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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 43

Verses 1-2

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 thee by thy name; thou art mine.

But now - Notwithstanding God's past just judgments for Israel's sins.

Saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob - not only in the general sense, but specially created as a special people unto Himself (Isaiah 43:7; Isaiah 43:15; Isaiah 43:21; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 44:24). So believers, "created in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:10), "a peculiar people" - i:e., a people whom God especially chose to be His ([laos eis peripoieesin]) (1 Peter 2:9).

Fear not: for I have redeemed thee - a second argument why they should trust Him, besides creation. The Hebrew, gaa'al (H1350), means to ransom by a price paid in lieu of the captive (cf. Isaiah 43:3). Babylon was to be the ransom in this case - i:e., was to be destroyed, in order that they might be delivered: so Christ became a curse, doomed to death, that we might be redeemed.

I have called (thee) by thy name - not merely "called" in general, as in Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 48:12; Isaiah 51:2, but designated as His own special people (cf. Isaiah 45:3-4; Exodus 33:12; John 10:3).

When thou passest ... through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee - so in passing Jordan, though at its "overflow," when "all the time of harvest" its "swellings" were especially dangerous (Joshua 3:15; Jeremiah 12:5).

Waters ... fire - a proverbial phrase for the extremest perils (Psalms 66:12; also Psalms 138:7). Literally fulfilled at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-31); and in the case of the three youths cast into the fiery furnace for conscience' sake (Dan Red Sea (Exodus 14:1-31); and in the case of the three youths cast into the fiery furnace for conscience' sake (Daniel 3:25; Daniel 3:27).

Verse 3

For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

I gave Egypt for thy ransom. Either Egypt or Israel must perish: God chose that Egypt, though so much more mighty, should be destroyed, in order that His people might be delivered; thus Egypt stood, instead of Israel, as a kind of "ransom." The Hebrew, koper (H3724), means properly, that with which anything is overlaid, as the pitch with which the ark was overlaid; hence, that which covers over sins, an atonement. Nebuchadnezzar had subdued Egypt, Ethiopia (Hebrew, Cush), and Saba (descended from Cush Genesis 10:7, probably Meroe of Ethiopia, a great island formed by the Astaboras and the Nile, conquered by Cambyses, successor of Cyrus). Cyrus received these from God, with the rest of the Babylonian dominions, in consideration of his being about to deliver Israel. However, the reference may be to the three years' war in which Sargon overcame these countries, and so had his attention diverted from Israel, (see notes, Isaiah 20:1-6) (Vitringa). But the sense is probably more general, including all the instances in which Yahweh sacrificed mighty pagan nations when the safety of Israel required it.

Verse 4

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 - Hebrew, meeasher (ex quo tempore), from the time that: all along from the beginning; because there was never a time when Israel was not Yahweh's people.

Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable ... therefore will I give men for thee.

The apodosis should be at "I will give." 'Since ever thou wast precious in my sight, honourable, and that I loved thee, I will give men for thee' (cf. Isaiah 43:3) (Maurer). Gesenius takes Since to mean, Inasmuch as (eo quod - i:e., quonium), a rare sense of the Hebrew. If the apodosis be as in the English version, and if the "since" refer to time, "Since thou wast precious" will refer to the time when God called His people out of Egypt, manifesting then first the love which He had in reality from everlasting toward them (Jeremiah 31:3; Hosea 11:1). "Honourable" and "loved" refer to the outward marks of honour and love from God, whereby at the Exodus He marked Israel as His special people.

Therefore will I give men for thee, and people - other nations for thee (so Isaiah 43:3).

For thy life - thy person.

Verse 5

Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;

I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west - (Deuteronomy 30:3.)

Seed - descendants scattered in all lands. Vitringa understands it of the spiritual "seed" of the Church produced by mystical regeneration; because the expression is, "bring," not 'bring back.' This sense is perhaps included, but not to the exclusion of the literal Israel's restoration (Jeremiah 30:10-11; Amos 9:9; Zechariah 2:6-13).

Verse 6

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;

I will say to the north, Give up - namely, my people.

Bring my sons from far, and my daughters. The feminine joined to the masculine expresses the complete totality of anything (Zechariah 9:17).

