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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

Isaiah 41

Second Prophecy - Isaiah 41

The God of the World's History and of Prophecy

Jehovah comes forward here, and speaking in the tone in which He already began to speak in Isaiah 40:25, invites the idolatrous nations to contend with Him, declares the raising up of the conqueror from the east to be His work, and adduces this as the sign that He has been the Author and Guider of the world's history from the beginning. But what if the question should be asked on the part of the nations, With what right does He do this? The acts of the conqueror prove themselves to be a work of the God who is exalted above the idols, from the fact that they bring destruction to the idolatrous nations, and to the people of Jehovah the long-desired redemption. It is in this that the conclusiveness of the illustration lies. The argument, however, presupposes that Cyrus has already entered upon his victorious course. It is evident at the outset that future events, or events still unfulfilled, would have no force as present proofs. And the words also clearly imply, that the work which Jehovah attributes to Himself, in opposition to the gods of the nations, is already in progress.

Verse 1

Summons to the contest: “Be silent to me, ye islands; and let the nations procure fresh strength: let them come near, then speak; we will enter into contest together.” The words are addressed to the whole of the heathen world, and first of all to the inhabitants of the western islands and coasts. This was the expression commonly employed in the Old Testament to designate the continent of Europe, the solid ground of which is so deeply cut, and so broken up, by seas and lakes, that it looks as if it were about to resolve itself into nothing but islands and peninsulas. על החרישׁ is a pregnant expression for turning in silence towards a person; just as in Job 13:13 it is used with min, in the sense of forsaking a person in silence. That they may have no excuse if they are defeated, they are to put on fresh strength; just as in Isaiah 40:31 believers are spoken of as drawing fresh strength out of Jehovah's fulness. They are to draw near, then speak, i.e., to reply after hearing the evidence, for Jehovah desires to go through all the forms of a legal process with them in pro et contra . The m ishpât is thought of here in a local sense, as a forum or tribunal. But if Jehovah is one party to the cause, who is the judge to pronounce the decision? The answer to this question is the same as at Isaiah 5:3. “The nations,” says Rosenmüller, “are called to judgment, not to the tribunal of God, but to that of reason.” The deciding authority is reason, which cannot fail to recognise the facts, and the consequences to be deduced from them.

Verse 2

The parties invited are now to be thought of as present, and Jehovah commences in Isaiah 41:2: “Who hath raised up the man from the rising of the sun, whom justice meets at his foot, He giveth up nations before him, and kings He subdues, giveth men like the dust to his sword, and like driven stubble to his bow?” The sentence governed by “who” ( mı̄ ) ends at l e raglō (at his foot); at the same time, all that follows is spoken with the echo of the interrogative accent. The person raised up is Cyrus, who is afterwards mentioned by name. The coming one (if, that is to say, we adhere to the belief in Isaiah's authorship of these addresses) first approaches gradually within the horizon of the prophet's ideal present; and it is only little by little that the prophet becomes more intimately acquainted with a phenomenon which belongs to so distant a future, and has been brought so close to his own eyes. Jehovah has raised up the new great hero “from the east” ( m immizrâch ), and, according to Isaiah 41:25, “from the north” also. Both of these were fulfilled; for Cyrus was a Persian belonging to the clan of Achaemenes ( Hakhâmanis ), which stood at the head of the tribe, or of the Pasargadae. He was the son of Cambyses; and even if the Median princess Mandane were not his mother, yet, according to nearly all the ancient accounts, he was connected with the royal house of Media; at any rate, after Astyages was dethroned, he became head and chief of the Medes as well as of the Persians (hence the name of “Mule” which was give to him by the oracle, and that given by Jerome, “ agitator bigae ”). Now Media was to the north of Babylonia, and Persia to the east; so that his victorious march, in which, even before the conquest of Babylon, he subjugated all the lands from the heights of Hinduku to the shores of the Aegean Sea, had for its starting-point both the east and north.

(Note: See Pahl'es Geschichte des Oriental. Alterthums. (1864), p. 170ff.)

