Isaiah 41
Expositor's Bible Commentary
Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.

THE DATE OF Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24

THE problem of the date of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 is this: In a book called by the name of the prophet Isaiah, who flourished between 740 and 700 B.C., the last twenty-seven chapters deal with the captivity suffered by the Jews in Babylonia from 598 to 538, and more particularly with the advent, about 550, of Cyrus, whom they name. Are we to take for granted that Isaiah himself prophetically wrote these chapters, or must we assign them to a nameless author or authors of the period of which they treat?

Till the end of the last century it was the almost universally accepted tradition, and even still is an opinion retained by many, that Isaiah was carried forward by the Spirit, out of his own age to the standpoint of one hundred and fifty years later; that he was inspired to utter the warning and comfort required by a generation so very different from his own, and was even enabled to hail by name their redeemer, Cyrus. This theory, involving as it does a phenomenon without parallel in the history of Holy Scripture, is based on these two grounds: first, that the chapters in question form a considerable part-nearly nine-twentieths-of the Book of Isaiah; and second, that portions of them are quoted in the New Testament by the prophet’s name. The theory is also supported by arguments drawn from resemblances of style and vocabulary between these twenty-seven chapters and the undisputed oracles of Isaiah but, as the opponents of the Isaian authorship also appeal to vocabulary and style, it will be better to leave this kind of evidence aside for the present, and to discuss the problem upon other and less ambiguous grounds.

The first argument, then, for the Isaian authorship of chapters 40-66 is that they form part of a book called by Isaiah’s name. But, to be worth anything, this argument must rest on the following facts: that everything in a book called by a prophet’s name is necessarily by that prophet, and that the compilers of the book intended to hand it down as altogether from his pen. Now there is no evidence for either of these conclusions. On the contrary, there is considerable testimony in the opposite direction. The Book of Isaiah is not one continuous prophecy. It consists of a number of separate orations, with a few intervening pieces of narrative. Some of these orations claim to be Isaiah’s own: they possess such titles as "The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz." But such titles describe only the individual prophecies they head, and other portions of the book, upon other subjects and in very different styles, do not possess titles at all. It seems to me that those who maintain the Isaian authorship of the whole book have the responsibility cast upon them of explaining why some chapters in it should be distinctly said to be by Isaiah, while others should not be so entitled. Surely this difference affords us sufficient ground for understanding that the whole book is not necessarily by Isaiah, nor intentionally handed down by its compilers as the work of that prophet.

Now, when we come to chapters 40-66, we find that, occurring in a book which we have just seen no reason for supposing to be in every part of it by Isaiah, these chapters nowhere claim to be his. They are separated from that portion of the book, in which his undisputed oracles are placed, by a historical narrative of considerable length. And there is not anywhere upon them nor in them a title nor other statement that they are by the prophet, nor any allusion which could give the faintest support to the opinion, that they offer themselves to posterity as dating from his time. It is safe to say, that, if they had come to us by themselves, no one would have dreamt for an instant of ascribing them to Isaiah; for the alleged resemblances, which their language and style bear to his language and style, are far more than overborne by the undoubted differences, and have never been employed, even by the defenders of the Isaian authorship, except in additional and confessedly slight support of their main argument, viz., that the chapters must be Isaiah’s because they are included in a book called by his name.

Let us understand, therefore, at this very outset, that in discussing the question of the authorship of "Second Isaiah," we are not discussing a question upon which the text itself makes any statement, or into which the credibility of the text enters. No claim is made by the Book of Isaiah itself for the Isaian authorship of chapters 40-66.

A second fact in Scripture, which seems at first sight to make strongly for the unity of the Book of Isaiah, is that in the New Testament, portions of the disputed chapters are quoted by Isaiah’s name, just as are portions of his admitted prophecies. These citations are nine in number. {Matthew 3:3, Matthew 8:17, Matthew 12:17, Luke 3:4, Luke 4:17, John 1:23, John 12:38, Acts 8:28, Romans 10:16-20} None is by our Lord Himself. They occur in the Gospels, Acts, and Paul. Now if any of these quotations were given in answer to the question, Did Isaiah write chapters 40-66 of the book called by his name? or if the use of his name along with them were involved in the arguments which they are borrowed to illustrate as, for instance, is the case with David’s name in the quotation made by our Lord from Psalm 110:1-7, then those who deny the unity of the Book of Isaiah would be face to face with a very serious problem indeed. But in none of the nine cases is the authorship of the Book of Isaiah in question. In none of the nine cases is there anything in the argument, for the purpose of which the quotation has been made, that depends on the quoted words being by Isaiah. For the purposes for which the Evangelists and Paul borrow the texts, these might as well be unnamed, or attributed to any other canonical writer. Nothing in them requires us to suppose that Isaiah’s name is mentioned with them for any other end than that of reference, viz., to point out that they lie in the part of prophecy usually known by his name. But if there is nothing in these citations to prove that Isaiah’s name is being used for any other purpose than that of reference, then it is plain-and this is all that we ask assent to at the present time-that they do not offer the authority of Scripture as a bar to our examining the evidence of the chapters in question.

It is hardly necessary to add that neither is there any other question of doctrine in our way. There is none about the nature of prophecy, for, to take an example, chapter 53, as a prophecy of Jesus Christ, is surely as great a marvel if yon date it from the Exile as if you date it from the age of Isaiah. And, in particular, let us understand that no question need be started about the ability of God’s Spirit to inspire a prophet to mention Cyrus by name one hundred and fifty years before Cyrus appeared. The question is not, Could a prophet have been so inspired?-to which question, were it put, our answer might only be, God is great!-but the question is, Was our prophet so inspired? does he himself offer evidence of the fact? Or, on the contrary, in naming Cyrus does he give himself out as a contemporary of Cyrus, who already saw the great Persian above the horizon? To this question only the writings under discussion can give us an answer. Let us see what they have to say.

Apart from the question of the date, no chapters in the Bible are interpreted with such complete unanimity as Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22. They plainly set forth certain things as having already taken place-the Exile and Captivity, the ruin of Jerusalem, and the devastation of the Holy Land. Israel is addressed as having exhausted the time of her penalty, and is proclaimed to be ready for deliverance. Some of the people are comforted as being in despair because redemption does not draw near; others are exhorted to leave the city of their bondage, as if they were growing too familiar with its idolatrous life. Cyrus is named as their deliverer, and is pointed out as already called upon his career, and as blessed with success by Jehovah. It is also promised that he will immediately add Babylon to his conquests, and so set God’s people free.

Now all this is not predicted, as if from the standpoint of a previous century. It is nowhere said-as we should expect it to be said, if the prophecy had been uttered by Isaiah-that Assyria, the dominant world-power of Isaiah’s day, was to disappear and Babylon to take her place; that then the Babylonians should lead the Jews into an exile which they had escaped at the hands of Assyria; and that after nearly seventy years of suffering God would raise up Cyrus as a deliverer.

There is none of this prediction, which we might fairly have expected had the prophecy been Isaiah’s; because, however far Isaiah carries us into the future, he never fails to start from the circumstances of his own day. Still more significant, however-there is not even the kind of prediction that we find in Jeremiah’s prophecies of the Exile, with which indeed it is most instructive to compare Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 Jeremiah also spoke of exile and deliverance, but it was always with the grammar of the future. He fairly and openly predicted both; and, let us especially remember, he did so with a meagreness of description, a reserve and reticence about details, which are simply unintelligible if Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 was written before his day, and by so well-known a prophet as Isaiah.

No: in the statements which our chapters make concerning the Exile and the condition of Israel under it, there is no prediction, not the slightest trace of that grammar of the future in which Jeremiah’s prophecies are constantly uttered. But there is a direct appeal to the conscience of a people already long under the discipline of God; their circumstance of exile is taken for granted; there is a most vivid and delicate appreciation of their present fears and doubts, and to these the deliverer Cyrus is not only named, but introduced as an actual and notorious personage already upon the midway of his irresistible career.

These facts are more broadly based than just at first sight appears. You cannot turn their flank by the argument that Hebrew prophets were in the habit of employing in their predictions what is called "the prophetic perfect"-that is, that in the ardour of their conviction that certain things would take place they talked of these, as the flexibility of the Hebrew tenses allowed them to do, in the past or perfect as if the things had actually taken place. No such argument is possible in the case of the introduction of Cyrus. For it is not only that the prophesy, with what might be the mere ardour of vision, represents the Persian as already above the horizon and upon the flowing tide of victory; but that, in the course of a sober argument for the unique divinity of the God of Israel, which takes place throughout chapters 41-48, Cyrus, alive and irresistible, already accredited by success, and with Babylonia at his feet, is pointed out as the unmistakable proof that former prophecies for a deliverance for Israel are at last coming to pass. Cyrus, in short, is not presented as a prediction, but as the proof that a prediction is being fulfilled. Unless he had already appeared in flesh and blood, and was on the point of striking at Babylon, with all the prestige of unbroken victory, a great part of Isaiah 41:1-29 - Isaiah 48:1-22 would be utterly unintelligible.

This argument is so conclusive for the date of Second Isaiah, that it may be well to state it a little more in detail, even at the risk of anticipating some of the exposition of the text.

Among the Jews at the close of the Exile there appear to have been two classes. One class was hopeless of deliverance, and to their hearts is addressed such a prophecy as chapter 40: "Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people." But there was another class, of opposite temperament, who had only too strong opinions on the subject of deliverance. In bondage to the letter of Scripture and to the great precedents of their history, these Jews appear to have insisted that the Deliverer to come must be a Jew, and a descendant of David. And the bent of much of the prophet’s urgency in chapter 45 is to persuade those pedants, that the Gentile Cyrus, who had appeared to be not only the biggest man of his age, but the very likely means of Israel’s redemption, was of Jehovah’s own creation and calling. Does not such an argument necessarily imply that Cyrus was already present, an object of doubt and debate to earnest minds in Israel? Or are we to suppose that all this doubt and debate were foreseen, rehearsed, and answered one hundred and fifty years before the time by so famous a prophet as Isaiah, and that, in spite of his prediction and answer, the doubt and debate nevertheless took place in the minds of the very Israelites, who were most earnest students of ancient prophecy? The thing has only to be stated to be felt to be impossible.

But besides the pedants in Israel, there is apparent through these prophecies another body of men, against whom also Jehovah claims the actual Cyrus for His own. They are the priests and worshippers of the heathen idols. It is well known that the advent of Cyrus cast the Gentile religions of the time and their counsellors into confusion. The wisest priests were perplexed; the oracles of Greece and Asia Minor either were dumb when consulted about the Persian, or gave more than usually ambiguous answers. Over against this perplexity and despair of the heathen religions, our prophet confidently claims Cyrus for Jehovah’s own. In a debate in chapter 41, in which he seeks to establish Jehovah’s righteousness-that is, Jehovah’s faithfulness to His word, and power to carry out His predictions - the prophet speaks of ancient prophecies which have come from Jehovah, and points to Cyrus as their fulfilment. It does not matter to us in the meantime what those prophecies were. They may have been certain of Jeremiah’s predictions; we may be sure that they cannot have contained anything so definite as Cyrus’ name, or such a proof of Divine foresight must certainly have formed part of the prophet’s plea. It is enough that they could be quoted; our business is rather with the evidence which the prophet offers of their fulfilment. That evidence is Cyrus. Would it have been possible to refer the heathen to Cyrus as proof that those ancient prophecies were being fulfilled, unless Cyrus had been visible to the heathen, -unless the heathen had been beginning already to feel this Persian "from the sunrise" in all his weight of war? It is no esoteric doctrine which the prophet is unfolding to initiated Israelites about Cyrus. He is making an appeal to men of the world to face facts. Could he possibly have made such an appeal unless the facts had been there, unless Cyrus had been within the ken of "the natural man"? Unless Cyrus and his conquests were already historically present, the argument in 41-48 is unintelligible.

If this evidence for the exilic date of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22 -for all these chapters hang together-required any additional support, it would find it in the fact that the prophet does not wholly treat of what is past and over, but makes some predictions as well. Cyrus is on the way of triumph, but Babylon has still to fall by his hand. Babylon has still to fall, before the exiles can go free. Now, if our prophet were predicting from the standpoint of one hundred and forty years before, why did he make this sharp distinction between two events which appeared so closely together? If he had both the advent of Cyrus and the fall of Babylon in his long perspective, why did he not use "the prophetic perfect" for both? That he speaks of the first as past and of the second as still to come, would most surely, if there had been no tradition the other way, have been accepted by all as sufficient evidence, that the advent of Cyrus was behind him and the fall of Babylon still in front of him, when he wrote these chapters.

Thus the earlier part, at least, of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 -that is, chapters 40-48-compels us to date it between 555, Cyrus’s advent, and 538, Babylon’s fall. But some think that we may still further narrow the limits. In Isaiah 41:25, Cyrus, whose own kingdom lay east of Babylonia, is described as invading Babylonia from the north. This, it has been thought, must refer to his union with the Medes in 549, and his threatened descent upon Mesopotamia from their quarter of the prophet’s horizon. If it be so, the possible years of our prophecy are reduced to eleven, 549-538. But even if we take the wider and more certain limit, 555 to 538, we may well say that there are very few chapters in the whole of the Old Testament whose date can be fixed so precisely as the date of chapters 40-48.

If what has been unfolded in the preceding paragraphs is recognised as the statement of the chapters themselves, it will be felt that further evidence of an exilic date is scarcely needed. And those, who are acquainted with the controversy upon the evidence furnished by the style and language of the prophecies, will admit how far short in decisiveness it falls of the arguments offered above. But we may fairly ask whether there is anything opposed to the conclusion we have reached, either, first, in the local colour of the prophecies: or, second, in their language; or, third, in their thought - anything which shows that they are more likely to have been Isaiah’s than of exilic origin.

1. It has often been urged against the exilic date of these prophecies, that they wear so very little local colour, and one of the greatest of critics, Ewald, has felt himself, therefore, permitted to place their home, not in Babylonia, but in Egypt, while he maintains the exilic date. But, as we shall see in surveying the condition of the exiles, it was natural for the best among them, their psalmists and prophets, to have no eyes for the colours of Babylon. They lived inwardly; they were much more the inhabitants of their own broken hearts than of that gorgeous foreign land; when their thoughts rose out of themselves it was to seek immediately the far-away Zion. How little local colour is there in the writings of Ezekiel! Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 has even more to show; for indeed the absence of local colour from our prophecy has been greatly exaggerated. We shall find as we follow the exposition, break after break of Babylonian light and shadow falling across our path, -the temples, the idol-manufactories, the processions of images, the diviners and astrologers, the gods and altars especially cultivated by the characteristic mercantile spirit of the place; the shipping of that mart of nations, the crowds of her merchants; the glitter of many waters, and even that intolerable glare, which so frequently curses the skies of Mesopotamia. {Isaiah 49:10} The prophet speaks of the hills of his native land with just the same longing, that Ezekiel and a probable psalmist of the Exile {Psalm 121:1-8} betray, -the homesickness of a highland-born man whose prison is on a flat, monotonous plain. The beasts he mentions have for the most part been recognised as familiar in Babylonia; and while the same cannot be said of the trees and plants he names, it has been observed that the passages, into which he brings them, are passages where his thoughts are fixed on the restoration to Palestine. Besides these, there are many delicate symptoms of the presence, before the prophet, of a people in a foreign land, engaged in commerce, but without political responsibilities, each of which, taken by itself, may be insufficient to convince, but the reiterated expression of which has even betrayed commentators, who lived too early for the theory of a second Isaiah, into the involuntary admission of an exilic authorship. It will perhaps startle some to hear John Calvin quoted on behalf of the exilic date of these prophecies. But let us read and consider this statement of his: "Some regard must be had to the time when this prophecy was uttered; for since the rank of the kingdom had been obliterated, and the name of the royal family had become mean and contemptible, during the captivity in Babylon, it might seem as if through the ruin of that family the truth of God had fallen into decay; and therefore he bids them contemplate by faith the throne of David, which had been cast down."

2. What we have seen to be true of the local colour of our prophecy holds good also of its style and language. There is nothing in either of these to commit us to an Isaiah authorship, or to make an exilic date improbable; on the contrary, the language and style, while containing no stronger nor more frequent resemblances to the language and style of Isaiah than may be accounted for by the natural influence of so great a prophet upon his successors, are signalised by differences from his undisputed oracles, too constant, too subtle, and sometimes too sharp, to make it at all probable that the whole book came from the same man. On this point it is enough to refer our readers to the recent exhaustive and very able reviews of the evidence by Canon Cheyne in the second volume of his Commentary, and by Canon Driver in the last chapter of "Isaiah: His Life and Times," and to quote the following words of so great an authority as Professor A. B. Davidson. After remarking on the difference in vocabulary of the two parts of the Book of Isaiah, he adds that it is not so much words in themselves as the peculiar uses and combinations of them, and especially "the peculiar articulation of sentences and the movement of the whole discourse, by which an impression is produced so unlike the impression produced by the earlier parts of the book."

3. It is the same with the thought and doctrine of our prophecy. In this there is nothing to make the Isaian authorship probable, or an exilic date impossible. But, on the contrary, whether we regard the needs of the people or the analogies of the development of their religion, we find that, while everything suits the Exile, nearly everything is foreign both to the subjects and to the methods of Isaiah. We shall observe the items of this as we go along, but one of them may be mentioned here (it will afterwards require a chapter to itself), our prophet’s use of the terms righteous and righteousness. No one, who has carefully studied the meaning which these terms bear in the authentic oracles of Isaiah, and the use to which they are put in the prophecies under discussion, can fail to find in the difference a striking corroboration of our argument-that the latter were composed by a different mind than Isaiah’s, speaking to a different generation.

To sum up this whole argument. We have seen that there is no evidence in the Book of Isaiah to prove that it was all by himself, but much testimony which points to a plurality of authors; that chapters 40-66 nowhere assert themselves to be by Isaiah; and that there is no other well-grounded claim of Scripture or doctrine on behalf of his authorship. We have then shown that chapters 40-48 do not only present the Exile as if nearly finished and Cyrus as if already come, while the fall of Babylon is still future; but that it is essential to one of their main arguments that Cyrus should be standing before Israel and the world, as a successful warrior, on his way to attack Babylon. That led us to date these chapters between 555 and 538. Turning then to other evidence, -the local colour they show, their language and style, and their theology, -we have found nothing which conflicts with that date, but, on the contrary, a very great deal, which much more agrees with it than with the date, or with the authorship, of Isaiah.

It will be observed, however, that the question has been limited to the earlier chapters of the twenty-seven under discussion, viz., to 40-48 Does the same conclusion hold good of 49 to 66? This can be properly discovered only as we closely follow their exposition; it is enough in the meantime to have got firm footing on the Exile. We can feel our way bit by bit from this standpoint onwards. Let us now merely anticipate the main features of the rest of the prophecy.

A new section has been marked by many as beginning with chapter 49. This is because chapter 48, concludes with a refrain: "There is no peace, saith Jehovah, to the wicked," which occurs again at the end of chapter 57, and because with chapter 48. Babylon and Cyrus drop out of sight. But the circumstances are still those of exile, and, as Professor Davidson remarks, chapter 49 is parallel in thought to chapter 42, and also takes for granted the restoration of Israel in chapter 48, proceeding naturally from that to the statement of Israel’s world-mission. Apart from the alternation of passages dealing with the Servant of the Lord, and passages whose subject is Zion - an alternation which begins pretty early in the prophecy, and has suggested to some its composition out of two different writings-the first real break in the sequence occurs at Isaiah 52:13, where the prophecy of the sin-bearing Servant is introduced. By most critics this is held to be an insertion, for Isaiah 54:1 follows naturally upon Isaiah 52:12, though it is undeniable that there is also some association between Isaiah 52:13 - Isaiah 53:1-12, and chapter 54. In chapters 54-55, we are evidently still in exile. It is in commenting on a verse of these chapters that Calvin makes the admission of exilic origin which has been quoted above.

A number of short prophecies now follow, till the end of chapter 59 is reached. These, as we shall see, make it extremely difficult to believe in the original unity of "Second Isaiah." Some of them, it is true, lie in evident circumstance of exile; but others are undoubtedly of earlier date, reflecting the scenery of Palestine, and the habits of the people in their political independence, with Jehovah’s judgment-cloud still unburst, but lowering. Such is Isaiah 56:9 - Isaiah 57:1-21, which regards the Exile as still to come, quotes the natural features of Palestine, and charges the Jews with unbelieving diplomacy-a charge not possible against them when they were in captivity. But others of these short prophecies are, in the opinion of some critics, post-exilic. Cheyne assigns chapter 56 to after the Return, when the temple was standing, and the duty of holding fasts and sabbaths could be enforced, as it was enforced by Nehemiah. I shall give, when we reach the passage, my reasons for doubting his conclusion. The chapter seems to me as likely to have been written upon the eve of the Return as after the Return had taken place.

Chapter 57, the eighteenth of our twenty-seven chapters, closes with the same refrain as chapter 48, the ninth of the series: "There is no peace, saith Jehovah, to the wicked." Chapter 58, has, therefore, been regarded, as beginning the third great division of the prophecy. But here again, while there is certainly an advance in the treatment of the subject, and the prophet talks less of the redemption of the Jews and more of the glory of the restoration of Zion, the point of transition is very difficult to mark. Some critics regard chapter 58, as post-exilic; but when we come to it we shall find a number of reasons for supposing it to belong, just as much as Ezekiel, to the Exile. Chapter 59 is perhaps the most difficult portion of all, because it makes the Jews responsible for civic justice in a way they could ‘hardly be conceived to be in exile, and yet speaks, in the language of other portions of "Second Isaiah," of a deliverance that cannot well be other than the deliverance from exile. We shall find in this chapter likely marks of the fusion of two distinct addresses, making the conclusion probable that it is Israel’s earlier conscience which we catch here, following her into the days of exile, and reciting her former guilt just before pardon is assured. Chapters 60, 61, and 62 are certainly exilic. The inimitable prophecy, Isaiah 63:1-6, complete within itself, and unique in its beauty, is either a promise given just before the deliverance from a long captivity of Israel under heathen nations (Isaiah 63:4), or an exultant song of triumph immediately after such a deliverance has taken place. Isaiah 63:7 - Isaiah 64:1-12 implies a ruined temple (Isaiah 63:10), but bears no traces of the writer being in exile. It has been assigned to the period of the first attempts to rebuild Jerusalem after the Return. Chapter 65 has been assigned to the same date, and its local colour interpreted as that of Palestine. But we shall find the colour to be just as probably that of Babylon, and again I do not see any certain proofs of a post-exilic date. Chapter 66, however, betrays more evidence of being written after the Return. It divides into two parts. In Isaiah 66:1-4 the temple is still unbuilt, but the building would seem to be already begun. In Isaiah 66:5-24, the arrival of the Jews in Palestine, the resumption of the life of the sacred community, and the disappointments of the returned at the first meagre results, seem to be implied. And the music of the book dies out in tones of warning, that sin still hinders the Lord’s work with His people.

This rapid survey has made two things sufficiently clear. First, that while the bulk of chapters 40-66 was composed in Babylonia during the Exile of the Jews, there are considerable portions which date from before the Exile, and betray a Palestinian origin; and one or two smaller pieces that seem-rather less evidently, however-to take for granted the Return from the Exile. But, secondly, all these pieces, which it seems necessary to assign to different epochs and authors, have been arranged so as to exhibit a certain order and progress-an order, more or less observed, of date, and a progress very apparent (as we shall see in the course of exposition) of thought and of clearness in definition. The largest portion, of whose unity we are assured and whose date we can fix, is found at the beginning. Chapters 40-48 are certainly by one hand, and may be dated, as we have seen, between 555 and 538-the period of Cyrus’ approach to take Babylon. There the interest in Cyrus ceases, and the thought of the redemption from Babylon is mainly replaced by that of the subsequent Return. Along with these lines, we shall discover a development in the prophecy’s great doctrine of the Servant of Jehovah. But even this dies away, as if the experience of suffering and discipline were being replaced by that of return and restoration; and it is Zion in her glory, and the spiritual mission of the people, and the vengeance of the Lord, and the building of the temple, and a number of practical details in the life and worship of the restored community, which fill up the remainder of the book, along with a few echoes from pre-exilic times. Can we escape feeling in all this a definite design and arrangement, which fails to be absolutely perfect, probably, from the nature of the materials at the arranger’s disposal?

We are, therefore, justified in coming to the provisional conclusion, that Second Isaiah is not a unity, in so far as it consists of a number of pieces by different men, whom God raised up at various times before, during, and after the Exile, to comfort and exhort amid the shifting circumstance and tempers of His people; but that it is a unity, in so far as these pieces have been gathered together by an editor very soon after the Return from the Exile, in an order as regular both in point of time and subject as the somewhat mixed material would permit. It is in this sense that throughout this volume we shall talk of "our prophet," or "the prophet"; up to chapter 49, at least, we shall feel that the expression is literally true; after that it is rather an editorial than an original unity which is apparent. In this question of unity the dramatic style of the prophecy forms, no doubt, the greatest difficulty. Who shall dare to determine of the many soliloquies, apostrophes, lyrics, and other pieces that are here gathered, often in want of any connection save that of dramatic grouping and a certain sympathy of temper, whether they are by the same author or have been collected from several origins? We must be content to leave the matter uncertain. One great reason, which we have not yet quoted, for supposing that the whole prophecy is not by one man, is that if it had been his name would certainly have come down with it. Do not let it be thought that such a conclusion, as we have been led to, is merely a dogma of modern criticism. Here, if anywhere, the critic is but the patient student of Scripture, searching for the testimony of the sacred text about itself, and formulating that. If it be found that such a testimony conflicts with ecclesiastical tradition, however ancient and universal, so much the worse for tradition. In Protestant circles, at least, we have no choice. Litera Scripta manet. When we know that the only evidence for the Isaiah authorship of chapters 40-66 is tradition, supported by an unthinking interpretation of New Testament citations, while the whole testimony of these Scriptures themselves denies them to be Isaiah’s, we cannot help making our choice, and accepting the testimony of Scripture. Do we find them any the less wonderful or Divine? Do they comfort less? Do they speak with less power to conscience? Do they testify with more uncertain voice to our Lord and Saviour? It will be the task of the following pages to show that, interpreted in connection with the history out of which they themselves say that God’s Spirit drew them, these twenty-seven chapters become only more prophetic of Christ, and more comforting and instructive to men, than they were before.

But the remarkable fact is that anciently tradition itself appears to have agreed with the results of modern scholarship. The original place of the Book of Isaiah in the Jewish canon seems to have been after both Jeremiah and Ezekiel, a fact which goes to prove that it did not reach completion till a later date than the works of these two prophets of the Exile.

If now it be asked, Why should a series of prophecies written in the Exile be attached to the authentic works of Isaiah? that is a fair question, and one which the supporters of the exilic authorship have the duty laid upon them of endeavouring to answer. Fortunately they are not under the necessity of falling back, for want of other reasons, on the supposition that this attachment was due to the error of some scribe, or to the custom which ancient writers practised of filling up any part of a volume, that remained blank when one book is finished, with the writing of any other that would fit the place. The first of these reasons is too accidental, the second too artificial, in face of the undoubted sympathy which exists among all parts of the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah himself plainly prophesied of an exile longer than his own generation experienced, and prophesied of a return from it (chapter 11). We saw no reason to dispute his claims to the predictions about Babylon in chapters 21 and 39 Isaiah’s, too, more than any other prophet’s, were those great and final hopes of the Old Testament - the survival of Israel and the gathering of the Gentiles to the worship of Jehovah at Jerusalem. But it is for the express purpose of emphasising the immediate fulfilment of such ancient predictions, that Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 were published. Although our prophet has "new things to publish," his first business is to show that the "former things have come to pass," especially the Exile, the survival of a Remnant, the sending of a Deliverer, the doom of Babylon. What more natural than to attach to his utterances those prophecies, of which the events he pointed to were the vindication and fulfilment? The attachment was the more easy to arrange that the authentic prophecies had not passed from Isaiah’s hand in a fixed form. They do not bear those marks of their author’s own editing, which are borne by the prophecies both of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. It is impossible to be dogmatic on the point. But these facts-that our chapters are concerned, as no other Scriptures are, with the fulfilment of previous prophecies; that it is the prophecies of Isaiah which are the original and fullest prediction of the events they are busy with; and that the form, in which Isaiah’s prophecies are handed down, did not preclude additions of this kind to them-contribute very evident reasons why Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, though written in the Exile, should be attached to Isaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 2:1-22; Isaiah 3:1-26; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 5:1-30; Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-21; Isaiah 10:1-34; Isaiah 11:1-16; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32; Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25; Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 21:1-17; Isaiah 22:1-25; Isaiah 23:1-18; Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12; Isaiah 26:1-21; Isaiah 27:1-13; Isaiah 28:1-29; Isaiah 29:1-24; Isaiah 30:1-33; Isaiah 31:1-9; Isaiah 32:1-20; Isaiah 33:1-24; Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8.

