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ISAIAH CHAPTER 48
God reproveth their hypocrisy and obstinacy by his prophecies, Isaiah 48:1-8.
He spareth them for his name’s sake, and that they may learn to know him aright, Isaiah 48:9-11.
God’s powerful salvation a motive to obedience, Isaiah 48:12-15.
God lamenteth their backwardness, Isaiah 48:16-19.
Deliverance out of Babylon, Isaiah 48:20,Isaiah 48:21.
No peace to the wicked, Isaiah 48:22.
Hear ye this, what I am now going to say against thee, that thou mayst be assured that that great deliverance which I have determined and declared to give time is not for thy own sake, but for my name’s sake.
Which are called by the name of Israel; which are Israelites in name, but not in truth, as it follows.
Out of the waters of Judah; from the lineage of your progenitor, Judah, as waters flow from a fountain, and as the Israelites are said to be
of the fountain of Israel, Psalms 68:26. Compare also Deuteronomy 33:28; Proverbs 5:15, &c.
Which swear; which profess the true religion; one act of religion being put for all.
Make mention of the God of Israel; either in oaths or otherwise; that own him and seek to glory in him as their God, and call themselves by his name.
But not in truth, nor in righteousness; which are the two chief ingredients of a lawful oath, Jeremiah 4:2. They are guilty of falsehood and injustice, both in oaths, and in their whole conversation.
For; or, as others render it, and this particle frequently signifies, Though. And so this is added as a great aggravation of their want and neglect of truth and righteousness.
They shall call themselves of the holy city: they glory in this, that they are citizens of Jerusalem, a city sanctified by God himself to be the only place of his true worship and gracious presence; which as it is a great privilege, so it laid a great obligation upon them to walk more holily than they did.
Stay themselves; not by a true and well-grounded faith, but by a vain and presumptive confidence, flattering themselves, as that people commonly did, that they should enjoy peace and safety, notwithstanding all their wickedness, because they were the Lord’s people, and had his temple and ordinances among them; which disposition the prophets frequently observe and sharply censure in them.
The Lord of hosts is his name; or, whose name is the Lord of hosts.
I have declared the former things from the beginning; those things which have formerly come to pass, which I punctually foretold from time to time before they came to pass; whereby I gave you full proof of my Godhead.
They came to pass; what my mouth foretold my hand effected.
Because I knew: therefore I gave thee the more and clearer demonstrations of my Divine nature and providence, because I knew thou wast an unbelieving and perverse nation, that would not easily nor willingly be convinced.
Thy neck is an iron sinew, which will not bow down to receive my yoke, nor to obey my commands. It is a metaphor taken from untamed and stubborn cattle; of which see also Nehemiah 9:29; Zechariah 7:11; Acts 7:51. The sense is, I considered that thou wast unteachable and incorrigible.
Thy brow brass; thou wast impudent, and therefore wouldst boldly pretend that thou didst forsake me, for want of full conviction of my Divine authority, and of thy duty; therefore I determined that I would leave thee without excuse.
I foretold these things, that it might be evident that they were the effects of my counsel, and not of thine idols, as I knew thou wast very inclinable to believe.
Thou hast heard, see all this; as thou hast heard all these things from my mouth, from time to time, so now I advise thee to see, i.e. seriously to consider them, and to lay them to heart.
Will not ye declare it? I call you to witness; must you not be forced to acknowledge the truth of what I say? Deny it if you can. Or,
have ye not declared it unto all people, as occasion required it? Have you not boasted unto the Gentiles of this as your honour and privilege? I have showed thee new things from this time; and I have now given thee new predictions of secret things, and such as till this time were wholly unknown to thee, as it follows, concerning thy deliverance out of Babylon by Cyrus.
They are created now, i.e. revealed unto thee by me; brought to light, as things are by creation. Things are frequently said to be made or done in Scripture, when they are declared or manifested. Job 5:3, I cursed, i.e. I pronounced it cursed. Psalms 2:4, That thou mightest be justified, i.e. declared and acknowledged to be just. Hosea 5:15, Till they acknowledge their offence; which in the Hebrew is, till they be guilty. Not from the beginning, Heb. not from thence; not from these ancient times, when other things were revealed unto thee. Even before the day, Heb. and (or, or, as this particle is frequently used) before this day. Such pronouns are oft understood, as we have seen; and this day answers to nor in the first clause; and this clause seems to be added as an exposition of the next foregoing clause, which is more general and ambiguous, not from then or before this day.
