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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 46

 

 

Verses 1-13

VII.—THE SEVENTH DISCOURSE

The overthrow of the Babylonian idols, and the gain that Israel shall derive from it for its knowledge of God

Isaiah 46

1. ISRAEL SHALL KNOW ITS GOD FROM THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIM WHO BEARS AND THE IDOLS THAT ARE BORNE

Isaiah 46:1-4

1 Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth,

Their idols [FN1]were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle:

[FN2]Your carriages were heavy loaden;

They are a burden to the weary beast.

2 They stoop, they bow down together;

They could not deliver the burden,

But [FN3]themselves are gone into captivity.

3 Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob,

And all the remnant of the house of Israel,

Which are borne by me from the belly,

Which are carried from the womb:

4 And even to your old age I am he;

And even to hoar hairs will I carry you:

I have made, and I will bear;

Even I will carry, and I will deliver you.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 46:1. נְשֻׂאוֹת –קָרַם–בָּרַע Isaiah 46:3. שִׁמְעוּ.

Isaiah 46:1. בדע and קרם mean “to bow, bend one’s-self, to fall down.” קָרַם is kindred to the unused root כָּרַשׂ from which comes כְּרֵשׂ “belly,” (Bauch, comp. beugen) Jeremiah 51:34.—It is likely no accident that after כָּרַע בל the discourse does not continue with קָרַם נבו, but we have instead the particip. קֹרֵם. It seems to me nearly accordant with Isaiah’s way, to assume that he intends by this participle an allusion to כֹּרֶשׁ, an allusion whose justification is still more strengthened by the addition of כָּרַע and כָּרַשׂ. Then the sense becomes, that to כֹּרֶשׁ who attacks, there will be a corresponding קֹרֵם (כּרֵשׁ) and a כָּרַע on the part of the attacked.—משׂא לעיפּה an appositional added clause; the fem, is likely occasioned by the preceding חיה and בהמה; unless one takes the fern, in a neuter sense.

Isaiah 46:2. מָלַט originally signifies “to be smooth, slippery” (comp. מָרַט and פָלַט), the Piel then means “to make smooth, slippery,” and thus to make fit for slipping away, falling out. Hence the meaning “to let slip away,” of eggs ( Isaiah 34:15) and of the foetus (in the Hiph. Isaiah 66:7).—נֶפֶשׁ means here the life-centre in antithesis to the periphery: the person, the proper I or self. Thus נפשׁ is not unfrequently used to strengthen the pronoun, in order to express the notion “self,” or to emphasize it (comp. e.g., Hosea 9:4; Jeremiah 26:19; Jeremiah 37:9).

Isaiah 46:3. העמסים and הנשׂאים are in apposition with בית יעקב and שׁארית ב׳ י׳

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The reverse of the foregoing picture is now presented. There we have the victor; now we see the fate of the vanquished. But first it is the central point and refuge of the vanquished whose disgraceful end is set before us. The idols of Babylon, of which Bel and Nebo are named as the chief representatives, must come down from the places of honor where they were enthroned. Their images are loaded on beasts of burden to go into captivity ( Isaiah 46:1-2). From the contrast Israel may learn the lofty nature of its God. No one bears Him forth. On the contrary He has borne Israel with maternal love from the time of its birth, and will continue to carry it when no longer a child, but an old man ( Isaiah 46:3-4).

