Click here to join the effort!
The prophet cannot bear to dwell any longer upon this dark picture of their state of punishment; and light of the promise breaks through again, and in this third field of the fourth prophecy in all the more intensive form. “And now hear, O Jacob my servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. Thus saith Jehovah, thy Creator, and thy Former from the womb, who cometh to thy help; Fear not, my servant Jacob; and Jeshurun, whom I have chosen! For I will pour out water upon thirsty ones, and brooks upon the dry ground; will pour out my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine after-growth; and they shoot up among the grass, as willows by flowing waters.” In contrast with the cheerem, i.e., the setting apart for destruction, there is here presented the promise of the pouring out of the Spirit and of blessing; and in contrast with the giddūphı̄m , the promise of general eagerness to come and honour Israel and its God (Isaiah 44:5). The epithets by which Jehovah designates Himself, and those applied to Israel in Isaiah 44:1, Isaiah 44:2, make the claim to love all the more urgent and emphatic. The accent which connects מבּטן ויצר ך , so as to make יעזר ך by itself an attributive clause like בו בּחרתּי , is confirmed by Isaiah 44:24 and Isaiah 49:5: Israel as a nation and all the individuals within it are, as the chosen servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 49:1), the direct formation of Jehovah Himself from the remotest point of their history. In Isaiah 44:26, Jeshurun is used interchangeably with Jacob. This word occurs in three other passages (viz., Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26), and is always written with kibbutz , just as it is here. The rendering ̓Ισραελίσκος in Gr. Ven. is founded upon the supposition that the word is equivalent to ישׂרלוּן - a strange contraction, which is inadmissible, if only on account of the substitution of שׁ for שׂ . The שׁ points back to ישׁר , to be straight or even; hence A. S. Th. εὐθύσς (elsewhere εὐθύτατος ), Jerome rectissimus (though in Deuteronomy 32:15 he renders it, after the lxx, dilectus ). It is an offshoot of ישׁר ישׁר (Psalms 25:21), like זבלוּן ידתוּן from זבל ידת ; and ūn (= ōn ) does not stamp it as a diminutive (for אישׁון , which Kamphausen adduces in opposition to Hengstenberg and Volck, does not stand in the same relation to אישׁ as mannikin to man, but rather as the image of a man to a man himself; compare the Arabic insân ). We must not render it therefore as an affectionate diminutive, as Gesenius does, the more especially as Jehovah, though speaking in loving terms, does not adopt the language of a lover. The relation of Jeshurun to ישׁר is rather the same as that of שׁלמה to שׁלום , so that the real meaning is “gentleman,” or one of gentlemanly or honourable mind, though this need not appear in the translation, since the very nature of a proper name would obliterate it. In Isaiah 44:3, the blessings to be expected are assigned as the reason for the exhortation to be of good cheer. In Isaiah 44:3 water is promised in the midst of drought, and in Isaiah 44:3 the Spirit and blessing of God, just as in Joel the promise of rain is first of all placed in contrast with drought; and this is followed by the promise of the far surpassing antitype, namely, the outpouring of the Spirit. There is nothing at variance with this in the fact that we have not the form צמאה in the place of צמא fo e (according to the analogy of עיפה אר ץ ציּה נלאה , Psalms 68:10). By צמא ) we understand the inhabitants of the land who are thirsting for rain, and by yabbâshâh the parched land itself. Further on, however, an express distinction is made between the abundance of water in the land and the prosperous growth of the nation planted by the side of water-brooks (Psalms 1:3). We must not regard Isaiah 44:3, therefore, as a figure, and Isaiah 44:3 as the explanation, or turn Isaiah 44:3 into a simile introduced in the form of a protasis, although unquestionably water and mountain streams are made the symbol, or rather the anagogical type, of spiritual blessings coming down from above in the form of heavenly gifts, by a gradual ascent from מים and נוזלים (from נזל , to trickle downwards, Song of Solomon 4:15, Jeremiah 18:14) to ה רוּח and ה בּרכת בּרכּת ). When these natural and spiritual waters flow down upon the people, once more restored to their home, they spring up among ( בּבין only met with here, lxx and Targum כּבין ) the grass, like willows by water-brooks.
