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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 48

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-2


Recapitulation and Conclusion

Isaiah 48:0

This chapter reproduces the chief ingredients of the foregoing discourses from chap. 40. on. By this brief recapitulation, it aims at a mighty effect on the spirits of the hearers by means of a total impression. A glorious redemption, analogous to that wrought by Moses, is presented to the view of the people of the Exile, from whose blessings, of course, the wicked are excluded. The last-named thought recurs like a refrain after nine more chapters, at the close of chap. 57. All this shows that in chap. 48. we have before us the concluding discourse of the first third.


Isaiah 48:1-2

1          Hear ye this, O house of Jacob,

Which are called by the name of Israel,
And are come forth out of the waters of Judah,
Which swear by the name of the Lord,
And make mention of the God of Israel,

But not in truth, nor in righteousness.

2     For they call themselves of the holy city,

And stay themselves upon the God of Israel;
The Lord of hosts is his name.


1. The Prophet begins his recapitulation by designating the object of his address which he describes as that nation which descended from Jacob-Israel, more nearly from Judah, but in respect to religion officially confessed Jehovah as its God (Isaiah 48:1), for it is the nation that has the holy city of Jehovah for its central point, and all whose permanence is objectively founded on Jehovah (Isaiah 48:2). With this the Prophet has designated all the particulars that explain the unique interest of Jehovah in precisely this people.

2. Hear ye this——his name.

Isaiah 48:1-2. שׁמעו זאת comp. Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 47:8; Isaiah 51:21. Jacob was the natural name of the second son of Isaac, Israel was his spiritual name, according to Genesis 32:2 sq.; Isaiah 35:10. In the same manner, too, house of Jacob will designate the nation according to its natural descent, whereas the same nation bears the name Israel as heir of the spiritual significance of its ancestor. But when the Prophet so addressed the nation it was no longer entire. The Ten Tribes were become the prey of an exile of immeasurable duration, with no hope of immediate deliverance. The promise of deliverance by Cyrus relates only to the people of the kingdom of Judah, thus chiefly only to those who are come forth out of the waters of Judah. The expression is a designation of the semen virile as in מוֹאָב (Genesis 19:37 comp. on Isaiah 15:2 and Isaiah 25:10). In the same sense מַיִםis used Numbers 24:7; מָקוֹרPsa 68:27; Proverbs 5:16; Proverbs 5:18. This people, descended from Jacob and Judah, and thus dear to the Lord “for the fathers’ sakes” (Romans 11:28) was bound to Him by still another tie: Israel swore by the name of Jehovah (Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20). That was continually a confession to Jehovah and an acknowledgment of His godhead (Isaiah 45:23), but it was not necessarily an act of true living faith. Knowledge and approval sufficed for that, to speak dogmatically. The case was similar with making mention of God, i.e., making זֶכֶר by means of God (comp. קָרָא בְשֵׁם). Whoever performs an act of remembrance (in praise and acknowledgment), by naming Jehovah (comp. Joshua 23:7; Psalms 20:8; Amos 6:10), lays down, indeed, a praiseworthy confession to Jehovah, but this may happen in a very outward and lifeless way. Israel ought not to take the names of idols in its mouth even (Exodus 23:13). In contrast with this, every honorable mention of Jehovah, indeed every naming of His name that was joined with suitable reverence was a confession to Him, hence it is not necessary to understand by הזכיר בא׳ a solemn ascription of praise, though such is not to be excluded. Just because this swearing and mention could and did happen without living faith, the Prophet adds: “not in truth and not in righteousness.” But how could the people of Judah, though inwardly fallen away, still outwardly confess the name of Jehovah, except they were in a manner stamped with the name of the city in which is the sanctuary of Jehovah? As long as Jerusalem is accounted the worthy dwelling of Jehovah—and it is so accounted even in the worst times, as that הֵיכַלי׳Jeremiah 7:4 proves—so long He is still recognized as God. Hence the Prophet can say, that Israel swears by Jehovah because it calls itself by the name of the city of its sanctuary. It seems to me that the expression common in Jeremiah אִישׁ יְּהוּדָה וְישְׁבֵי יִרוּשָׁלַיִם has its roots in this view. Moreover the expression עִיר הַקֹּדֶשׁ occurs here for the first time. It occurs beside only Isaiah 52:1; Nehemiah 11:1; Nehemiah 11:18; Daniel 9:24. The Prophet assigns as a second reason for what is said Isaiah 48:1 b, that those there named are stayed or grounded upon the God of Israel. For נסמכו may not be taken subjectively=“to stay oneself, niti, confidere,” for “not in truth and not in righteousness “directly denies that Israel has the proper confidence. It is Jehovah that objectively raises and bears Israel by His election, and continued protection and support.

Verses 1-22


1. On Isaiah 48:1-2. “We, for our part, are also quite fallen into Jewish security. For we take great comfort from this, that we know, that we have God’s word simple and pure, and the same is indeed highly to be praised and valued. But it is not enough for one to have the word. One ought and must live according to it, then will God make account of us. But where one lives without the fear of God and in sin, and hears the word without amendment, there God will punish all the harder, as Christ shows in the parable of the servant that knew his Lord’s will and did it not. Therefore one should let go such fleshly confidence, and labor to live in the fear of God, and hold faithfully to His word. Then if we fall into distress and pray for deliverance, it will surely be granted to us. But those who brag about God as do the Jews, and yet fear Him not, nor will live according to His word, will boast in vain. God will single them out and punish them as He did the Jews. For these two things must go together: trusting God, and fearing God. Neither can be right without the other. If thou fearest not God, thou becomest proud and presumptuous as the Jews. But if thou believest not, and only fearest, thou wilt become anxious and fall into despair. Therefore the Psalm says: “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy,” Psalms 147:10. Veit Dietrich.

