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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 41

 

 

Verses 1-7

II.—THE SECOND DISCOURSE

The First Appearance of the Redeemer from the East and of the Servant of Jehovah, and also the First and Second Conversion of the Prophecy relating to this into a Proof of the Divinity of Jehovah.

Isaiah 41

1. THE FIRST CHIEF FIGURE: THE DELIVERER CALLED FROM THE EAST. THE FIRST APPLICATION OF THE PROPHECY AS A TEST OF DIVINITY

Isaiah 41:1-7

1 Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people [FN1]renew their strength;

[FN2]Let them come near; then let them speak:

[FN3]Let us come near together to judgment.

2 Who raised up [FN4]the righteous man from the east,

Called him to his foot,

Gave the nations before him,

And made him rule over kings?

[FN5]He gave them as the dust to his sword,

And as driven stubble to his bow,

3 He pursued them, and passed [FN6]safely;

[FN7]Even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.

4 Who hath wrought and done it, [FN8]calling the generations from the beginning?

I the Lord, the first,

And with the last; I am he.

5 The Isles saw it, and feared;

The ends of the earth were afraid,

Drew near, and came.

6 They helped every one his neighbour;

And every one said to his brother,[FN9]Be of good courage.

7 So the [FN10]carpenter encouraged the [FN11]goldsmith,

And he that smootheth with the hammer [FN12]him that smote the anvil,

[FN13]Saying, it is ready for the sodering:

And he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 41:1. קרב–החריש. Isaiah 41:2. מזרה–העיר. Isaiah 41:3. רדף. Isaiah 41:4. אַחֲרֹנִים–רִאשׁוֹן–דּוֹר–פעל. Isaiah 41:5.–חרד אָתָה. Isaiah 41:6. חַזַק–עָזַר. Isaiah 41:7. הלם–פטישׁ–מחליק–צרֵֹף–חָרָש

Isaiah 41:1. We have a pregnant construction in, החרישׁו אלי comp. Job 13:13.

Isaiah 41:2. The perfect מִי הֵעִיר‏ is only the prophetic perfect, representing the fact of awaking, not as one actually past, but as actually certain, i. e., all the same as happened. It indicates thus the objective reality, but not the time, as indeed generally the Hebrew modi express primarily not the time but the modality of being. The same is true of העי‏ותי Isaiah 41:25.—What is the object of הֵעִיר? Modern expositors, since Vitringa, so far as I see, are all of them of the opinion that the words צדק יקראהו לרגלו, to be construed as a relative clause, are the object: him whom right (salvation, victory) meets at his feet. This exposition rests on the Masoretic punctuation But this does not give an absolute rule. It has the great disadvantage that it compels us to take יקרא in the sense of יִקְרֶה and לרגלו, accordingly, in the sense of “before him,” “ante pedem ejus.” Now the first would present no difficulty, since קרא occurs often enough in the sense of קרה. But the latter is very serious since לְרֶגֶל in all other places of its occurrence means “to follow on the feet of.” In Genesis 30:30 it stands directly in antithesis with לְפָנַי: “little hadst thou before me, but it spreads out to a multitude behind me” (on my foot לְרַגְלִי). Deuteronomy 33:3 תֻּכּוּ לְרַגְלֶךָ is “they turned after thy foot-print,” (comp. Schrader in loc). Compare the usage in 1 Samuel 25:42; Job 18:11; Habakkuk 3:5. Only in these passages does רֶגֶל occur with לְ denoting place. Thus the objection to taking לרגלו in the sense of “obviam, towards,” is certainly justified. Then we must take קרא and לרגלו in their common meaning, “to call,” and “after him.” Moreover we must take צדק as object of העיר as all the ancient translations and many later expositors have done. The LXX.: τίσ ἐξήγειρεν ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν δικαιοσύνην, ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὴν κατὰ πόδας αὐτοῦ; Vulg. quis suscitavit ab oriente justum, vocavit eum, ut sequeretur se, etc.—The expression יתן לפניו reminds one of Deuteronomy 28:7; Deuteronomy 28:24-25.—If we take יַרְדְּ as Hiph. of רָדָהconculcare,” then it means “conculcare faciet.” Of course מְלָכִים is object: he will make him trample down kings.” But it might be taken as Kal. (יַרְדְּ instead of יֵרְדְּ on account of the pause). The only difference in sense would be: “he will himself trample down.”—יתן כעפר וגו׳. It seems to me over-ingenious, when Delitzsch construes the כְּ as the mere intimation of a comparison that is left to the reader’s fancy to be completed. All depends on making חרבו and קשׁתו subject. That it does not read תִּתֵּן because חֶרֶב and קֶשֶׁת are feminine, makes not the least difficulty. For the ideal subject is “he” that holds the sword and bow. Comp. Isaiah 17:5; Isaiah 51:5. Rueckert, Knobel and others needlessly supply אֲשֶׁר before יתן. After יתן one may supply אוֹתָם, as often the pronominal object is omitted (comp. Genesis 2:19; Genesis 6:19 sqq, and especially 1 Kings 22:6; 1 Kings 22:15, where also the object is omitted after נתן); or, still more simply, one may regard כעפר and כקשׁ as the immediate object of יתן: “his sword shall make like dust, his bow like scattered chaff,” i. e., sword and bow when set to work will produce that effect, likeness to dust and chaff.—Note the assonance in יַרְדְּ and נִדָּף,יִרְדְּפֵם and קַשׁ,יִרְדְּפֵּם and קַשְׁתּוֹ.

Isaiah 41:3. שָׁלוֹם either adjective or adverbial accusative.—I believe that יַֽעֲבֹר and יָבוֹא stand in antithesis. For, as is well known, בּוֹא often has the sense of going back in antithesis to verbs meaning “to go thither, go out.” Thus יצא and בוא are often used in antithesis; comp. Joshua 6:1; 1 Kings 3:7. Hence they are used of the rising and setting of the sun ( Genesis 19:23; Isaiah 13:19, and Genesis 15:12; Genesis 15:17; Genesis 18:11, etc.). Comp. Isaiah 37:28; Numbers 27:17 : 1 Samuel 29:6; 1 Kings 15:17; 2 Chronicles 1:10, etc.). But בוא also stands in antithesis to other verbs in this sense; thus Psalm 126:6. “Forth goes the bearer of the seeding, hither comes with rejoicing the bearer of his sheaves.” Consider in addition that probably ברגליו corresponds to לרגלו Isaiah 41:2. For בְּרֶגֶל פ׳ is to the question “where?” the same that לְרֶגִל פ׳ is to the question “whither?” Thus to go בְּרַגְלֵי פ׳ very often means “to go on the track of one” (comp. Exodus 11:8; Judges 4:10; Judges 8:5; 1 Samuel 25:27; 2 Samuel 15:17, etc.). One may, indeed, translate ברגליו in our text: “he will not measure backwards with his feet the way;” for in itself it may very well mean that (comp. Numbers 20:19; Deuteronomy 2:28; Judges 4:15; Judges 4:17; Proverbs 19:2, etc.). But every one feels that this sense here were superfluous. It might be urged in reference to taking בוא in the sense of redire, that then, too, ברנליו were superfluous. But the antithesis of עָבָר and בּוִא is not so pregnant as that of יצא and בּוֹא, and hence the Prophet’s intended meaning of this word is not so plainly recognizable, and indeed, so far, as I know, no one has recognized it. Thus, to give a hint to the reader of the sense he would convey by יבוא, the Prophet adds ברגליו.

Isaiah 41:4. When הוּא stands emphatically for God, as it does here, it always refers backward, either to an unnamed and unnameable something in the preceding context, yet known as assumed, that involves the notion the One-All who upholds all things and comprehends everything. So it seems to me to be used Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 48:12. In such a case הוּא is predicate. Or it so refers back to that great Unnamed, that is known to be taken for granted, that it appears as in apposition with the subject. Then it = talis. הוּא is used thus of men, Jeremiah 49:12, and after מִי Isaiah 50:9, etc. But it stands for God in this sense, 2 Samuel 7:28; Isaiah 37:16; Nehemiah 9:6-7. But it can also be predicate in this way, that it only introduces the predicate notion as one already known. Then it is = ille, Isaiah, and always has a participle after it (ego sum ille, qui, comp. Isaiah 51:9-10, אַתְּ־הִיא Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 51:12.—But further הוּא appears also to be the simple connecting “it,” which says that the preceding statement appertains as predicate to the subject represented by אַתָּה or אֲנִי Isaiah 43:13; Jeremiah 14:22; Psalm 44:5. But finally הוּא serves the purpose of affirming the identity of the predicate clause with the predicate of a preceding clause that is expressed or implied. Then it acquires the meaning idem. So here and Psalm 102:28 (comp. Job 3:19; Hebrews 13:8). In our passage הוּא manifestly affirms that Jehovah is with those that are last that one that He was as the first, i. e., the same.

Isa 41:5. איים see Isa 41:1; and on קצות הארץ see Isa 40:28.

