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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 43

A.M. 3294. B.C. 710.

After the threatenings recorded at the close of the foregoing chapter, God here revives his people with encouraging declarations and promises.

(1,) As the Creator, Redeemer, and Lord of Israel, he engages to be present with them in their manifold afflictions, to support them under and deliver them out of them, and to protect and enlarge his church, Isaiah 43:1-7 .

(2,) He challenges idolaters to produce among their gods any that could vie with him in knowledge and power, and appeals to his people as witnesses, Isaiah 43:8-13 .

(3,) He encourages them to expect deliverance from Babylon, and a new state of things, from the consideration of what he did for their fathers when he brought them out of Egypt, Isaiah 43:14-21 .

(4,) To humble and bring them to repentance, and thereby prepare them for the reception of such great mercies, they are reminded of, and reproved for, the sins whereby they had provoked God to send them into captivity, and to continue them so long therein, Isaiah 43:22-28 .

Verses 1-2

Isaiah 43:1-2. But now, thus saith the Lord But, notwithstanding thy gross insensibility under former judgments, for which I might justly send far heavier calamities upon thee, yet I will deal mercifully with thee. That created thee, O Jacob, &c. Who made thee his people, and that in a manner as miraculous as if he had created thee a second time out of nothing; and therefore he will be gracious to his own workmanship. Fear not; for I have redeemed thee From the Egyptians and divers other enemies; and therefore I will redeem thee again. I have called thee by thy name, &c. The name of God’s people, which was as proper and peculiar to them as the name of Israel. Or, “I have made a particular choice of thee for my peculiar people, and singled thee out from the rest of the world, and ever since have treated thee with uncommon instances of kindness and familiarity.” When thou passest through the waters, &c. “I will support and deliver thee when thou art in the greatest straits and difficulties. To pass through fire and water is a proverbial expression, to signify being exposed to all kinds of dangers.” Thou shalt not be burned, &c. Though I will chastise thee for thy sins, yet I will not suffer thine enemies utterly to destroy thee.

Verses 3-4

Isaiah 43:3-4 . I gave Egypt for thy ransom Some think this was fulfilled when God smote the firstborn and others in Egypt, and afterward drowned Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea, for the safety and benefit of his people. But it is more “commonly referred to the time of Sennacherib’s invasion; who, when he was just ready to fall upon Jerusalem, soon after his entering Judea, was providentially diverted from that design, and turned his arms against the Egyptians; and their allies the Cushean Arabians, with their neighbours the Sabeans, probably joined with them, under Tirhakah: see chap. 20., and 37:9. Or, as there are some reasonable objections to this opinion, perhaps it may mean, more generally, that God had often saved his people at the expense of other nations, whom he had, as it were, in their stead, given up to destruction.” Bishop Lowth. Since thou wast precious, &c., thou hast been honourable That is, from the time that I chose thee for my precious and peculiar treasure and people, I have had a great esteem and affection for thee. Bishop Lowth translates the clause, Because thou hast been precious in my sight, thou hast been honoured, &c. Vitringa thinks the prophet refers to the deliverance from Sennacherib, whereby God abundantly showed that the Jewish nation was precious and honourable in his sight; and the men, in the last clause, refers to the Assyrians, and the people to the Chaldeans. The Assyrians suffered a fearful slaughter (chap. 37:36) for the sake of the Jews, and the empire of the Chaldees was to be overturned by the Medes and Persians to procure their deliverance. In both which instances God abundantly testified that his church was precious, and honourable in his sight, and much beloved by him.

Verses 5-7

Isaiah 43:5-7. I will bring thy seed from the east, &c. Although the Jews, for their sins, shall 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 have threatened; yet I will bring back their posterity into Canaan, from all the places where they are dispersed. I will say to the north, Give up Thou, who hast so long held my people in bondage, resign them to me, and permit them to return to their own land. He speaks to the countries by a prosopopœia. Bring my sons from far Not only permit, but assist and further their return. Every one that is called Rather, every one is called, or, they are all called, by my name I own them for my people and children; and, therefore, what kindness or cruelty you exercise toward them, I take it as done to myself. I have created him for my glory And therefore I will glorify my power, and goodness, and faithfulness in delivering them. I have formed him I have not only created them out of nothing, but I have also formed and made them my peculiar people. We must observe, however, that while Isaiah “appears to speak of one thing only, two are understood: the less includes the greater. Speaking literally and properly of the collection of the dispersed church from Babylon, a more noble collection, the spiritual one, of the converted Jews and Gentiles to the church of Christ, was in his view; and this is described in expressions taken from the external collection of the church from Babylon, and the restoration of the republic under the Maccabees; exactly in the same manner as in chap. 11:12, which should be compared with this place. The 7th verse plainly shows that the spiritual seed of Israel is spoken of. Every one that is called by my name, means, every one who is truly my son; for to be called by the name of any one is to be his son.” See chap. 45:5, and Vitringa.