2. [On Isaiah 48:3-8. The doctrine of providence supported by prophecy. 1) The method stated Isaiah 48:3; Isaiah 48:6; Isaiah 7:2) The reasons for God’s taking this method with them. a. He knew how obstinate they would be (Isaiah 48:4). b. How deceitful they would be. c. That they would be giving His glory to idols (Isaiah 48:5). After M. Henry.].

3. On Isaiah 47:9-11. The divine discipline of children. 1) Its course of procedure: a. God is patient (Isaiah 47:9); b. God punishes severely (Isaiah 47:10). 2) Its aims: a. God is patient a. for the sake of His honor (in order to reveal Himself as the “good”); β. for our sakes (Isaiah 47:9 b that we may not be exterminated); b. God is severe a. for the sake of His honor (that He may not be blasphemed, Isaiah 47:11); β. for our sakes (that we may be purified and confirmed in the furnace of affliction).

4. On Isaiah 48:17-19. “That is our most blessed knowledge that we know God through His self-witness, and who, as one veiled, speaks from the prophets as the One Eternal Prophet; as the reflected splendor of the invisible Divinity that became flesh and blood in Jesus, and is now as our Brother constantly with us. Yea, blessed and forever safe is he that pays heed to God’s testimony of the very gracious condescension of God to us! God makes such heedful ones forever at peace in Himself, whose peace becomes overflowing and overwhelming as a river, because God in it imparts to us pardon and justification. Our righteousness in God is as waves of the sea, that continually swell up in great abundance, for God’s grace that works in us and accomplishes our righteousness is, in fact, infinite. Dost thou lack peace and righteousness, then believe assuredly that the only reason is that thou hast despised the word of thy God. Yea, whoever stablishes himself in God by believing acceptance of His word, he is forever established, and also has eternal bloom. He belongs to the innumerable family of God, that moves on through all times. How can he ever want for posterity?” J. Diedrich.

5. On Isaiah 48:20. “So God is wont to do: when the enemies of the churches pull hardest on the rope, it must break. We should mark this well, and comfort ourselves by it. For else we will become faint-hearted and despond, when matters go so ill.” Veit Dietrich.

6. On Isaiah 48:20-22. Israel’s Egyptian and Babylonian captivity is a type of the church in the world, and of individual believing souls in the body of this death. But we are to a certain degree ourselves to blame for the pressure of this captivity. There is even very much that holds us back to the flesh-pots of Egypt. We are often wanting in proper love for the one thing needful, in proper faith, in courage, in fidelity, in diligence in good works. Yet the Lord has deprived the devil of his power. The enemy is even really conquered already; “ein Woertlein kann ihn faellen.” Hence the Christian must be exhorted to depart from Babylon courageously and intrepidly. This the Prophet does in our text. We see in it a warning call to depart out of Babylon. 1) The possibility of going out is a. objectively presented by redemption “that is by Jesus Christ; but b. depends subjectively on our love to God and our faith. 2) The return home is difficult, indeed, as it was with Israel. It is through deserts of distress and danger. But God will not forsake His own. The spiritual rock (1 Corinthians 10:4) follows along with them. 3) At home, with the Lord, in communion with Him, they find peace, whereas the wicked nowhere and never shall find peace, not even in all the power, splendor and glory of this world.

7. [On Isaiah 48:22. “The wicked, as a matter of sober truth and verity, have no permanent and substantial peace and joy. (1) In the act of wickedness; (2) in the business or the pleasures of life; (3) no peace of conscience; (4) on a death-bed; (5) there is often not only no peace, but the actual reverse, apprehension; despair: (6) beyond the grave, a sinner Can have no peace at the judgment bar of God; he Can have no peace in hell.” Abbreviated from Barnes.]

Verses 3-11


Isaiah 48:3-11

3          I have declared the former things 1 from the beginning;

And they went forth out of my mouth, and I 2 shewed them;

I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.

4     Because I knew that thou art 3 obstinate,

And thy neck is an iron sinew,

And thy brow brass;

5     I have even from the beginning declared it to thee;

Before it came to pass I 4shewed it thee:

Lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them,
And my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

6     Thou hast heard, see all this;

And will not ye declare it?

I have cshewed thee new things from this time,

Even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.

7     They are created now, and not afrom the beginning;

Even before the day 5when thou heardest them not;

Lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them.

8     Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not;

Yea, afrom that time 6that thine ear was not opened:

For I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously,
And wast called a transgressor from the womb.

9     For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger,

And for my praise will I refrain for thee,
That I cut thee not off.

10     Behold, I have refined thee, but not 7with silver;

I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

11     For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it:

For how should my name be polluted?

And I will not give my glory unto another.


See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 48:3. ראשׁנות—מֵאָז. Isaiah 48:5. פֶסֶל. Isaiah 48:9. חָטַם. Isaiah 48:10.צָרַף.

Isaiah 48:1. מֵאָז is properly=“from that time hitherto.” But מִן stands here, according to Hebrew usage, as designation of the term, a quo. We may therefore boldly translate מאז by “then, at that time,” as a reference to time long past.

Isaiah 48:7. לִמְנֵי יוֹם is = ante hunc diem, comp. Isaiah 43:13. וְ before לֹא is demonstrative.

Isaiah 48:8. פִתְּחָה is causative Piel=“to make an opening,” i.e., to open one’s-self to the report, to hear the report, comp. for the causative use Isaiah 60:11; Psalms 116:6.—The expression קרא לך as in Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 61:3; Isaiah 62:2.

Isaiah 48:9. האריך אף only Proverbs 19:11; comp. Job 6:11 and the expression in the Pentateuch אֶרֶךְ אַפַיִם Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18, etc.—למען Is to be supplied before תהלתי, Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 46:5.—חָטַם, Arab, chatama, Aram. חֲטַם, coercere, חָטָם frenum, nose-ring.—לָךְ dat. Commodi; Isaiah 40:10.