Thus we present a theory of the exilic authorship of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 within itself complete and consistent, suited to all parts of the evidence, and not opposed by the authority of any part of Scripture. In consequence of its conclusion, our duty, before proceeding to the exposition of the chapters, is twofold: first, to connect the time of Isaiah with the period of the Captivity, and then to sketch the condition of Israel in Exile. This we shall undertake in the next three chapters.


Readers may wish to have a reference to other passages of this part, in which the questions of the date, authorship and structure of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, are discussed. See: Introduction to Book III; opening paragraphs of chapter 18, and of chapter 19, etc.



701-587 B.C.

AT first sight, the circumstances of Judah in the last ten years of the seventh century present a strong resemblance to her fortunes in the last ten years of the eighth. The empire of the world, to which she belongs, is again divided between Egypt and a Mesopotamian power. Syria is again the field of their doubtful battle, and the question, to which of the two shall homage be paid, still forms the politics of all her states. Judah still vacillates, intrigues, and draws down on herself the wrath of the North by her treaties with Egypt. Again there is a great prophet and statesman, whose concern is righteousness, who exposes both the immorality of his people and the folly of their policies, and who summons the "evil from the North" as God’s scourge upon Israel: Isaiah has been succeeded by Jeremiah. And, as if to complete the analogy, the nation has once more passed through a puritan reformation. Josiah has, even more thoroughly than Hezekiah, effected the disestablishment of idols.

Beneath this circumstantial resemblance, however, there is one fundamental difference. The strength of Isaiah’s preaching was bent, especially during the closing years of the century, to establish the inviolableness of Jerusalem. Against the threats of the Assyrian siege, and in spite of his own more formidable conscience of his people’s corruption, Isaiah persisted that Zion should not be taken, and that the people, though cut down to their roots, should remain planted in the land, -the stock of an imperial nation in the latter days. This prophecy was vindicated by the marvellous relief of Jerusalem on the apparent eve of her capture in 701. But its echoes had not yet died away, when Jeremiah to his generation delivered the very opposite message. Round him the popular prophets babbled by rote Isaiah’s ancient assurances about Zion. Their soft, monotonous repetitions lapped pleasantly upon the immovable self-confidence of the people. But Jeremiah called down the storm. Even while prosperity seemed to give him the lie, he predicted the speedy ruin of Temple and City, and summoned Judah’s enemies against her in the name of the God on whose former word she relied for peace. The contrast between the two great prophets grows most dramatic in their conduct during the respective sieges, of which each was the central figure. Isaiah, alone steadfast in a city of despair, defying the taunts of the heathen, rekindling within the dispirited defenders, whom the enemy sought to bribe to desertion, the passions of patriotism and religion, proclaiming always, as with the voice of a trumpet, that Zion must stand inviolate; Jeremiah, on the contrary, declaring the futility of resistance, counselling each citizen to save his own life from the ruin of the state, in treaty with the enemy, and even arrested as a deserter, -these two contrasting figures and attitudes gather up the difference which the century had wrought in the fortunes of the City of God. And so, while in 701 Jerusalem triumphed in the Lord by the sudden raising of the Assyrian siege, three years after the next century was out she twice succumbed to the Assyrian’s successor, and nine years later was totally destroyed.

What is the reason of this difference which a century sufficed to work? Why was the sacredness of Judah’s shrine not as much an article of Jeremiah’s as of Isaiah’s creed, -as much an element of Divine providence in 600 as in 700 B.C.? This is not a very hard question to answer, if we keep in our regard two things, -firstly, the moral condition of the people, and, secondly, the necessities of the spiritual religion, which was identified for the time with their fortunes.

The Israel which was delivered into captivity at the word of Jeremiah was a people at once more hardened and more exhausted than the Israel, which, in spite of its sin, Isaiah’s efforts had succeeded in preserving upon its own land. A century had come and gone of further grace and opportunity, but the grace had been resisted, the opportunity abused, and the people stood more guilty and more wilful than ever before God. Even clearer, however, than the deserts of the people was the need of their religion. That local and temporary victory-after all, only the relief of a mountain fortress and a tribal shrine-with which Isaiah had identified the will and honour of Almighty God, could not be the climax of the history of a spiritual religion. It was impossible for monotheism to rest on so narrow and material a security as that. The faith, which was to overcome the world, could not be satisfied with a merely national triumph. This time must arrive-were it only by the ordinary progress of the years and unhastened by human guilt-for faith and piety to be weaned from the forms of an earthly temple, however sacred: for the individual-after all, the real unit of religion-to be rendered independent of the community and cast upon his God alone; and for this people, to whom the oracles of the living God had been entrusted, to be led out from the selfish pride of guarding these for their own honour-to be led out, were it through the breaches of their hitherto inviolate walls, and amid the smoke of all that was most sacred to them, so that in level contact with mankind they might learn to communicate their glorious trust. Therefore, while the Exile was undoubtedly the penance, which an often-spared but ever more obdurate people had to pay for their accumulated sins, it was also for the meek and the pure-hearted in Israel a step upwards even from the faith and the results of Isaiah-perhaps the most effectual step which Israel’s religion ever took. Schultz has finely said: "The proper tragedy of history-doom required by long-gathering guilt, and launched upon a generation which for itself is really turning towards good-is most strikingly consummated in the Exile." Yes: but this is only half the truth. The accomplishment of the moral tragedy is really but one incident in a religious epic-the development of a spiritual faith. Long-delaying Nemesis overtakes at last the sinners, but the shock of the blows, which beat the guilty nation into captivity, releases their religion from its material bonds. Israel on the way to Exile is on the way to become Israel after the Spirit.

With these principles to guide us, let us now, for a little, thread our way through the crowded details of the decline and fall of the Jewish state.

Isaiah’s own age had foreboded the necessity of exile for Judah. There was the great precedent of Samaria, and Judah’s sin was not less than her sister’s. When the authorities at Jerusalem wished to put Jeremiah to death for the heresy of predicting the ruin of the sacred city, it was pointed out in his defence that a similar prediction had been made by Micah, the contemporary of Isaiah. And how much had happened since then! The triumph of Jehovah in 701, the stronger faith and purer practice, which had followed as long as Hezekiah reigned, gave way to an idolatrous reaction under his successor Manasseh. This reaction, while it increased the guilt of the people, by no means diminished their religious fear. They carried into it the conscience of their former puritanism-diseased, we might say delirious, but not dead. Men felt their sin and feared Heaven’s wrath, and rushed headlong into the gross and fanatic exercises of idolatry, in order to wipe away the one and avert the other. It availed nothing. After an absence of thirty years the Assyrian arms returned in full strength, and Manasseh himself was carried captive across the Euphrates. But penitence revived, and for a time it appeared as if it were to be at last valid for salvation. Israel made huge strides towards their ideal life of a good conscience and outward prosperity. Josiah, the pious, came to the throne. The Book of the Law was discovered in 621, and king and people rallied to its summons with the utmost loyalty. All the nation "stood to the covenant." The single sanctuary was vindicated, the high places destroyed, the land purged of idols. There were no great military triumphs but Assyria, so long the accepted scourge of God, gave signs of breaking up; and we can feel the vigour and self-confidence, induced by years of prosperity, in Josiah’s ambition to extend his borders, and especially in his daring assault upon Necho of Egypt at Megiddo, when Necho passed north to the invasion of Assyria. Altogether, it was a people that imagined itself righteous, and counted upon a righteous God. In such days who could dream of exile?

But in 608 the ideal was shivered. Israel was threshed at Megiddo, and Josiah, the king after God’s own heart, was slain on the field. And then happened what happened at other times in Israel’s history when disillusion of this kind came down. The nation fell asunder into the elements of which it was ever so strange a composition. The masses, whose conscience did not rise beyond the mere performance of the Law, nor their view of God higher than that of a patron of the state, bound by His covenant to reward with material success the loyalty of His clients, were disappointed with the results of their service and of His providence. Being a new generation from Manasseh’s time, they thought to give the strange gods another turn. The idols were brought back, and after the discredit which righteousness received at Megiddo, it would appear that social injustice and crime of many kinds dared to be very bold. Jehoahaz, who reigned for three months after Josiah, and Jehoiakim, who succeeded him, were idolaters, The loftier few, like Jeremiah, had never been deceived by the people’s outward allegiance to the Temple or the Law, nor considered it valid either to atone for the past or now to fulfil the holy demands of Jehovah; and were confirmed by the disaster at Megiddo, and the consequent reaction to idolatry, in the stern and hopeless views of the people which they had always entertained. They kept reiterating a speedy captivity. Between these parties stood the formal successors of earlier prophets, so much the slaves of tradition that they had neither conscience for their people’s sins nor understanding of the world around them, but could only affirm in the strength of ancient oracles that Zion should not be destroyed. Strange is it to see how this party, building upon the promises of Jehovah through a prophet like Isaiah, should be taken advantage of by the idolaters, but scouted by Jehovah’s own servants. Thus they mingle and conflict. Who indeed can distinguish all the elements of so ancient and so rich a life, as they chase, overtake, and wrestle with each other, hurrying down the rapids to the final cataract? Let us leave them for a moment, while we mark the catastrophe itself. They will be more easily distinguished in the calm below.

It was from the North that Jeremiah summoned the vengeance of God upon Judah. In his earlier threats he might have meant the Scythians; but by 605, when Nebuchadrezzar, Nabopolassar of Babylon’s son, the rising general of the age, defeated Pharaoh at Carchemish, all men accepted Jeremiah’s nomination for this successor of Assyria in the lordship of Western Asia. From Carchemish Nebuchadrezzar overran Syria. Jehoiakim paid tribute to him, and Judah at last felt the grip of the hand that was to drag her into exile. Jehoiakim attempted to throw it off in 602; but, after harassing him for four years by means of some allies, Nebuchadrezzar took his capital, executed him, suffered Jehoiachin, his successor, to reign only three months, took Jerusalem a second time, and carried off to Babylon the first great portion of the people. This was in 598, only ten years from the death of Josiah, and twenty-one from the discovery of the Book of the Law.

The exact numbers of this first captivity of the Jews it is impossible to determine. The annalist sets the soldiers at seven thousand, the smiths and craftsmen at one thousand; so that, making allowance for other classes whom he mentions, the grown men must alone have been over ten thousand; but how many women went, and how many children-the most important factor for the period of the Exile with which we have to deal-it is impossible to estimate. The total number of persons can scarcely have been less than twenty-five thousand. More important, however, than their number was the quality of these exiles, and this we can easily appreciate. The royal family and the court were taken, a large number of influential persons, "the mighty men of the land," or what must have been nearly all the fighting men, with the necessary artificers; priests also went, Ezekiel among them, and probably representatives of other classes not mentioned by the annalist. That this was the virtue and flower of the nation is proved by a double witness. Not only did the citizens, for the remaining ten years of Jerusalem’s life, look to these exiles for her deliverance, but Jeremiah himself counted them the sound half of Israel-"a basket of good figs," as he expressed it, beside "a basket of bad ones." They were at least under discipline, but the remnant of Jerusalem persisted in the wilfulness of the past.

For although Jeremiah remained in the city, and the house of David and a considerable population, and although Jeremiah himself held a higher position in public esteem since the vindication of his word by the events of 598, yet he could not be blind to the unchanged character of the people, and the thorough doom which their last respite had only more evidently proved to be inevitable. Gangs of false prophets, both at home and among the exiles, might predict a speedy return. All the Jewish ability of intrigue, with the lavish promises of Egypt and frequent embassies from other nations, might work for the overthrow of Babylon. But Jeremiah and Ezekiel knew better. Across the distance which now separated them they chanted, as it were in antiphon, the alternate strophes of Judah’s dirge. Jeremiah bade the exiles not to remember Zion, but "let them settle down," he said, "into the life of the land they are in, building houses, planting gardens, and begetting children, and ‘seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto Jehovah for it, for in the peace thereof ye shall have peace’-the Exile shall last seventy years." And as Jeremiah in Zion blessed Babylon, so Ezekiel in Babylon cursed Zion, thundering back that Jerusalem must be utterly wasted through siege and famine, pestilence and captivity. There is no rush of hope through Ezekiel. His expectations are all distant. He lives either in memory or in cold fancy. His pictures of restoration are too elaborate to mean speedy fulfilment. They are the work of a man with time on his hands; one does not build so colossally for tomorrow. Thus reinforced from abroad, Jeremiah proclaimed Nebuchadrezzar as "the servant of Jehovah," and summoned him to work Jehovah’s doom upon the city. The predicted blockade came in the ninth year of Zedekiah. The false hopes which still sustained the people, their trust in Egypt, the arrival of an Egyptian army in result of their intrigue, as well as all their piteous bravery, only afforded time for the fulfilment of the terrible details of their penalty. For nearly eighteen months the siege closed in-months of famine and pestilence, of faction and quarrel and falling away to the enemy. Then Jerusalem broke up. The besiegers gained the northern suburb and stormed the middle gate. Zedekiah and the army burst their lines only to be captured on an aimless flight at Jericho. A few weeks more, and a forlorn defence by civilians of the interior parts of the city was at last overwhelmed. The exasperated besiegers gave her up to fire-"the house of Jehovah, the king’s house, and every great house"-and tore to the stones the stout walls that resisted the conflagration. As the city was levelled, so the citizens were dispersed. A great number-and among them the king’s family-were put to death. The king himself was blinded, and, along with a host of his subjects, impossible for us to estimate, and with all the temple furniture, was carried to Babylon. A few peasants were left to cultivate the land; a few superior personages-perhaps such as, with Jeremiah, had favoured the Babylonians, and Jeremiah was among them-were left at Mizpah under a Jewish viceroy. It was a poor apparition of a state; but, as if the very ghost of Israel must be chased from the land, even this small community was broken up, and almost every one of its members fled to Egypt. The Exile was complete.



BEFORE we follow the captives along the roads that lead to exile, we may take account of the spiritual goods which they carried with them, and were to realise in their retirement. Never in all history did paupers of this world go forth more richly laden with the treasures of heaven.

1. First of all, we must emphasise and define their monotheism. We must emphasise it as against those who would fain persuade us that Israel’s monotheism was for the most part the product of the Exile; we must analyse its contents and define its limits among the people, if we would appreciate the extent to which it spread and the peculiar temper which it assumed, as set forth in the prophecy we are about to study.

Idolatry was by no means dead in Israel at the fall of Jerusalem. On the contrary, during the last years which the nation spent within those sacred walls, that had been so miraculously preserved in the sight of the world by Jehovah, idolatry increased, and to the end remained as determined and fanatic as the people’s defence of Jehovah’s own temple. The Jews who fled to Egypt applied themselves to the worship of the Queen of Heaven, in spite of all the remonstrances of Jeremiah; and him they carried with them, not because they listened to him as the prophet of the One True God, but superstitiously, as if he were a pledge of the favour of one of the many gods, whom they were anxious to propitiate. And the earliest effort, upon which we shall have to follow our own prophet, is the effort to crush the worship of images among the Babylonian exiles. Yet when Israel returned from Babylon the people were wholly monotheist; when Jerusalem was rebuilt no idol came back to her.

That this great change was mainly the result of the residence in Babylon and of truths learned there, must be denied by all who remember the creed and doctrine about God, which in their literature the people carried with them into exile. The law was already written, and the whole nation had sworn to it: "Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God; Jehovah is One, and thou shalt worship Jehovah thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength." These words, it is true, may be so strictly interpreted as to mean no more than that there was one God for Israel: other gods might exist, but Jehovah was Sole Deity for His people. It is maintained that such a view receives some support from the custom of prophets, who, while they affirmed Jehovah’s supremacy, talked of other gods as if they were real existences. But argument from this habit of the prophets is precarious: such a mode of speech may have been a mere accommodation to a popular point of view. And, surely, we have only to recall what Isaiah and Jeremiah had uttered concerning Jehovah’s Godhead, to be persuaded that Israel’s monotheism, before the beginning of the Exile, was a far more broad and spiritual faith than the mere belief that Jehovah was the Sovereign Deity of the nation, or the satisfaction of the desires of Jewish hearts alone. Righteousness was not coincident with Israel’s life and interest; righteousness was universally supreme, and it was in righteousness that Isaiah saw Jehovah exalted. There is no more prevailing witness to the unity of God than the conscience, which in this matter takes far precedence of the intellect; and it was on the testimony of conscience that the prophets based Israel’s monotheism. Yet they did not omit to enlist the reason as well. Isaiah and Jeremiah delight to draw deductions from the reasonableness of Jehovah’s working in nature to the reasonableness of His processes in history, -analogies which could not fail to impress both intellect and imagination with the fact that men inhabit a universe, that One is the will and mind which works in all things. But to this training of conscience and reason, the Jews, at the beginning of the Exile, felt the addition of another considerable influence. Their history lay at last complete, and their conscience was at leisure from the making of its details to survey it as a whole. That long past, seen now by undazzled eyes from under the shadow of exile, presented through all its changing fortunes a single and definite course. One was the intention of it, one its judgment from first to last. The Jew saw in it nothing but righteousness, the quality of a God, who spake the same word from the beginning, who never broke His word, and who at last had summoned to its fulfilment the greatest of the world-powers. In those historical books, which were collected and edited during the Exile, we observe each of the kings and generations of Israel, in their turn, confronted with the same high standard of fidelity to the One True God and His holy Law. The regularity and rigour, with which they are thus judged, have been condemned by some critics as an arbitrary and unfair application of the standard of a later faith to the conduct of ruder and less responsible ages. But, apart from the question of historical accuracy, we cannot fail to remark that this method of writing history is at least instinct with the Oneness of God, and the unvarying validity of His Law from generation to generation. Israel’s God was the same, their conscience told them, down all their history; but now as He summoned one after another of the great world-powers to do His bidding, -Assyria, Babylon, Persia, -how universal did He prove His dominion to be! Unchanging through all time, He was surely omnipotent through all space.

This short review-in which, for the sake of getting a complete view of our subject, we have anticipated a little-has shown that Israel had enough within themselves, in the teaching of their prophets and in the lessons of their own history, to account for that consummate expression of Jehovah’s Godhead, which is contained in our prophet, and to which every one allows the character of an absolute monotheism. We shall find this, it is true, to be higher and more comprehensive than anything which is said about God in pre-exilic Scriptures. The prophet argues the claims of Jehovah, not only with the ardour that is born of faith, but often with the scorn which indicates the intellect at work. It is monotheism, treated not only as a practical belief or a religious duty, but as a necessary truth of reason; not only as the secret of faith and the special experience of Israel, but also as an essential conviction of human nature, so that not to believe in One God is a thing irrational and absurd for Gentiles as well as Jews. God’s infinitude in the works of creation, His universal providence in history, are preached with greater power than ever before; and the gods of the nations are treated as things, in whose existence no reasonable person can possibly believe. In short, our great prophet of the Exile has already learned to obey the law of Deuteronomy as it was expounded by Christ. Deuteronomy says, "Thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thine heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength." Christ added, "and with all thy mind." This was what our prophet did. He held his monotheism" with all his mind." We shall find him conscious of it, not only as a religious affection, but as a necessary intellectual conviction; which if a man has not, he is less than a man. Hence the scorn which he pours upon the idols and mythologies of his conquerors. Beside his tyrants, though in physical strength he was but a worm to them, the Jew felt that he walked, by virtue of his faith in One God, their intellectual master.

We shall see all this illustrated later on. Meantime, what we are concerned to show is that there is enough to account for this high faith within Israel themselves-in their prophecy and in the lessons of their history. And where indeed are we to be expected to go in search of the sources of Israel’s monotheism, if not to themselves? To the Babylonians? The Babylonians had nothing spiritual to teach to Israel; our prophet regards them with scorn. To the Persians, who broke across Israel’s horizon with Cyrus? Our prophet’s high statement of monotheism is of earlier date than the advent of Cyrus to Babylon. Nor did Cyrus, when he came, give any help to the faith, for in his public edicts he owned the gods of Babylon and the God of Israel with equal care and equal policy. It was not because Cyrus and his Persians were monotheists, that our prophet saw the sovereignty of Jehovah vindicated, but it was because Jehovah was sovereign that the prophet knew the Persians would serve His holy purposes.

2. But if in Deuteronomy the exiles carried with them the Law of the One God, they preserved in Jeremiah’s writings what may be called the charter of the individual man. Jeremiah had found religion in Judah a public and a national affair. The individual derived his spiritual value only from being a member of the nation, and through the public exercises of the national faith. But, partly by his own religious experience, and partly by the course of events, Jeremiah was enabled to accomplish what may be justly described as the vindication of the individual. Of his own separate value before God, and of his right of access to his Maker apart from the nation, Jeremiah himself was conscious, having belonged to God before he belonged to his mother, his family, or his nation. "Before I found thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest out of the womb I consecrated thee." His whole life was but the lesson of how one man can be for God and all the nation on the other side. And it was in the strength of this solitary experience, that he insisted, in his famous thirty-first chapter, on the individual responsibility of man and on every man’s immediate communication with God’s Spirit; and that, when the ruin of the state was imminent, he advised each of his friends to "take his own life" out of it "for a prey." {Jeremiah 65} But Jeremiah’s doctrine of the religious value and independence of the individual had a complement. Though the prophet felt so keenly his separate responsibility and right of access to God, and his religious independence of the people, he nevertheless clave to the people with all his heart. He was not, like some other prophets, outside the doom he preached. He might have saved himself, for he had many offers from the Babylonians. But he chose to suffer with his people-he, the saint of God, with the idolaters. More than that, it may be said that Jeremiah suffered for the people. It was not they, with their dead conscience and careless mind, but he, with his tender conscience and breaking heart, who bore the reproach of their sins, the anger of the Lord, and all the agonising knowledge of his country’s inevitable doom. In Jeremiah one man did suffer for the people.

In our prophecy, which is absorbed with the deliverance of the nation as a whole, there was, of course, no occasion to develop Jeremiah’s remarkable suggestions about each individual soul of man. In fact, these suggestions were germs, which remained uncultivated in Israel till Christ’s time. Jeremiah himself uttered them, not as demands for the moment, but as ideals that would only be realised when the New Covenant was made. Our prophecy has nothing to say about them. But that figure, which Jeremiah’s life presented, of One Individual-of One Individual standing in moral solitude over against the whole nation, and in a sense suffering for the nation, can hardly have been absent from the influences, which moulded the marvellous confession of the people in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, where they see the solitary servant of God on one side and themselves on the other, "and Jehovah made to light on him the iniquities of us all." It is true that the exiles themselves had some consciousness of suffering for others. "Our fathers," cried a voice in their midst, when Jerusalem broke up, "Our fathers have sinned, and we have borne their iniquities." But Jeremiah had been a willing sufferer for his people; and the fifty-third chapter is, as we shall see, more like his way of bearing his generation’s guilt for love’s sake than their way of bearing their father’s guilt in the inevitable entail of sin.

3. To these beliefs in the unity of God, the religious worth of the individual, and the virtue of his self-sacrifice, we must add some experiences of scarcely less value rising out of the destruction of the material and political forms-the temple, the city, the monarchy-with which the faith of Israel had been so long identified.

Without this destruction, it is safe to say, those beliefs could not have assumed their purest form. Take, for instance, the belief in the unity of God. There is no doubt that this belief was immensely helped in Israel by the abolition of all the provincial sanctuaries under Josiah, by the limitation of Divine worship to one temple and of valid sacrifice to one altar. But yet it was well that this temple should enjoy its singular rights for only thirty years and then be destroyed. For a monotheism, however lofty, which depended upon the existence of any shrine, however gloriously vindicated by Divine providence, was not a purely spiritual faith. Or, again, take the individual. The individual could not realise how truly he himself was the highest temple of God, and God’s most pleasing sacrifice a broken and a contrite heart, till the routine of legal sacrifice was interrupted and the ancient altar torn down. Or, once more, take that high, ultimate doctrine of sacrifice, that the most inspiring thing for men, the most effectual propitiation before God, is the self-devotion and offering up of a free and reasonable soul, the righteous for the unrighteous-how could common Jews have adequately learned that truth, in days when, according to immemorial practice, the bodies of bulls and goats bled daily on the one valid altar? The city and temple, therefore, went up in flames that Israel might learn that God is a Spirit, and dwelleth not in a house made with hands; that men are His temple, and their hearts the sacrifices well-pleasing in His sight; and that beyond the bodies and blood of beasts, with their daily necessity of being offered, He was preparing for them another Sacrifice, of perpetual and universal power, in the voluntary sufferings of His own holy Servant. It was for this Servant, too, that the monarchy, as it were, abdicated, yielding up to Him all its title to represent Jehovah and to save and rule Jehovah’s people.

4. Again, as we have already hinted, the fall of the state and city of Jerusalem gave scope to Israel’s missionary career. The conviction, that that had inspired many of Isaiah’s assertions of the inviolableness of Zion, was the conviction that, if Zion were overthrown and the last remnant of Israel uprooted from the land, there must necessarily follow the extinction of the only true testimony to the living God which the world contained. But by a century later that testimony was firmly secured in the hearts and consciences of the people, wheresoever they might be scattered; and what was now needed was exactly such a dispersion, -in order that Israel might become aware of the world for whom the testimony was meant, and grow expert in the methods by which it was to be proclaimed. Priesthood has its human as well as its Godward side. The latter was already sufficiently secured for Israel by Jehovah’s age-long seclusion of them in their remote highlands-a people peculiar to Himself. But now the same Providence completed its purpose by casting them upon the world. They mixed with men face to face, or, still more valuably to themselves, on a level with the most downtrodden and despised of the peoples. With no advantage but the truth, they met the other religions of the world in argument, debating with them upon the principles of a common reason and the facts of a common history. They learned sympathy with the weak things of earth. They discovered that their religion could be taught. But, above all, they became conscious of martyrdom, the indispensable experience of a religion that is to prevail; and they realised the supreme influence upon men of a love which sacrifices itself. In a word, Israel, in going into exile, put on humanity with all its consequences. How real and thorough the process was, how successful in perfecting their priesthood, may be seen not only from the hopes and obligations towards all mankind, which burst in our prophecy to an urgency and splendour unmatched elsewhere in their history, but still more from the fact that when the Son of God Himself took flesh and became man, there were no words oftener upon His lips to describe His experience and commission, there are no passages which more clearly mirror His work for the world, than the words and the passages in which these Jews of the Exile, stripped to their bare humanity, relate their sufferings or exult in their destiny that should follow.

5. But with their temple in ruins, and all the world before them for the service of God, the Jews go forth to exile upon the distinct promise of return. The material form of their religion is suspended, not abolished. Let them feel religion in purely spiritual aspects, unassisted by sanctuary or ritual; let them look upon the world and the oneness of men; let them learn all God’s scope for the truth He has entrusted to them, -and then let them gather back again and cherish their new experience and ideas for yet awhile in the old seclusion. Jehovah’s discipline of them as a nation is not yet exhausted. They are no mere band of pilgrims or missionaries, with the world for their home; they are still a people. with their own bit of the earth. If we keep this in mind, it will explain certain apparent anomalies in our prophecy. In all the writings of the Exile the reader is confused by a strange mingling of the spiritual and the material, the universal and the local. The moral restoration of the people to pardon and righteousness is identified with their political restoration to Judah and Jerusalem. They have been separated from ritual in order to cultivate a more spiritual religion, but it is to this that a restoration to ritual is promised for a reward. While Jeremiah insists upon the free and immediate communication of every believer with Jehovah, Ezekiel builds a more exclusive priesthood, a more elaborate system of worship. Within our prophecy, while one voice deprecates a house for God built with hands, affirming that Jehovah dwells with every one who is of a poor and contrite spirit, other voices dwell fondly on the prospect of the new temple and exult in its material glory. This double line of feeling is not merely due to the presence in Israel of those two opposite tempers of mind, which so naturally appear in every national literature. But a special purpose of God is in it. Dispersed to obtain more spiritual ideas of God and man and the world, Israel must be gathered back again to get these by heart, to enshrine them in literature, and to transmit them to posterity, as they could alone be securely transmitted, in the memories of a nation, in the liturgies and canons of a living Church.

