Isaiah 44:9
They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Are all of them vanity . . .—Once more Isaiah’s favourite tohu—the symbol of the primeval chaos.

Their delectable things . . .—The generic term used for works of art (Isaiah 2:16), specially for what men delight to worship. (Comp. Isaiah 64:11; Lamentations 1:10.)

They are their own witnesses . . .—Better, their witnesses (i.e., the worshippers who sing their praises) see not and know not.

Isaiah 44:9-11. They that make a graven image are vanity — Hereby discover themselves to be vain, empty, and foolish men. And their delectable things shall not profit — Their idols, in which they take so much pleasure. They are their own witnesses — They that make them are witnesses against themselves and against their idols, because they know they are not gods, but the work of their own hands. They see not, nor know — Have neither sense nor understanding, therefore they have just cause to be ashamed of their folly in worshipping such senseless things. Who hath formed a god, &c. — What man in his wits would do it? Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed — The workmen who, in this work, are partners with him, by whose cost and command the work is done; or those who any way assist in this work, and join with him in worshipping the image which he makes. They are of men — They are of mankind, and therefore cannot possibly make a god. They shall be ashamed together — Though all combine together, they shall be filled with fear and confusion when God shall plead his cause against them. 44:9-20 Image-making is described, to expose the folly of idolaters. Though a man had used part of a log for fuel, he fell down before an image made of the remainder, praying it to deliver him. Man greatly dishonours God, when he represents him after the image of man. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, causing absurd reasonings in matters of religion. Whether men seek happiness in worldly things, or run into unbelief, superstition, or any false system, they feed on ashes. A heart deceived by pride, love of sin, and departure from God, turns men aside from his holy truth and worship. While the affections are depraved, a man holds fast the lie as his best treasure. Are our hearts set upon the wealth of the world and its pleasures? They will certainly prove a lie. If we trust to outward professions and doings, as if those would save us, we deceive ourselves. Self-suspicion is the first step towards self-deliverance. He that would deliver his soul, must question his conscience, Is there not a lie in my right hand?They that make a graven image - A graven image is one that is cut, or sculptured out of wood or stone, in contradistinction from one that is molten, which is made by being cast. Here it is used to denote an image, or an idol-god in general. God had asserted in the previous verses his own divinity, and he now proceeds to show, at length, the vanity of idols, and of idol-worship. This same topic was introduced in Isaiah 40:18-20 (see the notes at that passage), but it is here pursued at greater length, and in a tone and manner far more sarcastic and severe. Perhaps the prophet had two immediate objects in view; first, to reprove the idolatrous spirit in his own time, which prevailed especially in the early part of the reign of Manasseh; and secondly, to show to the exile Jews in Babylon that the gods of the Babylonians could not protect their city, and that Yahweh could rescue his own people. He begins, therefore, by saying, that the makers of the idols were all of them vanity. Of course, the idols themselves could have no more power than their makers, and must be vanity also.

Are all of them vanity - (See the note at Isaiah 41:29).

And their delectable things - Margin, 'Desirable.' The sense is, their valued works, their idol-gods, on which they have lavished so much expense, and which they prize so highly.

Shall not profit - Shall not be able to aid or protect them; shall be of no advantage to them (see Habakkuk 2:18).

And they are their own witnesses - They can foretell nothing; they can furnish no aid; they cannot defend in times of danger. This may refer either to the worshippers, or to the idols themselves - and was alike true of both.

They see not - They have no power of discerning anything. How can they then foresee future events?

That they may be ashamed - The same sentiment is repeated in Isaiah 44:11, and in Isaiah 45:16. The sense is, that shame and confusion must await all who put their trust in an idol-god.

9. (Isa 40:18, 20; 41:29).

delectable things—the idols in which they take such pride and delight.

not profit—(Hab 2:18).

they are their own witnesses—contrasted with, "Ye are My witnesses" (Isa 44:8). "They," that is, both the makers and the idols, are witnesses against themselves, for the idols palpably see and know nothing (Ps 115:4-8).

that they may be ashamed—the consequence deducible from the whole previous argument, not merely from the words immediately preceding, as in Isa 28:13; 36:12. I say all this to show that they are doomed to perish with shame, which is their only fitting end.