Isaiah 48:10. It is plain that the בְּ can neither be ב pretii, nor that of accompaniment. It is (Hitzig, Delitzsch) the ב essentiae = in qualitate argenti, in the quality of silver, i.e., as silver. The only peculiarity here is the placing of the בְּ with the object (comp. Ezekiel 20:41; Psalms 78:55, Del.).—בָּחַר properly means “to choose.” But as to choose presupposes a testing and confirmation, so in the Aram. בְּחַר stands directly for בָּחַן (Syr. bochuro = בָּחוֹן explorator). In Latin, too, probare means not only to hold something to be good, but also to investigate whether it is good. So also here בחר is used in the sense of בָּהַן (comp. Job 34:4).


1. I have declared——commanded them. Isaiah 48:3-5. These three verses express the thought, that from ancient times on, and before He gave this new prophecy that culminates in the name of Cyrus, the Lord had by prophecy and fulfilment proved Himself to be the true God. This is the seventh time the Prophet presents this argument. By ראשׁנות, therefore, I understand priora, ante facta. The Prophet, as it were, divides history into two parts: the old and the new. The new begins with the first prophetic announcements of events relative to Cyrus. The matter is important to the Lord hence he divides הנדתי, “I have announced,” into two natural component parts: 1) the prophecy went out of His mouth, 2) it entered into Israel’s ear. Thus the fact of the prophecy is proved. And also the fulfilment. For suddenly (פתאם is wont to stand for the initiation of the fulfilment, because the inward connection is hid from the eyes of men, comp. Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 47:11) the Lord performed what was announced and the thing prophesied came about (comp. Isaiah 44:7; Isaiah 47:9). This course was necessary from the very first. It had always an eminently practical object. Because I know, says the Lord, that thou art hard, i.e., stiff-necked, hard to convince and that thy neck is an iron sinew (נִיד, nervus, tendo, spring, resort), therefore hard to bend, and thy brow brass, thus impenetrable, obstinate,—for this reason I announced to the at that time, long ago, so that thou mightest not say my idol (עֹצֶב, general word, deus ficticius in general, Psalms 139:24) did it, my graven image and my molten image (נסך, Isaiah 41:29) commanded it here (made it come, Isaiah 45:11). Therefore the Lord here declares that in the past even, thus in what has been indicated as the first period of history, by reason of Israel’s hardness of heart, and its being unimpressible by purely inward, spiritual proofs, and because of its desire for arguments that may be seized outwardly, He had found Himself obliged to establish His claim to be the only true God, by prophesying the future, and bringing to pass what was prophesied. In this the Prophet says nothing new. He only repeats what he has before set forth in various places (Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 41:21 sqq., Isaiah 41:26; Isaiah 43:9 sqq.; Isaiah 44:7 sqq.; Isaiah 46:9 sq.).

2. Thou hast heard——from the womb. Isaiah 48:6-8. With these words, too, the Prophet repeats essentially only something said before, viz., what he had announced in reference to the new period of salvation to be inaugurated by Cyrus. The words שׁמעת to תנידו, Isaiah 48:6, form the transition. שׁמעת manifestly refers to אשׁמיעם, Isaiah 48:3, and השׁמעתיך, Isaiah 48:5. It must be established that not only did the Lord bring those old prophecies to a hearing, but that they were actually heard. And כֻּלָּהּ would express that all relating to that, therefore the fulfilment also, has been heard. The emphatic חֲזֵה (comp. Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 30:10) would warn Israel not to treat the matter lightly. Only let it look narrowly, and it must confess that all in the previous period of history relative to prophecy and fulfilment was fully known. Will they not on their part feel impelled to declare and proclaim aloud what they have undoubtedly heard? In the entire section, Isaiah 48:3-11, the Prophet steadily addresses Israel in the second pers. masc. sing. Suddenly in the single clause, ואתם הלא תנידו, he passes to the second pers. masc. plur. The reason for this seems to me to be, that he has in mind here, no longer the ideal total Israel, but the concrete persons of his contemporaries and immediate hearers or first readers.

This appears to me to be one of the passages where the Prophet, who else lives wholly in the Exile, cannot help casting a glance at the actual present. If we might assume that chapters 40–66 were to remain a sealed-up prophecy until the time of the Exile, then we would be warranted in saying that the words and will ye not declare it applied only to the exiles. But the numerous citations from chapters 40–66, that occur in prophets after Isaiah but before the Exile, show that our prophecy even before the Exile must have been publici juris. Hence I can only see in these words an exhortation that Isaiah gives to his actual contemporaries, viz., to confess openly that the history of Israel hitherto is a proof that Jehovah can prophesy and fulfil. [“And ye (idolaters or idols), will not ye declare, the same word used above for the prediction of events, and therefore no doubt meaning here, will not ye predict something? This is Hitzig’s explanation of the words. In favor of this view is its taking הִנִּיד in the sense which it has in the preceding verse, and also the analogy of Isaiah 41:22-23, where the very same challenge is given in nearly the same form; to which may be added the sudden change to the plural form, and the emphatic introduction of the pronoun, implying a new object of address, and not a mere enallage, because he immediately resumes the address to the people in the singular” J. A. Alex.]. As Israel itself must confess that it has learned to know its God as a prophesier and fulfiller, the Lord bases on that the further demand that they believe also the present new prophecy, and infer from it the proper consequences. Manifestly the חֲדָשׁוֹת, new things, are the prophecy relating to Cyrus and the period of salvation initiated by him. The Prophet refers to Isaiah 42:9 sqq.; Isaiah 43:19 sqq.; Isaiah 44:24 sqq.; Isaiah 45:1 sqq., Isaiah 45:11 sqq., Isaiah 45:19 sqq.; Isaiah 46:11. He particularly emphasizes that this prophecy as such is also quite a new thing. Had Israel obtained report of those future events in any other way, natural or supernatural, then, of course, their proclamation by the Prophet would have been met by the reply: “Nothing new, we know it already.” That would have been ruinous for the reputation of Jehovah and His prophet. But there is no mention of that. The prophecy relates to hidden things (Isaiah 1:8; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 65:4), to things that have just been created. The expression, are created (comp. Isaiah 41:20; Isaiah 43:7; Isaiah 45:8) is to be judged of by the measure of what is divinely real. The word of prophecy has changed the divine decree from being a λόγος ἐνδιάθετος to being a λόγος προφορικός. The divine idea is thereby, as it were, born into the world. Even though it only exists as a mere word, still a word so uttered is a creative word. If God has spoken it, it also comes to pass. So far what God has spoken, announced, prophesied, is as good as created. It is real even if for the time being it is only a divine decree (comp. under Doctr. and Eth. on Isaiah 48:7). But its reality rests only on this act of the divine will, and the knowledge of it only on the revelation of it by means of the prophet of Jehovah. No one in the world would have thought of it, and no one in the world would have received intelligence of the divine thought without the revelation through the Prophet. God thinks it, God says it, God does it. It is only and altogether a fruit of God, and hence a proof that God is, and what He is. God revealed it to Israel, and He did it with the intention of curing Israel of its deep-rooted tendency to faithlessness (comp. Jeremiah 3:7; Jeremiah 3:10), from its native tendency to apostacy.