Therefore the Jews, though torn for their discipline from Jerusalem, continued to identify themselves more passionately than ever with their desecrated city. A prayer of the period exclaims: "Thy saints take pleasure in her stones, and her dust is dear to them." {Psalm 102:14} The exiles proved this by taking her name. Their prophets addressed them as "Zion" and "Jerusalem." Scattered and leaderless groups of captives in a far-off land, they were still that City of God. She had not ceased to be; ruined and forsaken as she lay, she was yet "graven on the palms of Jehovah’s hands; and her walls were continually before Him." {Isaiah 49:15} The exiles kept up the register of her families; they prayed towards her; they looked to return to build her bulwarks; they spent long hours of their captivity in tracing upon the dust of that foreign land the ground plan of her restored temple.

With such beliefs in God and man and sacrifice, with such hopes and opportunities for their world-mission, but also with such a bias back to the material Jerusalem, did Israel pass into exile.




IT is remarkable how completely the sound of the march from Jerusalem to Babylon has died out of Jewish history. It was an enormous movement: twice over within ten years, ten thousand Jews, at the very least, must have trodden the highway to the Euphrates; and yet, except for a doubtful verse or two in the Psalter, they have left no echo of their passage. The sufferings of the siege before, the remorse and lamentation of the Exile after, still pierce our ears through the Book of Lamentations and the Psalms by the rivers of Babylon. We know exactly how the end was fulfilled. We see most vividly the shifting panorama of the siege, -the city in famine, under the assault, and in smoke; upon the streets the pining children, the stricken princes, the groups of men with sullen, famine-black faces, the heaps of slain, mothers feeding on the bodies of the infants whom their sapless breasts could not keep alive; by the walls the hanging and crucifixion of multitudes, with all the fashion of Chaldean cruelty, the delicate and the children stumbling under heavy loads, no survivor free from the pollution of blood. Upon the hills around, the neighbouring tribes are gathered to jeer at "the day of Jerusalem," and to cut off her fugitives; we even see the departing captives turn, as the worm turns, to curse "those children of Edom." But there the vision closes. Was it this hot hate which blinded them to the sights of the way, or that weariness and depression among strange scenes, that falls upon all unaccustomed caravans, and has stifled the memory of nearly every other great historical march? The roads which the exiles traversed were of immemorial use in the history of their fathers; almost every day they must have passed names which, for at least two centuries, had rung in the market-place of Jerusalem-the Way of the Sea, across Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, round Hermon, and past Damascus; between the two Lebanons, past Hamath, and past Arpad; or less probably by Tadmor-in-the-Wilderness and Rezeph, -till they reached the river on which the national ambition had lighted as the frontier of the Messianic Empire, and whose rolling greatness had so often proved the fascination and despair of a people of uncertain brooks and trickling aqueducts. Crossing the Euphrates by one of its numerous passages-either at Carchemish, if they struck the river so high, or at the more usual Thapsacus, Tiphsah, "the passage," where Xenophon crossed with his Greeks, or at some other place-the caravans must have turned south across the Habor, on whose upper banks the captives of Northern Israel had been scattered, and then have traversed the picturesque country of Aram-Naharaim, past Circesium and Rehoboth-of-the-River, and many another ancient place mentioned in the story of the Patriarchs, till through dwindling hills they reached His-that marvellous site which travellers praise as one of the great viewpoints of the world-and looked out at last upon the land of their captivity, the boundless, almost level tracts of Chaldea, the first home of the race, the traditional Garden of Eden. But of all that we are told nothing. Every eye in the huge caravans seems to have been as the eyes of the blinded king whom they carried with them, -able to weep, but not to see.

One fact, however, was too large to be missed by these sad, wayworn men; and it has left traces on their literature. In passing from home to exile, the Jews passed from the hills to the plain. They were highlanders. Jerusalem lies four thousand feet above the sea. From its roofs the skyline is mostly a line of hills. To leave the city on almost any side you have to descend. The last monuments of their fatherland, on which the emigrants’ eyes could have lingered, were the high crests of Lebanon; the first prospect of their captivity was a monotonous level. The change was the more impressive, that to the hearts of the Hebrews it could not fail to be sacramental. From the mountains came the dew to their native crofts-the dew which, of all earthly blessings, was likest God’s grace. For their prophets, the ancient hills had been the symbols of Jehovah’s faithfulness. In leaving their highlands, therefore, the Jews not only left the kind of country to which their habits were most adapted and all their natural affections clung; they left the chosen abode of God, the most evident types of His grace, the perpetual witnesses to His covenant. Ezekiel constantly employs the mountains to describe his fatherland. But it is far more with a sacramental longing than a mere homesickness that a psalmist of the Exile cries out, "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills: from whence cometh mine help?" or that our prophet exclaims: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth."

By the route sketched above, it is at least seven hundred miles from Jerusalem to Babylon-a distance which, when we take into account that many of the captives walked in fetters, cannot have occupied them less than three months. We may form some conception of the aspect of the caravans from the transportations of captives which are figured on the Assyrian monuments, as in the Assyrian basement in the British Museum. From these it appears as if families were not separated, but marched together. Mules, asses, camels, ox-waggons, and the captives themselves carried goods. Children and women suckling infants were allowed to ride on the waggons. At intervals fully-armed soldiers walked in pairs.


Mesopotamia, the land "in the middle of the rivers," Euphrates and Tigris, consists of two divisions, an upper and a lower. The dividing line crosses from near Hit or His on the Euphrates to below Samarah on the Tigris. Above this line the country is a gently undulating plain of secondary formation at some elevation above the sea. But lower Mesopotamia is absolutely flat land, an unbroken stretch of alluvial soil, scarcely higher than the Persian Gulf, upon which it steadily encroaches. Chaldea was confined to this Lower Mesopotamia, and was not larger, Rawlinson estimates, than the kingdom of Denmark. It is the monotonous level which first impresses the traveller; but if the season be favourable, he sees this only as the theatre of vast and varied displays of colour, which all visitors vie with one another in describing: "It is like a rich carpet"; "emerald green, enamelled with flowers of every hue"; "tall wild grasses and broad extents of waving reeds"; "acres of water-lilies"; "acres of pansies." There was no such country in ancient times for wheat, barley, millet, and sesame; tamarisks, poplars, and palms; here and there heavy jungle; with flashing streams and canals thickly athwart the whole, and all shining the more brilliantly for the interrupting patches of scurvy, nitrous soil, and the grey sandy setting of the desert with its dry scrub. The possible fertility of Chaldea is incalculable. But there are drawbacks. Bounded to the north by so high a tableland, to the south and southwest by a super-heated gulf and broad desert, Mesopotamia is the scene of violent changes of atmosphere. The languor of the flat country, the stagnancy and sultriness of the air, of which not only foreigners but the natives themselves complain, is suddenly invaded by southerly winds, of tremendous force and laden with clouds of fine sand, which render the air so dense as to be suffocating, and "produce a lurid red haze intolerable to the eyes." Thunderstorms are frequent, and there are very heavy rains. But the winds are the most tremendous. In such an atmosphere we may perhaps discover the original shapes and sounds of Ezekiel’s turbulent visions-"the fiery wheels; the great cloud with a fire infolding itself; the colour of amber," with "sapphire," or lapiz lazuli, breaking through; "the sound of a great rushing." Also the Mesopotamian floods are colossal. The increase of both Tigris and Euphrates is naturally more violent and irregular than that of the Nile. Frequent risings of these rivers spread desolation with inconceivable rapidity, and they ebb only to leave pestilence behind them. If civilisation is to continue, there is need of vast and incessant operations on the part of man.

Thus, both by its fertility and by its violence, this climate-before the curse of God fell on those parts of the world-tended to develop a numerous and industrious race of men, whose numbers were swollen from time to time both by forced and by voluntary immigration. The population must have been very dense. The triumphal lists of Assyrian conquerors of the land, as well as the rubbish mounds which today cover its surface, testify to innumerable villages and towns; while the connecting canals and fortifications, by the making of them and the watching of them, must have filled even the rural districts with the hum and activity of men. Chaldea, however, did not draw all her greatness from herself. There was immense traffic with East and West, between which Babylon lay, for the greater part of antiquity, the world’s central market and exchange. The city was practically a port on the Persian Gulf, by canals from which vessels reached her wharves direct from Arabia, India, and Africa. Down the Tigris and Euphrates rafts brought the produce of Armenia and the Caucasus; but of greater importance than even these rivers were the roads, which ran from Sardis to Shushan, traversed Media, penetrated Bactria and India, and may be said to have connected the Jaxartes and the Ganges with the Nile and the harbours of the Ægean Sea. These roads all crossed Chaldea and met at Babylon. Together with the rivers and ocean highways, they poured upon her markets the traffic of the whole ancient world.

It was, in short, the very centre of the world-the most populous and busy region of His earth-to which God sent His people for their exile. The monarch, who transplanted them, was the genius of Babylonia incarnate. The chief soldier of his generation, Nebuchadrezzar will live in history as one of the greatest builders of all time. But he fought as he built - that he might traffic. His ambition was to turn the trade with India from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, and he thought to effect this by the destruction of Tyre, by the transportation of Arab and Nabathean merchants to Babylon, and by the deepening and regulation of the river between Babylon and the sea.

There is no doubt that Nebuchadrezzar carried the Jews to Babylon not only for political reasons, but in order to employ them upon those large works of irrigation and the building of cities, for which his ambition required hosts of labourers. Thus the exiles were planted, neither in military prisons nor in the comparative isolation of agricultural colonies, but just where Babylonian life was most busy, where they were forced to share and contribute to it, and could not help feeling the daily infection of their captor’s habits. Do not let us forget this. It will explain much in what we have to study. It will explain how the captivity, which God inflicted upon the Jews as a punishment, might become in time a new sin to them, and why, when the day of redemption arrived, so many forgot that their citizenship was in Zion, and clung to the traffic and the offices of Babylon.

The majority of the exiles appear to have been settled within the city, or, as it has been more correctly called, "the fortified district," of Babylon itself. Their mistress was thus constantly before them, at once their despair and their temptation. Lady of Kingdoms she lifted herself to heaven from broad wharves and ramparts, by wide flights of stairs and terraces, high walls and hanging gardens, pyramids and towers-so colossal in her buildings, so imperially lavish of space between! No wonder that upon that vast, far-spreading architecture, upon its great squares and between its high portals guarded by giant bulls, the Jew felt himself, as he expressed it, but a poor worm. If, even as they stand in our museums, captured and catalogued, one feels as if one crawled in the presence of the fragments of these striding monsters, with how much more of the feeling of the worm must the abject members of that captive nation have writhed before the face of the city, which carried these monsters as the mere ornaments of her skirts, and rose above all kingdoms with her strong feet upon the poor and the meek of the earth?

Ah, the despair of it! To see her every day so glorious, to be forced to help her ceaseless growth, -and to think how Jerusalem, the daughter of Zion, lay forsaken in ruins! Yet the despair sometimes gave way to temptation. There was not an outline or horizon visible to the captive Jew, not a figure in the motley crowds in which he moved, but must have fascinated him with the genius of his conquerors. In that level land no mountain, with its witness of God, broke the skyline; but the work of man was everywhere: curbed and scattered rivers, artificial mounds, buildings of brick, gardens torn from their natural beds and hung high in air by cunning hands to please the taste of a queen; lavish wealth and force and cleverness, all at the command of one human will. The signature ran across the whole, "I have done this, and with mine own hand have I gotten me my wealth"; and all the nations of the earth came and acknowledged the signature, and worshipped the great city. It was fascinating merely to look on such cleverness, success, and self-confidence; and who was the poor Jew that he, too, should not be drawn with the intoxicated nations to the worship of this glory that filled his horizon? If his eyes rose higher, and from these enchantments of men sought refuge in the heavens above, were not even they also a Babylonian realm? Did not the Chaldean claim the great lights there for his patron gods? were not the movements of sun, moon, and planets the secret of his science? did not the tyrant believe that the very stars in their courses fought for him? And he was vindicated; he was successful; he did actually rule the world. There seemed to be no escape from the enchantments of this sorceress city, as the prophets called her, and it is not wonderful that so many Jews fell victims to her worldliness and idolatry.


The social condition of the Jews in exile is somewhat obscure, and yet, both in connection with the date and with the exposition of some portions of "Second Isaiah," it is an element of the greatest importance, of which we ought to have as definite an idea as possible.

What are the facts? By far the most significant is that which faces us at the end of the Exile. There, some sixty years after the earlier, and some fifty years after the later, of Nebuchadnezzar’s two deportations, we find the Jews a largely multiplied and still regularly organised nation, with considerable property and decided political influence. Not more than forty thousand can have gone into exile, but forty-two thousand returned, and yet left a large portion of the nation behind them. The old families and clans survived; the social ranks were respected; the rich still held slaves; and the former menials of the temple could again be gathered together. Large subscriptions were raised for the pilgrimage, and for the restoration of the temple; a great host of cattle was taken. To such a state of affairs do we see any traces leading up through the Exile itself? We do.

The first host of exiles, the captives of 598, comprised, as we have seen, the better classes of the nation, and appear to have enjoyed considerable independence. They were not scattered, like the slaves in North America, as domestic bondsmen over the surface of the land. Their condition must have much more closely resembled that of the better-treated exiles in Siberia; though of course, as we have seen, it was not a Siberia, but the centre of civilisation, to which they were banished. They remained in communities, with their own official heads, and at liberty to consult their prophets. They were sufficiently in touch with one another, and sufficiently numerous, for the enemies of Babylon to regard them as a considerable political influence, and to treat with them for a revolution against their captors. But Ezekiel’s strong condemnation of this intrigue exhibits their leaders on good terms with the government. Jeremiah bade them throw themselves into the life of the land; buy and sell, and increase their families and property. At the same time, we cannot but observe that it is only religious sins, with which Ezekiel upbraids them. When he speaks of civic duty or social charity, he either refers to their past or to the life of the remnant still in Jerusalem. There is every reason to believe, therefore, that this captivity was an honourable and an easy one. The captives may have brought some property with them; they had leisure for the pursuit of business and for the study and practice of their religion. Some of them suffered, of course, from the usual barbarity of Oriental conquerors, and were made eunuchs; some, by their learning and abstinence, rose to high positions in the court. (The Book of Daniel) Probably to the end of the Exile they remained "the good figs," as Jeremiah had called them. Theirs was, perhaps, the literary work of the Exile; and theirs, too, may have been the wealth which rebuilt Jerusalem.

But it was different with the second captivity, of 589. After the famine, the burning of the city, and the prolonged march, this second host of exiles must have reached Babylonia in an impoverished condition. They were a lower class of men. They had exasperated their conquerors, who, before the march began, subjected many of them to mutilation and cruel death; and it is, doubtless, echoes of their experience which we find in the more bitter complaints of our prophet, This is a people robbed and spoiled; all of them snared in holes, and hid in prison-houses: they are for a prey, and for a spoil. "Thou" (that is, Babylon), "didst show them no mercy; upon the aged hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke." {Isaiah 42:22; Isaiah 47:6} Nebuchadrezzar used them for his building, as Pharaoh had used their forefathers. Some of them, or of their countrymen who had reached Babylonia before them, became the domestic slaves and chattels of their conquerors. Among the contracts and bills of sale of this period we find the cases of slaves with apparently Jewish names.

In short, the state of the Jews in Babylonia resembled what seems to have been their fortune wherever they have settled in a foreign land. Part of them despised and abused, forced to labour or overtaxed: part left alone to cultivate literature or to gather wealth. Some treated with unusual rigour-and perhaps a few of these with reason, as dangerous to the government of the land-but some also, by the versatile genius of their race, advancing to a high place in the political confidence of their captors.

Their application to literature, to their religion, and to commerce must be specially noted.

1. Nothing is more striking in the writings of Ezekiel than the air of large leisure which invests them. Ezekiel lies passive; he broods, gazes, and builds his vision up, in a fashion like none of his terser predecessors; for he had time on his hands, not available to them in days when the history of the nation was still running. Ezekiel’s style swells to a greater fulness of rhetoric; his pictures of the future are elaborated with the most minute detail. Prophets before him were speakers, but he is a writer. Many in Israel besides Ezekiel took advantage of the leisure of the Exile to the great increase and arrangement of the national literature. Some Assyriologists have lately written, as if the schools of Jewish scribes owed their origin entirely to the Exile. But there were scribes in Israel before this. What the Exile did for these, was to provide them not only with the leisure from national business which we have noted, but with a powerful example of their craft as well. Babylonia at this time was a land full of scribes and makers of libraries. They wrote a language not very different from the Jewish, and cannot but have powerfully infected their Jewish fellows with the spirit of their toil and of their methods. To the Exile we certainly owe a large part of the historical books of the Old Testament, the arrangement of some of the prophetic writings, as well as-though the amount of this is very uncertain-part of the codification of the Law.

2. If the Exile was opportunity to the scribes, it can only have been despair to the priests. In this foreign land the nation was unclean; none of the old sacrifice or ritual was valid, and the people were reduced to the simplest elements of religion-prayer, fasting, and the reading of religious books. We shall find our prophecy noting the clamour of the exiles to God for "ordinances of righteousness"-that is, for the institution of legal and valid rites. {Isaiah 58:2} But the great lesson, which prophecy brings to the people of the Exile, is that pardon and restoration to God’s favour are won only by waiting upon Him with all the heart. It was possible, of course, to observe some forms; to gather at intervals to inquire of the Lord, to keep the Sabbath, and to keep fasts. The first of these practices, out of which the synagogue probably took its rise, is noted by our prophet, {Isaiah 58:13-14} and he enforces Sabbath-keeping with words that add the blessing of prophecy to the law’s ancient sanction of that institution. Four annual fasts were instituted in memory of the dark days of Jerusalem-the day of the beginning of Nebuchadrezzar's siege in the tenth month, the day of the capture in the fourth month, the day of the destruction in the fifth month, and the day of Gedaliah’s murder in the tenth month. It might have been thought, that solemn anniversaries of a disaster so recent and still unrepaired would be kept with sincerity; but our prophet illustrates how soon even the most outraged feelings may grow formal, and how on their days of special humiliation, while their captivity was still real, the exiles could oppress their own bondsmen and debtors. But there is no religious practice of this epoch more apparent through our prophecies than the reading of Scripture. Israel’s hope was neither in sacrifice, nor in temple, nor in vision nor in lot, but in God’s written Word; and when a new prophet arose, like the one we are about to study, he did not appeal for his authorisation, as previous prophets had done, to the fact of his call or inspiration, but it was enough for him to point to some former word of God, and cry, "See! at last the day has dawned for the fulfilment of that." Throughout Second Isaiah this is what the anonymous prophet cares to establish that the facts of today fit the promise of yesterday. We shall not understand our great prophecy unless we realise a people rising from fifty years’ close study of Scripture, in strained expectation of its immediate fulfilment.

3. The third special feature of the people in exile is their application to commerce. At home the Jews had not been a commercial people. But the opportunities of their Babylonian residence seem to have started them upon those habits, for which, through their longer exile in our era, the name of Jew has become a synonym. If that be so, Jeremiah’s advice "to build and plant." {Jeremiah 29:1-32} is historic, for it means no less than that the Jews should throw themselves into the life of the most trafficking nation of the time. Their increasing wealth proves how they followed this advice, -as well as perhaps such passages as Isaiah 55:2, in which the commercial spirit is reproached for overwhelming the nobler desires of religion. The chief danger, incurred by the Jews from an intimate connection with the commerce of Babylonia, lay in the close relations of Babylonian commerce with Babylonian idolatry. The merchants of Mesopotamia had their own patron gods. In completing business contracts, a man had to swear by his idols, and might have to enter their temples. In Isaiah 65:11, Jews are blamed for "forsaking Jehovah, and forgetting My holy mountain; preparing a table for Luck, and filling up mixed wine to Fortune." Here it is more probable that mercantile speculation, rather than any other form of gambling, is intended.


But while all this is certain and needing to be noted about the habits of the mass of the people, what little trace it has left in the best literature of the period! We have already noticed in that the great absence of local colour. The truth is that what we have been trying to describe as Jewish life in Babylon was only a surface over deeps in which the true life of the nation was at work-was volcanically at work. Throughout the Exile the true Jew lived inwardly. "Out of the depths do I cry to Thee, O Lord." He was the inhabitant not so much of a foreign prison as of his own broken heart. "He sat by the rivers of Babylon; but he thought upon Zion." Is it not a proof of what depths in human nature were being stirred, that so little comes to the surface to tell us of the external conditions of those days? There are no fossils in the strata of the earth, which have been cast forth from her inner fires; and if we find few traces of contemporary life in these deposits of Israel’s history now before us, it is because they date from an age in which the nation was shaken and boiling to its centre.

For if we take the writings of this period-the Book of Lamentations, the Psalms of the Exile, and parts of other books-and put them together, the result is the impression of one of the strangest decompositions of human nature into its elements which the world has ever seen. Suffering and sin, recollection, remorse and revenge, fear and shame and hate-over the confusion of these the Spirit of God broods as over a second chaos, and draws each of them forth in turn upon some articulate prayer. Now it is the crimson flush of shame: "our soul is exceedingly filled with contempt." Now it is the black rush of hate; for if we would see how hate can rage, we must go to the Psalms of the Exile, which call on the God of vengeance and curse the enemy and dash the little ones against the stones. But the deepest surge of all in that whirlpool of misery was the surge of sin. To change the figure, we see Israel’s spirit writhing upward from some pain it but partly understands, crying out, "What is this that keeps God from hearing and saving me?" turning like a wounded beast from the face of its master to its sore again, understanding as no brute could the reason of its plague, till confession after confession breaks away and the penalty is accepted, and acknowledged guilt seems almost to act as an anodyne to the penalty it explains. "Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? If Thou, Jehovah, shouldest mark iniquity who shall stand?" No wonder, that with such a conscience the Jews occupied the Exile in writing the moral of their delinquent history, or that the rest of their literature which dates from that time should have remained ever since the world’s confessional.

But in this awful experience, there is still another strain, as painful as the rest, but pure and very eloquent of hope-the sense of innocent suffering. We cannot tell the sources, from which this considerable feeling may have gathered during the Exile, any more than we can trace from how many of the upper folds of a valley the tiny rivulets start, which form the stream that issues from its lower end. One of these sources may have been, as we have already suggested, the experience of Jeremiah; another very probably sprang with every individual conscience in the new generation. Children come even to exiles, and although they bear the same pain with the same nerves as their fathers, they do so with a different conscience. The writings of the time dwell much on the sufferings of the children. The consciousness is apparent in them, that souls are born into the wrath of God, as well as banished there. "Our fathers have sinned and are not, and we bear their iniquities." This experience developed with great force, till Israel felt that she suffered not under God’s wrath, but for His sake; and so passed from the conscience of the felon to that of the martyr. But if we are to understand the prophecy we are about to study, we must remember how near akin these two consciences must have been in exiled Israel, and how easy it was for a prophet to speak-as our prophet does, sometimes with confusing rapidity of exchange-now in the voice of the older and more guilty generation, and now in the voice of the younger and less deservedly punished.

Our survey of the external as well as the internal conditions of Israel in Exile is now finished. It has, I think, included every known feature of their experience in Babylonia, which could possibly illustrate our prophecy-dated, as we have felt ourselves compelled to date this, from the close of the Exile. Thus, as we have striven to trace, did Israel suffer, learn, grow, and hope for fifty years-under Nebuchadrezzar till 561, under his successor Evil-merodach till 559, under Neriglassar till 554, and then under the usurper Nabunahid. The last named probably oppressed the Jews more grievously than their previous tyrants, but with the aggravation of their yoke there grew evident, at the same time, the certainty of their deliverance. In 549 Cyrus overthrew the Medes, and became lord of Asia from the Indus to the Halys. From that event his conquest of Babylonia, however much delayed, could only be a matter of time.

It is at this juncture that our prophecy breaks in. Taking for granted Cyrus’ sovereignty of the Medes, it still looks forward to his capture of Babylon. Let us, before advancing to its exposition, once more cast a rapid glance over the people, to whom it is addressed and whom in their half century of waiting for it we have been endeavouring to describe.

First and most manifest, they are a people with a conscience-a people with the most awful and most articulate conscience that ever before or since exposed a nation’s history or tormented a generation with the curse of their own sin and the sin of their fathers. Behind them, ages of delinquent life, from the perusal of the record of which, with its regularly recurring moral, they have just risen: the Books of Kings appear to have been finished after the accession of Evil-merodach in 561. Behind them also nearly fifty years of sore punishment for their sins-punishment, which, as their Psalms confess, they at last understand and accept as deserved.

But, secondly, they are a people with a great hope. With their awful consciousness of guilt, they have the assurance that their punishment has its limits; that, to quote Isaiah 40:2, it is a "set period of service": a former word of God having fixed it at not more than seventy years, and having promised the return of the nation thereafter to their own land.

And, thirdly, they are a People with a great opportunity. History is at last beginning to set towards the vindication of their hope: Cyrus, the master of the age, is moving rapidly, irresistibly, down upon their tyrants.

But, fourthly, in face of all their hope and opportunity, they are a people disorganised, distracted, and very impotent-"worms and not men," as they describe themselves. The generation of the tried and responsible leaders of the days of their independence are all dead, for "flesh is like grass"; no public institutions remain in their midst such as ever in the most hopeless periods of the past proved a rallying-point of their scattered forces. There is no king, temple, nor city; nor is there any great personality visible to draw their little groups together, marshal them, and lead them forth behind him. Their one hope is in the Word of God, for which they "wait more than they that watch for the morning"; and the one duty of their nameless prophets is to persuade them that this Word has at last come to pass, and, in the absence of king, Messiah, priest, and great prophet, is able to lift them to the opportunity that God’s hand has opened before them, and to the accomplishment of their redemption.

Upon Israel, with such a Conscience, such a Hope, such an Opportunity, and such an unaided Reliance on God’s bare Word, that Word at last broke in a chorus of voices.

Of these the first, as was most meet, spoke pardon to the people’s conscience and the proclamation that their set period of warfare was accomplished; the second announced that circumstances and the politics of the world, hitherto adverse, would be made easy to their return; the third bade them, in their bereavement of earthly leaders, and their own impotence, find their eternal confidence in God’s Word; while the fourth lifted them, as with one heart and voice, to herald the certain return of Jehovah, at the head of His people, to His own City, and His quiet, shepherdly rule of them on their own land.

These herald voices form the prologue to our prophecy, Isaiah 40:1-11, to which we will now turn.



Isaiah 41:1-29HAVING revealed Himself to His own people in chapter 40, Jehovah now turns in chapter 41 to the heathen, but, naturally, with a very different kind of address. Displaying His power to His people in certain sacraments, both of nature and history, He had urged them to "wait upon Him" alone for the salvation, of which there were as yet no signs in the times. But with the heathen it is evidently to these signs of the times, that He can best appeal. Contemporary history, facts open to every man’s memory and reason, is the common ground on which Jehovah and the other gods can meet. Chapter 41 is, therefore, the natural complement to chapter 40. In chapter 40 we have the element in revelation that precedes history: in chapter 12 we have history itself explained as a part of revelation.

Chapter 41 is loosely cast in the same form of a Trial-at-Law which we found in chapter 1 To use a Scotticism, which exactly translates the Hebrew of Isaiah 41:1, Jehovah goes "to the law" with the idols. His summons to the Trial is given in Isaiah 41:1; the ground of the Trial is advanced in Isaiah 41:2-7. Then comes a digression, Isaiah 41:8-20, in which the Lord turns from controversy with the heathen to comfort His people. In Isaiah 41:21-29 Jehovah’s plea is resumed, and in the silence of the defendants-a silence, which, as we shall presently see by calling in the witness of a Greek historian, was actual fact-the argument is summed up and the verdict given for the sole divinity of Israel’s God.