Are all of them vanity; hereby discover themselves to be vain, empty, or foolish men. Or thus, They that make graven images, all of them make (which word may fitly be repeated out of the foregoing clause, as is very usual in Scripture)

a vanity, or a thing of nought. Which translation seems better to agree,

1. With the following clause, which is added to explain this, in which, not the idol-makers, but the idols themselves, are said to be vain or unprofitable.

2. With the use of the Hebrew word in Scripture, which is never applied to persons, but constantly to things, and sometimes to idols, as 1 Samuel 12:21.

Their delectable things; their idols, in the sight and worship of which they take so much pleasure.

They are their own witnesses; they that make them are witnesses against themselves, and against their idols, because they very well know that they are not gods, but the work of their own hands, in which there is nothing but mean matter and man’s art.

They see not, nor know; or, that

they (to wit, their idols) do not see nor know, have neither sense nor understanding.

That they may be ashamed; therefore they have just cause to be ashamed of their folly and stupidity, in worshipping such senseless things. They that make a graven image are all of them vanity,.... They show themselves to be vain men, by making such vain things as graven images are; both images, makers, and worshippers of them are all vain, yea vanity itself:

and their delectable things shall not profit; their idols made of gold and silver, or covered with them, and adorned with precious stones, and so delightful and desirable, are of no manner of profit and advantage, unless the matter they are made of, and the ornaments about them, were converted to other uses; yet not as gods, and worshipped as such, who can be of no service to their worshippers to help them in distress, or save them from ruin:

and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know that they may be ashamed; they that made them must be witnesses against themselves, and the idols they have made; they must be convicted in their own consciences that they cannot be gods; they must be sensible that they have no sight nor knowledge of persons and things; that they cannot see, nor know their worshippers, nor their wants, and cannot give them relief; and this they ought to acknowledge to their own shame that made them, and that their worshippers of them might be ashamed also.

They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and {m} their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; {n} they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.

(m) Whatever they bestow on their idols, to make them seem glorious.

(n) That is, the idolaters seeing that their idols are blind, are witnesses of their own blindness, and feeling that they are not able to help them, must confess that they have no power.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9–11. The argument opens with the assertion of the nothingness alike of the idol and its makers. Fear on the part of Israel would be justified if other gods besides Jehovah had any power to influence the course of history.

a graven image] for “image” in general, as ch. Isaiah 40:19. The writer assumes that the god is the image and nothing more; since the image is plainly the work of human hands, the god cannot be greater than men or able to save them. This of course is directly opposed to the fundamental assumption of the idolaters themselves, who distinguished between the image and the divinity represented by it (see on Isaiah 44:11).

vanity] lit. “chaos,” as in Isaiah 40:17, Isaiah 41:29.

their delectable things] “the objects in which they delight,” i.e. the idols.

and they are their own witnesses] R.V. “and their own witnesses see not,” etc. Render simply: and their witnesses; their devotees, see ch. Isaiah 43:9. The pronoun which suggests the “own” of A.V. and R.V. is marked by the so-called puncta extraordinaria as suspicious, and is therefore unaccented. If it is retained in the text (as it may very well be) the better translation is, “and as for their witnesses, they see not” &c.

that they may be ashamed] The consequence of their ignorance expressed as a purpose.

9–20. The course of thought is as follows:

(1) The makers of images are themselves frail men, and the gods they fashion cannot profit them (9–11).

(2) The process of manufacture is then described in minute detail, shewing what an expenditure of human strength and contrivance is involved in the production of these useless deities (12 f.).

(3) Nay, the very material of which they may be composed is selected at haphazard from the trees of the forest, and might just as readily have been applied to cook the idolater’s food (14–17).