3. For my name’s sake——unto another, Isaiah 48:9-11. These verses are related to what precedes as giving a reason. The new things (Isaiah 48:6), previously concealed, but now entered on existence as to principle by the word of prophecy, involve salvation and deliverance for Israel on the assumption that Israel will let itself be cured of its deep-rooted tendency to apostacy. For this continued rebelliousness it had properly merited extinction. But the Lord desires not the death of the sinner, but that he should repent and live. For the sake of His own honor, also, He desires not the death of the sinner. For the rejection of Israel after its election would even compromise the Lord Himself. It would make Him appear as one who would, but could not. Hence the Lord will make His anger long, i.e. He will postpone the destructive blow that His anger properly demands (see Text. and Gram.). In fact He postponed it until the rejection of His Son (Matthew 21:39 sqq.). Therefore, for His name’s sake He will defer His anger, and for the sake of His honor He will restrain it, for Israel’s advantage (see Text. and Gram.), so that it will not be destroyed. He will only purify, refine Israel, yet not as silver; but He will confirm it in the furnace of affliction. The Prophet makes a difference between the refining furnace and the furnace of affliction. The difference cannot relate to the effect, since that is the same in both. For I do not think that the Prophet assumes an unfavorable result in the smelting process, viz. that dross will come of it. According to the context the honor of God demands that Israel be purified and saved. But the smelting furnace is for the silver no misfortune, no disgrace; it is the natural and necessary means for restoring the silver. Properly Israel ought not to need this smelting process. So far the furnace of affliction is for Israel a punishment and disgrace, which the smelting furnace is not for silver.—Finally the Prophet repeats the thought with emphasis, that the preservation of Israel was in the proper interest of Jehovah. Did He forsake Israel, He would then surrender them to the idols, and thereby permit the honor belonging to Him alone to be given to them. The words: and I will not give my honor to another, Isaiah 48:11 b, in which manifestly the thought of Isaiah 48:9-11 culminates, is a literal repetition of Isaiah 42:8. By this, the Prophet intimates that in these words, too (Isaiah 48:9-11), he only repeats what he had said before. Delitzsch very fittingly at Isaiah 48:11 refers to Ezekiel 36:19-23.


[1]from then.

[2]caused them to be heard.

[3]Heb. hard.

[4]caused them to hear.


[6]omit that.

[7]Or, for silver.

Verses 12-15


Isaiah 48:12-15

12          Hearken unto me, O Jacob

And Israel, my called;
I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.

13     Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth,

And 8my right hand hath spanned the heavens:

When I call unto them, they stand up together.

14     All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear;

Which among them hath declared these things?

The Lord hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon,
And his arm shall be on the Chaldeans.

15      I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him:

I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous.


On Isaiah 48:14. Expositors have made difficulty about construing זְרֹעוֹ as accusative, because “to perform Jehovah’s or His own arm “is an incomprehensible mode of speech even taken as zeugmatic (Delitzsch), Klostermann, too, (l. c., pp. 7,19) is of the opinion that to translate “He will accomplish his will on Babylon and his punitive work on the Chaldeans” needs a dispensation from Hebrew usus loquendi. זְרוֹעַ does, indeed, not mean “punitive work,” and this is not an instance of mere zeugma, but zeugma and metonymy. It is surely one of the most usual metonymical forms of expression in the Old Testament to put the arm for what is manifested by the arm, i.e., for the power or the might. Comp. Isaiah 33:2; Jeremiah 17:5; Ezekiel 31:17; Psalms 83:9, etc Moreover Isaiah 44:12 proves that the Prophet conceives of the arm, as also in Isaiah 45:9 of the hand, as the seat of power. Might not our passage read: יַעֲֽשֶׂה בְּבָבֶל וּנְבוּרָתוֹ כַּשְׂדִּים (or כֹּחוֹ ,חֵילוֹ) חֶפְצוֹ? For one may very well say עָשָׂה נְכוּרָה for “to display strength, power” (1 Kings 16:27). Accordingly, if taken strictly, one need not even assume a zeugma, if the slight difference be not urged that exists between עשׂה in עָשָׂה חֵפֵץ and עשׂה in עָשָׂה נְבוּרָה.—There can be no doubt that the prefix בּ should be repeated before כַּשְׂדִּים.


