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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 48

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Isaiah 48:0


Israel's ObstinacyIsrael Refined for God's GloryHear and SeeGod is Lord of the FutureYahweh Has Foretold Everything
Isaiah 48:1-11(1-11)Isaiah 48:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 48:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 48:1-2(1-2)Isaiah 48:1-11(1-11)
Isaiah 48:3-5(3-5)Isaiah 48:3-5(3-5)Isaiah 48:3-5(3-5)
Isaiah 48:6-8(6-8)Isaiah 48:6-8(6-8)Isaiah 48:6-8(6-8)
Isaiah 48:9-11(9-11)Isaiah 48:9-11(9-11)Isaiah 48:9-11(9-11)
Deliverance PromisedGod's Ancient Plan to Redeem Israel Cyrus, the Lord's chosen LeaderYahweh Has Chosen Cyrus
Isaiah 48:12-16(12-16)Isaiah 48:12-13(12-13)Isaiah 48:12-13(12-13)Isaiah 48:12-13(12-13)Isaiah 48:12-15(12-15)
Isaiah 48:14-16(14-16)Isaiah 48:14-16(14-16)Isaiah 48:14-15(14-15)Israel's Destiny
Isaiah 48:16(16a)Isaiah 48:16-19(16-19)
The Lord's Plan for His People
Isaiah 48:17-19(17-19)Isaiah 48:17-19(17-19)Isaiah 48:17-19(17-19)Isaiah 48:17(17)
Isaiah 48:18-19(18-19)The End of the Exile
Isaiah 48:20-22(20-22)Isaiah 48:20-21(20-21)Isaiah 48:20-22(20-22)Isaiah 48:20-22(20-22)Isaiah 48:20-22(20-22)
Isaiah 48:22(22)

READING CYCLE THREE (see Guide to Good Bible Reading)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. As YHWH addressed Babylon in Isaiah 46:0 and 47, He now addresses His people, His returnees, His faithful remnant.

B. Notice the different ways Israel is referred to.

1. O house of Jacob, Isaiah 48:1

2. who are named Israel, Isaiah 48:1

3. who came from the loins of Judah, Isaiah 48:1

4. who swear by the name of the LORD, Isaiah 48:1

5. who invoke the God of Israel, Isaiah 48:1

6. you are obstinate, Isaiah 48:4

7. you have been called a rebel from birth, Isaiah 48:8

8. O Jacob, Isaiah 48:12, Isaiah 48:20

C. Notice the different titles and descriptions of YHWH

1. the name of the LORD, Isaiah 48:1

2. the God of Israel, Isaiah 48:1, Isaiah 48:2

3. I am He, Isaiah 48:12

4. I am the first, I am the last, Isaiah 48:12

5. the LORD (YHWH), Isaiah 48:14, Isaiah 48:17, Isaiah 48:20, Isaiah 48:22

6. the Lord GOD (Adon YHWH), Isaiah 48:16

7. Redeemer, Isaiah 48:17

8. the Holy One, Isaiah 48:17

9. the LORD your God, Isaiah 48:17

D. There are several significant and theologically important verses in this section of Isaiah that will be developed in the NT.

1. Isaiah 45:23

2. Isaiah 46:8-11

3. Isaiah 48:8-11

4. Isaiah 48:16

E. Leupold entitles this chapter “A Sharp Rebuke and a Gracious Challenge” (p. 158). This fluctuation between judgment and mercy characterizes prophetic literature and it happens side by side with little or no transition.

Verses 1-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 48:1-11 1”Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel And who came forth from the loins of Judah, Who swear by the name of the LORD And invoke the God of Israel, But not in truth nor in righteousness. 2For they call themselves after the holy city And lean on the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is His name. 3I declared the former things long ago And they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. 4Because I know that you are obstinate, And your neck is an iron sinew And your forehead bronze, 5Therefore I declared them to you long ago, Before they took place I proclaimed them to you, So that you would not say, 'My idol has done them, And my graven image and my molten image have commanded them.' 6You have heard; look at all this. And you, will you not declare it? I proclaim to you new things from this time, Even hidden things which you have not known. 7They are created now and not long ago; And before today you have not heard them, So that you will not say, 'Behold, I knew them.' 8You have not heard, you have not known. Even from long ago your ear has not been open, Because I knew that you would deal very treacherously; And you have been called a rebel from birth. 9For the sake of My name I delay My wrath, And for My praise I restrain it for you, In order not to cut you off. 10Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. 11For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another.”

Isaiah 48:1 “Hear” This is a common IMPERATIVE (BDB 1033, KB 1570) for Isaiah, as well as Deuteronomy, Kings, Job, Psalm, and Amos, to begin a new section (cf. Isaiah 1:2, Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 7:13; Isaiah 28:22; Isaiah 36:13; Isaiah 37:17; 47:18; Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 46:12; Isaiah 47:8; Isaiah 48:1, Isaiah 48:14, Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 51:1, Isaiah 51:7; Isaiah 55:2; Isaiah 66:5). YHWH wants His message “heard” and “lived out.” Revelation demands obedience! Truth is not only mental but lifestyle!

