Isaiah 45:14
Thus said the LORD, The labor of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you, and they shall be yours: they shall come after you; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down to you, they shall make supplication to you, saying, Surely God is in you; and there is none else, there is no God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(14) Thus saith the Lord . . .—A new section opens. In Isaiah 43:3, Egypt, Ethiopia, Seba, had been given to Cyrus, as a reward, or ransom, for the deliverance of Israel. Here the prophet goes a step farther, and contemplates them as coming, in the spirit of a voluntary surrender, as proselytes to the faith of Israel, in self-imposed bondage, offering to Israel, as one with God, the “supplication” which, elsewhere, is offered to Jehovah. The promise reminds us of Psalm 68:31; Psalm 72:10, and yet more of Isaiah 19:23; Isaiah 9:5-7. A partial fulfilment may have been found in the command given by Cyrus, that these and other nations should assist in the work of rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 1:4). Egypt and Ethiopia send the products of their labour. The Sabæans (sc. the people of Meroe), strong, but not wealthy, come freely to offer their own labour.

Isaiah 45:14. Thus saith the Lord, &c. — Here the prophet turns to Jerusalem, or to the company of returning exiles, and relates some joyful consequence of the deliverance foretold, which probably chiefly respects the future admission of the Gentiles into the church of God. The labour of Egypt — The wealth gotten by their labour; and merchandise of Ethiopia — The gains of their merchandise; and of the Sabeans, men of stature — A tall and strong people; shall come over unto thee — O my city, or church. The sense is, Jerusalem shall not only be rebuilt, but the wealth and glory of other countries shall be brought to it again, as in former times. “The words,” says Lowth, “may be supposed, in some degree, verified in Cyrus’s devoting the tribute coming out of those rich provinces of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba, to the building and service of the temple.” To which may be added, that some of the succeeding Persian monarchs settled revenues upon the temple for the offering of sacrifices for themselves and their families, Ezra 6:10. And the same was done, in after times, by Alexander the Great, and several of the Syrian and Egyptian kings, 2Ma 3:2-3; 2Ma 5:16.” But “the place is principally meant of the flourishing state of the church, (often described under the figure of a city,) when the Gentile world should come into it, bring in their riches to the support of it, and submit themselves to its government, as being the only seat and temple of truth.” In chains they shall come over — Subdued by the rod of the Messiah’s strength, (Psalm 110:2,) the power of his word, and led captive thereby: they shall confess themselves to be conquered, and shall willingly submit themselves to thee. The subjection of the Gentiles to God’s church is often expressed in Scripture by such metaphors as this; as Psalm 45:5; and Psalm 149:8; and Psalm 68:18, compared with Ephesians 4:8. They shall make supplication unto thee — To obtain thy favour and society; saying, Surely God is in thee — Or, with thee. We plainly discern that God is on thy side, or in the midst of thee; and therefore we desire to join ourselves with thee; and there is none else — We are now convinced that Jehovah, thy God, is the only true God, and that idols are vain and empty nothings.45:11-19 Believers may ask in prayer for what they need; if for their good, it will not be withheld. But how common to hear God called to account for his dealings with man! Cyrus provided for the returning Jews. Those redeemed by Christ shall be provided for. The restoration would convince many, and convert some; and all that truly join the Lord, find his service perfect freedom. Though God be his people's God and Saviour, yet sometimes he lays them under his frowns; but let them wait upon the Lord who hides his face. There is a world without end; and it will be well or ill with us, according as it shall be with us in that world. The Lord we serve and trust, is God alone. All that God has said is plain, satisfactory, and just. As God in his word calls us to seek him, so he never denied believing prayers, nor disappointed believing expectations. He gives grace sufficient, and comfort and satisfaction of soul.Thus saith the Lord - This verse is designed to denote the favors which in subsequent times would be conferred on Jerusalem, the city which Isaiah 45:13 was to be rebuilt. It bas reference, according to Lowth, to the conversion of the Gentiles, and their admission into the church of God. Grotius, however, understands it as addressed to Cyrus, and as meaning that, because he had released the Jews without reward, therefore God would give him the wealth of Egypt, Ethiopia, Sabaea, and that those nations should be subject to him. But in this opinion probably he stands alone, and the objections to it are so obvious that they need not be specified. Some of the Jewish interpreters suppose that it refers to the same events as those recorded in Isaiah 43:3, and that it relates to the fact that God had formerly given those nations for the deliverance and protection of his people. They suppose that particular reference is had to the slaughter and destruction of the army of Sennacherib. Vitringa regards it as referring to the fact that proselytes should be made from all these nations to the true religion, and finds, as he supposes, a fulfillment of it in the times of the Saviour and the apostles. In regard to the true meaning of the passage; we may observe:

1. That it refers to the times that would succeed their return from their exile; and not to events that were then past. This is apparent on the face of the passage.

