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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 48

Verse 1

Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.

The waters of Judah - spring from the fountain of Judah, (Numbers 24:7; Deuteronomy 33:28; Psalms 68:26, margin.) Judah has the 'fountain' attributed to it because it survived the ten tribes, and from it Messiah was to spring.

Swear by the name of the Lord - (Isaiah 19:18; Isaiah 45:23; Isaiah 65:16.)

And make mention of the God of Israel - in prayers and praises.

Not in truth - (Jeremiah 5:2; John 4:24.)

Verse 2

For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is his name.

For they call themselves of the holy city. Ye deserve these reproofs; because ye call yourselves citizens of "the holy city" (Isaiah 52:1), but not in truth (Isaiah 48:1; Nehemiah 11:1; Daniel 9:24). So the inscription on their coins of the time of the Maccabees, 'Jerusalem the Holy.'


Verse 3

I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.

I have declared the former things - things which have happened in time past to Israel (Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 44:7-8; Isaiah 45:21; Isaiah 46:10).

I did (them) suddenly, and they came to pass - they came to pass so unexpectedly that the prophecy could not have resulted from mere human sagacity.

Verse 4

Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;

Because I knew that thou (art) obstinate - Hebrew, hard, (Deuteronomy 9:27; Ezekiel 3:7, margin.)

And thy neck is an iron sinew - inflexible (Acts 7:51).

And thy brow brass - shameless as a harlot, (see Jeremiah 6:28; Jeremiah 3:3; Ezekiel 3:7, margin.)

Verse 5

I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

I have even from the beginning declared (it) to thee - (see notes, Isaiah 48:1; Isaiah 48:3.)

Verse 6

Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.

Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare (it)? So "ye are my witnesses" (Isaiah 43:10). Thou canst testify the prediction was uttered long before the fulfillment. "See all this" - namely, that the event answers to the prophecy.

Declare - make the fact known as a proof that Yahweh alone is God (Isaiah 44:8).

I have showed thee new things - namely, the deliverance from Babylon by Cyrus, new in contradistinction from former predictions that had been fulfilled (Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:19). Antitypically, the prophecy has in view the "new things" of the Gospel treasury (Song of Solomon 7:13; Matthew 13:52; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5). From this point forward, the prophecies as to Messiah's first and second advents, and the restoration of Israel, have a new circumstantial distinctness, such as did not characterize the previous ones, even of Isaiah. Babylon, in this view, answers to the mystical Babylon of Revelation about to fall before the Lord Messiah, the antitype to Cyrus.

Even hidden things - which could not have been guessed by political sagacity (Daniel 2:22; Daniel 2:29; 1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Verse 7

They are created now, and not from the beginning; even before the day when thou heardest them not; lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them.

They are created now, and not from the beginning - literally, not from that time-not from of old (Hebrew, mee'aaz (H227)). Not like natural results from existing causes; the events when they take place are like acts of creative power, such as have never before been "from the beginning."

Even before the day when thou heardest them not - Hebrew, 'even before the day (of their fulfillment) and (when), thou hast not heard them.' Maurer translates, 'before the day (of their occurrence) thou hast not heard of them' - i:e., by any human acuteness; they are only heard of by the present inspired announcement. But the English version is more literal, and gives good sense, if for "when" we translate the Hebrew, ve, 'and (when);' and if we understand as in Isaiah 48:5-6, "I have showed thee them;" or else take, "they are created now," not of their coming to pass, but of their being announced by the prophetic word which creates by its divine power the fulfillment (Jeremiah 1:10). These creative foreshowings of events are before the day of fulfillment, and at a time when human ear has not heretofore heard them anticipated by human sagacity (cf. end of Isaiah 48:6).

Verse 8

Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.

Yea, thou heardest not - repeated, as also 'thou knewest not,' (cf. Isaiah 48:5, end) from last verse.

Yea, from that time (that) thine ear was not opened. Omit that. 'yea, from the first thine ear did not open itself'-namely, to obey them (Rosenmuller). "To open the ear" denotes obedient attention (Isaiah 50:5). Rather, 'Thine ear was not opened by me to receive them' - i:e., they were not declared by me to thee previously; since, if thou hadst been informed of them, such is thy perversity, thou couldest not have been kept in check (Maurer). 'From that time' ( mee'aaz (H227)) the same Hebrew as "from the beginning" in Isaiah 48:7, "from of old."

