathize with them, to comfort and revive them, to teach and instruct them by their afflictions, and to sanctify them to them, as well as to support and bear them up under them, and to deliver out of them:
when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt: neither shall the flame kindle upon thee; afflictions are compared to fire and flames, because very grievous and troublesome to the flesh; and because of the apprehensions of God's wrath in them sometimes; and because of their trying nature; grace is tried by them as gold and silver in the fire; but yet the saints are not consumed by them, they lose nothing but their dross; their principles and profession are tried, and they are supported through all; which has been abundantly verified in the martyrs of Jesus; see Psalm 66:12.
I gave Egypt for thy ransom; he sacrificed the Egyptians instead of the Israelites; he destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, and saved Israel his firstborn; he drowned the Egyptians in the Red sea, when the Israelites passed safely through it; and the destruction of the former was to make way for the salvation of the latter, and so said to be a ransom for them; see Proverbs 11:8,
Ethiopia and Seba for thee; this refers either to the rumour brought to Sennacherib of Tirhakah king of Ethiopia coming against him to war, which diverted him from the siege of Jerusalem for a time, and caused him to turn his forces upon the Ethiopians and Sabeans, whereby the Jews had a respite, 2 Kings 19:9 or rather to the overthrow of the Ethiopians in the time of Asa, 2 Chronicles 14:9 or to the king of Assyria, perhaps Shalmaneser's being diverted from Palestine and Judea, and turning his forces upon Egypt and Ethiopia, as in Isaiah 20:1 and the Lord, by putting his people in mind of these instances, suggests hereby that he will sacrifice all their enemies, rather than they shall be destroyed, and therefore they need not fear.
thou hast been honourable; ever since precious, and that was from all eternity; for though they became dishonourable in themselves, through the fall of Adam, and their own transgressions, and are dishonourable in the esteem of men, yet honourable in the esteem of God and Christ; they appear to be so, by their birth, by regeneration, being born of God; by their marriage to the Son of God, the Lord of the whole earth; by their characters of kings and priests unto God; and by their clothing, the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation clothing of wrought gold; and by their being favoured with the presence of God and Christ, and their nearness to them:
and I have loved thee; which is the source and spring of all; hence they became precious and honourable; this is a past act, an act in eternity; it is an act of complacency and delight; a continued one, God rests in his love; and it is an act of undeserved grace and layout, and unchangeably the same; it never alters:
therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life: as, of old, the Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Sabeans, were given for the people of Israel, as in the preceding verse; so, in New Testament times, the enemies of God's people should be given for them; that is, their enemies should be destroyed, and they should be spared and saved; so that all Jews that rejected Christ, and persecuted his people, were given up to destruction. The Pagan empire was demolished, and so will Rome Papal too be destroyed, and the church of God will be preserved, and his interest revive, and all the kingdoms of the world become his; of which the conversions among the Gentiles in the first ages of Christianity were a pledge, prophesied of in the next words. The Talmudists (g), by "Adam", rendered "man", understand "Edom", by which Rome is often meant in Jewish writings.
(g) T. Bab. Beracot fol. 62. 2.
I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; which is to be understood not literally of the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity; for these several quarters, east, west, north, and south, will hardly agree with that, though it may be supposed they were scattered in several countries; but spiritually of the gathering in of God's elect, whether Jews or Gentiles, which were scattered abroad throughout the world, called the "seed" of the church, because born to her, and brought up in her, and of which she consists; and therefore she herself is said to be gathered, converts being brought in from all quarters; from the "east", even from India, where the Apostle Thomas is said to preach the Gospel, and from other "eastern" countries; and from the "west", from the European nations, good part of which lay west of Judea. Our Lord seems to have respect to this passage in Matthew 8:12.
bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; such whom the Lord had predestinated to the adoption of children, and had taken into his family, and whom he regenerated by his Spirit and grace, of either sex; to whom he beareth the strongest love and affection, as a parent to his children; and of whom he takes the utmost care, so that not one shall be lost; let them be in ever so distant a part of the world, he will send his Gospel to them, his ministers after them, and his Spirit shall accompany them, to bring them to himself, his Son, and his churches. Manasseh, before mentioned, understands this of America, and of the Jews there; but may be much better applied to converted Gentiles there; for God has many sons and daughters in those parts.