(Note: “The garab,” says Wetzstein, “was only met with by me in one locality, or, at any rate, I only noticed it once, namely in the Wady So'êb, near to a ford of the river which is called the Hôd ford, from the c hirbet el - Hôd, a miserable ruin not far off. It is half an hour to the west of Nimrin ( Nimrim, Isaiah 15:6), or, speaking more exactly, half an hour above (i.e., to the east of) Zafât Nimriin, an antique road on the northern bank of the river, hewn in a precipitous wall of rock, like the ladder of Tyre. I travelled through the valley in June 1860, and find the following entry in my diary: 'At length the ravine opened up into a broader valley, so that we could get down to the clear, copious, and rapid stream, and were able to cross it. Being exhausted by the heat, we lay down near the ford among the oleanders, which the mass of flowers covered with a rosy glow. The reed grows here to an unusual height, as in the Wady Yarmûk, and willows ( zafzaf ) and garab are mingled together, and form many-branched trees of three or four fathoms in height. The vegetation, which is fresh and luxuriant by the water-side, is scorched up with the heat in the valley within as little as ten paces from the banks of the stream. The farthest off is the 'osar plant, with its thick, juicy, dark green stalks and leaves, and its apple-like fruit, which is of the same colour, and therefore not yet ripe. The garab tree has already done flowering. The leaves of this tree stand quite close around the stem, as in the case of the Sindiana (the Syrian oak), and, like the leaves of the latter, are fringed with little thorns; but, like the willow, it is a water plant, and our companions Abdallah and Nasrallah assured us that it was only met with near flowing water and in hot lowlands. Its bunches of flowers are at the points of the slender branches, and assume an umbelliferous form. This is the ערב of the Bible.' Consequently the garab (or (as nom. unitatis) the garaba cannot be regarded as a species of willow; and Winer's assumption ( Real-Wörterbuch, s.v. Weiden), that the weeping willow is intended at any rate in Psalms 137:2, is an error. In Arabic the weeping willow is always called shafshaf m ustachi (the drooping tree). At the same time, we may render ערבים 'willows,' since the garab loves running water as well as the willow, and apparently they seek one another's society; it is quite enough that the difference should be clearly pointed out in the commentary. The reason why the garab did not find its way into my herbarium was the following. On my arrival in Salt, I received the first intelligence of the commencement of the slaughter of the Christians on Antilibanus, and heard the report, which was then commonly believed, that a command had been sent from Constantinople to exterminate Christianity from Syria. This alarming report compelled me to inquire into the actual state of affairs; therefore, leaving my luggage and some of my companions behind, I set off with all speed to Jerusalem, where I hoped to obtain reliable information, accompanied by Herr Dörgen, my kavas, and two natives, viz., Abdallah the smith, from Salt, and Nasrallah the smith, from Ain Genna. For a ride like this, which did not form part of the original plan of my journey, everything but weapons, even a herbarium, would have been in the way. Still there are small caravans going every week between Salt and Jerusalem, and they must always cross the Hôd ford, so that it would be easy to get a twig of the garab. So far as I remember, the remains of the blossom were of a dirty white colour.” (Compare p. 213, where we have taken nachal hâ‛ărâbhı̄m , according to the meaning of the words, as a synonym of Wady Sufsaf, or, more correctly, Safsâf. From the description given above, the garab is a kind of viburnum with indented leaves. This tree, which is of moderate height, is found by the side of streams along with the willow. According to Sprengel ( Gesch. der Botanik. i. 25), the safsâf is the salix subserrata of Wildenow).)
are the nation, which has hitherto resembled withered plants in a barren soil, but is now restored to all the bloom of youth through the Spirit and blessing of God. The grass stands for the land, which resembles a green luxuriant plain; and the water-brooks represent the abundant supply of living waters, which promote the prosperity of the land and its inhabitants.
When Jehovah has thus acknowledged His people once more, the heathen, to whose giddūphı̄m (blasphemies) Israel has hitherto been given up, will count it the greatest honour to belong to Jehovah and His people. “One will say, I belong to Jehovah; and a second will solemnly name the name of Jacob; and a third will inscribe himself to Jehovah, and name the name of Israel with honour.” The threefold zeh refers to the heathen, as in Psalms 87:4-Deuteronomy :. One will declare himself to belong to Jehovah; another will call with the name of Jacob, i.e., (according to the analogy of the phrase ה בשׁם קרא ) make it the medium and object of solemn exclamation; a third will write with his hand ( ידו , an acc. of more precise definition, like חמה in Isaiah 42:25, and זביח ך in Isaiah 43:23), “To Jehovah,” thereby attesting that he desires to belong to Jehovah, and Jehovah alone. This is the explanation given by Gesenius, Hahn, and others; whereas Hitzig and Knobel follow the lxx in the rendering, “he will write upon his hand ' ‛ lay e hōvâh ,' i.e., mark the name of Jehovah upon it.” But apart from the fact that kâthabh , with an accusative of the writing materials, would be unprecedented (the construction required would be על־ידו ), this view is overthrown by the fact that tatooing was prohibited by the Israelitish law (Leviticus 19:28; compare the mark of the beast in Revelation 13:16). בשׁם קרא is interchanged with בסם כּנּה , to surname, or entitle (the Syriac and Arabic are the same; compare the Arabic kunye , the name given to a man as the father of such and such a person, e.g., Abu-Muhammed, rhetorically called metonymy). The name Israel becomes a name or title of honour among the heathen. This concludes the fourth prophecy, which opens out into three distinct fields. With ועתּה in Isaiah 44:1 it began to approach the close, just as the third did in Isaiah 43:1 -a well-rounded whole, which leaves nothing wanting.