For I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously. In the former view, the sense of the words following is, 'For I knew that if I had not foretold the destruction of Babylon so plainly that there could be no perverting of it, thou wouldest have perversely ascribed it to idols, or something else than to me' (Isaiah 48:5). Thus they would have relapsed into idolatry, to cure them of which the Babylonian captivity was sent: so they had done at Sinai (Exodus 32:4). After the return, and ever since, they have utterly forsaken idols. In Maurer's view, which I prefer, the sense is, 'I am giving thee, in addition to the former predictions which now are coming to pass, new predictions not heard by thee before, not on account of thy merits-for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously-but for mine own sake' (Isaiah 48:9-11).

And wast called - as thine appropriate appellation (Isaiah 9:6).

A transgressor from the womb - from the beginning of Israel's national existence (Isaiah 44:2).

Verse 9

For my name's sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.

For my name's sake will I ... refrain for thee - literally, will I muzzle or curb mine anger. His wrath, after the return, was to be restrained awhile, and then, because of their sins, let loose again (Psalms 78:38).

For thee - i:e., mine anger toward thee.

Verse 10

Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver - (note, Isaiah 1:25.)

With silver - or, 'for silver.' I sought by affliction to purify thee, but thou wast not as silver [non quasi argentum, Vulgate] obtained by melting, but as dross (Gesenius). Thy repentance is not complete: thou art not yet as refined silver. Rosenmuller explains, not as silver; not with the intense heat needed to melt silver (it being harder to melt than gold) - i:e., not with the most extreme severity (Isaiah 42:25; Ezekiel 22:18-20; Ezekiel 22:22). The Hebrew preposition [bª-] must mean the same as it means in the last clause of the verse-namely, "in." I therefore translate as the Chaldaic and Syriac, 'not in the midst of silver.' Gesenius' view is virtually the same. So the Septuagint and Arabic, 'not for the sake of silver:' the result of my putting thee in the furnace has not been that I have gained silver thereby.

I have chosen thee - or else (Lowth), tried ... proved; according to Gesenius ( bªcharªtiykaa (H977), from baachar (H977)) - literally, to rub with the touchstone, or to cut in pieces so as to examine (Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3; 1 Peter 1:7).

Verse 11

For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.

How should (my name) be polluted? Maurer, instead of "my name," from Isaiah 48:9, supplies 'my glory' from the next clause; and translates, 'how (shamefully) my glory has been profaned!' In the English version the sense is, 'I will refrain (Isaiah 48:9;- i:e., not utterly destroy thee), for why should I permit my name to be polluted, which it would be if the Lord utterly destroyed His elect people?' Ezekiel 20:9, "I wrought for my name's sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen."

And I will not give my glory unto another. If God forsook His people for ever, the pagan would attribute their triumph over Israel to their idols; so God's glory would be given to another.

Verses 12-15

Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.

-The Almighty, who has founded heaven and earth, can, and will restore His people.

Verse 12. I (am) the first, I also (am) the last - (Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6.)

Verse 13. My right hand hath spanned the heavens - hath measured them out (Isaiah 40:12). (When) I call unto them, they stand up together - (Isaiah 40:26; Jeremiah 33:25.) But it is not their creation so much which is meant, as that, like ministers of God, the heavens and the earth are prepared at His command to execute His decrees (Psalms 119:91) (Rosenmuller).

Verse 14. Which among them hath declared these things? - which among the gods and astrologers of the Chaldees? (Isaiah 41:22; Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 44:7.)

The Lord hath loved him; he will do his pleasure on Babylon - i:e., 'He whom the Lord hath loved will do,' etc. (Lowth); namely, Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 46:11). However, Yahweh's language of love is too strong to apply to Cyrus, except as a type of Messiah, to whom alone it fully applies (Revelation 5:2-5).

His pleasure - not Cyrus' own, but Yahweh's.

Verse 15. I have brought - led him on his way.

He shall make his way prosperous - change from the first to the third person. Yahweh shall make his (Cyrus's) way prosperous.

Verse 16

Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.

I have not spoken in secret - (Isaiah 45:19.) Yahweh foretold Cyrus' advent not with the studied ambiguity of pagan oracles, but plainly.

From the time that it was, there (am) I - from the moment that the purpose began to be accomplished in the raising up of Cyrus, I was present.

