Isaiah 41:24
Behold, you are of nothing, and your work of nothing: an abomination is he that chooses you.
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(24) Behold, ye are of nothing.—This is the summing up of the prophet, speaking as in the Judge’s name. The idol was “nothing in the world” (1Corinthians 8:4). The demonic view of the gods of the heathen does not appear, as in St. Paul’s argument (1Corinthians 10:20), side by side with that of their nothingness.

41:21-29 There needs no more to show the folly of sin, than to bring to notice the reasons given in defence of it. There is nothing in idols worthy of regard. They are less than nothing, and worse than nothing. Let the advocates of other doctrines than that of salvation through Christ, bring their arguments. Can they tell of a cure for human depravity? Jehovah has power which cannot be withstood; this he will make appear. But the certain knowledge of the future must be only with Jehovah, who fulfils his own plans. All prophecies, except those of the Bible, have been uncertain. In the work of redemption the Lord showed himself much more than in the release of the Jews from Babylon. The good tidings the Lord will send in the gospel, is a mystery hid from ages and generations. A Deliverer is raised up for us, of nobler name and greater power than the deliverer of the captive Jews. May we be numbered among his obedient servants and faithful friends.Behold, ye are of nothing - Margin, 'Worse than nothing.' This refers to idols; and the idea is, that they were utterly vain and powerless; they were as unable to render aid to their worshippers as absolute nothingness would be, and all their confidence in them was vain and foolish.

And your work - All that you do, or all that it is pretended that you do.

Of nought - Margin, 'Worse than a viper.' The word used here in the common Hebrew text (אפע 'epa‛) occurs in no other place. Gesenius supposes that this is a corrupt reading for אפס 'epes (nothing), and so our translators have regarded it, and in this opinion most expositors agree. Hahn has adopted this reading in his Hebrew Bible. The Jewish rabbis suppose generally that the word אפע 'epa‛ is the same word as אפעה 'eph‛eh, a viper, according to the reading in the margin. But this interpretation is contrary to the connection, as well as the ancient versions. The Vulgate and Chaldee render it, 'Of nought.' The Syriac renders it, 'Your works are of the sword.' This is probably one of the few instances in which there has been a corruption of the Hebrew text (compare Isaiah 40:17; Isaiah 41:12, Isaiah 41:19).

An abomination is he that chooseth you - They who select idols as the object of worship, and offer to them homage, are regarded as abominable by God.

24. of nothing—(See on [782]Isa 40:17). The Hebrew text is here corrupt; so English Version treats it.

abomination—abstract for concrete: not merely abominable, but the essence of whatever is so (De 18:12).

chooseth you—as an object of worship.

Ye are of nothing; you lately were nothing, without any being at all, and now you have nothing at all of divinity or virtue in you.

Your work; either,

1. Passively, your workmanship, all the cost and art which is laid out upon you. Or,

2. Actively, all that you can do. Your operations are like your beings; there is no reality in your beings, nor efficacy in your actions.

He that chooseth you; he that chooseth you for his gods, is most abominable for his folly as well as his wickedness. Behold, ye are of nothing,.... Not as to the matter of them, for they were made of gold, silver, brass, &c. but as to the divinity of them: there was none in them, they were of no worth and value; they could do nothing, either good or evil, either help their friends, or hurt their enemies; yea, they were less than nothing; for the words may be rendered by way of comparison, "behold, ye are less than nothing"; (a). See Gill on Isaiah 40:17;

and your work of nought; the workmanship bestowed on them, in casting or carving them, was all to no purpose, and answered no end; or the work they did, or pretended to do, their feigned oracles, and false predictions: or, "worse than nothing": some render it, "worse than a viper" (b); a word like this is used for one, Isaiah 49:5 and so denotes the poisonous and pernicious effects of idolatry:

an abomination is he that chooseth you; as the object of his worship; he is not only abominable, but an abomination itself to God, and to all men of sense and religion; for the choice he makes of an idol to be his god shows him to be a man void of common sense and reason, and destitute of all true religion and godliness, and must be a stupid sottish creature. The Targum is,

"an abomination is that which ye have chosen for yourselves, or in which ye delight;''

meaning their idols. This is the final issue of the controversy, and the judgment passed both upon the idols and their worshippers.

(a) "vos minus quam nihil estis", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator. (b) "pejus opere viperae", Junius & Tremellius; "pejus est opere basilisci", Piscator.

Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of naught: an abomination is he that {s} chooseth you.

(s) So that a man cannot make an idol, without doing that which God detests and abhors for he chooses his own devises and forsakes the Lords.