A new pledge of redemption is given, and a fresh exhortation to trust in Jehovah; the wretchedness of the idols and their worshippers being pointed out, in contrast with Jehovah, the only speaking and acting God. Isaiah 44:6 “Thus saith Jehovah the King of Israel, and its Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts; I am first, and I last; and beside me there is no God.” The fact that His deity, which rules over not only the natural world, but history as well, is thus without equal and above all time, is now proved by Him from the fact that He alone manifests Himself as God, and that by the utterance of prophecy. Isaiah 44:7 “And who preaches as I do? Let him make it known, and show it to me; since I founded the people of ancient time! And future things, and what is approaching, let them only make known.” Jehovah shows Himself as the God of prophecy since the time that He founded עם־עולם יקרא refers to the continued preaching of prophecy). ‛ Am ‛ ōlâm is the epithet applied in Ezekiel 26:20 to the people of the dead, who are sleeping the long sleep of the grave; and here it does not refer to Israel, which could neither be called an “eternal” nation, nor a people of the olden time, and which would have been more directly named; but according to Isaiah 40:7 and Isaiah 42:5, where ‛am signifies the human race, and Job 22:15., where ‛ ōlâm is the time of the old world before the flood, it signifies humanity as existing from the very earliest times. The prophecies of Jehovah reach back even to the history of paradise. The parenthetical clause, “Let him speak it out, and tell it me,” is like the apodosis of a hypothetical protasis: “if any one thinks that he can stand by my side.” The challenge points to earlier prophecies; with ואתיּות it takes a turn to what is future, אתיות itself denoting what is absolutely future, according to Isaiah 41:23, and תּבאנה אשׁר what is about to be realized immediately; lâmō is an ethical dative.
Of course, none of the heathen gods could in any way answer to the challenge. So much the more confident might Israel be, seeing that it had quite another God. “Despair ye not, neither tremble: have not I told thee long ago, and made known, and ye are my witnesses: is there a God beside me? And nowhere a rock; I know of none.” The Jewish lexicographers derive תּרהוּ (with the first syllable closed) from רהה רה ); whereas modern lexicographers prefer some of them to read תּרהוּ , tı̄r e hū , from ירהּ (Ges., Knobel), and others תּיראוּ (Ewald). But the possibility of there being a verb רהה , to tremble or fear, cannot for a moment be doubted when we think of such words as ירא ירע , compare also Arab. r'h (applied to water moving to and fro). It was not of the heathen deities that they were directed not to be afraid, as in Jeremiah 10:5, but rather the great catastrophe coming upon the nations, of which Cyrus was the instrument. In the midst of this, when one nation after another would be overthrown, and its tutelar gods would prove to be worthless, Israel would have nothing to fear, since its God, who was no dumb idol, had foretold all this, and that indeed long ago ( מאז , cf., מראשׁ , Isaiah 41:26), as they themselves must bear witness. Prophecies before the captivity had foretold the conquest of Babylon by Medes and Elamites, and the deliverance of Israel from the Babylonian bondage; and even these prophecies themselves were like a spirit's voice from the far distant past, consoling the people of the captivity beforehand, and serving to support their faith. On the ground of such well-known self-manifestations, Jehovah could well ask, “Is there a God beside me?” - a virtual denial in the form of an interrogation, to which the categorical denial, “There is no rock (i.e., no ground of trust, Isaiah 26:4; Isaiah 17:10), I know of none (beside me),” is attached.
