Isaiah 48:10
Behold, I have refined you, but not with silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction.
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(10) I have refined thee, but not with silver . . .—The meaning is obscure, and perhaps depends on some unknown process in ancient metallurgy. Commonly the refining of silver is taken as a parable of God’s dealings with His people (Isaiah 1:25; Ezekiel 22:18-22; Malachi 3:3). Here the thought seems to be that the discipline had been less fierce than that of the refiner’s fire. Silver was “purified seven times in the fire” (Psalm 12:6); but that would have brought about the destruction of Israel, and He sought to spare them.

I have chosen thee.—Better, I have tested thee.

48:9-15 We have nothing ourselves to plead with God, why he should have mercy upon us. It is for his praise, to the honour of his mercy, to spare. His bringing men into trouble was to do them good. It was to refine them, but not as silver; not so thoroughly as men refine silver. If God should take that course, they are all dross, and, as such, might justly be put away. He takes them as refined in part only. Many have been brought home to God as chosen vessels, and a good work of grace begun in them, in the furnace of affliction. It is comfort to God's people, that God will secure his own honour, therefore work deliverance for them. And if God delivers his people, he cannot be at a loss for instruments to be employed. God has formed a plan, in which, for his own sake, and the glory of his grace, he saves all that come to Him.Behold, I have refined thee - This refers to the Jews in their afflictions and captivity in Babylon. It states one design which he had in view in these afflictions - to purify them. The word used here, and rendered 'refined' (צרף tsâraph), means properly to melt; to smelt metals; to subject them to the action of fire, in order to remove the scoria or dross from them (see the notes at Isaiah 1:25). Then it means to purify in any manner. Here it means that God had used these afflictions for the same purpose for which fire is used in regard to metals, in order that every impurity in their moral and religious character might be removed.

But not with silver - Margin, 'For.' Hebrew, בכסף bekâseph. Many different interpretations of this have been proposed. Jerome renders it, Non quasi argentum - 'Not as silver.' The Septuagint, Οὐχ ἕνεκεν ἀργυρίου ouch heneken arguriou - 'Not on account of silver.' Grotius explains it, 'I have a long time tried thee by afflictions, but nothing good appears in thee;' that is, I have not found you to be silver, or to be pure, as when a worker in metals applies the usual heat to a mass of ore for the purpose of separating the dross, and obtains no silver. Gesenius explains it to mean, 'I sought to make you better by afflictions, but the end was not reached; you were not as silver which is obtained by melting, but as dross.' Rosenmuller supposes it means, that he had not tried them with that intensity of heat which was necessary to melt and refine silver; and remarks, that those skilled in metals observe that gold is easily liquified, but that silver requires a more intense heat to purify it. Jarchi renders it, 'Not by the fire of Gehenna as silver is melted by the fire.' Kimchi explains it, 'Not as one who is smelting silver, and who removes all the scoria from it, and so consumes it that nothing but pure silver remains. If that had been done, but few of you would have been left.' Vitringa supposes that it means, that God had sent them to Babylon to be purified, yet it was not to be done with silver. It was by the agency of a people who were wicked, sinful, and unbelieving. Amidst this variety of interpretation, it is difficult to determine the sense. Probably it may be, I have melted thee, and found no silver; or the result has not been that you have been shown to be pure by all your trials; and thus it will agree with what is said above, that they were perverse, false, and rebellious as a people.

I have chosen thee - Lowth renders this, 'I have tried thee.' The Vulgate and the Septuagint, however, render it, 'I have chosen thee.' The word used here (from בחר bâchar) means, according to Gesenius:

1. To prove, to try, to examine; and the primary idea, according to him, is that of rubbing with the lapis Lydius, or touchstone, or else of cutting in pieces for the purpose of examining.

2. To approve, choose, or select. This is the most common signification in the Hebrew Bible Genesis 13:11; Exodus 17:9; Joshua 24:15; Job 9:14; Job 15:5; Job 29:25.

3. To delight in Genesis 6:2; Isaiah 1:29. Probably the meaning here is, 'I have proved or tried thee in the furnace of affliction.' It was true, however, that God had chosen or selected their nation to be his people when they were suffering in the furnace of affliction in Egypt; and it is also true that God chooses sinners now, or converts them, as the result of heavy affliction. Possibly this may be the idea, that their affliction had prepared them to embrace his offers and to seek consolation in him; and he may design to teach that one effect of affliction is to prepare the mind to embrace the offers of mercy.

In the furnace of affliction - Referring particularly to their trials in Babylon. Afflictions are often likened to fire - from the fact that fire is used to purify or try metals, and afflictions have the same object in reference to the people of God.