The main interest of the Trial lies, of course, in its appeal to contemporary history, and to the central figure Cyrus, although it is to be noted that the prophet as yet refrains from mentioning the hero by name. This appeal to contemporary history lays upon us the duty of briefly indicating, how the course of that history was tending outside Babylon, -outside Babylon, as yet, but fraught with fate both to Babylon and to her captives.

Nebuchadrezzar, although he had virtually succeeded to the throne of the Assyrian, had not been able to repeat from Babylon that almost universal empire, which his predecessors had swayed from Nineveh. Egypt, it is true, was again as thoroughly driven from Asia as in the time of Sargon: to the south the Babylonian supremacy was as unquestioned as ever the Assyrian had been. But to the north Nebuchadrezzar met with an almost equal rival, who had helped him in the overthrow of Nineveh, and had fallen heir to the Assyrian supremacy in that quarter. This was Kastarit or Kyaxares, an Aryan, one of the pioneers of that Aryan invasion from the East, which, though still tardy and sparse, was to be the leading force in Western Asia for the next century. This Kyaxares had united under his control a number of Median tribes, a people of Turanian stock. With these, when Nineveh fell, he established to the north of Nebuchadrezzar’s power the empire of Media, with its western boundary at the river Halys, in Asia Minor, and its capital at Ecbatana under Mount Elwand. It is said that the river Indus formed his frontier to the east. West of the Halys, the Mede’s progress was stopped by the Lydian Empire, under King Alyattis, whose capital was Sardis, and whose other border was practically the coast of the AEgean. In 585, or two years after the destruction of Jerusalem, Alyattis and Kyaxares met in battle on the Halys. But the terrors of an eclipse took the heart to fight out of both their armies, and, Nebuchadrezzar intervening, the three monarchs struck a treaty among themselves, and strengthened it by intermarriage. Western Asia now virtually consisted of the confederate powers, Babylonia, Media, and Lydia.

Let us realise how far this has brought us. When we stood with Isaiah in Jerusalem, our western horizon lay across the middle of Asia Minor in the longitude of Cyprus. It now rests upon the Aegean; we are almost within sight of Europe. Straight from Babylon to Sardis runs a road, with a regular service of couriers. The court of Sardis holds domestic and political intercourse with the courts of Babylon and Ecbatana; but the court of Sardis also lords it over the Asiatic Greeks, worships at Greek shrines, will shortly be visited by Solon and strike an alliance with Sparta. In the time of the Jewish exile there were without doubt many Greeks in Babylon; men may have spoken there with Daniel, who had spoken at Sardis with Solon.

This extended horizon makes clear to us what our prophet has in his view, when in this forty-first chapter he summons "Isles" to the bar of Jehovah: "Be silent before me, O Isles, and let Peoples renew their strength,"-a vision and appeal which frequently recur in our prophecy. "Listen, O Isles, and hearken, O Peoples from afar"; {Isaiah 49:1} "Isles shall wait for His law"; {Isaiah 42:4} "Let them give glory to Jehovah, and publish His praise in the Isles"; {Isaiah 42:12} "Unto me Isles shall hope"; {Isaiah 51:5} "Surely Isles shall wait for me, ships of Tarshish first." The name is generally taken by scholars-according to the derivation in the note below-to have originally meant "habitable land," and so "land" as opposed to water. In some passages of the Old Testament it is undoubtedly used to describe a land either washed, or surrounded, by the sea.

But by our prophet’s use of the word it is not necessarily "maritime provinces" that are meant. He makes isles parallel to the well-known terms "nations, peoples, Gentiles," and in one passage he opposes it, as dry soil, to water. Hence many translators take it in its original sense of "countries or lands." This bare rendering, however, does not do justice to the sense of "remoteness," which the prophet generally attaches to the word, nor to his occasional association of it with visions of the sea. Indeed, as one reads most of his uses of it, one is quite sure that the island-meaning of the word lingers on in his imagination; and that the feeling possesses him, which has haunted the poetry of all ages, to describe as "coasts" or "isles" any land or lighting-place of thought which is far and dim and vague; which floats across the horizon, or emerges from the distance, as strips and promontories of land rise from the sea to him who has reached some new point of view. I have therefore decided to keep the rendering familiar to the English reader, "isles," though, perhaps, "coasts" would be better. If, as is probable, our prophet’s thoughts are always towards the new lands of the west as he uses the word, it is doubly suitable; those countries were both maritime and remote; they rose both from the distance and from the sea.

"The sprinkled isles, Lily on lily, that o’erlace the sea

And laugh their pride, where the light wave lisps, ‘Greece.’"

But if Babylonia lay thus open to Lydia, and through Lydia to the "isles" and "coasts" of Greece, it was different with her northern frontier. What strikes us here is the immense series of fortifications, which Nebuchadrezzar, in spite of his alliance with Astyages, cast up between his country and Media. Where the Tigris and Euphrates most nearly approach one another, about seventy miles to the north of Babylon, Nebuchadrezzar connected their waters by four canals above which he built a strong bulwark, called by the Greeks the Median wall. This may have been over sixty miles long; Xenophon tells us it was twenty feet broad by one hundred high. At Sippara this line of defence was completed by the creation of a great bason of water to flood the rivers and canals on the approach of an enemy, and of a large fortress to protect the bason. Alas for the vanity of human purposes! It is said to have been this very bason which caused the easy fall of Babylon. By turning the Euphrates into it, the enemy entered the capital through the emptied river-bed.

The triple alliance-Lydia, Media, Babylonia-stood firm after its founders passed away. In 555, Croesus and Astyages, who had succeeded their fathers at Sardis and Ecbatana respectively, and Nabunahid, who had usurped the throne at Babylon, were still at peace, and contented with the partition of 585. But outside them and to the east, in a narrow nook of land at the head of the Persian Gulf, the man was already crowned, who was destined to bring Western Asia again under one sceptre. This was Kurush or Cyrus II of Anzan, but known to history as Cyrus the Great or Cyrus the Persian. Cyrus was a prince of the Akhaemenian house of Persia, and therefore, like the Mede, an Aryan. but independent of his Persian cousins, and ruling in his own right the little kingdom of Anzan or Anshan, which, with its capital of Susan, lay on the rivers Choaspes and Eulaeus, between the head of the Persian Gulf and the Zagros Mountains.

Cyrus the Great is one of those mortals whom the muse of history, as if despairing to do justice to him by herself, has called in her sisters to aid her in describing to posterity. Early legend and later and more elaborate romance; the schoolmaster, the historian, the tragedian, and the prophet, all vie in presenting to us this hero "le plus sympathique de l’antiquite"-this king on whom we see so deeply stamped the double signature of God, character and success. We shall afterwards have a better opportunity to speak of his character. Here we are only concerned to trace his rapid path of conquest.

He sprang, then, from Anshan, the immediate neighbour of Babylonia to the east. This is the direction indicated in the second verse of this forty-first chapter (Isaiah 41:2): "Who hath raised up one from the east?" But the twenty-fifth verse veers round with him to the north (Isaiah 41:25): "I have raised up one from the north, and he is come." This was actually the curve, from east to north, which his career almost immediately took.

For in 549 Astyages, king of Media, attacked Cyrus, king of Anshan; which means that Cyrus was already a considerable and an aggressive prince. Probably he had united by this time the two domains of his house, Persia and Anshan, under his own sceptre, and secured as his lieutenant Hystaspes, his cousin, the lineal king of Persia. The Mede, looking south and east from Ecbatana, saw a solid front opposed to him, and resolved to crush it before it grew more formidable. But the Aryans among the Medes, dissatisfied with so indolent a leader as Astyages, revolted to Cyrus, and so the latter, with characteristic good fortune, easily became lord of Media. A lenient lord he made. He spared Astyages, and ranked the Aryan Medes second only to the Persians. But it took him till 546 to complete his conquest. When he had done so he stood master of Asia from the Halys to perhaps as far east as the Indus. He replaced the Medes in the threefold power of Western Asia, and thus looked down on Babylon, as verse 25 says, "from the north". {Isaiah 41:25}

In 545, Cyrus advanced upon Babylonia, and struck at the northern line of fortifications at Sippara. He was opposed by an army under Belshazzar, Bel-sharuzzur, the son of Nabunahid, and probably by his mother’s side grandson of Nebuchadrezzar. Army or fortifications seem to have been too much for Cyrus, and there is no further mention of his name in the Babylonian annals till the year 538. It has been suggested that Cyrus was aware of the discontent of the people with their ruler Nabunahid, and, with that genius which distinguished his whole career for availing himself of the internal politics of his foes, he may have been content to wait till the Babylonian dissatisfaction had grown riper, perhaps in the meantime fostering it by his own emissaries.

In any case, the attention of Cyrus was now urgently demanded on the western boundary of his empire, where Lydia was preparing to invade him. Croesus, king of Lydia, fresh from the subjection of the Ionian Greeks, and possessing an army and a treasure second to none in the world, had lately asked of Solon, whether he was not the most fortunate of men; and Solon had answered, to count no man happy till his death, The applicability of this advice to himself Croesus must have felt with a start, when, almost immediately after it, the news came that his brother-in-law Astyages had fallen before an unknown power, which was moving up rapidly from the east, and already touched the Lydian frontier at the Halys. Croesus was thrown into alarm. He eagerly desired to know Heaven’s will about this Persian and himself, who now stood face to face. But, in that heathen world, with its thousand shrines to different gods, who knew the will of Heaven? In a fashion only possible to the richest man in the world, Croesus resolved to discover, by sending a test-question, on a matter of fact within his own knowledge, to every oracle of repute: to the oracles of the Greeks at Miletus, Delphi, Able; to that of Trophonius; to the sanctuary of Amphiaraus at Thebes; to Dodona; and even to the far-off temple of Ammon in Libya. The oracles of Delphi and Amphiaraus alone sent an answer which in the least suggested the truth. "To the gods of Delphi and Amphiaraus, Croesus, therefore, offered great sacrifices, -three thousand victims of every kind; and on a great pile of wood he burned couches plated with gold and silver, golden goblets, purple robes and garments, in the hope that he would thereby gain the favour of the god yet more And as the sacrifice left behind an enormous mass of molten gold, Croesus caused bricks to be made, six palms in length, three in breadth and one in depth; in all there were 117 bricks. In addition there was a golden lion which weighed ten talents. When these were finished, Croesus sent them to Delphi; and he added two very large mixing bowls, one of gold, weighing eight talents and a half and twelve minae, and one of silver (the work of Theodorus of Samos, as the Delphians say, and I believe it, for it is the work of no ordinary artificer), four silver jars, and two vessels for holy water, one of gold, the other of silver, circular casts of silver, a golden statue of a woman three cubits high, and the necklace and girdles of his queen." We can understand, that for all this Croesus got the best advice consistent with the ignorance and caution of the priests whom he consulted. The oracles told him that if he went against Cyrus he would destroy a great empire; but he forgot to ask, whether it was his own or his rival’s. When he inquired a second time, if his reign should be long, they replied: "When a mule became king of the Medes," then he might fly from his throne; but again he forgot to consider that there might be mules among men as among beasts. At the same time, the oracles tempered their ambiguous prophecies with some advice of undoubted sense, for when he asked them who were the most powerful among the Greeks, they replied the Spartans, and to Sparta he sent messengers with presents to conclude an alliance. "The Lacedaemonians were filled with joy; they knew the oracle which had been given Croesus, and made him a friend and ally, as they had previously received many kindnesses at his hands."

This glimpse into the preparations of Croesus, whose embassies compassed the whole civilised world, and whose wealth got him all that politics or religion could, enables us to realise the political and religious excitement into which Cyprus’ advent threw that generation. The oracles in doubt and ambiguous; the priests, the idol-manufacturers, and the crowd of artisans, who worked in every city at the furniture of the temple, in a state of unexampled activity, with bustle perhaps most like the bustle of our government dockyards on the eve of war: hammering new idols together, preparing costly oblations, overhauling the whole religious "ordnance," that the gods might be propitiated and the stars secured to fight in their courses against the Persian; rival politicians practising conciliation, and bolstering up one another with costly presents to stand against this strange and fatal force, which indifferently threatened them all. What a commentary Herodotus’ story furnishes upon the verses of this chapter, in which Jehovah contrasts the idols with Himself. It may actually have been Croesus and the Greeks whom the prophet had in his mind when he wrote Isaiah 41:5-7 : "The isles have seen, and they fear; the ends of the earth tremble: they draw near and they come. They help every man his neighbour, and to his brother each sayeth, Be strong. So carver encourageth smelter, smoother with hammer, smiter on anvil; one saith of soldering, It is good: and he fasteneth it with nails lest it totter. "The irony is severe, but true to the facts as Herodotus relates them. The statesmen hoped to keep back Cyrus by sending sobbing messages to one another, Be of good courage; the priests "by making a particularly good and strong set of gods."

While the imbecility of the idolatries was thus manifest, and the great religious centres of heathendom were reduced to utter doubt that veiled itself in ambiguity and waited to see how things would issue, there was one religion in the world, whose oracles gave no uncertain sound, whose God stepped boldly forth to claim Cyrus for His own. In the dust of Babylonia lay the scattered members of a nation captive and exiled, a people civilly dead and religiously degraded; yet it was the faith of this worm of a people which welcomed and understood Cyrus, it was the God of this people who claimed to be his author. The forty-first chapter looks dreary and ancient to the uninstructed eye, but let our imagination realise all these things: the ambiguous priests, oracles that would not speak out, religions that had no articulate counsel nor comfort in face of the conqueror who was crushing up the world before him, but only sobs, solder, and nails; and our heart will leap as we hear how God forces them all into judgment before Him, and makes His plea as loud and clear as mortal ear may hear. Clatter of idols, and murmur of muffled oracles, filling all the world; and then, hark how the voice of Jehovah crashes His oracle across it all!

"Keep silence towards Me, O Isles, and let the peoples renew their strength: let them approach; then let them speak: to the Law let us come."

"Who hath stirred up from the sunrise Righteousness, calleth it to his foot? He giveth to his face peoples, and kings He makes him to trample; giveth them as dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow. He pursues them, and passes to peace a road that he comes not with his feet. Who has wrought it and done it? Summoner of generations from the source, I Jehovah the First, and with the Last; I am He."

Croesus would have got a clear answer here, but it is probable that he had never heard of the Hebrews or of their God.

After this follows the satiric picture of the heathen world, which has already been quoted. And then, after an interval during which Jehovah turns to His own people (Isaiah 41:8-20), -for whatever be His business or His controversy, the Lord is mindful of His own, -He directs His speech specially against the third class of the leaders of heathendom. He has laughed the foolish statesmen and image-makers out of court (Isaiah 41:5-7); He now challenges, in Isaiah 41:21, the oracles and their priests.

We have seen what these were, which this vast heathen world-heathen but human, convinced as we are that at the back of the world’s life there are a secret, a counsel, and a governor, and anxious as we are to find them - had to resort to. Timid waiters upon time, whom not even the lavish wealth of a Croesus could tempt from their ambiguity; prophets speechless in face of history; oracles of meaning as dark and shifty as their steamy caves at Delphi, of tune as variable as the whispering oak of Dodona; wily-tongued Greeks, masters of ambiguous phrase, at Miletus, Able, and Thebes; Egyptian mystics in the far-off temple of "Lybic Hammon,"-these are what the prophet sees standing at the bar of history, where God is Challenger.

"Bring here your case, saith Jehovah; apply your strong grounds, saith the King of Jacob. Let them bring out and declare unto us what things are going to happen; the first things announce what they are, that we may set our heart on them, and know the issue of them; or the things that are coming, let us hear them. Announce the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods. Yea, do good or do evil, that we may stare and see it together. Lo! ye are nothing, and your work is of nought; an abomination is he who chooseth you."

Which great challenge just means, Come and be tested by facts. Here is history needing an explanation, and running no one knows whither. Prove your divinity by interpreting or guiding it. Cease your ambiguities, and give us something we can set our minds to work upon. Or do something, effect something in history, be it good or be it evil, -only let it be patent to our senses. For the test of godhead is not ingenuity or mysteriousness, but plain deeds, which the senses can perceive, and plain words, which the reason and conscience can judge. The insistence upon the senses and mental faculties of man is remarkable: "Make us hear them, that we may know, stare, see all together, set our mind to them."

But as we have learned from Herodotus, there was nobody in the world to answer such a challenge. Therefore Jehovah Himself answers it. He gives His explanation of history, and claims its events for His doing.

"I have stirred up from the north, and he. hath come; from the rising of the sun one who calleth upon My Name: and he shall trample satraps like mortar, and as the potter treadeth out clay."

"Who hath announced on-ahead that we may know, and beforehand that we may say, ‘Right!’ Yea, there is none that announced, yea, there is none that published, yea, there is none that heareth your words. But a prediction" (or predicter, literally a thing or man on-ahead-r’ishon corresponding to the me-r’osh of Isaiah 41:26) "a prediction to Zion, ‘Behold, behold them,’ and to Jerusalem a herald of good news-I am giving." The language here comes forth in jerks, and is very difficult to render. "But I look and there is no man even among these, and no counsellor, that I might ask them and they return word. Lo, all of them vanity! and nothingness their works; wind and waste their molten images."

Let us look a little more closely at the power of Prediction, on which Jehovah maintains His unique and sovereign Deity against the idols.

Jehovah challenges the idols to face present events, and to give a clear, unambiguous forecast of their issue. It is a debatable question, whether He does not also ask them to produce previous predictions of events happening at the time at which He speaks. This latter demand is one that He makes in subsequent chapters; it is part of His prophet’s argument in chapters 45-46, that Jehovah intimated the advent of Cyrus by His servants in Israel long before the present time. Whether He makes this same demand for previous predictions in chapter 41 depends on how we render a clause of Isaiah 41:22, "declare ye the former things." Some scholars take former things in the sense, in which it is used later on in this prophecy, of previous predictions. This is very doubtful. I have explained in a note, why I think them wrong; but even if they are right, and Jehovah be really asking the idols to produce former predictions of Cyrus’ career, the demand is so cursory, it proves so small an item in His plea, and we shall afterwards find so many clearer statements of it, that we do better to ignore it now and confine ourselves to emphasising the other challenge, about which there is no doubt, -the challenge to take present events and predict their issue. Croesus had asked the oracles for a forecast of the future. This is exactly what Jehovah demands in Isaiah 41:22, "declare unto us what things are going to happen"; in Isaiah 41:23, "declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods"; in Isaiah 41:26 (spoken from the standpoint of the subsequent fulfilment of the prediction), who declared it on-ahead that we may know, and beforehand that we may now say, "‘Right!’ Yea, there is none that declared, yea, there is none that published, yea, there is none that heareth your words. But a prediction unto Zion, ‘Behold, behold them,’ and to Jerusalem a herald of good news-I give." I give is emphatically placed at the end, -"I Jehovah alone, through My prophets in Israel, give such a prediction and publisher of good news."

We scarcely require to remind ourselves, that this great challenge and plea are not mere rhetoric or idle boasting. Every word in them we have seen to be true to fact. The heathen religions were, as they are here represented, helpless before Cyrus, and dumb about the issue of the great movements which the Persian had started. On the other hand, Jehovah had uttered to His people all the meaning of the new stir and turmoil in history. We have heard Him do so in chapter 40. There He "gives a herald of good news to Jerusalem,"-tells them of their approaching deliverance, explains His redemptive purposes, proclaims a gospel. In addition, He has in this chapter accepted Cyrus for His own creation and as part of His purpose, and has promised him victory.

The God of Israel, then, is God, because He alone by His prophets claims facts as they stand for His own deeds, and announces what shall become of them.

Do not let us, however, fall into the easy but vulgar error of supposing, that Jehovah claims to be God simply because He can predict. It is indeed prediction, which He demands from the heathen: for prediction is a minimum of godhead, and in asking it He condescends to the heathen’s own ideas of what a god should be able to do. When Croesus, the heathen who of all that time spent most upon religion, sought to decide which of the gods was worthiest to be consulted about the future and propitiated in face of Cyrus, what test did be apply to them? As we have seen, he tested them by their ability to predict a matter of fact: the god who told him what he, Croesus, should be doing on a certain day was to be his god. It is evident, that, to Croesus, divinity meant to be able to divine. But the God, who reveals Himself to Israel, is infinitely greater than this. He is not merely a Being with a far sight into the future; He is not only Omniscience. In the chapter preceding this one His power of prediction is not once expressed; it is lost in the two glories by which alone the prophet seeks to commend His Godhead to Israel, -the glory of His power and the glory of His faithfulness. Jehovah is Omnipotence, Creator of heaven and earth; He leads forth the stars by "the greatness of His might"; Supreme Director of history, it is He "who bringeth princes to nothing." But Jehovah is also unfailing character: "the word of the Lord standeth for ever"; it is foolishness to say of Him that He has forgotten His people, or that "their right has passed" from Him; He disappoints none who wait upon Him. Such is the God, who steps down from chapter 40 into the controversy with the heathen in chapter 41. If in the latter He chiefly makes His claim to godhead to rest upon specimens of prediction, it is simply, as we have said, that He may meet the gods of the heathen before a bar and upon a principle, which their worshippers recognise as practical and decisive. What were single predictions, here and there, upon the infinite volume of His working, who by His power could gather all things to serve His own purpose, and in His faithfulness remained true to that purpose from everlasting to everlasting! The unity of history under One Will-this is a far more adequate idea of godhead than the mere power to foretell single events in history. And it is even to this truth that Jehovah seeks to raise the unaccustomed thoughts of the heathen. Past the rude wonder, which is all that fulfilled predictions of fact can excite, He lifts their religious sense to Himself and His purpose, as the one secret and motive of all history. He not only claims Cyrus and Cyrus’ career as His own work, but He speaks of Himself as "summoner of the generations from aforehand; I Jehovah, the First, and with the Last; I am He," It is a consummate expression of godhead, which lifts us far above the thought of Him as a mere divining power.

Now, it is well for us-were it only for the great historic interest of the thing, though it will also further our argument-to take record here that, although this conception of the unity of life under One Purpose and Will was still utterly foreign, and perhaps even unintelligible, to the heathen world, which the prophecy has in view, the first serious attempt in that world to reach such a conception was contemporary with the forty-first chapter of Isaiah. It is as miners feel, when tunnelling from opposite sides of a mountain, they begin to hear the noise of each other’s picks through the dwindling rock. We, who have come down the history of Israel towards the great consummation of religion in Christianity, may here cease for a moment our labours, to listen to the faint sound from the other side of the wall, still separating Israel from Greece, of a witness to God and an argument against idolatry similar to those with which we have been working. Who is not moved by learning, that, in the very years when Jewish prophecy reached its most perfect statement of monotheism, pouring its scorn upon the idols and their worshippers, and in the very Isles on which its hopes and influence were set, the first Greek should be already singing, who used his song to satirise the mythologies of his people, and to celebrate the unity of God? Among the Ionians, whom Cyrus’ invasion of Lydia and of the Aegean coast in 544 drove across the seas, was Xenophanes of Colophon. After some wanderings he settled at Elea in South Italy, and became the founder of the Eleatic school, the first philosophic attempt of the Greek mind to grasp the unity of Being. How far Xenophanes himself succeeded in this attempt is a matter of controversy. The few fragments of his poetry which are extant do not reveal him as a philosophical monotheist, so much as a prophet of "One greatest God." His language (like that of the earlier Hebrew prophets in praising Jehovah) apparently implies the real existence of lesser divinities:-

"One God, ‘mongst both gods and men He is greatest

Neither in shape is He like unto mortals nor thought."

Xenophanes scorns the anthropomorphism of his countrymen, and the lawless deeds which their poets had attributed to the gods:-

"Mortals think the gods can be born, have their feelings, voice, and form; but, could horses or oxen draw like men, they too would make their gods after their own image."

"All things did Homer and Hesiod lay on the gods,

Such as with mortals are full of blame and disgrace,

To steal and debauch and outwit one another."

Our prophet, to whose eyes Gentile religiousness was wholly of the gross Croesus kind, little suspected that he had an ally, with such kindred tempers of faith and scorn, among the very peoples to whom he yearns to convey his truth. But ages after, when Israel and Greece had both issued into Christianity, the service of Xenophanes to the common truth was recounted by two Church writers-by Clement of Alexandria in his "Stromata," and by Eusebius the historian in his "Praeparatio Evangelica."

We find, then, that monotheism had reached its most absolute expression in Israel in the same decade in which the first efforts towards the conception of the unity of Being were just starting in Greece. But there is something more to be stated. In spite of the splendid progress, which it pursued from such beginnings, Greek philosophy never reached the height on which, with Second Isaiah, Hebrew prophecy already rests; and the reason has to do with two points on which we are now engaged, -the omnipotence and the righteousness of God.

Professor Pfleiderer remarks: "Even in the idealistic philosophy of the Greeks matter remains, however sublimated, an irrational something, with which the Divine power can never come to terms. It was only in the consciousness, which the prophets of Israel had of God, that the thought of the Divine omnipotence fully prevailed." We cannot overvalue such high and impartial testimony to the uniqueness of the Hebrew doctrine of God, but it needs to be supplemented. To the prophets’ sense of the Divine onmipotence, we must add their unrivalled consciousness of the Divine character. To them Jehovah is not only the Holy, the incomparable God, almighty and sublime. He is also the true, consistent God. He has a great purpose, which He has revealed of old to His people, and to which he remains forever faithful. To express this the Hebrews had one word, -the word we translate righteous. We should often miss our prophet’s meaning, if by righteousness we understood some of the qualities to which the term is often applied by us: if, for instance, we used it in the general sense of morality, or if we gave it the technical meaning, which it bears in Christian theology, of justification from guilt. We shall afterwards devote a chapter to the exposition of its meaning in Second Isaiah, but let us here look at its use in chapter 41. In Isaiah 41:26, it is applied to the person whose prediction turns out to be correct: men are to say of him "right" or "righteous." Here it is evident that the Hebrew-ssaddiq-is used in its simplest meaning, like the Latin rectus, and our "right" of what has been shown to be in accordance with truth or fact. In Isaiah 41:2, again, though the syntax is obscure, it seems to have the general sense of "good faith with the ability to ensure success." Righteousness is here associated with Cyrus, because he has not been called for nothing but in good faith for a purpose which will be carried through. Jehovah’s righteousness, then, will be His trueness, His good faith, His consistency; and indeed this is the sense which it must evidently bear in Isaiah 41:10. Take it with the context: "But thou, Israel, My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham who loved Me, whom I took hold of from the ends of the earth and its corners, I called thee and said unto thee, Thou art My servant. I have chosen thee, and will not cast thee away. Fear not, for I am with thee. Look not round in despair, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness." Here righteousness evidently means that Jehovah will act in good faith to the people He has called, that He will act consistently with His anciently revealed purpose towards them. Hitherto Israel has had nothing but the memory that God called them, and the conscience that He chose them. Now Jehovah will vindicate this conscience in outward fact. He will carry through His calling of His people, and perform His promise. How He will do this, He proceeds to relate. Israel’s enemies shall become as nothing (Isaiah 41:11-12). Israel himself, though a poor worm of a people, shall be changed to the utmost conceivable opposite of a worm-even "a sharp threshing instrument having teeth"-a people who shall leave their mark on the world. They shall overcome all difficulties and "rejoice in Jehovah." Their redemption shall be accomplished in a series of evident facts. "The poor and the needy are seeking water, and there is none, their tongue faileth for thirst; I, Jehovah, will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them." And this shall be done on such a scale, that all the world will wonder and be convinced, Isaiah 41:18-19 : "I will open on the bare heights rivers, and in the midst of the plains fountains. I will make the desert a pool of water, and the dry ground water-springs. I will plant in the wilderness cedars and acacias and myrtles and olive-trees; I will plant in the desert pines, planes and sherbins together." Do not let us spoil the meaning of this passage by taking these verses literally, or even as illustrative of the kind of restoration which Israel was to enjoy. This vast figure of a well-watered and planted desert the prophet uses rather to illustrate the scale on which the Restoration will take place: its evident extent and splendour. "That they may see and know and consider and understand together, that Jehovah hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." The whole passage, then, tells us what God means by His righteousness. It is His fidelity to His calling of Israel, and to His purpose with His people. It is the quality by which He cannot forsake His own, but carries through and completes His promises to them; by which He vindicates and justifies, in facts so large that they are evident to all mankind, His ancient word by His prophets.