The clause לרגלו יקראהוּ צדק is an attributive clause, and as such a virtual object: “him whom (supply עת־אשׁר ) justice comes to meet ( קרא ) = קרה , Ges. §75, vi.) on his track” (cf., Genesis 30:30; Job 18:11; Habakkuk 3:5). The idea of tsedeq is determined by what follows: Jehovah gives up nations before him, and causes kings to be trodden down (causative of râdâh ). Accordingly, tsedeq is either to be understood here in an attributive sense, as denoting the justice exercised by a person (viz., the justice executed successfully by Cyrus, as the instrument of Jehovah, by the force of arms); or objectively of the justice awarded to a person (to which the idea of “meeting” is more appropriate), viz., the favourable result, the victory which procures justice for the just cause of the combatant. Rosenmüller, Knobel, and others, are wrong in maintaining that tsedeq ( ts e dâqâh ) in chapters 40-66 signifies primarily justice, and the prosperity and salvation as its reward. The word means straightness, justice, righteousness, and nothing more (from tsâdaq , to be hard, firm, extended, straight, e.g., rumh - un - tsadq , a hard, firm, and straight lance); but it has a double aspect, because justice consists, according to circumstances, of either wrath of favour, and therefore has sometimes the idea of the strict execution of justice, as in this instance, sometimes of a manifestation of justice in fidelity to promises, as in Isaiah 41:10. יתּן is repeated here in Isaiah 41:2 (just like וילמדהו in Isaiah 40:14) with the same subject, but in a different sense. To make sword and bow the subject, in the sense of “his sword gives (sc., 'the foe'),” is a doubtful thing in itself; and as cherebh and qesheth are feminines, it is by no means advisable. Moreover, in other instances, the comparative כ leaves it to the reader to carry out the figure indicated according to his own fancy. And this is the case here: He (Jehovah) makes his sword as if there were dust, his bow as if there were hunted stubble (Böttcher), i.e., pounding the enemy like dust, and hunting it like flying stubble. Our text has כּעפר , but in certain codices we find כּעפר with tzere ; and this reading, which is contrary to rule, has in its favour the express testimony of Moses the punctuator.

(Note: In his הנקוד דרכי (rules of pointing), with which the Masora finalis is surrounded.)

Verse 3

The conqueror is now still further described in futures, which might be defined by העיר , and so express a simultaneous past (synchronistic imperfects), but which it is safer to take as standing traits in the picture drawn of the conqueror referred to. “He pursueth them and marcheth in peace by a course which he never trod with his feet.” He marches victoriously further and further, shâlōm ,” i.e., “in safety” (or, as an adjective, safely; Job 21:9), without any one being able to do him harm, by a course (accus. Ges. §138, 1) which he has not been accustomed to tread with his feet ( ingredi ).

Verse 4

The great fact of the present time, which not one of the gods of the heathen can boast of having brought to pass, is now explained. Jehovah is its author. “Who hath wrought and executed it? He who calleth the generations of men from the beginning, I Jehovah am first, and with the last am I He.” The synonyms פּעל and עשׂה are distinguished from each other in the same way as “to work” (or bring about) and “to realize” (or carry out). Hence the meaning is, Who is the author to whom both the origin and progress of such an occurrence are to be referred? It is He who “from the beginning,” i.e., ever since there has been a human history, has called into existence the generations of men through His authoritative command. And this is no other than Jehovah, who can declare of Himself, in contrast with the heathen and their gods, who are of yesterday, and tomorrow will not be: I am Jehovah, the very first, whose being precedes all history; and with the men of the latest generations yet to come “I am it.” הוּא is not introduced here to strengthen the subject, ego ille “I and no other,” as in Isaiah 37:16, which see); but, as in Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 56:4; Isaiah 48:12, it is a predicate of the substantive clause, ego sum is ( ille ), viz., 'Elōhı̄m ; or even as in Psalms 102:28 (cf., Job 3:19 and Hebrews 13:8), ego sum idem (Hitzig). They are both included, without any distinction in the assertion. He is this, viz., God throughout all ages, and is through all ages He, i.e., the Being who is ever the same in this His deity. It is the full meaning of the name Jehovah which is unfolded here; for God is called Jehovah as the absolute I, the absolutely free Being, pervading all history, and yet above all history, as He who is Lord of His own absolute being, in revealing which He is purely self-determined; in a word, as the unconditionally free and unchangeably eternal personality.