(4) Finally, with incisive and relentless logic, the writer exposes the strange infatuation which renders the idolater incapable of applying the most rudimentary principles of reason to his own actions (18–20).Verses 9-20. - The uniqueness of God having been set forth, the prophet now turns to the images and the image-makers, overwhelming them with his scorn and ridicule. The passage may be compared with Jeremiah 10:3-10 and Baruch 6:8-72. Verse 9. - They that make a graven image are... vanity; rather, are confusion. The word used is tohu, which, together with bohu, describes the primitive chaos in Genesis 1:2 (comp. Isaiah 24:10; Isaiah 34:11; Isaiah 40:17, 23; Isaiah 41:29; Isaiah 59:4). Their delectable things shall not profit. "Their delectable things" are their idols, which are "pets, favourites, treasures." These cannot possibly be of any advantage to them. They are their own witnesses. Their powerlessness stands confessed in their very appearance, since they are manifestly sightless and senseless. That they may be ashamed. The subject of this clause cannot be sought in the earlier part of the verse. It is the idol-makers that will be put to shame. The prophet cannot bear to dwell any longer upon this dark picture of their state of punishment; and light of the promise breaks through again, and in this third field of the fourth prophecy in all the more intensive form. "And now hear, O Jacob my servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. Thus saith Jehovah, thy Creator, and thy Former from the womb, who cometh to thy help; Fear not, my servant Jacob; and Jeshurun, whom I have chosen! For I will pour out water upon thirsty ones, and brooks upon the dry ground; will pour out my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine after-growth; and they shoot up among the grass, as willows by flowing waters." In contrast with the cheerem, i.e., the setting apart for destruction, there is here presented the promise of the pouring out of the Spirit and of blessing; and in contrast with the giddūphı̄m, the promise of general eagerness to come and honour Israel and its God (Isaiah 44:5). The epithets by which Jehovah designates Himself, and those applied to Israel in Isaiah 44:1, Isaiah 44:2, make the claim to love all the more urgent and emphatic. The accent which connects מבּטן ויצרך, so as to make יעזרך by itself an attributive clause like בו בּחרתּי, is confirmed by Isaiah 44:24 and Isaiah 49:5 : Israel as a nation and all the individuals within it are, as the chosen servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 49:1), the direct formation of Jehovah Himself from the remotest point of their history. In Isaiah 44:26, Jeshurun is used interchangeably with Jacob. This word occurs in three other passages (viz., Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5, Deuteronomy 33:26), and is always written with kibbutz, just as it is here. The rendering ̓Ισραελίσκος in Gr. Ven. is founded upon the supposition that the word is equivalent to ישׂרלוּן - a strange contraction, which is inadmissible, if only on account of the substitution of שׁ for שׂ. The שׁ points back to ישׁר, to be straight or even; hence A. S. Th. εὐθύσς (elsewhere εὐθύτατος), Jerome rectissimus (though in Deuteronomy 32:15 he renders it, after the lxx, dilectus). It is an offshoot of ישׁר equals ישׁר (Psalm 25:21), like זבלוּן, ידתוּן from זבל, ידת; and ūn ( equals ōn) does not stamp it as a diminutive (for אישׁון, which Kamphausen adduces in opposition to Hengstenberg and Volck, does not stand in the same relation to אישׁ as mannikin to man, but rather as the image of a man to a man himself; compare the Arabic insân). We must not render it therefore as an affectionate diminutive, as Gesenius does, the more especially as Jehovah, though speaking in loving terms, does not adopt the language of a lover. The relation of Jeshurun to ישׁר is rather the same as that of שׁלמה to שׁלום, so that the real meaning is "gentleman," or one of gentlemanly or honourable mind, though this need not appear in the translation, since the very nature of a proper name would obliterate it. In Isaiah 44:3, the blessings to be expected are assigned as the reason for the exhortation to be of good cheer. In Isaiah 44:3 water is promised in the midst of drought, and in Isaiah 44:3 the Spirit and blessing of God, just as in Joel the promise of rain is first of all placed in contrast with drought; and this is followed by the promise of the far surpassing antitype, namely, the outpouring of the Spirit. There is nothing at variance with this in the fact that we have not the form צמאה in the place of צמא fo e (according to the analogy of עיפה ארץ, ציּה, נלאה, Psalm 68:10). By צמא) we understand the inhabitants of the land who are thirsting for rain, and by yabbâshâh the parched land itself. Further on, however, an express distinction is made between the abundance of water in the land and the prosperous growth of the nation planted by the side of water-brooks (Psalm 1:3). We must not regard Isaiah 44:3, therefore, as a figure, and Isaiah 44:3 as the explanation, or turn Isaiah 44:3 into a simile introduced in the form of a protasis, although unquestionably water and mountain streams are made the symbol, or rather the anagogical type, of spiritual blessings coming down from above in the form of heavenly gifts, by a gradual ascent from מים and נוזלים (from נזל, to trickle downwards, Sol 4:15, Jeremiah 18:14) to ה רוּח and ה בּרכת (בּרכּת). When these natural and spiritual waters flow down upon the people, once more restored to their home, they spring up among (בּבין only met with here, lxx and Targum כּבין) the grass, like willows by water-brooks.

