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ISAIAH CHAPTER 43
Promises to protect and enlarge the church, Isaiah 43:1-7.
God appealeth to them as witnesses of his power and knowledge, Isaiah 43:8-13.
He foretelleth them the destruction of Babylon, and a new deliverance of his people, Isaiah 43:14-21;
whose sins, Isaiah 43:22-24,
against God’s mercies, render them inexcusable, Isaiah 43:25-28.
But now thus saith the Lord; but notwithstanding thy gross insensibleness under former judgments, for which I might justly send far heavier ones upon thee, yet I will deal mercifully with thee.
That created thee; that made, thee his people, and that in so miraculous a manner, as if he had created thee a second time out of nothing; and therefore he will be gracious to his own workmanship. I have redeemed thee from the Egyptians, and divers other enemies; and therefore I will redeem thee again.
By thy name; by the name of God’s people, which was as proper and peculiar to them as the name of Israel.
Though I will chastise thee for thy sins, yet I will not suffer thine enemies utterly to destroy thee: compare Jeremiah 30:11.
I gave Egypt for thy ransom: this was fulfilled either,
1. When God smote the Egyptians, both first-born and others, in Egypt, and drowned Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for the safety and benefit of his people; or,
2. When the king of Assyria, either Sennacherib, as many think, or rather Esar-haddon, who designed to revenge his father’s disgrace and loss before Jerusalem upon the Jews, but was diverted and directed by God to employ his forces against Egypt, and Ethiopia, and Seba, as it follows. See Poole "Isaiah 20:1", &c. Ethiopia and Seba; the Sabeans, who were confederate with the Ethiopians or Cushites.
Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: so the sense is, From that time that I chose time for my precious and peculiar treasure and people, I have had a great esteem and affection for thee. But the words may well be, and by some are, rendered thus, Since that (or, For that; or, Because) thou wast precious in my sight, thou wast honourable, (the same thing repeated in other words,) and I love thee.
Therefore will I give men for thee; as I did give up the Egyptians, so I am ready to give up others to save thee, as occasion requires.
Although the Jews shall for their sins be carried captives out of their own land northward and eastward into Babylon and the adjacent countries, and others of them shall flee southward and westward, and shall there pine away in their iniquities, as I threatened; yet their posterity I will bring back into Canaan, from all the places where they are dispersed.
Give up; thou who hast so long had and held my people in bondage, resign them to me, and permit them to return to their own land. He speaks either to the countries themselves by a prosopopoeia, or to the inhabitants of them. Bring my sons; do not only permit, but assist and further, their return.
Even every one that is called by my name: They are called by my name; I own them for my people and children; and therefore what kindness or cruelty you exercise to them I take it as done to myself. So it is an argument to move those people to let their captives go; or it is an argument to confirm the faith of God’s people, that God would deliver them, because they are his own.
I have created him for my glory; and therefore I will glorify my power, and goodness, and faithfulness in delivering them.
I have made him; I have not only created them out of nothing, as I did all other people, but I have also formed and made them my peculiar people.
The sense is either,
1. Bring out of captivity my people who were blind and deaf, but now have their eyes and cars opened by my grace. So this verse relates to the foregoing passages. Or rather,
2. O ye idolatrous Gentiles, produce and bring forth your false gods, which have eyes, but see not; and ears, but hear not, as is said, Psalms 115:5,Psalms 115:6. So this verse belongs to the following context, in which God reneweth his contest with idols; which in this verse he calleth blind, and in the next verse proveth them so to be.
Let the people be assembled, to plead the cause of their idols with me.
Who among them can declare this? this wonderful work of mine in bringing my people out of captivity, which I have already foretold, and shall further declare; and that so exactly, that I shall name the person by whom this work shall be begun, even Cyrus, who is yet unborn, and shall be so for above two hundred years: let any of your heathen gods do the like.
Former things, not things already past, but such things as shall happen long before the return from the captivity, which yet your blind idols cannot foresee. See Poole "Isaiah 41:22". Their witnesses, who can testify the truth and certainty of any such predictions of theirs.