10. (See on [832]Isa 1:25).

with silver—rather, "for silver." I sought by affliction to purify thee, but thou wast not as silver obtained by melting, but as dross [Gesenius]. Thy repentance is not complete: thou art not yet as refined silver. Rosenmuller explains, "not as silver," not with the intense heat needed to melt silver (it being harder to melt than gold), that is, not with the most extreme severity. The former view is better (Isa 1:25; 42:25; Eze 22:18-20, 22).

chosen—or else [Lowth], tried … proved: according to Gesenius, literally, "to rub with the touchstone," or to cut in pieces so as to examine (Zec 13:9; Mal 3:3; 1Pe 1:7).

I have refined thee; or, I will refine thee. Although I will not cut thee off, or utterly destroy thee, as I now said; yet I will put thee into the furnace, not to consume thee, but to purify thee from that dross which cleaveth to thee, and needs such afflictions to purge it away.

Not with silver; or, not among silver; or, not as silver; which is put into and kept in the furnace so long till all the dross be purged away from it. I will not deal so rigorously with thee, for then I should wholly consume thee; in judgment I will remember mercy.

I have chosen thee; or, I will choose thee; or, I will yet choose thee, as it is expressed, Isaiah 14:1 Zechariah 1:17. Or, I will choose thee again, as Zechariah 2:12. For it must be considered that God had in a manner rejected Israel, when he sent them into captivity, and given her a bill of divorce, as he saith, Jeremiah 3:8; see also Isaiah 1:1; and therefore it was necessary that God should choose this people a second time, that they might be betrothed to him again, as is expressed and promised, Hosea 2:19,20. This seems to me the true sense; although it may be thus understood, I will choose thee, i.e. I will manifest by my carriage to thee that I have chosen thee; or, that thou art my chosen people. Things are oft said to be done when they are manifested, as was observed on Isaiah 48:7. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver,.... But it is not usual to refine with silver; not silver with silver, nor any other metal with it; that itself is what is refined; this therefore cannot be the sense of the words; wherefore they are, by others, differently rendered; by some, "not in silver" (d); not in a furnace of silver, as Aben Ezra; "but in a furnace of poverty", as the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions render the next clause; and to the same sense the Targum; that is, I have tried, and purified, and refined thee, not by prosperity, but adversity; not with riches, which has its snares, temptations, trials, and exercises, but with poverty, which also has the same, or greater; and therefore Agur desired neither, Proverbs 30:8. By others, "but not into silver" (e), so as to make silver of them, whereby all the labour was lost; but this is contrary to the following clause: by others, "not for the sake of silver" (f); so the Septuagint version; or for the gain of it, as the Arabic; which sense suggests that God was no gainer by their afflictions; what he did was freely, without money or price, and all the use and profit were to themselves; see Psalm 44:12. Others think, that instead of "beth", "in", it should be "caph", "as", a note of similitude, and be rendered, "but not as silver" (g): but that the text is corrupted, and ought to be thus altered, there is no authority for it, and besides is contrary to several express passages of Scripture, Psalm 66:10. Rather therefore it should be rendered, "but not among silver" (h); along with that, which requires a fierce fire, is kept in the furnace or melting pot until all the dross is consumed: but if God was to afflict his people to such a degree, they would not be able to bear it; and if they were to continue under his afflicting hand till all their dross, sin, and corruption were removed, they would be utterly consumed; was he to contend, or be wroth for ever, the spirit would fail before him, and the souls that he has made; wherefore he does not afflict in this fierce and furious manner, but gently and gradually, in measure, in mercy, and not in strict justice, 1 Corinthians 10:13 and by such gentle means he refines and brightens the graces of his people, tries and proves their principles and profession, and reforms their manners: I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction; such was the affliction of Israel in Egypt, called the iron furnace, Deuteronomy 4:20 and as God has his furnace to punish and consume his enemies, so he has his furnace to try, purge, and purify his people, Isaiah 31:9, and which is a fiery one, and very grievous and distressing, especially when the wrath of God is apprehended in it, though fury is not in him: when he afflicts, it is all in love, and therefore is said to choose his people at such a time; which is to be understood not of their election to grace and glory; for that is not done in time, but in eternity, and is of them, not as transgressor, or as in the corrupt mass, but as in the pure mass of creatureship: rather of calling, which is the fruit, and effect, and evidence of election, and is expressed by choosing, John 15:19, and sometimes afflictions have been the means of it; or God has in them, or by them, brought them to himself, as he did Manasseh: but it seems best of all to understand it of the manifestation of election; God sometimes under afflictive providences appears to his people, and tells them that he has loved them with an everlasting love, and assures them that they are his chosen ones; he knows their souls, and owns them as his own in their adversities; besides, in afflicting them, he deals with them as his children and chosen ones; and because they are so, he takes the pains he does with them, which he does not with others, to purge and purify them, Psalm 31:7. Moreover, he makes them choice and excellent persons by afflictions; they come forth out of them as choice silver and pure gold; they gain thereby many choice experiences of the love and grace of God, and of the truths of the Gospel, and of the promises of it: afflicted saints are commonly the choicest believers; they become thriving and flourishing Christians, humble and Holy Ones; more fit for their master's use, more weaned from the world, and wrought up for heaven and happiness. Some, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra, render the words, "I have chosen for thee the furnace of affliction" (i), or "thee for the furnace of affliction"; afflictions are chosen and appointed for the people of God, and they are chosen for and appointed unto affliction, Job 23:14. Some, as Aben Ezra and Kimchi observe, by the change of a letter, read "bachantica", "have proved thee", or "tried thee", instead of "bachartica", "I have chosen thee"; but without any reason.