When thou heardest them not, Heb. and thou didst not hear them, to wit, before this time, in which God hath revealed them to time by my ministry.
Lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them; either by thine own sagacity, or by the help of thine idols. The sense is, That it might appear that thou hadst the knowledge of these things only from me, who made known unto thee only what and when I pleased.
Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; the same thing is repeated again and again, because this was so illustrious a proof of the infinite power and providence of the God of Israel, and so clear and full a discovery of the vanity of idols.
Yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened; Heb. yea, from then (of which phrase see the foregoing verse) thine ear was not opened, i.e. thou didst not hear, to wit, from me; I did not reveal these things unto thee; for so this phrase of opening the ear is understood, 1 Samuel 9:15; 2 Samuel 7:27.
I knew that thou wouldest deal treacherously; I knew all these cautions were necessary to cure thine infidelity and apostacy.
Wast called, to wit, justly and truly; or, thou wast indeed such a person; to be called put for to be, as we have oft noted.
For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger: and although thou dost justly deserve my hottest anger and most dreadful judgments, which also, if thou repentest not, I will in due time inflict; yet at present I will spare thee, and deliver thee out of captivity, not for thy sake, be it known to thee, but merely for my own sake, and for the vindication of my name and glory, as it follows, Isaiah 48:11.
For my praise; that I may be praised and magnified for my power, faithfulness, and goodness, and other perfections. Will I refrain, to wit, mine anger; which is easily understood out of the foregoing clause.
I have refined thee; or, I will refine thee. Although I will not cut thee off, or utterly destroy thee, as I now said; yet I will put thee into the furnace, not to consume thee, but to purify thee from that dross which cleaveth to thee, and needs such afflictions to purge it away.
Not with silver; or, not among silver; or, not as silver; which is put into and kept in the furnace so long till all the dross be purged away from it. I will not deal so rigorously with thee, for then I should wholly consume thee; in judgment I will remember mercy.
I have chosen thee; or, I will choose thee; or, I will yet choose thee, as it is expressed, Isaiah 14:1; Zechariah 1:17. Or, I will choose thee again, as Zechariah 2:12. For it must be considered that God had in a manner rejected Israel, when he sent them into captivity, and given her a bill of divorce, as he saith, Jeremiah 3:8; see also Isaiah 1:1; and therefore it was necessary that God should choose this people a second time, that they might be betrothed to him again, as is expressed and promised, Hosea 2:19,Hosea 2:20. This seems to me the true sense; although it may be thus understood, I will choose thee, i.e. I will manifest by my carriage to thee that I have chosen thee; or, that thou art my chosen people. Things are oft said to be done when they are manifested, as was observed on Isaiah 48:7.
Will I do it; this great work of delivering my people out of Babylon. My name is here fitly supplied, both out of Isaiah 48:9, where it is expressed, and out of the following clause of this verse, where he saith,
my glory, which is equivalent to it. The sense is, If I should not spare and deliver my people, my name would be sadly profaned and blasphemed, as if I were either impotent or implacable to them.
I will not give my glory unto another; I will not give any colour or occasion to idolaters to ascribe the Divine nature and properties, which are my peculiar, unto idols, as they would do if I did not rescue my people out of their hands in spite of their idols.
Israel my called; whom I have called out of the world to be my peculiar people, to serve, and glorify, and enjoy me; and therefore you of all others have least cause to forsake me, or to follow after idols.
Hath spanned; or, doth span, i. e. mete out the heavens with a span, as the phrase is, Isaiah 40:12, although that be expressed there in other Hebrew words. Or, hath spread them out with its palm, or like a palm, when the hand is stretched out.
When I call unto them, they stand up together; either they stood up and arose out of nothing, when I commanded them to do so; or they are still continually in readiness to execute my commands.