Isaiah 41:7. Drawing the accent back in הולם to avoid the collision of two tone syllables is normal, but the change of Tsere to Seghol is not normal (comp. Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 66:3; Numbers 17:23; 24:22; Ezekiel 22:25). The latter is probably occasioned by the effort to better imitate the beat of the hammer strokes.—פַּעַם in the sense of “anvil” only here.—One need not construe אֹמֵר participle. It may stand in the sense of a finite verb (comp. Isaiah 2:6; Isaiah 24:2; Isaiah 29:8; Isaiah 32:12).—דֶּבֶק adhaesio, agglutinatio signifies that whereby the work of the צרף is joined to that of the חרשׁ; לְ= “in reference to” ( Isaiah 5:1; Genesis 20:13, etc.).

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. God has a twofold object in view: 1) He would announce that He will raise up for His people a deliverer from the East; this is the chief contents of the first Ennead2) By this act of deliverance He would demonstrate His divinity in contrast with the nothingness of idols. This twofold object He attains by summoning the heathen nations to a trial in which He gives the proofs of His divinity ( Isaiah 41:1-5); but they on their part do not respond, for the powerlessness of their idols is shown by a brief reference to the manner in which they originate ( Isaiah 41:6-7).

2. Keep silence——judgment.

Isaiah 41:1. With reverential silence (comp. on יגשׁו ו׳) must the islands (comp. on Isaiah 40:15) come to the Lord. For that He is the speaker appears from Isaiah 41:1-2, and especially from Isaiah 41:4. The expression יחליפּו כח, “ they shall renew their strength,” stands here so near to Isaiah 40:31, that we must regard it as a link that binds the two chapters together. The Lord would intimate by these words that the task the nations will have to perform before the judgment, is a difficult one, that therefore they must “in respect to strength make change,” i. e., renew strength, put on new strength. [“As if He had said: they that hope in Jehovah shall renew their strength; but those that refuse renew theirs as they can.”—J. A. A.] The Lord demands politeness, reverence from the nations even before the controversy is decided, so certain is He that He will gain it. They must not come on with rude noise, but modestly and then speak. למשׁפט, “to judicial trial,” is used here as in Isaiah 54:17; Numbers 35:12; Joshua 20:6; Judges 4:5; 2 Samuel 15:2; 2 Samuel 15:6. If Jehovah is Himself a party, who is then the judge? To this question Rosenmueller (with whom Delitzsch agrees) well replies: “Vocantur gentes in judicium ad tribunal non Dei sed rationis.”

3. Who raised——with his feet.

Isaiah 41:2-3. With these words the Lord deposeth before the judgment a proof of His divinity. It does not consist merely in the fact that the deeds of the hero announced here shall give their right to the people of God, i. e., deliverance from the unrighteous tyranny of the heathen, while He will destroy the latter; but above all it consists in the fact that the Lord prophesies the appearance of the hero, and thus stakes His honor on the fulfilment of it. For that this hero brings deliverance to the people may be accident, an effect of His fancy, of arbitrariness, of a ruler’s caprice. In hat would therefore lie no strict proof of the divinity of Jehovah. But if Jehovah prophesies the appearance and doing of that hero, and it happens accordingly, then it is proved that the Lord is a living, omniscient, and almighty God. One may not object that “what is future and unfulfilled would be without present power to prove” (Delitzsch). For the text has nothing to do with an historical, actual disputation with heathen, in which, of course, a prophecy would be no proof. But the supposed disputation is only a rhetorical form that the Prophet uses in order to make the Israelites sensible of their folly and wrong, who, though they knew the living divinity of Jehovah, and that idols were without life, turned to the latter notwithstanding. This meaning appears by a comparison with Isaiah 41:21 sqq. For there the idols are very expressly challenged to prophesy future events, and from their powerlessness to do so is inferred their nothingness. And hence it appears to me that the verses1–7 stand first as theme. The redemption, that in them is only intimated, is more particularly described, Isaiah 41:8-20, while Isaiah 41:21-29 amplify in respect to the way in which the appearance of the deliverer will be a proof for Jehovah who had foretold it, and against the idols which were unable to foretell it. Thus I do not believe that the argumentation of the Prophet presupposes the victorious career of Cyrus as begun, either in an ideal or in a real sense. It is wholly a thing of the future, and must be so contemplated. For how otherwise could the Prophet prophesy it?

It is plain that Cyrus is the hero referred to, and not Abraham, or Christ, or even the Apostle Paul, as, until Vitringa, was the opinion of the ancient expositors. The way for naming this name, which is produced at last in Isaiah 44:28, is prepared with much art. The hints of its coming may be compared to the gleams of light that, beginning feebly, and increasing in strength and extent, precede the sunrise. The first hint is that the East is to be the point whence the grand appearance shall issue. Persia in fact lies east of Babylonia. It accords also with the purpose of beginning small that the Prophet does not once name a definite, personal object of העיר. We must take צדק as that object (see Text and Gram.) Regarding the meaning of צדק, I would repeat the remark already made, that the Old Testament righteousness is not the antithesis of grace, but of violent oppression, and hence that a צדיק, “righteous Prayer of Manasseh,” is one who, though he has the power to the contrary, still lets right reign, and thereby both uses gentleness and dispenses happiness, salvation, and blessing [see comm. on Isaiah 1:21; Isaiah 1:26, Tr.]. Israel in exile was oppressed by its enemies, and though in respect to Jehovah this was a deserved punishment, still their enemies had, ex propriis, aggravated it, and thereby done a wrong to Israel (comp. Isaiah 10:5 sqq.). If now the hero from the East acts justly toward Israel, he shows himself to be a mild lord, and helps Israel to its rights against the oppression of the heathen, and thereby to happiness and salvation. Hence I believe that all these meanings are implied in צֶרֶק. But they can only become operative through a person, a צדיק, “righteous man.” To this latent notion in צדק, of a righteous Prayer of Manasseh, the following suffixes [pronouns] must be referred. It suits the purpose of the Prophet already noticed, to let the person of the deliverer appear by degrees and unfold itself. One may say that his personality develops itself here, as it were, out of an impersonal germ. This one awakened to do righteousness the Lord calls after Him (comp. Isaiah 42:6, which passage the Masorets perhaps had in mind when they connected צדק with יקראהו), i. e., he leads him further and fur ther [לרגלו, see Text. and Gramm.]. Is there thus in יקראהו לר׳ a formal definition of העיר, so in יתו there is a definition as to matter. The words last named say what the hero, by extending his power, will do. All these clauses stand under the influence of the interrogative מִי. Nations are properly not things that one gives away, and kings rule and are not themselves ruled. But here is an exception. Jehovah gives to this hero nations to do as he pleases with them, and subjects kings to him so that they must serve him. His sword made them as dust, etc., describes the degree to which they are given to him which was before said in יתן and ירד. His sword and bow, once set to work, will do such work that the result will be the likeness of dust and chaff (see Text. and Gram.) On קַשׁ see on Isaiah 40:24; נִדַּף comp. Isaiah 19:7. But not merely a battle in one place shall occur, but also pursuit of the fugitives. Hebrews, the conquering hero, shall go on well-preserved (שׁלום), and always forwards, never backwards (see Text. and Gram. on ארה ברגליו, etc.). He will not go back in his own foot-prints (il ne reviendra pas sur ses pas). [J. A. A. agrees with Ewald, “the clause describes the swiftness of his motions, as flying rather than walking on foot,” and cites in support Daniel 8:5.—Tr.].

4. Who hath wrought——and came.

Isaiah 41:4-5. The Lord has announced a majestic appearance of world-wide significance. But, though it is something still future, He has let it appear as an image of the past before the eyes of those that were summoned. Hence, as Isaiah 41:2 He asked: “who has awakened?” so He now asks, using the past tense, who has prepared and made this? Of course the same that foreknew and predicted it, and who could do this because He is the One who from the beginning called the generations of men into existence, and hence can say of Himself: I Jehovah the first and I am still with the last (see Text. and Gram.). The Lord summoned the heathen to a controversy ( Isaiah 41:1). He has laid down the proof of His divinity ( Isaiah 41:2-4). Now it is the turn of the heathen to produce a similar performance on the part of their idols. Notice that the Prophet opposes the heathen nations to God, and not their idols. This is quite natural. For the idols have no actual existence. Hence it comes that the heathen must defend the cause of their idols; whereas Israel’s God defends the cause of His people. Therefore, obedient to the summons of Isaiah 41:1, the heathen nations approach. They see the proof that the Lord has presented in His own favor, and with dismay, for they know at once that they cannot match the performance with any thing similar. And so they approach trembling, as it were, to look at this trial-sample of Jehovah’s on all sides. That they would have said something is not declared. Speechless they keep silence before the majesty of the Lord.

