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Song of Solomon
Isaiah 43 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called
by thy name; thou
- A RENEWED PROMISE TO ISRAEL OF PROTECTION AND DELIVERANCE. Severe rebuke (
) is followed, as so often in Isaiah (
, etc.), by comfort and consolation. Israel is assured that God has not cast him off, and promised the comfort of the Divine presence during the existing tribulation (ver. 2), and. a speedy restoration to Palestine (vers. 3-7). The scattered Israelites will be brought together from all quarters by the Divine omnipoteney.
. The words mark the strong contrast between the closing passage of the preceding chapter and the opening paragraph of the present one. Israel had undergone a severe punishment for his sins; he is still suffering,
there is going to be an entire change. He is to be protected and delivered.
Created thee... formed. thee redeemed thee... called thee by thy name.
An ascending series of benefits. First, creation, like that of formless matter out of nought; then, formation, or putting of the formless matter into shape; thirdly, redemption, or making them all his own; lastly, calling them by their name, and so conferring on them a proud and enviable distinction. On this fourfold ground God claims Israel as his own.
When thou passest through the waters, I
with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
Through the waters... through the rivers
through troubles of any kind (comp.
, "We went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place"). There were, perhaps, special troubles to be endured connected with the final Babylonian struggle. There were certainly others connected with the tedious and dangerous journey from Babylonia to Palestine (
Ezra 8:22, 31
). There were others, again, after the Holy Land was reached, arising out of the jealousy and ill will of neighbouring nations (
. and 5;
Neither shall the flame kindle upon thee
. The literal fulfilment in the persons of the "three children" (
) will be obvious to every reader. But the prophecy has, no doubt, a far wider scope.
the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt
thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
The Holy One of Israel
Isaiah 41:14, 20
, with the comment). Thy Saviour. He who had saved them front Pharaoh (
), from Jabin (
.), from Midian (
.), from the Philistines (
2 Samuel 8:1
), from Zerah (
2 Chronicles 14:9-15
), from Sennacherib (
). The term is first used of God by David in
2 Samuel 22:3
(if that psalm be Davidical). It is also applied to God once in Jeremiah (
), and once in Hosea (
). With Isaiah, in these later chapters it is a favourite epithet, being used of God no fewer than eight times (see ver. 11;
Isaiah 45:15, 21
) With his eye fixed on the deliverance of Israel out of the double captivity of sin and of Babylon, he naturally had much before him this aspect of Jehovah.
I gave Egypt for thy ransom
, etc.; rather,
I have given
; that is to say, "In my counsels I have already assigned to the Persians, as compensation for their letting thee go free, the broad countries of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba." Even the latest date assigned by sceptical critics to "the Second Isaiah" would make this a most remarkable prophecy. Egypt was not reduced, nor was Ethiopia made tributary to Persia until several years after the death of Cyrus, whose son, Cambyses, effected the conquests about
. Human foresight could not, in the lifetime of Cyrus, have predicted with any certainty what would be the result of collision between Egypt and Persia; much less could it have ventured on the improbable supposition that the remote Ethiopia would submit itself to the Achae-menisn yoke. Yet this was the result of the invasion of Cambyses, who made Egypt a Persian province, and forced the Ethiopians to submit to the payment of an annual tribute (see Herod., 3:97; 7:69).
. If "Seba" is "the land of Meroe, which is enclosed between the White and Blue Niles" (Delitzsch), it may be questioned whether really this ever formed a portion of the Persian empire. But Isaiah has probably no very distinct knowledge of the geographical position of Seba, or of the relations between the Sabaeans and the rest of the Ethiopians. He couples the two together, both here and in
, as forming two portions of one nation. The subjection of the Ethiopians involves, in his eyes, the subjection of the Sabaeans. And we cannot say that he is wrong, since it is not at all clear that the Sabaeans were not generally spread through Ethiopia, or at any rate scattered in various parts of the country.
Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
Since thou wast precious
. "Since" probably means "from the time that" (LXX.,
), not "because," as Delitzsch and Mr. Cheyne render. Israel became "precious" from the time that the promise was given to Jacob that in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed (
). Thenceforward God placed the interests of Israel above those of "men" generally, and markedly above those of any other "people."
as Mizraim, Cush, Seba (ver. 3).
