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ISAIAH CHAPTER 44
A further promise of spiritual blessings, Isaiah 44:1-6.
The vanity of idols, and folly of idol.makers and worshippers, Isaiah 44:7-20.
An exhortation to praise God, Isaiah 44:21-23, our Redeemer and Maker, Isaiah 44:24, for his wisdom, Isaiah 44:25, truth, Isaiah 44:26, power, Isaiah 44:27, and goodness, Isaiah 44:28.
Although I have chastised thee for thy sins, and had just cause utterly to destroy thee; yet in judgment I will remember mercy, and will still own thee for my servant and chosen people.
From the womb; from the time of thy birth, or coming out of the womb. From that time that I first took thee to be my people, I have been forming and fashioning thee, by giving thee laws, and ordinances, and teachers, by threatenings and corrections, and many other ways. He seems to allude to the practice of midwives, who use to compose all the parts of the new-born infant into a right frame.
Jesurun; another name of Jacob or Israel, given to him Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5,Deuteronomy 33:26.
I will pour water; my Spirit and blessing, which is frequently compared to water; and so it is expounded in the latter part of the verse.
Upon him that is thirsty: either,
1. Upon him that desires it. Or rather,
2. Upon him that is destitute of it; for what is here thirsty, in the next clause it is called dry ground.
My Spirit; the gifts and graces of my Spirit; which expression he seems designedly to use, to lift up the minds and hearts of the Jews from carnal and worldly things, to which they were too much addicted, unto spiritual and heavenly blessings, and thereby to prepare them for the better entertainment of the gospel.
My blessing; all the blessings of my covenant, both spiritual and temporal.
They shall spring up as among the grass; they shall increase and flourish like grass, and those herbs and plants which grow up in the midst of it.
The blessing of God upon the Jews shall be so remarkable, that the Gentiles shall join themselves unto them, and accept the Lord for their God, and own themselves for his people.
Here God reneweth his contest with idols; which he insisteth upon so oft and so much, because his own people were exceeding prone to idolatry.
Who, which of all the heathen gods,
as I, shall call, and shall declare? shall by his powerful call or word cause it to be, and by his infinite foreknowledge declare that it shall be. Or, shall publish and declare; two words expressing the same thing, as is usual.
It; that which shall come to pass, whatsoever it be; which is easily understood out of the following clause.
Set it in order; orderly relate all future events in the same manner as they shall happen.
For me, Heb. to me, so as I may hear it, and thereby be convinced of their Divinity.
Since I appointed the ancient people; since the time that I appointed or called the Israelites to be my people, whom he calleth the ancient people, because they were his people long before this time; or, as the words may be rendered, the everlasting people, because he determined that he would never totally and finally cast them off and destroy them, as he would do other nations. But the words are and may well be otherwise rendered, since I constituted or made (as this word is elsewhere rendered) the people of the world since I first made man upon earth, as the LXX. and others understand it. Let them give me an account of any of their predictions of future events from the beginning of the world to this day.
The things that are coming, and shall come; such things as are near at hand, and such as are to come hereafter.
Unto them; unto their worshippers; who consult their oracles about future events, as I have told them unto thee, O Jacob, as it follows in the next verse. So the pronoun relative is put for the antecedent, which is left to be understood out of the following clause. Or, to or for themselves, in their own defence. Although these words might have been omitted in the translation, as being insignificant; such pronouns being oft redundant in the Hebrew language, as Genesis 12:1, and oft elsewhere, as also in the Greek and Latin.
Have not I told thee? thee, O Israel, whom he bids not to fear. The sense is, I call you Israelites to bear me witness, whether I have not, from time to time, acquainted you with things to come, such as your sojourning in a strange land for four hundred years, and your deliverance and happiness after that time, Genesis 15:13,Genesis 15:14, and many things of the like nature?
From that time; from the time when I appointed the ancient people, as I now said, Isaiah 44:7. These were pregnant instances of God’s prediction of things to come, not only from the beginning of the Jewish commonwealth, but even from the first ages of the world, as unto Enoch, Jude 1:14, and unto Noah, Genesis 6:13, to say nothing of what other authors relate concerning Adam and Seth.
Have declared it; have published it to the world in my sacred records.
My witnesses, both of my predictions, and of the exact agreeableness of events to them.
Is there a God besides me? judge by this character whether I be not the only true God.
Yea, there is no God; I know not any; if any of you be wiser than I am, I am willing to be informed. It is a sarcastical speech. But this clause may be, and is by others, taken interrogatively, do not I know it? Is it not a certain and undeniable truth, that there is no other God?
Are all of them vanity; hereby discover themselves to be vain, empty, or foolish men. Or thus, They that make graven images, all of them make (which word may fitly be repeated out of the foregoing clause, as is very usual in Scripture)
a vanity, or a thing of nought. Which translation seems better to agree,
1. With the following clause, which is added to explain this, in which, not the idol-makers, but the idols themselves, are said to be vain or unprofitable.