Verses 5-7

In the following v. we have not a description of the impression made upon the heathen by the argument of Jehovah, but the argument itself is continued. Isaiah 41:5 “Islands have seen it, and shuddered; the ends of the earth trembled; they have approached, and drawn near.” We have here a description of the effects which the victorious course of Cyrus had begun to produce in the heathen world. The perfects denote the past, and the futures a simultaneous past; so that we have not to compare Isaiah 41:5 with Habakkuk 3:10 so much as with Psalms 77:17. The play upon the words וייראּוּ ... ראּוּ pairs together both seeing and fearing. The Cumaeans, when consulting the oracle, commenced thus: ἡμεῖς δὲ δειμαίνοντες τὴν Περσέων δύναμιν . The perfect with the aorist following in Isaiah 41:5 places the following picture upon the stage: They have approached and drawn near (from all directions) to meet the threatening danger; and how? Isaiah 41:6, Isaiah 41:7 “One helped his companion, and he said to his brother, Only firm! The caster put firmness into the melter, the hammer-smoother into the anvil-smiter, saying of the soldering, It is good; and made him firm with nails, that he should not shake.” Him, viz., the idol. Everything is in confusion, from the terror that prevails; and the gods from which they expect deliverance are not made till now, the workmen stimulating one another to work. The c hârâsh , who casts the image, encourages the tsōrēph , whose task it is to provide it with the plating of gold and silver chains (Isaiah 40:19), to work more bravely; and the man who smooths with the hammer ( pattish, instrumentalis ) does the same to the man who smites the anvil ( הולם with seghol , whereas in other cases, e.g., Ezekiel 22:25, the tone generally gives way without any change in the vowel-pointing). The latter finds the soldering all right, by which the gold plates of the covering are fastened together, so as to give to the golden idol a massive appearance. He is the last into whose hands it comes; and nothing more is wanting, than that he should forge upon the anvil the nails with which it is fastened, to prevent it from falling. To such foolish, fruitless proceedings have the nations resorted when threatened with subjugation by Cyrus.

Verses 8-10

The proof adduced by Jehovah of His own deity closes here. But instead of our hearing whether the nations, with which He has entered upon the contest, have any reply to make, the address turns to Israel, upon which deliverance dawns from that very quarter, from which the others are threatened with destruction. “And thou, Israel my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham my friend, thou whom I have laid hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners thereof, and said to thee, Thou art my servant, I have chosen and not despised thee; fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not afraid, for I am thy God: I have chosen thee, I also help thee, I also hold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” The ו before ואתּה connects together antitheses, which show themselves at once to be antitheses. Whereas the nations, which put their trust in idols that they themselves had made, were thrown into alarm, and yielded before the world-wide commotions that had originated with the eastern conqueror, Israel, the nation of Jehovah, might take comfort to itself. Every word here breathes the deepest affection. The address moves on in soft undulating lines. The repetition of the suffix ך , with which אשׁר forms a relative of the second person, for which we have no equivalent in our language (Ges. §123, Anm. 1), gives to the address a pressing, clinging, and, as it were, loving key-note. The reason, which precedes the comforting assurance in Isaiah 41:10, recals the intimate relation in which Jehovah had placed Himself towards Israel, and Israel towards Himself. The leading thought, “servant of Jehovah,” which is characteristic of chapters 40-46, and lies at the root of the whole spirit of these addresses, more especially of their Christology, we first meet with here, and that in a popular sense. It has both an objective and a subjective side. On the one hand, Israel is the servant of Jehovah by virtue of a divine act; and this act, viz., its election and call, was an act of pure grace, and was not to be traced, as the expression “I have chosen and not despised thee' indicates, to any superior excellence or merit on the part of Israel. On the contrary, Israel was so obscure that Jehovah might have despised it; nevertheless He had anticipated it in free unmerited love with this stamp of the character indelibilis of a servant of Jehovah. On the other hand, Israel was the servant of Jehovah, inasmuch as it acted out what Jehovah had made it, partly in reverential worship of this God, and partly in active obedience. את־ה עבד , i.e., “serving Jehovah,” includes both liturgical service (also עבד absolutely, Isaiah 19:23) and the service of works. The divine act of choosing and calling is dated from Abraham. From a Palestinian point of view, Ur of Chaldaea, within the old kingdom of Nimrod, and Haran in northern Mesopotamia, seemed like the ends and corners of the earth ( 'ătsı̄lı̄m , remote places, from 'âtsal , to put aside or apart). Israel and the land of Israel were so inseparably connected, that whenever the origin of Israel was spoken of, the point of view could only be taken in Palestine. To the far distant land of the Tigris and Euphrates had Jehovah gone to fetch Abraham, “the friend of God” (James 2:23), who is called in the East even to the present day, chalil ollah , the friend of God. This calling of Abraham was the furthest terminus a quo of the existence of Israel as the covenant nation; for the leading of Abraham was providentially appointed with reference to the rise of Israel as a nation. The latter was pre-existent in him by virtue of the counsel of God. And when Jehovah adopted Abraham as His servant, and called him “my servant” (Genesis 26:24), Israel, the nation that was coming into existence in Abraham, received both the essence and name of a “servant of Jehovah.” Inasmuch then as, on looking back to its past history, it would not fail to perceive that it was so thoroughly a creation of divine power and grace, it ought not to be fearful, and look about with timidity and anxiety; for He who had presented Himself at the very beginning as its God, was still always near. The question arises, in connection with the word אמּצתּי , whether it means to strengthen (Isaiah 35:3; Psalms 89:22), or to lay firm hold of, to attach firmly to one's self, to choose. We decide in favour of the latter meaning, which is established by Isaiah 44:14, cf., Psalms 80:16, Psalms 80:18. The other perfects affirm what Jehovah has ever done, and still continues to do. In the expression “by the right hand of my righteousness,” the justice or righteousness is regarded pre-eminently on its brighter side, the side turned towards Israel; but it is also regarded on its fiery side, or the side turned towards the enemies of Israel. It is the righteousness which aids the oppressed congregation against its oppressors. The repeated אף heaps one synonym upon another, expressive of the divine love; for ו simply connects, גּם appends, אף heaps up ( cumulat ). Language is too contracted to hold all the fulness of the divine love; and for this reason the latter could not find words enough to express all that it desired.