5. They helped——be moved.

Isaiah 41:6-7. It is too incredible that the heathen, seized with fear, and in order to find help against the threatening appearance of the predicted hero, turn in haste to the fabrication of idol images (Delitz.), or that they nailed fast those threatened by Cyrus (Hitzig). No, these verses would show, by the manner in which idols originate, that they cannot possibly triumph in the controversy to which they are challenged ( Isaiah 41:1). How can such productions of men’s hands maintain themselves against Him who can speak of Himself as in Isaiah 41:4? I accordingly connect Isaiah 41:6 with what follows, and not with what precedes. For Isaiah 41:5 evidently corresponds to Isaiah 41:1. For there the nations are required to approach reverently and in silence; for this very reason they are unable to respond to the “they shall speak” ( Isaiah 41:1): there the nations are called on to get strength, and Isaiah 41:5 we see them draw near, afraid and trembling; “they drew near” and “came” of Isaiah 41:5 corresponds to “they shall approach,” “we will draw near” (נקרבה יגשׁו) of Isaiah 41:1. With this the cyle of thought beginning with Isaiah 41:1 is concluded. Thus Isaiah 41:5 looks backwards; Isaiah 41:6 forwards. The latter says in general the same that Isaiah 41:7 a says in reference to particular relations. Both verses have for their chief idea that idol-making is a fatiguing labor, costing not only much money ( Isaiah 40:19), but also much sweat, in which one must encourage and aid the other in order to get it done. What a shameful difference then between idols and Jehovah.

The חָרָשׁ, “smith,” prepares the body of the image; the צֹרֵף, “founder,” makes ready the covering. The former strengthens the latter by good preparatory work and cheering words. “The smoother with the hammer” seems to me to be identical with the צרף, for the metal would surely be smoothed by him who moulded it. On the other hand, the הוֹלֶם פַעַם, “the smiter on the anvil,” is identical with the חרשׁ; for he that works at the anvil makes the iron body, makes the nails, and fastens the image with them. “The smoother with the hammer” is the subject of אֹמֵר, for he has made the soldering, and by the call “it is good” he cheers “the smith” to continue and complete the work that consists in fastening the image with nails to the place where it is to be set up. “It is good,” comp. Exodus 2:2; Genesis 1:4; Genesis 1:8, etc. מַסְמְרִים, “clavi,” only here in Isaiah. Comp. Jeremiah 10:3-5, which passage is evidently copied after ours and Isaiah 40:19 sq.; Isaiah 44:9-17; Isaiah 46:6 sq. לאימוט, comp. Isaiah 40:20.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - shall renew.

FN#2 - Then shall come, they shall speak.

FN#3 - We will come.

FN#4 - Heb. Righteousness.

FN#5 - His sword shall make them as dust, his bow, etc.

FN#6 - Heb. in peace.

FN#7 - He returns not the way on his foot-prints.

FN#8 - he that called.

FN#9 - Heb. Be strong.

FN#10 - the smith.

FN#11 - Or, founder.

FN#12 - Or, the smiting.

FN#13 - Or, Saying of the soder, It is good.


Verses 8-13

2. THE SECOND CHIEF FIGURE: THE SERVANT OF JEHOVAH ISRAEL CHOSEN IN ABRAHAM AND CALLED IN GLORIOUS VICTORY

Isaiah 41:8-13

8 But thou, Israel, [FN14]art my servant,

Jacob whom I have chosen,

The seed of Abraham my friend.

9 Thou whom I have [FN15]taken from the ends of the earth,

And called thee from the [FN16]chief men thereof,

And said unto thee, Thou art my servant;

I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away

10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee:

[FN17]Be not dismayed; for I am thy God:

I [FN18]will strengthen thee; yea, I [FN19]will help thee;

Yea, I fwill uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

11 Behold, all they that were incensed against thee

Shall be ashamed and confounded

[FN20]They shall be as nothing;

And [FN21]they that strive with thee shall perish.

12 Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them,

Even [FN22]them that contended with thee:

[FN23]They that war against thee

Shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.

13 For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand,

Saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 41:8. אֹהֵב—בָּחַר Isaiah 41:9. אָצִיל. Isaiah 41:10. אָמַץ—שָׁעָה. Isaiah 41:11 כָּלַם. Isaiah 41:12. אֶפֶם.

Isa 41:9. On קצות הארץ see Isa 40:28.

Isaiah 41:10. תשׁתע, Hithp. from שָׁעָה stands here in the sense of “to look anxiously about.”—כי אני אלהיד occurs only here; see Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 51:15.—On עָזַר see. Isaiah 41:6.

Isaiah 41:11. נחרים again only Isaiah 45:24.—אַנְשֵׁי רִיב only here in Isaiah; comp. Judges 12:2; Job 31:35; Jeremiah 15:10.

Isaiah 41:12. מַצּוּת jurgium, ἅπ. λεγ.; comp. Isaiah 58:4, and נצה rixari, Isaiah 37:26.—אנשׁי מלִח׳ only here in Isa. comp. Isaiah 42:13; Jeremiah 50:30; Ezekiel 27:10.

Isaiah 41:13. מחזיק ימינד only here; comp. Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 51:18.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. But thou Israel——away.

Isaiah 41:8-9. In the preceding section ( Isaiah 41:1-7) the Prophet has introduced the principal figure of the prophetic cycle, chaps40–48. With this is immediately connected another: the Servant of Jehovah in a national sense.

But thou Israel is evidently contrasted with “islands and people,” Isaiah 41:1. The Prophet turns to Israel with well-founded and glorious consolation. The Lord calls His people Israel my servant. We encounter here for the first time this significant notion of the עֶבֶד יהוה. Yet not the subjective, but the objective side of the notion is made prominent. The nation is not so named because it has chosen the Lord for its God out of the great mass of gods that, according to heathen ideas, are in existence, therefore not because “Jehovah was its national god in contrast with other nations, the servants of Baal, Moloch,” etc. (Hitzig). On the contrary, they are so named because the Lord has chosen Israel for His possession, His instrument, His servant. For a servant is the property of his lord, and Israel is the “peculiar people” ( Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Psalm 135:4; Malachi 3:17). But Israel is chosen in its ancestor Abraham, whom, already, the Lord calls “my servant” Genesis 26:24, which passage easily comes to mind, since Isaiah 41:10 is evidently a citation from it. Thus Abraham was not only chosen for his person, though what he was personally by God’s grace, fitted him to be for all times a pattern of the right sort of “servant of Jehovah,” even in subjective respects. Hence he is called My friend. For love is the fulfilling of the law, and involves faith ( Genesis 15:6; Deuteronomy 6:5). In 2 Chronicles 22:7 Abraham has the same title; also in James 2:23. In Arabic his regular surname is Chalil-Allah, i.e., “confidant of God.” Abraham was chosen that by his seed all the nations of the earth might be blessed. And after Isaac and Jacob, this seed was to be the “great nation” that the Lord would make of Abraham ( Genesis 12:2), and to which He would give the land of his pilgrimage (ibid. Genesis 41:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18, etc). Accordingly Israel is the servant of Jehovah primarily as the seed of Abraham. This is purely an objective honor and dignity, belonging to the nation by reason of the election of their ancestor, but of which, of course, it must make itself worthy by worshipping Jehovah alone as its God, and serving Him with its entire being and possessions. On the parallelism of Israel and Jacob see Isaiah 40:27.

With great emphasis the Prophet repeats in various forms the thought that Israel is Jehovah’s chosen servant. Whom I have taken, [or “grasped”] החזקתי (see Isaiah 41:6-7) expresses that the Lord stretched out His hand after Israel to seize it (comp. Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 51:18) and bring it to Him; thus that He alone was active in this, while Israel was passive. By the ends of the earth the Prophet, whose viewpoint is Palestine, means the distant lands of the Euphrates. Concerning the situation of Ur Kasdim see Schrader, D. Keilinschr. u. d. A. T. p383. The monuments prove that the present ruin of Mugheir (on the right bank of the Euphrates south-east from Babylon) was Ur. אציל is probably related both to אציל, Exodus 24:11, nobilis, princeps—properly the extremest, extremus, thus in some sense also summus, comp. יַרְכְּתֵי הארץ, and also to אֵצֶלlotus, juxta. It occurs only here. Yet twice again, Isaiah 41:9, it is affirmed that in choosing Israel Jehovah alone was active. Once by I have called thee, and then by I have chosen thee. Finally the thought is confirmed by the negative expression I have not cast thee away. Evidently underlying this last is the thought that the Lord might indeed have rejected Israel, in fact that He was near doing it (comp. Deuteronomy 7:7 sq.), but that He did not do it. Therefore, spite of considerations that existed, He has still on reflection and on purpose chosen Israel.