2. With the use of the Hebrew word in Scripture, which is never applied to persons, but constantly to things, and sometimes to idols, as 1 Samuel 12:21.
Their delectable things; their idols, in the sight and worship of which they take so much pleasure.
They are their own witnesses; they that make them are witnesses against themselves, and against their idols, because they very well know that they are not gods, but the work of their own hands, in which there is nothing but mean matter and man’s art.
They see not, nor know; or, that
they (to wit, their idols) do not see nor know, have neither sense nor understanding.
That they may be ashamed; therefore they have just cause to be ashamed of their folly and stupidity, in worshipping such senseless things.
What man in his wits can esteem that a god which his own hands have formed, or melt a graven image (understand out of the former clause, to be his god) which is profitable for nothing? He speaks of melting a graven image, because the image was first molten and cast in a mould, and then polished and graven with a tool, as was observed before. Or thus, Who art thou, O man, that formest a god, or meltest a graven image to worship it, which is profitable for nothing? Come hither, and let me reason the case with thee; which he doth in the following verses. So this verse is a kind of summons to idolaters to come and plead their own cause.
All his fellows; either,
1. The workmen, as it follows, who in this work are companions or partners with him, by whose cost and command the work is done. Or,
2. Those who any way assist and encourage him in this work, and join with him in worshipping the image which he maketh.
They are of men; they are of mankind, and therefore cannot possibly make a god. Or, they are of the meanest sort of men; for so the Hebrew word adam sometimes signifies.
They shall be ashamed together; though all combine together, and stand up with all their might to maintain the cause of their false gods, they shall be filled with fear and confusion, when God shall plead his cause against them.
Both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers; first he makes the metal soft and pliable, by putting it among burning coals, and then he taketh it out, and beateth it into what form he pleaseth. It must be here noted, that some of these images were made of brass and iron, as others were of gold and silver, Daniel 5:4.
He is hungry, and his strength faileth; he drinketh no water, and is faint: this is mentioned, either,
1. As an argument of the vanity of idols, which cannot relieve their poor workmen, when they are ready to faint away through hunger, and thirst, and weariness. Or,
2. As an evidence of great zeal and industry in carrying on this work, so that they forget or neglect to eat and drink when their necessities require it. This I prefer,
1. Because it suits best with the next foregoing clause, he worketh with the strength of his arms, i.e. fervently, and putting forth all his might in the work.
2. Because the prophet in this, and in the next following verses, is only describing the mechanical part, or the matter of images, and the art and labour of the workmen in making them; and afterwards proceeds to the theological consideration of the thing, and the confutation of these practices, as we shall see.
He here speaks, either,
1. Of the same image, which is supposed to be made of wood, and then covered with some metal; or,
2. Of another sort of images made of wood, as the former might be made of iron. It is not material which way you understand it.
He marketh it with a line; he measureth and marketh that portion of wood by his rule and line of which the idol is to be made.
According to the beauty of a man; in the same comely shape and proportions which are in a living man, whom he designs to represent as exactly as is possible.
That it may remain, or sit, or dwell; which implies either,
1. That it cannot stir out of its place; or,
2. That when the image is made, it is set up and fixed in its appointed place.
In the house; either in the temple appointed for it; or in the dwelling-house of him that made it; that he and his family might more frequently give worship to it, and might receive protection from it, as idolaters vainly imagined.
The cypress and the oak, which afford the best and most durable timber.
Which he strengtheneth for himself among the tress of the forest: the sense of the words thus rendered is, that he planteth, and with care and diligence improveth, those trees among and above all the trees of the forest, that he or his posterity may thence have materials for their images, and those things which belong to them. And this sense seems to be favoured by the following clause, wherein it is said, he planteth an ash, for this very reason. Or the sense may be this, which he suffers to grow to greater strength and largeness than other trees of the forest, that they may be better and fitter for his use. Heb. and he strengtheneth himself, &c.; and he useth all his strength among the trees of the forest, in planting such as are proper for this end, in walking hither and thither to survey which is the best of them; in hewing them down, and in other things relating to them.
Having related the practices of idolaters, he now discovers the vanity and folly of them; that he maketh his fire and his god of the same materials, distinguished only by the art of man.
He eateth flesh; he dresseth flesh for his eating.
I have seen the fire; I have felt the warmth of it. Seeing is oft put for other senses, as feeling, hearing, &c., as hath been oft observed before.
They have not known or understood: this showeth that they want common discretion, and have not the understanding of a man in them. He, to wit, God; who is easily understood, and is oft expressed by this pronoun he; and to whom this very act is frequently ascribed in other places of Scripture. And therefore men need not to be shy in ascribing it to God here. Which yet is to be soberly understood; not as if God did make men wicked, but only permits them so to be, and orders and overrules their wickedness to his own glorious ends. And such passages as these are added in such cases to give an account of the prodigious madness of sinners herein; because, as they wilfully shut their own eyes, and harden their own hearts, so God judicially blinds and hardens them, and sends strong delusions upon them, and gives them up to believe lies, and then it is no wonder if they fall into such dotages.