Verses 11-13

With the exclamation hēn (behold) the eyes of Israel are now directed to the saving interposition of Jehovah in the immediate future. “Behold, all they that were incensed against thee must be ashamed and confounded; the men of thy conflict become as nothing, and perish. Thou wilt seek them, and not find them, the men of thy feuds; the men of thy warfare become as nothing, and nonentity. For I, Jehovah thy God, lay hold of thy right hand, He who saith to thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” The comprehensive expression omnes inflammati in te ( niphal, as in Isaiah 45:24) stands at the head; and then, in order that every kind may be included, the enemies are called by a different name every time. The three substantives bear much the same relation to one another as lis , rixa , bellum ( m ilchâmâh , lit., throng = war-tumult, like the epic κλόνος ), hence adversarii , inimici , hostes . The suffixes have the force of objective genitives. We have founded our translation upon the reading מצּוּתי ך . The three names of the enemies are placed emphatically at the close of the sentences, and these are long drawn out, whilst the indignation gives vent to itself; whereas in Isaiah 41:13 there follows nothing but short sentences, in which the persecuted church is encouraged and affectionately embraced. Two clauses, which are made to rhyme with ēm , announce the utter destruction of their foes; then the inflective rhyme ekha is repeated five times; and the sixth time it passes over into ı̄kha .

Verses 14-16

The consolatory words, “Fear not,” are now repeated, for the purpose of once more adding the promise that Israel will not succumb to its foes, but will acquire power over its enemies. “Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and handful Israel: I will help thee, saith Jehovah; and thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I have made thee a threshing roller, a sharp new one, with double edges: thou wilt thresh mountains, and pound them; and hills thou wilt make like chaff. Thou wilt winnow them, and wind carries them away, and tempest scatters them: and thou wilt rejoice in Jehovah, and glory in the Holy One of Israel.” Israel, which is now helplessly oppressed, is called “worm of Jacob” ( gen. appos.) in compassion, i.e., Jacob that is like a worm, probably with some allusion to Psalms 22:7; for the image of the Messiah enriches itself in these discourses, inasmuch as Israel itself is looked upon in a Messianic light, so that the second David does not stand by the side of Israel, but appears as Israel's heart, or true and inmost essence. The people are then addressed as the “people of Israel,” with some allusion to the phrase מספּר מתי (i.e., few men, easily numbered) in Genesis 34:30; Deuteronomy 4:27 (lxx ὀλιγοστὸσ ̓Ισραήλ ; Luther, Ir armer hauffe Israel , ye poor crowd of Israel). They no longer formed the compact mass of a nation; the band of the commonwealth was broken: they were melted down into a few individuals, scattered about hither and thither. But it would not continue so. “I help thee” (perfect of certainty) is Jehovah's solemn declaration; and the Redeemer ( redemtor, Leviticus 25:48-49) of His now enslaved people is the Holy One of Israel, with His love, which perpetually triumphs over wrath. Not only will He set it free, but He will also endow it with might over its oppressors; samtı̄kh is a perfect of assurance (Ges. §126, 4); m ōrag (roller) signifies a threshing-sledge (Arab. naureg , nōreg ), which has here the term חרוּ ץ (Isaiah 28:27) as a secondary name along with חדשׁ , and is described as furnished on the under part of the two arms of the sledge not only with sharp knives, but with two-edged knives ( פּיפיּות a reduplication, like מאסּאה in Isaiah 27:8, whereas מימי is a double plural). Just like such a threshing machine would Israel thresh and grind to powder from that time forth both mountains and hills. This is evidently a figurative expression for proud and mighty foes, just as wind and tempest denote the irresistible force of Jehovah's aid. The might of the enemy would be broken down to the very last remnant, whereas Israel would be able to rejoice and glory in its God.