2. It relates to Jerusalem, or to the people of God, and not to Cyrus. This is evident, because it was not true that these nations became subject to Cyrus after his taking Babylon, for it was not Cyrus, but his son Cambyses that invaded and subdued Egypt, and because the whole phraseology has reference to a conversion to religion, and not to the subjection involved in the conquests of war.

3. It appropriately relates to a conversion to the true God, and an embracing of the true religion. This is implied in the language in the close of the verse, 'saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.'

4. The passage, therefore, means, that subsequent to their return from Babylon, there would be the conversion of those nations; or that they - perhaps mentioned here as the representatives of great and mighty nations in general - would be converted to the true faith, and that their wealth and power would be consecrated to the cause of Yahweh. The time when this was to be, is not fixed in the prophecy itself. It is only determined that it was to be subsequent to the return from the exile, and to be one of the consequences of that return. The fulfillment, therefore, may be sought either under the first preaching of the gospel, or in times still more remote. A more full explanation will occur in the examination of the different parts of the verse.

The labor of Egypt - That is, the fruit, or result of the labor of Egypt; the wealth of Egypt (see the word thus used in Job 10:3; Psalm 78:46; Isaiah 55:2; Jeremiah 3:24; Jeremiah 20:5; Ezekiel 23:9). The idea is, that Egypt would be converted to the true religion, and its wealth consecrated to the service of the true God. The conversion of Egypt is not unfrequently foretold Psalm 68:31 :

Princes shall come out of Egypt.

Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.

See the notes at Isaiah 19:18-22 - where the conversion of Egypt is introduced and discussed at length.

And merchandise of Ethiopia - On the situation of Ethiopia, see the notes at Isaiah 18:1. The word 'merchandise' here means the same as wealth, since their wealth consisted in their traffic. That Cush or Ethiopia would be converted to the true religion and be united to the people of God, is declared in the passage above quoted from Psalm 68:31; and also in various other places. Thus in Psalm 67:4 : 'Behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there;' Zephaniah 3:10 : 'From beyond the ruins of Ethiopia, my suppliants, even the daughters of my dispersed, shall bring mine offering.'

And of the Sabeans, men of stature - (סבאים sebâ'ı̂ym). The inhabitants of Seba (סבא sebâ', not שׁבא shebâ'). Sheba and the Sabeans of that name were a country and people of Arabia Felix - comprising a considerable part of the country now known as Yemen, lying in the southwest part of Arabia Joel 3:8; Job 1:15. That country abounded in frankincense, myrrh, spices, gold, and precious stones 1 Kings 10:1; Isaiah 60:6; Jeremiah 6:20. Seba, here referred to, was a different country. It was inhabited by a descendant of Cush Genesis 10:7, and was probably the same as Meroe in Upper Egypt (see the notes at Isaiah 43:3). That this people was distinguished for height of stature is expressly affirmed by Herodotus (iii. 20), who says of the Ethiopians, among whom the Sabeans are to be reckoned, that they were 'the tallest of men' (λέγονται εἶναι μέγιστοι ἀνθρώπων legontai einai megistoi anthrōpōn); and Solinus affirms that the Ethiopians are 'twelve feet high.' Agatharchides, an ancient Greek poet, quoted by Bochart (Phaleg. ii. 26), says of the Sabeans, τὰ σώματά ἐστι τῶν κατοικούντων ἀξιολογωτερα ta sōmata esti tōn katoikountōn achiologōtera - 'the bodies of those who dwell there are worthy of special remark.' This shows at least a coincidence between the accounts of Scripture and of profane writers. This country is alluded to by Solomon in Psalm 72:10 :

The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents;

The kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts.