2. Bel boweth——into captivity.

Isaiah 46:1-2. There have been found in the library of king Asurbanipal two tablets of terra cotta, which contain two lists, one of the Assyrian, the other of the Babylonian superior gods (see Schrader,Assyrisch-Biblisches in Stud. u. Kr, 1874, p 324 sqq.). From these it appears that the Assyrians and Babylonians had a system of gods ranged in four grades. At the summit was the highest, transcendent god, by the Assyrians called Asur, by the Babylonians Ilu, El (with the female deity Istar, Astarte). Following these, in the second grade, are three gods, also belonging it would seem to the unseen world: Anu, Bel or Bil and I—o (Ao). In Babylonian and Assyrian these three bear the same names. Then in a third grade, follow three gods of heaven belonging to the visible world, which again are named alike in both languages: Sin, the moon-god, Samas, the sun-god and Bin, the air-god. Finally, in the fourth degree appear the planet-gods, of which the Assyrian list names five (Marduk, Merodach, i.e., Jupiter; Istar, i.e., Astarte, Venus; Adar=Saturn; Nirgal=Mars; Nabu, Nebo=Mercury), the Babylonian however names only two male and two corresponding female divinities: Marduk (Merodach) with Zarpanituv (Zirbanit) and Nabiuv (Nebo) with Tasmituv (Tasmit). From this it appears that Bel has the second place in the second degree, and Nebo the last place in the lowest degree. Bel (comp. further on it Schrader,Die Keilinschrift. etc, p80 sq.), belongs to the divinities of the transcendent, invisible world, whereas Nebo as a planet-god corresponds to Mercury. He is the נָבִיא, the “revealing” god, and was, in the period of the later Chaldean kingdom along with Merodach, the chief god of the Babylonians, so that most of the kings named themselves after him (Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonned). Comp. Schrader, l. c. p272.

The highly honored images of the gods, else only served by human hands, are now distributed among the beasts and the cattle, i.e., partly the tamed wild beasts, as elephants and partly the tame domestic beasts, as the camel and the ass. חַיָה as designation of the animalia agrestia and בְּהֵמָה as designation of animalia domestica recur often conjoined: Genesis 1:24-25; Genesis 3:14; Genesis 7:14; Genesis 7:21; Genesis 8:1; Leviticus 25:7, etc. The cattle have therefore the chief work to do with them, which consists in toilsome bearing. What a shame for a god to be so heavy! A god ought to be spirit and light, and therefore imponderable! There is frequent mention of carrying forth the gods of a conquered nation, partly as spoil, partly out of religious policy: Isaiah 10:10 sq.; Jeremiah 48:7; Jeremiah 49:3 (comp. 1 Samuel 5:1 sqq.). Comp. also the inscription of Sargon quoted under Isaiah 20:1. נשׂאות, “gestata, gestamina, carried images,” comp. Isaiah 46:7; Isaiah 45:20; Amos 5:26; Jeremiah 10:5. נָשָׂא means carrying in general. עָמַם only “to carry, load up a heavy burden (freight);” comp. Genesis 44:13; Psalm 68:20; Zechariah 12:3. Thus the Prophet says, “your נשׂאות are become עמסות, and designates thereby a progress in deterius. How this is so he says by the appositional clause a burden to the weary, viz.: beast.

What is said Isaiah 46:1 of Bel and Nebo is generalized in Isaiah 46:2. All the gods together must bow and fall down. They are not able to slip off, let go the load. (See Text, and Gram.). In these words and in the following their soul (person) is gone into captivity (see Text, and Gram.), the Prophet proceeds on the distinction between the idols themselves, the (relatively) transcendent numinibus and the simulacris representing these; a distinction that heathen belief made in thesi at least originally, but gradually in praxi carried out with as little consistency as does the Romish church with its images of the saints (comp. Friedr. Naegelsbach,Nachhomer, Theol. des griech. Volksglaubens, I. § 3, and V. §11). Thus the meaning of our passage is they are not able to bring it about that the burden of the images shall slip away (viz.: from the hands of the enemy) as some smooth, slippery object. Were the gods of the heathen really gods, the Prophet would say, then they would be able to effect this, massive as they are. In that case the distinction between the god and his image would be justified. But as the gods do not deliver their images, it results that there is no distinction between them, and the gods are not something better and higher. They are in fact אלילים, nothings. If the image goes into captivity, then in fact the idol himself is dragged forth, all that belongs to his substance, for out of the image he does not exist. Babylon was especially rich in extraordinarily costly images of the gods. Bead e.g., in Herodotus (I:183) the description of the colossal, golden images in the temple of Bel and the Dragon, which moreover neither Cyrus nor Darius Hystaspis touched, notwithstanding the Persian religion recognized no worship of images. It was Xerxes that first took away the massive golden image twelve yards high (Herod. l. c.).