24. The silence of the idols settles the controversy.

of nothing … of nought] See on ch. Isaiah 40:17. The word ’épha‘ here is probably a copyist’s error for ’épheṣ.

he that chooseth you]—your worshipper.Verse 24. - A pause may be supposed between vers. 23 and 24, during which the idol-gods are given the opportunity of "bringing, forth their strong reasons," and, in one way or other, proving their Divinity. But they are stricken dumb; they say nothing. Accordingly, "judgment goes against them by default" (Cheyne), and Jehovah breaks out upon them with words of contempt and contumely, Behold, ye are of nothing, etc. "Ye are utterly vain and futile." At the present time, indeed, the state of His people was a helpless one, but its cry for help was not in vain. "The poor and needy, who seek for water and there is none, their tongue faints for thirst. I Jehovah will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I open streams upon hills of the field, and springs in the midst of the valleys; I make the desert into a pond, and dry land into fountains of water. I give in the desert cedars, acacias, and myrtles, and oleasters; I set in the steppe cypresses, plane-trees, and sherbin-trees together, that they may see, and know, and lay to heart and understand all together, that the hand of Jehovah hath accomplished this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." Kimchi, Hitzig, and others refer these promises to the returning exiles; but there is also a description, without any restriction to the return home, of the miraculous change which would take place in the now comfortless and helpless condition of the exiles. The shephâyı̄m, i.e., bare, woodless hills rising up from the plain, Jeremiah 12:12, the beqâ‛ōth, or deep valleys, by the sides of which there rise precipitous mountains, and the 'erets tsiyyâh, the land of burning heat or drought (cf., Psalm 63:2), depict the homeless condition of Israel, as it wandered over bald heights and through waterless plains about a land with parched and gaping soil. For the characteristics of the object, which is placed before אענם, we may therefore compare such passages as Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 55:1. נשׁתּה is either a pausal form for נשׁתּה, and therefore the niphal of שׁתת (to set, become shallow, dry up), or a pausal form for נשׁתה, and therefore the kal of נשׁת with dagesh affectuosum, like נתנּוּ in Ezekiel 27:19 (Olshausen, 83, b). The form נשׁתה in Jeremiah 51:30 may just as well be derived from שׁתת (Ges. 67, Anm. 11) as from נשׁת, whereas נשּׁתוּ may certainly be taken as the niphal of שׁתת after the form נמּל, נחר (Ges. 67, Anm. 5), though it would be safer to refer it to a kal נשׁת, which seems to be also favoured by ינּתשׁוּ in Jeremiah 18:14 as a transposition of ינּשׁתוּ. The root נש, of which נשׁת would be a further expansion, really exhibits the meaning to dry up or thirst, in the Arabic nassa; whereas the verbs נוּשׁ, אנשׁ, נסס (Isaiah 10:18), נשׁה, Syr. nas', nos', Arab. nâsa, nasnasa, with the primary meaning to slacken, lose their hold, and נשׁא, נשׁה, נסע, to deceive, derange, and advance, form separate families. Just when they are thus on the point of pining away, they receive an answer to their prayer: their God opens streams, i.e., causes streams to break forth on the hills of the field, and springs in the midst of the valleys. The desert is transformed into a lake, and the steppe of burning sand into fountains of water. What was predicted in Isaiah 35:6-7 is echoed again here - a figurative representation of the manifold fulness of refreshing, consolation, and marvellous help which was to burst all at once upon those who were apparently forsaken of God. What is depicted in Isaiah 41:19, Isaiah 41:20, is the effect of these. It is not merely a scanty vegetation that springs up, but a corresponding manifold fulness of stately, fragrant, and shady trees; so that the steppe, where neither foot nor eye could find a resting-place, is changed, as by a stroke of magic, into a large, dense, well-watered forest, and shines with sevenfold glory - an image of the many-sided manifestations of divine grace which are experienced by those who are comforted now. Isaiah is especially fond of such figures as these (vid., Isaiah 5:7; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 27:6; Isaiah 37:31). There are seven (4 + 3) trees named; seven indicating the divine character of this manifold development (Psychol. p. 188). 'Erez is the generic name for the cedar; shittâh, the acacia, the Egyptian spina (ἄκανθα), Copt. shont; hadas, the myrtle, ‛ēts shemen, the wild olive, as distinguished from zayith (ἡ ἀγριέλαιος, opposed to ἡ ἐλαία in Romans 11:17); berōsh, the cypress, at any rate more especially this; tidhâr we have rendered the "plane-tree," after Saad.; and te'asshūr the "sherbin" (a kind of cedar), after Saad. and Syr. The crowded synonyms indicating sensual and spiritual perception in Isaiah 41:20 (ישׂימוּ, sc. לבּם, Isaiah 41:22) are meant to express as strongly as possible the irresistible character of the impression. They will be quite unable to regard all this as accidental or self-produced, or as anything but the production of the power and grace of their God.
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