Isaiah 41:4
Who has worked and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) I the Lord . . .—The words are the utterance of the great thought of eternity which is the essence of the creed of Israel (comp. Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2; Psalm 102:26), and appear in the Alpha and Omega of Revelation 1:11; Revelation 4:8. The identical formula, “I am He” meets us in Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 46:4; Isaiah 48:12. It is probably used as an assertion of an eternal being in the “I AM” of John 8:58.

Isaiah 41:4-6. Who hath done it? — Whose work was this but mine? Calling the generations — Calling them out of nothing; giving them breath and being; disposing and employing them as I see fit: from the beginning — All persons and generations of mankind from the beginning of the world. I the Lord, the first, &c. — Who was before all things, even from eternity, and shall be unto eternity: the isles saw it, and feared — Even remote countries discerned the mighty work of God in delivering his people, and overthrowing their enemies in so wonderful a manner, and were afraid lest they should be involved in the same calamity. The ends of the earth drew near and came — They gathered themselves together to consult for their common safety, and to maintain the cause of their idols, which, by this instance, they perceived to be in great jeopardy. They helped every one his neighbour — They encouraged and assisted one another in their idolatrous practices. “Remote countries,” says Lowth, “were astonished at the sudden rise of the conqueror Cyrus, and joined in an alliance to check his growing greatness, just as several artificers that are concerned in the trade of idol- making assist one another in carrying on their common interest, and stir up the zeal of others in defence of image-worship:” see Acts 19:25. Or, according to others, the prophet describes in these verses the vain and fruitless attempt of idolaters to hinder the effect of Cyrus’s appearance, namely, the demolition of Babylon and its idols. “The passage maybe also fitly applied to the heathen powers combining together to support idolatry, and suppress the Christian religion.”41:1-9 Can any heathen god raise up one in righteousness, make what use of him he pleases, and make him victorious over the nations? The Lord did so with Abraham, or rather, he would do so with Cyrus. Sinners encourage one another in the ways of sin; shall not the servants of the living God stir up one another in his service? God's people are the seed of Abraham his friend. This is certainly the highest title ever given to a mortal. It means that Abraham, by Divine grace, was made like to God, and that he was admitted to communion with Him. Happy are the servants of the Lord, whom he has called to be his friends, and to walk with him in faith and holy obedience. Let not such as have thus been favoured yield to fear; for the contest may be sharp, but the victory shall be sure.Who hath wrought and done it? - By whom has all this been accomplished? Has it been by the arm of Cyrus? Has it been by human skill and powers. The design of this question is obvious. It is to direct attention to the fact that all this had been done by God, and that he who had raised up such a man, and had accomplished all this by means of him, had power to deliver his people.

Calling the generations from the beginning - The idea here seems to be, that all the nations that dwell on the earth in every place owed their origin to God (compare Acts 17:26). The word 'calling' here, seems to be used in the sense of commanding, directing, or ordering them; and the truth taught is, that all the nations were under his control, and had been from the beginning. It was not only true of Cyrus, and of those who were subdued before him, but it was true of all nations and generations. The object seems to be, to lift up the thoughts from the conquests of Cyrus to God's universal dominion over all kingdoms from the beginning of the world.

I the Lord, the first - Before any creature was made; existing before any other being. The description that God here gives of himself as 'the first and the last,' is one that is often applied to him in the Scriptures, and is one that properly expresses eternity (see Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12). It is remarkable also that this expression, which so obviously implies proper eternity, is applied to the Lord Jesus in Revelation 1:17; Revelation 22:13.

And with the last - The usual form in which this is expressed is simply 'the last' Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12. The idea here seems to be, 'and with the last, I am the same;' that is, I am unchanging and eternal. None will subsist after me; since with the last of all created objects I shall be the same that I was in the beginning. Nothing would survive God; or in other words, he would exist forever and ever. The argument here is, that to this unchanging and eternal God, who had thus raised up and directed Cyrus, and who had control over all nations, they might commit themselves with unwavering confidence, and be assured that he was able to protect and deliver them.

