Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle on you.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) When thou passest through the waters . . .—The two contrasted forms of elemental perils are used, as elsewhere, proverbially for all forms of danger (Psalm 66:12).

43:1-7 God's favour and good-will to his people speak abundant comfort to all believers. The new creature, wherever it is, is of God's forming. All who are redeemed with the blood of his Son, he has set apart for himself. Those that have God for them need not fear who or what can be against them. What are Egypt and Ethiopia, all their lives and treasures, compared with the blood of Christ? True believers are precious in God's sight, his delight is in them, above any people. Though they went as through fire and water, yet, while they had God with them, they need fear no evil; they should be born up, and brought out. The faithful are encouraged. They were to be assembled from every quarter. And with this pleasing object in view, the prophet again dissuades from anxious fears.When thou passest through the waters - This is a general promise, and means that whenever and wherever they should pass through water or fire, he would protect them. It had been true in their past history as a people; and the assurance is here given in order that they might be comforted in view of the calamities which they were then suffering in Babylon. Fire and water are often used in the Scriptures to denote calamity - the latter because it overwhelms; the former because it consumes; see Psalm 69:1 - 'The waters are come into my soul;' also Psalm 73:10; Psalm 124:4-5; Psalm 66:12 - 'We went through fire and through water.'

I will be with thee - (Compare the note at Isaiah 41:10).

And through the rivers - Also expressive of calamity and danger - like attempting to ford deep and rapid streams.

They shall not overflow thee - As was the case with the Jordan when they crossed it under the guidance of Joshua, and a pathway was made for the armies of Israel.

When thou walkest through the fire - This is expressive of calamity and danger in general like passing through fire. Yet it had a literal fulfillment in the case of the three pious Jews who were cast by Nebuchadnezzar into the burning furnace Daniel 3:25, Daniel 3:27.

Neither shall the flame kindle upon thee - It shall not only not consume thee, but it shall hog even burn, or injure thee (see Daniel 3:27). The Chaldee Paraphrase refers this verse to the passage through the Red Sea, and to the protection which God gave his people there. It is rendered, 'In the beginning, when you passed through the Red Sea, my word was your aid. Pharaoh and Egypt, who were mighty like the waters of a river, were not able to prevail against you. And when thou didst go among a people who were formidable like fire, they could not prevail against you, and the kingdoms which were strong like flame could not consume you.' It is, however, to be understood rather as a promise pertaining to the future; though the language is mainly derived, undoubtedly, from God's protecting them in their perils in former times.

2. rivers … not overflow thee—so in passing Jordan, though at its "overflow," when its "swellings" were especially dangerous (Jos 3:15; Jer 12:5).

waters … fire—a proverbial phrase for the extremest perils (Ps 66:12; also Ps 138:7). Literally fulfilled at the Red Sea (Ex 14:21, 22), and in the case of the three youths cast into the fiery furnace for conscience' sake (Da 3:25, 27).

Though I will chastise thee for thy sins, yet I will not suffer thine enemies utterly to destroy thee: compare Jeremiah 30:11. When thou passest through the waters; I will be with thee,.... The Targum and Jarchi apply this to the Israelites' passage through the waters of the Red sea, as a thing past; and Kimchi to Sennacherib's army, compared to the waters of a river strong and many, Isaiah 8:7. Jerom says, that the Jewish writers by "waters" would have the Egyptians understood; by the "rivers", the Babylonians; by "fire", the Macedonians; and by the "flame", the Romans; which is not amiss; but rather the afflictions of God's people in general are meant by waters, as by rivers also, in the next clause:

and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; because of the variety and multitude of them, as persecutions from men, those proud waves that go over them; the temptations of Satan, that enemy who comes in like a flood, and various others; and because of the rapidity and force of them, and their overflowing and overwhelming nature: now there are paths through which the people of God pass: their way lies through them to eternal glory; and though they are of some continuance, yet have an end, as paths have; and having a good guide, and sufficient strength given them, they wade through them safely; for they do not and shall not "overflow" them, so as to cause their faith utterly to fail, or to separate them from the love of God, or so as to destroy them; for though they come nigh them, and upon them, and may greatly affect and distress them, yet shall not hurt them, but turn to their advantage; for their God is with them, to sympathize with them, to comfort and revive them, to teach and instruct them by their afflictions, and to sanctify them to them, as well as to support and bear them up under them, and to deliver out of them:

when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt: neither shall the flame kindle upon thee; afflictions are compared to fire and flames, because very grievous and troublesome to the flesh; and because of the apprehensions of God's wrath in them sometimes; and because of their trying nature; grace is tried by them as gold and silver in the fire; but yet the saints are not consumed by them, they lose nothing but their dross; their principles and profession are tried, and they are supported through all; which has been abundantly verified in the martyrs of Jesus; see Psalm 66:12.

