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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 41

Trapp's Complete CommentaryTrapp's Commentary

Verse 1

Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew [their] strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.

Keep silence before me, O islands,i.e., O islanders (so the Hebrews called all that were beyond sea to them), with whom God, being about to contest, calleth for silence that he may be heard. The people of Rome could hardly digest a Sιωπησατε , or keep silence from their emperor Adrian, as too severe; Dio in Adrian. but when God thundereth it, men wriggle into their holes as so many worms.

And let the people renew their strength. — Come as strong as they can into the court, with their best advocates and arguments, since they are to debate the cause concerning their religion.

Let them come near together in judgment. — This is a wonderful condescension. En in quantum se demittat Deus!

Verse 2

Who raised up the righteous [man] from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made [him] rule over kings? he gave [them] as the dust to his sword, [and] as driven stubble to his bow.

Who raised up the righteous man from the east? — Who but myself? Which of your idols can boast of such a man as Abraham was, like as I can?

Called him to his foot. — Making him follow his call with a blind obedience, for he winked and put himself into God’s holy hand, to be led at his pleasure. He "knew not whither he went," Hebrews 11:8 nor much cared, so long as he had God by the hand, or might follow him as a guide, step after step.

He gave the nations before him.Genesis 14:14 . His posterity also prevailed exceedingly. And thus God stoppeth the mouths of those idolaters who insulted over the Israelites, because afflicted and subdued by other nations, as Cicero doth in his oration for Quintus Flaccus, extolling therefore their idols above the true God.

Verse 3

He pursued them, [and] passed safely; [even] by the way [that] he had not gone with his feet.

He pursued them, and passed in safety. — He got an unbloody victory over the four kings, not losing a man of all those unexpert soldiers. This was a great mercy, if not a miracle. War is usually utrique triste; no matter who wins a sorrow, victory is oft like a golden fishhook, which, lost or broken, cannot be paid for with that it taketh.

Verse 4

Who hath wrought and done [it], calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I [am] he.

Who hath wrought and done it? — Here the Gentiles should have answered for God, which because they did not, but were senselessly silent, therefore he answereth by a description of himself.

Calling the generations from the beginning. — Giving them their being, and having them at a beck.

I the Lord, the first, and with the last. — πρωτος τε και υστατος, εν τε μεσοι σιν . This was anciently believed concerning God, as Plato De Leg., lib. iv. testifieth. A te principium tibi desinet. Virgil.

Verse 5

The isles saw [it], and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.

The isles saw it. — The heathens were convinced by the former arguments, yet not converted; they were afraid, and yet they came together to confirm themselves mutually in their abominable idolatries.

Yea, they drew near. — As it were, to justify their idolatries before the Lord. Such is the desperate obstinace of obdurate sinners. Pharaoh menaced Moses, even during that palpable darkness. The Philistines were afraid when they saw the ark of the covenant brought into the field, and yet they encourage one another to fight against Israel. 1 Samuel 4:8-9 The thief on the cross was under the arrest of death, and yet railed. Felix trembled, and yet expected a bribe from St Paul. There is a cold sweat sitteth on all the limbs of Antichrist at this day, and yet they repent not of their idolatries, nor murders, nor sorceries, nor fornication, nor thefts, Revelation 9:20-21 but defend them all they can.

Verse 6

They helped every one his neighbour; and [every one] said to his brother, Be of good courage.

They helped every one his neighbour. — Thus those desperate idolaters did from the first. Eusebius In Chron. telleth us, that in the seventh year of Abraham, Ninus, the founder of Nineveh, set up an image of his father Belus, which was worshipped after his death. So did other princes, by his example, not moved with God’s mercies showed to Abraham, who worshipped the true God alone, setting up altars to him wherever he came.

Verse 7

So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, [and] he that smootheth [with] the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It [is] ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, [that] it should not be moved.

So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith. — Because no small gain was brought hereby unto these craftsmen. Acts 19:24-25 The Jewish doctors tell us that Terah, the father of Abraham, was an image maker at Ur of the Chaldees, till God called him thence. Hyperius saith, that all these words are to be taken as pronounced with derision and contempt, that so the vanity of idols may the more plainly be perceived, since they have no more worth than is given them by their worshippers.

Verse 8

But thou, Israel, [art] my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.

But thou, Israel, art my servant. — And it was for thy sake, and for thy settlement, that I have dealt so long with those odious idolaters, whom else I would not once look toward nor commune with, as he said, 2 Kings 3:14 .