4. Who—else but God?

calling … generations from … beginning—The origin and position of all nations are from God (De 32:8; Ac 17:26); what is true of Cyrus and his conquests is true of all the movements of history from the first; all are from God.

with the last—that is, the last (Isa 44:6; 48:12).

Who hath wrought and done it? whose work was this but mine?

Calling; either,

1. Calling them out of nothing, giving to them breath and being; or,

2. Calling them to his foot, as he said above, Isaiah 41:2, disposing and employing them as he sees fit, sending them upon his errands.

The generations from the beginning; all persons and generations of mankind from the beginning of the world to the end of it.

The first, and with the last; who was before all things, even from eternity, and shall be unto eternity; whereas the idols, to whom God herein opposeth himself, were but of yesterday, being made by men’s hands, and shall within a little time vanish, and be destroyed. Who hath wrought and done it,.... Contrived and effected it, formed the scheme, and brought it to pass; namely, raising up the righteous man from the east, and succeeding him in the manner described:

calling the generations from the beginning? or rather here begins the answer to the above question, which may be rendered,

he that calleth the generations from the beginning (k); he has wrought and done this; and to this agree the Syriac and Arabic versions; even he that knew them from all eternity, before they were, and all the men that would be in them, and could call them by their names; and who calls things that are not, as though they were; and who calls them into being at the appointed time, and continues a succession of them, one after another; who calls by his grace all that are called in successive generations, and rules over them by his power, providence, and grace:

I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he; the immutable Jehovah, the everlasting I AM, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last; all which is said of Christ, and is the person here speaking, Revelation 1:8, phrases expressive of his eternity and deity; he is the first and the last in God's thoughts, purposes, and decrees; in the covenant of grace; in the creation of all things; in the salvation, justification, sanctification, adoption, and glorification of his people; and in the church, above and below:

and with the last, may be understood either of the last generations God is with, and calls as well as the first, as De Dieu; or of all believers, with whom he shall be and they with him to all eternity, so Gussetius (l). Now the conversion of the Apostle Paul, his commission to preach the Gospel, the extraordinary qualifications he was endowed with, the wonderful things done by him, in the conversion of sinners, and planting of churches in the Gentile world, and towards the abolition of Paganism in it, are incontestable proofs of the deity of Christ; no mere creature could ever have raised up, such a man, and accomplished him in such a manner, or wrought such things by him.

(k) "ille qui vocat vel vocavit generationes ab inito", Munster, Tigurine version. So some in Vatablus. (l) Comment. Ebr. p. 29.

Who hath wrought and done it, calling the {d} generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the {e} first, and with the last; I am he.

(d) Who has created man and maintained his succession.

(e) Though the world set up many gods, yet they diminish nothing of my glory: for I am all one, unchangeable, which have ever been and will be for ever.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. The answer.

calling the generations from the beginning] i.e. guiding the destinies of the nations from the origins of human history. The clause should be connected with what follows: it belongs to the answer, not to the question (“He that calleth”).

I am he] Cf. ch. Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 43:13, Isaiah 46:4, Isaiah 48:12, also Psalm 102:27. The sense which best suits the various passages is, “I am the same.” There is probably an allusion to the explanation of the name Jehovah in Exodus 3:14 ff. Jehovah is “the First,” existing before history began to run its course, and He is “with the last,” an ever-present, unchanging God.Verse 4. - Who hath wrought and done it? i.e. "by whom has this mighty conqueror been raised up?" Can any of the idol-gods claim him as their protege? Assuredly not. He is my work; I, Jehovah, that have called (into being) the generations (of man) from the beginning (of the world) - I, Jehovah, the First, and with the last, am he that he has done this thing. By "the First, and with the last" - a favourite phrase in these later chapters (see Isaiah 45:6 and Isaiah 48:12) - seems to be meant simply "the Eternal" (comp. Revelation 1:8, 11, 17; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:13). Jehovah is so far from becoming faint, that it is He who gives strength to the fainting. "Giving power to the faint, and to the incapable He giveth strength in abundance." אונים לאין is equivalent to אונים אין לאשׁר אין is used exactly like a privative to form a negative adjective (e.g., Psalm 88:5; Proverbs 25:3).
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