Verses 17-20

At the present time, indeed, the state of His people was a helpless one, but its cry for help was not in vain. “The poor and needy, who seek for water and there is none, their tongue faints for thirst. I Jehovah will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I open streams upon hills of the field, and springs in the midst of the valleys; I make the desert into a pond, and dry land into fountains of water. I give in the desert cedars, acacias, and myrtles, and oleasters; I set in the steppe cypresses, plane-trees, and sherbin-trees together, that they may see, and know, and lay to heart and understand all together, that the hand of Jehovah hath accomplished this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” Kimchi, Hitzig, and others refer these promises to the returning exiles; but there is also a description, without any restriction to the return home, of the miraculous change which would take place in the now comfortless and helpless condition of the exiles. The sh e phâyı̄m , i.e., bare, woodless hills rising up from the plain, Jeremiah 12:12, the b e qâ‛ōth , or deep valleys, by the sides of which there rise precipitous mountains, and the 'erets tsiyyâh , the land of burning heat or drought (cf., Psalms 63:2), depict the homeless condition of Israel, as it wandered over bald heights and through waterless plains about a land with parched and gaping soil. For the characteristics of the object, which is placed before אענם , we may therefore compare such passages as Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 55:1. נשׁתּה is either a pausal form for נשׁתּה , and therefore the niphal of שׁתת (to set, become shallow, dry up), or a pausal form for נשׁתה , and therefore the kal of נשׁת with dagesh affectuosum, like נתנּוּ in Ezekiel 27:19 (Olshausen, §83, b). The form נשׁתה in Jeremiah 51:30 may just as well be derived from שׁתת (Ges. §67, Anm. 11) as from נשׁת , whereas נשּׁתוּ may certainly be taken as the niphal of שׁתת after the form &#נמּל נחר (Ges. §67, Anm. 5), though it would be safer to refer it to a kal נשׁת , which seems to be also favoured by ינּתשׁוּ in Jeremiah 18:14 as a transposition of ינּשׁתוּ . The root נש , of which נשׁת would be a further expansion, really exhibits the meaning to dry up or thirst, in the Arabic nassa ; whereas the verbs נוּשׁ אנשׁ נסס (Isaiah 10:18), נשׁה , Syr. nas' , nos' , Arab. nâsa , nasnasa , with the primary meaning to slacken, lose their hold, and נשׁא נשׁה נסע , to deceive, derange, and advance, form separate families. Just when they are thus on the point of pining away, they receive an answer to their prayer: their God opens streams, i.e., causes streams to break forth on the hills of the field, and springs in the midst of the valleys. The desert is transformed into a lake, and the steppe of burning sand into fountains of water. What was predicted in Isaiah 35:6-7 is echoed again here - a figurative representation of the manifold fulness of refreshing, consolation, and marvellous help which was to burst all at once upon those who were apparently forsaken of God. What is depicted in Isaiah 41:19, Isaiah 41:20, is the effect of these. It is not merely a scanty vegetation that springs up, but a corresponding manifold fulness of stately, fragrant, and shady trees; so that the steppe, where neither foot nor eye could find a resting-place, is changed, as by a stroke of magic, into a large, dense, well-watered forest, and shines with sevenfold glory - an image of the many-sided manifestations of divine grace which are experienced by those who are comforted now. Isaiah is especially fond of such figures as these (vid., Isaiah 5:7; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 27:6; Isaiah 37:31). There are seven (4 + 3) trees named; seven indicating the divine character of this manifold development ( Psychol. p. 188). 'Erez is the generic name for the cedar; shittâh , the acacia, the Egyptian spina ( ἄκανθα ), Copt. shont ; hadas , the myrtle, ‛ēts shemen , the wild olive, as distinguished from zayith ( ἡ ἀγριέλαιος , opposed to ἡ ἐλαία in Romans 11:17); b e rōsh , the cypress, at any rate more especially this; tidhâr we have rendered the “plane-tree,” after Saad.; and t e 'asshūr the “ sherbin ” (a kind of cedar), after Saad. and Syr. The crowded synonyms indicating sensual and spiritual perception in Isaiah 41:20 ( ישׂימוּ , sc. לבּם , Isaiah 41:22) are meant to express as strongly as possible the irresistible character of the impression. They will be quite unable to regard all this as accidental or self-produced, or as anything but the production of the power and grace of their God.