The seed of Abraham, my friend. — This style was a higher honour to Abraham than if God had engraven his name in the orbs of heaven. See Trapp on " James 2:23 " Hushai was David’s "friend," and Augustus vouchsafed to give Virgil the name of "Amicus." This was a special favour, but not like that in the text.

Verse 9

[Thou] whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou [art] my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.

Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,sc., In the loins of Abraham thy progenitor.

And called thee from the chief men thereof. — Called thee and culled thee out of the grandees of the Chaldees, the rich, the potent, and the honourable, separate from the common sort, setting thee above the kings of the earth. Psalms 89:27

Verse 10

Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Fear thou not, for I am with thee.Cordialibus, ut ita dicam, verbls, Deus hoc eloquitur, - As long as a child hath his father by the hand, he feareth none. Quid timet hominem homo in sinu Dei positus? - What should he who lieth in God’s own bosom fear any man alive? Is not God’s presence security sufficient?

I will strengthen thee; I will help thee, … — I will, I will, I will. Oh the rhetoric of God! Oh the certainty of the promises!

With the right hand of my righteousness,i.e., My righteous right hand, that shall right all thy wrongs.

Verse 11

Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.

Behold, all that were incensed against thee. — These and the following precious promises the Jews misapply to the coming and kingdom of their Messiah, the Papists to their hierarchy. Let every true servant of God take them home as spoken to himself; every promise droppeth myrrh and mercy.

Verse 12

Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, [even] them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.

Even them that contended with thee. — Heb., The men of thy contention - thy contendents, such as this eristical age hath more than a good many. By the Quakers’ wild fancies and rude practices we may see how cross-grained these people are in contradicting everything. Many men’s spirits, saith one, today lie like that haven in Acts 27:12 , toward the south-west and north-west, two opposite points.

Verse 13

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand. — As a tender father taketh his dear child by the hand, in dirty or dangerous ways especially, lifting him over; so the saints are said to sit down at God’s feet, Deuteronomy 33:3 or to stand between his legs, as little ones do.

Verse 14

Fear not, thou worm Jacob, [and] ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Fear not. — This is oft inculcated, for better confirmation and comfort. Our Saviour may seem to have hence his "Fear not little flock." It is no easy matter to cheer up afflicted consciences. Luther saith it is as hard a matter as to raise the dead. Hence this frequent "Fear not."

Verse 15

Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat [them] small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.

I will make thee a new sharp thrashing instrument having teeth.Traham, aut tribulam in omnem partem probe dentatam. Such as those eastern countries did use, to mash in pieces their rougher and harder fodder for their cattle, or rather to thresh out their harder grain with, Isaiah 28:25 ; Isaiah 28:28 or to torture men with. 2 Samuel 12:31

Thou shalt thresh the mountains. — Thy lofty and mighty enemies. This was fulfilled in the Maccabees, but especially in the apostles, subduing the nations to the obedience of the faith. See 2 Corinthians 10:4 .

Verse 16

Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, [and] shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

Thou shalt fan them. — But find nothing in them of any solidity. The heart of the wicked is little worth.

And thou shalt rejoice in the Lord. — As the sole doer of all; for it is he that subdueth the people under us, and doeth all our works for us. Isaiah 26:12

Verse 17

[When] the poor and needy seek water, and [there is] none, [and] their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

When the poor. — When such as are "poor in spirit," sensible of their utter indigence, shall blessedly hunger and thirst after righteousness, showing themselves restless and insatiated without it.

And there is none. — None to be found in the doctrine of the Pharisees, philosophers, or friars.

Verse 18

I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

I will open rivers in high places. — Rather work miracles, as once in the wilderness, Exodus 17:6-7 than my poor people shall want necessary support and succour (help).

Verse 19

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, [and] the pine, and the box tree together:

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, … — That is, saith Lyra, I will give variety of graces to my people.

And the box tree.Per varia ligna varietatem gratiarum insinuat. - Oecol. That groweth of itself in wild places, saith Diodate, to signify that the Church will always have worldly wild plants mixed and growing in it. Box is always green indeed, and full of leaves, but it is of an ill smell, et semen habet omnibus invisum animantibus, Sphinx, Philos. and of a worse seed.