(d) "in argento", Montanus; "in fornace argenti", Vatablus. (e) "Non in argentum", Grotius. (f) , Sept. "non pro pecunia", Tigurine version. (g) "Quasi argentum", V. L. "tanquam argentum", Munster, Pagninus, Calvin. (h) "Inter argentum", Syr. (i) "elegi tibi, sive pro te fornacem affictionis", Gataker,

Behold, I have refined thee, but {l} not with silver; I have {m} chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

(l) For I had respect to your weakness and infirmity: for in silver there is some pureness, but in us there is nothing but dross.

(m) I took you out of the furnace where you would have been consumed.

10. Instead of cutting off Israel, Jehovah has purified it in the furnace of affliction. That the process has been fruitless of beneficial result (Dillmann) is suggested only by a particular interpretation of the words.

but not with silver] The phrase is very obscure. Dillmann and others take it to mean “not with silver as a result,” without obtaining any pure metal. Others render “not as silver,” i.e. either “not so severely as silver is refined,” or “with a refining of a different nature.” None of the proposed interpretations is satisfactory.

I have chosen thee in the furnace &c.] Render: I have tried thee &c. (R.V. marg.). This sense of the verb is Aramaic (cf. Job 34:4?), and since the verb “choose” is a common word of the prophet, the fact of its being found here in a different sense may be an argument against his authorship.

On the figure of the verse see ch. Isaiah 1:25; Jeremiah 6:29; Jeremiah 9:7; Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:2-3; 1 Peter 1:7.Verse 10. - I have refined thee, but not with silver; rather, but not as silver (Cheyne). or, but not in the manner of silver (Delitzsch); i.e. not with the severity with which silver is refined (see Psalm 12:6). I have chosen thee; rather, I have tested thee. The furnace of affliction is here the Babylonian captivity. The object of the Captivity was to "test" and "refine," or purify God's people to a certain extent - not with extreme severity, but in such sort as to fit them to "bear his Name before the Gentiles" for another five hundred years. After this summons, and description of those who are summoned, the address of Jehovah begins. "The first I have long ago proclaimed, and it has gone forth out of my mouth, and I caused it to be heard. I carried it out suddenly, and it came to pass. Because I knew that thou art hard, and thy neck an iron clasp, and thy brow of brass; I proclaimed it to thee long ago; before it came to pass, I caused thee to hear it, that thou mightest not say, My idol has done it, and my graven image and molten image commanded it." The word הראשׁנות in itself signifies simply priora; and then, according to the context, it signifies prius facta (Isaiah 46:9), or prius praedicta (Isaiah 43:9), or prius eventura (Isaiah 41:22; Isaiah 42:9). In the present passage it refers to earlier occurrences, which Jehovah had foretold, and, when the time fixed for their accomplishment arrived, which He had immediately brought to pass. With a retrospective glance at this, we find plural masc. suffixes (cf., Isaiah 41:27) used interchangeably with plural fem. (cf., Isaiah 48:7 and Isaiah 38:16); the prophet more frequently uses the sing. fem. in this neuter sense (Isaiah 41:20; Isaiah 42:23, etc.), and also, though very rarely, the sing. masc. (Isaiah 45:8). On gı̄d, a band, a sinew, but here a clasp (cf., Arab. kaid, a fetter), see Psychology, p. 233. Nechūshâh is a poetical equivalent for nechōsheth, as in Isaiah 45:2. The heathen cravings of Israel, which reached into the captivity, are here presupposed. Hengstenberg is mistaken in his supposition, that the prophet's standpoint is always anterior to the captivity when he speaks in condemnation of idolatry. We cannot draw any conclusion from the character of the community that returned, with regard to that of the people of the captivity generally. The great mass even of Judah, and still more of Israel, remained behind, and became absorbed into the heathen, to whom they became more and more assimilated. And does not Ezekiel expressly state in Ezekiel 20:30., that the golah by the Chaboras defiled themselves with the same abominations of idolatry as their fathers, and that the prevailing disposition was to combine the worship of Jehovah with heathenism, or else to exchange the former altogether for the latter? And we know that it was just the same with the exiles in Egypt, among whom the life and labours of Jeremiah terminated. Wherever the prophet speaks of פשׁעים and רשׁעים, these names invariably include a tendency or falling away to Babylonian idolatry, to which he describes the exiles as having been addicted, both in Isaiah 66:17 and elsewhere.
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