1. Hearken unto me——up together, Isaiah 48:12-13. The verses of this section are almost wholly a compilation of the chief elements of chapts. 40–47. The words שׁמע as far as מקראי are only a solemn introductory formula, containing an emphatic summons to give attention, in order to intimate the importance of the subject. Comp. Isaiah 48:1; Isaiah 44:1; Isaiah 46:3.—מְקֹרָא, “the called,” as regards the word, occurs only here; but as regards the sense it is essentially one with what we read Isaiah 41:9; Isaiah 43:1. A double calling is spoken of here: Of the ancient and original one which Israel received in the person of its ancestor (Isaiah 41:9), and of the future one when the Lord calls back His people from the Exile (Isaiah 43:1; comp. Isaiah 48:5 sqq.; Isaiah 44:22). Thus Israel is named מְקֹרָא as the doubly called people. In what follows the Prophet calls to mind first those fundamental facts that are a guaranty that Jehovah can foretell and fulfil the deliverance by Cyrus. They are 1) His absoluteness and uniqueness. As such He is הוּא, the He par excellence, the absolute subject. As such the Prophet has already named Him, Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 46:4. Isaiah 46:2) His eternity, by virtue of which He is the first and the last. He has already been so called Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6; comp. Isaiah 43:13. Isaiah 43:3) The creation of heaven and earth, which also has been spoken of in what precedes, in the same sense, viz. that He who created the world can also foretell and fulfil Israel’s deliverance: Isaiah 40:12 sqq., Isaiah 40:28; Isaiah 40:28; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 45:18.

2. All ye, assemble——his way prosperous, Isaiah 48:14-15. The words הקבצו as far as אֵלֶּה(“All ye assemble——these things”) represent here all those passages in which the Prophet has variously uttered the thought, that Jehovah, the Creator of heaven and earth, has challenged all idols to a contest in prophesying in order, by exposing their impotency, to prove their nothingness and His divinity. The passages are Isaiah 41:1 sqq., Isaiah 41:21 sqq., Isaiah 41:26 sqq.; Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 44:7 sqq., Isaiah 44:24 sqq.; Isaiah 45:20 sqq.; Isaiah 46:9 sqq. Especially our passage recalls Isaiah 43:9 and Isaiah 45:20. In Isaiah 43:9 the interrogatory clause occurs almost verbatim, except the Niph. of קבץ. For there it reads מִי בָהֶם יַגִּיד זֹאת. In Isaiah 45:20, as here, the first word is הקבצו. It is self-evident that בָּהֶם in our passage, as in Isaiah 43:9, is to be referred to the idols, as that אֵלֶּה refers to the things concerning Cyrus. This appears from what immediately follows. For there again we have a collective citation, if I may so express myself. For there all that has been previously said of Cyrus is recalled by the brief words, Isaiah 48:14 b, Isaiah 48:15, that emphasize the chief particulars. Jehovah hath loved him is said first. It is true this statement has not occurred literally before; but it has as to sense. For that the Lord loves Cyrus underlies all those passages that speak of him; Isaiah 41:2 sq., 25; Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-7; Isaiah 45:13 sq.; Isaiah 46:11. Moreover the words: He will do His pleasure on Babylon, and His arm on the Chaldeans, though not literally, occur as to sense in what precedes (comp. Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:28, where, moreover, the words כֹּל חֶפְצִי יַשְׁלִים occur; Isaiah 45:1 sqq.; Isaiah 46:1 sq., Isaiah 46:10; Isaiah 47:0 entire).—In Isaiah 48:15 the Lord Himself speaks, confirming the word of His Prophet. He, the Lord, has foretold that which concerns Cyrus (Isaiah 45:21); He called him (Isaiah 45:4), He brings him on, taking him by the hand (Isaiah 45:1), and sees to it that he completes his way (Isaiah 41:3).


[8]Or, the palm of my right hand hath spread, out.

Verses 16-19


Isaiah 48:16-19

Isaiah 48:20-21 connect naturally with Isaiah 48:14-15. For Isaiah 48:14 foretells the victory of Cyrus over Babylon; Isaiah 48:20 summons Israel to flee out of vanquished Babylon as a prison opened by Cyrus. Isaiah 48:16, however, contains a personal remark of the Prophet; and though Isaiah 48:17-19 are a revealed word of God (com. כֹּה אָמַר י׳ Isaiah 48:17), they are yet of so general a nature, that they would be perfectly in place, indeed, after Isaiah 48:21, as expressive of a regret that Israel did not follow the direct way to salvation, but had made necessary the detour through the Exile; but coming between Isaiah 48:15; Isaiah 48:20, they can only be regarded as a break of the connection. How Isaiah 48:16-19 came where they are will hardly be made out by any one. Their proper place would be between Isaiah 48:21-22. Perhaps they first stood in the margin (occasioned by the personal nature of Isaiah 48:16 and the retrospective nature of Isaiah 48:17-19 in the midst of the current of prospective prophecy), and then they were, through misunderstanding, inserted before instead of after Isaiah 48:21. [The Author’s difficulty as to the order of the verses will not be felt by many, any more than they are, e.g., by Lowth, Maurer, Barnes, J. A. Alex., who comment right on without being aware of anything to stumble at. Yet J. A. A. pauses to say, that the objection as presented by others is entirely unfounded; vide. his comm. on Isaiah 48:18. Those that fail to see the difficulty with the Author, will equally discard the caption he adopts, by which he stamps these verses 16–19 as interpolations.—Tr.).


Isaiah 48:16

A personal remark of the Prophet

16          Come ye near unto me, hear ye this;

I have not spoken in secret from the beginning;
From the time that it was, there am I:

And now the Lord God, 9and his Spirit, hath sent me.