(h) Spes Israelis, sect. 24. p. 76.
for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him, yea, I have made him; all which is expressive of the power and grace of God, in the regeneration and conversion of his people; which is a creation, a formation, a making them for himself, for the glory of his grace, and to show forth his praise; and therefore he will gather them in, and bring them into a body together, into a church state, that this end may be answered.
who among them can declare this, and show us former things? what god or prophet of theirs can declare any future event, such as this, the redemption of the Jews by Cyrus, foretold from the mouth of the Lord by Isaiah, so long before the accomplishment of it, or anything whatever before it comes to pass? for this does not regard things past, which might be shown and declared; but the things they are challenged with are things future, to declare them first, before they come into being, which would be a proof of deity; for none but God, who is omniscient, can foretell future events with certainty:
let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified; let them produce witnesses that their gods spoke of things before they came to pass, and that they came to pass just as they foretold they would; that their cause may appear a just one, and that they, their worshippers, are right in serving them:
let them hear, and say, it is truth; or let them hearken to the evidence against them, and acknowledge that what I say is true, and that I am the true God, and there is no other.
and my servant whom I have chosen; meaning either the Prophet Isaiah, or the prophets in general; or rather the Messiah. So the Targum,
"and my servant the Messiah, in whom I am well pleased;''
and who is called the faithful witness, Revelation 1:5, and to whom the characters of a servant, and the Lord's chosen, well agree, Isaiah 42:1,
that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he; by which testimonies and evident proofs of deity, from the prediction of future events, and the accomplishment of them, you may have a competent knowledge, a firm persuasion, and a clear perception of this important truth, that the God of Israel, and of all true Christians, is the one only Lord God:
before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me; intimating that idols were formed by the hands of men, and yet none of these were formed before him, and therefore could make no pretensions to deity, or to an equality with him; nor should any be formed afterwards, that could be put in competition with him. In short, the sense is, there is no other god beside him; as the Targum, Septuagint, and Arabic versions render it.
and besides me there is no Saviour; either in a temporal or spiritual sense; the gods of the Heathens could not save them out of their present troubles, and much less save them with an everlasting salvation; none but God can do this, and this is a proof that Christ is God, since none but God can be a Saviour.
"I have showed to Abraham your father what should come to pass; I redeemed you out of Egypt, as I swore to him between the pieces; and I caused you to hear the doctrine of the law at Sinai.''
But the sense is, that God had declared by his prophets, long before the Messiah came, that he would send him; that he should come and save his people by his obedience, sufferings, and death; accordingly he was come, and was the author of salvation; the Lord had wrought out salvation by him, as he had declared he would; and this he had shown, published, and made known by the everlasting Gospel, preached among all nations:
when there was no strange god among you; that assisted in this salvation; the arm of Christ alone wrought it out: or, "and this is not strange among you" (i); this work of salvation wrought out is not strange among you; it is well known unto you, being published in the Gospel.
(i) "et non est in vobis alienum vel peregrinum", Musculus.
and there is none can deliver out of my hand: either such whom the Lord determines to punish, or such whom he resolves to save; none can snatch them out of his hands, there they are safe:
I will work, and who shall let it? as when he wrought the work of creation, there was no opposition to it, or hinderance of him; and in providence all things are done as be pleases; so all his purposes and decrees, which are his works within him, are exactly accomplished according to his pleasure, and none can resist his will. The work of redemption is finished just according to the draught of it in his eternal mind; and when he works upon the heart of a sinner at conversion, whatever obstructions and difficulties are in the way, these are removed, and the work is begun, and carried on, and performed, until the day of Christ. The work of the Lord in his churches, and the setting up of his kingdom in the world, in a more visible and glorious manner, shall be done, and none will be able to hinder it:
who can turn it back? either his work, or his hand in working; his purposes cannot be disannulled; his power cannot be controlled; his work cannot be made void, or of no effect; he always succeeds, for he has no superior that can obstruct him.
(k) "ex quo dies fuit", Gataker; "ex quo dies esse coepit", Vatablus; "inde a tempore diei", Piscator. "Hu", may be considered here as one of the names of God, who from eternity to eternity is, "he", the same yesterday, today, and for ever.
the Holy One of Israel; see Isaiah 43:3, holy in himself, holiness to Israel, and faithful to his promises:
for your sake I have sent to Babylon: Cyrus and his army to take it, in order to deliver the Jews from their captivity in it. The Targum wrongly paraphrases it to the sense quite contrary,
"for your sins have I carried you captive unto Babylon:''
and have brought down all their nobles; from their seats of honour and glory, stripped them of all their grandeur and dignity, and reduced them to a low and mean estate. This is to be understood of the princes and nobles of Babylon, who fell with the city, as their king did: or, "their bars" (l); for what bars are to houses and cities, that princes should be to the people, the defence and protection of them. Though some think this refers to the gates of Babylon, and the strong bars of them now broken; see Isaiah 45:2. The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions render it "fugitives"; and which some understand of the Jews, who were as such in Babylon, but now should be brought out of it; which sense is countenanced by the above versions, which render it, I will raise up, bring, or bring back, "all the fugitives" (m); others of the Chaldeans, who should be forced to fly upon the taking of their city; but the first sense seems best, which distinguishes them from the common people in the next clause:
and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in their ships; who used to glory in their shipping they had in the river Euphrates, as the Vulgate Latin and Syriac versions render it; and so the Targum calls their ships, "ships of their praise"; where, and of which, they used to make their ovations and triumphs; and the word (n) used has the signification of shouting for joy: or rather, "whose cry is to the ships" (o); as it might be, when they found Cyrus and his army had got into the city, then their cry was, to the ships, to the ships, that lay in the river hard by, in order to make their escape; or their cry was, when they were "in" the ships, even in a way of lamentation and distress, because they could not get them off, Cyrus having drained the river; or it refers to their cry, when put aboard the ships that belonged to the Medes and Persians, in order to the transporting them into other countries. Such a howling there will be when mystical Babylon is destroyed, Revelation 18:17.