When thou passest through the {c} waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.

(c) By water and fire he means all kinds of trouble and peril.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. When Jehovah was angry the fire burned Israel (ch. Isaiah 42:25), but now with Jehovah on its side, it is invulnerable in the severest trials. “Water” and “fire” are common images of extreme peril; the former in Psalm 32:6; Psalm 42:7; Psalm 124:4 f.; the latter in ch. Isaiah 42:25 (cf. Daniel 3:17; Daniel 3:27); both together Psalm 66:12. For burned render scorched (Proverbs 6:28).Verse 2. - Through the waters... through the rivers; i.e. through troubles of any kind (comp. Psalm 66:12, "We went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place"). There were, perhaps, special troubles to be endured connected with the final Babylonian struggle. There were certainly others connected with the tedious and dangerous journey from Babylonia to Palestine (Ezra 8:22, 31). There were others, again, after the Holy Land was reached, arising out of the jealousy and ill will of neighbouring nations (Ezra 4. and 5; Nehemiah 4-6.). Neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. The literal fulfilment in the persons of the "three children" (Daniel 3:27) will be obvious to every reader. But the prophecy has, no doubt, a far wider scope. The reproof, which affects Israel a potiori, now proceeds still further, as follows. "Thou hast seen much, and yet keepest not; opening the ears, he yet doth not hear. Jehovah was pleased for His righteousness' sake: He gave a thorah great and glorious. And yet it is a people robbed and plundered; fastened in holes all of them, and they are hidden in prison-houses: they have become booty, without deliverers; a spoil, without any one saying, Give it up again!" In Isaiah 42:20 "thou" and "he" alternate, like "they" and "ye" in Isaiah 1:29, and "I" and "he" in Isaiah 14:30. ראית, which points back to the past, is to be preserved. The reading of the keri is ראות (inf. abs. like שׁתות, Isaiah 22:13, and ערות, Habakkuk 3:13), which makes the two half-verses uniform. Israel has had many and great things to see, but without keeping the admonitions they contained; opening its ears, namely to the earnestness of the preaching, it hears, and yet does not hear, i.e., it only hears outwardly, but without taking it into itself. Isaiah 42:21 shows us to what Isaiah 42:20 chiefly refers. חפץ is followed here by the future instead of by Lamed with an infinitive, just as in Isaiah 53:10 it is followed by the perfect (Ges. 142, 3, b). Jehovah was pleased for His righteousness' sake (which is mentioned here, not as that which recompenses for works of the law, but as that which bestows mercy according to His purpose, His promise, and the plan of salvation) to make thorâh, i.e., the direction, instruction, revelation which He gave to His people, great and glorious. The reference is primarily and chiefly to the Sinaitic law, and the verbs relate not to the solemnity of the promulgation, but to the riches and exalted character of the contents. But what a glaring contrast did the existing condition of Israel present to these manifestations and purposes of mercy on the part of its God! The intervening thought expressed by Hosea (Hosea 8:12), viz., that this condition was the punishment of unfaithfulness, may easily be supplied. The inf. abs. הפח is introduced to give life to the picture, as in Isaiah 22:13. Hahn renders it, "They pant (hiphil of puuach) in the holes all of them," but kullâm (all of them) must be the accusative of the object; so that the true meaning is, "They have fastened (hiphil of pâchach) all of them," etc. (Ges. 131, 4, b). Schegg adopts the rendering, "All his youths fall into traps," which is wrong in two respects; for bachūrı̄m is the plural of chūr (Isaiah 11:8), and it is parallel to the double plural כלאים בּתּי, houses of custodies. The whole nation in all its members is, as it were, put into bonds, and confined in prisons of all kinds (an allegorizing picture of the homelessness and servitude of exile), without any one thinking of demanding it back (השׁב equals השׁב, as in Ezekiel 21:32; a pausal form here: vid., Ges. 29, 4 Anm.).
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