Verse 7

Even 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 - everyone that belongs to Israel, whose people, as sons of God, best the name of their Father (Isaiah 44:5; Isaiah 48:1).

For I have created him for my glory - (Isaiah 43:21; Isaiah 29:23.)

Verse 8

Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.

Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears - Solemn challenge given by God to the nations to argue with Him the question of His superiority to their idols, and His power to deliver Israel (Isaiah 41:1).

Blind people - the Gentiles, who also, like Israel (Isaiah 42:19), are blind (spiritually), though having eyes - i:e., natural faculties whereby they might know God, as originally revealed to their forefathers, and as even still He manifests Himself in the works of nature (Romans 1:20-21) (Lowth). Or else, the Jews (Vitringa).

Verse 9

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, It is truth.

Who among them can declare this? - who among the idolatrous sooth sayers hath predicted this? - i:e., as to Cyrus being the deliverer of Israel.

And show us former things - former predictions, as in Isaiah 42:9 (Maurer). Or, things that shall first come to pass (note, Isaiah 41:21-22) (Barnes).

Let them bring forth their witnesses - as I do mine (Isaiah 43:10).

That they may be justified - declared veracious in their pretended prophecies (note, Isaiah 41:26).

Or let them hear, and say, (It is) truth - or, as the other alternative, let them hear the witnesses on my side, and say, as the result, that the truth is on my side-that I alone am God.

Verse 10

Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

Ye are my witnesses - The Jews are my witnesses; because to them I have given predictions verified by the event, and in delivering them, I have often manifested my power (see Isaiah 43:3-4; Isaiah 44:8).

And my servant whom I have chosen - i:e., the whole Jewish people (Isaiah 41:8). And my servant whom I have chosen - i:e., the whole Jewish people (Isaiah 41:8).

That ye may know and believe me - trust in me.

Before me there was no God formed - before I existed none of the false gods were formed. "Formed" ( nowtsar (H3335)) applies to the idols, not to God. Revelation 1:11 uses the same language to prove the Godhead of Jesus as Isaiah here to prove the Godhead of Yahweh: "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last."

Verse 11

I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.

I, (even) I, (am) the Lord - Yahweh.

And beside me (there is) no saviour ( mowshiya` (H3467)) - temporally, from Babylon; eternally, from sin and hell (Hosea 13:4; Acts 4:12). The same titles as are applied to Jesus.

Verse 12

I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

I have declared - predicted the future (Isaiah 41:22-23).

And have saved - the nation, in past times of danger.

And I have showed - namely, that I was God.

When (there was) no strange (god) among you - to whom the predictions uttered by me could be assigned. "Strange" means foreign-introduced from abroad.

Verse 13

Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it? Yea, before the day (was) I (am) he - literally, from the time of the first existence of day (Hebrew, miyowm (H3117)).

I will work, and who shall let it? "Let" - old English for hinder (Isaiah 14:27). 'Undo it' (Horsley).

Verse 14

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 is in the ships.

For your sake I have sent to Babylon - namely, the Medes and Persians, my messengers and instruments (Isaiah 10:5-6; Isaiah 13:3).

And ... brought down - made to go down to the sea (Isaiah 42:10), in order to escape the impending destruction of Babylon.

All their nobles - rather, with the Septuagint, Arabic, and Syriac, fugitives ( baariychiym (H1281), from baarach (H1272), to break away or flee: so the Hebrew means in Isaiah 15:5) - namely, the foreigners who sojourned in populous Babylon (Isaiah 13:14), distinct from the Chaldeans. The Vulgate translates 'bars,' as the Hebrew means in Psalms 147:13. The English version takes bars figuratively for the nobles, who are as it were the bars that strengthen the gates of the people regarded as a city.

And the Chaldeans, whose cry (is) in the ships - the Chaldeans, exulting in their ships with the joyous sailors, cry, boastingly. Their joy heretofore in their ships contrasts sadly with their present panic in fleeing to them (Isaiah 22:2; Zephaniah 2:15). Babylon was on the Euphrates, which was joined to the Tigris by a canal, and flowed into the Persian Gulf. Thus, it was famed for ships and commerce, until the Persian monarchs, to prevent revolt or invasion, obstructed navigation by dams across the Tigris and Euphrates.