2. Fear thou not——I will help thee.

Isaiah 41:10-13. Having set forth the election of Israel in Abraham as emphatically the basis of the relation between Himself and His people, the Lord now infers the consequences. These are positive and negative: Israel need not fear, the Lord helps them; their enemies must be destroyed. The words fear not for I am with thee are quoted from Genesis 26:24 with only עִמְּךָ for אִתְּדָ. On “fear not” comp. Isaiah 40:9. The context shows that אמצתי is used here as in Isaiah 44:14; Psalm 80:18 with the meaning “to make firm, sure, viz, the choice of one object out of several.” The idea is not an invigoration imparted to Israel, but the election made sure (comp. 2 Peter 1:10, βεβαίαν ποιεῖθαι τὴν ἐκλογήν). תָּמַדְ is also used in a similar sense. Comp. Isaiah 42:1 and Matthew 12:18, where תמך is rendered αἱρετίζειν, The expression ימין עדקי occurs only here. It can only mean the right hand that does right in the Old Testament sense, on which comp. Isaiah 41:2. The relation of the three verbs of the second clause of Isaiah 41:10 seems to me to be the following: אמץ signifies the sure election, from which follows, on the one hand, the helping, on the other, the not letting go again. The correlative of this promise is the threat ( Isaiah 41:11) of destruction to their enemies. This thought is presented in various forms in what follows ( Isaiah 41:11-12). Isaiah 41:11 a it appears as a theme, and Isaiah 41:11 b–12b give it a three-fold amplification: first the opponents are called אנִשי ריב (contestants, opponents in general), and it is said “they shall be nothing and shall perish;” then they are called אנשׁי מצות (rixatores, objurgatores) that one shall seek and not find; finally they are called א׳ מלחמה (enemies in war, hostes), and it is said of them that, not only they are not to be found, but that they shall absolutely no more exist. In conclusion, Isaiah 41:13, the protecting and helping presence already promised Isaiah 41:10 is repeated to the nation as the ground of its expecting victory. That Isaiah 41:13 has the character of a confirmatory repetition appears from הָאֹמֵר וגו׳. For האמר expressly refers to the comforting words “fear not,” “I have helped thee,” as having been used by the Lord ( Isaiah 41:10).

Footnotes:

FN#14 - omit art.

FN#15 - seized.

FN#16 - their borders.

FN#17 - Look not around.

FN#18 - have made thee (i. e thine election) sure.

FN#19 - omit will.

FN#20 - They shall be as nothing and destroyed thy adversaries.

FN#21 - Heb. the men of thy strife.

FN#22 - Heb. the men of thy contention.

FN#23 - Heb. the men of thy war.


Verses 14-20

3. THE SERVANT OF GOD, WEAK AND LOWLY, YET IN GOD THE STRONG PEOPLE OF ISRAEL, RICHLY BLESSED WITH SALVATION AND DIVINE KNOWLEDGE

Isaiah 41:14-20

14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye [FN24]men of Israel;

I [FN25]will help thee, saith the Lord,

And thy redeemer, [FN26]the Holy One of Israel.

15 Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument

Having [FN27]teeth:

Thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small,

And shalt make the hills as chaff.

16 Thou shalt [FN28]fan them, and the wind shall carry them away,

And the whirlwind shall scatter them:

And thou shalt rejoice in the Lord,

And shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

17 [FN29]When the poor and needy [FN30]seek water, and there is none,

And their tongue faileth for thirst,

I the Lord will hear them,

I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

18 I will open rivers in [FN31]high places,

And fountains in the midst of the valleys:

I will make the wilderness a pool of water,

And the dry land springs of water.

19 I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the [FN32]shittah tree,

And the myrtle and [FN33]the oil tree;

I will set in the desert the [FN34]fir tree,

And the [FN35]pine, and the [FN36]box tree together:

20 That they may see, and know,

And consider, and understand together,

That the hand of the Lord hath done this,

And the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See the List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 41:14. קדושׁ ישׂראל–גָּאַל–נְאֻם י׳–מְתִים–תּוֹלַעַת. Isaiah 41:16 הָלַל–מְעָרָה–זָרָה Isaiah 41:18 מוֹצָא–אֲגַם. Isaiah 41:19. אֶרֶז בְּרוֹשׁ–הֲדַם–שִׁטָּה–. Isaiah 41:20. בָּרָא–שָׂכַל.

Isaiah 41:14. It is to be noted that the Lord addresses Israel as a weak woman, Isaiah 41:14-15 a in the second pers. fem.; whereas Isaiah 41:15 b, 16, the one dashing down the enemies is right away addressed in the masculine as a man. [This seems over-refinement. The fern, form of the verb and suffixes are prompted by the principal noun תּוֹלַעַת; in the masculine forms following, the idea of the person addressed is resumed, according to common usage.—Tr.].

Isaiah 41:17. העניים והאביונים put first shows that they are to be regarded as casus absoluti. It is still uncertain whether נָשָׁ‍ֽתָּה is derived from נָשַׁת,נָשָׁה or from שָׁתַת. The latter seems to me the least likely, since it means ponere, fundare, stabilire, from which the meaning defecit, exaruit can be got only by straining. We must comp. Isaiah 19:5; Jeremiah 51:30. I had rather, with Olshausen, assume a root נָשַׁה=exaruit, defecit, kindred to נָשָׁה. Then נָשָֽׁתָּה would be third person fern. Kal, in pausal form, with Dagesch affectuosum.——In the second clause of Isaiah 41:17, אֲנִי is the common subject of the two clauses, with both יהוה and אלהי י׳ in apposition, and it is to be noted that the latter stands in parallelism for the former, as indeed the God of Israel is actually called Jehovah.

Isaiah 41:20. After יָשִׂימוּ is to be supplied, not only לֵב (comp. Isaiah 41:22), but עַל לֵב ( Isaiah 42:25; Isaiah 47:7; Isaiah 57:1; Isaiah 57:11; comp. Isaiah 44:19). Thus the proper order of thought is restored: that they see, know, take to heart and gain an insight into. Moreover this form of expression occurs in Isaiah only in the places cited. The omission of לֵב occurs in various senses, Psalm 50:23; Job 4:20; Job 23:6; Job 34:23; Job 37:15; Judges 19:30.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The Servant of God is here still the people Israel; but what is properly characteristic of this notion is made prominent, viz.: the suffering and lowliness. But at the same time the Prophet does not omit to say very emphatically that this poor servant of God will be also a mighty and irresistible instrument of judgment in the hand of Jehovah. Thus Israel is addressed “worm Jacob,” “little people” Israel,” and that with the use of a feminine verbal form, whom, however, the Lord will help to rid itself of its enemies ( Isaiah 41:14-16), and will bless with abundance of good things ( Isaiah 41:17-19), in order that all may know that He alone is God ( Isaiah 41:20).

2. Fear not——of Israel.

Isaiah 41:14-16. The expressions “little worm,” “little people” are evidently intended to paint the wretchedness and weakness of Israel. The former recalls Psalm 22:6 “I am a worm, and no Prayer of Manasseh,” and also the description of the suffering servant of God, Isaiah 53:2 sqq. Comp. too, Job 25:6. Yet one cannot but see in this “worm Jacob” the transition of the servant of God to the “form of a servant,” and thus recognize an intimation that the suffering people of God is also a type of the suffering Saviour. The expression מתי ישׂראל also, which recalls מְתֵי מִמְפָּר, i.e., a few people, that may be counted ( Genesis 34:30; Deuteronomy 4:27; Psalm 105:12; 1 Chronicles 16:19, comp. שָׁוְא, Job 11:11 : Psalm 26:4), involves the meaning of weakness, inconsiderableness, lowliness. גָּאַל is the antithesis of מָכַר (comp. Leviticus 25:25; Leviticus 25:48). The word frequently occurs in a juristic sense; but frequently, too, of Jehovah, who as next of kindred, so to speak, redeems His people that has been sold into the hand of their enemies.

Yet what a contrast! The Lord makes this worm Jacob a mighty instrument of judgment against the nations. חרוץ, that occurs Isaiah 10:22 in a figurative sense, and Isaiah 28:27 as designation of the threshing roller itself, signifies here a quality of the latter, viz.: the being sharp. Sharp, new, and double-edged (פיפיות only here in Isaiah, comp. Psalm 149:6) shall the roller be. As such a roller lacerates the bundles of grain, and as the similarly formed harrow crushes the clods, so shall Israel rend and crush mountains and make hills like chaff, etc. This prophecy has not been fulfilled by the fleshly Israel, or at least only in a meager way, the best example being the Maccabees. But by the spiritual Israel it has had glorious fulfilment in spiritual victories.

3. The poor——created it.

Isaiah 41:17-20. From the preceding Isaiah 41:14-16, which are parallel with these, it appears that these verses do not promise to the returning exiles merely the needful refreshment through the desert, thus connecting say with Isaiah 40:10-11. Isaiah 41:14-16 do not describe something that the exiles are to effect before they can betake themselves home; and just as little do Isaiah 41:17 sqq, speak of something relating only to the return. Isaiah 41:14-20 describe the condition of salvation in general, which Israel shall experience after the exile. Isaiah 41:17 sqq, can only refer to the return from exile so far as that belongs to that condition. Taking the wretched that seek water, etc., as parallel with “worm Jacob,” etc., we understand Isaiah 41:17-20 to describe all the conditions that caused the existence of Israel before its redemption to appear like a life in the desert. As in Isaiah 41:14 sq. the “worm” is suddenly transformed into a mighty threshing sled, so here dry places are suddenly transformed into richly watered places, covered with glorious vegetation.

