Isaiah 41:14
Fear not, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel; I will help you, said the LORD, and your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Fear not, thou worm Jacob.—The servant of Jehovah is reminded that he has no strength of his own, but is “as a worm, and no man” (Psalm 22:6). He had not been chosen because he was a great and mighty nation, for Israel was the fewest of all people” (Deuteronomy 7:7). As if to emphasise this, the prophet in addressing Israel passes from the masculine to the feminine, resuming the former in the second clause of Isaiah 41:15, where he speaks of its God-given strength.

Thy redeemer . . .i.e., the Goel of Leviticus 25:48-49, the next of kin, who was the protector, the deliverer, of his brethren (Leviticus 25:43-49). Looking to the numerous traces of the influence of the Book of Job in 2 Isaiah, it seems not improbable that we have in these words an echo of the hope, I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).

Isaiah 41:14-16. Fear not, thou worm Jacob — Who art weak in thyself, despised and trodden under foot by thy proud and potent enemies. I will make thee a new sharp thrashing instrument — Such as were usual in those times and places. Thou shall thrash the mountains and hills — The great and lofty potentates of the world, which set themselves against thee: or, the greater or lesser kingdoms or countries which were enemies to God’s truth and people; so the phrase signifies, Isaiah 2:14, and Psalm 72:3. The expressions of this and the following verse allude to the custom of the eastern countries, of having their thrashing-floors upon the tops of hills and mountains. Thou shalt fan them — When thou hast beaten them as small as chaff; and the wind shall carry them away — They shall no more molest thee; they shall be scattered and lost. And thou shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel — For to him, and not to thyself, thou shalt ascribe thy victory over thine enemies.41:10-20 God speaks with tenderness; Fear thou not, for I am with thee: not only within call, but present with thee. Art thou weak? I will strengthen thee. Art thou in want of friends? I will help thee in the time of need. Art thou ready to fall? I will uphold thee with that right hand which is full of righteousness, dealing forth rewards and punishments. There are those that strive with God's people, that seek their ruin. Let not God's people render evil for evil, but wait God's time. It is the worm Jacob; so little, so weak, so despised and trampled on by every body. God's people are as worms, in humble thoughts of themselves, and in their enemies' haughty thoughts of them; worms, but not vipers, not of the serpent's seed. Every part of God's word is calculated to humble man's pride, and to make him appear little in his own eyes. The Lord will help them, for he is their Redeemer. The Lord will make Jacob to become a threshing instrument. God will make him fit for use, new, and having sharp spikes. This has fulfilment in the triumphs of the gospel of Christ, and of all faithful followers of Christ, over the power of darkness. God has provided comforts to supply all their wants, and to answer all their prayers. Our way to heaven lies through the wilderness of this world. The soul of man is in want, and seeks for satisfaction; but becomes weary of seeking that in the world, which is not to be had in it. Yet they shall have a constant supply, where one would least expect it. I will open rivers of grace, rivers of living water, which Christ spake of the Spirit, Joh 7:38,39. When God sets up his church in the Gentile wilderness, there shall be a great change, as if thorns and briers were turned into cedars, and fir-trees, and myrtles. These blessings are kept for the poor in spirit, who long for Divine enlightening, pardon, and holiness. And God will render their barren souls fruitful in the grace of his Spirit, that all who behold may consider it.Fear not - (See the note at Isaiah 41:10).

Thou worm - This word is properly applied as it is with us, to denote a worm, such as is generated in putrid substances Exodus 16:20; Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 66:24; or such as destroy plants Jonah 4:7; Deuteronomy 28:39. It is used also to describe a person that is poor, afflicted, and an object of insignificance Job 25:5-6 :

Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not;

Yea, the stars are not pure in his sight.

How much less man, that is a worm;

And the son of man which is a worm?

And in Psalm 22:6 :

But I am a worm, and no man;

A reproach of men, and despised of the people.