Verses 8-10

Isaiah 43:8-10. Bring forth the blind people, &c. O ye idolatrous Gentiles, bring forth your false gods, which have eyes but see not, and ears but hear not. 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. And show us former things Such things as shall happen long before the return from the captivity, which yet your blind idols cannot foresee. See on Isaiah 41:22. Let them bring forth their witnesses Who can testify the truth of any such predictions of theirs, that they may be owned for true gods; or if they can produce no evidence of any such thing, let them confess that what I say is truth, that I am the only true God. 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. And my servant whom I have chosen Either Isaiah and other prophets, the singular word being put collectively, or, the Messiah, as not only Christians, but the Chaldee paraphrast understands it; who was thus described, (Isaiah 42:1,) and who is the most eminent witness in this cause; and that on two accounts; 1st, As he was the chief subject of prophecy, and the various particulars foretold concerning him came exactly to pass; and, 2d, As many future things were predicted by him, of which we have many examples in the New Testament. That I am he He whom I have affirmed myself to be, namely, the true God. Before me there was no God formed The gods of the heathen neither had a being before me, nor shall continue after me. Wherein more is understood than is expressed; that whereas Jehovah is God from everlasting to everlasting, these false pretenders to deity were but of yesterday, and should shortly be abolished. And withal he calls them formed gods, by way of contempt, and to show the ridiculousness of their pretensions to divinity, who are formed by the hands of men.

Verses 11-13

Isaiah 43:11-13. Besides me there is no saviour None that can and does save his worshippers: wherein is implied, that the false gods were not only weak and unable to save those that trusted in them, but also were their destroyers, as being the great cause of their ruin. I have declared, and have saved I first foretold your deliverance, and then effected it. And l have showed, when there was no strange god, &c. Rather, I made it known; nor was it any strange god. So Bishop Lowth. This divine prescience and predicting of future events is thus repeatedly insisted upon, because it is the principal argument used here, and in chap. 41., to determine this controversy between Jehovah and idols. Yea, before the day was Before all time: or, which is the same, from all eternity. I am he I am God, and have proved myself to be so. None can deliver out of my hands None of those that are called gods 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.

Verse 14

Isaiah 43:14. For your sake I have sent to Babylon I have sent Cyrus, and the Medes and Persians with him, to war against Babylon, to this very end, that he might deliver you out of captivity, and restore you to your land, according to my promise. I have brought down From that height of power and glory to which they were advanced; all their nobles Their princes and great commanders. Bishop Lowth prefers the reading of the margin, (the word בריחים properly signifying bars,) and renders the next clauses, I will bring down all her strong bars, and the Chaldeans exulting in their ships. On which he observes, “Babylon was very advantageously situated, both in respect to commerce, and as a naval power. It was open to the Persian gulf by the Euphrates, which was navigable by large vessels; and, being joined to the Tigris above Babylon, by the canal called Naharmalca, or the royal river, supplied the city with the produce of the whole country to the north of it, as far as the Euxine and Caspian seas. Herod, 1., 194. We are not to wonder that in later times we hear little of the commerce and naval power of Babylon: for, after the taking of the city by Cyrus, the Euphrates was not only rendered less fit for navigation by being, on that occasion, diverted from its course, and left to spread over the country; but the Persian monarchs, residing in their own country, to prevent any invasion by sea on that part of their empire, purposely obstructed the navigation of both rivers, by making cataracts in them, that is, by raising dams across the channel, and making artificial falls in them; that no vessel, of any size or force, could possibly come up. Strabo, lib. 16. Alexander began to restore the navigation of the river by demolishing the cataracts upon the Tigris, as far up as Seleucia; but he did not live to finish his great designs: those upon the Euphrates still continued.”

Verses 16-17

Isaiah 43:16-17. Which maketh a way in the sea, &c. Who, as he formerly made a way for Israel through the Red sea, will, in a no less wonderful manner, remove all impediments out of the way of his people when they return from Babylon. Which bringeth forth Or, rather, who brought forth, the chariots, &c. That is, Pharaoh and his chariots, horses, and army. They shall lie down, &c. They lay down together In the bottom of the sea, whence they never rose again to molest the Israelites. They are quenched as tow As the wick of a candle is extinguished when it is put into water.

Verses 18-19

Isaiah 43:18-19. Remember ye not the former things 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, and those blessings which shall follow upon it, and particularly that of sending the Messiah, shall be so transcendent a favour, that, in comparison thereof, all your former deliverances are scarcely worthy of your remembrance and consideration. See two parallel texts, Jeremiah 16:14-15; Jeremiah 23:5-8. From which passages laid together it appears that this latter deliverance, compared with that out of Egypt, is not to be confined to their restoration from captivity, but to be extended to the consequences thereof, and especially to the redemption of the Messiah. Indeed, otherwise the deliverance from Egypt was more glorious and wonderful, in many respects, than that out of Babylon. Behold, I will do a new thing Such a work as was never yet done in the world. Now it shall spring forth The Scripture often speaks of things at a great distance of time, as if they were now at hand, to make us sensible of the inconsiderableness of time and all temporal things, in comparison of God and eternal things; upon which account it is said, that a thousand years are in God’s sight but as one day. Shall ye not know it? Certainly, you Jews shall know it by experience, and shall find I do not deceive you with vain hopes. I will make a way in the wilderness, &c. 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 through the great desert which lay between Babylon and Judea, so it is mystically meant of those spiritual blessings which God, in and through Christ, would confer upon all his people, not the Jews only, but also the Gentiles, who, in prophetical language, are often compared to a wilderness.