The heathen gods are so far from being a ground of trust, that all who trust in them must discover with alarm how they have deceived themselves. “The makers of idols, they are all desolation, and their bosom-children worthless; and those who bear witness for them see nothing and know nothing, that they may be put to shame. Who hath formed the god, and cast the idol to no profit? Behold, all its followers will be put to shame; and the workmen are men: let them all assemble together, draw near, be alarmed, be all put to shame together.” The c hămūdı̄m (favourites) of the makers of idols are the false gods, for whose favour they sue with such earnestness. If we retain the word המּה , which is pointed as critically suspicious, and therefore is not accentuated, the explanation might possibly be, “Their witnesses (i.e., witnesses against themselves) are they (the idols): they see not, and are without consciousness, that they (those who trust in them) may be put to shame.” In any case, the subject to yēbhōshū (shall be put to shame) is the worshippers of idols. If we erase המה , ( עדיהם will be those who come forward as witnesses for the idols. This makes the words easier and less ambiguous. At the same time, the Septuagint retains the word ( καὶ μάρτυρες αὐτῶν εἰσίν ). As “not seeing” here signifies to be blind, so “not knowing” is also to be understood as a self-contained expression, meaning to be irrational, just as in Isaiah 45:20; Isaiah 56:10 (in Isaiah 1:3, on the other hand, we have taken it in a different sense). למען implies that the will of the sinner in his sin has also destruction for its object; and this is not something added to the sin, but growing out of it. The question in Isaiah 44:10 summons the maker of idols for the purpose of announcing his fate, and in הועיל לבלתּי (to no profit) this announcement is already contained. Isaiah 44:11 is simply a development of this expression, “to no profit.” יצר , like נטע in Isaiah 44:14, is contrary to the rhythmical law milra which prevails elsewhere. חבריו (its followers) are not the fellow-workmen of the maker of idols (inasmuch as in that case the maker himself would be left without any share in the threat), but the associates (i.e., followers) of the idols (Hosea 4:17; 1 Corinthians 10:20). It is a pernicious work that they have thus had done for them. And what of the makers themselves? They are numbered among the men. So that they who ought to know that they are made by God, become makers of gods themselves. What an absurdity! Let them crowd together, the whole guild of god-makers, and draw near to speak to the works they have made. All their eyes will soon be opened with amazement and alarm.
The prophet now conducts us into the workshops. “The iron-smith has a chisel, and works with red-hot coals, and shapes it with hammers, and works it with his powerful arm. He gets hungry thereby, and his strength fails; if he drink no water, he becomes exhausted. The carpenter draws the line, marks it with the pencil, carries it out with planes, and makes a drawing of it with the compass, and carries it out like the figure of a man, like the beauty of a man, which may dwell in the house.” The two words c hârash barzel are connected together in the sense of faber ferrarius , as we may see from the expression c hârash ‛ētsı̄m (the carpenter, faber lignarius ), which follows in Isaiah 44:13. Chârash is the construct of c hârâsh (= c harrâsh ), as in Exodus 28:11. The second kametz of this form of noun does indeed admit of contraction, but only to the extent of a full short vowel; consequently the construct of the plural is not חרשׁי , but חרשׁי (Isaiah 45:16, etc.). Hence Isaiah 44:12 describes how the smith constructs an idol of iron, Isaiah 44:13 how the carpenter makes one of wood. But the first clause, מעצד בּרזל חרשׁ , is enigmatical. In any case, מעצד is a smith's tool of some kind (from עצד , related to חצד ). And consequently Gesenius, Umbreit, and others, adopt the rendering, “the smith an axe, that does he work ... ;” but the further account of the origin of an idol says nothing at all about this axe, which the smith supplies to the carpenter, that he may hew out an idol with it. Hitzig renders it, “The smith, a hatchet does he work, and forms it (viz., into an idol);” but what a roundabout way! first to make a hatchet and then make it into an idol, which would look very slim when made. Knobel translates it, “As for the cutting-smith, he works it;” but this guild of cutting-smiths certainly belongs to Utopia. The best way to render the sentence intelligible, would be to supply לו : “The smith has (uses) the m a‛ătsâd .” But in all probability a word has dropped out; and the Septuagint rendering, ὅτι ὤξυνεν τέκτων σίδηρον σκεπάρνω εἰργάσατο κ.τ.λ , shows that the original reading of the text was מעצד ברזל חרס חדד , and that חדד got lost on account of its proximity to יח ץ . The meaning therefore is, “The smith has sharpened, or sharpens ( c hiddēd , syn. shinnēn ) the m a‛ătsâd ,” possibly the chisel, to cut the iron upon the anvil; and works with red-hot coals, making the iron red-hot by blowing the fire. The piece of iron which he cuts off is the future idol, and this he shapes with hammers ( יצרהוּ the future of יצר ). And what of the carpenter? He stretches the line upon the block of wood, to measure the length and breadth of the idol; he marks it upon the wood with red-stone ( sered , rubrica , used by carpenters), and works it with planes ( m aqtsu‛ōth , a feminine form of מקצוע , from קצע , to cut off, pare off, plane; compare the Arabic mikta‛ ), and with the compasses ( m e chūgâh , the tool used, lâchūg , i.e. for making a circle) he draws the outline of it, that is to say, in order that the different parts of the body may be in right proportion; and he constructs it in such a manner that it acquires the shape of a man, the beautiful appearance of a man, to be set up like a human inmate in either a temple or private house. The piel תּאר תּאר ), from which comes y e tāărēhū , is varied here (according to Isaiah's custom; cf., Isaiah 29:7; Isaiah 26:5) with the poel תּאר , which is to be understood as denoting the more exact configuration. The preterites indicate the work for which both smith and carpenter have made their preparations; the futures, the work in which they are engaged.