That they may be justified; that they may be owned for true gods, which in that case I allow them to expect. But of this argument see on Isaiah 41:22,Isaiah 41:23. Or let them hear and say, It is truth; or if they can produce no evidence of any such thing, as I am well assured that they cannot, let them be silent, and hear me and my witnesses, as it follows in the next verse; and let them confess that what I say is truth, that I only am the true God, and that they are but vanity and falsehood.
Ye are my witnesses; they can produce no witnesses for themselves, but you my people are able to witness for me, that I have given you many plain demonstrations of my certain foreknowledge of future events, by my predictions and promises delivered to you from time to time.
My servant whom I have chosen; either,
1. Isaiah, and other prophets, the singular word being put collectively: or,
2. Cyrus, who is an eminent instance and proof of God’s foreknowledge: or,
3. The Messiah, as not only Christians, but even the Chaldee paraphrast, understands it, who is called by this very title, Isaiah 42:1, who also is the most eminent witness in this cause; and that both passively, as he, and the time, and place, and other circumstances of his birth, and life, and death were particularly foretold by God in Scripture; and actively, as many future things were foretold by Christ, of which we have many examples in the New Testament. I am he; he of whom the present dispute is, or he whom I have affirmed myself to be. That I only am that true God whom we are now seeking in this debate. Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me; the gods of the heathens neither had a being before me, nor shall continue after me: wherein more is understood than is expressed, that whereas the Lord is God from everlasting to everlasting, these false pretenders to the Deity are but of yesterday, and shall shortly be abolished. And withal he calleth them formed gods, in way of contempt, and to show the ridiculousness of their pretence to the Divinity, which are formed by the hands of men.
That can and doth save his worshippers: whereby he implies that the false gods were not only weak, and unable to save their people, but also were the destroyers of their people, as being the great cause of their ruin.
I have declared, and have saved; I first foretold your deliverance, and then effected it.
I have showed; I foretold it. This branch he repeated, because this is the principal argument used here, and Isaiah 41:0, to determine this controversy between God and idols.
When there was no strange god among you; and this I did when you did not worship any idols, and therefore it could not be pretended that you had this knowledge from them.
Before the day was; before all time; or, which is all one, from all eternity: or, since the day was; since the beginning of time and things, in all ages since the creation of the world.
I am he; I am God, and I have proved myself to be so.
There is none, none of those which are called gods, that can deliver out of my hand; that can save them whom I will destroy. Therefore they are impotent, and consequently no gods.
I will work, and who shall let it? nor can they hinder me in any other work which I resolve to do.
I have sent to Babylon; I have sent Cyrus, and the Medes and Persians with him, to war against Babylon, to this very end and purpose, that he might deliver you out of captivity, and restore you to your land according to promise.
Have brought down from that height of power and glory to which they were advanced.
All their nobles; their princes and great commanders, who as they are called shields, Psalms 47:9, so here they are called bars, for the same reason, because of that strength and defence which they give to their people.
The Chaldeans; the common people of Chaldea, together with their great men who had palaces in Babylon.
Whose cry is in the ships; who make fearful outcries, as they flee away from the Persians in ships; which they had opportunity to do, because of their two great and famous rivers Euphrates and Tigris, and the several branches of them.
Your Holy One; the Holy One of Israel, as he frequently styleth himself, who sanctify and glorify myself in this and such other glorious works, with respect to you, or for your benefit.
Who as he formerly made a pathway for his people through the Red Sea, so he will in no less wonderful manner remove all impediments or difficulties out of the way of his people, when they return from Babylon.
Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; or rather, Who brought forth the chariots, &c., i.e. Pharaoh, and his chariots, and homes, and army; as may be gathered from the next verse, where the things here mentioned are called former things, and things of old. They shall lie down together, they shall not rise; or, they did lie down together, (to wit, in the bottom of the sea,) they did not rise; they sank like lead, as it is said, Exodus 15:10, and they never rose again to molest the Israelites, as God promised, Exodus 14:13. These two Hebrew verbs are of the future tense, but that seems to be put for the preter tense, because the two following verbs, which treat of the same thing, and are added to explain these, are of the preter tense.
They are quenched as tow; as the wick of a candle when it is put into the water is wholly extinguished, and not the least spark of fire left, so were they utterly destroyed, and not one of them remained.