All ye; ye Jews, to whom he addressed his speech, Isaiah 48:12, and continueth his speech, Isaiah 48:16,Isaiah 48:17, &c. Assemble; I challenge you all to answer what I have said before, and am now going to say again.
Which among them hath declared these things? which of the gods whom any of you have served or do still hanker after? The Lord hath loved him, to wit, Cyrus, who might easily be understood out of the foregoing context, in which he is frequently mentioned. The pronoun is put for the noun, as is usual both in Scripture and in other authors. Now God loved Cyrus, not with a special, and everlasting, and complacential love, for he was a heathen, and had some great vices as well as virtues; but with that general love and kindness which God hath for all his creatures, as is observed, Psalms 145:9; and moreover with that particular kind of love which God hath for such men as excel others in any virtues, as Cyrus did; in which sense Christ loved the young man, Mark 10:21; and with a love of good-will and beneficence. God had such a kindness for him, as to make him a most glorious and victorious general and king, and the great instrument for the deliverance of his own people; which was a singular honour and advantage to him, and might have been far greater, and extended to the eternal salvation of his soul, if he had not wanted a heart to use the price which God hereby put into his hand. And as anger being ascribed to God is not meant of the affection, for such passions are inconsistent with the perfection of God’s nature, but of the effect; so the love of God, when it is applied in Scripture to such persons as Cyrus, is not so much to be understood of an inward affection, as of the outward effects of it; and so this love is explained in the following words, by that prosperous success which God gave him against the Chaldeans.
He will do his pleasure on Babylon; Cyrus shall execute that I have appointed him to do for the destruction of Babylon, and for the redemption of my people; which was in itself a good work; and therefore this is added as the reason why God loved him.
His arm shall be on the Chaldeans; he shall smite and subdue them.
I, even I; both the foreknowledge and the execution of this great achievement cannot be ascribed to idols, but to me only.
He shall make his way prosperous; God will give him good success in this undertaking. Here is a sudden change of the person from I to he, which is very usual. Or, as others render it, he shall prosper in his way; the preposition in being most frequently understood.
Come ye near unto me, that you may the better hear me, as it follows. A speech of God after the manner of men.
I have not spoken in secret; I have not smothered the counsel and word of God, but have plainly and publicly declared it. unto you; or, I have openly revealed my mind to you. See Poole "Isaiah 45:19", where these very words are spoken by God in his own name, as here by the prophet in God’s name; and so all comes to one.
From the beginning; either,
1. From the first time that I began to prophesy until this time. Or,
2. From the beginning of my taking you to be my people, and of revealing my mind to you. See Poole "Isaiah 41:26".
From the time that it was these words also, as well as the former, are the words, either,
1. Of the prophet; and so the sense seems to be this, From the time that I was first called to be a prophet, I have been there, i.e. I have diligently pursued my prophetical function; I have hearkened from time to time, to hear what God would speak to me, that I might impart it to you. Or,
2. Of God; and then the sense may be this, From the time that I first spoke of it, or foretold it, I am or was there, to take care to effect what I had foretold; I minded it carefully from that time, as being then more especially obliged to do it, lest my truth or power should be questioned. Or the words may be thus rendered and explained, from the time that this shall be, when the time appointed for the doing of this work shall come, there I will be, to encourage and assist Cyrus in the work. There am I: this is opposed to those foregoing words, from the beginning. God and his Spirit; God by his Spirit; or, God, even the Spirit or the Holy Ghost, to whom the sending and inspiring of God’s prophets is ascribed, 2 Peter 1:21. Hath sent me, to wit, the prophet Isaiah; who yet was a type of Christ, and so this may have a respect to him also.
Which teacheth thee to profit; which from time to time have made known unto thee, not vain and frivolous things, but all necessary and useful doctrines; which, if believed and observed by thee, would have been infinitely profitable to thee, both for this life and that to come. So that it is not my fault, but thine own, if thou dost not profit.
Which leadeth; which acquainteth thee with thy duty and interest in all the parts and concerns of thy life; so that thou canst not pretend ignorance.
