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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 44

Verse 1

Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:

Yet - Though thou hast sinned, yet hear God's gracious promise as to thy deliverance.

Israel, whom I have chosen - (Isaiah 41:8.)

Verse 2

Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.

Thus saith the Lord that ... formed thee from the womb - (so Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 49:5.) The sense is similar to that in Isaiah 1:2, "I have nourished and brought up children." (See Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:7.)

Fear not ... thou, Jesurun - a diminutive term of endearment applied to Israel. The full title of affection was Israelun: contracted, it became Jeshurun, with an allusion to the Hebrew root, jashar, 'upright,' 'perfect' (see note on "he that is perfect," Isaiah 42:19) (Gesenius). Or rather, it is a diminutive of jashur, or jashar, the upright dear people of God (Deuteronomy 32:15).

Verse 3

For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:

I will pour water upon him that is thirsty - (Matthew 5:6.) Or 'upon the land that is thirsty' (Isaiah 35:6-7): figure for man thirsting after righteousness. (See Isaiah 41:18.)

And floods - the abundant influences of the Holy Spirit, stronger than "water."

My Spirit - including all spiritual and temporal gifts, as the parallel, "my blessing," proves (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 32:15).

Upon thy seed - (Isaiah 59:21.)

Verse 4

And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.

They - thy "seed" and "offspring;" literally, thy offshoots (Isaiah 44:3).

Shall spring up (as) among the grass - as needlessly is inserted in the English version. Rather, 'they shall spring up among the grass (i:e., luxuriantly; because what grows in the midst of grass grows luxuriantly); as willows by the water-courses,' which makes the parallel clauses balanced (Maurer).

Verse 5

One shall say, I am the LORD's; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.

One shall say, I (am) the Lord's; and another shall call (himself) by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe (with) his hand unto the Lord, and surname (himself) by the name of Israel. The third clause answers in parallelism to the first, the fourth to the second.

I am the Lord's - literally, 'for Yahweh (am) I' (Jeremiah 50:5; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 2 Corinthians 8:5).

Call himself by the name of Jacob. The Gentiles (as the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Israel, the Lord's "seed," first) shall join themselves to the children of Jacob, in order to worship their God. This is the force of the phrase, "call himself by the name of Jacob" (cf. Isaiah 43:7; Psalms 49:11): another shall attach himself to Jacob's nation and religion (cf. Psalms 24:6). Or, as the Chaldaic and Syriac, the Septuagint and Vulgate, omit "himself," which is not in the Hebrew, 'shall call in prayer by the name of Jacob' - i:e., in the profession of a son of a Jacob: shall invoke God as an Israelite. Cf the parallel fourth clause. Maurer, 'celebrates the name of Jacob.'

Subscribe (with) his hand unto the Lord - in solemn and public covenant, pledging himself to God's service (cf. Nehemiah 9:38), before "witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1), after the manner of a civil contract (Jeremiah 32:10; Jeremiah 32:12; Jeremiah 32:44). So the Christian in the sacraments. Hebrew, yiktob. Literally, 'shall fill his hand with letters (Exodus 32:15; Ezekiel 2:10) in honour of Yahweh;' or 'shall write upon his hand I am Yahweh's (cf. Isaiah 49:16; Revelation 13:16); alluding to the punctures with ink on the hand, whereby a soldier marked himself as bound to his commander; and whereby the Christians used to mark themselves with the name of Christ (Lowth). The former view is simpler.

Surname (himself) by the name of Israel. Maurer and Gesenius interpret this as the Hebrew [wªkaneh] sanctions, answering to their rendering of the parallel second clause, 'calls blandly (speaks in honourable terms of) the name of Israel.' Retaining the English version, we must, from the Hebrew, understand it thus, 'surname himself by the honourable name of Israel' (Isaiah 45:4).

Verse 6

Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel ... I am the first ... besides me there is no God. Here follows an argument for Yahweh, as the only God, and against the idols, as vanity (see notes, Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:10-12).

Verse 7

And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.