The prophet now traces the origin of the idols still further back. Their existence or non-existence ultimately depends upon whether it rains or not. “One prepares to cut down cedars, and takes holm and oak-tree, and chooses for himself among the trees of the forest. He has planted a fig, and the rain draws it up. And it serves the man for firing: he takes thereof, and warms himself; he also heats, and bakes bread; he also works it into a god, and prostrates himself; makes an idol of it, and falls down before it. The half of it he has burned in the fire: over the half of it he eats flesh, roasts a roast, and is satisfied; he also warms himself, and says, Hurrah, I am getting warm, I feel the heat. And the rest of it he makes into a god, into his idol, and says, Save me, for thou art my god.” The subject of the sentence is not the carpenter of the previous verse, but “any one.” ארזים apparently stands first, as indicating the species; and in the Talmud and Midrash the trees named are really described as ארזים מיני . But tirzâh (from târaz , to be hard or firm) does not appear to be a coniferous tree; and the connection with 'allōn , the oak, is favourable to the rendering ἀγριοβάλανος (lxx, A. Th.), ilex (Vulg.). On 'immēts , to choose, see Isaiah 41:10. ארן (with Nun minusculum ), plur. ארונים ( b. Ros-ha Sana 23 a) or ארנים (Para iii. 8), is explained by the Talmud as ערי , sing. ערא , i.e., according to Aruch and Rashi, laurier, the berries of which are called baies. We have rendered it “fig,” according to the lxx and Jerome, since it will not do to follow the seductive guidance of the similarity in sound to ornus (which is hardly equivalent to ὀρεινός ).
(Note: The ἀρία of Theophrastus is probably quercus ilex , which is still called ἀρία ; the laurus nobilis is now called βαΐηά , from the branches which serve instead of palm-branches.)
The description is genealogical, and therefore moves retrogressively, from the felling to the planting. והיה in Isaiah 44:15 refers to the felled and planted tree, and primarily to the ash. מהם (of such as these) is neuter, as in Isaiah 30:6; at the same time, the prophet had the עצים (the wood, both as produce and material) in his mind. The repeated אף lays emphasis upon the fact, that such different things are done with the very same wood. It is sued for warming, and fore the preparation of food, as well as for making a god. On the verbs of adoration, hishtachăvâh (root shach , to sink, to settle down) and sâgad , which is only applied to idolatrous worship, and from which m es'gid , a mosque, is derived, see Holemann's Bibelstudien, i. 3. למו may no doubt be take as a plural (= להם , as in Isaiah 30:5), “such things ( taila ) does he worship,” as Stier supposes; but it is probably pathetic, and equivalent to לו , as in Isaiah 53:8 (compare Psalms 11:7; Ewald, §247, a). According to the double application of the wood mentioned in Isaiah 44:15, a distinction is drawn in Isaiah 44:16, Isaiah 44:17 between the one half of the wood and the other. The repeated chetsyō (the half of it) in Isaiah 44:16 refers to the first half, which furnishes not only fuel for burning, but shavings and coals for roasting and baking as well. And as a fire made for cooking warms quite as much as one made expressly for the purpose, the prophet dwells upon this benefit which the wood of the idol does confer. On the tone upon the last syllable of c hammōthı̄ , see at Job 19:17; and on the use of the word ראה as a comprehensive term, embracing every kind of sensation and perception, see my Psychologie, p. 234. Diagoras of Melos, a pupil of Democritus, once threw a wooden standing figure of Hercules into the fire, and said jocularly, “Come now, Hercules, perform thy thirteenth labour, and help me to cook the turnips.”