3. Hearken unto me——deliver you.

Isaiah 46:3-4. These verses form an admirable contrast with Isaiah 46:1-2. The gods are carried to their disgrace; Jehovah carries His people. And Hebrews, the strong One, carries them as tenderly and lovingly as a mother her child. Because He would say something earnest and important, He summons the people to give special heed: hearken unto me. It is little probable, in my opinion, that “house of Jacob” means Judah, while all the remnant of the house of Israel means Israel that in the Assyrian Exile was already for the most part denationalized. First, כֹּל seems to me to conflict with that, and then the Prophet no where else designates the Israel exiled in Assyria as שׁארית. This expression (“remnant”) is an honorable title designating the quintessence of the whole nation, without distinction of tribe, that remains after all siftings (comp. Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:20 sqq.). This quintessence belongs to the last time, the old age of the nation. I find, therefore, a reference in the expression to Isaiah 46:4 a, and that by כֹּל the thought is expressed that we find e.g., Jeremiah 3:14, viz.: that no one belonging to the “remnant.” even though he may dwell most concealed and solitary, will be forgotten. In what follows, the motherly love of God is described. For God is Father and Mother in one person, and His love bears not only a masculine but also a feminine character (comp. Isaiah 42:14; Isaiah 49:15; Isaiah 66:9; Isaiah 66:13). All Israel, at once after its birth, “from the belly” or “womb,” thus immediately after its entrance on history as a nation ( Jeremiah 2:2), has been born in the arms by the Lord, as a mother carries her little child (comp. Isaiah 63:9). The form: מִגִּי (only here in Isaiah comp. מִנֵּי30:11) is meant likely to impart an emphasis to the notion involved in the preposition: as if from the mother’s womb. But Jehovah was not a mother only to the youthful Israel; He continues so when it has become old; and even to old age (Israel’s of course) I am the same, Isaiah 46:4 (comp. Isaiah 41:4). This is something that does not otherwise happen. Only small children are carried, not men and the old. But Jehovah devotes to Israel this maternal care, mutatis mutandis, to the very last. Did He not make Israel, as He repeatedly assures them ( Isaiah 43:7, comp. Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 43:21; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:11)? The Lord, says the Prophet, will not forsake His own work. As a mother at one moment lifts her child over an obstacle, at another even carries it a stretch in her arms, until every difficulty and danger is overcome, so the Lord will do to His people even to their old age, i.e., till they have reached the end of their course. Therefore what a difference between Jehovah and idols! The latter let themselves be borne by their worshippers, and then they are borne on beasts of burden to go into captivity. But Jehovah carries His people with maternal tenderness from the beginning to the end. Now who is God? Whom shall one fear and love? Whom trust?

2. ISRAEL SHALL LEARN TO KNOW ITS GOD BY THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIM AND THE IMAGES THAT REPRESENT HIM, WHICH ALSO MUST BE CARRIED

Isaiah 46:5-7

5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal,

And compare me, that we may be like?

6 They lavish gold out of the bag,

And weigh silver in the balance,

And hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god:

They fall down, yea, they worship.

7 They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him,

And set him in his place, and he standeth;

From his place shall he not remove:

Yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer,

Nor save him out of his trouble.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 46:5. מָשַׁל Isaiah 46:6. זָלִם.

Isaiah 46:5. The suffix of תדמיוני is to be supplied for תשׁוו; also למי relates to ונמה .ותשׁלני has for common subject the Lord and the image that represents Him.

Isaiah 46:6. The entire first half of the verse is subject, only that with ישׁקלו there is a return from the participle to the finite verb זָלִים is derived from זוּל, “to pour out, pour away, throw away,” from which there comes only a Hiphil form ( Lamentations 1:8), and the substantive זוּלָהremotio” (hence זוּלַת praeter).

Isaiah 46:7. תחתיו (comp. Isaiah 25:10) is conceived of substantively=inferiora ejus, the place lying under it. The accusative is the acc. loci, denoting whither.—יִצְעַק has an ideal, indefinite subject (“one” or “they”) to which the suffixes in צרתו and יושׁיענו relate.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Now the Prophet shows up the folly of that idolatry, which would make images of Jehovah Himself. The prohibition of this was impliedly contained in the general prohibition of images ( Exodus 20:4; comp. Deuteronomy 4:12; Deuteronomy 4:15; Deuteronomy 5:8). Even Aaron trangressed this by setting up the golden calf, which pretended to be a symbol of Jehovah Himself ( Exodus 32:5). The image of Gideon ( Judges 8:27) and of Micah ( Judges 17:4; Judges 17:13) and the two golden calves of Jeroboam at Bethel and Dan ( 1 Kings 12:26 sqq.) were trangressions of the same sort. Comp. Michaelis, Laws of Moses, V, § 245. Hengstenberg, Introduc. to O. Test. II. All these symbolical figures of beasts were of gold or silver. It was only exceptional where, according to Isaiah 40:20, poorer people contented themselves with wooden images. But all were in conflict with the eternal truth that it is impossible to make a likeness of the incomparable, invisible God.