Isaiah 41:18-19 say how the Lord will hear the prayers of the languishing. He will open the earth (comp. Psalm 105:41) (פָּתַח, by metonomy, the cause instead of the effect, as often, comp. Isaiah 14:17; Jeremiah 40:4) to let streams burst forth even on bald hills, and in valleys, etc. מוֹצָאplace of issue” Isaiah 58:11, comp. Psalm 107:35 and Isaiah 35:1; Isaiah 35:7.

In describing the vegetation seven trees in all are named, which perhaps is not accidental. אֶרֶז, “cedar” is generic: שִׁטָּה (from שָׁנָט, “to be pointed, to prick “Arabic sant, Egyptian schonte, comp. Herz. R-Encycl. XV p95, and Jerome on our passage) “the acacia;” only here in Isa. הֲדַם “the myrtle,” that grows as a tree in Anterior-Asia, and in Greece (see Victor Hehn, Kulturplanzen u. Hausthiere, p 143 sqq.: Herz. R-Encycl. X:142). By עֵץ שֶׁמֶן, in contrast with זֵית שׁמן ( Deuteronomy 8:8), is commonly understood the wild olive, oleaster, ἀγριέλαιος ( Romans 11:17; Romans 11:24). The LXX. translates κυπάρισσον; Celsus supposes resinous trees in general. This last would be a good way of getting over the difficulty, seeing the expression is strange for the wild olive. For it gives no oil, being partly without fruit (see Hehn, l. c. p45) partly yields fruit that is applicable for making salve and not oil (Herz. B-Encycl. X p547). But as in Nehemiah 8:15עֲלֵי זַיִת and עֲלֵי עֵץ שֶׁמֶן are mentioned together as needful for constructing the leafy booths, one must suppose the wild olive is meant. The expression occurs only 1 Kings 6:23; 1 Kings 6:31-33, where the עצי שׁמן are mentioned as material for the cherub-figures, and the doors and posts of the Holiest. The following words “the fir,” etc., occur verbatim Isaiah 60:13. בְּרוֹשׁ “the cypress” (according to MoversPhoen. I. p575 sqq. Berot, Berut is the name of the divinity of nature that was supposed to dwell in trees). Comp. Hehn, l. c. p 192 sqq. The words תדהר and תאשׁור remain to the present unexplained. They occur again only 6013 which is to be regarded as a repetition of the present passage, דָּהַר is a Hebrew word. We read מוּם דֹהֵר “the galloping horse,” Nahum 3:2, and Judges 5:22 paints מִדַּֽהְַרוֹת דַּ‍ֽהְַרוֹת אַבִּירָיו almost like quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum. But dahr in Arabic means “tempus, seculum.” It is the Hebrew דּוֹר (comp. מוּל and מוּר,מָֹהַל and נוּר,מָהַר and נָהַר, etc.). However one may mediate the notions “currere, cursus” and “tempus, seculum,” whether by the notion of haste or that of circuit, still the meaning of lasting, continuance, longevity seems also to belong to the sphere of the root דָּהַר. And perhaps this is still more the case in the dialects than in Hebrew itself; comp. the Chaldee תְּדִּירָאcircuitus, perpetuitas=תָּמִיד, with which it would agree that תדהר, which does not elsewhere occur in Hebrew, is probably a cognate foreign word, i.e., belonging to a kindred dialect. The plane-tree appears not to be indigenous in Palestine, for it is no where mentioned among trees that grow there. If ערמון is really the plane-tree, it signifies a tree not growing in Palestine as appears from the context of the two places of its occurrence ( Genesis 30:37; Ezekiel 31:8). תדהר might thus, in the Prophet’s day, be a name for the plane-tree borrowed from some kindred dialect, and that was given to it because of its longevity. Descriptions of giant specimens of the plane-tree such as that of Hehn, l. c. p198 sqq, prove that it attains a great age, and prodigious size. Hehn says: “The praise of the plane-tree fills all antiquity.” Again: “Greece received the plane-tree and the fashion of esteeming it from Asia, where the plane-tree like the cypress from ancient times was regarded with religious veneration by the tree-loving Iranians and the Iranian races of Asia-Minor.” According to this, one might almost think it strange if the plane-tree were omitted from mention with the cypress in an enumeration of the glorious trees that were to adorn the desert road of Israel returning from the Iranian territory (for that we may include also the idea of the return was mentioned above). Hence I am inclined, until better instructed, to regard the תדהר, with Saadia, Gesenius, Delitzsch and others, as the planetree. תְּאַשּׁוּר, from אָשַׁרrectus, erectus fuit, is held by the ancients to be either “the box-tree “or “the sherbin cedar.” Hehn, against the meaning box-tree, appeals to Theophrast who ranks the πύξος among the φιλόψυχρα, i.e., among the vegetation that cannot endure a warm climate. A designation like “recta, erecta” suits the cedar admirably, and as the name sherbin undoubtedly stands for the cypressus oxycedrus (see Gesen. Comm.; Niebuhr, Description of Arabia, p149; Delitzschin loc.), we may for the present be content with the meaning “Sherbin.”

All these glorious acts will the Lord accomplish for the purpose of bringing His people to the full, deep and abiding knowledge that He has effected such things, and that thus He alone is to be revered as God. The Lord had often before wonderfully delivered His people, and they had often returned to Him then as their God. But this knowledge had never been right comprehensive and thorough. They had always in a little while turned again to idols. When the Lord terminates the great Babylonian captivity, then the nation will renounce idols forever and serve the Lord alone. This also came to pass. יַחְדָּו (comp. Isaiah 40:5) relates to the subject: all shall know it. But if the Prophet means by these “all” primarily the redeemed, those poor and wretched ( Isaiah 41:17) that needed these wonders of God, still in this emphatic יחדו there seems to be also a reference to all in the widest sense to whom this knowledge would be proper. בראח comp. Isaiah 45:8.

Footnotes:

FN#24 - Or, few men.

FN#25 - omit will.

FN#26 - supply is.

FN#27 - Heb. mouths.

FN#28 - scatter.

FN#29 - omit When.

FN#30 - seeking.

FN#31 - bare hills.

FN#32 - acacia.

FN#33 - wild olive.

FN#34 - cypress.

FN#35 - plane-tree.

FN#36 - sherbin-cedar.


Verses 21-29

4. THE SECOND CONVERSION OF PROPHECY INTO A TEST OF DIVINITY

Isaiah 41:21-29

21 [FN37]Produce your cause, saith the Lord;

Bring forth your [FN38]strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.

22 Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen:

Let them show the former things, what they be,

That we may [FN39]Consider them, and know the latter end of them;

Or [FN40]declare us things for to come.

23 Show the things that are to come hereafter,

That we may know that ye are gods:

Yea, do good, or do evil,

[FN41]That we may be dismayed, and behold it together.

24 Behold, ye are [FN42]of nothing,

And your work [FN43]of [FN44]nought:

An abomination is he that chooseth you.

25 I have raised up one from the north, and he [FN45]shall come:

Prom the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name:

And he shall come upon [FN46]princes as upon mortar,

And as the potter treadeth clay.

26 Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know?

And beforetime, that we may say, [FN47]He is righteous?

Yea, there is none that [FN48]showeth, yea, there is none hthat declareth,

Yea, there is none that hheareth your words.

27 [FN49]The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them:

And I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.

28 [FN50]For I beheld, and there was no man;

Even among them, and there was no counsellor,

That, when I asked of them, could [FN51]answer a word.

29 Behold they are all vanity;

Their works are nothing:

Their molten images are wind and confusion.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurring of the words: Isaiah 41:21. רִיב–קָרְבוּ. Isaiah 41:22. הבאות—אחרית. ver23 אתיות אָחוֹר––. Isaiah 41:25. טִיט––רָמַם––יוֹצֵר––חֹמֶר. Ver26. מֵרֹאשׁ Isaiah 41:28. יוֹעֵץ Isaiah 41:29. תֹהוּ––רוּחַ––אֶפֶם––אָוֶן נֶמֶךְ––

Isaiah 41:21. עַצֻּמָה is ἅπ. λεγ. The root meaning is robora, comp. עָצוּם “strong,” עֲצוּמִים “strength, might,” Psalm 10:10, תַּֽעֲצוּמם “fires,” Psalm 68:36.

Isaiah 41:23. אַף with וְ in the second clause appears not merely to have the meaning sive—sive, but there lies in אף something intensive in relation to what precedes, that we may best express by “yea.”—That וְ acquires the meaning “or,” appears from alternative questions “whether—or,” “num—an” being regularly expressed in Hebrew by אִם–וְאִם, and also that, exceptionally, simply וְ connects the two clauses ( Jeremiah 44:28; Ewald § 352 b).—The Kal נִרְאֶה (so K’thibh is to be read, whereas K’ri is to be pronounced וְנֵרֶא) occasions surprise. Perhaps we should read נֵרָא (first pers. plur. imperf. Niph, comp. יֵרָא Exodus 34:3; וַיֵרָא Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:1, etc.). As this first pers. plur. imp. Niph. happens not to occur again in the Old Testament, perhaps the Masorets preferred to point the consonants like the first pers. plur. imperf. Kal, which often occurs in the full form, but which also fails to occur in the apocopated form.