Fear not: for I
with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
Fear not: for I am with thee
I will bring thy seed from the east... from the west
. The actual extent of the Jewish
in Isaiah's day has been greatly exaggerated by some modern critics, who say that there were at that date "bands of Jewish exiles in the
of the Mediterranean, and even in China" (Cheyne). Israel had been carried captive into Mesopotamia and into Media (
2 Kings 17:6
1 Chronicles 5:26
), perhaps, also, into other regions belonging at the time to Assyria, as Babylonia, Assyria Proper, Syria. Two hundred thousand Jews had been taken to Nineveh by Sennacherib ('Eponym Canon,' p. 134), and planted probably by him m outlying portions of his dominions. But such transplantation would not carry the dispersion further than Cilicia and Cyprus towards the west, Armenia towards the north, Media towards the east, and the shores of the Persian Gulf towards the south. Any scattering of the nation into regions more remote than these, as into [Egypt, Ethiopia, Elam (
), and China - if Sinim is China (
) - must have been seen by Isaiah in vision, or made known to him by revelation. It had not taken place in his day. The expression, "ends of the earth" (ver. 6), must not be pressed in Isaiah any more than in Herodotus, where the
ἐσχατίαι τῆς οἰκουμέης
are India, Arabia, Ethiopia, and Scythia (3:106-116).
I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
Bring my sons
. The nations are called upon, not merely to "let Israel go," but to conduct and escort them from the places of their abode to their own country. (On the need of such escort, see
Ezra 8:22, 31
. On the actual furnishing of an escort in one case by a Persian king, see
Nehemiah 2:7, 8
every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
Every one that is called by my name
. The very name of "Israel" meant "prince of God," or "soldier of God," and thus every Israelite was "called by God's name." Israelites were also known among the nations as Jehovah-worshippers (see the Moabite Stone, line 18).
I have created... formed... made him
(comp. ver. 1). "The three verbs describe the process of formation from the first rough cutting to the perfecting of the work" (Cheyne). The third verb would, perhaps, be best translated. "I have perfected," or "I have completed (him)." All three acts - creation, formation, and completion - are done by God for his own glory (comp.
Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.
- A RENEWED CHALLENGE TO THE NATIONS. The nations are once more challenged (comp.
Isaiah 41:1, 21-26
) to set forth the claims of their gods against those of Jehovah. Israel is summoned on the one hand (ver. 8); the nations on the other (ver. 9). What prophecy can the nations produce, either old or new? The Israelites can abundantly witness on behalf of Jehovah (ver. 10). Jehovah adds a further witness of himself (vers. 11-13).
Bring forth the blind people that have eyes
. A tribunal is supposed to have been prepared, before which the contending parties are summoned to appear and plead. Israel is first summoned, as "a blind people that have eyes;"
a people long blind (
Isaiah 42:7, 18, 19
), who have now, to some extent, recovered their sight (
), and are ready to witness for God. Next, the nations are summoned (see the following verse).
Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say,
All the nations
all ye nations.
Israel is a witness on the one hand, a multitude of nations on the other, recalling the contention of Elijah with the four hundred priests of Baal (
1 Kings 18:22
). The people; rather,
Who among them can declare this?
which of them can show any prediction made by their gods comparable to the one contained in vers. 1-77 And show us former things. "Exhibit the past history of the world in well-attested documents" (Kay); "Make mention of past events which they have correctly foretold" (Cheyne, Delitzsch). According to the former rendering, the contrast is between the solemn, serious
of early times in Genesis, and the grotesque and extravagant myths, in which the nations generally embodied their views of the primitive ages. (For a specimen of the contrast, see 'Aids to Faith,' Essay 6. pp. 275, 276.)
Let them bring forth their witnesses
. Witnesses that the prophecies were really delivered before the events happened, or that the accounts of past times are such as have really come down to them from their ancestors.