In the passage before us, it is applied to the Jews in Babylon as poor and afflicted, and as objects of contempt in view of their enemies. It implies that in themselves they were unable to defend or deliver themselves, and in this state of helplessness, God offers to aid them and assures them that they have nothing to fear.

And ye men of Israel - (מתי ישׂראל yı̂s'erâ'ēl methēy). Margin, 'Few men.' There has been a great variety in the explanation of this phrase. Aquila renders it, Τεθνεῶτες Tethneōtes, and Theodotion, Νεκροὶ Nekroi, 'dead.' So the Vulgate, Qui mortui estis ex Israel. The Septuagint renders it, 'Fear not, Jacob, O diminutive Israel' (ὀλιγοστὸς Ἰσραὴλ oligostos Israēl). Chaldee, 'Fear not, O tribe of the house of Jacob, ye seed of Israel.' Lowth renders it, 'Ye mortals of Israel.' The Hebrew denotes properly, as in our translation, 'men of Israel;' but there is evidently included the idea of fewness or feebleness. The parallelism requires us so to understand it; and the word men, or mortal men, may well express the idea of feebleness.

And thy Redeemer - On the meaning of this word, see the notes at Isaiah 35:9; Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:3. It is applied here to the rescue from the captivity of Babylon, and is used in the general sense of deliverer. God would deliver, or rescue them as be had done in times past. He had done it so often, that this might be regarded as his appropriate appellation, that he was the redeemer of his people.

The Holy One of Israel - The Holy Being whom the Israelites adored, and who was their protector, and their friend (see the note at Isaiah 2:4). This appellation is often given to God (see Isaiah 5:19, Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 10:20; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 17:7; Isaiah 29:19; Isaiah 30:11-12). We may remark in view of these verses:

1. That the people of God are in themselves feeble and defenseless. They have no strength on which they can rely. They are often so encompassed with difficulties which they feel they have no strength to overcome, that they are disposed to apply to themselves the appellation of 'worm,' and by ethers they are looked on as objects of contempt, and are despised.

continued...

14. worm—in a state of contempt and affliction, whom all loathe and tread on, the very expression which Messiah, on the cross, applies to Himself (Ps 22:6), so completely are the Lord and His people identified and assimilated. God's people are as 'worms' in humble thoughts of themselves, and in their enemies' haughty thoughts of them; worms, but not vipers, or of the serpent's seed." [Henry].

men—The parallelism requires the word "men" here to have associated with it the idea of fewness or feebleness. Lowth translates, "Ye mortals of Israel." The Septuagint, "altogether diminutive." Maurer supports English Version, which the Hebrew text best accords with.

the Lord—in general.

and thy redeemer—in particular; a still stronger reason why He should "help" them.

Thou worm Jacob, who art weak in thyself, and despised and trodden under foot by thy proud and potent enemies. Fear not, thou worm Jacob,.... Being like a worm, exposed to danger, and liable to be trampled upon and crushed, mean and despicable in their own eyes, and in the esteem of others; and it may be Jacob, or the true Israelites, are so called, because of their impurity in themselves, of which they are sensible; and chiefly because of their weakness and impotence to defend themselves, and resist their enemies. It is an observation of Jarchi, Kimchi, and Ben Melech, that the strength of a worm lies in its mouth, which, though tender, can strike the strongest cedar, and penetrate into it; and the latter observes, that the strength of Israel lies in their prayers, as Jacob's did, when, wrestling with the angel, and making supplication, he had power with God, and prevailed. Now, though the saints are such poor, weak, and contemptible things, yet the Lord bids them not fear any of their enemies, he would take their part, and protect them:

and ye men of Israel; the Vulgate Latin version renders it, "ye dead men of Israel" (s); such as were accounted as dead men, and had no more respect shown them than the dead, that are remembered no more; or were exposed to death daily, for the sake of Christ and his Gospel; or that reckoned themselves dead to sin, and did die daily to it, and lived unto righteousness: or, "ye few men of Israel", as others (t) render it; Christ's flock is a little flock, his church is a little city, and few men in it, in comparison of the men of the world:

I will help thee, saith, the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; which is repeated for the confirmation of it, and is the more strongly assured by these characters of a Redeemer of his people out of the hands of all their enemies, and the holy and just God, and sanctifier of them, which he here takes to himself, and makes himself known by.