So irrational is idolatry; but yet, through self-hardening, they have fallen under the judgment of hardness of heart (Isaiah 6:9-2 Samuel :; Isaiah 19:3; Isaiah 29:10), and have been given up to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28). “They perceive not, and do not understand: for their eyes are smeared over, so that they do not see; their hearts, so that they do not understand. And men take it not to heart, no perception and no understanding, that men should say, The half of it I have burned in the fire, and also baked bread upon the coals thereof; roasted flesh, and eaten: and ought I to make the rest of it an abomination, to fall down before the produce of a tree?” Instead of טח , Leviticus 14:42, the third person is written טח (from tâchach , Ges. §72, Anm. 8) in a circumstantial sense: their eyes are, as it were, smeared over with plaster. The expression אל־לב השׁיב or על־לב (Isaiah 46:8), literally to carry back into the heart, which we find as well as על־לב שׂים , to take to heart (Isaiah 42:25), answers exactly to the idea of reflection, here with reference to the immense contrast between a piece of wood and the Divine Being. The second and third לא in Isaiah 44:19 introduce substantive clauses, just as verbal clauses are introduced by ואין לאמר is used in the same manner as in Isaiah 9:8: “perception and insight showing themselves in their saying.” On būl , see Job 40:20; the meaning “block” cannot be established: the talmudic būl , a lump or piece, which Ewald adduces, is the Greek βῶλος .
This exposure of the infatuation of idolatry closes with an epiphonem in the form of a gnome (cf., Isaiah 26:7, Isaiah 26:10). “He who striveth after ashes, a befooled heart has led him astray, and he does not deliver his soul, and does not think, Is there not a lie in my right hand?” We have here a complete and self-contained sentence, which must not be broken up in the manner proposed by Knobel, “He hunts after ashes; his heart is deceived,” etc. He who makes ashes, i.e., things easily scattered, perishable, and worthless, the object of his effort and striving (compare rūăch in Hosea 12:2), has bee led astray from the path of truth and salvation by a heart overpowered by delusion; he is so certain, that he does not think of saving his soul, and it never occurs to him to say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” All that belongs to idolatry is sheqer - a fabrication and a lie. רעה means primarily to pasture or tend, hence to be concerned about, to strive after. הותל is an attributive, from tâlal - hâtal , ludere , ludificare (see at Isaiah 30:10).
The second half of the prophecy commences with Isaiah 44:21. It opens with an admonition. “Remember this, Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art servant to me, O Israel: thou art not forgotten by me.” The thing to which the former were blind - namely, that idolatry is a lie - Jacob was to have firmly impressed upon its mind. The words “and Israel,” which are attached, are a contract for “and remember this, O Israel” (compare the vocatives after Vâv in Proverbs 8:5 and Joel 2:23). In the reason assigned, the tone rests upon my in the expression “my servant,” and for this reason “servant to me” is used interchangeably with it. Israel is the servant of Jehovah, and as such it was formed by Jehovah; and therefore reverence was due to Him, and Him alone. The words which follow are rendered by the lxx, Targum, Jerome, and Luther as though they read לא תנשׁני , though Hitzig regards the same rendering as admissible even with the reading תנּשנּי , inasmuch as the niphal נשּׁה has the middle sense of ἐπιλανθάνεσθαι , oblivisci . But it cannot be shown that nizkar is ever used in the analogous sense of μ ιμνήσκεσθαι , recordari . The niphal, which was no doubt originally reflective, is always used in Hebrew to indicate simply the passive endurance of something which originated with the subject of the action referred to, so that nisshâh could only signify “to forget one's self.” We must indeed admit the possibility of the meaning “to forget one's self” having passed into the meaning “to be forgetful,” and this into the meaning “to forget.” The Aramaean תנשׁי also signifies to be forgotten and (with an accent following) to forget, and the connection with an objective suffix has a support in ויּלּחמוּני in Psalms 109:3. But the latter is really equivalent to אתּי וילחמו , so that it may be adduced with equal propriety in support of the other rendering, according to which תּנּשׁני is equivalent to לי תנש (Ges., Umbr., Ewald, Stier). There are many examples of this brachyological use of the suffix (Ges. §121, 4), so that this rendering is certainly the safer of the two. It also suits the context quite as well as the former, “Oh, forget me not;” the assurance “thou wilt not be forgotten by me” (compare Isaiah 49:15 and the lamentation of Israel in Isaiah 40:27) being immediately followed by an announcement of the act of love, by which the declaration is most gloriously confirmed. - Isaiah 44:22 “I have blotted out thy transgressions as a mist, and thy sins as clouds: return to me; for I have redeemed thee.” We have adopted the rendering “mist” merely because we have no synonym to “cloud;” we have not translated it “thick cloud,” because the idea of darkness, thickness, or opacity, which is the one immediately suggested by the word, had become almost entirely lost (see Isaiah 25:5). Moreover, קל עב is evidently intended here (see Isaiah 19:1), inasmuch as the point of comparison is not the dark, heavy multitude of sins, but the facility and rapidity with which they are expunged. Whether we connect with מסהיתי the idea of a stain, as in Psalms 51:3, Psalms 51:11, or that of a debt entered in a ledge, as in Colossians 2:14, and as we explained it in Isaiah 43:25 (cf., m âchâh , Exodus 32:32-Micah :), in any case sin is regarded as something standing between God and man, and impeding or disturbing the intercourse between them. This Jehovah clears away, just as when His wind sweeps away the clouds, and restores the blue sky again (Job 26:13). Thus does God's free grace now interpose at the very time when Israel thinks He has forgotten it, blotting out Israel's sin, and proving this by redeeming it from a state of punishment. What an evangelical sound the preaching of the Old Testament evangelist has in this passage also! Forgiveness and redemption are not offered on condition of conversion, but the mercy of God comes to Israel in direct contrast to what its works deserve, and Israel is merely called upon to reciprocate this by conversion and renewed obedience. The perfects denote that which has essentially taken place. Jehovah has blotted out Israel's sin, inasmuch as He does not impute it any more, and thus has redeemed Israel. All that yet remains is the outward manifestation of this redemption, which is already accomplished in the counsel of God.