Verses 21-23

There follows now the second stage in the suit. “Bring hither your cause, saith Jehovah; bring forward your proofs, saith the king of Jacob. Let them bring forward, and make known to us what will happen: make known the beginning, what it is, and we will fix our heart upon it, and take knowledge of its issue; or let us hear what is to come. Make known what is coming later, and we will acknowledge that ye are gods: yea, do good, and do evil, and we will measure ourselves, and see together.” In the first stage Jehovah appealed, in support of His deity, to the fact that it was He who had called the oppressor of the nations upon the arena of history. In this second stage He appeals to the fact that He only knows or can predict the future. There the challenge was addressed to the worshippers of idols, here to the idols themselves; but in both cases both of these are ranged on the one side, and Jehovah with His people upon the other. It is with purpose that Jehovah is called the “King of Jacob,”as being the tutelar God of Israel, in contrast to the tutelar deities of the heathen. The challenge to the latter to establish their deity is first of all addressed to them directly in Isaiah 41:21, and then indirectly in Isaiah 41:22, where Jehovah connects Himself with His people as the opposing party; but in Isaiah 41:22 He returns again to a direct address. עצּמות are evidences (lit. robara, cf., ὀχυρώματα , 2 Corinthians 10:4, from עצם , to be strong or stringent; mishn. נתעצּם , to contend with one another pro et contra ); here it signifies proofs that they can foresee the future. Jehovah for His part has displayed this knowledge, inasmuch as, at the very time when He threatened destruction to the heathen at the hands of Cyrus, He consoled His people with the announcement of their deliverance (Isaiah 41:8-20). It is therefore the turn of the idol deities now: “Let them bring forward and announce to us the things that will come to pass.” the general idea of what is in the future stands at the head. Then within this the choice is given them of proving their foreknowledge of what is afterwards to happen, by announcing either ראשׁנות , or even בּאות . These two ideas, therefore, are generic terms within the range of the things that are to happen. Consequently הרשׁנות cannot mean “earlier predictions,” prius praedicta , as Hitzig, Knobel, and others suppose. This explanation is precluded in the present instance by the logic of the context. Both ideas lie upon the one line of the future; the one being more immediate, the other more remote, or as the expression alternating with הבאות implies לאחור האתיּות , ventura in posterum (“in later times,” compare Isaiah 42:23, “at a later period;” from the participle אתה , radical form אתי , vid., Ges. §75, Anm. 5, probably to distinguish it from אתות ). This is the explanation adopted by Stier and Hahn, the latter of whom has correctly expounded the word, as denoting “the events about to happen first in the immediate future, which it is not so difficult to prognosticate from signs that are discernible in the present.” The choice is given them, either to foretell “ things at the beginning ” ( haggı̄dū in our editions is erroneously pointed with kadma instead of geresh ), i.e., that which will take place first or next, “ what they be ” ( quae et qualia sint ), so that now, when the achărı̄th , “the latter end” (i.e., the issue of that which is held out to view), as prognosticated from the standpoint of the present, really occurs, the prophetic utterance concerning it may be verified; or “things to come,” i.e., things further off, in later times (in the remote future), the prediction of which is incomparably more difficult, because without any point of contact in the present. They are to choose which they like ( או from אוה , like vel from velle ): “ye do good, and do evil,” i.e., (according to the proverbial use of the phrase; cf., Zephaniah 1:12 and Jeremiah 10:5) only express yourselves in some way; come forward, and do either the one or the other. The meaning is, not that they are to stir themselves and predict either good or evil, but they are to show some sign of life, no matter what. “ And we will measure ourselves (i.e., look one another in the face, testing and measuring), and see together,” viz., what the result of the contest will be. השׁתּעה like התראה in 2 Kings 14:8, 2 Kings 14:11, with a cohortative âh , which is rarely met with in connection with verbs ל ה , and the tone upon the penultimate, the âh being attached without tone to the voluntative נשׁתּע in 2 Kings 14:5 (Ewald, §§228, c). For the chethib ונראה , the Keri has the voluntative ונרא .

Verse 24

Jehovah has thus placed Himself in opposition to the heathen and their gods, as the God of history and prophecy. It now remains to be seen whether the idols will speak, to prove their deity. By no means; not only are they silent, but they cannot speak. Therefore Jehovah breaks out into words of wrath and contempt. “Behold, ye are of nothing, and your doing of nought: an abomination whoever chooseth you.” The two מן are partitive, as in Isaiah 40:17; and מאפע is not an error of the pen for מאפס , as Gesenius and others suppose, but אפע from &#עפע פּה (from which comes פּה ), פּעה , Isaiah 42:14 (from which comes אפעה , Isaiah 59:5), to breathe, stands as a synonym to און הבל רוח . The attributive clause בּכם יבחר (supply אשׁר חוּא ) is a virtual subject (Ewald, §333, b): ye and your doings are equally nil; and whoever chooses you for protectors, and makes you the objects of his worship, is morally the most degraded of beings.

