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Israel Assured of God’s Help

41

Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;

let the peoples renew their strength;

let them approach, then let them speak;

let us together draw near for judgment.

 

2

Who has roused a victor from the east,

summoned him to his service?

He delivers up nations to him,

and tramples kings under foot;

he makes them like dust with his sword,

like driven stubble with his bow.

3

He pursues them and passes on safely,

scarcely touching the path with his feet.

4

Who has performed and done this,

calling the generations from the beginning?

I, the Lord, am first,

and will be with the last.

5

The coastlands have seen and are afraid,

the ends of the earth tremble;

they have drawn near and come.

6

Each one helps the other,

saying to one another, “Take courage!”

7

The artisan encourages the goldsmith,

and the one who smooths with the hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil,

saying of the soldering, “It is good”;

and they fasten it with nails so that it cannot be moved.

8

But you, Israel, my servant,

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

the offspring of Abraham, my friend;

9

you whom I took from the ends of the earth,

and called from its farthest corners,

saying to you, “You are my servant,

I have chosen you and not cast you off”;

10

do not fear, for I am with you,

do not be afraid, for I am your God;

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

 

11

Yes, all who are incensed against you

shall be ashamed and disgraced;

those who strive against you

shall be as nothing and shall perish.

12

You shall seek those who contend with you,

but you shall not find them;

those who war against you

shall be as nothing at all.

13

For I, the Lord your God,

hold your right hand;

it is I who say to you, “Do not fear,

I will help you.”

 

14

Do not fear, you worm Jacob,

you insect Israel!

I will help you, says the Lord;

your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

15

Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge,

sharp, new, and having teeth;

you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,

and you shall make the hills like chaff.

16

You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away,

and the tempest shall scatter them.

Then you shall rejoice in the Lord;

in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

 

17

When the poor and needy seek water,

and there is none,

and their tongue is parched with thirst,

I the Lord will answer them,

I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

18

I will open rivers on the bare heights,

and fountains in the midst of the valleys;

I will make the wilderness a pool of water,

and the dry land springs of water.

19

I will put in the wilderness the cedar,

the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;

I will set in the desert the cypress,

the plane and the pine together,

20

so that all may see and know,

all may consider and understand,

that the hand of the Lord has done this,

the Holy One of Israel has created it.

 

The Futility of Idols

21

Set forth your case, says the Lord;

bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.

22

Let them bring them, and tell us

what is to happen.

Tell us the former things, what they are,

so that we may consider them,

and that we may know their outcome;

or declare to us the things to come.

23

Tell us what is to come hereafter,

that we may know that you are gods;

do good, or do harm,

that we may be afraid and terrified.

24

You, indeed, are nothing

and your work is nothing at all;

whoever chooses you is an abomination.

 

25

I stirred up one from the north, and he has come,

from the rising of the sun he was summoned by name.

He shall trample on rulers as on mortar,

as the potter treads clay.

26

Who declared it from the beginning, so that we might know,

and beforehand, so that we might say, “He is right”?

There was no one who declared it, none who proclaimed,

none who heard your words.

27

I first have declared it to Zion,

and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good tidings.

28

But when I look there is no one;

among these there is no counselor

who, when I ask, gives an answer.

29

No, they are all a delusion;

their works are nothing;

their images are empty wind.

 


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Isa 41:1-29. Additional Reasons Why the Jews Should Place Confidence in God's Promises of Delivering Them; He Will Raise Up a Prince as Their Deliverer, Whereas the Idols Could Not Deliver the Heathen Nations from That Prince.

1. (Zec 2:13). God is about to argue the case; therefore let the nations listen in reverential silence. Compare Ge 28:16, 17, as to the spirit in which we ought to behave before God.

before me—rather (turning), "towards me" [Maurer].

islands—including all regions beyond sea (Jer 25:22), maritime regions, not merely isles in the strict sense.

renew … strength—Let them gather their strength for the argument; let them adduce their strongest arguments (compare Isa 1:18; Job 9:32). "Judgment" means here, to decide the point at issue between us.

2. Who—else but God? The fact that God "raiseth up" Cyrus and qualifies him for becoming the conqueror of the nations and deliverer of God's people, is a strong argument why they should trust in Him. The future is here prophetically represented as present or past.