Isaiah 41:24. I translate מֵאֶֽפַע,מֵאַיִן here “out of the nothing,” whereas Isaiah 40:17 I maintained the comparative meaning of מִן 1think that we are justified in this by the difference of the verbs used in the two places. There נֶחְשַׁב was predicate, here it is the notion of being. There the rhetorical, exaggerated “more than nothing” was more suitable; here it suits better to take מן as indicative of origin.—There is no need of treating אפע as a copyist’s error for מֵאֶפֶם as many recent commentators do. The serpent name אֶפְעֶה ( Isaiah 30:6; Isaiah 59:5) i.e., “ sibilans, the whistler,” is proof enough that there is a verb פעה, kindred in sense to הֶבֶל, “breath, wind” (see on אפעה Isaiah 42:14). From this may be derived אֶפְעַי, from which אֶפַע, like אֶמֶשׁ from אַמְשַׁי אֶשֶׁךְ, from אַשְׁכַּי.

Isaiah 41:25. וַיַּאת contracted from וַיַּאַת, occurs only here, whereas the form וַיִּתֵא (from יֶֽאֱתֶה Proverbs 1:27; Job 37:22) occurs Deuteronomy 33:21.—קרא בשׁם is undoubtedly used in the sense of calling on God in worship. In itself the expression means “to call with the name,” not in the name; for בְּ is used here as instrumental. This appears from the fact that the expression elsewhere means a) “to call, name (one) with their name:” Exodus 35:30; Numbers 32:42; Isaiah 45:4 (I called to thee by means of thy name), or, with omission of the personal object, Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 45:3, etc.—b) “to shout, proclamare, proclamationem facere, κηρύσσειν, to give an announcing, instructing call by means of the name.” Thus, as I think, in those obscure passages, Exodus 33:19; Exodus 34:5, with which also Isaiah 45:5 connects. Here God sends forth a call in Moses’ ears, which is done by naming the Jehovah-name and giving its meaning, ibid Isaiah 41:6.––––I do not think that סְגָבִים is a specific Persian word. The word schihne, to which appeal is made, is modern Persian. The word is used Jeremiah 51:23; Jeremiah 51:28; Jeremiah 51:57; Ezekiel 23:6; Ezekiel 23:12; Ezekiel 23:23, and occurs in these passages as designation for Babylonian, Assyrian and Persian dignitaries. Thus the word appears to have been, I may say, international. Ezra uses it once Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah oftener: Nehemiah 2:16; Nehemiah 4:8; Nehemiah 5:7, etc. Later it even passed over into the vocabulary of recent Hebrew. Since Ezekiel speaks of Assyrian סגנים, we may assume that there were such, and as Babylon and Persia obtained dominion after Assyria, we may conjecture that the name came to them from Assyria. Then it cannot seem strange that Isaiah uses the word. מָנָן, Isaiah, however, really an Assyrian word. “The root sakan (שָׁבַן), connected with בוּן, is in Assyrian the usual word for ‘to place, appoint,.” Sakan, accordingly, denotes properly the one appointed, commissioned, then the. representative, vicegerent. Thus Schrader l. c. p270 Moreover, the word corresponds to the מצפון and ממזרח–שׁמשׁ. For one sees also from מגנים, that the raised-up ruler will be one who issues from the region of the Iranian tongue.

Isaiah 41:26. מִלְּפָנִים only here.

Isaiah 41:28. מֵאֵלֶּה is constr. Prœgnans: for the preposition מִן depends on a verb that is only ideally present. We must derive the notion “seeking out” from וְאֵרֶא.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. We showed above that with our Prophet the promise of deliverance out of exile, and the turning of this promise to account as proof of divinity, go hand in hand. Having now described in Isaiah 41:1-20 the redeemer ( Isaiah 41:2-3) and the redeemed ( Isaiah 41:8-16) and the destined salvation ( Isaiah 41:17-20), the Prophet goes on here to turn them to account in the way referred to. He had made a beginning of this in Isaiah 41:4-7 after the first mention of the saviour from the East, but did not carry out the thought there. It appears as if he would there content himself with a passing reference in contrast with the fright of the heathen at the alarming demands made on their faith in idols. But now, having presented all that related to the deliverance from exile, he proceeds in earnest. He pays no more regard to that reluctance proceeding from a bad conscience. He sets forth with all seriousness that the Lord regards His prediction of the deliverance as a proof of His divinity, and the inability of idols to predict anything, or in fact to do anything, as a proof of their nothingness. The more exact development consists in this, that here Jehovah challenges the idols themselves directly to a contest, and that, more plainly than in Isaiah 41:2 sq, He proffers His prediction as a proof of His divinity. Although the idols do not at all relish the contest, still they must come on and take up the gauntlet ( Isaiah 41:21-23). On their failure to tell anything they are pronounced to be nothing ( Isaiah 41:24). Then Jehovah repeats the prediction of a deliverer from the East ( Isaiah 41:25), and again shows that not the idols have foretold this ( Isaiah 41:26), but that Hebrews, Jehovah, would give this deliverer to His people for a saviour, and at the same time as a pledge of the fulfilment of further promises that reach into a still more remote future ( Isaiah 41:27). Finally the Prophet himself resumes the discourse, in order to establish the nothingness of his idolatrous quasi colleagues. For if the idols are nothing, Song of Solomon, too, must their interpreters show that they are know-nothings.

2. Produce your cause——chooseth you.

Isaiah 41:21-24. The Lord challenges the idols to come on and bring to a practical decision this cause, long pending in thesi, and produce the proofs that they have for their cause. One thinks involuntarily of Elijah’s challenge to the priests of Baal, 1 Kings 18:21 sqq. Jehovah is often called King of the chosen people (comp. on Isaiah 43:15); but the expression King of Jacob occurs only here (comp אֲבִיר יעקכ, Genesis 49:24; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 60:16; Psalm 132:2; Psalm 132:5, and משֵׁל ביעקב, Psalm 59:14). In Isaiah 41:22 the Lord addresses Israel, claiming them for His side, and identifying His and their cause. יַגִּישׁוּ connects as repetition with הגישו Isaiah 41:21. What they shall produce is their עצמות “bulwarks.” In what this producing proof shall consist is further explained by the words תקרינה־ויגידו (see Isaiah 45:21). By הרְשׁנות commentators understand either prius praedicta (Gesenius: “say what ye have formerly prophesied”), or the immediate future in contrast with the more remote, which they say is expressed by הבאות and אתיות לאחור. But in my opinion the former conflicts with the article, and the latter with usus loq. which forbids the distinction between ראשׁנות and באות as near and remote future. I think that ראשׁנת in contrast with הבאות can mean nothing but the past contrasted with the future. The immediate and proper meaning of the word is undoubtedly “first, beginning, original things.” Thus Genesis 41:20הַפָּרוֹת הר׳ are “the cows that first appeared.” Thus everywhere ראשׁגות are the first or beginning things or facts; whether prophecies or other things must be determined in each case by the context. Comp. Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 43:18; Isaiah 46:9; Isaiah 48:3. Here the Lord demands of the idols, that they shall either give correct information of the past, thus, as it were, of the roots or foundations of the course of the world, so that one may thereby infer what the future will be, or they shall foretell the future directly. The Prophet, as appears to me, assumes here that we may foretell the future directly and indirectly, as e.g., it is the same whether I say: the fruit of this tree will be apples; or the roots are those of an apple tree. For if the latter be true, then the fruit must be apples. The correct knowledge of the future depends on a correct knowledge of the past. Both have riddles revealed only to the omniscience of God, and hence both are tests of divinity. Such, I think, is the Lord’s meaning when He calls on the idols to produce the fundamental things of the past, and that according to their inmost being (מָה הֵבָּה). If they do this correctly, then it will be possible for attentive reflection (נָשִׂימָה לבֵּנוּ only here in Isaiah; comp. Exodus 9:21; Job 1:8; Job 2:3; Ezekiel 44:5) to know correctly the issue, thus the conclusion that falls in the future. Comp. especially Isaiah 46:10 sq, where the Lord names as a prerogative of His divinity the power to foretell from the beginning he final issue, from ancient time what has not yet come to pass. By אוֹ, “or else,” the alternatives offered to the idols to foretell the future directly, if they will.