But although your former deliverance out of Egypt was in itself a most glorious work, which you ought always to remember and consider; yet this other work of your deliverance out of Babylon by Cyrus, and those blessings which shall follow upon it, and particularly that inestimable mercy of sending the Messiah, shall be so transcendent a layout, that, in comparison thereof, all your former deliverances are scarce worthy of your remembrance and consideration. Which exposition is confirmed by two parallel texts, Jeremiah 16:14,Jeremiah 16:15; Jeremiah 23:7,Jeremiah 23:8. From all which texts laid together, it appears that this latter deliverance, compared with that out of Egypt, is not to be confined to their freedom from the Babylonish captivity, but to be extended to the consequences of it, and especially to the redemption by Christ, because otherwise that Egyptian deliverance was more glorious and wonderful in many respects than the Babylonian.
A new thing; such a work as was never yet done in the world, even the redemption of the world by the Messiah.
Now; shortly, although it was not to be done till after some hundreds of years. For so the Scripture oft speaketh of things at a great distance of time as if they were now at hand, as Haggai 2:6; James 5:9; Revelation 22:20, and elsewhere; which it doth to correct our impatience, and to make us willing to wait till God’s time come; and to assure us that the mercy shall come as soon as ever it is fit for us, and we for it; and to make us sensible of the inconsiderableness of time, and all temporal things, in comparison of God, and of the eternal things; upon which account it is said that a thousand years are in God’s sight but as one day, Psalms 90:4.
Shall ye not know it? certainly you Jews shall know it by experience, and shall find that I do not deceive you with vain hopes.
I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert; I will give you direction and provision in the wilderness, where there is commonly no path, and where all necessaries are wanting; which as it literally speaks of God’s conducting them in the way from Babylon to Jerusalem, which lay through a great desert; so it is mystically meant of those spiritual blessings which God in and through Christ will confer upon all his people, not the Jews only, but also the Gentiles, who in prophetical language are oft compared to the wilderness, as Isaiah 35:1, and elsewhere.
The beast of the field shall honour me; shall have cause, if they had abilities, to honour and praise me for their share in this mercy. Possibly the beast of the field may mystically signify the Gentiles, whom the Jews reputed as beasts, and who were as destitute of all saving knowledge as the beasts which perish, yet should become the Lord’s people, as they seem to be called, Isaiah 43:21. The dragons; which live in dry and barren deserts, and are very thirsty, and therefore more sensible of this mercy.
To give drink to my people; to whom these waters were principally designed, but the beasts fared better for their sakes. Thus Christ was primarily sent to the lost sheep of Israel, Matthew 15:24; yet the Gentiles, there compared to dogs, fared better for the children, picking up some crumbs of their bread; and the Jews generally rejecting Christ, the Gentiles came in their stead.
This people; my people, as he now called them, Isaiah 43:20; consisting in part of the Jews, but especially of the Gentiles;
have I formed for myself; they shall show forth my praise; I have created as it were out of nothing, I have called them into my church, that I might have glory and praise from them for so stupendous a mercy.
But; or, for, as this conjunction is oft used. So this may be added as a reason why God called the Gentiles to be his people, because the Jews forsook him.
Thou hast not called upon me; thou hast grossly neglected or very slightly performed the duties of my worship.
Thou hast been weary of me; thou hast not esteemed my service to be a privilege, as in truth it is, but as a burden and bondage. Compare Malachi 1:13.
Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; either,
1. Because thou didst not offer thy sacrifices to me, but to idols. Or rather,
2. Because what thou didst offer was not done to me, not for my sake, not from a principle of love and obedience to me, not to please and honour me with it; but merely for thine own ends: which interpretation seems to be favoured by the following clause, and by comparing this with Zechariah 7:5,Zechariah 7:6, Did ye fast unto me, even to me? And when ye did eat—did ye not eat for yourselves?
Neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices, because thou didst either neglect this work of sacrificing to me; or didst perform it merely out of custom or ill design, and not with a purpose to please and glorify me; or didst dishonour me, and pollute thy sacrifices by thy wicked course of life.