the righteous man—Cyrus; as Isa 44:28; 45:1-4, 13; 46:11, "from the East," prove. Called "righteous," not so much on account of his own equity [Herodotus, 3.89], as because he fulfilled God's righteous will in restoring the Jews from their unjust captivity. Raised him up in righteousness. The Septuagint takes the Hebrew as a noun "righteousness." Maurer translates, "Who raised up him whom salvation (national and temporal, the gift of God's 'righteousness' to the good, Isa 32:17; compare Isa 45:8; 51:5) meets at his foot" (that is, wherever he goes). Cyrus is said to come from the East, because Persia is east of Babylon; but in Isa 41:25, from the north, in reference to Media. At the same time the full sense of righteousness, or righteous, and of the whole passage, is realized only in Messiah, Cyrus' antitype (Cyrus knew not God, Isa 45:4). He goes forth as the Universal Conqueror of the "nations," in righteousness making war (Ps 2:8, 9; Re 19:11-15; 6:2; 2:26, 27). "The idols He shall utterly abolish" (compare Isa 7:23, with Isa 2:18). Righteousness was always raised up from the East. Paradise was east of Eden. The cherubim were at the east of the garden. Abraham was called from the East. Judea, the birthplace of Messiah, was in the East.

called … to … foot—called him to attend His (God's) steps, that is, follow His guidance. In Ezr 1:2, Cyrus acknowledges Jehovah as the Giver of his victories. He subdued the nations from the Euxine to the Red Sea, and even Egypt (says Xenophon).

dust—(Isa 17:13; 29:5; Ps 18:42). Persia, Cyrus' country, was famed for the use of the "bow" (Isa 22:6). "Before him" means "gave them into his power" (Jos 10:12). Maurer translates, "Gave his (the enemy's) sword to be dust, and his (the enemy's) bow to be as stubble" (Job 41:26, 29).

3. Cyrus had not visited the regions of the Euphrates and westward until he visited them for conquest. So the gospel conquests penetrated regions where the name of God was unknown before.

4. Who—else but God?

calling … generations from … beginning—The origin and position of all nations are from God (De 32:8; Ac 17:26); what is true of Cyrus and his conquests is true of all the movements of history from the first; all are from God.

with the last—that is, the last (Isa 44:6; 48:12).

5. feared—that they would be subdued.

drew near, and came—together, for mutual defense.

6. Be of good courage—Be not alarmed because of Cyrus, but make new images to secure the favor of the gods against him.

7. One workman encourages the other to be quick in finishing the idol, so as to avert the impending danger.

nails—to keep it steady in its place. Wisdom 13:15, 16, gives a similar picture of the folly of idolatry.

8. Contrast between the idolatrous nations whom God will destroy by Cyrus, and Israel whom God will deliver by the same man for their forefathers' sake.

servant—so termed as being chosen by God to worship Him themselves, and to lead other peoples to do the same (Isa 45:4).

Jacob … chosen—(Ps 135:4).

my friend—literally, "loving me."

9. Abraham, the father of the Jews, taken from the remote Ur of the Chaldees. Others take it of Israel, called out of Egypt (De 4:37; Ho 11:1).

from the chief men—literally, "the elbows"; so the joints; hence the root which joins the tree to the earth; figuratively, those of ancient and noble stock. But the parallel clause "ends of the earth" favors Gesenius, who translates, "the extremities of the earth"; so Jerome.

10. be not dismayed—literally, anxiously to look at one another in dismay.

right hand of my righteousness—that is, My right hand prepared in accordance with My righteousness (faithfulness to My promises) to uphold thee.

11. ashamed—put to the shame of defeat (compare Isa 54:17; Ro 9:33).

12. seek … and … not find—said of one so utterly put out of the way that not a trace of him can be found (Ps 37:36).

thing of naught—shall utterly perish.

13. (De 33:26, 29).

14. worm—in a state of contempt and affliction, whom all loathe and tread on, the very expression which Messiah, on the cross, applies to Himself (Ps 22:6), so completely are the Lord and His people identified and assimilated. God's people are as 'worms' in humble thoughts of themselves, and in their enemies' haughty thoughts of them; worms, but not vipers, or of the serpent's seed." [Henry].

men—The parallelism requires the word "men" here to have associated with it the idea of fewness or feebleness. Lowth translates, "Ye mortals of Israel." The Septuagint, "altogether diminutive." Maurer supports English Version, which the Hebrew text best accords with.

the Lord—in general.

and thy redeemer—in particular; a still stronger reason why He should "help" them.

15. God will make Israel to destroy their enemies as the Eastern corn-drag (Isa 28:27, 28) bruises out the grain with its teeth, and gives the chaff to the winds to scatter.

teeth—serrated, so as to cut up the straw for fodder and separate the grain from the chaff.

mountains … hills—kingdoms more or less powerful that were hostile to Israel (Isa 2:14).

16. fan—winnowed (compare Mt 3:12).

whirlwind … scatter them—(Job 27:21; 30:22).

17. poor and needy—primarily, the exiles in Babylon.

water—figuratively, refreshment, prosperity after their affliction. The language is so constructed as only very partially to apply to the local and temporary event of the restoration from Babylon; but fully to be realized in the waters of life and of the Spirit, under the Gospel (Isa 30:25; 44:3; Joh 7:37-39; 4:14). God wrought no miracles that we read of, in any wilderness, during the return from Babylon.

faileth—rather, "is rigid" or parched [Horsley].