It is worthy of note that the Prophet began in Isaiah 40:17 sqq. his polemic against idolatry by an attack on this finer form of it, and here concludes with just such an attack. For in the Ennead40–48, after our passage, there does not occur again any actual polemic against idolatry. The words of Isaiah 46:5 recall Isaiah 40:18; Isaiah 40:25. The words hire a goldsmith and he maketh,etc., Isaiah 46:6, recall Judges 17:4.

In Isaiah 46:7 the idea of carrying is emphasized, not without reason: that image, too, made in the likeness of Jehovah is nothing but heavy, vulgar matter, that needs as much to be carried as those Babylonian images of imaginary gods. Manifestly the Prophet would here obviate the objection that images of Jehovah were not to be regarded like other idol images. He answers: Since they must be borne, they are no better than the others.

__________________________

3. ISRAEL SHALL LEARN TO KNOW THE TRUE GOD FROM HIS PROPHESYING AND FULFILLING

Isaiah 46:8-11

8 Remember this, and [FN4]show yourselves men:

Bring it again to mind, O ye [FN5]transgressors.

9 Remember the former things of old:

[FN6]For I am God, and there is none else

I am God, and there is none like me,

10 Declaring the end from the beginning,

And from ancient times the things that are not yet done,

Saying, My counsel shall stand,

And I will do all my pleasure:

11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east,

[FN7]The man that executeth my counsel from a far country:

Yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass;

I have purposed it, I will also do it.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 46:8. פשׁעם–זָכַר. Isaiah 46:10. רֵאשִׁית—and comp. מֵרֹאשׁ. Isaiah 46:11עַיִט.

Isaiah 46:8. התאשׁשׁו is any way ἅπ. λεγ. It is certain that it does not come from אֵשׁ, as Jos. Kimchi maintains, and after him Vitringa, Rosenmueller (ed. II.), etc. For what can “inflammamini, incendimini” mean? The meanings “confundamini” “be ashamed” (Jerome), or “be full of zeal” (Vitringa) are certainly much forced. The derivation from אִישׁ (ἀνδρίζεσθε, comp. 1 Corinthians 16:13) Isaiah, grammatically and as to sense, not impossible. For if התאשׁשׁ be taken as a denominativum, it does not matter that no trace remains in it of the original נ (אִנְשְׁ=אִישׁ, comp. אִשָׁה). In the case of weak roots Hithpalel (הִתְקַוְּמֵם, becomes הִתְקוֹמֵם) is the usual formation. And the Prophet might fittingly say, that Israel ought at last to be a Prayer of Manasseh, to press on to ἡλικία, and no longer waver between Jehovah and idols ( 1 Kings 18:21). But הִתְֹאשֵׁשׁ cannot be made out of אִישׁ just as well הִתְבּוֹנֵן may be made from בִּין, because in the latter there was actually at first a ו, whereas there was not in אִישׁ. I agree, therefore, with those (D. Kimchi, Hitzig, Knobel, Delitzsch, comp. Olsh, § 272, a, and274) who derive התאשׁשׁ from אָשַׁשׁ (Arabic assa) “fundavit, stabilivit.” Of this אָשַׁש Isaiah uses also the substantive אֲשִׁישִׁים16:7—fundamenta, i.e., the foundations lying bare as ruins.