This lengthened exposition will not have been in vain, if it has made clear to us, that Hebrew monotheism owed its unique quality to the emphasis, which the prophets laid upon the two truths of the Power and the Character of God. There was One Supreme Being infinite in might, and with one purpose running down the ages, which He had plainly revealed, and to which He remained constant. The people, who knew this, did not need to wait for the fulfilment of certain test-predictions before trusting Him as the One God. Test-predictions and their fulfilment might be needful for the heathen, from whose minds the idea of One Supreme Being with such a character had vanished; the heathen might need to be convinced by instances of Jehovah’s omniscience, for omniscience was the most Divine attribute of which they had conceived. But Israel’s faith rested upon glories in the Divine nature of which omniscience was the mere consequence. Israel knew God was Almighty and All-true, and that was enough.


In Isaiah 41:25 a phrase is used of Cyrus which is very obscure, and to which, considering its vagueness even upon the most definite construction, far too much importance has been attached. The meaning of the words, the tenses, the syntax-perhaps even the original text itself-of this verse are uncertain. The English revisers give, I have raised up one from the north and he is come; from the rising of the sun one that calleth upon My Name. This is probably the true syntax. But in what tense is the verb to call, and what does calling upon My name mean? In the Old Testament the phrase is used in two senses, -to invoke or adore, and to proclaim or celebrate the name of a person. As long as scholars understood that Cyrus was a monotheist, there was a temptation to choose the former of these meanings, and to find in the verse Jehovah’s claim upon the Persian. as a worshipper of Himself, the One True God. But this interpretation received a shock from the discovery of a proclamation of Cyrus after his entry into Babylon, in which he invokes the names of Babylonian deities, and calls himself their "servant." Of course his doing so in the year 538 does not necessarily discredit a description of him as a monotheist eight years before.-Between 598 and 546-the probable date of chapter 41-a prophet might in all good faith have hailed as a worshipper of Jehovah a Persian who still stood in the rising of the sun, -who had net yet issued from the east and its radiant repute of a religion purer than the Babylonian; although eight years afterwards, from motives of policy, the same king acknowledged the gods of his new subjects. This may be; but there is a more natural way out of the difficulty. Is it fair to lay upon the expression, calleth on My name, so precise a meaning as that of a strict monotheism? Some have turned to the other use of the verb, and, taking it in the future tense, have translated, who shall proclaim or celebrate My name, - which Cyrus surely did, when, in the name of Jehovah, he drew up the edict for the return of the Jews to Palestine. {Ezra 1:2; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23} But do we need to put even this amount of meaning upon the phrase? In itself it is vague, but it also stands parallel to another vague phrase: I have raised up one from the north, and he is come; from the sunrising one who calleth on My name. Taken in apposition to the phrase he is come, calleth on My name may mean no more than that, answering to the instigation of Jehovah and owning His impulse, Cyrus by his career proclaimed or celebrated Jehovah’s name. In any case, we have said enough to show that, in our comparative ignorance of what Cyrus’ faith was, and in face of the elastic use of the phrase to call on the name of, it is quite unwarrantable, to maintain that the prophet must have meant a strict monotheist, and therefore absurd to draw the inference that the prophet was incorrect. A way has been attempted out of the difficulty by slightly altering the text, and so obtaining the version, I have raised up one from the north and he is come: from the sunrise I call him by name. This is a change which is in harmony with Isaiah 45:3-4, but has otherwise no evidence in its favour.



Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24IN the chapters which we have been studying we have found some difficulty with one of our prophet’s keynotes-"right" or "righteousness." In the chapters to come we shall find this difficulty increase, unless we take some trouble now to define how much the word denotes in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24. There is no part of Scripture, in which the term "righteousness" suffers so many developments of meaning. To leave these vague, as readers usually do, or to fasten upon one and all the technical meaning of righteousness in Christian theology, is not only to obscure the historical reference and moral force of single passages, -it is to miss one of the main arguments of the prophecy. We have read enough to see that "righteousness" was the great question of the Exile. But what was brought into question was not only the righteousness of the people, but the righteousness of their God. In Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 righteousness is more often claimed as a Divine attribute, than enforced as a human duty or ideal.


Ssedheq, the Hebrew root for righteousness, had, like the Latin "rectus," in its earliest and now almost forgotten uses, a physical meaning. This may have been either "straightness," or more probably "soundness,"-the state in which a thing is "all right." "Paths of righteousness," in Psalm 23:1-6 and Isaiah 40:4, are not necessarily straight paths, but rather sure, genuine, safe paths. Like all physical metaphors, like our own words "straight" and "right," the applicability of the term to moral conduct was exceedingly elastic. It has been attempted to gather most of its meaning under the definition of "conformity to norm"; and so many are the instances in which the word has a forensic force, as of "vindication" or "justification," that some have claimed this for its original, or, at least, its governing sense. But it is improbable that either of these definitions conveys the simplest or most general sense of the word. Even if "conformity" or "justification" were ever the prevailing sense of ssedheq, there are a number of instances in which its meaning far overflows the limits of such definitions. Every one can see how a word, which may generally be used to express an abstract idea, like "conformity," or a formal relation towards a law or person, like "justification," might come to be applied to the actual virtues, which realise that idea or lift a character into that relation. Thus righteousness might mean justice, or truth, or almsgiving, or religious obedience, -to each of which, in fact, the Hebrew word was at various times specially applied. Or righteousness might mean virtue in general, virtue apart from all consideration of law or duty whatsoever. In the prophet Amos, for instance, "righteousness" is applied to a goodness so natural and spontaneous that no one could think of it for a moment as conformity to norm or fulfilment of law.

In short, it is impossible to give a definition of the Hebrew word, which our version renders as "righteousness," less wide than our English word "right." "Righteousness" is "right" in all its senses, -natural, legal, personal, religious. It is to be all right, to be right-hearted, to be consistent, to be thorough; but also to be in the right, to be justified, to be vindicated; and, in particular, it may mean to be humane (as with Amos), to be just (as with Isaiah), to be correct or true to fact (as sometimes with our own prophet), to fulfil the ordinances of religion, and especially the command about almsgiving (as with the later Jews).

Let us now keep in mind that righteousness could express a relation, or a general quality of character, or some particular virtue. For we shall find traces of all these meanings in our prophet’s application of the term to Israel and to God.


One of the simplest forms of the use of "righteousness" in the Old Testament is when it is employed in the case of ordinary quarrels between two persons; in which for one of them "to be righteous" means "to be right" or "in the right." {Genesis 38:26; Cf. 2 Samuel 15:4} Now to the Hebrew all life and religion was based upon covenants between two, -between man and man and between man and God. Righteousness meant fidelity to the terms of those covenants. The positive contents of the word in any single instance of its use would, therefore, depend on the faithfulness and delicacy of conscience by which those terms were interpreted. In early Israel this conscience was not so keen as it afterwards came to be, and accordingly Israel’s sense of their righteousness towards God was, to begin with, a comparatively shallow one. When a Psalmist asseverates his righteousness and pleads it as the ground for God rewarding him, it is plain that he is able with sincerity to make a claim, so repellent to a Christian’s feeling, just because he has not anything like a Christian’s conscience of what God demands from man. As Calvin says on Psalm 18:20 "David here represents God as the President of an athletic contest, who had chosen him as one of His champions, and David knows that so long as he keeps to the rules of the contest, so long will God defend him." It is evident that in such an assertion righteousness cannot mean perfect innocence, but simply the good conscience of a man, who, with simple ideas of what is demanded from him, feels that on the whole "he has" (slightly to paraphrase Calvin) "played fair."

Two things, almost simultaneously, shook Israel out of this primitive and naive self-righteousness. History went against them, and the prophets quickened their conscience. The effect of the former of these two causes will be clear to us, if we recollect the judicial element in the Hebrew righteousness, -that it often meant not so much to be right, as to be vindicated or declared right. History, to Israel, was God’s supreme tribunal. It was the faith of the people, expressed over and over again in the Old Testament, that the godly man is vindicated or justified by his prosperity: "the way of the ungodly shall perish." And Israel felt themselves to be in the right, just as. David, in Psalm 18:1-50, felt himself, because God had accredited them with success and victory. But when the decision of history went against the nation, when they were threatened with expulsion from their land and with extinction as a people, that just meant that the Supreme Judge of men was giving His sentence against them. Israel had broken the terms of the Covenant. They had lost their right; they were no longer "righteous." The keener conscience, developed by prophecy, swiftly explained this sentence of history. This declaration, that the people were unrighteous, was due, the prophet said, to the people’s sins. Isaiah not only exclaimed, "Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire"; he added, in equal indictment, "How is the faithful city become a harlot! it was full of justice, righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers: thy princes are rebellious, they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come before them." To Isaiah and the earlier prophets Israel was unrighteous because it was so immoral. With their strong social conscience, righteousness meant to these prophets the practice of civic virtues, -truth-telling, honesty between citizens, tenderness to the poor, inflexible justice in high places.

Here then we have two possible meanings for Israel’s righteousness in the prophetic writings, allied and necessary to one another, yet logically distinct, -the one a becoming righteous through the exercise of virtue, the other a being shown to be righteous by the voice of history. In the one case righteousness is the practical result of the working of the Spirit of God; in the other it is vindication, or justification, by the Providence of God. Isaiah and the earlier prophets, while the sentence of history was still not executed and might through the mercy of God be revoked, incline to employ righteousness predominantly in the former sense. But it will be understood how, after the Exile, it was the latter, which became the prevailing determination of the word. By that great disaster God finally uttered the clear sentence, of which previous history had been but the foreboding. Israel in exile was fully declared to be in the wrong-to be unrighteous. As a church, she lay under the ban; as a nation, she was discredited before the nations of the world. And her one longing, hope, and effort during the weary years of Captivity was to have her right vindicated again, was to be restored to right relations to God and to the world, under the Covenant.

This is the predominant meaning of the term, as applied to Israel, in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24. Israel’s unrighteousness is her state of discredit and disgrace under the hands of God; her righteousness, which she hopes for, is her restoral to her station and destiny as the elect people. To our Christian habit of thinking, it is very natural to read the frequent and splendid phrases in which "righteousness" is attributed or promised to the people of God in this evangelical prophecy, as if righteousness were that inward assurance and justification from an evil conscience, which, as we are taught by the New Testament, is provided for us through the death of Christ, and inwardly sealed to us by the Holy Ghost, irrespective of the course of our outward fortune. But if we read that meaning into "righteousness" in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, we shall simply not understand some of the grandest passages of the prophecy. We must clearly keep in view, that while the prophet ceaselessly emphasises the pardon of God "spoken home to the heart" of the people as the first step towards their restoral, he does not apply the term righteousness to this inward justification, but to the outward vindication and accrediting of Israel by God before the whole world, in their redemption from Captivity, and their reinstatement as His people. This is very clear from the way in which "righteousness" is coupled with "salvation" by the prophet, as {Isaiah 62:1} "I will not rest till her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth." Or again from the way in which righteousness and glory are put in parallel: {Isaiah 62:2} "And the nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory." Or again in the way that "righteousness" and "renown" are identified: {Isaiah 61:11} "The Lord Jehovah will cause righteousness and renown to spring forth before all the nations." In each of these promises the idea of an external and manifest splendour is evident; not the inward peace of justification felt only by the conscience to which it has been granted, but the outward historical victory appreciable by the gross sense of the heathen. Of course the outward implies the inward, -this historical triumph is the crown of a religious process, the result of forgiveness and a long purification, -but while in the New Testament it is these which would be most readily called a people’s righteousness, it is the former (what the New Testament would rather call "the crown of life"), which has appropriated the name in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24. The same is manifest from another text: {Isaiah 48:18} "O that thou hadst hearkened to My commandments; then had thy peace been as the River, and thy righteousness like the waves of the sea." Here "righteousness is not only not applied to inward morality, but set over against this as its external reward,"-the health and splendour which a good conscience produces. It is in the same external sense that the prophet talks of the "robe of righteousness" with its bridal splendour, and compares it to the appearance of "Spring." {Isaiah 61:10-11}

For this kind of righteousness, this vindication by God before the world, Israel waited throughout the Exile. God addresses them as "they that pursue righteousness, that seek Jehovah." {Isaiah 51:1} And it is a closely allied meaning, though perhaps with a more inward application, when the people are represented as praying God to give them "ordinances of righteousness," {Isaiah 58:2} -that is, to prescribe such a ritual as will expiate their guilt and bring them into a right relation with Him. They sought in vain. The great lesson of the Exile was that not by works and performances, but through simply waiting upon the Lord, their righteousness should shine forth. Even this outward kind of justification was to be by faith.

The other meaning of righteousness, however, -the sense of social and civic morality, which was its usual sense with the earlier prophets, -is not altogether excluded from the use of the word in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 Here are some commands and reproaches which seem to imply it. "Keep judgment, and do righteousness,"-where, from what follows, righteousness evidently means observing the Sabbath and doing no evil. {Isaiah 56:1} "And justice is fallen away backward, and righteousness standeth afar off, for truth is fallen in the street, and steadfastness cannot enter." {Isaiah 59:14} These must be terms for human virtues, for shortly afterwards it is said: "Jehovah was displeased because there was no justice." Again, "They seek Me as a nation that did righteousness"; {Isaiah 58:2} "Hearken unto Me, ye that know righteousness, a people-My law is in their hearts"; {Isaiah 51:7} "Thou meetest him that worketh righteousness"; {Isaiah 64:5} "No one sues in righteousness, and none goeth to law in truth." {Isaiah 59:4} In all these passages "righteousness" means something that man can know and do, his conscience and his duty, and is rightly to be distinguished from those others, in which "righteousness" is equivalent to the salvation, the glory, the peace, which only God’s power can bring. If the passages that employ "righteousness" in the sense of moral or religious observance really date from the Exile, then the interesting fact is assured to us that the Jews enjoyed some degree of social independence and responsibility during their Captivity. But it is a very striking fact that these passages all belong to chapters, the exilic origin of which is questioned even by critics, who assign the rest of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 to the Exile. Yet, even if these passages have all to be assigned to the Exile, how few they are in number! How they contrast with the frequency, with which, in the earlier part of this book, -in the orations addressed by Isaiah to his own times, when Israel was still an independent state, -"righteousness" is reiterated as the daily, practical duty of men, as justice, truthfulness, and charity between man and man! The extreme rarity of such inculcations in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 warns us that we must not expect to find here the same practical and political interest which formed so much of the charm and the force of Isaiah 1:1-31 - Isaiah 39:1-8. The nation has now no politics, almost no social morals. Israel are not citizens working out their own salvation in the market, the camp, and the senate; but captives waiting a deliverance in God’s time, which no act of theirs can hasten. It is not in the street that the interest of Second Isaiah lies: it is on the horizon. Hence the vague feeling of a distant splendour, which as the reader passes from Isaiah 39:1-8 to Isaiah 40:1-31, replaces in his mind the stir of living in a busy crowd, the close and throbbing sense of the civic conscience, the voice of statesmen, the clash of the weapons of war. There is no opportunity for individuals to reveal themselves. It is a nation waiting, indistinguishable in shadow, whose outlines only we see. It is no longer the thrilling practical cry, which sends men into the arenas of social life with every sinew in them strung: "Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow." It is rather the cry of one who still waits for his working day to dawn: "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills; from whence cometh my help?" Righteousness is not the near and daily duty, it is the far-off peace and splendour of skies, that have scarce begun to redden to the day.


But there was another Person, whose righteousness was in question during the Exile, and who Himself argues for it throughout our prophecy. Perhaps the most peculiar feature of the theology of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 is its argument for "the righteousness of Jehovah."

Some critics maintain that righteousness, when applied to Jehovah, bears always a technical reference to His covenant with Israel. This is scarcely correct. Jehovah’s dealings with Israel were no doubt the chief of His dealings, and it is these, which He mainly quotes to illustrate His righteousness; but we have already studied passages, which prove to us that Jehovah's righteousness was an absolute quality of His Godhead, shown to others besides Israel, and in loyalty to obligations different from the terms of His covenant with Israel. In Isaiah 41:1-29 Jehovah calls upon the heathen to match their righteousness with His; righteousness was therefore a quality that might have been attributed to them as well as to Himself. Again, in Isaiah 45:19 "I, Jehovah, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right,"-righteousness evidently bears a general sense, and not one of exclusive application to God’s dealing with Israel. It is the same in the passage about Cyrus: {Isaiah 45:13} "I have raised him up in righteousness, I will make straight all his ways." Though Cyrus was called in connection with God’s purpose towards Israel, it is not that purpose which makes his calling righteous, but the fact that God means to carry him through, or, as the parallel verse says, "to make straight all his ways." These instances are sufficient to prove that the righteousness, which God attributes to His words, to His actions, and to Himself, is a general quality not confined to His dealings with Israel under the covenant, -though, of course, most clearly illustrated by these.

If now we enquire, what this absolute quality of Jehovah’s Deity really means, we may conveniently begin with His application of it to His Word. In Isaiah 41:1-29 He summons the other religions to exhibit predictions that are true to fact. "Who hath declared it on-ahead that we may know, or from aforetime that we may say, He is ssaddiq." Here ssaddiq simply means "right, correct," true to fact. It is much the same meaning in Isaiah 43:9, where the verb is used of heathen predicters, "that they may be shown to be right," or "correct" (English version, "justified"). But when, in Isaiah 46:1-13, the word is applied by Jehovah to His own speech, it has a meaning of far richer contents, than mere correctness, and proves to us that after all the Hebrew ssedheq was almost as versatile as the English "right." The following passage shows us that the righteousness of Jehovah’s speech is its clearness, straightforwardness, and practical effectiveness: "Not in secret have I spoken, in a place of the land of darkness,"-this has been supposed to refer to the remote or subterranean localities in which heathen oracles mysteriously entrenched themselves, -"I have not said to the seed of Jacob, In Chaos seek Me. I am Jehovah, a Speaker of righteousness, a Publisher of straight things. Be gathered and come, draw near together, O remnants of the nations. They know not that carry the log of their image, and pray to a god who does not save. Publish and bring near, yea, let them take counsel together. Who caused this to be heard of old? long since hath published it? Is it not I, Jehovah, and there is none else God beside Me; a God righteous and a Saviour, there is none except Me. Turn unto Me and be saved, all ends of Earth, for I am God, and there is none else. By Myself have I sworn, gone forth from My mouth hath righteousness: a word and it shall not turn; for to Me shall bow every knee, shall swear every tongue. Truly in Jehovah, shall they say of Me, are righteousnesses and strength. To Him shall it come, and shamed shall be all that are incensed against Him. In Jehovah shall be righteous and renowned all the seed of Israel." {Isaiah 45:19-25}

In this very suggestive passage "righteousness" means far more than simple correctness of prediction. Indeed, it is difficult to distinguish how much it means, so quickly do its varying echoes throng upon our ear, from the new associations in which it is spoken. A word such as "righteousness" is like the sensitive tones of the human voice. Spoken in a desert, the voice is itself and nothing more; but utter it where the landscape is crowded with novel obstacles, and the original note is almost lost amid the echoes it startles. So with the "righteousness of Jehovah"; among the new associations in which the prophet affirms it, it starts novel repetitions of itself. Against the ambiguity of the oracles, it is echoed back as "clearness, straightforwardness, good faith"; {Isaiah 40:19} against their opportunism and want of foresight, it is described as equivalent to the capacity for arranging things beforehand and predicting what must come to pass, therefore as "purposefulness"; while against their futility, it is plainly "effectiveness and power to prevail." {Isaiah 40:23} It is the quality in God, which divides His Godhead with His power, something intellectual as well as moral, the possession of a reasonable purpose as well as fidelity towards it.

This intellectual sense of righteousness, as reasonableness or purposefulness, is clearly illustrated by the way in which the prophet appeals, in order to enforce it, to Jehovah’s creation of the world. "Thus saith Jehovah, Creator of the heavens-He is the God-Former of the Earth and her Maker, He founded her; not Chaos did He create her, to be dwelt in did He form her." {Isaiah 45:18} The word "Chaos" here is the same as is used in opposition to "righteousness" in the following verse. The sentence plainly illustrates the truth, that whatever God does, He does not so as to issue in confusion, but with a reasonable purpose and for a practical end. We have here the repetition of that deep, strong note, which Isaiah himself so often sounded to the comfort of men in perplexity or despair, that God is at least reasonable, not working for nothing, nor beginning only to leave off, nor creating in order to destroy. The same God, says our prophet, who formed the earth in order to see it inhabited, must surely be believed to be consistent enough to carry to the end also His spiritual work among men. Our prophet’s idea of God’s righteousness, therefore, includes the idea of reasonableness; implies rational as well as moral consistency, practical sense as well as good faith; the conscience of a reasonable plan, and, perhaps also, the power to carry it through.

To know that this great and varied meaning belongs to "righteousness" gives us new insight into those passages, which find in it all the motive and efficiency of the Divine action: "It pleased Jehovah for His righteousness"; {Isaiah 42:21} "His righteousness, it upheld Him; and He put on righteousness as a breastplate." {Isaiah 59:16-17}

With such a righteousness did Jehovah deal with Israel. To her despair that He has forgotten her. He recounts the historical events by which He has made her His own, and affirms that He will carry them on; and you feel the expression both of fidelity and of the consciousness of ability to fulfil, in the words, "I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness." "Right hand"-there is more than the touch of fidelity in this; there is the grasp of power. Again, to the Israel who was conscious of being His Servant, God says, "I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness"; and, taken with the context, the word plainly means good faith and intention to sustain and carry to success.

It was easy to transfer the name "righteousness" from the character of God’s action to its results, but always, of course, in the vindication of His purpose and word. Therefore, just as the salvation of Israel, which was the chief result of the Divine purpose, is called Israel’s righteousness, so it is also called "Jehovah’s righteousness." Thus, in Isaiah 46:13 "I bring near My righteousness"; and in Isaiah 51:5 "My righteousness is near, My salvation is gone forth"; Isaiah 40:6 "My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished." It seems to be in the same sense, of finished and visible results, that the skies are called upon "to pour down righteousness," and "the earth to open that they may be fruitful in salvation, and let her cause righteousness to spring up together" (Isaiah 45:8; cf. Isaiah 61:10 "My Lord Jehovah will cause righteousness to spring forth").

One passage is of great interest, because in it "righteousness" is used to play upon itself, in its two meanings of human duty and Divine effect- Isaiah 56:1, "Observe judgment"-probably religious ordinances-"and do righteousness; for My salvation is near to come, and My righteousness to be revealed."

To complete our study of "righteousness" it is necessary to touch still upon one point. In Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 both the masculine and feminine forms of the Hebrew word for righteousness are used, and it has been averred that they are used with a difference. This opinion is entirely dispelled by a collation of the passages. I give the particulars in a note, from which it will be seen that both forms are indifferently employed for each of the many shades of meaning which "righteousness" bears in our prophecies.

That the masculine and feminine forms sometimes occur, with the same or with different meanings, in the same verse, or in the next verse to one another, proves that the selection of them respectively cannot be due to any difference in the authorship of our prophecy. So that we are reduced to say that nothing accounts for their use, except, it might be, the exigencies of the metre. But who is able to prove this?

Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.


Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 44:28-28; Isaiah 46:11; Isaiah 48:14CYRUS, the Persian, is the only man outside the covenant and people of Israel, who is yet entitled the Lord’s Shepherd, and the Lord’s Messiah or Christ. He is, besides, the only great personality of whom both the Bible and Greek literature treat at length and with sympathy. Did we know nothing more of him than this, the heathen who received the most sacred titles of Revelation, the one man in history who was the cynosure of both Greece and Judah, could not fail to be of the greatest interest to us. But apart from the way in which he impressed the Greek imagination and was interpreted by the Hebrew conscience, we have an amount of historical evidence about Cyrus, which, if it dissipates the beautiful legends told of his origin and his end, confirms most of what is written of his character by Herodotus and Xenophon, and all of what is described as his career by the prophet whom we are studying. Whether of his own virtue, or as being the leader of a new race of men at the fortunate moment of their call, Cyrus lifted himself, from the lowest of royal stations, to a conquest and an empire achieved by only two or three others in the history of the world. Originally but the prince of Anshan, or Anzan, -a territory of uncertain size at the head of the Persian Gulf, -he brought under his sway, by policy or war, the large and vigorous nations of the Medes and Persians; he overthrew the Lydian kingdom, and subjugated Asia Minor; he so impressed the beginnings of Greek life, that, with all their own great men, the Greeks never ceased to regard this Persian as the ideal king; he captured Babylon, the throne of the ancient East, and thus effected the transfer of empire from the Semitic to the Aryan stock. He also satisfied the peoples, whom he had beaten, with his rule, and organised his realms with a thoroughness unequalled over so vast an extent till the rise of the Roman Empire.

We have scarcely any contemporary or nearly contemporary evidence about his personality. But his achievements testify to extraordinary genius, and his character was the admiration of all antiquity. To Greek literature Cyrus was the Prince pre-eminent, -set forth as the model for education in childhood, self-restraint in youth, just and powerful government in manhood. Most of what we read of him in Xenophon’s "Cyropaedia" is, of course, romance; but the very fact, that, like our own King Arthur, Cyrus was used as a mirror to flash great ideals down the ages, proves that there was with him native brilliance and width of surface as well as fortunate eminence of position. He owed much to the virtue of his race. Rotten as the later Persians have become, the nation in those days impressed its enemies with its truthfulness, purity, and vigour. But the man who not only led such a nation, and was their darling, but combined under his sceptre, in equal discipline and contentment, so many other and diverse peoples, so many powerful and ambitious rulers, cannot have been merely the best specimen of his own nation’s virtue, but must have added to this, at least much of the original qualities-humanity, breadth of mind, sweetness, patience, and genius for managing men-which his sympathetic biographer imputes to him in so heroic a degree. It is evident that the "Cyropaedia" is ignorant of many facts about Cyrus, and must have taken conscious liberties with many more, but nobody-who, on the one hand, is aware of what Cyrus effected upon the world, and who, on the other, can appreciate that it was possible for a foreigner (who, nevertheless, had travelled through most of the scenes of Cyrus’ career) to form this rich conception of him more than a century after his death-can doubt that the Persian’s character (due allowance being made for hero-worship) must have been in the main as Xenophon describes it.

Yet it is very remarkable that our Scripture states not one moral or religious virtue as the qualification of this Gentile to the title of "Jehovah’s Messiah." We search here in vain for any gleam of appreciation of that character, which drew the admiring eyes of Greece. In the whole range of our prophecy there is not a single adjective, expressing a moral virtue, applied to Cyrus. The "righteousness," which so many passages associate with his name, is attributed, not to him, but to God’s calling of him, and does not imply justice or any similar quality, but is, as we shall afterwards see when we examine the remarkable use of this word in Second Isaiah, a mixture of good faith and thoroughness, -all-rightness. The one passage of our prophet, in which it has been supposed by some that Jehovah makes a religious claim to Cyrus, as if the Persian were a monotheist-"he calleth on My name"-is, as we have seen, too uncertain, both in text and rendering, to have anything built upon it. Indeed, no Hebrew could have justly praised this Persian’s faith, who called himself the "servant of Merodach," and in his public proclamations to Babylonia ascribed to the Babylonian gods his power to enter their city. Cyrus was very probably the pious ruler described by Xenophon, but he was no monotheist. And our prophet denies all religious sympathy between him and Jehovah, in words too strong to be misunderstood: "I woo thee, though thou hast not known Me I gird thee, though thou hast not known Me". {Isaiah 45:4-5} On what, then, is the Divine election of Cyrus grounded by our prophet, if not upon his character and his faith? Simply and barely upon God’s sovereignty and will. That is the impressive lesson of the passage: "I am Jehovah, Maker of everything; that stretch forth the heavens alone, and spread the earth by Myself that say of Koresh, My shepherd, and all My pleasure he shall accomplish." {Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 44:28} Cyrus is Jehovah’s because all things are Jehovah’s; of whatsoever character or faith they be, they are His and for His uses. "I am Jehovah, and there is none else: Former of light and Creator of darkness, Maker of peace and Creator of evil; I, Jehovah, Maker of all these." God’s sovereignty could not be more broadly stated. All things, irrespective of their character, are from Him and for His ends. But what end is dearer to the Almighty, what has He more plainly declared, than that His people shall be settled again in their own land? For this He will use the fittest force. The return of Israel to Palestine is a political event, requiring political power; and the greatest political power of the day is Cyrus. Therefore, by His prophet, the Almighty declares Cyrus to be His people’s deliverer, His own anointed. "Thus saith Jehovah to His Messiah, to Koresh:…That thou mayest know that I am Jehovah, Caller of thee by thy name, God of Israel, for the sake of My servant Jacob and Israel My chosen. And I have called thee by thy name. I have wooed thee, though thou hast not known Me". {Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 45:3-4}

Now to this designation of Cyrus, as the Messiah, great objections rose from Israel. We can understand them. People who have fallen from a glorious past, cling passionately to its precedents. All the ancient promises of a deliverer for Israel represented him as springing from the house of David. The deliverance, too, was to have come by miracle, or by the impression of the people’s own holiness upon their oppressors. The Lord was to have made bare His arm and Israel to go forth in the pride of His favour, as in the days of Egypt and the Red Sea. But this deliverer, who was announced, was alien to the commonwealth of Israel; and not by some miracle was the people’s exodus promised, but as the effect of his imperial word-a minor incident in his policy! The precedents and the pride of Israel called out against such a scheme of salvation, and the murmurs of the people rose against the word of God.