There is already good ground, therefore, for exuberant rejoicing; and the reply of the church to these words of divine consolation is as follows: “Exult, O heavens; for Jehovah hath accomplished it: shout, ye depths of the earth; break out, ye mountains, into exulting; thou forest, and all the wood therein: for Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob, and He showeth Himself glorious upon Israel.” All creation is to rejoice in the fact that Jehovah has completed what He purposed, that He has redeemed His people, and henceforth will show Himself glorious in them. The heavens on high are to exult; also the depths of the earth, i.e., not Hades, which would be opposed to the prevailing view of the Old Testament (Ps 66, cf., Psalms 88:13), but the interior of the earth, with its caves, its pits, and its deep abysses (see Psalms 139:15); and the mountains and woods which rise up from the earth towards heaven - all are to unite in the exultation of the redeemed: for the redemption that is being accomplished in man will extend its effects in all directions, even to the utmost limits of the natural world.
This exulting finale is a safe boundary-stone of this fifth prophecy. It opened with “Thus saith the Lord,” and the sixth opens with the same.
The promise takes a new turn here, acquiring greater and greater speciality. It is introduced as the word of Jehovah, who first gave existence to Israel, and has not let it go to ruin. “Thus saith Jehovah, thy Redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, I Jehovah am He that accomplisheth all; who stretched out the heavens alone, spread out the earth by Himself; who bringeth to nought the signs of the prophets of lies, and exposeth the soothsayers as raging mad; who turneth back the wise men, and maketh their science folly; who realizeth the word of His servant, and accomplisheth the prediction of His messengers; who saith to Jerusalem, She shall be inhabited! and to the cities of Judah, They shall be built, and their ruins I raise up again! who saith to the whirlpool, Dry up; and I dry its streams! who saith to Koresh, My shepherd and he will perform all my will; and will say to Jerusalem, She shall be built, and the temple founded!” The prophecy which commences with Isaiah 44:24 is carried on through this group of vv. in a series of participial predicates to אנכי (I) Jehovah is ‛ōseh kōl , accomplishing all ( perficiens omnia ), so that there is nothing that is not traceable to His might and wisdom as the first cause. It was He who alone, without the co-operation of any other being, stretched out the heavens, who made the earth into a wide plain by Himself, i.e., so that it proceeded from Himself alone: מאתּי , as in Joshua 11:20 (compare מני , Isaiah 30:1; and m immennı̄ in Hosea 8:4), chethib אתּי מי , “who was with me,” or “who is it beside me?” The Targum follows the keri; the Septuagint the chethib, attaching it to the following words, τίς ἕτερος διασκεδάσει . Isaiah 44:25 passes on from Him whom creation proves to be God, to Him who is proving Himself to be so in history also, and that with obvious reference to the Chaldean soothsayers and wise men (Isaiah 47:9-2 Samuel :), who held out to proud Babylon the most splendid and hopeful prognostics. “ Who brings to nought ( m ēphēr , opp. m ēqı̄m ) the signs,” i.e., the marvellous proofs of their divine mission which the false prophets adduced by means of fraud and witchcraft. The lxx render baddı̄m , ἐγγαστριμύθων , Targ. bı̄dı̄n (in other passages = 'ōb , Leviticus 20:27; 'ōbōth , Leviticus 19:31; hence = πύθων πύθωνες ). At Isaiah 16:6 and Job 11:3 we have derived it as a common noun from בּדה בּטא , to speak at random; but it is possible that בּדה may originally have signified to produce or bring forth, without any reference to βαττολογεῖν , then to invent, to fabricate, so that baddı̄m as a personal name (as in Jeremiah 50:36) would be synonymous with baddâ'ı̄m , mendaces . On qōs e mı̄m , see Isaiah 3:2; on yehōlēl , (Job 12:17, where it occurs in connection with a similar predicative description of God according to His works.
