Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:1. Yet now] But now; marking the contrast, exactly as in ch. Isaiah 43:1.
Isaiah 44:1-5. Once more the gloom of the present is lighted up by the promise of a brilliant future; the Divine spirit shall be poured out on Israel, and strangers shall esteem it an honour to attach themselves to the people of Jehovah.
Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.2. formed thee from the womb] See Isaiah 44:24, ch. Isaiah 49:5.
Jeshurun occurs again only in Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5; Deuteronomy 33:26; always as a synonym for Israel and a title of honour (hardly a diminutive, as the termination might suggest). It means the “Upright One,” being formed from an adj. yâshâr, which is applied to Israel in Numbers 23:10, and perhaps also in the phrase “book of Jashar” (see Joshua 10:13, R.V.). The history of the name is, however, altogether obscure. The opinion that it was coined in opposition to Jacob (“the supplanter”) has little to recommend it; although that antithesis may have led to its selection by this prophet.
Should the recent supposed discovery of the name Israel on an Egyptian monument of the reign of Merenptah be confirmed, it is possible that fresh light may be thrown on the relation of the two names Israel and Jeshurun. The form in which the word there appears is said to be Yishir’il, the sibilant agreeing with Jeshurun but differing from the traditional pronunciation of Yisrâ’el. Yishir’il and Yeshûrûn might be derivations from a common root, yâshar. (Brandt, Theologisch Tijdschrift, 1896, p. 511; cf. Renan, Hist. du peuple d’Israël, Vol. i., p. 106).
For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:3. On the first half of the verse see ch. Isaiah 41:17 ff. Here, however, a figurative sense predominates, as is shewn by what follows. The “spirit” is the agent both of physical and moral regeneration, as in ch. Isaiah 32:15 (cf. Ezekiel 37:11-14); the former idea being prominent; hence the parallelism “spirit”—“blessing,” the former being the cause, the latter the effect. On the figure of water for the spirit, cf. John 1:33 etc. seed and offspring are individual Israelites.
And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.4. spring up as among the grass] R.V., more accurately, omits “as”; but the text is unquestionably corrupt. There is no doubt that the LXX. preserves the true reading: spring up as grass among the waters. (Instead of the impossible בבן חציר, read כבין מים חציר.)
willows] or poplars; see on ch. Isaiah 15:7.
One shall say, I am the LORD'S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.5. The result of the Divine blessing manifested in Israel’s restoration will be that foreigners shall attach themselves as proselytes to the Jewish community. The promise therefore goes far beyond ch. Isaiah 43:5-7. It is perhaps barely possible (with Dillmann) to understand this verse also of Israelites by birth, in the sense that they shall esteem it an honour to belong to their own nation; but this is certainly unnatural and scarcely to be reconciled with the second and fourth members of the verse.
call himself by the name of Jacob] The words, strictly rendered, would mean “call on the name of Jacob.” It simplifies the construction greatly if, with Duhm, we vocalize this verb (as well as the last verb of the verse) as a passive:—“shall be called” etc.
subscribe with his hand unto the Lord] Rather: inscribe his hand ‘To Jehovah.’ The allusion is to the practice of branding slaves with the name of their owner, or perhaps to the religious custom of tattooing sacred marks on the person (Leviticus 19:28). See Ezekiel 9:4; Galatians 6:17; Revelation 7:3; Revelation 13:16.
surname himself (or better be surnamed, see above) by the name of Israel] The verb is connected etymologically with an Arabic word kunya, although it is used here in a wider sense. The kunya is a sort of household name, which consists in designating a man as the father of a particular child; thus in Nimmer ibn Koblân Abû Faris (N., son of K., father of F.) the last title is the kunya. (Seetzen, Reisen, Vol. ii., p. 327.) Besides this, however, the Arabs make great use of honorific titles, like Nûr-eddîn (“Light of the Religion”) etc.; and it is in a sense corresponding to this that the Heb. verb is always used; cf. ch. Isaiah 45:4 and esp. Job 32:21 f. (A.V. “give flattering titles”). The meaning, therefore, is that in addition to their personal names the proselytes will adopt the name of Israel as a title of honour. Cf. Psalm 87:4 f.
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.6–8. There is no God but Jehovah and Israel is His witness: this is the substance of the verses, and the proof is the familiar one from prophecy.
the King of Israel] See on ch. Isaiah 41:21.
the Lord of hosts] this solemn appellation (see on ch. Isaiah 1:9) occurs here for the first time in this prophecy (cf. ch. Isaiah 45:13, Isaiah 47:4, Isaiah 48:2, Isaiah 51:15, Isaiah 54:5).