Or let them hear and say, It is truth
. It is uncertain whether we ought to translate the initial
here by "and" or by "or." If the former, the sense is, "And then let them (
the witnesses) give ear to the assertions made, and declare them true;" if the latter, we may render, with Dr. Kay, "Or, if they have no witnesses, let them listen to the sacred records, and confess them to be
my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I
he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
Ye are my witnesses
saith the Lord
"Ye, Israel, are the witnesses that I cite" - ye can prove the antiquity of the historical books of Scripture by the ordinary modes by which antiquity is proved, and also the exact dates of the prophetical sues. Ye can show what clear and unambiguous prophecies have been delivered centuries before the event, as the destruction of Jerusalem by a nation in whom none can fail to recognize the Romans (
), prophesied by Moses; the demolition of the altar at Bethel by a king of the house of David, Josiah by name, prophesied by a man of God in the reign of Jeroboam (
1 Kings 13:2
); the long continuance of David's progeny upon the throne of Judah, prophesied by Nathan in David's time (
2 Samuel 7:11-16
); the fairly long continuance of the house of Jehu on the throne of Israel, prophesied to Jehu himself (
2 Kings 10:30
); and the like. Israel has been at all times, and still is, one of the most important witnesses for God that exists in the world. Like the Church, Israel is the "witness and keeper" of a large portion of "Holy Writ." Her past history witnesses for God. Her continued existence and present condition constitute additional testimony.
And my Servant whom I have chosen
. To explain this as meaning "and ye are also my servant, whom I have chosen" (Nagelsbach, Cheyne, Delitzsch), is to empty it of all its force. Manifestly, a further witness is adduced, "Ye are my witnesses; and so is my Servant," etc. The "Servant" intended can only be the one true Servant of
, since faithful Israel is already among the witnesses. The prophet rises above the consideration of the immediately present, or of the single trial-scene which he is setting before us, and has in mind the great controversy ever going on between those who are for God and those who are against him. He sees, on the side of God
faithful Israel: and
Christ, the "Faithful Witness" (
), who "came into the world that he should bear witness of the truth" (
). These are the two witnesses by whom God's truth is maintained in a world of falsehood and delusion.
That ye may know
. The subject is changed. "Ye" here points to "the nations," or mankind at large. I am he (comp.
Before me there was no God formed
. All other gods beside me are "formed" gods - invented, fashioned, made by men. None of them was ever made before me.
Beside me there is no saviour
. None but God can save men. Man cannot make atonement for his fellows; "for it cost more to redeem their souls, so that he must let that alone for ever" (
, Prayer-book Version). The human "saviours" whom God raises up to deliver his people out of the hand of their enemies (
2 Kings 13:5
, etc.), are "saviours" in quite a secondary and inferior sense.
the LORD; and beside me
I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when
among you: therefore ye
my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I
I have declared
, etc. Translate,
when there was no strange god among you
; 1.e I did what the idol-gods cannot do - announced deliverance, and effected it, and further proclaimed (or published) it, at the time when you Israelites had no idolatry among you. The allusion is to the deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib, which God announced by the mouth of Isaiah (
), effected by the hand of his angel (
), and then caused to be published by Isaiah, who wrote the two accounts of the deliverance - both that in his own prophecy, and that in the Second Book of Kings (
2 Kings 19:20-35
). At that time there was no (open) idolatry in Judah, since Hezekiah had destroyed the idols (
2 Kings 18:4
). Therefore ye are my witnesses
that I am God; literally,
and ye are my witnesses
and I am
God. Ye can bear witness of the truth of what I have asserted in the previous portion of the verse, and your witness to this effect proves me to be God.
Yea, before the day
none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?
Yea, before the day was I am he
. So the LXX., Jerome, and Stier; but most moderns translate, "Yea,
from this time forth
I am he" (setup.
). Kay, however, thinks that the translation of the Authorized Version may stand. Who shall let it? literally, as in
who shall turn it back
"reverse it, undo it."
Surely no one
Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry
in the ships.
- A DECLARATION AGAINST BABYLON, AND A PROMISE OF ISRAEL'S RESTORATION. Having wound up the preceding "controversy" with a reference to his own power to work great results (ver. 13), Jehovah now brings forward two examples - the discomfiture of Babylon (vers. 14, 15), and the recovery and restoration of Israel (vers. 16-21), both of which he is about to accomplish.
For your sake I have sent to Babylon
. For Israel's sake God has already, in his counsels, sent to Babylon the instruments of his vengeance - Cyrus and his soldiers - and by their instrumentality has brought down all their nobles; or rather,
has brought them all down
and the Chaldeans
even the Chaldeans.