O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! the failure hath not been on my part, but on thine: I gave thee my counsels and commands, but thou hast neglected and disobeyed them, and that to thy own great disadvantage. Such wishes as these are not to be taken properly, as if God longed for something which he gladly would but could not effect, or as if he wished that to be undone which was irrevocably past and done; which is a vain and foolish wish even in a man; and much more are such wishes inconsistent with the infinite perfection and happiness of the Divine nature; but they are only significations of God’s good and holy will, whereby he requires and loves obedience, and condemns and hates disobedience.
As a river, which runs sweetly, strongly, plentifully, and constantly; and such had been thy prosperity. Then thou hadst never gone into this Babylonish captivity, nor needed such prodigies of my power and goodness to deliver thee out of it.
Thy righteousness; not properly so called, (for he is not now speaking of their virtues, but of their privileges,) but thy peace and prosperity, as appears by the foregoing clause, to which this manifestly answers; which is called righteousness here, as it is also 1 Samuel 12:7; Hosea 10:12, and elsewhere, by a metonymy, because it is the fruit of righteousness, both of God’s righteousness and of men’s righteousness; as by the very same figure iniquity is very frequently put for the fruit and punishment of iniquity.
As the waves of the sea; infinite and continual.
Thy seed also had been as the sand, to wit, for multitude, according to my promise made to Abraham; whereas now I have, for thy sins, made thee to know my breach of promise, as is said. Numbers 14:34, and greatly diminished thy numbers.
The offspring of thy bowels; which come out of thy bowels, or belly, or loins; for all these are but various expressions of the same thing.
His name; which is continued in a man’s posterity, and commonly dies with them; and so the name here is the same thing in effect with the seed and offspring in the former clauses, which, for the most part, are only the memorials of men, and of their names, when they are dead and gone.
Should not have been cut off, as now it hath been in a great measure; and should have been totally and finally cut off, if I had not spared them for my own name’s sake, as he said before.
From before me; or, out of my sight; out of their own land, the place of my special presence and residence.
Go ye forth of Babylon: the imperative is here, as it is very frequently, put for the future, Ye shall go forth, &c.; for this is not so much a command as a promise; although this form of speech may be the rather used to intimate that it was their duty to go forth, as well as God’s promise to carry them forth.
With a voice of singing; with joy and songs of praise to the Lord. Declare ye; publish God’s wonderful works on your behalf to all nations.
This is part of the matter which the Jews are obliged to declare to all people, as they have opportunity, to wit, that God took the same care of them in their return from Babylon to Canaan, which was through many dry and desolate places, as he did in their march from Egypt to Canaan.
They thirsted not, & c., i.e. they shall not thirst. He speaks of things to come, as if they were already past or present, as the prophets commonly do.
God having in the next foregoing verses foretold, that peace and blessed deliverance which he would certainly give to his servant Jacob, Isaiah 48:20, he here adds an explication and limitation of this mercy, and declareth that wicked men should not enjoy the benefit of this mercy; where, by the wicked, he means either,
1. The Babylonians, who well deserved that title; who shall be destroyed, when God’s Israel shall be delivered: or rather,
2. The unbelieving and ungodly Jews, of whom these very words are used again, Isaiah 57:21, and to whom such a denunciation as this was far more proper and necessary, at least in this place, than to the Babylonians; for he had already said far more and worse things than this concerning them, having again and again declared that Babylon should be destroyed, in order to this deliverance of God’s people out of it. But there was great need why he should say this to the ungodly Jews, because they were exceeding prone to cry, Peace, peace to themselves, when there was no solid ground of peace; and they confidently expected a share in this great deliverance. This therefore was a very seasonable caution to the Jews in Babylon to take heed to themselves, and to prepare for this mercy, and to purify themselves from ali wickedness; because those of them who should either wickedly tarry in Babylon, when God invited and required them to go out of it, and when their godly brethren returned to their own land, and to the place of God’s worship; or continue in wickedness, when they were restored to their own country; should not enjoy that tranquillity and comfort which they promised to themselves. And the necessity of this commination appears from the event; for the Jews that returned to Canaan did, for the most part, relapse to many of their former sins, and therefore fell short of that peace and prosperity which otherwise they might have enjoyed.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 48". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29