(l) "vectes omnes", Julius & Tremellius; "vectes universos", Piscator. (m) "Fugitivos universos", Vatablus, Paginus, Montanus; "fugientes omnes", Vitringa (n) "in navibus ovatio eorum", Forerius; "cumu avibus ob quas jubilant", Piscator; "in naves ovationis ipsorum", Vitringa. (o) "Ad naves clamor eorum", Grotius, Gataker.
the Creator of Israel, your King; and therefore both able and willing to protect them.
and a path in the mighty waters; either of the Red sea, or it may be of Jordan; through which the Israelites passed into the land of Canaan.
they shall lie down together, they shall not rise; they lay down in the Red sea, where they sunk to the bottom, and perished, and never rose more, at least to life, nor never will, till the general resurrection:
they are extinct, they are quenched as tow; or flax, or as the wick of a candle (p), when put into water, is quenched at once; so the Egyptian, became extinct in the Red sea. Some observe an allusion to the commodity of flax, for which Egypt was famous. Kimchi interprets the whole of the army of Sennacherib, which was brought out of their own land to Jerusalem, and was destroyed in one night by an angel. Aben Ezra of the Chaldeans being brought out to fight with the Persians. But others rather of the army of the Medes and Persians being brought against them, by whom they became extinct as tow or flax.
(p) "ut ellychnium" Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gataker, Vitringa.
neither consider the things of old; unless as figures of the new, but not to be put upon a foot with them, much less to the undervaluing of them, and indeed to be forgotten in comparison of them; see Jeremiah 23:7. The Talmudists (q), by the "former" things, understand subjection to kingdoms; and, by the "things of old", the going out of Egypt; as they do by the "new thing", in the following verse, the war of Gog and Magog.
(q) T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 13. 1. T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 4. 1.
now it shall spring forth; or bud forth as a branch, in a very short time, suddenly, and at once; one of the Messiah's names is that of the Branch; see Zechariah 3:8,
shall ye not know it? the Redeemer, and the redemption by him. It was known to them that looked for it, and to whom the Gospel is sent, and the Spirit reveals and applies it; these know the nature of it, own it to be of God, and know their interest in it, and know the author of it, in whom they have believed, by the characters given of him: and as this may have respect to the redemption of Christ, so to the conversion of the Gentiles, and to the grace of God dispensed through Christ to them; when old things passed away, and all things became new; a new covenant of grace was exhibited, a new church state set up, new ordinances appointed, and a new people called to partake of all this, on whom was a new face of things; and wonderful and excellent things were done for them, as follows:
I will even make a way in the wilderness; as there was a way made for the Israelites through the wilderness, which lay between Egypt and Canaan; and through another, which lay between Babylon and Judea; so the Lord would also make a way in the Gentile world, comparable to a wilderness for its barrenness and unfruitfulness, for the Gospel to enter into it, where it should run, and be glorified; where Christ, the way of salvation, should be made known; and where there should be a way for Christians to walk together, in the fellowship of the Gospel:
and rivers in the desert; the doctrines of the Gospel, and the ordinances of it, which should be preached and administered in the Gentile world, before like a desert; and the graces of the Spirit, which should be brought into the hearts of men by means of them; and the large communications of grace from Christ; and the discoveries of the love of God, with the blessings of it; compared to rivers for their abundance, and for the comforting, reviving, and fructifying nature of them.
because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert; as before; See Gill on Isaiah 43:19; because of the plenty of divine grace, and the means of it:
to give drink to my people, my chosen; to refresh and comfort the hearts of his people, whom he had chosen out from among the Gentiles, and now would call them by his grace, and set them a thirsting after Christ, and salvation by him.
"this people have I prepared for my worship:''
they shall show forth my praise; with their lips, by ascribing their formation to the power and grace of God, and even their whole salvation to it, and express their thankfulness for the same; and likewise by their actions, by a subjection to the ordinances of the Gospel, and by their lives and conversations being agreeably to it. Joseph Kimchi, as Abendana observes, interprets this people of the beasts of the field, spoken of in the preceding verse, that should honour the Lord, and here said to be formed for himself, and should show forth his praise; and which is taken notice of to aggravate the sins of the people of the Jews, who called not on the Lord, &c. as in the following verses; so the ants and conies are called a people not strong, and the locusts a people great and strong, Proverbs 30:25.