Verse 25

The more conclusively and incontrovertibly, therefore, does Jehovah keep the field as the moulder of history and foreteller of the future, and therefore as God above all gods. “I have raised up from the north, and he came: from the rising of the sun one who invokes my name; and he treads upon satraps as mud, and like a potter kneadeth clay.” The object of the verb hâ‛ı̄rōthı̄ (I have wakened up) is he who came when wakened up by Jehovah from the north and east, i.e., from Media and Persia ( &#ויּאת ויּאתּ for ויּאת , with evasion of the auxiliary pathach , Ges. §76, 2, c), and, as the second clause affirms, who invokes or will invoke the name of Jehovah (at any rate, qui invocabit is the real meaning of qui invocat ). For although the Zarathustrian religion, which Cyrus followed, was nearest to the Jehovah religion of all the systems of heathenism, it was a heathen religion after all. The doctrine of a great God ( baga vazarka ), the Creator of heaven and earth, and at the same time of a great number of Bagas and Yazatas, behind whose working and worship the great God was thrown into the shade, is (apart from the dualism condemned in Isaiah 45:7) the substance of the sacred writings of the Magi in our possession, as confirmed by the inscriptions of the Achemenides.

(Note: Windischmann, Zoroastrische Studien, pp. 134, 135.)

But the awakened of Jehovah would, as is here predicted, “call with the name, or by means of the name, of Jehovah,” which may mean either call upon this name (Zephaniah 3:9; Jeremiah 10:25), or call out the name (compare Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:5, with Exodus 35:30) in the manner in which he does make use of it in the edict setting the exiles free (Ezra 1:2). The verb יבא which follows (cf., Isaiah 41:2) designated him still further as a conqueror of nations; the verb construed with an accusative is used here, as is very frequently the case, in the sense of hostile attack. The word Sâgân , which is met with first in Ezekiel - apart, that is to say, from the passage before us - may have owed its meaning in the Hebrew vocabulary to its similarity in sound to sōkhēn (Isaiah 22:15); at any rate, it is no doubt a Persian word, which became naturalized in the Hebrew ( ζωγάνης in Athenaeus, and Neo-Pers. sichne , a governor: see Ges. Thes.), though this comparison is by no means so certain

(Note: Spiegel has the following remarks upon the subject: There is but very little probability in the etymologies which can be suggested for the word sâgân through the help of the old Persian. The new Persian shihne cannot be traced beyond Neo-Persian, and even there it is somewhat suspicious on account of the which it contains, and which is not Persian. The only real Persian word to which I could think of tracing it is shahr , a city (old Bactrian khshathra , or shoithra , a place of abode); or it might possibly have sprung from shoithraka , a supposititious word, in the sense of governor of a district, but with the r changed into n (a change which only occurs in Huzvaresh) and the h into . There are also difficulties in the comparison of the old Bactrian canh , to say or express solemnly. An adjective canhâna (expressing, commanding), formed from this verb, would be pronounced canhâna or even câna in old Persian; and from this Sâgân would have to be obtained, so that we should still want the n to take the place of the Gimel. At the same time, there is a still harsher form of the root canh in the Gatha dialect, namely cak (not the same as the Sanskrit cak , to be strong, as Haug supposes), though this comparison is by no means so certain, from which the Neo-Persian sachan , sachun , a word, is derived; so that it appears to have been also current in old Persian. Accordingly, the form cakâna may also have been used in the place of canhâna , and this might suit in some degree for sâgân .)

as that σατράπης is the same as the Ksatrapâv of the inscriptions, i.e., protector of the kingdom.

(Note: See H. Rawlinson, Asiatic Journal, xi. 1, p. 116 ss.; and Spiegel, Keilinschriften, p. 194.)

Without at all overlooking the fact that this word s e gânı̄m , so far as it can really be supposed to be a Persian word, favours the later composition of this portion of the book of Isaiah, we cannot admit that it has any decisive weight, inasmuch as the Persian word pardēs occurs even in the Song of Solomon. And the indications which might be found in the word s e gânı̄m unfavourable to Isaiah's authorship are abundantly counterbalanced by what immediately follows.