NASB, NRSV“from the loins of Judah” NKJV“from the wellsprings of Judah” TEV“you who are descended from Judah” NJB“issued from the waters of Judah”

There are three Hebrew words that attempt to explain this text.

1. “waters,” וממי (the UBS Text Project gives it a “B” rating, p. 128)

2. “loins,” וממעי (NASB, NRSV, AB)

3. “seed,” ומזרע

All of these Hebrew terms are metaphorical of the descendants by natural means of a group, tribe, family.

Notice that all the descendants are designated by

1. Jacob

2. Israel

3. Judah

This implies the returnees (mostly from the southern three tribes called Judah) from exile. Israel now refers to all of Abraham's seed, as it did before the United Monarchy split in 922 B.C.

“Who swear. . .invoke” Both of these VERBS refer to worship acts.

1. swear by the name (cf. Isaiah 19:18; Isaiah 65:16)

2. invoke (lit. “cause to remember,” Hiphil, cf. Isaiah 12:4; Isaiah 26:13; Isaiah 62:6)

NASB, NKJV, LXX“But not in truth nor in righteousness” NRSV“But not in truth or right” TEV“But you don't mean a word you say” NJB“Though not in good faith or uprightness” JPSOA“Though not in truth and sincerity” REB“But not with honesty and sincerity”

Wow, what a condemning evaluation of Israel's worship! The term “truth” is אמת (BDB 54) and means “faithfulness.” See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the OT.

For the second word, ץדקה (BDB 842) see Special Topic below.


Isaiah 48:2 The first two lines remind me of Jeremiah's “Temple Sermon” in Jeremiah 7:0, where the Israelites trust in the temple but not in YHWH.

1. call themselves after the holy city (BDB 894, KB 1128, Niphal PERFECT, cf. Isaiah 48:1)

2. lean on the God of Israel (BDB 701, KB 759, Niphal PERFECT)

Their worship looked orthodox and pious but it was false and directed to the wrong source.

Isaiah 48:3 YHWH again speaks (notice the number of “I's”) of His control of time and history. He uses predictive prophecy to show His people His existence and power.

Isaiah 48:4 YHWH describes His people as

1. obstinate (cf. Ezekiel 2:4; Ezekiel 3:7)

2. neck is an iron sinew

3. forehead is bronze

“know” This word (BDB 393, KB 390) is used several times in this chapter (cf. Isaiah 48:4, Isaiah 48:6, Isaiah 48:7, Isaiah 48:8 [twice]), where it means “knowledge about,” but it should mean “intimate fellowship with.”

Isaiah 48:6 There is some question about how the VERBS of the first two lines should be translated. I like the NJB's version, “You have heard and seen all this, why won't you admit it?”

The “it” refers to YHWH's predictions (cf. Isaiah 48:5). YHWH proves His existence by His knowledge of and control of future events affecting all nations not just Israel/Judah.

For “new things” see full note at Isaiah 62:2.

Isaiah 48:8 “deal very treacherously” This intensified grammatical form is a Qal IMPERFECT and a Qal INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE of the same root (BDB 93, KB 108).

“a rebel from birth” See Deuteronomy 9:7. Even in the exit from Egypt, Israel was idolatrous (i.e., Ezekiel 20:8, Ezekiel 20:13; Amos 5:25-26).

Isaiah 48:9 This is a good summary of YHWH's problem with Abraham's seed. He wanted to use them so that the world would know Him and come to Him (cf. Genesis 12:3, see Special Topic at Isaiah 40:15). But they were not faithful. He had declared, “the soul that sins it will die” (i.e., Genesis 2:16, Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4, Ezekiel 18:20). Now God's word and God's purpose come into conflict. He will choose to act for the greater good (i.e., salvation of all humans, cf. 1 Samuel 12:22; Psalms 106:8; Jeremiah 14:7; Ezekiel 20:8-9, Ezekiel 20:14, Ezekiel 20:17). The text that describes this so well is Ezekiel 36:22-38! YHWH acts for Israel for His greater purpose! Is this not what Isaiah 48:11 is affirming? This is the wonderful message of Isaiah. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Verses 12-16

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 48:12-16 12”Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. 13Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together. 14Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The LORD loves him; he will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon, And His arm will be against the Chaldeans. 15I, even I, have spoken; indeed I have called him, I have brought him, and He will make his ways successful. 16Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit.”

Isaiah 48:12 “I am He, I am the first, I am also the last” This is a recurrent idiom in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6) and becomes a common designation for Christ in Revelation 1:8, Revelation 1:17; Revelation 22:13! It denotes the God of creation (Isaiah 48:13) and eternity. Eternity past, eternity future. The only God is YHWH (see Special Topic: MONOTHEISM).