Sternly replies the Almighty: "Woe to him that striveth with his Moulder, a potsherd among the potsherds of the ground! Saith clay to its moulder, What doest thou? or thy work" of thee, "No hands hath he? Woe to him that saith to a father, What begettest thou? or to a woman, With what travailest thou? Thus saith Jehovah, Holy of Israel and his Moulder: The things that are coming ask of Me; concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My hands, command ye Me! I have made Earth, and created man upon her: I, My hands, have stretched Heaven, and all its hosts have I ordered." In that universal providence, this Cyrus is but an incident. "I have stirred him up in righteousness, and all his ways shall I make level. He"-emphatic-"shall build My City, and My Captivity he shall send off-not for price and not for reward, saith Jehovah of Hosts." {Isaiah 45:9-13}

To this bare fiat, the passages referring to Cyrus in chapter 46 and chapter 48, add scarcely anything. "I am God, and there is none like Me Who say, My counsel shall stand, and all My pleasure will I perform. Who call from the sunrise a Bird-of-prey, from a land far-off the Man of My counsel. Yea, I have spoken, yea, I will bring it to pass. I have formed, yea, will do it." {Isaiah 46:9-11} "Bird-of-prey" here has been thought to have reference to the eagle, which was the standard of Cyrus. But it refers to Cyrus himself. What God sees in this man to fulfil His purpose is swift, resistless force. Not his character, but his swoop is useful for the Almighty’s end. Again: "Be gathered, all of you, and hearken; who among them hath published these things? Jehovah hath loved him: he will do His pleasure on Babel, and his arm" shall be on "the Chaldeans. I, I have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and will cause his way to prosper," or, "I will pioneer his way". {Isaiah 48:14-15} This verb "to cause to prosper" is one often used by our prophet, but nowhere more appropriately to its original meaning than here, where it is used of "a way." The word signifies "to cut through"; then "to ford a river"-there is no word for bridge in Hebrew; then "to go on well, prosper."

In all these passages, then, there is no word about character. Cyrus is neither chosen for his character nor said to be endowed with one. But that he is there, and that he does so much, is due simply to this, that God has chosen him. And what he is endowed with is force, push, swiftness, irresistibleness. He is, in short, not a character, but a tool; and God makes no apology for using him but this, that he has the qualities of a tool.

Now we cannot help being struck with the contrast of all this, the Hebrew view of Cyrus, with the well-known Greek views of him. To the Greeks he is first and foremost a character. Xenophon, and Herodotus almost as much as Xenophon, are less concerned with what Cyrus did than with what he was. He is the King, the ideal ruler. It is his simplicity, his purity, his health, his wisdom, his generosity, his moral influence upon men, that attract the Greeks, and they conceive that he cannot be too brightly painted in his virtues, if so he may serve for an example to following generations. But bring Cyrus out of the light of the eyes of this hero-worshipping people, that light that has so gilded his native virtues, into the shadow of the austere Hebrew faith, and the brilliance is quenched. He still moves forcibly, but his character is neutral. Scripture emphasises only his strength, his serviceableness, his success. "Whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him, and I will loosen the loins of kings; to open doors before him, and gates shall not be shut. I will go before thee, and make the rugged places plain. I will shiver doors of brass, and bars of iron will I sunder". That Cyrus is doing a work in God’s hand and for God’s end, and therefore forcibly, and sure of success-that is all the interest Scripture takes in Cyrus.

Observe the difference. It is characteristic of the two nations. The Greek views Cyrus as an example; therefore cannot too abundantly multiply his morality. The Hebrew views him as a tool; but with a tool you are not anxious about its moral character, you only desire to be convinced of its force and its fitness. The Greek mind is careful to unfold the noble humanity of the man, -a humanity universally and eternally noble. By the side of that imperishable picture of him, how meagre to Greek eyes would have seemed the temporary occasion, for which the Hebrew claimed Cyrus had been raised up-to lead the petty Jewish tribe back to their own obscure corner of the earth. Herodotus and Xenophon, had you told them that this was the chief commission of Cyrus from God, to restore the Jews to Palestine, would have laughed. "Identify him, forsooth, with those provincial interests!" they would have said. "He was meant, we lift him up, for mankind!"

What judgment are we to pass on these two characteristic pictures of Cyrus? What lessons are we to draw from their contrast?

They do not contradict, but in many particulars they corroborate one another. Cyrus would not have been the efficient weapon in the Almighty’s hand, which our prophet panegyrises, but for that thoughtfulness in preparation and swift readiness to seize the occasion, which Xenophon extols. And nothing is more striking to one familiar with our Scriptures, when reading the "Cyropaedia," than the frequency with which the writer insists on the success that followed the Persian. If to the Hebrew Cyrus was the called of God, upheld in righteousness, to the Greek he was equally conspicuous as the favourite of fortune. "I have always," Xenophon makes the dying king say, "seemed to feel my strength increase with the advance of time, so that I have not found myself weaker in my old age than in my youth, nor do I know that I have attempted or desired anything in which I have not been successful." And this was said piously, for Xenophon’s Cyrus was a devout servant of the gods.

The two views, then, are not hostile, nor are we compelled to choose between them. Still, they make a very suggestive contrast, if we put these two questions about them: Which is the more true to historical fact? Which is the more inspiring example?

Which is the more true to historical fact? There is no difficulty in answering this: undoubtedly, the Hebrew. It has been of far more importance to the world that Cyrus freed the Jews than that he inspired the "Cyropaedia." That single enactment of his, perhaps only one of a hundred consequences of his capture of Babylon, has had infinitely greater results than his character, or than its magnificent exaggeration by Greek hero-worship. No one who has read the "Cyropaedia"-out of his school-days-would desire to place it in any contrast, in which its peculiar charm would be shadowed, or its own modest and strictly-limited claims would not receive justice. The charm, the truth of the "Cyropaedia," are eternal; but the significance they borrow from Cyrus-though they are as much due, perhaps, to Xenophon’s own pure soul as to Cyrus-is not to be compared for one instant to the significance of that single deed of his, into which the Bible absorbs the meaning of his whole career, -the liberation of the Jews. The "Cyropaedia" has been the instruction and delight of many, -of as many in modern times, perhaps, as in ancient. But the liberation of the Jews meant the assurance of the world’s religious education. Cyrus sent this people back to their land solely as a spiritual people. He did not allow them to set up again the house of David, but by his decree the Temple was rebuilt. Israel entered upon their purely religious career, set in order their vast stores of spiritual experience, wrote their histories of grace and providence, developed their worship, handed down their law, and kept themselves holy unto the Lord. Till, in the fulness of the times, from this petty and exclusive tribe, and by the fire, which they kept burning on the altar that Cyrus had empowered them to raise, there was kindled the glory of a universal religion. To change the figure, Christianity sprang from Judaism as the flower from the seed; but it was the hand of Cyrus, which planted the seed in the only soil in which it could have fructified. Of such a universal destiny for the Faith, Cyrus was not conscious, but the Jews themselves were. Our prophet represents him, indeed, as acting for "Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel’s My chosen," but the chapter does not close without proclamation to "the ends of the earth to look unto Jehovah and be saved," and the promise of a time "when every knee shall bow and every tongue swear unto the God of Israel."

Now put all these results, which the Jews, regardless of the character of Cyrus, saw flowing from his policy, as the servant of God on their behalf, side by side with the influence which the Greeks borrowed from Cyrus, and say whether Greek or Jew had the more true and historical conscience of this great power, -whether Greek or Jew had his hand on the pulse of the world’s mare artery. Surely we see that the main artery of human life runs down the Bible, that here we have a sense of the control of history, which is higher than even the highest hero-worship. Some may say, "True, but what a very unequal contest, into which to thrust the poor ‘Cyropaedia’!" Precisely; it is from the inequality of the contrast, that we learn the uniqueness of Israel’s inspiration. Let us do all justice to the Greek and his appreciation of Cyrus. In that, he seems the perfection of humanity; but with the Jew we rise to the Divine, touching the right hand of the providence of God.

There is a moral lesson for ourselves in these two views about Cyrus. The Greeks regard him as a hero, the Jews as an instrument. The Greeks are interested in him that he is so attractive a figure, so effective an example to rouse men and restrain them. But the Jews stand in wonder of his subjection to the will of God; their Scriptures extol, not his virtues, but his predestination to certain Divine ends.

Now let us say no word against hero-worship. We have need of all the heroes, which the Greek, and every other, literature can raise up for us. We need the communion of the saints. To make us humble in our pride, to make us hopeful in our despair, we need our big brothers, the heroes of humanity. We need them in history, we need them in fiction; we cannot do without them for shame, for courage, for fellowship, for truth. But let us remember that still more indispensable-for strength, as well as for peace, of mind-is the other temper. Neither self nor the world is conquered by admiration of men, but by the fear and obligation of God. I speak now of applying this temper to ourselves. We shall live fruitful and consistent lives only in so far as we hear God saying to us, "I gird thee," and give ourselves into His guidance. Admire heroes if thou wilt, but only admire them and thou remainest a slave. Learn their secret, to commit themselves to God and to obey Him, and thou shalt become a hero too.

God’s anointing of Cyrus, the heathen, has yet another lesson to teach us, which religious people especially need to learn.

This passage about Cyrus lifts us to a very absolute and awful faith. "I am Jehovah, and none else: Former of light and Creator of darkness, Maker of peace and Creator of mischief; I Jehovah, Maker of all these things." The objection at once rises, "Is it possible to believe this? Are we to lay upon providence everything that happens? Surely we Westerns, with our native scepticism and strong conscience, cannot be expected to hold a faith so Oriental and fatalistic as that."

But notice to whom the passage is addressed. To religious people, who professedly accept God’s sovereignty, but wish to make an exception in the one case against which they have a prejudice-that a Gentile should be the deliverer of the holy people. Such narrow and imperfect believers are reminded that they must not substitute for faith in God their own ideas of how God ought to work; that they must not limit His operations to their own conception of His past revelations; that God does not always work even by His own precedents; and that many other forces than "conventional and religious ones-yea," even forces as destitute of moral or religious character as Cyrus himself seemed to be-are also in God’s hands, and may be used by Him as means of grace. There is frequent charge made in our day against what are called the more advanced schools of theology, of scepticism and irreverence. But this passage reminds us that the most sceptical and irreverent are those old-fashioned believers, who, clinging to precedent and their own stereotyped notions of things, deny that God’s hands are in a movement, because it is novel and not orthodox. "Woe unto him that striveth with his Moulder; shall the clay say to its moulder, What makest thou?" God did not cease "moulding" when He gave us the canon and our creeds, when He founded the Church and the Sacraments. His hand is still among the clay, and upon time, that great "potter’s wheel," which still moves obedient to His impulse. All the large forward movements, the big things of to-day-commerce, science, criticism however neutral, like Cyrus, their character may be, are, like Cyrus, grasped and anointed by God. Therefore let us show reverence and courage before the great things of to-day. Do not let us scoff at their novelty or grow fearful because they show no orthodox, or even no religious character. God reigns, and He will use them, for what has been the dearest purpose of His heart, the emancipation of true religion, the confirmation of the faithful, the victory of righteousness. When Cyrus rose and the prophet named him as Israel’s deliverer, and the severely orthodox in Israel objected, did God attempt to soothe them by pointing out how admirable a character he was, and how near in religion to the Jews themselves? God did no such thing, but spoke only of the military and political fitness of this great engine, by which He was to batter Babylon. That Cyrus was a quick marcher, a far shooter, an inspirer of fear, a follower up of victory, one who swooped like a "bird-of-prey," one whose weight of war burst through every obstruction, -this is what the astonished pedants are told about the Gentile, to whose Gentileness they had objected. No soft words to calm their bristling orthodoxy, but heavy facts, -an appeal to their common-sense, if they had any, that this was the most practical means for the practical end God had in view. For again we learn ‘the old lesson the prophets are ever so anxious to teach us, "God is wise." He is concerned, not to be orthodox or true to His own precedent, but to be practical, and effective for salvation.

And so, too, in our own day, though we may not see any religious character whatsoever about certain successful movements-say in science, for instance-which are sure to affect the future of the Church and of Faith, do not let us despair, neither deny that they, too, are in the counsels of God. Let us only be sure that they are permitted for some end-some practical end; and watch, with meekness but with vigilance, to see what that end shall be. Perhaps the endowment of the Church with new weapons of truth; perhaps her emancipation from associations which, however ancient, are unhealthy; perhaps her opportunity to go forth upon new heights of vision, new fields of conquest.

But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.


HAVING completed our survey of the fundamental truths of our prophecy, and studied the subject which forms its immediate and most urgent interest, the deliverance of Israel from Babylon, we are now at liberty to turn to consider the great duty and destiny which lie before the delivered people- the Service of Jehovah. The passages of our prophecy which describe this are scattered both among those chapters we have already studied and among those which lie before us. But, as was explained in the Introduction, they are all easily detached from their surroundings; and the continuity and progress, of which their series, though so much interrupted, gives evidence, demand that they should be treated by us together. They will, therefore, form the Third of the Books, into which this volume is divided.

The passages on the Servant of Jehovah, or, as the English reader is more accustomed to hear him called, the Servant of the Lord, are as follows: Isaiah 41:8 ff; Isaiah 42:1-7; Isaiah 42:18-25; Isaiah 43:1-28 passim, especially Isaiah 43:8-10 : Isaiah 44:1; Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 49:1-9; Isaiah 1:4-11; Isaiah 52:13-15. The main passages are those in chapters 41, 42, 43, 49, 1, and 52.-53. The others are incidental allusions to Israel as the Servant of the Lord, and do not develop the character of the Servant or the Service.

Upon the questions relevant to the structure of these prophecies-why they have been so scattered, and whether they were originally from the main author of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13, or from any other single writer, -questions on which critics have either preserved a discreet silence, or have spoken to convince nobody but themselves, -I have no final opinions to offer. It may be that these passages formed a poem by themselves before their incorporation with our prophecy; but the evidence which has been offered for this is very far from adequate. It may be that one or more of them are insertions from other authors, to which our prophet consciously works up with ideas of his own about the Servant; but neither for this is there any evidence worth serious consideration. I think that all we can do is to remember that they occur in a dramatic work, which may, partly at least, account for the interruptions which separate them; that the subject of which they treat is woven through and through other portions of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12, and that even those of them which, like Isaiah 49:1-26, look as if they could stand by themselves, are led up to by the verses before them; and that, finally, the series of them exhibits a continuity and furnishes a distinct development of their subject.

It is this development which the following exposition seeks to trace. As the prophet starts from the idea of the Servant as being the whole historical nation Israel, it will be necessary to devote, first of all, a chapter to Israel’s peculiar relation to God. This will be chapter 15 "One God, One People." In chapter 16 we shall trace the development of the idea through the whole series of the passages; and in chapter 17 we shall give the New Testament interpretation and fulfilment of the Servant. Then will follow an exposition of the contents of the Service and of the ideal it presents to ourselves, first, as it is given in Isaiah 42:1-9, as the service of God and man, chapter 18, of this volume; then as it is realised and owned by the Servant himself, as prophet and martyr, Isaiah 49:1, chapter 19 of this Book; and finally as it culminates in Isaiah 52:13-15, chapter 20 of this volume.



Isaiah 41:8-20; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28WE have been listening to the proclamation of a monotheism so absolute, that, as we have seen, modern critical philosophy, in surveying the history of religion, can find for it no rival among the faiths of the world. God has been exalted before us, in character so perfect, in dominion so universal, that neither the conscience nor the imagination of man can add to the general scope of the vision. Jesus and His Cross shall lead the world’s heart farther into the secrets of God’s love; God’s Spirit in science shall more richly instruct us in the secrets of His laws. But these shall thereby only increase the contents and illustrate the details of this revelation of our prophet. They shall in no way enlarge its sweep and outline, for it is already as lofty an idea of the unity and sovereignty of God, as the thoughts of man can follow.

Across this pure light of God, however, a phenomenon thrusts itself, which seems for the moment to affect the absoluteness of the vision and to detract from its sublimity. This is the prominence given before God to a single people, Israel. In these chapters the uniqueness of Israel is as much urged upon us as the unity of God. Is He the One God in heaven? They are His only people on earth, "His elect, His own, His witnesses to the end of the earth." His guidance of them is matched with His guidance of the stars, as if, like the stars shining against the night, their tribes alone moved to His hand through an otherwise dark and empty space. His revelation to humanity is given through their little language; the restoration of their petty capital, that hill fort in the barren land of Judah, is exhibited as the end of His processes, which sweep down through history and affect the surface of the whole inhabited world. And His very righteousness turns out to be for the most part His faithfulness to His covenant with Israel.

Now to many in our day it has been a great offence to have "the curved nose of the Jew" thus thrust in between their eyes and the pure light of God. They ask, Can the Judge of all the earth have been thus partial to one people? Did God confine His revelation to men to the literature of a small, unpolished tribe? Even most uncritical souls have trouble to understand why "salvation is of the Jews."

The chief point to know is that the election of Israel was an election, not to salvation, but. to service. To understand this is to get rid of by far the greater part of the difficulty that attaches to the subject. Israel was a means, and not an end; God chose in him a minister, not a favourite. No prophet in Israel failed to say this; but our prophet makes it the burden of his message to the exiles. "Ye are My witnesses, My Servant whom I have chosen. Ye are My witnesses, and I am God. I will also give thee for a light to the nations, to be My salvation to the end of the earth." {Isaiah 43:10} Numbers of other verses might be quoted to the same effect, that "there is no God but God, and Israel is His prophet." But if the election of Israel is thus an election to service, it is surely in harmony with God’s usual method, whether in nature or history. So far from such a specialisation as Israel’s being derogatory to the Divine unity, it is but part of that order and division of labour which the Divine unity demands as its consequence throughout the whole range of Being. The universe is diverse. "To every man his own work" is the proper corollary of "God over all," and Israel’s prerogative was but the specialisation of Israel’s function for God in the world. In choosing Israel to be His mediator with mankind, God did but do for religion what in the exercise of the same practical discipline He did for philosophy, when He dowered Greece with her gifts of subtle thought and speech, or with Rome when He trained her people to become the legislators of mankind. And how else should work succeed but by specialisation, -the secret as it is of fidelity and expertness? Of fidelity-for the constraint of my duty surely lies in this, that it is due from me and no other; of expertness-for he drives best and deepest who drives along one line: In lighting a fire you begin with a kindled faggot; and in lighting, a world it was in harmony with all His law, physical and moral, for God to begin with a particular portion of mankind.

The next question is, Why should this particular portion of mankind be a nation, and not a single prophet, or a school of philosophers, or a church universal? The answer is found in the condition of the ancient world. Amid its diversities of language and of racial feeling, a missionary prophet travelling like Paul from people to people is inconceivable; and almost as inconceivable is the kind of Church which Paul founded among various nations, in no other bonds than the consciousness of a common faith. Of all possible combinations of men the nation was the only form which in the ancient world stood a chance of surviving in the struggle for existence. The nation furnished the necessary shelter and fellowship for personal religion; it gave to the spiritual a habitation upon earth, enlisted in its behalf the force of heredity, and secured the continuity of its traditions. But the service of the nation to religion was not only conservative, it was missionary as well. It was only through a people that a God became visible and accredited to the world. Their history supplied the drama in which He played the hero’s part. At a time when it was impossible to spread a religion, by means of literature, or by the example of personal holiness, the achievements of a considerable nation, their progress and prestige, furnished a universally understood language, through which the God could publish to mankind His power and will; and in choosing, therefore, a single nation to reveal Himself by, God was but employing the means best adapted for His purpose. The nation was the unit of religious progress in the ancient world. In the nation God chose as His witness, not only the most solid and permanent, but the most widely intelligible and impressive.

The next question is, Why Israel should have been this singular and indispensable nation. When God selected Israel to serve His purpose, He did so, we are told, of His sovereign grace. But this strong thought, which forms the foundation of our prophet’s assurance about his people, does not prevent him from dwelling also on Israel’s natural capacity for religious service. This, too, was of God. Over and over again Israel hears Jehovah say: "I have created thee, I have formed thee, I have prepared thee." One passage describes the nation’s equipment for the office of a prophet; another their discipline for the life of a saint; and every now and then our prophet shows how far back he feels this preparation to have begun, even when the nation, as he puts it, was "still in the womb." How easily these well-worn phrases slip over our lips! Yet they are not mere formulas. Modern research has put a new meaning into them, and taught us that Israel’s creation, forming, election, polishing, carriage, and defence were processes as real and measurable as any in natural or political history. For instance, when our prophet says that Israel’s preparation began "from the womb, -I am thy moulder, saith Jehovah, from the womb,"-history takes us back to the pre-natal circumstance of the nation, and there exhibits it to us as already being tempered to a religious disposition and propensity. The Hebrews were of the Semitic stock. The "womb" from which Israel sprang was a race of wandering shepherds, upon the hungry deserts of Arabia, where man’s home is the flitting tent, hunger is his discipline for many months of the year, his only arts are those of speech and war, and in the long irremediable starvation there is nothing to do but to be patient and dream. Born in these deserts, the youth of the Semitic race, like the probation of their greatest prophets, was spent in a long fast, which lent their spirit a wonderful ease of detachment from the world and of religious imagination, and tempered their will to long suffering-though it touched their blood, too, with a rancorous heat that breaks out through the prevailing calm of every Semitic literature. They were trained also in the desert’s august style of eloquence. "He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me." {Isaiah 49:2} A "natural prophecy," as it has been called, is found in all the branches of the Semitic stock. No wonder that from this race there came forth the three great universal religions of mankind-that Moses and the prophets, John, Jesus Himself and Paul, and Mohammed were all of the seed of Shem.

This racial disposition the Hebrew carried with him into his calling as a nation. The ancestor, who gave the people the double name by which they are addressed throughout our prophecy, "Jacob-Israel," inherited with all his defects the two great marks of the religious temper. Jacob could dream and he could wait. Remember him by the side of the brother, who could so little think of the future that he was willing to sell its promise for a mess of pottage; who, though God was as near to him as to Jacob, never saw visions or wrestled with angels; who seemed to have no power of growth about him, but carrying the same character, unchanged through the discipline of life, finally transmitted it in stereotype to his posterity; -remember Jacob by the side of such a brother, and you have a great part of the secret of the emergence of his descendants from the life of wandering cattle-breeders to be God’s chief ministers of religion in the world. Their habits, like their father’s, might be bad, but they had the tough and malleable constitution, which it was possible to mould to something better. Like their father, they were false, unchivalrous, selfish, "with the herdsman’s grossness in their blood," and much of the rancour and cruelty of their ancestors, the desert-warriors, but with it all they had the two most potential of habits-they could dream and they could wait. In his love and hope for promised Rachel, that were not quenched or soured by the substitution, after seven years’ service for her, of her ill-favoured sister, but began another seven years’ effort for herself, Jacob was a type of his strange, tenacious people, who, when they were brought face to face with some Leah of a fulfilment of their fondest ideals, as they frequently were in their history, took up again with undiminished ardour the pursuit of their first unforgetable love. It is the wonder of history, how this people passed through the countless disappointments of the prophecies to which they had given their hearts, yet with only a strengthening expectation of the arrival of the promised King and His kingdom. If other peoples have felt a gain in character from such miscarriages of belief, it has generally been at the expense of their faith. But Israel’s experience did not take faith away or even impair faith’s elasticity. We see their appreciation of God’s promises growing only more spiritual with each postponement, and patience performing her perfect work upon their character; yet this never happens at the cost of the original buoyancy and ardour. The glory of it we ascribe, as is most due, to the power of the Word of God; but the people who could stand the strain of the discipline of such a word, its alternate glow and frost, must have been a people of extraordinary fibre and frame. When we think of how they wore for those two thousand years of postponed promise, and how they wear still, after two thousand years more of disillusion and suffering, we cease to wonder why God chose this small tribe to be His instrument on earth. Where we see their bad habits their Creator knew their sound constitution, and the constitution of Israel is a thing unique among mankind.

From the racial temper of the elect nation we pass to their history, on the singularity of which our prophet dwells with emphasis. Israel’s political origin had no other reason than a call to God’s service. Other peoples grew, as it were, from the soil; they were the product of a fatherland, a climate, certain physical environments: root them out of these, and, as nations, they ceased to be. But Israel had not been so nursed into nationality on the lap of nature. The captive children of Jacob had sprung into unity and independence as a nation at the special call of God, and to serve His will in the world, -His will that so lay athwart the natural tendencies of the peoples. All down their history it is wonderful to see how it was the conscience of this service, which in periods of progress was the real national genius in Israel, and in times of decay or of political dissolution upheld the assurance of the nation’s survival. Whenever a ruler like Ahaz forgot that Israel’s imperishableness was bound up with their faithfulness to God’s service, and sought to preserve his throne by alliances with the world-powers, then it was that Israel were most in danger of absorption into the world. And, conversely, when disaster came down, and there was no hope in the sky, it was upon the inward sense of their election to the service of God that the prophets rallied the people’s faith and assured them of their survival as a nation. They brought to Israel that sovereign message which renders all who hear it immortal: "God has a service for you to serve upon earth." In the Exile especially, the wonderful survival of the nation, with the subservience of all history to that end, is made to turn on this, -that Israel has a unique purpose to serve. When Jeremiah and Ezekiel seek to assure the captives of their return to the land and of the restoration of the people, they commend so unlikely a promise by reminding them that the nation is the Servant of God. This name, applied by them for the first time to the nation as a whole, they bind up with the national existence. "Fear thou not, O My Servant Jacob, saith Jehovah; neither be dismayed. O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity." These words plainly say, that Israel as a nation cannot die, for God has a use for them to serve. The singularity of Israel’s redemption from Babylon is due to the singularity of the service that God has for the nation to perform. Our prophet speaks in the same strain: "Thou, Israel, My Servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham My lover, whom I took hold of from the ends of the earth and its corners. I have called thee and said unto thee, My Servant art thou, I have chosen thee and have not cast thee away". {Isaiah 41:8 ff} No one can miss the force of these words. They are the assurance of Israel’s miraculous survival, not because he is God’s favourite, but because he is God’s servant, with a unique work in the world. Many other verses repeat the same truth. They call "Israel the Servant," and "Jacob the chosen," of God, in order to persuade the people that they are not forgotten of Him, and that their seed shall live and be blessed. Israel survives because he serves "Servus servatur."

Now for this service, -which had been the purpose of the nation’s election at first, the mainstay of its unique preservation since, and the reason of all its singular pre-eminence before God, -Israel was equipped by two great experiences. These were Redemption and Revelation.