(s) "mortales Israeliae", Castalio. (t) , Sept. "viri pauci Israel", Munster, Montanus; "Israel, qui pauco es numero", Tigurine version.

Fear not, thou {m} worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

(m) Thus he calls them because they were contemned of all the world, and that they considering their own poor estate should seek him for help.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14–16. Israel itself, in the might of Jehovah, shall be the means of crushing and scattering its foes. The idea, however, is not that of warlike conquest on the part of the Israelites, it is simply that in the contest Israel is as the threshing instrument to the corn, it is armed with an irresistible strength. Cheyne pointed out that in Isaiah 41:14-15 a, Israel is addressed in the fem., but that is in all probability a mere freak of the punctuators, suggested by the fem. “worm.”

thou worm Jacob] Cf. Psalm 22:6; Job 25:6. ye men of Israel] supplies a very weak parallel. It is generally taken as an ellipsis for “ye few men of I.” (as if it were מתי מספר, Genesis 34:30 &c.), but that would have to be expressed. We should probably read with Ewald “thou small worm Israel” (רמת for מתי); the two words for “worm” occur together in Job 25:6 and also in ch. Isaiah 14:11.

I will help] Render, as before, I help.

and thy redeemer, the Holy One] Read with R.V. and thy Redeemer is the Holy One. The word for “Redeemer” is Gô’çl, the technical term for the person charged with the duty of buying back the alienated property of a kinsman, of avenging his death, and certain other obligations (see Leviticus 25:48 f.; Numbers 35:19 ff.; Ruth 3:12 &c.). It is a standing title of Jehovah in the latter part of Isaiah, occurring in 12 passages (the corresponding verb in 6 others). The verb means originally to assert a right by purchase: hence fig. to reclaim, rescue &c.; Driver, Introduction6, p. 418.Verse 14. - Thou worm Jacob. Though in thyself the weakest of the weak, grovelling in the dust, a mere worm (Job 25:6; Psalm 22:6), yet thou hast no cause to fear, since God sustains thee. Ye men of Israel; rather, ye handful, Israel (Delitzsch). The term used is one of disparagement, corresponding to the "worm" of the parallel clause. Few and weak though they be, God's people need not fear. Thy Redeemer. The word goel, here used for the first time by Isaiah, is frequent throughout the later chapters (Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:6, 24; Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:7, 26; Isaiah 54:5, 8; Isaiah 59:20; Isaiah 60:16; Isaiah 63:16). It is used for the "nearest of kin," and "avenger of blood," in the Levitical Law, but has a sense similar to that of the present passage in Job 19:25; Psalm 19:14: 78:35: 103:4; Proverbs 23:11; and Jeremiah 50:34. The sense "redeem" belongs to the verb of which goal is the participle, in Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13; Leviticus 25:25, 33, 48, 49; Leviticus 27:13, 19, 21, etc. The Holy One of Israel Isaiah's favourite designation of the Almighty in his covenant relationship to Israel, used eleven times in the earlier chapters (Isaiah 1:35.), once in the middle or historical portion, and thirteen times in the later chapters (Isaiah 40-66.); only used elsewhere in Psalm 71:22; Psalm 78:41; Psalm 89:18; Jeremiah 50:29; and Psalm 51:5 (see Urwick, 'Servant of Jehovah,' pp. 36, 37). The proof adduced by Jehovah of His own deity closes here. But instead of our hearing whether the nations, with which He has entered upon the contest, have any reply to make, the address turns to Israel, upon which deliverance dawns from that very quarter, from which the others are threatened with destruction. "And thou, Israel my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham my friend, thou whom I have laid hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from the corners thereof, and said to thee, Thou art my servant, I have chosen and not despised thee; fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not afraid, for I am thy God: I have chosen thee, I also help thee, I also hold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." The ו before ואתּה connects together antitheses, which show themselves at once to be antitheses. Whereas the nations, which put their trust in idols that they