Verse 15

I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.

I (am) the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel - (Isaiah 43:1.)

Your king - proved to be specially yours by delivering you.

Verses 16-17

Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;

Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea - Allusion to the deliverance of Israel, and overthrow of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, the standing illustration of God's unchanging character toward His people, (Ex


Verse 17. Which bringeth forth the chariot ... and the power - the might of the enemies' host; every mighty warrior.

They shall lie down together - as Pharaoh's army sank "together" in a watery grave.

Verse 18

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. So wonderful shall be God's future interpositions in your behalf, that all past ones shall be forgotten in comparison. Plainly the future restoration of Israel is the event ultimately meant. Thus the "former things" are such events as the destruction of Sennacherib and the return from Babylon. "The things of old" are events still more ancient, the deliverance from Egypt, and at the Red Sea, and entry into Canaan (Vitringa).

Verse 19

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, and rivers in the desert.

Behold, I will do a new thing - unprecedented in its wonderful character (Isaiah 42:9).

Now it shall spring forth - as a germinating herb: a beautiful image of the silent but certain gradual growth of events in God's providence (Mark 4:26-28). Here, however, the growth shall be unprecedented in its rapidity. The new thing shall spring forth as it were in a day.

I will even make a way in the wilderness - just as Israel in the wilderness, between the Red Sea and Canaan, was guided and supplied with water by Yahweh; but the "new" deliverance shall be attended with manifestations of God's power and love eclipsing the old (cf. Isaiah 41:17-19). 'I will open a way not merely in the Red Sea, but in the wilderness of the whole world; and not merely one river shall gush out of the rock, but many, which shall refresh, not the bodies as formerly, but the souls of the thirsty, so that the prophecy shall be fulfilled: "With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation"' (Jerome). "A way" often stands for the true religion (Acts 9:2; Acts 18:26).

(And) rivers in the desert. "Rivers" express the influences of the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). Israel's literal restoration hereafter is included, as appears by comparing Isaiah 11:15-16.

Verse 20

The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons - image of idolaters, defiled with blood and pollutions, dwelling like dragons, etc., in the wastes of Gentile ignorance: even they shall be converted. Or else, literally, such copious floods of water shall be given by God in the desert that the very beasts shall (in poetic language) praise the Lord (Psalms 148:10) (Jerome).

Dragons (Hebrew, tannim) - serpents: or else jackals (from tan; not taniyn (H8565)) (note, Isaiah 13:22; Isaiah 34:13).

Owls - rather, ostriches, as margin ( bªnowt (H1323) ya`ªnaah (H3284).)

Verse 21

This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

This people have I formed for myself - `my people, my chosen' (see Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:7; Psalms 102:18).

They shall show forth my praise - on account of the many and great benefits conferred on them, especially their restoration.

Verse 22

But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob. The people of Israel, however, are not to think that these divine favours are due to their own piety toward God. So the believer (Titus 3:5).

Thou hast been weary of me - (Amos 8:5-6; Malachi 1:13.) Though 'I have not wearied thee' (Isaiah 43:23), yet "thou hast been weary of me."

Verse 23

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 (Hebrew, seeh (H7716)) - the lamb or kid, required by the law to be daily offered to God (Exodus 29:38; Numbers 28:3).

Neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices - offered any way; whereas the Hebrew for holocausts or "burnt offerings" [ `oloteykaa (H5930)], denotes that which ascends as an offering consumed by fire.

I have not caused thee to serve - i:e., to render the service of a slave (Matthew 11:30; Romans 8:15; 1 John 4:18; 1 John 5:3).

With an offering - bloodless (Leviticus 2:1-2); Hebrew, minchaah (H4503).

Nor wearied thee with incense - antithetical to Isaiah 43:22, "thou hast been weary of me." Though God in the law required such offerings, yet not so as to "weary" the worshipper, or to exact them in cases where, as in the Babylonian captivity, they were physically unable to render them; God did not require them, except in subordination to the higher moral duties (Psalms 50:8-14; Psalms 51:16-17; Micah 6:3; Micah 6:6-8).

Verse 24

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 - for "sweet cane" (aromatic calamus) was not indigenous in Palestine, but had to be bought from foreign countries (Jeremiah 6:20). It was used among the Hebrews to make the sacred ointment (Exodus 30:23). It is often offered as a mark of hospitality.

Neither hast thou filled me - satiated me (Jeremiah 31:14). God deigns to use human language to adapt Himself to human modes of thought. Thou hast made me to serve - though "I have not caused thee to serve" (Isaiah 43:23).

With thy sins. Our sin made the Son of God to become "a servant." He served to save us from servile bondage (Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14-15).

Thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities - though I have "not wearied thee" (Isaiah 43:23; see Isaiah 1:14).

Verse 25

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.

I, (even) I - The God against whom your sin is committed, and who alone can and will pardon. (See Isaiah 44:22.)

(Am) he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake - (Isaiah 48:9; Isaiah 48:11.) How abominable a thing sin is, since it is against such a God of grace! "Blotteth out" is an image from an account-book, in which, when a debt is paid, the charge is cancelled or blotted out.

And will not remember thy sins (Jeremiah 31:34.) When God forgives He forgets - i:e., treats the sinner as if He had forgotten his sins.

Verse 26

Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.

Put me in remembrance - Remind me of every plea which thou hast to urge before me in thy defense. Image from a trial (Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 41:1). Our strongest plea is to remind God of His own promises. So Jacob did at Mahanaim and Peniel (Genesis 32:9; Genesis 32:12). God, then, instead of 'pleading against us with His great power,' 'will put His strength' in us (Job 23:6); we thus become 'the Lord's remembrancers,' (Isaiah 62:6, margin.)

Declare thou, that thou mayest be justified - `declare God's righteousness,' vindicated in Jesus Christ, "that thou mayest be justified" (Romans 3:26: cf. Psalms 143:2).

Verse 27

Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.

Thy first father - collectively for 'thy most ancient ancestors' as the parallelism ("teachers") proves (Maurer). Or, thy chief religious ministers or priests (Gesenius). The address is to the Jews specially. Abraham is not meant, as he is everywhere cited as an example of faithfulness, not of sin. The Jews boasted of their fathers, and thought that God's favour was due to the nation because of their fathers' merits. But here He sets aside all merit in their fathers, as in Isaiah 43:22-24 he had set aside all merit in themselves. Compare Stephen's reproof, Acts 7:51, "Ye stiffnecked ... as your fathers did, so do ye." The Hebrew may mean, 'thy head fathers' (literally, father, collectively); i:e., thy kings, as the priests and prophets follow in the next clause. Thus Isaiah 43:28, "the princes of the sanctuary" correspond to these head fathers or kings: for instance, Ahaz, Manasseh, etc. So Grotius. The ground of God's giving Jacob to the curse was clearly not the sin of their first fathers so much as the sin of the more recent fathers of the nation, which their posterity filled up. Taking the passage in its ultimate application to the Church at large, Adam may be meant.

Teachers - Melitzeka, from lutz, to interpret; literally, interpreters between God and man, the priests (Job 33:23; Malachi 2:7).

Verse 28

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 - (Psalms 89:39; Lamentations 2:2; Lamentations 2:6-7.) I have esteemed or treated, them as persons not sacred. I have left them to suffer the same treatment as the common people, stripped of their holy office and in captivity.

Princes of the sanctuary - "governors of" it (1 Chronicles 24:5), directing its holy services; priests.

And have given Jacob to the curse - Hebrew, cherem (H2764), a solemn anathema (G331), or excommunication.

And Israel to reproaches - (Psalms 123:3-4.)

Remarks: However manifold be our sins, if we be the true Israel of God through repentance and faith, we are owned by the Lord as His. He who 'created and formed' us, will not lightly forsake His creatures. Much less will He who hath "redeemed" us and 'called us by name,' as His purchased flock, suffer the enemy to rob Him of the purchase of His blood. The believer must expect to 'pass through the waters' of affliction and "through the fire" of trial; but neither shall the rivers overwhelm him nor the fire consume him. Nay, "the flame" shall not so much as "kindle" upon the saints, so far as any real hurt to them is concerned. They are so 'precious in His sight,' that the mighty ones of the world must be sacrificed, sooner than any child of God should be injured.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 43". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.