Isaiah 41:23, the Prophet proceeds, summing up the idea of ראשׁנות and באות, both which relate to he future; Shew the things that are to be hereafter, i.e., whose realization is fixed for a more remote period. The concluding clause and we will know, etc., states ironically what must result if the idols meet the demand: they will then be recognized as gods. But the Lord proceeds, moderating His demand to the utmost, in order to strike his opponents only the harder: yea, do good or do evil (a proverbial expression, comp. Jeremiah 10:5; Zephaniah 1:12). Let them anyway do something. It is not meant; let them prophesy good or bad. The idea of their prophesying at all is dismissed with נרעה—“that we may know,” etc. The clause ונשׁתעה ו׳ (“to look eye in eye in conflict,” like התראה, 2 Kings 14:8; 2 Kings 14:11) presents the conclusion from what precedes. If the idols accept the challenge, then there may be a contest. If not, then eo ipso they are defeated. The idols neither accept nor decline; hence the Lord concludes with the contemptuous words of Isaiah 41:24. Are the idols nothings, then of course, those that choose them (comp. on Isaiah 41:8) are an abomination to the Lord. The expression תּועֵבָה, especially combined with יהוה, is very frequent in Deut. ( Deuteronomy 12:31; Deuteronomy 17:1; Deuteronomy 18:12; Deuteronomy 22:5, etc.) especially in reference to idolatry.

3. I have raised up——confusion.

Isaiah 41:25-29. Having proved the inability of idols to prophesy, the Lord produces a prophecy, that is a pledge of His divinity. Thus He risks all on this prophecy. His honor perishes if it is not fulfilled. As He does not fear the latter, but utters it with absolute confidence, He gives for the present, not indeed a judicial proof of His divinity, but still He raises a legal presumption in favor of it (prœsumtio juris, which, as is known, is something very different from a presumption (conjecture) in the common sense). And that even is something great, for it suffices for those that are honestly willing to know the truth. In Isaiah’s time still the people wavered between Jehovah and idols. Isaiah’s endeavor was to bring them to a decision for the Lord. These prophecies (40–66), meant for future consolation, were intended to affect also the present, i.e., to move the nation to believe in the Lord. If, then, Isaiah in Hezekiah’s time stood up so confidently for Jehovah, as he does here, every one at all susceptible of the truth must have said to himself: the Prophet would not dare so to speak were he not conscious of being warranted to do so. For he risks the utter ruin of his and his God’s cause, if this prophecy turn out to be an imposture. The prophecy, Isaiah 41:25, is somewhat oracular in form. In contents it has that obscurity peculiar to all images of the future, which rise so distant from the beholder that one is unable to detect their connection with the present, and thus the successive, organic genesis of their forms. It is further worthy of notice that the prophecy, Isaiah 41:25, connects with Isaiah 41:2-3. I have raised up, Isaiah 41:25, is like an answer to “who raised up,” Isaiah 41:2; from the north and from the rising define more particularly the simple “from the rising,” Isaiah 41:2; he shall call on my name corresponds to “called him to his foot,” Isaiah 41:2; and the following words that begin with יבוא, as Isaiah 41:3 closes, describe the irresistibleness of him that is called essentially in the same way as Isaiah 41:2 b, 3, with only this difference, that Isaiah 41:2 speaks of nations and kings in general, whereas Isaiah 41:25 the word סגנים (“satraps”) points even more plainly to the theatre where the one called performs. That העירותי, Isaiah 41:25, is without an object, corresponds to the terseness proper to the oracular style. The object is easily supplied, partly from Isaiah 41:2, partly from the following, ויאת וגו׳. That the one promised is called from the North, but comes from the East, is not to be pressed. The Prophet would only intimate that his point of departure is not merely the East, as might appear from Isaiah 41:2, but also from the North. We know how this occurred in the case of Cyrus. He arose as ruler of the (by him) united kingdoms of Media and Persia, the former of which lay north, the latter east of Babylon. יקרא בשׁמי, He shall call on my name (see Text. and Gram.) mentions another characteristic of the one called. That Cyrus actually did this appears from 2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2 sqq. He must have received vivid impressions of the reality of the God of Israel. Comp. on this Pressel in Herz, R-Enc. III, p232. We will not inquire whether Cyrus, in calling Jehovah “the God of heaven,” identified Him with Ahuramazda or not (comp. Zoeckler on 2 Chronicles 36:23). But it is historically attested in the most credible manner, and is in itself perfectly comprehensible, that God, who in general let the heathen go their own way ( Acts 14:16), should in an exceptional way give them extraordinary revelations of His being. In the period preceding the Christian era He did this in two significant epochs through Israel, in consequence of its missionary vocation, viz., in the two exiles, the Egyptian and the Babylonian. In both instances the revelation came to the dominant world-power at the moment of its highest prosperity. In regard to Egypt comp, e.g., Lepsius (Chronol. d. Egypter, I, p359), who calls the period of Moses and of the departure of the Israelites “the most illustrious time of all Egyptian history.” In regard to Babylon the same thing appears from the fact that Nebuchadnezzar is designated as the golden head ( Daniel 2:38). The Lord would not let Himself be without witness to those who knew no limits to their power, for their own sakes partly, partly for His own name’s sake, partly for the sake of mankind in general, partly for the sake of Israel. The Lord would show His power to Pharaoh, that His name might be declared throughout all the earth, and to accomplish His judgments on all the gods of Egypt ( Exodus 9:16; comp. Isaiah 8:10; Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 14:4; Isaiah 14:17-18; Isaiah 14:25). And that this purpose was achieved appears from the confessions of Pharaoh himself, of his servants, and of his army ( Exodus 9:20; Exodus 9:27; Exodus 10:7; Exodus 10:16; Exodus 14:25). As regards the Babylonian Exile, the entire first half of the book of Daniel is meant to show how Jehovah so marvellously glorified Himself on those nations and their kings, that they cannot escape acknowledging Him as the true God (comp. my work: Jeremiah and Babylon, p 2 sqq.), at least for the moment (for we know nothing of any outward, observable abiding effect—at most the adoration of the Magi, Matthew 2, might be appealed to here. What (according to Daniel 2:47; Daniel 3:28 sq.; Daniel 4:34; Daniel 5:17 sqq.; Daniel 6:25 sqq.), Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius the Mede knew, was any way preliminary to the knowledge on the basis of which Cyrus issued his edict, Ezra 1:2 sqq. Certainly we cannot impute to Cyrus less knowledge than that ascribed to his predecessors in the passages cited. If we were right in saying that “he shall call on my name” corresponds to “has called him to his foot,” Isaiah 41:2, then this is to be defined, that according to Isaiah 41:2 the Lord called Cyrus, and according to Isaiah 41:25 Cyrus called on the Lord. It is further said of Cyrus that he will come on satraps as on mortar, etc. בֹּוא, in the sense of hostile coming like Isaiah 28:15; Psalm 35:8; Job 15:21; Job 20:22; Proverbs 28:22. In all these passages בּוֹא stands with the accusative (localis).

The Prophet, Isaiah 41:26, assumes the standpoint of the fulfilment. He represents to himself that then the inquiry will naturally arise: who hath declared this from the beginning, that we may know, i.e., that we might know beforehand the coming of these things ( Isaiah 41:22-23)? And who announced it from early time, so that now we might say: right? צדיק is what corresponds to a norm: not only a moral, or some special juridical norm, but also the norm of truth. Hence אֱמֶת, Isaiah 43:9, stands in a precisely similar connection. Yet the last-named meaning is supported by no other example. Hence it seems to me likely that the Prophet joins with it the sense of moral Rightness. A god whose prophecy fails is morally condemned. But if it comes to pass, he is morally justified; he is no liar, but truly what he gives himself out to be (comp. Isaiah 14:21). But again there has never been any announcement and bringing to the ears on the part of the idols, nor hearing on the part of men ( Isaiah 41:22-23). אף (comp. Isaiah 40:24), recurring thrice, paints with a certain breadth the absence on every hand of what was requisite.

Isaiah 41:27, the Prophet defines more particularly the salvation that the one called of God shall bring to the people of God. It was said, Isaiah 41:25, in general, that he would call on the name of the Lord, and destroy the hostile powers. Now he is defined to be the first-fruit of the salvation destined for Zion. The LXX. translate ἀρχὴν Σιὼν δώσω. Peschito: primordia Sionis haec sunt. As far as I can see, all expositors construe רִאשׁוִן as nominative and relating to Jehovah; and either supply אָמַרְתִּי, or connect רְשׁון with אֶתֵּן. The words הנה הבם are by some put in the mouth of Jehovah, by others in Zion’s mouth, by others in that of the מְבַשֵׂר, and the suffixes (pronouns) are referred now to the exiles, now to the deliverer, now to facts of redemption, now to the idols. I refer ראשׁון to Cyrus. In an eminent sense he was the beginner of the redemption. Israel’s decline lasted till the close of the Exile. With difficulty ( Daniel 9:25), slowly, and with great alternations, it mounts up; but still it mounts up. The believers that looked for the restitution of Israel in all its promised glory directly after the seventy years, under the anointed son of David, struggle with many assaults of doubt, as they observe only very meagre beginnings of a redemption (comp. Daniel 10:1-3, and Auberlen, D. Proph. Daniel, p 132 sq.) But the laws of prophetic perspective were hid from them, which sees the end already in the beginning, though long periods of vicissitude separate one from the other. Cyrus is called מְשִׁיחַ יהוה, Isaiah 45:1. He was not the proper and true Messiah, but he was the first after the great period of judgment. He was the first-fruit—messiah, the beginner of the restoration of Israel. His edict, Ezra 1:2 sqq, was the first step toward realizing for Israel that שׁוּב (“return”), that Isaiah,, Jeremiah, and all their successors represent as the sum total of bodily and spiritual redemption for Israel. I construe הִנֵּה הִנָּם as an exclamation of the Prophet, by which he points to the consequences of that first-fruit—redemption. For the notion “first” includes that of “following” or “consequences.” In spirit the Prophet sees these before him, and points to them with a brief הנה הנם. He calls Cyrus a מְבַשֵּׂר: what more joyful news could the Lord propose for His people than that they may return home to rebuild Jerusalem? בִּשַּׂר, comp. on Isaiah 40:9.