They are connected here with the Egyptians, and with the inhabitants of Ethiopia or Cush; and their conversion to the true religion would occur probably about the same time. Doubtless the Christian religion was early introduced into these countries, for among those converted on the day of Pentecost, were foreigners from Egypt, and the adjacent countries Acts 2:10-11, who would carry the gospel with them on their return. See also the ease of the eunuch of Ethiopia Acts 8:26-39, by whom, undoubtedly, the gospel was conveyed to that region The first bishop of Ethiopia was Frumentius, who was made bishop of that country about 330 a.d. There is a current tradition among the Ethiopians that the Queen of Sheba, who visited Solomon, was called Maqueda, and that she was not from Arabia, but was a queen of their own country. They say that she adopted the Jewish religion, and introduced it among her people; and the eunuch, who was treasurer under Queen Candace, was probably a Jew by religion if not by birth. Yet there will be in future times a more signal fulfillment of this prophecy, when the inhabitants of these countries, and the people of all other nations, shall be converted to the true religion, and shall give themselves to God (compare the notes at Isaiah 60:3-14). That prophecy has a remarkable similarity to this, and indeed is little more than a beautiful expansion of it.

continued...

14. The language but cursorily alludes to Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba, being given to Cyrus as a ransom in lieu of Israel whom he restored (Isa 43:3), but mainly and fully describes the gathering in of the Gentiles to Israel (Ac 2:10, 11; 8:27-38), especially at Israel's future restoration (Isa 2:2; 14:1, 2; 19:18-22; 60:3-14; 49:23; Ps 68:31; 72:10, 11).

labour—wealth acquired by labor (Jer 3:24).

Sabeans … of stature—the men of Meroe, in Upper Egypt. Herodotus (3.30) calls the Ethiopians "the tallest of men" (see on [807]Isa 18:2; [808]1Ch 11:23).

thee—Jerusalem ("my city," Isa 45:13).

in chains—(Ps 149:8). "The saints shall judge the world" (1Co 6:2) and "rule the nations with a rod of iron" (Zec 14:12-19; Re 2:26, 27). The "chains," in the case of the obedient, shall be the easy yoke of Messiah; as "the sword of the Spirit" also is saving to the believer, condemnatory to the unbeliever (Joh 12:48; Heb 4:12; Re 19:15).

God is in thee—(Jer 3:19).

The labour of Egypt; the wealth gotten by their labour. Men of stature; a tall and strong people, who yet shall use their strength not to oppose thee, but to serve thee, and to bring their labour to thee.

Shall come over unto thee; either,

1. To thee, O Cyrus: because thou wast so generous as to dismiss my people freely, I will give thee another and a better recompence, even the labour of Egypt, &c. Or,

2. To thee, O my city, or my captivity or captive people. For it is not to be neglected, that there are no less than six pronouns in this verse, all which are of the feminine gender; which seems not to agree to Cyrus. It is true which is objected by the most learned author of this part of the English Annotations, that the Scripture oft speaks of states and kingdoms in the feminine gender; but when it speaks of any particular king or emperor, it constantly speaks of him in the masculine gender, as it doth of Cyrus in this very chapter, Isaiah 45:1, and elsewhere. And thus the sense of the place seems to be this, Jerusalem shall not only be rebuilt, but the wealth and glory of other countries shall be brought to it again, as it was in former times; which although it was in part verified in Jerusalem, yet it was much more fully accomplished in the church of the gospel, which is oft expressed in Scripture under the name of Jerusalem; and in the accession of the Gentiles to that church, which began in Jerusalem, and from thence spread itself into all the parts of the world. And this sense seems best to agree with the latter part of this and with the following verse, as we shall see.

In chains they shall come over; they shall be taken captive by thee, and willingly submit themselves to thee; which was accomplished in the conversion of the Gentiles, whose subjection to God’s church is oft expressed in Scripture under such metaphors as this; as Psalm 45:5 149:8, &c.; Psalm 68:18, compared with Ephesians 4:8.

They shall make supplication, unto thee; to obtain thy favour and society.

Surely God is in thee, or, with thee. We plainly discern that God is on thy side, or in the midst of thee; and therefore we desire to join ourselves with thee.