In Isaiah 44:26 a contrast is draw between the heathen soothsayers and wise men, and the servant and messengers of Jehovah, whose word, whose ‛ ētsâh , i.e., determination or disclosure concerning the future (cf., yâ‛ats , Isaiah 41:28), he realizes and perfectly fulfils. By “his servant” we are to understand Israel itself, according to Isaiah 42:19, but only relatively, namely, as the bearer of the prophetic word, and therefore as the kernel of Israel regarded from the standpoint of the prophetic mission which it performed; and consequently “his messengers” are the prophets of Jehovah who were called out of Israel. The singular “his servant” is expanded in “his messenger” into the plurality embraced in the one idea. This is far more probable than that the author of these prophetic words, who only speaks of himself in a roundabout manner even in Isaiah 40:6, should here refer directly to himself (according to Isaiah 20:3). In Isaiah 44:26 the predicates become special prophecies, and hence their outward limits are also defined. As we have תּוּשׁב and not תּוּשׁבי , we must adopt the rendering habitetur and oedificentur , with which the continuation of the latter et vastata ejus erigam agrees. In Isaiah 44:27 the prophecy moves back from the restoration of Jerusalem and the cities of Judah to the conquest of Babylon. The expression calls to mind the drying up of the Red Sea (Isaiah 51:10; Isaiah 43:16); but here it relates to something future, according to Isaiah 42:15; Isaiah 50:2 -namely, to the drying up of the Euphrates, which Cyrus turned into the enlarged basin of Sepharvaim, so that the water sank to the depth of a single foot, and men could “go through on foot” (Herod. i. 191). But in the complex view of the prophet, the possibility of the conqueror's crossing involved the possibility or the exiles' departing from the prison of the imperial city, which was surrounded by a natural and artificial line of waters (Isaiah 11:15). צוּלה (from צוּל צלל , to whiz or whirl) refers to the Euphrates, just as m e tsūlâh in Job 41:23; Zechariah 10:11, does to the Nile; נתרריה is used in the same sense as the Homeric ̓Ωοκεάνοιο ῥέεθρα . In Isaiah 44:28 the special character of the promise reaches its highest shoot. The deliverer of Israel is mentioned by name: “That saith to Koresh, My shepherd (i.e., a ποιμὴν λαῶν appointed by me), and he who performs all my will” ( c hēphets , θέλημα , not in the generalized sense of πρᾶγμα ), and that inasmuch as he (Cyrus) saith to (or of) Jerusalem, It shall be built ( tibbâneh , not the second pers. tibbânı̄ ), and the foundation of the temple laid ( hēkhâl a masculine elsewhere, here a feminine). This is the passage which is said by Josephus to have induced Cyrus to send back the Jews to their native land: “Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfil what was so written” (Jos. Ant. xi. 2). According to Ctesias and others, the name of Cyrus signifies the sun.But all that can really be affirmed is, that it sounds like the name of the sun. For in Neo-Pers. the sun is called c h ar , in Zendic hvarĕ ( karĕ ), and from this proper names are formed, such as c hars'ı̂d (Sunshine, also the Sun); but Cyrus is called Kuru or Khuru upon the monuments, and this cannot possibly be connected with our chur , which would be uwara in Old Persian (Rawlinson, Lassen, Spiegel), and Kōresh is simply the name of Kuru ( Κῦρ-ος ) Hebraized after the manner of a segholate. There is a marble-block, for example, in the Murghab valley, not far from the mausoleum of Cyrus, which contained the golden coffin with the body of the king (see Strabo, xv 3, 7); and on this we find an inscription that we also meet with elsewhere, viz., adam . k'ur'us . khsâya | thiya . hakhâmanisiya , i.e., I am Kuru the king of the Achaemenides.
(Note: See the engraving of this tomb of Cyrus, which is now called the “Tomb of Solomon's mother,” in Vaux's Nineveh and Persepolis (p. 345). On the identity of Murghâb and Pasargadae, see Spiegel, Keil-inschriften, pp. 71, 72; and with regard to the discovery of inscriptions that may still be expected around the tomb of Cyrus, the J ournal of the Asiatic Society, x. 46, note 4 (also compare Spiegel's Geschichte der Entzifferung der Keil-schrift, im “Ausland,” 1865, p. 413).)
This name is identical with the name of the river Kur ( Κῦρ-ος ); and what Strabo says is worthy of notice - namely, that “there is also a river called Cyrus, which flows through the so-called cave of Persis near Pasargadae, and whence the king took his name, changing it from Agradates into Cyrus” (Strab. xv 3, 6). It is possible also that there may be some connection between the name and the Indian princely title of Kuru.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 44". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28