18. Alluding to the waters with which Israel was miraculously supplied in the desert after having come out of Egypt.

high places—bare of trees, barren, and unwatered (Jer 4:11; 14:6). "High places … valleys" spiritually express that in all circumstances, whether elevated or depressed, God's people will have refreshment for their souls, however little to be expected it might seem.

19. (Isa 32:15; 55:13).

shittah—rather, the "acacia," or Egyptian thorn, from which the gum Arabic is obtained [Lowth].

oil tree—the olive.

fir tree—rather, the "cypress": grateful by its shade.

pineGesenius translates, "the holm."

box tree—not the shrub used for bordering flower beds, but [Gesenius] a kind of cedar, remarkable for the smallness of its cones, and the upward direction of its branches.

20. consider—literally, "lay it (to heart)"; turn (their attention) to it. "They" refers to all lands (Isa 41:1; Ps 64:9; 40:3). The effect on the Gentiles of God's open interposition hereafter in behalf of Israel shall be, they shall seek Israel's God (Isa 2:3; Zec 8:21-23).

21. A new challenge to the idolaters (see Isa 41:1, 7) to say, can their idols predict future events as Jehovah can (Isa 41:22-25, &c.)?

your strong reasons—the reasons for idol-worship which you think especially strong.

22. what shall happen—"Let them bring near and declare future contingencies" [Horsley].

former things … the latter end of them—show what former predictions the idols have given, that we may compare the event ("latter end") with them; or give new prophecies ("declare things to come") (Isa 42:9), [Maurer]. Barnes explains it more reconditely, "Let them foretell the entire series of events, showing, in their order, the things which shall first occur, as well as those which shall finally happen"; the false prophets tried to predict isolated events, having no mutual dependency; not a long series of events mutually and orderly connected, and stretching far into futurity. They did not even try to do this. None but God can do it (Isa 46:10; 44:7, 8). "Or … things to come" will, in this view, mean, Let them, if they cannot predict the series, even predict plainly any detached events.

23. do good … evil—give any proof at all of your power, either to reward your friends or punish your enemies (Ps 115:2-8).

that we may be dismayed, and behold it togetherMaurer translates, "That we (Jehovah and the idols) may look one another in the face (that is, encounter one another, 2Ki 14:8, 11), and see" our respective powers by a trial. Horsley translates, "Then the moment we behold, we shall be dismayed." "We" thus, and in English Version, refers to Jehovah and His worshippers.

24. of nothing—(See on Isa 40:17). The Hebrew text is here corrupt; so English Version treats it.

abomination—abstract for concrete: not merely abominable, but the essence of whatever is so (De 18:12).

chooseth you—as an object of worship.

25. raised up—in purpose: not fulfilled till a hundred fifty years afterwards.

north—In Isa 41:2, "from the East"; both are true: see the note there.

call … my name—acknowledge Me as God, and attribute his success to Me; this he did in the proclamation (Ezr 1:2). This does not necessarily imply that Cyrus renounced idolatry, but hearing of Isaiah's prophecy given a hundred fifty years before, so fully realized in his own acts, he recognized God as the true God, but retained his idol (so Naaman, 2Ki 5:1-27; compare 2Ki 17:33, 41; Da 3:28; 4:1-3, 34-37).

princes—the Babylonian satraps or governors of provinces.

mortar—"mire"; He shall tread them under foot as dirt (Isa 10:6).

26. Who—of the idolatrous soothsayers? When this prophecy shall be fulfilled, all shall see that God foretold as to Cyrus, which none of the soothsayers have.

beforetime—before the event occurred.

He is righteous—rather, "It is true"; it was a true prophecy, as the event shows. "He is righteous," in English Version, must be interpreted, The fulfilment of the idol's words proves that he is faithful.

showeth, &c.—rather, "there was none (of the soothsayers) that showed … declared—no one has heard your words" foretelling the event.

27. Rather, "I first will give to Zion and to Jerusalem the messenger of good tidings, Behold, behold them!" The clause, "Behold … them" (the wished-for event is now present) is inserted in the middle of the sentence as a detached exclamation, by an elegant transposition, the language being framed abruptly, as one would speak in putting vividly as it were, before the eyes of others, some joyous event which he had just learned [Ludovicus De Dieu] (compare Isa 40:9). None of the idols had foretold these events. Jehovah was the "first" to do so (see Isa 41:4).

28. no counsellor—no one of the idolatrous soothsayers who could inform (Nu 24:14) those who consulted them what would take place. Compare "counsel of His messenger" (Isa 44:26).

when I asked—that is, challenged them, in this chapter.

29. confusion—"emptiness" [Barnes].




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