There is none else, there is no God; we are now convinced that thou art the only true God, and that idols are vain and empty nothings; which was but very obscurely fulfilled in Cyrus’s time, but was most evidently and eminently accomplished in the days of the Messiah, of whom Cyrus was a type; as also this deliverance of the Jews from Babylon by Cyrus was a type of the redemption of God’s people by Christ. Thus saith the Lord,.... The following words are said not to Cyrus, nor to Christ, but to the church, as the feminine pronouns show; and Kimchi observes, they are directed to Jerusalem:

the labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia, and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee; a prophecy of the conversion of many in these nations, who should join themselves to the churches of Christ, formed among them, and make use of their riches, got by merchandise, labour, and industry, for the support of the interest of religion; and had its accomplishment in part, in the first times of the Gospel, which was brought into Egypt, as it is said, by the Evangelist Mark; and by which, no doubt, many were converted and formed into a church state, and others joined them. The Ethiopian eunuch, baptized by Philip, carried it into his country, where it also met with success, was embraced and professed; as it will be more so in the latter day, when the kings of Seba and Sheba shall offer gifts to Christ, and bring their riches into the church, the same with the Sabeans here; see Psalm 72:10, who are said to be "men of stature"; that is, of a large and tall stature, as the men of Seba are said to be by other (w) authors; or, "men of measure" (x). The Targum renders it, "men of merchandise"; who used measures in trade and business: "and they shall be thine": give up themselves to the church, become members of it, and submit to its rule and discipline:

they shall come after thee; follow the church and its pastors, as they have them, for examples. The Targum is,

"they shall walk after thy word;''

be directed, guided, and governed by the church:

in chains they shall come over; being subdued and conquered by the grace of God, shall come in the chains of efficacious grace, drawn with the cords of love, and bands of a man; and yet shall come willingly, being made willing in the day of the power of divine grace upon their souls:

and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee; this is not to be understood of religious worship and invocation, such as is made to God, who only is the object of adoration and prayer in that sense; but is only expressive of their profound veneration and respect for the church of God, beseeching that it would receive them into, though unworthy of, its communion; see Isaiah 49:23,

saying, surely God is in thee, and there is none else, there is no god; induced thus to come to the church, and show all this respect unto her, from this consideration, that God is in the midst of her, of a truth, her name being "Jehovah Shammah", the Lord is there; here he grants his presence, here his word is preached, and ordinances administered; and hither converts flock, in hope of enjoying the same blessing also, being fully satisfied there is no other God but in Zion, Zechariah 8:23, Ezekiel 48:35. This passage of Scripture is thus explained in the Jewish Chronicles (y): "the labour of Egypt", that is, Pharaoh king of Egypt: "and the merchandise of Ethiopia", that is, Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia: "and the Sabeans, men of stature", these are their armies:

they shall come over to thee, this is Jerusalem:

they shall be thine, peace being now made with thee:

they shall come after thee, that is, Hezekiah:

in chains they shall come over, in chains and bracelets:

they shall bow down to thee, and make supplication to thee, they shall give praise to God in the midst of thee, and say,

surely God is in thee.

continued...

Thus saith the LORD, The labour {r} of Egypt, and merchandise of Cush and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to thee, and they shall be {s} thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down to thee, they shall make supplication to thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.

(r) These people were tributaries to the Persians, and so king Artahshashte gave this money toward the building of the temple, Ezr 7:27.

(s) While they were your enemies, they will now honour you and you will rule them: which was accomplished in the time of Christ.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. The peoples mentioned are the same as those named in ch. Isaiah 43:3 (see on the passage) as the “ransom” given for Israel. They are apparently represented here as already conquered by Cyrus, the vicegerent and anointed of Jehovah. It has even been supposed that Cyrus is the person addressed in the verse, but this is impossible because of the words “Surely in thee is God,” which certainly could not be addressed to Cyrus. The commonly accepted interpretation that there is no thought of conquest in the passage, but only of spontaneous homage rendered to Israel by distant nations of the earth, is less natural. The idea that the “fetters” are self-imposed is a conceit not readily to be attributed to the prophet, and the whole scene strongly suggests a submission that has been preceded by humiliation and defeat. The meaning probably is that the treasures of the nations are made over to Israel by Cyrus, while the nations themselves recognise the exaltation of Israel as the goal of the Persian victories and worship Jehovah, as the only true God.

and the Sabæans, men of stature] (see on ch. Isaiah 18:2.) Omit “of” with R.V.; the Sabæans offer not tribute, but their persons (as slaves).

shall come over unto thee] Rather: shall pass before thee (as 1 Kings 9:8; 2 Kings 4:9).

in chains they shall come over] in fetters (Nahum 3:10; Psalm 149:8) shall they pass. The word for make supplication is in every other instance used of prayer to God. Israel is recognised as the mediator between the true God and mankind.