I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense: so the sense may be this, I did not require these wearisome services of thee, to wit, upon these terms, or to be offered in such a manner, as God speaks, Isaiah 1:11-13. But the words may very well be rendered, although I did not cause thee to serve with offerings, nor weary thee with incense; the particle although being here understood, as it is in many other places, as hath been formerly noted. And so this is an aggravation of their former sin, of being weary of and negligent in his service; although God hath not laid such heavy burdens upon them, nor required such hard services or costly offerings from them, as might give them cause to be weary, nor such as idolaters did freely and greedily perform in the service of their idols.
Thou hast bought me no sweet cane; or, calamus, as this word is rendered, Exodus 30:23, which was used in the making of that precious ointment, Exodus 30:34, and as a perfume, or for the incense, Exodus 30:7; see Jeremiah 6:20. The meaning of this clause seems to be this, Thou hast been niggardly in my service, when thou hast spared for no cost in the service of thine idols, as is elsewhere noted.
Neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices; thou hast offered no more sacrifices than were simply necessary; thou hast not multiplied thy thank-offerings and free-will offerings, though I have given thee sufficient occasion to do so.
Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins; thou hast made me to bear the load and burden of thy sins, which are very grievous and oppressive to me, Amos 2:13, and great exercises of my patience. Yea, thou hast made it necessary for me to take upon me the form of a servant, that I might bear and carry away thy sins. This clause and that which follows are opposed to and aggravated by what he said, Isaiah 43:23. I did not make thee to serve or weary thee with offerings, though that work was honourable and beneficial to thee, as well as conducing to my service; but thou hast made me to serve in the vilest manner, with such things as are not only offensive to me, but also pernicious to thee.
I, even I; I whom thou hast thus despised, and wearied, and provoked to destroy thee.
That blotteth out thy transgressions out of my book, in which they were all written, and to be lead unto thee and charged upon thee another day. See Jeremiah 17:1; Revelation 20:12. Sins are oft compared to debts, Matthew 6:12,Matthew 6:14, &c., which are written in the Creditor’s book; and crossed or blotted out when they are paid.
For mine own sake; being moved thereunto not by thy merits, but by my own mere goodness and free mercy.
Will not remember thy sins; so as to punish them, and destroy thee for them, as thou deservest.
Put me in remembrance: I remember nothing by which thou hast deserved my favour and the pardon of thy sins; if thou knowest any such thing, bring it to my mind, I allow thee free liberty to plead with me, as it follows; and if thou hast right on thy side, I will justify thee. It is an ironical speech, whereby he insulteth over those who were puffed up with an opinion of their own innocency and merit; which was the case of many Jews, as this and other prophets have oft observed.
Thy first father; either,
1. Adam, from whom the guilt and filth of sin is propagated to thee; or rather,
2. Abraham, who might well be called the first father of the Israelites, because they all descended from him, had all their right and title to God’s ordinances and promises, and other special privileges, from God’s covenant made with Abraham and with his seed, and who is oft emphatically called their father, as Joshua 24:2; Isaiah 51:2, &c; and the Jews gloried in and trusted to that relation which they had to Abraham, as we read, Matthew 3:9; John 8:33, and elsewhere. And this agrees well with the foregoing context. For having sufficiently intimated that they had no merits of their own, he now addeth, that even their father Abraham, to whose merits they trusted, had no merits of his own, nor any occasion of boasting; for he also was a sinful man, and hath left some instances of his failings. Or the first father may be put collectively for their forefathers; and so he tells them, that as they were sinners, so also were all their progenitors, yea, even the best of them, Abraham, and David, and others, for whose sakes they expected to be pardoned and rewarded. And this indeed is usual with God, to upbraid the Israelites with the sins of their fathers.
Thy teachers; thy priests and prophets; who were their intercessors with God, and who were generally presumed to be the holiest part of that people; and therefore if these were transgressors, the people had no reason to fancy themselves to be innocent.
I have profaned; as they have made themselves profane, so I have dealt with them as such, without any regard to the sacredness and dignity of their functions. I have exposed them to contempt and destruction.
The princes of the sanctuary; the highest and best of your priests, whose persons were most sacred, and therefore supposed by themselves and others to be the furthest from danger.
To the curse; to utter destruction, to which persons or things accursed were devoted, of which this Hebrew word is constantly used. To reproaches; to be the objects of their enemies’ scorn and reproaches.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 43". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter