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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 41

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole BibleCommentary Critical




Verse 1

1. ( :-). God is about to argue the case; therefore let the nations listen in reverential silence. Compare Genesis 28:16; Genesis 28:17, 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 (Genesis 28:17- :), 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 Isaiah 1:18; Job 9:32). "Judgment" means here, to decide the point at issue between us.

Verse 2

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 Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-4; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 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, Isaiah 46:11- :; compare Isaiah 45:8; Isaiah 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 Isaiah 51:5- :, 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, Isaiah 51:5- :). He goes forth as the Universal Conqueror of the "nations," in righteousness making war (Psalms 2:8; Psalms 2:9; Revelation 19:11-15; Revelation 6:2; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 2:27). "The idols He shall utterly abolish" (compare Isaiah 7:23; Isaiah 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 Ezra 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— (Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5; Psalms 18:42). Persia, Cyrus' country, was famed for the use of the "bow" (Isaiah 22:6). "Before him" means "gave them into his power" (Isaiah 22:6- :). MAURER translates, "Gave his (the enemy's) sword to be dust, and his (the enemy's) bow to be as stubble" (Job 41:26; Job 41:29).

Verse 3

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.

Verse 4

4. Who—else but God?

calling . . . generations from . . . beginning—The origin and position of all nations are from God (Deuteronomy 32:8; Acts 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 (Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12).

Verse 5

5. feared—that they would be subdued.

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

Verse 6

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

Verse 7

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.

Verse 8

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 (Isaiah 45:4).

Jacob . . . chosen— (Isaiah 45:4- :).

my friend—literally, "loving me."

Verse 9

9. Abraham, the father of the Jews, taken from the remote Ur of the Chaldees. Others take it of Israel, called out of Egypt (Deuteronomy 4:37; Hosea 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.

Verse 10

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.

Verse 11

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

Verse 12

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

thing of naught—shall utterly perish.

Verse 13

13. (Deuteronomy 33:26; Deuteronomy 33:29).

Verse 14

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 ( :-), 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.

Verse 15

15. God will make Israel to destroy their enemies as the Eastern corn-drag (Isaiah 28:27; Isaiah 28:28) 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 (Isaiah 2:14).

Verse 16

16. fan—winnowed (compare :-).

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

Verse 17

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 (Isaiah 30:25; Isaiah 44:3; John 7:37-39; John 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].

Verse 18

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 (Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 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.

Verse 19

19. (Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 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.

pine—GESENIUS 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.

Verse 20

20. consider—literally, "lay it (to heart)"; turn (their attention) to it. "They" refers to all lands (Isaiah 41:1; Psalms 64:9; Psalms 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 (Isaiah 2:3; Zechariah 8:21-23).

Verse 21

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

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

Verse 22

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") (Isaiah 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 (Isaiah 46:10; Isaiah 44:7; Isaiah 44:8). "Or . . . things to come" will, in this view, mean, Let them, if they cannot predict the series, even predict plainly any detached events.

Verse 23

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

that we may be dismayed, and behold it together—MAURER translates, "That we (Jehovah and the idols) may look one another in the face (that is, encounter one another, 2 Kings 14:8; 2 Kings 14:11), 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.

Verse 24

24. of nothing—(See on :-). 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 (Deuteronomy 18:12).

chooseth you—as an object of worship.

Verse 25

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

north—In :-, "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 ( :-). 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, :-; compare 2 Kings 17:33; 2 Kings 17:41; Daniel 3:28; Daniel 4:1-3; Daniel 4:34-37).

princes—the Babylonian satraps or governors of provinces.

mortar—"mire"; He shall tread them under foot as dirt (Daniel 4:34-27.4.37- :).

Verse 26

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.

Verse 27

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 :-). None of the idols had foretold these events. Jehovah was the "first" to do so (see :-).

Verse 28

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

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

Verse 29

29. confusion—"emptiness" [BARNES].

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 41". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfb/isaiah-41.html. 1871-8.
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