I am the first and I am the last] So ch. Isaiah 48:12; see on Isaiah 41:4, and cf. Revelation 1:8; Revelation 1:17; Revelation 22:13. besides me there is no God] a fuller expression of monotheism than ch. Isaiah 43:10.
Ch. Isaiah 44:6-23. The Reality of Jehovah’s Godhead, evinced by His Predictions, and contrasted with the manifold absurdities of Idolatry
The passage, which is merely a restatement of ideas already expressed, consists of three divisions:
i. Isaiah 44:6-8. A re-assertion and demonstration of the eternity and sole Divinity of Jehovah.
ii. Isaiah 44:9-20. A fresh exposure—the most complete and remorseless that the book contains—of the irrationality of idol-worship.
iii. Isaiah 44:21-23. An exhortation to the exiles to lay these truths to heart, and cleave to the God who forgives their sins and who alone can deliver. Isaiah 44:23 is a lyrical effusion, such as the thought of the redemption frequently calls forth from the prophet.
And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.7. The proof of Isaiah 44:6 is found in the incontestable fact of prophecy (as ch. Isaiah 41:22 ff., Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 43:12; &c.). The verse as translated in A.V. and R.V. reads very awkwardly; it would have to be paraphrased thus: “And which of the other gods shall call etc., as I have done since I appointed the ancient people?’ But the distance of the last clause from the “as I” on which it depends is so great as to make the construction unnatural. It is better, with most commentators, to suppose a parenthesis, and render thus: “And who, as I, proclaims (and let him declare it and set it in order before me) since I founded the people of antiquity?” But a parenthesis is always more or less suspicious in a Hebrew sentence, and this one is doubly so on account of the “and” which introduces it. The LXX. reads, “And who is like me? Let him stand and proclaim &c.” The additional verb (“stand”) is likely to be original, and the construction of the first part of the clause is faultless. The only difficulty is presented by the temporal clause, “since I appointed” etc., on which see below.
call] means proclaim or “prophesy,” as in ch. Isaiah 40:6.
set [it] in order] used of the arrangement of discourse, as Job 32:14; Psalm 50:21, Isaiah 44:3.
since I appointed the …] Better: “since I founded the people of antiquity.” The most probable meaning is that prophecy has been continuous during the long period since Israel was formed into a nation. Some take the expression to denote the earliest population of the world (cf. ch. Isaiah 41:4); but this is less likely. Ewald applies it to Israel, but in the sense “everlasting people.” In Ezekiel 26:20 the same phrase is used of the shades in the underworld.
Several difficulties in the verse are got rid of by an attractive emendation of Oort (followed by Duhm), which makes this clause read; “who hath announced from of old?” (מי השמיע מעולם instead of עם־עולם משמי; cf. ch. Isaiah 45:21). The whole verse would then be rendered: And who is like me? Let him stand and proclaim, and declare it and set in order to me. Who hath announced from of old future things? and things to come let them declare.
things that are coming and that shall come are equivalent expressions; there is no foundation for Delitzsch’s notion that the former denotes the future in general, and the latter the immediate future (see on ch. Isaiah 41:22).
Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.8. Fear ye not] in the coming convulsions; the ground of confidence is that Jehovah has proved His control over these events by foretelling them. The verb for be afraid does not occur elsewhere.
from that time] Rather beforehand, or, from of old; as ch. Isaiah 45:21, Isaiah 48:3; Isaiah 48:5; Isaiah 48:7.
and ye are my witnesses (R.V.)] Cf. ch. Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 43:12.
no God] no Rock, as R.V. Cf. Deuteronomy 32:4, etc.
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.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).
Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?10. Who hath formed, &c.] A rhetorical question: who has been such a fool? On molten a graven image see ch. Isaiah 40:19.
Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.11. all his fellows] The word denotes the members of a guild, and is understood by A.V. of the gang of craftsmen employed in the making of the idol. It should rather be interpreted as the “adherents,” the clientèle of the false god himself, as in R.V. marg., “all that join themselves thereto.” Cf. Hosea 4:17 (“associated with idols”) and 1 Corinthians 10:20. are of men] belong to the category of men (Isaiah 40:17), and how can men produce a god? Duhm, changing the vowel-points, renders: “Behold all the spells (cf. ch. Isaiah 47:9; Isaiah 47:12) are put to shame, and as for enchantments (cf. ch. Isaiah 3:3), they are of men;” an allusion to the magical process by which, in all systems of idolatry, the manufactured image is transformed into a fetish, the residence of a divinity. Similarly Cheyne (Introd. p. 301).