The Chaldeans are not in Isaiah, as in Daniel (
), a special class of Babylonians, but, as elsewhere commonly in Scripture, the Babylonians generally (see Isaiah 12:19; 47:1). In the native inscriptions the term is especially applied to the inhabitants of the tract upon the sea-coast.
Whose cry is in the ships
into their ships of wailing.
The Chaldeans, flying from the Persian attack, betake themselves to their ships with cries of grief, the ships thereby becoming "ships of wailing." The nautical character of the Babylonians is strongly marked in the inscriptions, where "the ships of Ur are celebrated at a very remote period, and the native kings, when hard pressed by the Assyrians, are constantly represented as going on ship-board, and crossing the Persian Gulf to Susiana, or to some of the islands (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 1. pp. 40, 43, 73; vol. 7. p. 63; vol. 9. p. 60). The abundant traffic and the numerous merchants of Babylon are mentioned by Ezekiel (
). AEsehylus, moreover, notes that the Babylonians of his day were "navigators of ships" ('Persae,' 11. 52-55).
the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.
The Creator of Israel
. An unusual epithet; but comp. vers. 1, 7. Your King (see
1 Samuel 8:7
1 Samuel 12:12
; and comp.
Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;
The Lord, which maketh a way in the sea
. The deliverance out of Egypt is glanced at, to prepare the way for the announcement of deliverance from the hand of Babylon. Then "a way was made in the sea" (
), "and a path in the mighty waters;" now it will be necessary to make "a way in the wilderness" (ver. 19).
Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.
Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse
. Still the reference is to the events of the Exodus, whereof Israel is reminded, since "the redemption out of Egypt was a type and pledge of the deliverance to be looked for out of Babylon" (Delitzsch). God then "brought out" after Israel, to attack him, "chariot and horse, army and power;" but the result was their destruction.
They shall lie down... they shall not rise
they lie down
they do not rise
(so Cheyne and Delitzsch). The future has here, as so often, the force of a present, the present being the
What the prophet describes in a few touches is the complete overthrow of Pharaoh's host in the Red Sea, and the entire extinction of that life which had just before shown itself as "lusty and strong."
Quenched as tow
). The metaphor is not drawn from burning tow, which is not very readily extinguished, but from the wick of a lamp, which a single breath puts out.
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
Remember ye not the former things
. The old deliverance will be as nothing compared with the new. Israel must cast its eye forwards, not backwards. Mr. Cheyne well compares
Jeremiah 23:7, 8
, and also well notes that "the chief glories of the second manifestation are spiritual." Israel in the wilderness was a stiff:necked and rebellious people, given to murmuring, licentiousness, and idolatry. Israel, returned from Babylon, will no more hanker after idols, but will have God's Law "put in their inward parts" (
), and will "show forth God's praise" (ver. 21).
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert.
Behold, I will do a new thing
, with the comment). It is, of course, quite possible that the novelty is not
in the circumstances of the deliverance, but extends to all its results, among which is the Messianic kingdom - verily, a "new thing" (see
Now it shall spring forth
already it is springing up
). Things, however, are more advanced (to the prophet's eye) than when that passage was written. Events are shaping themselves - the deliverance approaches.
Shall ye not know it?
will ye not give heed to it
? Will not the exiled people, whom Isaiah addresses, turn their thoughts this way, and let the idea of deliverance take possession of their minds, instead of brooding on past and present sufferings (see
God is about to make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert
. As he led his people out of their Egyptian bondage, first through the Red Sea, and then through a "howling wilderness" (
), so now he will "make a way" for them through a still more desolate tract. We are nowhere historically told by what route the Israelites ultimately returned. If they went by Tadmor and Damascus, they must have traversed a most arid and difficult desert. Even if they did not quit the Euphrates till they reached the latitude of Aleppo, still they must have had some wide tracts of wilderness to cross.
The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
The beast of the field shall honour me
. The animal creation shall, participate in the benefits of the "new thing" introduced by the restoration of Israel, and in their dumb way shall show their gratitude.
The dragons and the owls
. The recent mention of the desert causes animals of the desert (
Isaiah 13:21, 22
) to be taken as examples. (On the animals intended, see the comment on Isaiah 34:13.) If even the beasts of the desert honoured God, much more would the rest of the animal creation (comp.
This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.
This people have I formed for myself
(see above, ver. 7, and comp.