Verses 26-28

As Isaiah 41:25 points back to the first charge against the heathen and their gods (Isaiah 41:2-7), so Isaiah 41:26-28 point back to the second. Not only did Jehovah manifest Himself as the Universal Ruler in the waking up of Cyrus, but as the Omniscient Ruler also. “Who hath made it known from the beginning, we will acknowledge it, and from former time, we will say He is in the right?! Yea, there was none that made known; yea, none that caused to hear; yea, none that heard your words. As the first I saith to Zion, Behold, behold, there it is: and I bestow evangelists upon Jerusalem. And I looked, and there was no man; and of these there was no one answering whom I would ask, and who would give me an answer.” If any one of the heathen deities had foretold this appearance of Cyrus so long before as at the very commencement of that course of history which had thus reached its goal, Jehovah with His people, being thus taught by experience, would admit and acknowledge their divinity. מראשׁ is used in the same sense as in Isaiah 48:16: and also in Isaiah 41:4 and Isaiah 40:21, where it refers according to the context in each case, to the beginning of the particular line of history. צדּיק signifies either “he is right,” i.e., in the right (compare the Arabic siddik , genuine), or in a neuter sense, “it is right” (= true), i.e., the claim to divine honours is really founded upon divine performances. But there was not one who had proclaimed it, or who gave a single sound of himself; no one had heard anything of the kind from them. אין receives a retrospective character from the connection; and bearing this in mind, the participles may be also resolved into imperfects. The repeated אף , passing beyond what is set down as possible, declares the reality of the very opposite. What Jehovah thus proves the idols to want, He can lay claim to for Himself. In Isaiah 41:27 we need not assume that there is any hyperbaton, as Louis de Dieu, Rosenmüller, and others have done: “I first will give to Zion and Jerusalem one bringing glad tidings: behold, behold them.” After what has gone before in Isaiah 41:26 we may easily supply אמרתּי , “I said,” in Isaiah 41:27 (compare Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 14:16; Isaiah 27:2), not אמר , for the whole comparison drawn by Jehovah between Himself and the idols is retrospective, and looks back from the fulfilment in progress to the prophecies relating to it. The only reply that we can look for to the question in Isaiah 41:26 is not, “I on the contrary do it,” but “I did it.” At the same time, the rendering is a correct one: “Behold, behold them ” ( illa ; for the neuter use of the masculine, compare Isaiah 48:3; Isaiah 38:16; Isaiah 45:8). “As the first,” Jehovah replies (i.e., without any one anticipating me), “Have I spoken to Zion: behold, behold, there it is,” pointing with the finger of prophecy to the coming salvation, which is here regarded as present; “and I gave to Jerusalem messengers of joy;” i.e., long ago, before what is now approaching could be known by any one, I foretold to my church, through the medium of prophets, the glad tidings of the deliverance from Babylon. If the author of chapters 40-66 were a prophet of the captivity, his reference here would be to such prophecies as Isaiah 11:11 (where Shinar is mentioned as a land of dispersion), and more especially still Micah 4:10, “There in Babylon wilt thou be delivered, there will Jehovah redeem thee out of the hand of thine enemies;” but if Isaiah were the author, he is looking back from the ideal standpoint of the time of the captivity, and of Cyrus more especially, to his own prophecies before the captivity (such as Isaiah 13:1-14:23, and Isaiah 21:1-10), just as Ezekiel, when prophesying of Gog and Magog, looks back in Isaiah 38:17 fro the ideal standpoint of this remote future, more especially to his own prophecies in relation to it. In that case the m e bhassēr , or evangelist, more especially referred to is the prophet himself (Grotius and Stier), namely, as being the foreteller of those prophets to whom the commission in Isaiah 40:1, “Comfort ye, comfort ye,” is addressed, and who are greeted in Isaiah 52:7-8 as the bearers of the joyful news of the existing fulfilment of the deliverance that has appeared, and therefore as the m e bhassēr or evangelist of the future מבשׂרים . In any case, it follows from Isaiah 41:26, Isaiah 41:27 that the overthrow of Babylon and the redemption of Israel had long before been proclaimed by Jehovah through His prophets; and if our exposition is correct so far, the futures in Isaiah 41:28 are to be taken as imperfects: And I looked round ( וארא , a voluntative in the hypothetical protasis, Ges. §128, 2), and there was no one (who announced anything of the kind); and of these (the idols) there was no adviser (with regard to the future, Numbers 24:14), and none whom I could ask, and who answered me (the questioner). Consequently, just as the raising up of Cyrus proclaimed the sole omnipotence of Jehovah, so did the fact that the deliverance of Zion-Jerusalem, for which the raising up of Cyrus prepared the way, had been predicted by Him long before, proclaim His sole omniscience.

Verse 29

This closing declaration of Jehovah terminates with similar words of wrath and contempt to those with which the judicial process ended in Isaiah 41:24. “See them all, vanity; nothingness are their productions, wind and desolation their molten images.” מעשׂיהם are not the works of the idols, but, as the parallel shows, the productions (plural, as in Ezekiel 6:6; Jeremiah 1:16) of the idolaters - in other words, the idols themselves - a parallel expression to נסכּיהם (from נס ך , as in Isaiah 48:5 = m assēkhâh , Isaiah 42:17). אפס און is an emotional asyndeton (Ges. §155, 1, a). The address is thus rounded off by returning to the idolaters, with whom it first started. The first part, vv. 1-24, contains the judicial pleadings; the second part, Isaiah 41:25., recapitulates the evidence and the verdict.

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Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 41". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. 1854-1889.