Isaiah 46:9. כִּמֹנִי stands after אֵפֶם only here. Comp. Isaiah 45:6.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

We have had what I may call two negative arguments for the divinity of Jehovah from the case of the Babylonian idols ( Isaiah 46:1-4), and from the symbolic images of Jehovah, that are no better ( Isaiah 46:5-7). Here that positive argument is pressed very emphatically, which, by its being five times repeated, prepared for the mention of the name of Cyrus, and is now finally mentioned as the chief result gained by that naming. This argument is based on the assumption that only God can prophesy and fulfil ( Isaiah 46:8-10), and He will certainly bring into existence that bird of prey that He has called out of the East to be the executor of His counsel. Because the Prophet passes to another kind of argument, he makes here a (relative) conclusion by exhorting the people to impress well on their memory what they have just heard ( Isaiah 43:18; Isaiah 44:21), and to lay it to heart. This they were to do in order to be fixed. (See Text. and Gram.). For Israel in the Exile it was assuredly the chief task, to whose accomplishment our chaps40–66 were greatly to contribute, to be at last firmly grounded in the knowledge of Jehovah and in His exclusive worship. On bring it again to mind see on Isaiah 44:19. By a second Remember, Isaiah 46:9, the Prophet requires one to recall the old prophecies in the sense of the argumentation often used by him (comp. Isaiah 41:21 sqq.; Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:8-13; Isaiah 43:19-21; Isaiah 44:6-10; Isaiah 44:24-28), by which as here, he infers the divinity of Jehovah from His ability to foretell the future, and that idols are nothing because of their inability in this respect. By ראשׁנות and מעולם, therefore, I understand things that occurred in the period of the ראשׁית (comp. Isaiah 46:10) which look over hither from an immeasurably distant past (מעולם). But by these old things the Prophet understands ancient prophecies (comp. on Isaiah 41:22), as clearly appears from Isaiah 46:10. The clause with כִּי contains what will be verified by looking back to those old prophecies, viz, that Jehovah alone is God. כִּי is thus no causal particle, but=that. The participial clauses Isaiah 46:10-11, declaring from the beginning the issue,etc., contain the proofs: remember what is old, viz, that I am God, as He that announces from the beginning and fulfils in its time. If then the clause with כִּי Isaiah 46:9 b is explanatory of “remember,” etc., and if this explanation consists in this, that the divinity of Jehovah should be known from His prophesying and fulfilling, then it is manifest that one must actually tear the words “remember the former things of old” from the context if he would have them mean an exhortation to “earnestly search out history” in general, ואין עור see Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 45:14; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 45:21. אֵל and אלהים correspond here in parallelism as they do often not in parallelism ( Exodus 20:5; Numbers 16:22; Joshua 22:22; Psalm 1:1, etc.). Apart from the meaning of the word in itself, the plural has more an abstract meaning=divinity, highest being (comp. אֲדֹנִים קָשֶׁה19:4). Isaiah 46:10. The participles קדא,אמד,מגיר depend on the chief notion to be proved, thus on אל and אלהים, not on the secondary notion כָּמוֹנִי. For Jehovah is God as He who from the beginning (before it germinated Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:19) announced the issue.

The second part of Isaiah 46:10 enhances what precedes by declaring the firm purpose of carrying out what has been announced. Finally Isaiah 46:11 presents to view this execution. He that is called from the East ( Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 41:25) is Cyrus. He is compared to a bird of prey that swoops on its quarry. Doubtless the noblest of the kind, the eagle is meant. It is possible that עַיִט is radically kindred to ἀετὸς, but it is not proved. The eagle was a sacred bird to the Persians. According to Xenophon (Cyrop.VII:1, 4) the standard of Cyrus and also of his successors was an “ἀετὸς χρουσοῦς ἐπὶ δόρατος μακροῦ ανατεταμένος” Still in the time of the younger Cyrus the royal standard of the Persians was an ἀετὸς χρουσοῦς ἐπὶ πέλτης (ἐπὶ ξύλου) ἀνατεταμένος (Xenoph. Anab. I:10, 12). Aeschylus also (Pers. 205–210), into a portentous sign that Atossa sees, introduces the Persians under the image of an eagle, the Greeks under the image of a falcon. Comp. DunckerGesch. d. Alterth. II. p368 sq. אישׁ עצתו is not here as in Isaiah 40:13 the fellow-counsellor, but the one called by God Himself to execute His counsel. In conclusion, by a double disjunctive clause, the assurance is emphatically given, that what the Lord has said and projected (יצר37:26; Isaiah 22:11) in spirit He will surely bring to pass. Here again, also, the Lord pledges His honor that His prophecy, long before announced, shall be fulfilled by Cyrus, and that thereby His, Jehovah’s divinity will be proved.

4. GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS AND SALVATION MUST COME SPITE OF ISRAEL’S HARDNESS OF HEART

Isaiah 46:12-13

12 Hearken unto me, ye stout hearted,

That are far from righteousness:

13 I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off,

And my salvation shall not tarry:

And I will [FN8]place salvation in Zion

[FN9]For Israel my glory.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

These two verses respond briefly but plainly to an objection or doubt that might be raised against the representations of Isaiah 46:1-11. Will Israel suffer itself, to be led to the right knowledge of God by the positive and negative proofs just presented ( Isaiah 46:1-7), or even by the positive demonstration, when the prophecy about Cyrus is fulfilled ( Isaiah 46:8-11)? The Lord knows that Israel is stout-hearted. This is meant in a bad sense, like that described Isaiah 48:4, ‘ ‘because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;” comp. Isaiah 56:11. The obstinate, haughty, self-righteous heart is naturally far from the righteousness of God, for it has, for the purpose of being right, not the objective, divine norm, but only a subjective, self-made norm. There were many such hard, proud hearts in Israel. Proud self-righteousness characterizes the nation ( Romans 10:3). Still the Lord, whose gifts and calling are without repentance ( Romans 11:29), will fulfil His promises. Note that Isaiah 46:12 begins with hearken unto me, as does Isaiah 46:3. Thus it appears that the two verses are co-ordinated. With Isaiah 46:3 begins the proof of the threefold gain that shall come to Israel by the destruction of Babylon. Isaiah 46:12 mentions the doubt that may be raised against it. This close relation to Isaiah 46:3 is indicated by their beginning in the same way. Isaiah 46:13 resolves the doubt briefly and effectively. The almighty, gracious will of God toward Israel as a whole is not to be frustrated by the unworthiness of individuals. Spite of the evil condition referred to, Isaiah 46:12, He will bring in his righteousness. As the Prophet here expressly distinguishes between righteousness and salvation, we must take ‘ ‘righteousness” here in the sense of the “quality of righteous,” conformity to the divine will. [“One denotes the cause and the other the effect, one relates to God, and the other to man. The sense in which salvation can be referred to the righteousness of God is clear from Isaiah 1:27. (See Vol. I, p93.) The exhibition of God’s righteousness consists in the salvation of His people and the simultaneous destruction of His enemies. To these two classes it was therefore at the same time an object of desire and dread.—J. A. Alex.] The Lord will yet, spite of the natural unrighteousness of Israel, raise up in Israel the righteousness that avails with Him. But this is the precedent condition of salvation.—Both will come at the right time; if perhaps late, still not too late. Then the city of Zion will be full of salvation, and the people full of the glory of Jehovah. Thus God’s gracious will toward Israel will be fulfilled under all circumstances. Even Israel’s sins will not be able to prevent its salvation.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 46:3-4. “It is something that God will be with us, will strengthen us, help and preserve us by the right hand of His righteousness ( Isaiah 41:10); it is something that He calls us by our name, and is with us in water and fire ( Isaiah 43:1); it is something that He holds us as a seal and signet ring ( Haggai 2:23); it is something that He holds us as the apple of His eye ( Psalm 17:8), that He carries us on His wings ( Deuteronomy 32:11), yea, that He gathers us under His wings ( Matthew 23:37),—but this exceeds all, that God is willing to be so nearly related to us, that He will carry us under His heart, like a mother does the fruit of her body, and that not only like a mother, who carries the fruit no longer than nine months, but to the greatest and grayest age. Thus the love, fidelity, and services of God far exceed all motherly love, fidelity and services, great as these may be ( Isaiah 49:15).”—Cramer.