Surely God is in thee] In thee only is God. These of course are words of the Sabæans, &c. to Israel, expressing their acceptance of the true religion. Israel’s God has proved Himself to be the God of history, the only God. The expression appears to be alluded to by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:25 (“declaring that God is in you indeed”).

14–17. The collapse of the heathen religions is here dramatically represented under the image of a procession of conquered nations of Africa, who pass before Israel, as tributaries and slaves, acknowledging that Israel’s God is the only true divinity. This seems to be the sense, but see below on Isaiah 45:14.Verses 14-25. - THE CONVERSION' OF THE GENTILES A CONSEQUENCE OF THE RESTORATION AND SALVATION OF ISRAEL. "With the prospect of the release of the exiles is associated," says Delitzsch, "in the prophet's perspective, the prospect of an expansion of the restored Church, through the entrance of the fulness of the Gentiles." Egypt, Ethiopia, and Saba are especially mentioned here, as in Isaiah 43:3, as among the first to come in (vers. 14, 15). Later on, a more general influx is spoken of (ver. 20); and, finally, a prospect is held out of an ultimate universal conversion (ver. 23). At the same time, judgment is denounced against the idolaters who persist in their idolatry (vers. 16, 20), and they are warned that they will have no share in the coming glories of the Israel of God. Verse 14. - The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabaeans; i.e. "the laborious Egyptians, and the traffic-loving Ethiopians and Sabaeans." Their buildings and their husbandry alike justify what is said of the Egyptians, while the very ancient traffic between Egypt and Ethiopia is sufficient ground for the assignment of a commercial character to the Ethiopians and the Sabaeans. Men of stature. (On the tall stature of the Ethiopians, see Herod., 3:20; and comp. Isaiah 18:2, with the comment.) Shall come over unto thee. Knobel understands that they would give their aid to the rebuilding of the temple; but this they certainly did not do, and Isaiah's words certainly do not imply it. He is again speaking of the great conversion of the nations, which he connected with the restoration of the Jews to their own land (Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 19:18-25, etc.), and which may be considered to have begun then, but only to have had its full accomplishment in the Messianic period. In chains they shall come over. Ready to serve the Church as slaves and servants - not literally wearing chains. They shall fall down unto thee, etc. The Church, as informed with the Spirit of God, shall Seem to them a holy thing, and therefore an object of worship (romp. Revelation 3:9). There is such a union between Christ and his Church, that worship, in a qualified sense, may be paid the Church without unfitness. In the prospect of this ultimate and saving purpose of the mission of Cyrus, viz., the redemption of Israel and the conversion of the heathen, heaven and earth are now summoned to bring forth and pour down spiritual blessings in heavenly gifts, according to the will and in the power of Jehovah, who has in view a new spiritual creation. "Cause to trickle down, ye heavens above, and let the blue sky rain down righteousness; let the earth open, and let salvation blossom, and righteousness; let them sprout together: I Jehovah have created it." What the heavens are to cause to trickle down, follows as the object to יזּלוּ. And what is to flower when the earth opens (pâthach as in Psalm 106:17; compare aprilis and the Neo-Greek anoixis, spring), is salvation and righteousness. But tzedek (righteousness) is immediately afterwards the object of a new verb; so that וּצדקה ישׁע, which are thought of as combined, as the word יחד (together) shows, are uncoupled in the actual expression. Knobel expresses a different opinion, and assumes that ישׁע is regarded as a collective noun, and therefore construed with a plural, like אמרּה in Psalm 119:103, and חמדה in Haggai 2:7. But the use of yachad (together) favours the other interpretation. The suffix of בּראתיו points to this fulness of righteousness and salvation. It is a creation of Jehovah Himself. Heaven and earth, when co-operating to effect this, are endowed with their capacity through Him from whom cometh every good and perfect gift, and obey now, as at the first, His creative fiat. This "rorate caeli desuper et nubes pluant justum," as the Vulgate renders it, is justly regarded as an old advent cry.
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