These words are enigmatical, and I despair of explaining them in a convincing way. I do not believe that “come ye near unto me, hear ye this” are in parallelism with “all ye assemble yourselves and hear” Isaiah 48:14, and that therefore they are to be construed also as words of Jehovah. [“As certainly now as הִקָבְצוּ Isaiah 48:14 is the word of Jehovah, so certain is it that קִרְבוּ אֵלַי is the same. He summons to Himself the members of His nation, that they may hear still further His own testimony concerning Himself.” Delitzsch]. For, as has been shown, the initial words of Isaiah 48:14 are references to something said before. But Isaiah 48:16 begins a thought of another sort. It makes on me the impression of a separate remark, which the Prophet had directed to a narrower circle of immediate hearers, such as, say, the narrower circle of his disciples may have been (comp. on Isaiah 8:16 sqq.). Some might be surprised regarding the prophecies beginning with chap. 40, that the Prophet foretells so positively a Babylonian Exile, and the deliverance by a prince by the name of Cyrus. The Prophet explains this Isaiah 48:16. By “come ye near unto me” he intimates that he would make a particularly confidential communication. It consists in the statement that he must not be supposed to have known of these things already, say from the beginning of (מֵרֹאשׁ) his prophetic activity, and to have announced or may-be made a written record of them, as esoteric secrets, only in the narrowest circle. Rather he did not himself know of these things from the beginning. Only מעת היותה, “from the time that it was,” was he there. That is, only since these things “were created” (נִבְרְאוּ Isaiah 48:7) in the sense that we have explained Isaiah 48:7, did he become familiar with them and they stand visible before his prophetic eye. היותה seems to me to remind one of אָמַר וַיְהִי and of הַדָּבָר הָיָה. The Prophet regards as created, as come to pass, what has been announced to him. Hence he says here, he for his person was present, as an inward, spiritual witness and spectator, when these things, in a prophetic sense, came to pass. But now the LORD Jehovah (see List) has sent him, i.e., has sent him with the commission of announcing, and His Spirit. Therefore he distinguishes between the moment of prophetic seeing and that of prophetic announcement. I cannot construe רוּחוֹ as accusative. For then he would make himself like the Spirit, or put himself on a level with the Spirit. He can only make the Spirit equal with the Lord. But he distinguishes the Lord and His Spirit, by recognizing the first as the one from whom the Spirit proceeds (1 Kings 22:22) or is sent.

This is an attempt at exposition, which however I by no means set forth as an assured assertion. As I cannot hold it to be satisfying, I cannot pretend to have solved the enigma by it. For a Prophet to interrupt his official prophecy by a private remark is, of course, against the rule. Still it is not unexampled. I regard Jeremiah 31:26 as such, where see my comment. In Jeremiah, the occasion of that personal remark was the circumstance, that that moment of awaking out of sleep was for him the brightest point in all his trying prophetic career. For Isaiah the occasion was, that he regarded it as necessary to give his immediate hearers an explanation why he now announced things the like of which no one had ever before heard from him. It might seem as if hitherto he had preserved silence about what he had long known. But he says: The new thing that ye have heard, I myself did not know earlier. It has only now come to pass (in a prophetic sense), and only after it came to pass did I receive commission to reveal it. Of course, this exposition is only possible if the Prophet that speaks is Isaiah himself, and if Isaiah here for once speaks out of the historical moment in which he prophesied. But does not the whole weight of his discoures rest on this, that he is even prophesying, i.e., announcing future things, not present or past? If so, then he must be conscious of the interval between prophecy and fulfilment. He must know that what is prophesied lies far, far before him, too far for any human eye to recognize what lies beyond that interval. Hence I cannot agree with Delitsch in considering that the Prophet lives only in the Exile with his spirit. This were only possible did he forget that he prophesied.

[The comment of Delitzsch directly following his words quoted above is: “From the beginning He has not spoken in secret (see Isaiah 45:19); but from the time that all which now lies before their eyes—namely, the victorious career of Cyrus—has unfolded itself, He has been there, or has been by (שָׁם, ‘there,’ as in Proverbs 8:27), to regulate, what was coming to pass, and to cause it to result in the redemption of Israel. ‘I was there’ affirms, that, at the time when the revolution caused by Cyrus was preparing in the distance, He caused it to be publicly foretold, and thereby proclaimed Himself the present Author and Lord of what was then occurring. Up to this point Jehovah is speaking; but who is it that now proceeds to say, ‘And now’—namely, now that the redemption of Israel is about to appear (ועֲתָּה being here, as in many other instances, e.g., Isaiah 33:10, the turning-point of salvation)—‘now hath the Lord Jehovah seat me and His Spirit.’ The majority of the commentators assume that the Prophet comes forward here in his own person, behind Him whom he has introduced, and interrupts Him. But since the Prophet has not spoken in his own person before, whereas, on the other hand, these words are followed in Isaiah 49:1 sqq. by an address concerning himself from that Servant of Jehovah who announces Himself as the restorer of Israel and light of the Gentiles, and who cannot therefore be Israel as a nation or the Author of these prophecies, nothing is more natural than to suppose that the words, ‘And now hath the Lord,’ etc., form a prelude to the words of the One unequalled Servant of Jehovah concerning Himself which occur in 49. The surprisingly mysterious way in which the words of Jehovah suddenly pass into those of His messenger, which is only comparable to Zechariah 2:12 sqq.; Zechariah 4:9 (where the speaker is also not the prophet, but a divine messenger exalted above him), can only be explained in this manner. And in no other way can we explain the ועתה, which means, that after Jehovah has prepared the way for the redemption of Israel by the raising up of Cyrus, in accordance with prophecy, and by his success in arms, He has sent him, the speaker in this case, to carry out, in a mediatorial capacity, the redemption thus proposed, and that not by force of arms, but in the power of the Spirit of God (Isaiah 42:1; comp. Zechariah 4:6). Consequently the Spirit is not spoken of here as joining in the sending (as Umbreit and Stier suppose, after Jerome and the Targum; the LXX is indefinite, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ); nor do we ever find the Spirit mentioned in such co-ordination as this (see, on the other hand, Zechariah 7:12, per spiritum suum). The meaning is, that it is also sent, i.e., sent in and with the Servant of Jehovah, who is speaking here.” Del. on Isa., vol. II. p. 252 sq. Clark’sFor. Theol. Lib.