2. On Isaiah 46:5-8. It is remarkable how deep-seated in the natural man is the desire to comprehend the divinity visibly, in a corporeal form. But God forbids it. First, because it is impossible to represent divinity under any adequate and worthy image; second, because the danger is so great that the image will be taken for the divinity itself. God would be worshipped as a spirit in spirit ( John 4:24). The Son of God appeared in the flesh, and if there ever was a corporeal form that was worthy and able to be to divinity the medium of its visible manifestation, then it was the corporality of Christ. But this was only visible to His contemporaries. Were it necessary to the church ever to have before its eyes the bodily figure of the Lord, the Lord would surely have provided for that, as He has indeed provided that His Spirit and word shall continue preserved to us. But men would certainly have made an idol of the image of the Lord. The Roman Catholic Church has succeeded in heathenizing what is most Christian of all, by making the host in the Lord’s Supper to be a transmutation into the visible body of the Lord. There that deep-seated heathen tendency finds then its gratification. There we have a visible image, that would however represent the Lord as an object of worship. There God Himself is made an idol!

3. On Isaiah 46:12 sq. Were it necessary for us men to deserve the coming of the Redeemer He would never come. Can the physician only come when the sick man has disposed himself to recovery ( Luke 5:31)? No, it is just sinners that attract the Lord. They need Him. He calls them to repentance, with them His righteousness finds a place. But a distinction is to be made here between the heard-hearted sinners that will not hear of the righteousness of God, and those sinners that would willingly be quit of it. Were we men only of the former sort, the door would be closed here on earth against all God’s purposes of salvation.

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. On Isaiah 46:3-4. “Every Christian ought to believe that God will do this for Him. For His mercies, promised to us in Christ, are neither small nor few. Far as the heaven is from the earth, and the east from the west, such is the mercy of God, if we only abide therein and do not tear ourselves away from it by wanton sinning. For we were not baptized that we might have a gracious God for ten or twenty years. He would be our God in eternity, and forever and ever, most of all when we are in distress and need a God and Helper, as in the straits of death and other danger. Therefore we should be afraid of nothing, but have the certain hope: the greater the distress we encounter, the more will God be near us with His help.” Veit Dietrich.

2. On Isaiah 46:3-4. The maternal love of God1) It provides for all (great and small). 2) It ever provides (even to old age).

3. On Isaiah 46:5. “What we are and what we are not we ever best learn when we men contrast ourselves with God. Who can measure how small our time is compared with His eternity. He can and will challenge us in everything and say: ‘to whom will ye compare me, that we may be like?’ Yet the Psalm attempts it: ‘A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past,’ and what to Him is the succession of generations of men?” Tholuck.

4. [On Isaiah 46:10. My counsel shall stand. This proves, (1) That God has a purpose or plan in regard to human affairs. If He had not, He could not predict future events; (2). That God’s plan will not be frustrated. He has power enough to secure the execution of His designs, and He will exert that power in order that all His plans may be accomplished. We may observe, also, that it is a matter of unspeakable joy that God has a plan, and that it will be executed. For (1) if there were no plan in relation to human thing, the mind could find no rest. If there was no evidence that One Mind presided over human affairs; that an infinitely wise plan had been formed, and that all things had been adjusted so as best to secure the ultimate accomplishment of that plan, everything would have the appearance of chaos, and the mind must be filled with doubts and distractions. But our anxieties vanish in regard to the apparent irregularities and disorders of the universe, when we feel that all things are under the direction of an Infinite Mind. (2) If His plans were not occomplished there would be occasion of equal doubt and dismay. If there was any power that could defeat the purposes of God; if there was any stubbornness of matter, or any inflexible perverseness in the nature of mind; if there were any unexpected and unforeseen extraneous causes that could interpose to thwart His plans, then the mind must be full of agitation and distress. But the moment it can fasten on the conviction that God has formed a plan that embraces all things, and that all things which occur will be in some way made tributary to that plan, that moment the mind can be calm in resignation to His holy will.” Barnes].

5. On Isaiah 46:12-13. The righteousness that avails with God1) Who brings it about ( Isaiah 46:13 a); 2) who lays hold on it (not the proud and self-righteous Isaiah 46:12, but the believing); 3) what are its effects ( Isaiah 46:13 b, salvation and glory).

Footnotes:

FN#1 - are to the beast and to the cattle.

FN#2 - Your carried images are loaded up.

FN#3 - Heb. their soul.

FN#4 - be firm.

FN#5 - apostates.

FN#6 - That.

FN#7 - Heb. The man of my counsel.

FN#8 - give.

FN#9 - To.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 46:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-46.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, June 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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