The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.12, 13. This truth enforced by a description of the manufacture of the idols.
The smith] lit. “the workman in iron,” as opposed to the “workman in wood” of the next verse. The text is corrupt at the beginning. R.V. has “the smith (maketh) an axe”; LXX. “the workman sharpeneth iron, worketh it with the adze &c.,” not perceiving that the verse speaks of the blacksmith’s labours. It is possible, no doubt, to take the word for “axe” (which is found again only in Jeremiah 10:3), as meaning “cutting instrument,” for dividing the mass of iron on the anvil; but this is suggested by nothing in the verse; and moreover, the description is certainly not that of the manufacture of an implement, whether for the smith or the carpenter. The only feasible solution is to omit the “axe” altogether as a marginal gloss by some reader who fell into the same error as the LXX. translator. Render: The smith works with the coals.
fashioneth it (the iron core of the idol) with hammers] cf. ch. Isaiah 41:7.
and worketh it with his strong arm] R.V. Gesenius cites in illustration two lines of Vergil (Georg. IV. 174 f.),
“Illi inter sese magna vi brachia tollunt
In numerum, versantque tenaci forcipe ferrum.”
yea, he is hungry …] The point is that the man who makes his own gods exhausts his strength in the process; contrast ch. Isaiah 40:31.
The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.13. The carpenter] lit., “the workman in wood.”
stretcheth out a line, (R.V.)] to mark off the dimensions of the future image on the block of wood. For line in the next clause read pencil (as R.V.); the word, like that for “planes” (which may mean “chisels” or any cutting implement), occurs only here.
fitteth] R.V. “shapeth”; lit. maketh.
that it may remain in the house] to dwell in a house; either a great temple, or a private shrine.
He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.14–17. The writer now goes back to the material of which this second kind of idol is made.
He heweth him down] The Heb. text, which reads “to hew down,” probably contains a mistake in the first letter.
strengtheneth for himself] must mean “allows to grow strong” in its native forest. Nay, in some cases the future deity has been actually planted by his worshipper, and nourished by the rain from heaven! The words tirzâh (“cypress”) and ’ôren (“ash”) occur only here in the O.T. The former, according to the Vulg. and the Greek Versions of Aquila and Theodotion, is the “holm-oak” (ilex); the latter may be translated “pine” (Vulg.); the corresponding word in Assyrian denotes the cedar.
Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.15, 16. Comp. (with Lowth) Horace, Sat. 1. 8, 1 ff.:
“Olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum,
Cum faber, incertus, scamnum faceretne Priapum,
Maluit esse Deum.”
Also Wisd. Sol. 13:11–13.
The word rendered “falleth down (ṣâgad)” is an Aramaic verb meaning “worship,” recurring in the O.T. only Isaiah 44:17; Isaiah 44:19 and ch. Isaiah 46:6. It is the root of the Arabic word mosque (musğid).
He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:16. part thereof] lit. “half thereof,” as opposed to “the residue thereof” in Isaiah 44:17. Cf. Isaiah 44:19, “upon the coals thereof.”
And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.18–20. But such is the infatuation of idolatry, that its blinded votaries never pause to reflect on their actions; the idolater has not sense enough to say to himself in plain words what he has done.
They have not … understood] Better, as R.V. they know not, neither do they consider. he hath shut their eyes] Rather: their eyes are besmeared, as it were plastered over, so that they cannot see (a different verb, however, from that used by Isaiah in Isaiah 6:10, &c.).
And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?19. considereth in his heart] R.V. calleth to mind; lit. “bringeth it back to his heart,” i.e. “recalls in thought,” a somewhat rare expression (see ch. Isaiah 46:8; Deuteronomy 4:39; Deuteronomy 30:1; 1 Kings 8:47).
part of it] See on Isaiah 44:16. The word rendered stock occurs again only in Job 40:20, where it seems to mean “produce.”
He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?20. He feedeth on ashes] lit., “a shepherd of ashes”. Duhm rather fancifully suggests that the image may be that of a man trying to feed his flock on a pasture that has been reduced to ashes: “A shepherd of (or on) ashes is he whom a deceived heart hath turned aside” (from the ways of reason). Another rendering might be: “One who finds satisfaction in ashes is he whom, &c.” For this sense of the verb râ‘âh see Hosea 12:1 (?); Psalm 37:3; Proverbs 15:14, &c. (Gesenius, Lexicon12, sub verbo).
and he shall not deliver his soul] Cf. Isaiah 44:17.
Is there not a lie …] Am I not cleaving to that which will disappoint my hope?
Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.21, 22. An admonition to Israel to lay these truths to heart and realise its special relation to the one living and true God.
Remember these] i.e. these things (R.V.), the principles enforced in the preceding passage.
thou shalt not be forgotten of me] The Heb. construction, a passive verb with accusative suffix, is abnormal. All the ancient versions and many commentators render “thou shalt (or wilt) not forget me”; but this is hardly defensible. The suffix must denote the indirect obj. (dative) as is sometimes the case with intransitive verbs. (See Davidson, Synt. § 73 r. 4.) For the sense, cf. ch. Isaiah 40:27, Isaiah 49:14 ff.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.22. Cf. ch. Isaiah 43:25. “The sense of being forgotten of God is produced by the consciousness of guilt; hence the promise of forgiveness is here repeated” (Dillmann).
as a thick cloud … as a cloud] An image of transitoriness; Hosea 6:4; Hosea 13:3; Job 7:9; Job 30:15.
Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.23. The prophet in a transport of joy calls on heaven and earth to celebrate the wonders of Israel’s redemption. Cf. ch. Isaiah 42:10-13, Isaiah 45:8. The poetic outburst marks the end of the section.
the Lord hath done it] The redemption is already as good as complete; see the end of the verse.
ye lower parts of the earth] or depths of the earth, the antithesis to “ye heavens.”
break forth into singing] Cf. ch. Isaiah 14:7.
and glorified] R.V., more correctly: and will glorify. Cf. ch. Isaiah 49:3, Isaiah 60:21, Isaiah 61:3.
Ch. Isaiah 44:24 to Isaiah 45:25. Jehovah’s Commission to Cyrus, His anointed, whose victories shall bring about the universal recognition of the true God
The distinctive feature of this important section of the book is the prominence given to the person and work of the Persian conqueror, Cyrus. The leading idea is no longer the relation of Israel to Jehovah, but the glorious effects that are to follow its deliverance through the agency of this divinely chosen hero. In the earlier allusions to Cyrus (ch. Isaiah 41:1-4; Isaiah 41:25-29) he is spoken of as one whose remarkable career has challenged the attention of the world and illustrated the inability of the heathen religions to deal with the great crises of history. There have been abundant intimations that he is the destined instrument of Israel’s restoration, but these have hitherto occupied a secondary place in the prophet’s thoughts. Here, however, the figure of Cyrus is brought prominently on the scene, he is addressed directly and by name, and the ultimate scope of his mission is clearly unfolded. He is to set the exiles free, to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple; and the far-reaching moral result of his singular generosity to Israel will be the downfall of heathenism everywhere and the universal conviction that Jehovah is the only God who is a Deliverer. There are five divisions:
i. ch. Isaiah 44:24-28 is an introduction to the central passage, which immediately follows. Jehovah, still addressing Israel, describes Himself by a majestic series of attributes, gradually converging from the thought of His creative power to the particular point which is the subject of the present discourse, His selection of Cyrus as the instrument of His purpose.
ii. ch. Isaiah 45:1-8.—The Divine speaker now addresses Cyrus in person, promising to him an uninterrupted career of victory (1–3); yet it is in the interest of Israel that he, a stranger to the true God, is thus called and commissioned (4); and the final issue of his achievements will be a general recognition throughout the world of the sole Godhead of Jehovah (5–7).—The last verse (8) is a poetic interlude like ch. Isaiah 42:10 ff., Isaiah 44:23, &c.
iii. Isaiah 44:9-13.—Here the prophet turns aside to rebuke the murmurs of dissent which this novel announcement calls forth amongst his fellow countrymen (9–11). It would appear that there were some of the Israelites who rebelled against the thought of a foreign prince as the Anointed of Jehovah and the Saviour of Israel. The answer to these cavillers is an assertion of the absolute sovereignty of Jehovah, who reaffirms His choice of Cyrus as the instrument of Israel’s deliverance (12, 13).
iv. Isaiah 44:14-17.—Transporting himself to the time when the Divine purpose shall be realised, the writer depicts the procession of conquered nations who do homage to Israel as the people of the true God, and, renouncing idolatry, acknowledge the hand of Jehovah in Israel’s everlasting salvation.
v. Isaiah 44:18-25.—This deliverance of Israel culminates in salvation to the world at large. The passage contains some of the most striking thoughts in the whole prophecy. The character of Jehovah, His goodwill to men, is to be learned from His creation of a habitable world (18) and from the manner of His revelation to Israel (19). He has shewn Himself to be the only “righteous and saving God” (21); and the heathen are now invited to share in His salvation through faith in His sole divinity (20, 22). It is His irrevocable purpose thus to secure universal homage (23–25).