On the former redemptions of Israel from the power of other nations our prophet does not dwell much. You feel that they are present to his mind, for he sometimes describes the coming redemption from Babylon in terms of them. And once, in an appeal to the "Arm of Jehovah," he calls out: "Awake like the days of old, ancient generations! Art thou not it that hewed Rahab in pieces, that pierced the Dragon? Art thou not it which dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep; that made the depths of the sea a way of passage for the redeemed?" There is, too, that beautiful passage in chapter 63, which "makes mention of the loving-kindnesses of Jehovah, according to all that He hath bestowed upon us"; which describes the "carriage of the people all the days of old," how "He brought them out of the sea, caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, divided the water before them, led them through the deeps as a horse on the meadow, that they stumbled not." But, on the whole, our prophet is too much engrossed with the immediate prospect of release from Babylon, to remember that past, of which it has been truly said, "He hath not dealt so with any people." It is the new glory that is upon him. He counts the deliverance from Babylon as already come; to his rapt eye it is its marvellous power and costliness, which already clothe the people in their unique brilliance and honour. "Thus saith Jehovah, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: For your sake have I sent to Babylon, and I will bring down their nobles, all of them, and the Chaldeans, in the ships of their exulting.": But it is more than Babylon that is balanced against them. "I am Jehovah, thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour. I am giving as thy ransom, Egypt, Cush and Seba in exchange for thee, because thou art precious in mine eyes, and hast made thyself valuable" (lit., "of weight"); "and I have loved thee, therefore do I give mankind for thee, and peoples for thy life. Mankind for thee, and peoples for thy life,"-all the world for this little people? It is intelligible only because this little people are to be for all the world. "Ye are My witnesses that I am God. I will also give thee for a light to nations, to be My salvation to the end of the earth."

But more than on the Redemption, which Israel experienced, our prophet dwells on the Revelation, that has equipped them for their destiny. In a passage, in chapter 43, to which we shall return, the present stupid and unready character of the mass of the people is contrasted with the "instruction" which God has lavished upon them. "Thou hast seen many things, and wilt not observe: there is opening of the ears, but he heareth not. Jehovah was pleased for His righteousness’ sake to magnify the instruction and make it glorious, -but that"-the result and the precipitate of it all-"is a people robbed and spoiled." The word "Instruction" or "Revelation" is that same technical term, which we have met with before, for Jehovah’s special training and illumination of Israel. How special these were, how distinct from the highest doctrine and practice of any other nation in that world to which Israel belonged, is a historical fact that the results of recent research enable us to state in a few sentences.

Recent exploration in the East, and the progress of Semitic philology, have proved that the system of religion which prevailed among the Hebrews had a very great deal in common with the systems of the neighbouring and related heathen nations. This common element included not only such things as ritual and temple-furniture, or the details of priestly organisation, but even the titles and many of the attributes of God, and especially the forms of the covenant in which He drew near to men. But the discovery of this common element has only thrown into more striking relief the presence at work in the Hebrew religion of an independent and original principle. In the Hebrew religion historians observe a principle of selection operating upon the common Semitic materials for worship, -ignoring some of them, giving prominence to others, and with others again changing the reference and application. Grossly immoral practices are forbidden; forbidden, too, are those superstitions, which, like augury and divination, draw men away from single-minded attention to the moral issues of life; and even religious customs are omitted, such as the employment of women in the sanctuary, which, however innocent in themselves, might lead men into temptations not desirable in connection with the professional pursuit of religion. In short, a stern and inexorable conscience was at work in the Hebrew religion, which was not at work in any of the religions most akin to it. In our previous volume we saw the same conscience inspiring the prophets. Prophecy was not confined to the Hebrews; it was a general Semitic institution; but no one doubts the absolutely distinct character of the prophecy, which was conscious of having the Spirit of Jehovah. Its religious ideas were original, and in it we have, as all admit, a moral phenomenon unique in history. When we turn to ask the secret of this distinction, we find the answer in the character of God, whom Israel served. The God explains the people; Israel is the response to Jehovah. Each of the laws of the nation is enforced by the reason, "For I am holy." Each of the prophets brings his message from a God, "exalted in righteousness." In short, look where you will in the Old Testament, -come to it as a critic or as a worshipper, -you discover the revealed character of Jehovah to be the effective principle at work. It is this Divine character which draws Israel from among the nations to their destiny, which selects and builds the law to be a wall around them, and which by each revelation of itself discovers to the people both the measure of their delinquency and the new ideals of their services to humanity. Like the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, we see it in front of Israel at every stage of their marvellous progress down the ages.

So that when Jehovah says that "He has magnified the Revelation and made it glorious," He speaks of a magnitude of a real, historical kind, that can be tested by exact methods of observation. Israel’s election by Jehovah, their formation, their unique preparation for service, are not the mere boasts of an overweening patriotism, but sober names for historical processes as real and evident as any that history contains.

To sum up, then. If Jehovah’s sovereignty be absolute, so also is the uniqueness of Israel’s calling and equipment for His Service. For, to begin with, Israel had the essential religious temper; they enjoyed a unique moral instruction and discipline: and by the side of this they were conscious of a series of miraculous deliverances from servitude and from dissolution. So singular an experience and career were not, as we have seen, bestowed from any arbitrary motive, which exhausted itself upon Israel, but in accordance with God’s universal method of specialisation of function were granted to fit the nation as an instrument for a practical end. The sovereign unity of God does not mean equality in His creation. The universe is diverse. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; and even so in the moral kingdom of Him, who is Lord of the Hosts of both earth and heaven, each nation has its own destiny and function. Israel’s was religion; Israel was God’s specialist in religion.

For confirmation of this we turn to the supreme witness. Jesus was born a Jew, He confined His ministry to Judaea, and He has told us why. By various passing allusions, as well as by deliberate statements, He revealed His sense of a great religious difference between Jew and Gentile. "Use not vain repetitions as the Gentiles do. For after all these things do the nations of the world seek; but your Father knoweth that you have need of these things." He refused to work except upon Jewish hearts: "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And He charged His disciples, saying, Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans; but go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel." And again He said to the woman of Samaria: "Ye worship ye know not what; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews."

These sayings of our Lord have created as much question as the preeminence given in the Old Testament to a single people by a God who is described as the one God of Heaven and earth. Was He narrower of heart than Paul, His servant, who was debtor to Greek and Barbarian? Or was He ignorant of the universal character of His mission till it was forced upon His reluctant sympathies by the importunity of such heathen as the Syrophenician woman? A little common-sense dispels the perplexity, and leaves the problem, over which volumes have been written, no problem at all. Our Lord limited Himself to Israel, not because He was narrow, but because He was practical; not from ignorance, but from wisdom. He came from heaven to sow the seed of Divine truth; and where in all humanity should He find the soil so ready as within the long-chosen people? He knew of that discipline of the centuries. In the words of His own parable, the Son when He came to earth directed His attention not to a piece of desert, but to "the vineyard" which His Father’s servants had so long cultivated, and where the soil was open. Jesus came to Israel because He expected "faith in Israel." That this practical end was the deliberate intention of His will, is proved by the fact that when He found faith elsewhere, either in Syrian or Greek or Roman hearts, He did not hesitate to let His love and power go forth to them.

In short, we shall have no difficulty about these Divine methods with a single, elect people, if we only remember that to be Divine is to be practical. "Yet God also is wise," said Isaiah to the Jews when they preferred their own clever policies to Jehovah’s guidance. And we need to be told the same, who murmur that to confine Himself to a single nation was not the ideal thing for the One God to do; or who imagine that it was left to one of our Lord’s own creatures to suggest to Him the policy of His mission upon earth. We are shortsighted: and the Almighty is past finding out. But this at least it is possible for us to see, that in choosing one nation to be His agent among men, God chose the type of instrument best fitted at the time for the work for which He designed it, and that in choosing Israel to be that nation, He chose a people of temper singularly suitable to His end.

Israel’s election as a nation, therefore, was to Service. To be a nation and to be God’s Servant was pretty much one and the same thing for Israel. Israel were to survive the Exile, because they were to serve the world. Let us carry this over to the study of our next chapter-The Servant of Jehovah.



Isaiah 41:8-20; Isaiah 42:1-7; Isaiah 42:18; Isaiah 43:5-10; Isaiah 49:1-9; Isaiah 1:4-10; Isaiah 52:13-15With chapter 42, we reach a distinct stage in our prophecy. The preceding chapters have been occupied with the declaration of the great, basal truth, that Jehovah is the One Sovereign God. This has been declared to two classes of hearers in succession-to God’s own people, Israel, in chapter 40, and to the heathen in chapter 41. Having established His sovereignty, God now publishes His will, again addressing these two classes according to the purpose which He has for each. Has He vindicated Himself to Israel, the Almighty and Righteous God, Who will give His people freedom and strength: He will now define to them the mission for which that strength and freedom are required. Has He proved to the Gentiles that He is the one true God: He will declare to them now what truth He has for them to learn. In short, to use modern terms, the apologetic of chapters 40-41 is succeeded by the missionary programme of chapter 42. And although, from the necessities of the case, we are frequently brought back, in the course of the prophecy, to its fundamental claims for the Godhead of Jehovah, we are nevertheless sensible that with ver. 1 of chapter 42 (Isaiah 42:1) we make a distinct advance. It is one of those logical steps which, along with a certain chronological progress that we have already felt, assures us that Isaiah, whether originally by one or more authors, is in its present form a unity, with a distinct order and principle of development.

The Purpose of God is identified with a Minister or Servant, whom He commissions to carry it out in the world. This Servant is brought before us with all the urgency with which Jehovah has presented Himself, and next to Jehovah he turns out to be the most important figure of the prophecy. Does the prophet insist that God is the only source and sufficiency of His people’s salvation: it is with equal emphasis that He introduces the Servant as God’s indispensable agent in the work. Cyrus is also acknowledged as an elect instrument. But neither in closeness to God, nor in effect upon the world, is Cyrus to be compared for an instant to the Servant. Cyrus is subservient and incidental: with the overthrow of Babylon, for which he was raised up, he will disappear from the stage of our prophecy. But God’s purpose, which uses the gates opened by Cyrus, only to pass through them with the redeemed people to the regeneration of the whole world, is to be carried to this Divine consummation by the Servant: its universal and glorious progress is identified with his career. Cyrus flashes through these pages a well-polished sword: it is only his swift and brilliant usefulness that is allowed to catch our eye. But the Servant is a Character, to delineate whose immortal beauty and example the prophet devotes as much space as he does to Jehovah Himself. As he turns again and again to speak of God’s omnipotence and faithfulness and agonising love for His own, so with equal frequency and fondness does he linger on every feature of the Servant’s conduct and aspect: His gentleness, His patience, His courage, His purity, His meekness; His daily wakefulness to God’s voice, the swiftness and brilliance of His speech for others, His silence under His own torments; His resorts-among the bruised, the prisoners, the forwandered of Israel, the weary, and them that sit in darkness, the far-off heathen; His warfare with the world, His face set like a flint; His unworldly beauty, which men call ugliness; His unnoticed presence in His own generation, yet the effect of His face upon kings; His habit of woe, a man of sorrows and acquainted with sickness: His sore stripes and bruises, His judicial murder, His felon’s grave; His exaltation and eternal glory-till we may reverently say that these pictures, by their vividness and charm, have drawn our eyes away from our prophet’s visions of God, and have caused the chapters in which they occur to be oftener read among us, and learned by heart, than the chapters in which God Himself is lifted up and adored. Jehovah and Jehovah’s Servant-these are the two heroes of the drama.

Now we might naturally expect that so indispensable and fondly imagined a figure would also be defined past all ambiguity, whether as to His time or person or name. But the opposite is the case. About Scripture there are few more intricate questions than those on the Servant of the Lord. Is He a Person or Personification? If the latter, is He a Personification of all Israel? Or of a part of Israel? Or of the ideal Israel? Or of the Order of the Prophets? Or if a Person-is he the prophet himself? Or a martyr who has already lived and suffered, like Jeremiah? Or One still to come, like the promised Messiah? Each of these suggestions has not only been made about the Servant, but derives considerable support from one or another of our prophet’s dissolving views of his person and work. A final answer to them can be given only after a comparative study of all the relevant passages; but as these are scattered over the prophecy, and our detailed exposition of them must necessarily be interrupted, it will be of advantage to take here a prospect of them all, and see to what they combine to develop this sublime character and mission. And after we have seen what the prophecies themselves teach concerning the Servant, we shall inquire how they were understood and fulfilled by the New Testament; and that will show us how to expound and apply them with regard to ourselves.


The Hebrew word for "Servant" means a person at the disposal of another-to carry out his will, do his work, represent his interests. It was thus applied to the representatives of a king or the worshippers of a god. All Israelites were thus in a sense the "servants of Jehovah"; though in the singular the title was reserved for persons of extraordinary character and usefulness.

But we have seen, as clearly as possible, that God set apart for His chief service upon earth, not an individual nor a group of individuals, but a whole nation in its national capacity. We have seen Israel’s political origin and preservation bound up with that service; we have heard the whole nation plainly called, by Jeremiah and Ezekiel, the Servant of Jehovah. Nothing could be more clear than this, that in the earlier years of the Exile the Servant of Jehovah was Israel as a whole, Israel as a body politic.

It is also in this sense that our prophet first uses the title in a passage we have already quoted; {Isaiah 51:8} "Thou Israel, My Servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, seed of Abraham My lover, whom I took hold of from the ends of the earth and its corners! I called thee and said unto thee, My Servant art thou. I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away." Here the "Servant" is plainly the historical nation, descended from Abraham, and the subject of those national experiences which are traced in the previous chapter. It is the same in the following verses:- Isaiah 44:1 ff: "Yet now hear, O Jacob My Servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: thus saith Jehovah thy Maker, and thy Moulder from the womb, He wilt help thee. Fear not, My servant Jacob; and Jeshurun, whom I have chosen I will pour My spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring." Isaiah 44:21 : "Remember these things, O Jacob; and Israel, for My servant art thou: I have formed thee; a servant for Myself art thou; O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of Me." Isaiah 48:20 : "Go ye forth from Babylon; say ye, Jehovah hath redeemed His servant Jacob." In all these verses, which bind up the nation’s restoration from exile with the fact that God called it to be His Servant, the title "Servant" is plainly equivalent to the national name "Israel" or "Jacob" But "Israel" or "Jacob" is not a label for the mere national idea, or the bare political framework, without regard to the living individuals included in it. To the eye and heart of Him, "Who counts the number of the stars," Israel means no mere outline, but all the individuals of the living generation of the people-"thy seed," that is, every born Israelite, however fallen or forwandered. This is made clear in a very beautiful passage in chapter 43 (Isaiah 43:1-7): "Thus saith Jehovah, thy Creator, O Jacob; thy Moulder, O Israel Fear not, for I am with thee; from the sunrise I will bring thy seed, and from the sunset will I gather thee; My sons from far, and My daughters from the end of the earth; every one who is called by My name, and whom for My glory I have created, formed, yea, I have made him." To this Israel-Israel as a whole, yet no mere abstraction or outline of the nation, but the people in mass and bulk-every individual of whom is dear to Jehovah, and in some sense shares His calling and equipment-to this Israel the title "Servant of Jehovah" is at first applied by our prophet.


We say "at first," for very soon the prophet has to make a distinction, and to sketch the Servant as something less than the actual nation. The distinction is obscure; it has given rise to a very great deal of controversy. But it is so natural, where a nation is the subject, and of such frequent occurrence in other literatures, that we may almost state it as a general law.

In all the passages quoted above, Israel has been spoken of in the passive mood, as the object of some affection or action on the part of God: "loved," "formed," "chosen," "called," and "about to be redeemed by Him." Now, so long as a people thus lie passive, their prophet will naturally think of them as a whole. In their shadow his eye can see them only in the outline of their mass; in their common suffering and servitude his heart will go out to all their individuals, as equally dear and equally in need of redemption. But when the hour comes for the people to work out their own salvation, and they emerge into action, it must needs be different. When they are no more the object of their prophet’s affection only, but pass under the test of his experience and judgment, then distinctions naturally appear upon them. Lifted to the light of their destiny, their inequality becomes apparent; tried by its strain, part of them break away. And so, though the prophet continues still to call on the nation by its name to fulfil its calling, what he means by that name is no longer the bulk and the body of the citizenship. A certain ideal of the people fills his mind’s eye - an ideal, however, which is no mere spectre floating above his own generation, but is realised in their noble and aspiring portion-although his ignorance as to the exact size of this portion must always leave his image of them more or less ideal to his eyes. It will be their quality rather than their quantity that is clear to him. In modern history we have two familiar illustrations of this process of winnowing and idealising a people in the light of their destiny, which may prepare us for the more obscure instance of it in our prophecy.

In a well-known passage in the "Areopagitica," Milton exclaims, "Methinks I see in my mind a noble and puissant nation rousing herself and shaking her invincible locks; methinks I see her as an eagle renewing her mighty youth, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full midday beam while the whole noise of timorous and flocking birds, with those also that love the twilight, flutter about, amazed at what she means." In this passage the "nation" is no longer what Milton meant by the term in the earlier part of his treatise, where "England" stands simply for the outline of the whole English people; but the "nation" is the true genius of England realised in her enlightened and aspiring sons, and breaking away from the hindering and debasing members of the body politic-"the timorous and flocking birds with those also that love the twilight"-who are indeed Englishmen after the flesh, but form no part of the nation’s better self.

Or, recall Mazzini’s bitter experience. To no man was his Italy more really one than to this ardent son of hers, who loved every born Italian because he was an Italian, and counted none of the fragments of his unhappy country too petty or too corrupt to be included in the hope of her restoration. To Mazzini’s earliest imagination, it was the whole Italian seed, who were ready for redemption, and would rise to achieve it at his summons. But when his summons came, how few responded, and after the first struggles how fewer still remained, -Mazzini himself has told us with breaking heart. The real Italy was but a handful of born Italians; at times it seemed to shrink to the prophet alone. From such a core the conscience indeed spread again, till the entire people was delivered from tyranny and from schism, and now every peasant and burgher from the Alps to Sicily understands what Italy means, and is proud to be an Italian. But for a time Mazzini and his few comrades stood alone. Others of their blood and speech were Piedmontese, Pope’s men, Neapolitans, -merchants, lawyers, scholars, -or merely selfish and sensual. They alone were Italians; they alone were Italy.

It is a similar winnowing process, through which we see our prophet’s thoughts pass with regard to Israel. Him, too, experience teaches that "the many are called, but the few chosen." So long as his people lie in the shadow of captivity, so long as he has to speak of them in the passive mood, the object of God’s call and preparation, it is "their seed," the born people in bulk and mass, whom he names Israel, and entitles "the Servant of Jehovah." But the moment that he lifts them to their mission in the world, and to the light of their destiny, a difference becomes apparent upon them, and the Servant of Jehovah, though still called Israel, shrinks to something less than the living generation, draws off to something finer than the mass of the people. How, indeed, could it be otherwise with this strange people, than which no nation on earth had a loftier ideal identified with its history, or more frequently turned upon its better self, with a sword in its hand. Israel, though created a nation by God for His service, was always what Paul found it, divided into an "Israel after the flesh," and an "Israel after the spirit." But it was in the Exile that this distinction gaped most broad. With the fall of Jerusalem, the political framework, which kept the different elements of the nation together, was shattered, and these were left loose to the action of moral forces. The baser elements were quickly absorbed by heathendom; the nobler, that remained loyal to the divine call, were free to assume a new and ideal form. Every year spent in Babylonia made it more apparent that the true and effective Israel of the future would not coincide with all the "seed of Jacob," who went into exile. Numbers of the latter were as contented with their Babylonian circumstance as numbers of Mazzini’s "Italians" were satisfied to live on as Austrian and Papal subjects. Many, as we have seen, became idolaters; many more settled down into the prosperous habits of Babylonian commerce, while a large multitude besides were scattered far out of sight across the world. It required little insight to perceive that the true, effective Israel-the real "Servant of Jehovah"-must needs be a much smaller body than the sum of all these: a loyal kernel within Israel, who were still conscious of the national calling, and capable of carrying it out; who stood sensible of their duty to the whole world, but whose first conscience was for their lapsed and lost countrymen. This Israel within Israel was the real "Servant of the Lord"; to personify it in that character-however vague might be the actual proportion it would assume in his own or in any other generation-would be as natural to our dramatic prophet as to personify the nation as a whole.

All this very natural process-this passing from the historical Israel, the nation originally designed by God to be His Servant, to the conscious and effective Israel, that uncertain quantity within the present and every future generation-takes place in the chapters before us; and it will be sufficiently easy for us to follow if we only remember that our prophet is not a dogmatic theologian, careful to make clear each logical distinction, but a dramatic poet, who delivers his ideas in groups, tableaux, dialogues, interrupted by choruses; and who writes in a language incapable of expressing such delicate differences, except by dramatic contrasts, and by the one other figure of which he is so fond-paradox.

Perhaps the first traces of distinction between the real Servant and the whole nation are to be found in the Programme of his Mission in Isaiah 42:1-7. There it is said that the Servant is to be for a "covenant of the people" (Isaiah 42:6). I have explained below why we are to understand "people" as here meaning Israel. And in Isaiah 42:7 it is said of the Servant that he is "to open blind eyes, bring forth from prison the captive, from the house of bondage dwellers in darkness": phrases that are descriptive, of course, of the captive Israel. Already, then, in chapter 42 the Servant is something distinct from the whole nation, whose Covenant and Redeemer he is to be.

The next references to the Servant are a couple of paradoxes, which are evidently the prophet’s attempt to show why it was necessary to draw in the Servant of Jehovah from the whole to a part of the people. The first of these paradoxes is in Isaiah 42:18.

Ye deaf, hearken! and ye blind, look ye to see!

Who is blind but My Servant, and deaf as My Messenger whom I send?

Who is blind as Meshullam, and blind as the Servant of Jehovah?

Vision of many things-and thou dost not observe,

Opening of ears and he hears not.

The context shows that the Servant here-or Meshullam, as he is called, the "devoted" or "submissive one," from the same root, and of much the same form as the Arabic Muslim-is the whole people; but they are entitled "Servant" only in order to show how unfit they are for the task to which they have been designated, and what a paradox their title is beside their real character. God had given them every opportunity by "making great His instruction" (Isaiah 42:21), and, when that failed, by His sore discipline in exile (Isaiah 42:24-25). "For who gave Jacob for spoil and Israel to the robbers? Did not Jehovah? He against whom we sinned, and they would not walk in His ways, neither were obedient to His instruction. So He poured upon him the fury of His anger and the force of war." But even this did not awake the dull nation. "Though it set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it kindled upon him, yet he laid it not to heart." The nation as a whole had been favoured with God’s revelation; as a whole they had been brought into His purifying furnace of the Exile. But as they have benefited by neither the one nor the other, the natural conclusion is that as a whole they are no more fit to be God’s Servant. Such is the hint which this paradox is intended to give us.

But a little further on there is an obverse paradox, which plainly says, that although the people are blind and deaf as a whole, still the capacity for service is found among them alone. {Isaiah 43:8; Isaiah 43:10}

Bring forth the blind people-yet eyes are there!

And the deaf, yet ears have they!

Ye are My witnesses, saith Jehovah, and My Servant whom I have chosen.

The preceding verses (Isaiah 43:1-7) show us that it is again the whole people, in their bulk and scattered fragments, who are referred to. Blind though they be, "yet are there eyes" among them; deaf though they be, yet "they have ears." And so Jehovah addresses them all, in contradistinction to the heathen peoples (Isaiah 43:9), as His Servant.

These two complementary paradoxes together show this: that while Israel as a whole is unfit to be the Servant, it is nevertheless within Israel, alone of all the world’s nations, that the true capacities for service are found-"eyes are there, ears have they." They prepare us for the Servant’s testimony about himself, in which, while he owns himself to be distinct from Israel as a whole, he is nevertheless still called Israel. This is given in chapter 49. And He said unto me, "My Servant art thou; Israel, in whom I will glorify Myself. And now saith Jehovah, my moulder from the womb to be a Servant unto Him, to turn again Jacob to Him, and that Israel might not be destroyed; and I am of value in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God is my strength. And He said, It is too light for thy being My Servant, merely to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will also set thee for a light of nations, to be My salvation to the end of the earth". {Isaiah 49:3-6} Here the Servant, though still called Israel, is clearly distinct from the nation as a whole, for part of his work is to raise the nation up again. And, moreover, he tells us this as his own testimony about himself. He is no longer spoken of in the third person, he speaks for himself in the first. This is significant. It is more than a mere artistic figure, the effect of our prophet’s dramatic style-as if the Servant now stood opposite him, so vivid and near that he heard him speak, and quoted him in the direct form of speech. It is more probably the result of moral sympathy: the prophet speaks out of the heart of the Servant, in the name of that better portion of Israel which was already conscious of the Divine call, and of its distinction in this respect from the mass of the people.

It is futile to inquire what this better portion of Israel actually was, for whom the prophet speaks in the first person. Some have argued, from the stress which the speaker lays upon his gifts of speech and office of preaching, that what is now signified by the Servant is the order of the prophets; but such forget that in these chapters the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is the ideal, not of prophets only, but of the whole people. Zion as a whole is to be "heraldess of good news". {Isaiah 40:9} It is, therefore, not the official function of the prophet-order which the Servant here owns, but the ideal of the prophet-nation. Others have argued from the direct form of speech, that the prophet puts himself forward as the Servant. But no individual would call himself Israel. And as Professor Cheyne remarks, the passage is altogether too self-assertive to be spoken by any man of himself as an individual; although, of course, our prophet could not have spoken of the true Israel with such sympathy, unless he had himself been part of it. The writer of these verses may have been, for the time, as virtually the real Israel as Mazzini was the real Italy. But still he does not speak as an individual. The passage is manifestly a piece of personification. The Servant is Israel- not now the nation as a whole, not the body and bulk of the Israelites, for they are to be the object of his first efforts, but the loyal, conscious, and effective Israel, realised in some of her members, and here personified by our prophet, who himself speaks for her out of his heart, in the first person.

By chapter 49, then, the Servant of Jehovah is a personification of the true, effective Israel as distinguished from the mass of the nation-a Personification, but not yet a Person. Something within Israel has wakened up to find itself conscious of being the Servant of Jehovah, and distinct from the mass of the nation-something that is not yet a Person. And this definition of the Servant may stand (with some modifications) for his next appearance in Isaiah 50:4-9. In this passage the Servant, still speaking in the first person, continues to illustrate his experience as a prophet, and carries it to its consequence in martyrdom. But let us notice that he now no longer calls himself Israel, and that if it were not for the previous passages it would be natural to suppose that an individual was speaking. This supposition is confirmed by a verse that follows the Servant’s speech, and is spoken, as chorus, by the prophet himself. "Who among you is a fearer of Jehovah, obedient to the voice of His Servant, who walketh in darkness, and hath no light. Let him trust in the name of Jehovah, and stay himself upon his God." In this too much neglected verse, which forms a real transition to Isaiah 52:13-15, the prophet is addressing any individual Israelite, on behalf of a personal God. It is very difficult to refrain from concluding that therefore the Servant also is a Person. Let us, however, not go beyond what we have evidence for; and note only that in chapter 1 the Servant is no more called Israel, and is represented not as if he were one part of the nation, over against the mass of it, but as if he were one individual over against other individuals; that in fine the Personification of chapter 49 has become much more difficult to distinguish from an actual Person.


This brings us to the culminating passage- Isaiah 52:13-15 through Isaiah 53:1-12. Is the Servant still a Personification here, or at last and unmistakably a Person?

It may relieve the air of that electricity, which is apt to charge it at the discussion of so classic a passage as this, and secure us calm weather in which to examine exegetical details, if we at once assert, what none but prejudiced Jews have ever denied, that this great prophecy, known as the fifty-third of Isaiah, was fulfilled in One Person, Jesus of Nazareth, and achieved in all its details by Him alone. But, on the other hand, it requires also to be pointed out that Christ’s personal fulfilment of it does not necessarily imply that our prophet wrote it of a Person. The present expositor hopes, indeed, to be able to give strong reasons for the theory usual among us, that the Personification of previous passages is at last in chapter 53 presented as a Person. But he fails to understand, why critics should be regarded as unorthodox or at variance with New Testament teaching on the subject, who, while they acknowledge that only Christ fulfilled chapter 53, are yet unable to believe that the prophet looked upon the Servant as an individual, and who regard chapter 53 as simply a sublimer form of the prophet’s previous pictures of the ideal people of God. Surely Christ could and did fulfil prophecies other than personal ones. The types of Him, which the New Testament quotes from the Old Testament, are not exclusively individuals. Christ is sometimes represented as realising in His Person and work statements, which, as they were first spoken, could only refer to Israel, the nation. Matthew, for instance, applies to Jesus a text which Hosea wrote primarily of the whole Jewish people: "Out of Egypt have I called My Son." {Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:15} Or, to take an instance from our own prophet-who but Jesus fulfilled chapter 49, in which, as we have seen, it is not an individual, but the ideal of the prophet people, that is figured? So that, even if it were proved past all doubt-proved from grammar, context, and every prophetical analogy-that in writing chapter 53 our prophet had still in view that aspect of the nation which he has personified in chapter 49, such a conclusion would not weaken the connection between the prophecy and its unquestioned fulfilment by Jesus Christ, nor render the two less evidently part of one Divine design.