None considereth in his heart; whereby he implies that the true cause of this, as well as of other absurd and brutish practices of sinners, is the neglect of serious and impartial consideration of things.
He feedeth on ashes, which is an unsavoury, unprofitable, and pernicious food, and no less unsatisfying, uncomfortable, and mischievous is the worship of idols.
A deceived heart; a mind corrupted and deceived by long custom, deep prejudice, gross error, and especially by his own lusts.
Hath turned him aside from the way of truth, from the knowledge and worship of the true God, unto this brutish idolatry.
Cannot deliver his soul from the snares. and dangers of idolatry. This cannot is to be understood morally, so as to note the great difficulty, but not the utter impossibility of it; for if idolaters would consider things, they might be convinced of and turned from that gross way of wickedness, as is implied from the foregoing verse.
Is there not a lie in my right hand? what is this idol, which I have made with my right hand, i.e. with all my strength? as was said before; the right hand being the strongest and the chief instrument of this and other actions: which I set at my right hand, as the true God is said in Scripture to be at the right hand of his people, Psalms 16:8; Psalms 109:31; Psalms 121:5; which I highly honour; for the most honourable place was on the right hand, as is known: to which I look and trust for relief and assistance, which God in Scripture is said to afford to his people, by being at and holding of their right hand; Psalms 73:23; Psalms 110:5. What, I say, is this idol Is it not a lie, which though it seems and pretends to be something, and to be a god, yet in truth is nothing but vanity and falsehood, deceiving all that put their trust in it?
Remember these; either these men; or, which comes to one, these things, the deep ignorance and stupidity of idolaters; which may be a warning to thee.
Thou shalt not be forgotten of me; I will not forget nor forsake thee; and therefore thou shalt have no need of idols. Or, as the ancient interpreters and divers others render it, do not forget me; what I am, and what I have done, and can and will do, for thee; the forgetting whereof is the ready way to idolatry.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud; as the sun commonly dissolveth, or the wind scattereth, the thickest and blackest cloud, so as there is no remnant nor appearance of it left. Return from thine idolatry, and other wicked practices.
I have redeemed thee; therefore thou art mine, and obliged to return and adhere to me.
By such invitations to the senseless creatures to praise God with and for his people, he signifies the transcendent greatness of this mercy and deliverance, sufficient to make even the stones, if it were possible, to break forth into God’s praises; and withal, that as the brute creatures were sufferers by man’s fall, so they should receive benefit by man’s redemption.
That formed thee from the womb; of which phrase See Poole "Isaiah 44:2".
That maketh all things, & c.; and therefore I can save thee without the help of any other gods or men.
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars; of the magicians, and astrologers, and sorcerers, who were numerous, and greatly employed and esteemed in Babylon, Isaiah 47:12,Isaiah 47:13; Daniel 2:2,Daniel 2:48, and who had foretold the long continuance and prosperity of the Chaldean empire. But, saith God, I will confute their tokens or predictions, and prove them to be liars.
And maketh diviners mad with grief for the disappointment of their hopes and predictions, and their disgrace and loss which followed it.
That turneth wise men backward; stopping their way, thwarting and blasting their designs, so as they can proceed no further, but are forced to retreat and take new counsels, and giving them up to such counsels and courses as are foolish and pernicious to themselves.
Of his servant; of his servants, the prophets, as appears from the next clause, which answers to this, where he useth the plural number,
his messengers; Isaiah and other prophets, whom God sent upon this errand, to foretell the destruction of Babylon, and the redemption of his people.
That with a word can and will dry up the sea (which in Scripture is very frequently called
the deep, as Psalms 107:24; Isaiah 63:13; Jonah 2:3, &c.) and rivers, and remove all impediments, and make the way plain, that my people may return. Some think these words relate to that stratagem of Cyrus, whereby he diverted, and in a great measure dried up, the river Euphrates, and made it passable for his army. But he seems rather to allude to that great action of God’s drying up the Red Sea and Jordan, to give passage to the Israelites.
Cyrus, whom God here designeth by his proper name two hundred years before he was born, that this might be an undeniable evidence of the certainty and exactness of God’s foreknowledge, and a convincing argument, and so most fit to conclude this dispute between God and idols.
He is my shepherd; him will I set up to be the shepherd of my people, to rescue them from wolves or tyrants, to gather them together, to rule them gently, and to provide comfortably for them.
All my pleasure; all that I command him to do, even to give leave and order for the rebuilding of the city and temple of Jerusalem, as it here follows.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 44". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29