Who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me? - who but God can predict future events and declare also the order and time of each? (note, Isaiah 41:22-23; Isaiah 45:21.)

Call - openly proclaim (Isaiah 40:6) things to come (Maurer). Rather, call forth the event; command that it happen (Isaiah 46:11; Isaiah 48:15)

Set ... in order, [ `aarak (H6186) - to set in orderly array; as the showbread on the table; the wood upon the altar; soldiers in an army array]. There is no chance or confusion; all events occur in the order best fitted to subserve God's plans. Three verbs are employed to express God's Providence. He "calls" that it may be done: He 'sets it in order,' that it may be competently done: He 'declares it,' that what He has determined to be done should be done not unexpectedly ('Poli Synopsis').

For me. It is FOR GOD that all things exist and take place (Revelation 4:11).

Since I appointed the ancient people. I have given the Jews predictions of the future ever since I appointed them as my people in ancient times; therefore they are qualified to be my witnesses (Isaiah 44:8). As to their being God's "ancient (everlasting) people," see Deuteronomy 32:7-9; Jeremiah 31:3; the type of the redeemed Church (Ephesians 1:4).

Verse 8

Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.

Neither be afraid - literally, be astounded or distracted with fear (from a root yarah).

Have not I told thee from that time - namely, from the time that "I appointed the ancient people" (Isaiah 44:7). From the time of Abraham's call, his family were the depositaries of the predictions, of the Redeemer; whereas the promise of Cyrus was not heard of until Isaiah's time; therefore, the event to the prediction and accomplishment of which God appeals in proof of His sole Godhead is the redemption of man by a descendant of Abraham, in whose person "the ancient people" was first formally "appointed." The deliverance of the Jews by Cyrus is mentioned afterward only as an earnest of that greater mercy (Horsley).

Is there a God besides me? yea, (there is) no God - literally, 'no rock' (Hebrew, tsur, 'rock') (Deuteronomy 32:4);

i.e., a stronghold to take refuge in, and a solid foundation to build on.

Verse 9

They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.

They that make a graven image (are) all of them vanity - (Isaiah 40:18-20; Isaiah 41:29).

And their delectable things - the idols in which they take such pride and delight.

Shall not profit - (Habakkuk 2:18).

And they are their own witnesses - contrasted with, "ye are my witnesses" (Isaiah 44:8). "They," i:e., both the makers and the idols, are witnesses against themselves, because "they see not, nor know;" the idols palpably see and know nothing (Psalms 115:4-8).

That they may be ashamed. The consequence deducible from the whole previous argument, not merely from the words immediately preceding, as in Isaiah 28:13; Isaiah 36:12. I say all this to show that they are doomed to perish with shame, which is their only fitting end.

Verse 10

Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?

Who hath formed a god? - sarcastic question: 'How debased the man must be who forms a god!' It is a contradiction in terms. A made god, worshipped by its maker! (1 Corinthians 8:4.)

Verse 11

Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.

Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed - the associates of him who makes an idol, or of the idol, become such a vain thing as the idol itself-its fellow and counterpart (see Deuteronomy 7:26; Psalms 115:8; Hosea 4:17).

The workmen, they (are) of men - they are mortal men themselves; what better, then, can the idol be than its maker?

Let them all be gathered together, let them stand up - as in a court of justice, to try the issue between God and them (note, Isaiah 41:1; Isaiah 41:21).

(Yet) they shall fear - "yet," wrongly inserted in the English version. The issue of the trial shall be, "they shall fear," etc.

Verse 12

The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.

The smith with the tongs - rather, as the Chaldaic, 'The smith (prepareth) an axe' ( ma`ªtsaad (H4621)); namely, with which to cut down the tree designed as the material of the idol. The "smith" (Hebrew, chaarash (H2796) barzel (H1270), workman in iron) here answers to the "carpenter" (Hebrew, workman in wood). "He worketh it (the axe, not the idol, which was wood, not metal) in the coals,' etc. The axe was worked, not cast. The smith makes the axe for the carpenter (cf. Jeremiah 10:3).

Yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth; he drinketh no water - so eager is he to expedite his work while the iron is hot. If the god were worth anything, it would not let him grow "faint" with hunger and thirst. Williams, the missionary, states, that the South Sea islanders when they make an idol abstain from food and drink.

Verse 13

The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.

The carpenter - Hebrew, The workman in wood. After the smith's work in preparing the instruments comes the carpenter's work in forming the idol.

Stretcheth out (his) rule - Hebrew, quav; rather, line (Grotius).

He marketh it out with a line - rather, a pencil (Horsley); literally, red ochre, which he uses to mark on the wood the outline of the figure (Lowth). Or best, the stylus or graver, with which the incision of the outline is made; Hebrew, basered (H8279): cf. the kindred root, saarat (H8295), to make incisions (Gesenius).

He fitteth it with planes - rather, chisels or carving tools, because a plane would not correspond to carving: bamaqªtsu`owt (H4741), from qaatsa` (H7106), to cause to scrape, to cut off.

He marketh it out with the compass - from a Hebrew root, chuwg (H2328), to make a circle. By it symmetry of form is secured.

According to the beauty of a man - irony. The highest idea the pagan could form of a god was one of a form like their own. Jerome says, 'The more handsome the statue the more august the god was thought.' The incarnation of the Son of God condescends to this anthropomorphic feeling so natural to man, but in such a way as to raise man's thoughts up to the infinite God who "is a spirit."

That it may remain in the house - the only thing it was good for: it could not hear nor save (cf. Wis 13:15 ).

Verse 14

He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.

Description of the material out of which the idol is formed.

Cypress ( tirzah (H8645)) - from a Hebrew root (taaraz), to be hard; or possibly raazah (H7329). Not as Jerome, whom Gesenius follows, 'the holm-oak,' an evergreen abundant in Palestine. Compare Sir 24:13 ; Sir 50:10 . 'The evergreen cypress' of Linnoeus is a large coniferous tree common in Palestine; its wood fragrant, compact, and heavy. It does not rot, and was much used in statues of idols. It is the only tree that grows toward the top of Lebanon, and in that high altitude modifies its form so as to be like a small oak.

Which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest - literally, 'and he getteth strength to himself in the trees of the forest;' i:e., he layeth in great store of timber (Lowth). Or, 'chooseth,' as "thou madest strong for thyself;" i:e., hast chosen (Psalms 80:15; Psalms 80:17) (Gesenius). But the English version gives a good sense: "strengtheneth" - i:e., rears to maturity; a meaning suitable also to the context of Psalms 80:15; Psalms 80:17, where Israel is compared to a vine planted by Yahweh.

He planteth an ash - Hebrew, oren. The Septuagint and Vulgate understand a pine tree. Celsius says the Rabbis couple it with the berosch and arez, and think it the Arabian sanouber, a pine. He identifies it with a tree of Arabia Petrea, the aran, mentioned by Abul Fadli, as growing in low places, thorny, and with grape-like berries, black and sweet. The Hebrew oren is akin to the Arabic aran, to be slender and graceful

(W. Houghton, in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible')

And the rain doth nourish (it). Though the man planted the tree, yet he could not make it grow. In preparing to make an idol, he has to depend on the true God for rain from heaven (Jeremiah 14:22).

Verse 15

Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.

Then shall it be for a man to burn ... he ... baketh bread. The same tree that furnishes the material for the god is in part, used as fuel for a fire to cook his meals with and warm himself!

He maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto - rather, 'he falleth down before them,' i:e., such images; lamo, not lo (Maurer).

Verse 16

He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:

With part thereof he eateth flesh - he cooks so as to eat flesh (Isaiah 44:19).

I am warm, I have seen the fire - I feel its power.

Verse 17

And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 18

They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.

He hath shut their eyes. "He," God, hath given them over to judicial blindness. Not His direct physical, but His providential, agency in administering His moral government, is meant (Isaiah 6:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 2:11). "Shut" - literally,daubed, plastered up. It is an Eastern custom, in some cases, to seal up the eyes of offenders.

Verse 19

And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?

None considereth in his heart - literally, layeth it to heart (cf. Isaiah 42:25; Jeremiah 12:11).

Shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? - the scriptural term for an idol: not merely abominable, but the essence of what is so in the eyes of a jealous God (1 Kings 11:5; 1 Kings 11:7).

Verse 20

He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?

He feedeth on ashes - figurative, because the idolater delights in what is vain (Proverbs 15:14; Hosea 12:1, "Ephraim feedeth on wind"). There is an allusion, perhaps, also, to the god being made of a tree, the half of which was reduced to ashes by fire (Isaiah 44:15-17); the idol, it is implied, was no better, and could, and ought, to have been reduced to ashes like the other half.

A deceived heart hath turned him aside - the heart and will first go astray, then the intellect and life (Romans 1:28; Ephesians 4:18).

(Is there) not a lie in my right hand? - Is not my handiwork (the idol) a self-deceit?

Verse 21

Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.

Remember these, O Jacob - `Be not like the idolaters who consider not in their heart' (Isaiah 44:19).

These - things just said as to the folly of idol-worship.

Thou (art) my servant - not like the idolaters, slaves to the "stock of a tree" (Isaiah 44:19). See Isaiah 44:1-2.

Thou shalt not be forgotten of me - therefore, thou oughtest to "remember" me.

Verse 22

I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.

I have blotted out - the debt of thy sin from the account-book in which it was entered (Exodus 32:32-33; Revelation 20:12). How blessed to have our sin "blotted out" - our names never 'blotted out of the book of life?' (Revelation 3:5.)

As a thick cloud, thy transgressions - scattered away by the wind, "as far as the east is from the west" (Psalms 103:12).

As a cloud, thy sins - a descending gradation. Not only the "thick cloud" of the heavier "transgressions," but the "cloud" ('vapour,' Lowth; not so dense, but covering the sky as a mist) of the countless "sins." These latter, though not thought much of by man, need, as much as the former, to be cleared away by the Sun of righteousness, else they will be a mist separating us from heaven (Psalms 19:12-13; 1 John 1:7-9).

Return unto me, for I have redeemed thee. The antecedent redemption is the ground of, and motive to, repentance. We do not repent in order that He may redeem us, but because He hath redeemed us (Zechariah 12:10; Luke 24:47; Acts 3:18-19). He who believes in his being forgiven cannot but love, like the forgiven woman who washed her Saviour's feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and anointed Him in Simon the Pharisee's house (Luke 7:43; Luke 7:47).

Verse 23

Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

Sing, O ye heavens - call to inanimate nature to praise God; because it also shall share in the coming deliverance from "the bondage of corruption" (Romans 7:20-21).

For the Lord hath done it - hath effected redemption for both the literal and spiritual Israel.

Shout, ye lower parts of the earth - antithetical to "heavens."

Mountains ... forest, and ... tree, are the intermediate objects in a descending gradation (see Psalms 96:11-12).

Verse 24

Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

Thus saith the Lord, thy Redeemer - confirmation of His promises to the Church and Israel, by various instances of His omnipotence: among these the restoration of the Jews by Cyrus.

I am the Lord ... that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself - by my own power. So the Chaldaic. Compare similar phrases, Hosea 8:4. Hebrew, mimeniy (H4480) [ ap' (G575) emautou (G1683)] (John 5:30). So the Qeri' reads [ mee'itiy (H854)]. But the Kethibh reads interrogatively [ miy (H4310) 'itiy (H854)], 'Who (was) with me?' namely, in spreading abroad the earth. The sense is the same; the Kethibh is bolder and more poetic.

Verse 25

That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; That frustrateth the tokens - prognostics; the pretended miracles which they gave as proofs of their supernatural powers.

Of the liars (Jeremiah 50:36) - conjurers; or, astrologers-men leading a retired contemplative life, in order to study divination by the signs of the stars (Vitringa).

That turneth wise (men) backward - with shame at their predictions not being verified. 'To turn away the face' is to frustrate or defeat (Isaiah 36:9; 1 Kings 2:15). The "wise men" are the diviners who, when Babylon was attacked by Cyrus, predicted his overthrow.

Verse 26

That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:

That confirmeth the word of his servant - in a collective sense, because the prophets in general, who foretold the return from Babylon; answering to 'His messengers' (plural, in the parallel clause) (Maurer). Antitypically and ultimately Messiah, who is the consummating embodiment of all the prophets and messengers of God (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 21:34; Matthew 21:36-37; John 10:36), hence, the singular, 'His servant.'

And performeth the counsel of his messengers. "The counsel;" the predictions; prophets' counsels concern the future (cf. "counselor," Isaiah 41:28).

That saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited - regarded prophetically as lying in ruins.

Verse 27

That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:

That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers - referring to the Euphrates, which has turned into a different channel, close to Babylon, by Cyrus, who thereby took the city. "The deep" is applied to Euphrates, as "sea" is, Jeremiah 51:32-36. "Rivers" refers to the artificial canals from the Euphrates, made to irrigate the country. When it was turned off into a different bed-namely, a lake of 40 miles square-which was originally formed to receive the superfluous water in an inundation, the canals became dry.

Verse 28

That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

That saith of Cyrus, (He is) my shepherd - type of Messiah (Isaiah 40:11; Psalms 23:1; Psalms 77:20; Ezekiel 34:23).

And shall perform all my pleasure - so Messiah (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 53:10). This is the first time Cyrus is named expressly; and that 150 years before the time when, in 550 BC, he began his reign. The name comes from the Persian Khorschid, Kohr: Sanskrit, sura, 'the sun;' kings often taking their names from the gods; the sun was worshipped as a god in Persia.

Even saying to lª- Jerusalem - rather, 'and that saith;' construed with God, not with Cyrus. God's word is instantaneously efficient in accomplishing His will. Cyrus, according to Josephus, heard of this prophecy of Isaiah delivered so long before; hence, he was induced to do that which was so contrary to Oriental policy, to aid in restoring the captive Jews and rebuilding their temple and city. West-coat (Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible') remarks, The fall of Sardis and Babylon before Cyrus marked the starting-point of European life. It is a singular coincidence that the beginning of Grecian art, and that of the Roman Constitution, synchronize with the triumph of the Arian race in the East. The permanent effects of Persian influence on the world is best seen through the Jewish race. Cyrus represents the East, Alexander the West. Cyrus led to the development of the idea of order, Alexander to that of independence. The first crisis was signalized by the consolidation of the Church: the second by the distinction of sects. The one was embodied in 'the great synagogue,' the other in the dynasty of the Asmoneans. The dispersion prepared for a spiritual dispensation by showing the people of God that their local absence from the Holy Land did not prevent their union in a spiritual bond, of which Jerusalem was the center.

Remarks: God's choice of His people is repeatedly made the ground of their encouragement (Isaiah 44:1-2). God cannot deny Himself; and therefore, though the reprobates shall be justly cast away, He will "help" His servants out of all present trials, and will prepare them for all 'blessings' by pouring the "water" of His "Spirit" in "floods" upon His 'thirsty seed and offspring.' 'They who thirst after righteousness shall be filled.' They shall be "trees of righteousness" planted "by the water-courses" of grace. Though there be various stages in spiritual growth, one being weak as "Jacob" when he was a "Syrian ready to perish;" another strong as the same patriarch when he was called "Israel" as "having power with God and with men," yet all alike who belong to the true Israel can say "I am the Lord's." The literal Israel, "the ancient people" of God, shall at last say so. "The King of Israel" hath 'called' that it may be done, hath "set it in order," appointing the successive stages and times in its being brought to pass, and hath 'declared' that it shall be so; and all this 'for Himself,' that the redeemed Israelites may be to all ages 'His witnesses' that there is 'no God besides' Him.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 44". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.