Isaiah 48:14 The two IMPERATIVES of line 1 are repeated in Isaiah 48:16, line 1.

Also note the parallelism between “the LORD loves him” and “His arm.” Cyrus is God's instrument against Babylon on behalf of Israel.

Isaiah 48:15 The first phrase (“I, even I, have spoken,” BDB 180, KB 210, Piel PERFECT) is a way of accepting the power of YHWH's spoken word (cf. Isaiah 55:11). His purposes cannot be thwarted!

Isaiah 48:16

NASB“now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit” NKJV“and now the Lord GOD and His Spirit have sent Me” NRSV“and now the Lord GOD has sent me and his spirit” TEV“Now the Sovereign LORD has given me his power and sent Me” NJB“and now Lord Yahweh has sent me with his spirit” JPSOA“and now the Lord GOD has sent me, endowed with His Spirit” LXX“and now the LORD has sent me and his spirit”

Wow! How many persons and who are they who are being mentioned? Who is the speaker? Obviously one is YHWH. His Spirit is probably the same as Genesis 1:2; Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 61:1. But who is the “me”?

1. the “I” of line 3

2. the prophet Isaiah

3. the Messiah (or the Servant)

4. Cyrus II (as if speaking)

Christians can easily see the Trinity in this text (see Special Topic: The Trinity). The same three persons are mentioned again in Isaiah 61:1.


Verses 17-19

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 48:17-19 17Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go. 18If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea. 19Your descendants would have been like the sand, And your offspring like its grains; Their name would never be cut off or destroyed from My presence.”

Isaiah 48:17 “the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” This is a recurrent title in this section of Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 49:7, Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 54:5, Isaiah 54:8). It is expressed in a slightly different but parallel way in Isaiah 49:26, “I the LORD, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” See Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

“who teaches you to profit” This is “profit” (BDB 418 I, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT) in the sense of advantage (cf. Job 21:15; Job 35:3; Jeremiah 12:13; Isaiah 47:12). Often it is used of what idols cannot do for the worshiper (cf. Isaiah 44:9, Isaiah 44:10; Isaiah 57:12; 1 Samuel 12:21; Jeremiah 2:8; Jeremiah 7:8, Jeremiah 7:11; Jeremiah 23:32; Habakkuk 2:18).

“Who leads you in the way you should go” This is the Semitic idiom of the righteous life as a “good path” (cf. Psalms 32:8; Psalms 119:105). Here it probably refers to YHWH's presence and provision on the way home from exile (cf. Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 49:9-10).

Isaiah 48:18-19 This is a “what if. . .” text that reflects the covenant blessing and cursing of Leviticus 26:0 and Deuteronomy 27-29. Israel sinned and reaped the terrible consequences. She was created for righteousness and revelation, but disobedience and idolatry led to darkness and confusion.

Verses 20-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 48:20-22 20Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans! Declare with the sound of joyful shouting, proclaim this, Send it out to the end of the earth; Say, The LORD has redeemed His servant Jacob.” 21They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts. He made the water flow out of the rock for them; He split the rock and the water gushed forth. 22”There is no peace for the wicked,” says the LORD.

Isaiah 48:20 This is a series of commands to the returning Jewish exiles.

1. Go forth from Babylon - Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 422, KB 425)

2. Flee from the Chaldeans - Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 137, KB 156)

3. Declare with the sound of joyful shouting - Hiphil IMPERATIVE (BDB 616, KB 665)

4. Proclaim this - Hiphil IMPERATIVE (BDB 1033, KB 1570)

5. Send it out to the end of the earth - Hiphil IMPERATIVE (BDB 422, KB 425)

6. Say. . . - Qal IMPERATIVE (BDB 55, KB 65)

YHWH announces to His people to leave exile and go home. To the world He announces His purpose (cf. Isaiah 62:11; Jeremiah 31:10; Jeremiah 50:2) and that He has accomplished it! He wants the world to know so they will come to know Him (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 45:22-23; Isaiah 51:4-5; Isaiah 60:1, Isaiah 60:3; Acts 13:46-49)!

Isaiah 48:21 The return from Assyrian and Babylonian exile was seen as a new exodus and wilderness wandering. YHWH will provide their every need. He will be with them as He was with the Israelites during the exodus.

Isaiah 48:22 This is a summary statement related to unbelievers, idolaters (cf. Isaiah 57:21; Isaiah 59:8). Any path without YHWH is a path of destruction and ruin. This decision-making process is known in the OT as “the two ways” (cf. Deuteronomy 30:15; Psalms 1:1; Proverbs 4:10-19; Jeremiah 21:8; Matthew 7:13-14).

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 48". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/isaiah-48.html. 2021.
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