"and ye come not to my worship, O ye of the house of Jacob.''
The Jews, in Christ's time, did not call upon his name, nor believe in him, nor receive his Gospel, nor submit to him and his ordinances; they rejected him and his service, therefore the Lord rejected them, and called the Gentiles, as before prophesied of:
but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel: of the word, worship, and ordinances of God; see Malachi 1:13.
neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices; what sacrifices they did offer were not offered to God, but to their idols; or they were such as were not according to the law of God; or they were not offered up in the faith of the Messiah, nor with a true spirit of devotion, and with a sincere view to the glory of God, and in the exercise of repentance for sins; but rather as an atonement for them, and that they might go on in them with ease of mind; see Isaiah 1:11,
I have not caused thee to serve with an offering; the "minchah", a meat offering or bread offering, which was a freewill offering, and they were not obliged to it; it was at their own option whether they would bring it or not, and which was not very chargeable to them:
nor wearied thee with incense; or frankincense, which was put upon the meat or bread offering; see Leviticus 2:1. Some understand this of all offerings in general, that they were not so many that were commanded them, as to be a burden to them; nor so expensive but that they were able to bear the charge of them, considering the fruitfulness of the land of Canaan, and especially the numerous and costly sacrifices of Heathen idolaters: and others think it has reference to the time of Israel's coming out of Egypt, and the covenant of God with them, when no mention was made of sacrifices, nor were they enjoined them, Jeremiah 7:21.
neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices; they did not multiply their sacrifices, offered only just what the law required, if so many, and those of the leaner sort; and whereas the fat of the sacrifices was the Lord's, there was little of it for him in these:
but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities; they were so many, and so aggravated, that he could not bear with them any longer, his patience was worn out; they were an uneasiness to him, as it were a burden upon him, and therefore would ease himself, as he sometimes does, by avenging himself, Isaiah 1:24, but here by pardoning them, as in the following verse. Some think that these are the words of Christ, the surety of his people, who took upon him the form of a servant for the sake of them, and had all their sins laid upon him, and which he bore, and made satisfaction for; and were to the human nature a burden, and a weariness to it; see Psalm 40:12. This must be understood of the remnant according to the election of grace, among these people so sadly corrupted, for whose sins of omission and commission Christ made atonement; and upon the foot of his satisfaction, remission of sins proceeds, as in the next verse: this they thought too chargeable, and so left it out of the composition, or neglected the whole this being put a part for the whole. Jarchi gives it as the sense, that they had no need to buy it, since it grew in great plenty in the land of Israel, which he took to be cinnamon; though this is distinguished from calamus, or the sweet cane, Sol 4:14, wherefore Kimchi much better observes, that it was not to be had in the land of Israel, but came from a land afar off; and therefore must be bought; see Jeremiah 6:20, hence grudging to give the price for it, and to be at the expense of it, bought it not, and disused it:
but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities; they were so many, and so aggravated, that he could not bear with them any longer, his patience was worn out; they were an uneasiness to him, as it were a burden upon him, and therefore would ease himself, as he sometimes does, by avenging himself, Isaiah 1:24, but here by pardoning them, as in the following verse. Some think that these are the words of Christ, the surety of his people, who took upon him the form of a servant for the sake of them, and had all their sins laid upon him, and which he bore, and made satisfaction for; and were to the human nature a burden, and a weariness to it; see Psalm 40:12. This must be understood of the remnant according to the election of grace, among these people so sadly corrupted, for whose sins of omission and commission Christ made atonement; and upon the foot of his satisfaction, remission of sins proceeds, as in the next verse.
(r) "calamum", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus; "calamum odoratum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Vitringa.
and will not remember thy sins; God forgives and forgets; God will not remember the sins of his people against them; having forgiven them, he will never punish them for them, which is meant by remembering them; see Jeremiah 14:10.
and thy teachers have transgressed against me; or "interpreters" (s); of the law to the people, the Priests and Levites, Scribes and Pharisees; such who should have taught the people, and instructed them in the knowledge of divine things, and interceded with God for them; these were transgressors of the law themselves, as well as despisers of the Gospel; these rejected the counsel of God against themselves, disbelieved the Messiah, and dissuaded the people from receiving him; they were "orators" (t), as the word is by some rendered; and they used all the oratory they were masters of against Christ, and to persuade the people into an ill opinion of him, and at last to insist upon his crucifixion.
(s) "interpretes tui", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Vatablus. (t) "Oratores", Cocceius; "interpretes, seu oratores tui", Piscator; "oratores, intercessores tui", Vitringa.