As Isaiah 41:26 is related to Isaiah 41:25, so Isaiah 41:28-29 are related to Isaiah 41:27. Each of these prophetic lamps shines in strong contrast with the picture of the nothingness of idols that acts as a foil. Only it seems to me that so far there is a difference, in that Isaiah 41:26 the Prophet has in mind the idols themselves, whereas in Isaiah 41:28-29 he has in mind their worshippers, especially their priests (see below). Isaiah 41:28 has three gradations. The first clause is obscure; it speaks only of the looking around and the non-existence of something, but one knows not what one has looked about for. The second clause makes known those among whom the Prophet has looked, and what he was looking for. He seeks a יוֹעֵץ “counsellor, one, however, that can prophetically resolve the riddles of the future. This is made plain in the third clause: but there was no counsellor of whom I could inquire and who could give me answer. The reason of this is given Isaiah 41:29 : the gods that should inspire the answer in their worshippers are no gods but the manufacture of those who worship them. Thus Isaiah 41:29 speaks of those that make the idols, and not of the idols themselves. And because “they all” (בֻּלָּם) are identical with the אֵלֶּה (“them) of Isaiah 41:28, among whom no counsellor is found, therefore Isaiah 41:28 speaks not of the idols, but of their servants, and especially of those who, on account of their office, should be qualified to give counsel and render a decision, thus the priests and prophets. And because it is not to be supposed that the Lord looks for a counsellor and giver of decrees, therefore the subject of וְאֵרָא (“I looked about”) Isaiah 41:28, is not Jehovah, but the Prophet. Thus the chapter concludes with an apostrophe of the true Prophet to the false ones, and אֵלֶה is said δεικτικῶς. With this reference to the manufacture of idols, the Prophet returns to the thought with which he also closed the first strophe ( Isaiah 41:6-7).

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. The second part of Isaiah lays unusual stress on the inability of idols to prophesy. As this, on the one hand, is a proof of the nothingness of idols, so on the other, Jehovah’s ability to foretell the future is made a proof of His divinity. Hence, when the Lord challenges the idols to a contest in prophesying, and then on His part stands forth with an imposing prophetic performance, that has for its subject the deliverance of Israel from the Exile, one sees that two objects are combined, viz.: He comforts His people, and He proves His divinity. Thus we see that the Prophet’s view-point is partly at the end of the Exile and partly before the Exile. The former because he sees the deliverer quite clearly and distinctly before him; the latter because it is all important for him to display his Lord as knowing the remote future, and thus as true God. Thus he would win Israel by representing on the one hand the omniscence of their God, and on the other His faithful love and power. And this object was attained. Israel would assuredly not have buried their gross idolatry in the Exile, had they not verified both the threatenings and the promises of Jehovah’s Prophet in the most signal manner. But this grand effect could only be produced by the promises being recognized on all sides as genuine, old prophecies. Prophecies that gave themselves out for old, but hitherto hidden must have raised doubts, and contradicted themselves. For it is expressly said Isaiah 45:19; Isaiah 48:16 that these things were not spoken in secret.

2. [On Isaiah 41:1. “The same reasons will apply to all approaches which are made to God. When we are about to come before Him in prayer or praise; to confess our sins and to plead for pardon; when we engage in argument respecting His being, plans, or perfections; or when we draw near to Him in the closet, the family, or the sanctuary, the mind should be filled with awe and reverence. It is well, it is proper, to pause and think of what our emotions should be, and of what we should say before God. Comp. Genesis 28:16-17.”—Barnes.

3. On Isaiah 41:6-7. “Do sinners thus animate and quicken one another in the ways of sin? And shall not the servants of the living God both stir up one another to, and strengthen one another in, His service?”—M. Henry.]

4. On Isaiah 41:8 sqq. The Lord here founds His comforting promise on the election in Abraham. Compare with this the saying of John Baptist: “Begin not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father; for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” etc., Luke 3:8-9. This sounds contradictory. But one must distinguish between the individual and the whole. Not every individual generation, in general no individual part, great or small, of the totality of Israel can insist on the election of Abraham, and regard itself as exempt and unimpeachable on that account. For history teaches that great judgments have come on individuals and on the nation almost to their annihilation. But, of course, a remnant will always remain, if only just large enough to afford seed for a new generation. The Lord says this expressly in the great inaugural vision, Isaiah 6:11-13, and such, too, is the meaning of that significant Shear-Jashub ( Isaiah 10:20 sqq.). The Apostle Paul has this meaning when he says: “The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Romans 11:29.

5. On Isaiah 41:9-10. “A rich treasure of manifold comfort: 1) that God strengthens us; 2) that God calls us; 3) that He accepts us as servants; 4) that He chooses us; 5) that He does not reject us; 6) that He is with us; 7) that He is our God; 8) that He helps and preserves us. This ought to be turned to good account by everyone whatever may chance to be His need.”—Cramer.

6. On Isaiah 41:14 sqq. What a contrast! A poor little worm, and a new threshing instrument with double-edged points that rends mountains to pieces! When was the church of either the Old or New Testament ever such a threshing instrument? First of all, the Babylonian Empire was threshed to pieces that Israel might be free. Afterwards many kingdoms and nations were threshed in pieces and made subject to the Roman Empire that the church of the New Testament might grow and spread abroad. Afterwards the Roman Empire itself was threshed in pieces to gain for the church a new, fresh, healthy soil in the Germanic nations. But finally the Germanic nations will in turn be threshed in pieces that the church may become the free, pure kingdom of Christ ruling over all. So the church, the poor little worm Jacob, rends in pieces one form of the world-power after another, until it issues from the last as the glorious bride of the Lord.

7. On Isaiah 41:21 sqq. “It was customary to expect of seers and prophets such a deep look into the obscurity of the past and present, as Saul imputed to his Seer ( 1 Samuel 9), as well as prevision into the future; which, in the Hellenic world, is illustrated in the Homeric Kalchas, as a knower of what exists, of what was, as well as of what will be (Hom. Ilias. I:70)” Ed. Mueller. Parallelen zu den Weiss. u. Typen des A. T. aus dem hell. Alterth. in Jahrbücher d. Klass. Philol. VIII. Suppl. Band. I. Heft. p108.

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. On Isaiah 41:8-13. God chose Abraham, and in Abraham the Israel of the Old Testament, and in Israel of the Old Testament the Israel of the New Testament. This fact of the election certifies to the church the sure pledge of its final conquest, for1) the Lord cannot forsake the congregation of the elect; 2) He must make an end of those that contend against them.

2. On Isaiah 41:14-16. The church as it seems, and as it Isaiah 1) It seems to be a worm, a poor crowd; 2) It is really a. strong in the Lord ( Isaiah 41:14 b—16 a); b, joyful in the Lord ( Isaiah 41:16 b).

3. On Isaiah 41:17-20. He that is exposed to trials, who trusts in God, is not to be bewailed, since for Him; 1) life is indeed a desert; 2) but the desert becomes a paradise by the miraculous hand of God; 3) the miraculous hand of God summons him to grateful recognition.

4. On Isaiah 41:21-29. Against the modern heathenism, that in the place of the living, personal God would set abstractions that operate mechanically and unconsciously, one may prove the existence of the personal God by reference to the prophecies that were undoubtedly given and have been fulfilled. Only the living God can prophesy and fulfil. For1) Divine omniscience is needed to foreknow the future; 2) Divine omnipotence and wisdom are needed to fulfil what has been foretold.

5. On the entire 41 chapter see Johann Christian Holzhen, Pastor in Mortitz, “Pastor divinitus electus et legitime vocatus, the divinely elected and legitimately called preacher.” A sermon, or rather tract in twelve chapters. Lübeck, 1695, 8vo.

Footnotes:

FN#37 - Heb. Cause to come, near.

FN#38 - bulwarks.

FN#39 - Heb. set our heart upon them.

FN#40 - make us hear.

FN#41 - And we will confront one another, and inspect with one another.

FN#42 - Or, worse than nothing.

FN#43 - Or, worse than a viper.

FN#44 - wind.

FN#45 - has

FN#46 - satraps.

FN#47 - Right.

FN#48 - showed: declared: heard.

FN#49 - A first-fruit to Zion—see, see it comes—a messenger of joy I will give to Jerusalem.

FN#50 - But.

FN#51 - Heb. return.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 41:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-41.html. 1857-84.

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Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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