Verse 20

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

That they may see, and know, and consider. — Heb., Lay. Lay it upon their heart, which natural men are very hardly drawn to do. The best are so backward, that an Ezekiel may hear, "Son of man, behold with thine eye, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee," …, Ezekiel 40:4 and Haggai calleth upon the good people of his time to "consider" and better "consider." Haggai 1:5 ; Haggai 1:7

Verse 21

Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong [reasons], saith the King of Jacob.

Produce your cause, saith the Lord. — He had dealt with the heathens, and convinced them; now have at their gods: and their best proofs are called for.

Bring forth your strong reasons. — Heb., Your bony arguments, argumenta trabalia; but, alas! they had none such.

Saith the king of Jacob. — Not the God of Jacob; for that was now the matter in question, whether he were God, or the heathen deities. And because they were silent, and to seek το ζητουμενον . of such arguments, he helpeth them to a couple.

Verse 22

Let them bring [them] forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they [be], that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.

Let them bring forth, and show what shall happen. — By such arguments as these, Cleanthes in Cicero Lib. ii. De Nat. Deorum. testifieth, though himself were a heathen, that the deity might he known. And whereas it may he objected that the Delphic devil had foretold things to come, it is answered, that the devil cannot foretell all future things, nor anything infallibly, and of himself; but either as it is revealed unto him by God, as was Ahab’s fall at Ramoth Gilead; or as he foreseeth it in the causes, signs, or prophecies of Holy Scripture, wherein he is not a little skilled.

Verse 23

Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye [are] gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold [it] together.

Show the things that are to come. — This first argument is much insisted on. God alone can properly predict; and Testimonium divinitatis est veritas divinationis. Tertul. Apol., cap. 20. Cato Major was wont to say, that he wondered how one diviner could look upon another and not laugh, as knowing themselves to be no better than deceivers of the people.

Yea, do good or evil. — Good to your friends, evil to your foes. This is the second argument, and it is unanswerable. If it be objected, that this the devil can do, and hath done, the answer is; (1.) that idols can do neither good nor evil, (2.) no, nor yet devils; but the good they do their clients is a mere magic, and the evil they do to any is by divine permission. See Cyprian’s Fourth Treatise, De Vanitate Idolorum. Vide etiam, Aug. De Civlt. Dei, lib. ii. cap. 22, 25, …

Verse 24

Behold, ye [are] of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination [is he that] chooseth you.

Behold, ye are of nothing. — Hence Paul took that assertion of his; 1 Corinthians 8:4 "we know that an idol is nothing in the world." For the matter of it, it is true, wood is wood, and stone is stone; but the relation and signification which is fastened thereunto, is nothing at all: all the being of an idol is nothing but the idolater’s imagination.

And your work of nought. — Or, Of the basilisk or viper; it will do you to death.

An abomination is he that curseth you. — Papists, therefore, must needs be abominable idolaters. Dr Rainolds’s work, De Idololatria Romana, is yet unanswered. Weston writes that his head ached in reading it.

Verse 25

I have raised up [one] from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as [upon] morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.

I have raised up one from the north. — Here God beginneth to prove that he can do both those things, whereof the heathen vanities could do neither. This one in the text is Cyrus, say some; Christ, say others, by whom God here foretelleth that he will punish his enemies, but do good to his Church and chosen.

He shall call upon my name. — Or, Proclaim my name.

Verse 26

Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, [He is] righteous? yea, [there is] none that sheweth, yea, [there is] none that declareth, yea, [there is] none that heareth your words.

Who hath declared? — Who, besides myself, ever did or could predict such a thing? If any other hath done it, we will do him right, called him a god.

Verse 27

The first [shall say] to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.

The first shall say to Zion. — Or, I first said to Zion. I first brought her that good tidings by my prophets.

Verse 28

For I beheld, and [there was] no man; even among them, and [there was] no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.

For I beheld, and there was no man. — None to say anything for these dumb idols, why I should not pass a definitive sentence against them. It is, therefore, this -

Verse 29

Behold, they [are] all vanity; their works [are] nothing: their molten images [are] wind and confusion.

Behold they are all vanity.Jeremiah 10:3 ; Jeremiah 10:15 .

Their works are nothing. — See Isaiah 41:24 .

Are wind and confusion. — Or, Emptiness; Heb., Tohu. Nothing in themselves, and yet of sufficient efficacy to inflict vengeance on their worshippers.

Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 41". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/isaiah-41.html. 1865-1868.
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