The willows

(Note: "The garab," says Wetzstein, "was only met with by me in one locality, or, at any rate, I only noticed it once, namely in the Wady So'b, near to a ford of the river which is called the Hd ford, from the chirbet el-Hd, a miserable ruin not far off. It is half an hour to the west of Nimrin (Nimrim, Isaiah 15:6), or, speaking more exactly, half an hour above (i.e., to the east of) Zaft Nimriin, an antique road on the northern bank of the river, hewn in a precipitous wall of rock, like the ladder of Tyre. I travelled through the valley in June 1860, and find the following entry in my diary: 'At length the ravine opened up into a broader valley, so that we could get down to the clear, copious, and rapid stream, and were able to cross it. Being exhausted by the heat, we lay down near the ford among the oleanders, which the mass of flowers covered with a rosy glow. The reed grows here to an unusual height, as in the Wady Yarmk, and willows (zafzaf) and garab are mingled together, and form many-branched trees of three or four fathoms in height. The vegetation, which is fresh and luxuriant by the water-side, is scorched up with the heat in the valley within as little as ten paces from the banks of the stream. The farthest off is the 'osar plant, with its thick, juicy, dark green stalks and leaves, and its apple-like fruit, which is of the same colour, and therefore not yet ripe. The garab tree has already done flowering. The leaves of this tree stand quite close around the stem, as in the case of the Sindiana (the Syrian oak), and, like the leaves of the latter, are fringed with little thorns; but, like the willow, it is a water plant, and our companions Abdallah and Nasrallah assured us that it was only met with near flowing water and in hot lowlands. Its bunches of flowers are at the points of the slender branches, and assume an umbelliferous form. This is the ערב of the Bible.' Consequently the garab (or (as nom. unitatis) the garaba cannot be regarded as a species of willow; and Winer's assumption (Real-Wrterbuch, s.v. Weiden), that the weeping willow is intended at any rate in Psalm 137:2, is an error. In Arabic the weeping willow is always called shafshaf mustachi (the drooping tree). At the same time, we may render ערבים 'willows,' since the garab loves running water as well as the willow, and apparently they seek one another's society; it is quite enough that the difference should be clearly pointed out in the commentary. The reason why the garab did not find its way into my herbarium was the following. On my arrival in Salt, I received the first intelligence of the commencement of the slaughter of the Christians on Antilibanus, and heard the report, which was then commonly believed, that a command had been sent from Constantinople to exterminate Christianity from Syria. This alarming report compelled me to inquire into the actual state of affairs; therefore, leaving my luggage and some of my companions behind, I set off with all speed to Jerusalem, where I hoped to obtain reliable information, accompanied by Herr Drgen, my kavas, and two natives, viz., Abdallah the smith, from Salt, and Nasrallah the smith, from Ain Genna. For a ride like this, which did not form part of the original plan of my journey, everything but weapons, even a herbarium, would have been in the way. Still there are small caravans going every week between Salt and Jerusalem, and they must always cross the Hd ford, so that it would be easy to get a twig of the garab. So far as I remember, the remains of the blossom were of a dirty white colour." (Compare p. 213, where we have taken nachal hâ‛ărâbhı̄m, according to the meaning of the words, as a synonym of Wady Sufsaf, or, more correctly, Safsf. From the description given above, the garab is a kind of viburnum with indented leaves. This tree, which is of moderate height, is found by the side of streams along with the willow. According to Sprengel (Gesch. der Botanik. i. 25), the safsâf is the salix subserrata of Wildenow).)

are the nation, which has hitherto resembled withered plants in a barren soil, but is now restored to all the bloom of youth through the Spirit and blessing of God. The grass stands for the land, which resembles a green luxuriant plain; and the water-brooks represent the abundant supply of living waters, which promote the prosperity of the land and its inhabitants.

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