themselves had made, were thrown into alarm, and yielded before the world-wide commotions that had originated with the eastern conqueror, Israel, the nation of Jehovah, might take comfort to itself. Every word here breathes the deepest affection. The address moves on in soft undulating lines. The repetition of the suffix ך, with which אשׁר forms a relative of the second person, for which we have no equivalent in our language (Ges. 123, Anm. 1), gives to the address a pressing, clinging, and, as it were, loving key-note. The reason, which precedes the comforting assurance in Isaiah 41:10, recals the intimate relation in which Jehovah had placed Himself towards Israel, and Israel towards Himself. The leading thought, "servant of Jehovah," which is characteristic of chapters 40-46, and lies at the root of the whole spirit of these addresses, more especially of their Christology, we first meet with here, and that in a popular sense. It has both an objective and a subjective side. On the one hand, Israel is the servant of Jehovah by virtue of a divine act; and this act, viz., its election and call, was an act of pure grace, and was not to be traced, as the expression "I have chosen and not despised thee' indicates, to any superior excellence or merit on the part of Israel. On the contrary, Israel was so obscure that Jehovah might have despised it; nevertheless He had anticipated it in free unmerited love with this stamp of the character indelibilis of a servant of Jehovah. On the other hand, Israel was the servant of Jehovah, inasmuch as it acted out what Jehovah had made it, partly in reverential worship of this God, and partly in active obedience. את־ה עבד, i.e., "serving Jehovah," includes both liturgical service (also עבד absolutely, Isaiah 19:23) and the service of works. The divine act of choosing and calling is dated from Abraham. From a Palestinian point of view, Ur of Chaldaea, within the old kingdom of Nimrod, and Haran in northern Mesopotamia, seemed like the ends and corners of the earth ('ătsı̄lı̄m, remote places, from 'âtsal, to put aside or apart). Israel and the land of Israel were so inseparably connected, that whenever the origin of Israel was spoken of, the point of view could only be taken in Palestine. To the far distant land of the Tigris and Euphrates had Jehovah gone to fetch Abraham, "the friend of God" (James 2:23), who is called in the East even to the present day, chalil ollah, the friend of God. This calling of Abraham was the furthest terminus a quo of the existence of Israel as the covenant nation; for the leading of Abraham was providentially appointed with reference to the rise of Israel as a nation. The latter was pre-existent in him by virtue of the counsel of God. And when Jehovah adopted Abraham as His servant, and called him "my servant" (Genesis 26:24), Israel, the nation that was coming into existence in Abraham, received both the essence and name of a "servant of Jehovah." Inasmuch then as, on looking back to its past history, it would not fail to perceive that it was so thoroughly a creation of divine power and grace, it ought not to be fearful, and look about with timidity and anxiety; for He who had presented Himself at the very beginning as its God, was still always near. The question arises, in connection with the word אמּצתּי, whether it means to strengthen (Isaiah 35:3; Psalm 89:22), or to lay firm hold of, to attach firmly to one's self, to choose. We decide in favour of the latter meaning, which is established by Isaiah 44:14, cf., Psalm 80:16, Psalm 80:18. The other perfects affirm what Jehovah has ever done, and still continues to do. In the expression "by the right hand of my righteousness," the justice or righteousness is regarded pre-eminently on its brighter side, the side turned towards Israel; but it is also regarded on its fiery side, or the side turned towards the enemies of Israel. It is the righteousness which aids the oppressed congregation against its oppressors. The repeated אף heaps one synonym upon another, expressive of the divine love; for ו simply connects, גּם appends, אף heaps up (cumulat). Language is too contracted to hold all the fulness of the divine love; and for this reason the latter could not find words enough to express all that it desired.
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