They shall show forth my praise
their restoration to their own land shall cause them to glorify me both with songs of praise (for the fulfilment, see
; and the post-Captivity psalms), and also by a life in accordance with my laws.
But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
- A REPROACH ADDRESSED TO CAPTIVE ISRAEL FOR ITS PAST OMISSIONS AND SINS. The thought of Israel in the future, redeemed, restored, and "telling out God's praise" (ver. 21), raises naturally the con-trusted thought of Israel in the present and the past, disobedient, full of shortcomings (vers. 22-24), too often guilty of overt acts of sin (vers. 24-28). While reproaching his people, and reminding them that the exile is the wellmented punishment of their past offences (vers. 27, 28), God still promises them pardon if they will appeal to his covenant of mercy (vers. 25, 26).
But thou hast not called upon me
. The Jews had never been greatly given to prayer. They were a "practical" people, active, energetic, hard-working, busily employed in handicrafts, commerce, or agriculture. David and Daniel, who prayed three times a day (
), were probably exceptions to the general rule. At any rate, it appears here that in the exile the nation had neglected prayer. No doubt there was a nucleus of "faithful men," who did as Daniel did. But with the mass it was otherwise. Hard toil occupied their time. Despair made dull their hearts. They looked for no alleviation of their lot, and lived on in a sort of apathy.
But thou hast been weary of me
for thou hast wearied of me.
Thou hast left off praying, because thou wast weary of my service.
Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.
Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings
. If this reproach is regarded as addressed to
offer sacrifices, we must explain it by the analogy of the expression, "the calves of your lips" (
). All prayer may be regarded as a sort of offering, and withholding it as withholding sacrifice. But it is possible that the prophet is not addressing captive Israel only, but carrying his thoughts back to the period preceding the Captivity, when there was a general neglect of God's service, and for a time the temple was given up to idol-worship (
2 Kings 21:3-7
2 Kings 23:4-14
). The glance back at earlier times is apparent in vers. 27, 28.
I have not caused thee to serve with an offering
, etc.; rather, I
put no heavy service on thee in respect of meat offering
neither made I thee to toil in respect of incense
"my positive requirements have been light - surely thou shouldst have complied with them." Meat offerings were to accompany every sacrifice, but were a small burthen. Incense was not required from any private person.
Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.
Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money
. "Sweet cane" is mentioned in the Law only in connection with the "holy anointing oil" (
). But the present passage raises a suspicion that it was practically used in the burnt offerings of private persons (see the next clause). That it was anciently used in Babylonia in sacrifice, appears from the Deluge Tablets ('Transactions of Society of Bibl. Archaeol.,' vol. 3. p. 559, 1. 48).
But thou hast made me to serve with thy sins
. "The sins of Israel," as Delitzsch observes, "pressed upon Jehovah, as a burthen does upon a servant." This is a part of the fundamental idea running through the third part of Isaiah, closely connected with the mediatorial office of the "Servant of the Lord," who "bare the sin of many" (
), and on whom "the Lord laid the iniquity of us all" (
). Israel, both during the Captivity and before, had accumulated a heavy load of sin, not merely by negligence, but by overt acts of guilt (see
Isaiah 1:4, 15, 21-23
he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions
Psalm 51:1, 9
). The idea is based on that of sins being "noted in a book" (
For mine own sake
purely from the love that I bare thee.
Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.
Put me in remembrance
. Either, ironically, "Remind me of thy good deeds; plead thy cause with me on that ground; show the merits that justify thee;" or else seriously, "Remind me of my promises; plead them before me; declare them, that by my free grace I may justify thee." The latter is the more probable interpretation.
Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.
Thy first father hath sinned
thy first father sinned
; that is, "Thou hast no merits of thy own. Even thy first father, Abraham, sinned (
Genesis 12:13, 18
and thy teachers have transgressed.
Thy very priests and prophets have been full of imperfections - have often sinned against me. Much more hast thou, my people generally, committed grievous offences. Thou must therefore throw thyself on my mercy."
Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.
Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary
. The "princes of the sanctuary" (literally, "princes of holiness") are the principal members of the priesthood, who were carried into captivity with the rest of the people (
2 Kings 25:18
), and deprived of their functions, as a part of the punishment due to Israel for its sins. Israel itself was at the same time given to the curse of a severe bondage and to the reproaches of the neighboring nation.
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