We may anticipate here the comment on Isaiah 48:17-19 for the purpose of saying, in support of the above exposition of Delitzsch, that our Isaiah 48:16-19 seem to be the scripture (ἡ γραφή) referred to in John 7:37-39. In our text, the messenger and the Spirit sent with or after him (Isaiah 48:16) are presented as the source of the blessings conditionally guaranteed in Isaiah 48:17-19. The emphatic way in which the mention of the Spirit is introduced (Isaiah 48:16), and the mention of “teaching,” “hearkening to commandments,” “peace” and “righteousness” (Isaiah 48:17-18), make it plain that the agent of the blessings described (Isaiah 48:18-19) must be the Spirit; not, however, excluding the priority of the Redeemer who is the speaker. The blessing described is the blessing of Abraham, as our Author shows below; and (against Del. who translates “grains of sand”) we may, with our Author, translate מֵעוֹת = “viscera, bowels” (Barnes and J. A. Alex. do the same). Of course we must understand the blessing of numerous offspring in a spiritual sense, such as the Spirit will generate, i.e., a spiritual Israel. Our Author has shown this in cognate passages, e.g., see under Isaiah 44:3-5. Moreover the very parallelisms of Isaiah 48:18, “peace as the river,” “righteousness as the waves,” show this. In John 7:38 the Lord Jesus says: “He that believes on Me, as the Scripture said: rivers of living water shall flow from his bowels (ἐκ τῆς κοιλίας αὐτοῦ).” This is an allusion and interpretation, rather than a quotation. It combines the spiritual figures of Isaiah 48:18 with the figure of offspring in Isaiah 48:19, where the LXX. has: καὶ τὰ ἔκγονα τῆς κοιλίας σου. By saying this, our Lord claims that He is the source of the Abrahamic blessing, and reproduces in Himself the speaker of our text. To relieve the obscurity of the allusion the Evangelist adds his comment (John 7:39): “But this He spake of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.” By this John completes the allusion to our text, referring to the Spirit which our Isaiah 48:16 represents as sent with the messenger—but after; “and His Spirit (וְרוּחוֹ),” curiously subjoined grammatically, seeming to express an after-thought, but really expressing an after-act. The day of Pentecost witnessed this sending, and the promised effect of it in the multiplication of off-spring to those that believed on Christ, in the vast increase of the spiritual Israel, rivers of living waters, righteousness like waves, and seed like the offspring of the sea.

The view here given of the correlation of our text and John 7:37-39, if correct, is invaluable as aid in understanding the former, confirming the exposition of Delitzsch. At the same time it identifies the reference of ἡ γραφή in John 7:38, which, so far as we know, has never been satisfactorily done by any commentator, and at the same time must imperatively control the interpretation put upon “rivers of living water.” Tr.]


[9]hath sent me and his Spirit.

Verses 17-19


Lament that Israel would not hear at the right time

Isaiah 48:17-19

17          Thus saith the Lord,

Thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel;
I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit,

Which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.

18     O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments!

Then had thy peace been as a river,
And thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:

19     Thy seed also had been as the sand,

And the offspring of thy bowels 10like the gravel thereof;

His name 11should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.


These words interrupt the connection just as does Isaiah 48:16, and make the impression of belonging to the time when the Prophet was prophesying. For chap. 43 is a recapitulation of the thoughts of chaps. 40–47. This recapitulation continues in Isaiah 48:20-21, as we shall show afterwards. But in these Isaiah 48:17-19 there is not a trace of recapitulation. [It is hard to resist the conviction, that were our Author less dominated by this notion of recapitulation, he would see more clearly. See in the Introduction, p. 17, the remarks quoted from J. A. Alex.—Tr.] They bear a retrospective character. After announcing the deliverance by Cyrus, the Prophet is constrained to make the mournful remark, that Israel might have come to the same goal of salvation by the normal and direct way. This thought was perhaps in place after the recapitulation, but not during it, as a break in the context.

Jehovah, the Redeemer, the Holy One, the God of Israel, is naturally, as such, the teacher and leader also of the nation, and has the right to demand that the nation let itself be taught and led by Him. מלמדך להועיל (see List); הוֹעִיל is frugi esse, and is used of being able, ability in regard to useful things generally (comp. Isaiah 30:5-6; Jeremiah 2:8, etc.). Here it stands particularly for doing that which is morally profitable. לוא הקשׁבת ונו׳ (Isaiah 48:18) can only mean: if thou hadst regarded, then thy salvation had been, etc. Comp. Ewald, § 329, b; 358, a. Isaiah 63:19 reads exactly and literally: if thou hadst rent the heavens, and were come down. Of course in that passage it is not essentially important if one translate (inexactly) O that thou mightest rend the heavens and mightest come down. For the only difference is that the more exact construction expresses the impatient wish that the rending and coming down had already taken place. But in our passage one cannot say, that the Lord, if the words must relate to the future, wishes Israel might already have completed giving its attention. Every one would expect the wish to be that Israel would give attention now and in all the future. But to express that requires the imperfect or the imperative, and in the apodosis וִיהִי or וְהָיָה. To be grammatically exact, therefore, one can only construe the words as retrospective. Had Israel regarded the commandments of the Lord, then its salvation had been as the river (the Euphrates, comp. Isaiah 59:19; Isaiah 66:12, where כְּנָהָר is used), and its righteousness as waves of the sea. Corporeal and spiritual salvation would have extended over Israel in measureless abundance (comp. Isaiah 10:22, and on the relation of שׁלום to צדקת, Isaiah 32:16; Isaiah 46:13). All promises of salvation contain the benedictio vere theocratica of numerous posterity; for power and developed civilization presuppose a numerous people. A people few in numbers can neither be powerful nor enjoy in spiritual respects an all-sided development. Our passage is founded on Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:13; comp. Genesis 12:2; Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5, etc. צאצאים occurs only in Job (Job 5:25; Job 21:8; Job 27:14; Job 31:8), and in Isa., see List. מֵעוֹת is of uncertain meaning. It occurs only here. The ancient versions convey the notion of “gravel, lapilli.” Gesenius, on the other hand, translates: “propagines viscerum tuorum ut (propagines) viscerum ejus,” and by, propagines viscerum maris are to be understood the fish (sea-animals). [The invariable usage of the Bible is to refer to “the sand of the sea” as the figure for multitude; we think there is not an instance of the animal life of the sea being so used. As a combined figure of multitude and off-spring the sand is more appropriate than the fish. It is beside the standing comparison for the Abrahamic blessing, Tr.] Hitzig, Maurer, Knobel [Barnes, J. A. Alex.] follow the exposition of Gesenius [J. A. A. ascribes it to J. D. Michaelis, Tr.]. Both interpretations have a weak foundation. Yet the latter has in its favor, that מֵעוֹת, viscera = מעים, after the analogy of נהרות along with נהרים, etc., is more probable than the ingeniously deduced lapilli.