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;24–28. Jehovah, the God of creation and of prophecy, has chosen Cyrus to execute his purpose with regard to Israel.
thy redeemer] See on ch. Isaiah 41:14. formed thee from the womb] as in Isaiah 44:2.
that stretcheth … alone] Cf. ch. Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 42:5; Job 9:8.
by myself] The A.V. here follows the reading presupposed by the vowel-points (Qěrê). The R.V. rightly goes back to the consonantal text (Kĕthîb) which is preserved in the LXX. and Vulg. and some Hebrew MSS. Render accordingly: who was with me? i.e. there was none to help me.
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;25, 26. The overthrow of heathen soothsaying and the establishment of true prophecy as it existed in Israel.
the tokens of the liars] Or, the signs of the praters (cf. Jeremiah 50:36, and See on ch. Isaiah 16:6 where the word means “pratings”). The “signs” (see Deuteronomy 13:1 f.) referred to are the omens on which the diviners based their forecasts of the future. How much reliance was placed on these prognostications by the Babylonians will be seen from ch. 47.
diviners] See on ch. Isaiah 3:2.
That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:26. That confirmeth] is the antithesis to “that frustrateth” in Isaiah 44:25. (Cf. Jeremiah 29:10; Jeremiah 33:14).
the word of his servant … the counsel of his messengers] are parallel expressions for the word of prophecy. The sing. “servant” presents some difficulty. That it is equivalent to “prophet” is clear from the context; but that a particular prophet, such as Jeremiah or the writer himself, is meant is extremely improbable. It might conceivably be used of the prophets collectively, or of Israel as the bearer of the prophetic word, but the parallelism with “messengers” in the next clause is opposed to both these interpretations. The word should probably be pointed as a plural,—his servants; which is the reading of the Codex Alexandrinus of the LXX.
performeth] Lit. completeth.
that saith &c.] that saith of Jerusalem, Let her be inhabited; and of the cities of Judah, Let them be built. At this point, as Delitzsch observes, the transition is made to special predictions bearing on the restoration of Israel.
decayed places] R.V. waste places, or ruins.
That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:27. the deep] is a figure for the obstacles to the deliverance of Israel. It has been thought by some commentators (including Vitringa and Lowth) that the verse contains an allusion to the well-known stratagem by which Cyrus is said to have got possession of Babylon (Herodotus 1. 185–191). The Hebrew word for “deep” might no doubt be applied to a river, as a cognate word is in Zechariah 10:11. But the recently discovered Cyrus-inscriptions seem to shew that the narrative of Herodotus is legendary. See Introd. p. xviii.
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.28. The series of predicates here culminates in the mention by name of the conqueror of Babylon and liberator of Israel. The name Cyrus is in Persian Kûrush, in Babylonian Kurash, in Greek Κῦρος. The traditional Hebrew pronunciation is Kôresh, but it is probable that the original form preserved the characteristic long u which appears in the other languages. On the career of Cyrus see Introduction, pp. 17 ff.
He is my shepherd] Or simply, My Shepherd. “Shepherd” here means “ruler” as in Jeremiah 3:15; Ezekiel 34. pass.; Micah 5:5 : comp. the Homeric ποιμένες λαῶν. It is one of the honorific titles alluded to in ch. Isaiah 45:4.
perform all my pleasure] Or, complete all my purpose; cf. ch. Isaiah 46:10, Isaiah 48:14, Isaiah 53:10. This use of the Heb. word for “pleasure” illustrates the transition to its later sense of “business” (ch. Isaiah 58:3; Isaiah 58:13) or “matter” (Ecclesiastes 5:8; Ecclesiastes 8:6). Comp. Arab. shay’ (= thing) from shâ’a (to will).
even saying] If the text be right the meaning would probably be that Cyrus would accomplish Jehovah’s purpose by giving the order for the rebuilding of the Temple &c. LXX. and Vulg. read “that saith,” substituting a participle for the inf. of the Heb. In this case the subject is Jehovah, as throughout the passage.
Instead of to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be …, the Heb. has of Jerusalem, Let her be.… See on Isaiah 44:26.
According to Josephus (Ant. XI. Isaiah 1:2) it was the reading of this verse that fired Cyrus with the ambition to restore the Jewish Temple and nationality. The statement, if true, would of course detract nothing from the significance of the prophecy. But it has no claim to be accepted, and would assuredly never have been made but for the assumption that the words were written by Isaiah “one hundred and forty years before the destruction of the Temple.”