But we are by no means compelled to adopt the impersonal view of chapter 53. On the contrary, while the question is one to which all experts know the difficulty of finding an absolutely conclusive answer one way or the other, it seems to me that reasons prevail which make for the personal interpretation.

Let us see what exactly are the objections to taking Isaiah 52:13-15 through Isaiah 53:1-12 in a personal sense. First, it is very important to observe that they do not rise out of the grammar or language of the passage. The reference of both of these is consistently individual. Throughout, the Servant is spoken of in the singular. The name Israel is not once applied to him: nothing-except that the nation has also suffered-suggests that he is playing a national role; there is no reflection in his fate of the features of the Exile. The antithesis, which was evident in previous passages, between a better Israel and the mass of the people has disappeared. The Servant is contrasted, not with the nation as a whole, but with His people as individuals. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." As far as grammar can, this surely distinguishes a single person. It is true, that one or two phrases suggest so colossal a figure-"he shall startle many nations, and kings shall shut their mouths at him"-that for a moment we think of the spectacle of a people rather than of a solitary human presence. But even such descriptions are not incompatible with a single person. On the other hand, there are phrases which we can scarcely think are used of any but a historical individual; such as that he was taken from "oppression and judgment," that is from a process of law which was tyranny, from a judicial murder, and that he belonged to a particular generation-"As for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living." Surely a historical individual is the natural meaning of these words. And, in fact, critics like Ewald and Wellhausen, who interpret the passage, in its present context, of the ideal Israel, find themselves forced to argue that it has been borrowed for this use from the older story of some actual martyr-so individual do its references seem to them throughout.

If, then, the grammar and language of the passage thus conspire to convey the impression of an individual, what are the objections to supposing that an individual is meant? Critics have felt, in the main, three objections to the discovery of a historical individual in Isaiah 52:13-15 through Isaiah 53:1-12.

The first of these that we take is chronological, and arises from the late date to which we have found it necessary to assign the prophecy. Our prophet, it is averred, associates the work of the Servant with the restoration of the people; but he sees that restoration too close to him to be able to think of the appearance, ministry, and martyrdom of a real historic life happening before it. (Our prophet, it will be remembered, wrote about 546, and the Restoration came in 538.) "There is no room for a history like that of the suffering Servant between the prophet’s place and the Restoration."

Now, this objection might be turned, even if it were true that the prophet identified the suffering Servant’s career with so immediate and so short a process as the political deliverance from Babylon. For, in that case, the prophet would not be leaving less room for the Servant, than, in chapter 9, Isaiah himself leaves for the birth, the growth to manhood, and the victories of the Prince-of-the-Four-Names, before that immediate relief from the Assyrian which he expects the Prince to effect. But does our prophet identify the suffering Servant’s career with the redemption from Babylon and the Return? It is plain that he does not-at least in those portraits of the Servant, which are most personal. Our prophet has really two prospects for Israel-one, the actual deliverance from Babylon; the other, a spiritual redemption and restoration. If, like his fellow prophets, he sometimes runs these two together, and talks of the latter in the terms of the former, he keeps them on the whole distinct, and assigns them to different agents. The burden of the first he lays on Cyrus, though he also connects it with the Servant, while the Servant is still to him an aspect of the nation (see Isaiah 49:8-9). It is temporary, and soon passes from his thoughts, Cyrus being dropped with it. But the other, the spiritual redemption, is confined to no limits of time; and it is with its process-indefinite in date and in length of period-that he associates the most personal portraits of the Servant (chapter 1 and Isaiah 52:13-15 through Isaiah 53:1-12). In these the Servant, now spoken of as an individual, has nothing to do with that temporary work of freeing the people from Babylon, which was over in a year or two, and which seems to be now behind the prophet’s standpoint. His is the enduring office of prophecy, sympathy, and expiation- an office in which there is all possible "room" for such a historical career as is sketched for him. His relation to Cyrus, before whose departure from connection with Israel’s fate the Servant does not appear as a person, is thus most interesting. Perhaps we may best convey it in a homely figure. On the ship of Israel’s fortunes-as on every ship and on every voyage-the prophet sees two personages. One is the Pilot through the shallows, Cyrus, who is dropped as soon as the shallows are past; and the other is the Captain of the ship, who remains always identified with it - the Servant. The Captain does not come to the front till the Pilot has gone: but, both alongside the Pilot, and after the Pilot has been dropped, there is every room for his office.

The second main objection to identifying an individual in Isaiah 52:13-15 through Isaiah 53:1-12, is. that an individual with such features has no analogy in Hebrew prophecy. It is said that, neither in his humiliation nor in the kind of exaltation which is ascribed to him, is there his like in any other individual in the Old Testament, and certainly not in the Messiah. Elsewhere in Scripture (it is averred) the Messiah reigns, and is glorious; it is the people who suffer, and come through suffering to power. Nor is the Messiah’s royal splendour at all the same as the very vague influence, evidently of a spiritual kind, which is attributed to the Servant in the end of chapter 53. The Messiah is endowed with the military and political virtues. He is a warrior, a king, a judge. He "sits on the throne of David, He establishes David’s kingdom. He smites the land with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He slays the wicked." But very different phrases are used of the Servant. He is not called king, though kings shut their mouths at him, -he is a prophet and a martyr, and an expiation; and the phrases, "I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong," are simply metaphors of the immense spiritual success and influence with which His self-sacrifice shall be rewarded; as a spiritual power He shall take His place among the dominions and forces of the world. This is a true prophecy of what Israel, that "worm of a people," should be lifted to; but it is quite different from the political throne, from which Isaiah had promised that the Messiah should sway the destinies of Israel and mankind.

But in answer to this objection to finding the Messiah, or any other influential individual, in chapter 53, we may remember that there were already traces in Hebrew prophecy of a suffering Messiah: we come across them in chapter 7. There Isaiah presents Immanuel, whom we identified with the Prince-of-the-Four-Names in chapter 9, as at first nothing but a sufferer - a sufferer from the sins of His predecessors. (Isaiah 1:1-31; Isaiah 2:1-22; Isaiah 3:1-26; Isaiah 4:1-6; Isaiah 5:1-30; Isaiah 6:1-13; Isaiah 7:1-25; Isaiah 8:1-22; Isaiah 9:1-21; Isaiah 10:1-34; Isaiah 11:1-16; Isaiah 12:1-6; Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32; Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; Isaiah 19:1-25; Isaiah 20:1-6; Isaiah 21:1-17; Isaiah 22:1-25; Isaiah 23:1-18; Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12; Isaiah 26:1-21; Isaiah 27:1-13; Isaiah 28:1-29; Isaiah 29:1-24; Isaiah 30:1-33; Isaiah 31:1-9; Isaiah 32:1-20; Isaiah 33:1-24; Isaiah 34:1-17; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38; Isaiah 38:1-22; Isaiah 39:1-8) And, even though we are wrong in taking the suffering Immanuel from the Messiah, and though Isaiah meant him only as a personification of Israel suffering for the error of Ahaz, had not the two hundred years, which elapsed between Isaiah’s prophecy of Israel’s glorious Deliverer, been full of room enough, and, what is more, of experience enough, for the ideal champion of the people to be changed to something more spiritual in character and in work? Had the nation been baptised, for most of those two centuries, in vain, in the meaning of suffering, and in vain had they seen exemplified in their noblest spirits the fruits and glory of self-sacrifice? The type of Hero had changed in Israel since Isaiah wrote of his Prince-of-the-Four-Names. The king had been replaced by the prophet; the conqueror by the martyr; the judge who smote the land by the rod of his mouth, and slew the wicked by the breath of his lips, -by the patriot who took his country’s sins upon his own conscience. The monarchy had perished; men knew that, even if Israel were set upon their own land again, it would not be under an independent king of their own; nor was a Jewish champion of the martial kind, such as Isaiah had promised for deliverance from the Assyrian, any more required. Cyrus, the Gentile, should do all the campaigning required against Israel’s enemies, and Israel’s native Saviour be relieved for gentler methods and more spiritual aims. It is all this experience, of nearly two centuries, which explains the omission of the features of warrior and judge from chapter 53, and their replacement by those of a suffering patriot, prophet, and priest. The reason of the change is, not because the prophet who wrote the chapter had not, as much as Isaiah, an individual in his view, but because, in the historical circumstance of the Exile, such an individual as Isaiah had promised seemed no longer probable or required.

So far, then, from the difference between chapter 53 and previous prophecies of the Messiah affording evidence that in chapter 53 it is not the Messiah who is presented, this very change that has taken place, explicable as it is from the history of the intervening centuries, goes powerfully to prove that it is the Messiah, and therefore an individual, whom the prophet so vividly describes.

The third main objection to our recognising an individual in chapter 53 is concerned only with our prophet himself. Is it not impossible, say some-or at least improbably inconsistent-for the same prophet first to have identified the Servant with the nation, and then to present him to us as an individual? We can understand the transference by the same writer of the name from the whole people to a part of the people; it is a natural transference, and the prophet sufficiently explains it. But how does he get from a part of the nation to a single individual? If in chapter 49 he personifies, under the name Servant, some aspect of the nation, we are surely bound to understand the game personification when the Servant is again introduced-unless we have an explanation to the contrary. But we have none.. The prophet gives no hint, except by dropping the name Israel, that the focus of his vision is altered, -no more paradoxes such as marked his passage from the people as a whole to a portion of them, -no consciousness that any explanation whatever is required. Therefore, however much finer the personification is drawn in chapter 53 than in chapter 49, it is surely a personification still.

To which objection an obvious answer is, that our prophet is not a systematic theologian, but a dramatic poet, who allows his characters to disclose themselves and their relation without himself intervening to define or relate them. And any one who is familiar with the literature of Israel knows, that no less than the habit of drawing in from the whole people upon a portion of them, was the habit of drawing in from a portion of the people upon one individual. The royal Messiah Himself is a case in point. The original promise to David was of a seed; but soon prophecy concentrated the seed in one glorious Prince. The promise of Israel had always culminated in an individual. Then, again, in the nation’s awful sufferings, it had been one man-the prophet Jeremiah-who had stood forth singly and alone, at once the incarnation of Jehovah’s word, and the illustration in his own person of all the penalty that Jehovah laid upon the sinful people. With this tendency of his school to focus Israel’s hope on a single individual, and especially with the example of Jeremiah before him, it is almost inconceivable that our prophet could have thought of any but an individual when he drew his portrait of the suffering Servant. No doubt the national sufferings were in his heart as he wrote; it was probably a personal share in them that taught him to write so sympathetically about the Man of pains, who was familiar with ailing. But to gather and concentrate all these sufferings upon one noble figure, to describe this figure as thoroughly conscious of their moral meaning, and capable of turning them to his people’s salvation, was a process absolutely in harmony with the genius of Israel’s prophecy, as well as with the trend of their recent experience; and there is, besides, no word in that great chapter, in which the process culminates, but is in thorough accordance with it. So far, therefore, from its being an impossible or an unlikely thing for our prophet to have at last reached his conception of an individual, it is almost impossible to conceive of him executing so personal a portrait as Isaiah 52:13-15 through Isaiah 53:1-12, without thinking of a definite historical personage, such as Hebrew prophecy had ever associated with the redemption of his people.


We have now exhausted the passages in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 which deal with the Servant of the Lord. We have found that our prophet identifies him at first with the whole nation, and then with some indefinite portion of the nation-indefinite in quantity, but most marked in character; that this personification grows more and more difficult to distinguish from a person; and that in Isaiah 52:13-15 through Isaiah 53:1-12 there are very strong reasons, both in the text itself and in the analogy of other prophecy, to suppose that the portrait of an individual is intended. To complete our study of this development of the substance of the Servant, it is necessary to notice that it runs almost stage for stage with a development of his office. Up to chapter 49, that is to say, while he is still some aspect of the people, the Servant is a prophet. In chapter 1, where he is no longer called Israel, and approaches more nearly to an individual, his prophecy passes into martyrdom. And in chapter 53, where at last we recognise him as intended for an actual personage, his martyrdom becomes an expiation for the sins of the people. Is there a natural connection between these two developments? We have seen that it was by a very common process that our prophet transferred the national calling from the mass of the nation to a select few of the people. Is it by any equally natural tendency that he shrinks from the many to the few, as he passes from prophecy to martyrdom, or from the few to the one, as he passes from martyrdom to expiation? It is a possibility for all God’s people to be prophets: few are needed as martyrs. Is it by any moral law equally clear, that only one man should die for the people? These are questions worth thinking about. In Israel’s history we have already found the following facts with which to answer them. The whole living generation of Israel felt themselves to be sinbearers: "Our fathers have sinned, and we bear their iniquities." This conscience and penalty were more painfully felt by the righteous in Israel. But the keenest and heaviest sense of them was conspicuously that experienced by one man-the prophet Jeremiah. And yet all these cases from the past of Israel’s history do not furnish more than an approximation to the figure presented to us in chapter 53. Let us turn, therefore, to the future to see if we can find in it motive or fulfilment for this marvellous prophecy.



IN last chapter we confined our study of the Servant of Jehovah to the text of Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24, and to the previous and contemporary history of Israel. Into our interpretation of the remarkable Figure, whom our prophet has drawn for us, we have put nothing which cannot be gathered from those fields and by the light of the prophet’s own day. But now we must travel further, and from days far future to our prophet borrow a fuller light to throw back upon his mysterious projections. We take this journey into the future for reasons he himself has taught us. We have learned that his pictures of the Servant are not the creation of his own mind; a work of art complete "through fancy’s or through logic’s aid." They are the scattered reflections and suggestions of experience. The prophet’s eyes have been opened to read them out of the still growing and incomplete history of his people. With that history they are indissolubly bound up. Their plainest forms are but a transcript of its clearest facts; their paradoxes are its paradoxes (reflections now of the confused and changing consciousness of this strange people, or again of the contrast between God’s design for them and their real character): their ideals are the suggestion and promise which its course reveals to an inspired eye. Thus, in picturing the Servant, our prophet sometimes confines himself to history that has already happened to Israel; but sometimes, also, upon the purpose and promise of this, he outruns what has happened, and plainly lifts his voice from the future. Now we must remember that he does so, not merely because the history itself has native possibilities of fulfilment in it, but because he believes that it is in the hands of an Almighty and Eternal God, who shall surely guide it to the end of His purpose revealed in it. It is an article of our prophet’s creed, that the God who speaks through him controls all history, and by His prophets can publish beforehand what course it will take; so that, when we find in our prophet anything we do not see fully justified or illustrated by the time he wrote, it is only in observance of the conditions he has laid down, that we seek for its explanation in the future.

Let us, then, take our prophet upon his own terms, and follow the history, with which he has so closely bound up the prophecy of the Servant, both in suggestion and fulfilment, in order that we may see whether it will yield to us the secret of what, if we have read his language aright, his eyes perceived in it-the promise of an Individual Servant. And let us do so in his faith that history is one progressive and harmonious movement under the hand of the God in whose name he speaks. Our exploration will be rewarded, and our faith confirmed. We shall find the nation, as promised, restored to its own land, and pursuing through the centuries its own life. We shall find within the nation what the prophet looked for, -an elect and effective portion, with the conscience of a national service to the world, but looking for the achievement of this to such an Individual Servant, as the prophet seemed ultimately to foreshadow. The world itself we shall find growing more and more open to this service. And at last, from Israel’s national conscience of the service we shall see emerge One with the sense that He alone is responsible and able for it. And this One Israelite will not only in His own person exhibit a character and achieve a work that illustrate and far excel our prophet’s highest imaginations, but will also become, to a new Israel infinitely more numerous than the old, the conscience and inspiration of their collective fulfilment of the ideal.

1. In the Old Testament we cannot be sure of any further appearance of our prophet’s Servant of the Lord. It might be thought that in a post-exilic promise, Zechariah 3:8, "I will bring forth My servant the Branch," we had an identification of the hero of the first part of the Book of Isaiah, "the Branch out of Jesse’s roots," {Isaiah 11:1} with the hero of the second part; but "servant" here may so easily be meant in the more general sense in which it occurs in the Old Testament, that we are not justified in finding any more particular connection. In Judaism beyond the Old Testament the national and personal interpretations of the Servant were both current. The Targum of Jonathan, and both the Talmud of Jerusalem and the Talmud of Babylon, recognise the personal Messiah in chapter 53; the Targum also identifies him as early as in chapter 42. This personal interpretation the Jews abandoned only after they had entered on their controversy with Christian theologians; and in the cruel persecutions, which Christians inflicted upon them throughout the Middle Ages, they were supplied with only too many reasons for insisting that chapter 53 was prophetic of suffering Israel-the martyr-people-as a whole. It is a strange history-the history of our race, where the first through their pride and error so frequently become the last, and the last through their sufferings are set in God’s regard with the first. But of all its strange reversals none surely was ever more complete than when the followers of Him, who is set forth in this passage, the unresisting and crucified Saviour of men, behaved in His Name with so great a cruelty as to be righteously taken by His enemies for the very tyrants and persecutors whom the passage condemns.

2. But it is in the New Testament that we see the most perfect reflection of the Servant of the Lord, both as People and Person.

In the generation from which Jesus sprang there was, amid national circumstances closely resembling those in which the Second Isaiah was written, a counterpart of that Israel within Israel, which our prophet has personified in chapter 49. The holy nation lay again in bondage to the heathen, partly in its own land, partly scattered across the world; and Israel’s righteousness, redemption, and ingathering were once more the questions of the day. The thoughts of the masses, as of old in Babylonian days, did not rise beyond a political restoration; and although their popular leaders insisted upon national righteousness as necessary to this, it was a righteousness mainly of the ceremonial kind-hard, legal, and often more unlovely in its want of enthusiasm and hope than even the political fanaticism of the vulgar. But around the temple, and in quiet recesses of the land, a number of pious and ardent Israelites lived on the true milk of the word, and cherished for the nation hopes of a far more spiritual character. If the Pharisees laid their emphasis on the law, this chosen Israel drew their inspiration rather from prophecy; and of all prophecy it was the Book of Isaiah, and chiefly the latter part of it, on which they lived.

As we enter the Gospel history from the Old Testament, we feel at once that Isaiah is in the air. In this fair opening of the new year of the Lord, the harbinger notes of the book awaken about us on all sides like the voices of birds come back with the spring. In Mary’s song, the phrase "He hath holpen His Servant Israel"; in the description of Simeon, that he waited for the "consolation of Israel," a phrase taken from the "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people" in Isaiah 40:1; such frequent phrases, too, as "the redemption of Jerusalem, a light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel, light to them that sit in darkness, and other echoed promises of light and peace and the remission of sins, are all repeated from our evangelical prophecy. In the fragments of the Baptist’s preaching, which are extant, it is remarkable that almost every metaphor and motive may be referred to the Book of Isaiah, and mostly to its exilic half: "the generation of vipers," the "trees and axe laid to the root," "the threshing floor and fan," "the fire," "the bread and clothes to the poor," and especially the proclamation of Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God that beareth the sin of the world." To John himself were applied the words of Isaiah 40:1-31 : "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ye "ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight"; and when Christ sought to rouse again the Baptist’s failing faith it was of Isaiah 61:1-11 that He reminded him.

Our Lord, then, sprang from a generation of Israel, which had a strong conscience of the national aspect of the Service of God, -a generation with Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 at its heart. We have seen how He Himself insisted upon the uniqueness of Israel’s place among the nations-"salvation is of the Jews"-and how closely He identified Himself with His people-"I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But all Christ’s strong expression of Israel’s distinction from the rest of mankind is weak and dim compared with His expression of His own distinction from the rest of Israel. If they were the one people with whom God worked in the world, He was the one Man whom God sent to work upon them, and to use them to work upon others. We cannot tell how early the sense of this distinction came to the Son of Mary. Luke reveals it in Him, before He had taken His place as a citizen and was still within the family: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?" At His first public appearance He had it fully, and others acknowledged it. In the opening year of His ministry it threatened to be only a Distinction of the First-"they took Him by force, and would have made Him King." But as time went on it grew evident that it was to be, not the Distinction of the First, but the Distinction of the Only. The enthusiastic crowds melted away: the small band, whom He had most imbued with His spirit, proved that they could follow Him but a certain length in His consciousness of His Mission. Recognising in Him the supreme prophet-"Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life"-they immediately failed to understand that suffering also must be endured by Him for the people: "Be it far from Thee, Lord." This suffering was His conscience and His burden alone. Now, we cannot overlook the fact that the point at which Christ’s way became so solitary was the same point at which we felt our prophet’s language cease to oblige us to understand by it a portion of the people, and begin to be applicable to a single individual, -the point, namely, where prophecy passes into martyrdom. But whether our prophet’s pictures of the suffering and atoning Servant of the Lord are meant for some aspect of the national experience, or as the portrait of a real individual, it is certain that in His martyrdom and service of ransom Jesus felt Himself to be absolutely alone. He who had begun His Service of God with all the people on His side, consummated the same with the leaders and the masses of the nation against Him, and without a single partner from among His own friends, either in the fate which overtook Him, or in the conscience with which He bore it.

Now all this parallel between Jesus of Nazareth and the Servant of the Lord is unmistakable enough, even in this mere outline; but the details of the Gospel narrative and the language of the Evangelists still more emphasise it. Christ’s herald hailed Him with words which gather up the essence of Isaiah 53:1-12 : "Behold the Lamb of God." He read His own commission from chapter 61: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me." To describe His first labours among the people, His disciples again used words from chapter 53: "Himself bare our sicknesses." To paint His manner of working in face of opposition they quoted the whole passage from chapter 42: "Behold My Servant He shall not strive." The name Servant was often upon His own lips in presenting Himself: "Behold, I am among you as one that serveth." When His office of prophecy passed into martyrdom, He predicted for Himself the treatment which is detailed in chapter 50, -the "smiting," "plucking" and "spitting": and in time, by Jew and Gentile, this treatment was inflicted on Him to the very letter. As to His consciousness in fulfilling something more than a martyrdom, and alone among the martyrs of Israel offering by His death an expiation for His people’s sins, His own words are frequent and clear enough to form a counterpart to chapter 53. With them before us, we cannot doubt that He felt Himself to be the One of whom the people in that chapter speak, as standing over against them all, sinless, and yet bearing their sins. But on the night on which He was betrayed, while just upon the threshold of this extreme and unique form of service, into which it has been given to no soul of man, that ever lived, to be conscious of following Him-as if anxious that His disciples should not be so overwhelmed by the awful part in which they could not imitate Him as to forget the countless other ways in which they were called to fulfil His serving spirit-"He took a towel and girded Himself, and when He had washed their feet, He said unto them, I, I, then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet"-thereby illustrating what is so plainly set forth in our prophecy, that short of the expiation, of which only One in His sinlessness has felt the obligation, and short of the martyrdom which it has been given to but few of His people to share with Him, there are a thousand humble forms rising out of the needs of everyday life, in which men are called to employ towards one another the gentle and self-forgetful methods of the true Servant of God.

With the four Gospels in existence, no one doubts or can doubt that Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the cry, "Behold My Servant." With Him it ceased to be a mere ideal, and took its place as the greatest achievement in history.

3. In the earliest discourses of the Apostles, therefore, it is not wonderful that Jesus should be expressly designated by them as the Servant of God, -the Greek word used being that by which the Septuagint specially translates the Hebrew term in Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 : "god hath glorified His Servant Jesus. Unto you first, God, having raised up His Servant, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities…In this city against Thy holy Servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, were gathered together to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel foreordained to pass. Grant that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Thy Holy Servant Jesus." It must also be noticed, that in one of the same addresses, and again by Stephen in his argument before the Sanhedrim, Jesus is called "The Righteous One,": doubtless an allusion to the same title for the Servant in Isaiah 53:11. Need we recall the interpretation of Isaiah 53:1-12 by Philip?

It is known to all how Peter develops this parallel in his First Epistle, borrowing the figures, but oftener the very words, of Isaiah 53:1-12 to apply to Christ. Like the Servant of the Lord, Jesus is "as a lamb": He is a patient sufferer in silence; He "is the Righteous (again the classic title) for the unrighteous"; in exact quotation from the Greek of Isaiah 53:1-12 : "He did no sin, neither was found guile in His mouth, ye were as sheep gone astray, but He Himself hath borne our sins, with whose stripes ye are healed."

Paul applies two quotations from Isaiah 52:13-15 through Isaiah 53:1-12 to Christ: "I have striven to preach the Gospel not where Christ was named; as it is written, To whom He was not spoken of they shall see, and they that have not heard shall understand; and He hath made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin." And none will doubt that when he so often disputed that the "Messiah must suffer," or wrote "Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures," he had Isaiah 53:1-12 in mind, exactly as we have seen it applied to the Messiah by Jewish scholars a hundred years later than Paul.

4. Paul, however, by no means confines the prophecy of the Servant of the Lord to Jesus the Messiah. In a way which has been too much overlooked by students of the subject, Paul revives and reinforces the collective interpretation of the Servant. He claims the Servant’s duties and experience for himself, his fellow-labourers in the Gospel, and all believers.

In Antioch of Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas said of themselves to the Jews: "For so hath the Lord" commanded us, saying, "I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation to the ends of the earth." {Acts 13:47, after Isaiah 49:6} Again, in the eighth of Romans, Paul takes the Servant’s confident words, and speaks them of all God’s true people. "He is near that justifieth me, who is he that condemneth me?" cried the Servant in our prophecy, and Paul echoes for all believers: "It is God that justifieth, who is he that condemneth?" {Isaiah 1:8 and Romans 8:33; Romans 8:24} And again, in his second letter to Timothy, he says, speaking of that pastor’s work, "For the servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle towards all"; words which were borrowed from, or suggested by, Isaiah 42:1-3. In these instances, as well as in his constant use of the terms "slave," "servant," "minister," with their cognates, Paul fulfils the intention of Jesus, who so continually, by example, parable, and direct commission, enforced the life of His people as a Service to the Lord.

5. Such, then, is the New Testament reflection of the Prophecy of the Servant of the Lord, both as People and Person. Like all physical reflections, this moral one may be said, on the whole, to stand reverse to its original. In Isaiah 40:1-31; Isaiah 41:1-29; Isaiah 42:1-25; Isaiah 43:1-28; Isaiah 44:1-28; Isaiah 45:1-25; Isaiah 46:1-13; Isaiah 47:1-15; Isaiah 48:1-22; Isaiah 49:1-26; Isaiah 50:1-11; Isaiah 51:1-23; Isaiah 52:1-15; Isaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 54:1-17; Isaiah 55:1-13; Isaiah 56:1-12; Isaiah 57:1-21; Isaiah 58:1-14; Isaiah 59:1-21; Isaiah 60:1-22; Isaiah 61:1-11; Isaiah 62:1-12; Isaiah 63:1-19; Isaiah 64:1-12; Isaiah 65:1-25; Isaiah 66:1-24 the Servant is People first, Person second. But in the New Testament-except for a faint and scarcely articulate application to Israel in the beginning of. the gospels-the Servant is Person first and People afterwards. The Divine Ideal which our prophet saw narrowing down from the Nation to an Individual, was owned and realised by Christ. But in Him it was not exhausted. With added warmth and light, with a new power of expansion, it passed through Him to fire the hearts and enlist the wills of an infinitely greater people than the Israel for whom it was originally designed. With this witness, then, of history to the prophecies of the Servant, our way in expounding and applying them is clear. Jesus Christ is their perfect fulfilment and illustration. But we who are His Church are to find in them our ideal and duty, -our duty to God and to the world. In this, as in so many other matters, the unfulfilled prophecy of Israel is the conscience of Christianity.

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