Therefore the Prophet here expresses the thought, that, had Israel followed the commandments of Jehovah, then the promises given the fathers would have been fulfilled without the mournful intervening stadium of the Exile. [It seems better, with most commentators, to regard Isaiah 48:16-19 as spoken from the stand-point of the foregoing and subsequent context, i.e., of the Exile. This is involved in interpreting “the river” to mean the Euphrates. “Nothing could well be more appropriate at the close of this division of the prophecies, than such an affecting statement of the truth, so frequently propounded in didactic form already, that Israel, although the chosen people of Jehovah, and as such secure from total ruin, was and was to be a sufferer, not from any want of faithfulness or care on God’s part, but as the necessary fruit of its own imperfections and corruptions.” J. A. Alex. on Isaiah 48:18. “His name shall not be cut off nor destroyed before me.” “We may suppose that the writer, after wishing that the people had escaped the strokes provoked by their iniquities, declares that even now they shall not be entirely destroyed. This is precisely the sense given to the clause in the LXX. (οὐδὲ νῦν ἁπολεῖται), and is recommended by two considerations: first, the absence of the Vav conversive, which in the other clause may indicate an indirect construction; and secondly, its perfect agreement with the whole drift of the passage, and the analogy of others like it, when the explanation of the sufferings of the people as the fruit of their own sin is combined with a promise of exemption from complete destruction,” ibid.on Isaiah 48:19. Delitzsch similarly—Tr.]


[10]like that of its (the sea’s) bowels.

[11]shall not be

Verses 20-21


Isaiah 48:20-21

20          Go ye forth of Babylon.

Flee ye from the Chaldeans, with voice of singing
Declare ye, tell this,
Utter it even to the end of the earth;

          Say ye, The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.

21     And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts:

He caused waters to flow out of the rock for them:
He clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.


Both these verses bear entirely the character of the representation in Isaiah 48:1-15; that is to say, the chief particulars of chaps. 40–47 are recapitulated. They especially correspond to chaps. 46, 47, which are principally occupied with Babylon. That Babylon must be destroyed, and that redeemed Israel must go free from the destroyed prison, has been variously declared in preceding chapters. It is to be especially noted that wherever the deliverance of Israel and Jehovah as their Redeemer are spoken of, it is always primarily the deliverance from Babylon that is meant (Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 44:24 sqq.; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 47:4). We read in Isaiah 42:22 that Israel is held captive as in a prison. Babylon’s fall is specially announced Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 46:1-2; Isaiah 47:1 sqq. It is said in Isaiah 42:10-12; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 45:6; Isaiah 45:22-24 that the praise of Jehovah’s acts of deliverance must be sounded to the end of the earth, and be to all nations a guaranty of their own salvation. That on the way the Israelites shall have water in great abundance is promised Isaiah 41:17-19; Isaiah 43:19 sq.; Isaiah 44:3 sq. That the return from Babylon shall not be inferior to the return out of Egypt in miraculous displays of the saving hand of God is stated Isaiah 42:16; Isaiah 43:16; Isaiah 44:27. Thus verses 20, 21 also bear the character of recapitulation. And hence I believe that Isaiah 48:16 and the verses 17–19 were originally supplements, but through misunderstanding were inserted out of place. As regards particulars, it must be noticed that what is to be proclaimed to the end of the earth begins with The Lord hath redeemed and ends with waters gushed out. The redemption of Israel and its joyful return home must be proclaimed to all nations as a pledge of their own salvation (comp. especially Isaiah 45:22 sqq.) And particularly this point must be emphasized, to them, that the Lord had now a second time given such a miraculous deliverance to the people Israel. For in that lies even a confirmation of His methodical willing and ability to do. And the waters gushed out occurs again Psalms 78:20; Psalms 105:41. Moreover see List. [“Unless we are prepared to assume an irrational confusion of language, setting all interpretation at defiance, our only alternative is to conclude, on the one hand, that Isaiah meant to foretell a miraculous supply of water during the journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, or that the whole description is a figurative one, meaning simply that the wonders of the Exodus should be renewed. Against the former is the silence of history; against the latter nothing but the foregone conclusion that this and other like passages must relate exclusively to Babylon and the return from exile.”—J. A. Alexander.]

Verse 22


Isaiah 48:22

22     There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.


These words do not fit on to Isaiah 48:20-21. They could better connect with Isaiah 48:19 as the negative proof of the thought, that Israel, had it hearkened to the commandments of the Lord, would have found abundant salvation (comp. especially “thy peace had been as a river,” Isaiah 48:18). But if Isaiah 48:22 were only to belong to Isaiah 48:17-19, then the words would not occur in another place and connection. But such is the case at the close of 57. This circumstance proves that the words are meant to form a similar and hence the like-sounding conclusion of the first two Enneads. Indeed even chap. 66 concludes, not with the same words, yet with the same thought, and that in an enhanced and drastic form. It is certainly not accidental that chaps. 40–66. are in general a book of consolation, that the three chief parts begin with words of consolation, and yet all of them conclude with the words so threatening. Doubtless the Prophet would thereby impress on his readers that the consolation is not unconditional for all, but that only the pious shall partake of it. This threatening earnestness of the respective conclusions, so harshly emphasized and directly in contrast with the predominating consolatory character of the book, should lead the wicked to a thorough introspection.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 48". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/isaiah-48.html. 1857-84.
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