Verse 20

Isaiah 43:20. 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; the dragons, &c. Which live in dry and barren deserts. “The image,” says Bishop Lowth, “is elegant and highly poetical. God will give such an abundant, miraculous supply of water to his people traversing the dry desert, in their return to their country, that even the wild beasts, the serpents, the ostriches, and other animals that haunt those adust regions, shall be sensible of the blessing, and shall break forth into thanksgiving and praises to him for the unusual refreshment which they receive from his so plentifully watering the sandy wastes of Arabia Deserta, for the benefit of his people passing through them.”

Verses 22-24

Isaiah 43:22-24. But thou hast not called upon me Thou hast grossly neglected, or very negligently and hypocritically 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 a bondage. “The connection is: But thou, Israel, whom I have chosen, whom I have formed for myself, to be my witness against the false gods of the nations; even thou hast revolted from me, hast neglected my worship, and hast been perpetually running after strange gods. The Jews were diligent in performing the external services of religion; in offering prayers, incense, sacrifices, oblations; but their prayers were not offered with faith, and their oblations were made more frequently to their idols than to the God of their fathers.” Neither hast thou honoured me If thou didst not neglect sacrificing to me, thou didst perform that duty merely out of custom; or didst dishonour me, and pollute thy sacrifices by thy wicked life. I have not wearied thee Or, Although I have not wearied thee, &c. Although God had not laid such heavy burdens upon them, nor required such costly offerings, as might give them cause to be weary, nor such as idolaters did freely perform in the service of their idols. Thou hast brought me no sweet cane This was used in the making of that precious ointment, (Exodus 30:34,) and for the incense, Exodus 30:7. See Jeremiah 6:20. Thou hast been niggardly in my service, when thou hast spared for no cost in the service of thine idols. Nor filled me, &c. Thou hast not multiplied thy thank-offerings and free-will-offerings, though I have given thee sufficient occasion to do so. But thou hast made me serve, &c. Thou hast made me to bear the load and burden of thy sins.

Verse 25

Isaiah 43:25. I, even I Whom thou hast thus despised, and wearied, and provoked to destroy thee; am he that blotteth out thy transgressions Out of my book, in which they were all written, to be read unto thee, and charged upon thee at a future day. Sins are often compared to debts, (Matthew 6:12, &c.,) 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. And will not remember thy sins So as to punish them, and destroy thee for them, as thou deservest.

Verse 26

Isaiah 43:26. Put me in remembrance Of thy good deeds and merits. Let us plead together I give thee free liberty to urge all thou canst in thy own behalf. Declare thou, that thou mayest be justified Bring forward all thou canst, in order to thy justification, and declare on what ground thou expectest to be acquitted, and continued in my favour. But perhaps the words are not to be considered as spoken ironically, and intended as a rebuke to such as were proud and self-righteous; but are rather to be understood as a direction to penitent sinners, showing them how they might obtain the pardon offered in the preceding verse. Is God thus ready to pardon sin; and, when he pardons it, will he remember it no more? Let us then put him in remembrance, mention before him those sins which he forgives; for they must be ever before us, to humble us, even though he pardons them, Psalms 51:3. We must put him in remembrance of the promises he has made to the penitent, and of the satisfaction his Son has made for them. We must plead these with him when we implore a pardon, and declare these things, in order that we may be justified freely by his grace. This is the only way, and it is a sure way, to pardon and peace.

Verses 27-28

Isaiah 43:27-28. Thy first father hath sinned Some think that Urijah, who was high-priest in the time of Ahaz, is here especially meant: see 2 Kings 16:10-11. But it is more probable that the expression is put for their forefathers collectively; and so he tells them, that as they were sinners, so also were all their progenitors, yea, even the best of them. Thus Lowth: “Your ancestors, reckoning from Adam downward, have been sinners, and you have trod in their steps:” see Ezekiel 2:3; Ezekiel 16:2, &c.; Ezra 9:7. And thy teachers have transgressed, &c. Your prophets, priests, and teachers, who ought to have been guides to you, and intercessors for you with God, have led you into sin and error, and therefore you have no reason to fancy yourselves innocent. Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary The highest and best of your priests, whose persons were most sacred, and therefore were supposed, by themselves and others, to be the farthest from danger. As they had made themselves profane, so have I dealt with them as such, without any regard to the sacredness and dignity of their functions. Have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches Have exposed them to contempt and destruction, and made them a proverb of execration and reproach to all the neighbouring nations.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 43". Benson's Commentary. 1857.