And now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me. The prophet here speaks, claiming attention to his announcement as to Cyrus, on the ground of his mission from God and His Spirit. But he speaks not in his own person so much as in that of Messiah, to whom alone, in the fullest sense, the words apply (Isaiah 61:1; John 10:36). Plainly, Isaiah 49:1, which is the continuation of Isaiah 48:1-22 from Isaiah 48:16, where the change of speaker from God (Isaiah 48:1; Isaiah 48:12-15) begins, is the language of Messiah. Luke 4:1; Luke 4:14; Luke 4:18, shows that the Spirit combined with the Father in sending the Son: therefore "His Spirit" is therefore nominative to "sent," not accusative, following it. Not as Barnes, 'The Lord God hath sent me, and His Spirit.' The Vulgate, and seemingly the Septuagint, Chaldaic, Arabic, and Syriac support the English version. As Messiah came forth, sent by God the Father and the Spirit, so the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father in the name of the Son (John 14:26).

Verse 17

Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.

Teacheth thee to profit - by affliction, such as the Babylonian captivity, and the present long-continued dispersion of Israel (Hebrews 12:10).

Verse 18

O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:

Then had thy peace been as a river - (Psalms 119:165.) Compare the desire expressed by the same Messiah, Matthew 23:37; Luke 19:42.

River (Isaiah 33:21; Isaiah 41:18) - A river flowing from God's throne is the symbol of free, abundant, and everflowing blessings from Him (Ezekiel 47:1; Zechariah 14:8; Revelation 22:1).

Righteousness - thy religious prosperity, the parent of "peace" or national prosperity; therefore "peace" corresponds to "righteousness" in the parallelism (Isaiah 32:17).

Verse 19

Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.

Thy seed also had been as the sand - retaining the metaphor of "the sea" (Isaiah 48:18).

And the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof. So the Vulgate, Septuagint [seemingly: hoos ho chous tees gees], Chaldaic, Arabic, and Syriac. However, as the Hebrew [kim`owtaayw] for "gravel" is the same as that for the previous "bowels" [ mee`eykaa (H4578)], it is better to translate 'like that (the offspring) of its (the sea's) bowels;' referring to the countless living creatures, fish, etc., of the sea, rather than the gravel (Maurer). Compare Genesis 48:16: so Aben Ezra.

His name should not have been cut off - transition from the second person, "thy," to the third, "his." Israel's name was cut off as a nation during the Babylonian captivity; also, it is so now, to which time the prophecy especially looks (Romans 11:20).

Verse 20

Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob.

Go ye forth of Babylon ... tell this ... to the end of the earth. Primarily a prophecy of their joyful deliverance from Babylon, and a direction that they should leave it when God opened the way. But the publication of it "to the end of the earth," shows it has a more worldwide scope antitypically; Revelation 18:4 shows that the mystical Babylon is ultimately meant.

Redeemed ... Jacob - (Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 44:22-23.)

Verse 21

And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.

And they thirsted not (when) he led them through the deserts. Ezra, in describing the return, makes no mention of God cleaving the rock for them in the desert (Kimchi). The circumstances, therefore, of the deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11; Psalms 78:15; Psalms 105:41), and of that from Babylon, are blended together; the language, while more immediately referring to the latter deliverance, yet, as being blended with circumstances of the former, not strictly applicable to the latter, cannot wholly refer to either, but to the mystic deliverance of man under Messiah, and literally to the final restoration of Israel.

Verse 22

There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.

(No peace ... unto the wicked. Repeated at Isaiah 57:21. All the blessings just mentioned (Isaiah 48:21) belong only to the godly, not to the wicked. Israel shall first cast away its wicked unbelief before it shall inherit national prosperity (Zechariah 12:10-14; Zechariah 13:1; Zechariah 13:9; Zechariah 14:3; Zechariah 14:14; Zechariah 14:20-21). The sentiment holds good also as to all wicked men (Job 15:20-25; Job 15:31-34). This verse marks the close of the first book of the second part of Isaiah, as Isaiah 57:21 separates the second book from the third.

Remarks: They especially need rousing reproof who "stay themselves upon" the name without the reality of Remarks: They especially need rousing reproof who "stay themselves upon" the name, without the reality, of the citizenship of "the holy city." Whosoever 'makes mention of the God of Israel,' must see that in truth he is of "the Israel of God." Natural descent from a godly fountain will not stand in stead of spiritual birth of God. Fulfilled prophecy is the strongest outward evidence of the truth of revelation. The 'sudden' accomplishment of what God "declared from of old," when human sagacity could not have anticipated it, is enough to silence the most "obstinate." Besides the old things of the Jewish dispensation, God has showed us in the Gospel "new things," even things, 'hidden in God from the beginning of the world.' Though old in the purpose of God, the Gospel work is in its manifestation to us "created now and not from the beginning." How we should beware, in the midst of such privileges, lest we, like Israel, should "deal treacherously" toward our loving God.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 48". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.