Isaiah 41:1
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.
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(1) O islands.—See Note on Isaiah 40:15.

Let the people renew their strength . . .—The same phrase as in Isaiah 40:31, but here, perhaps, with a touch of irony. The heathen are challenged to the great controversy, and will need all their “strength” and “strong reasons” if they accept the challenge. In what follows we have to think of the prophet as having, like Balaam, a vision of what shall come to pass in the “latter days” (Numbers 24:20), and seeing not only the forms of the old empires on their way to Hades, as in Isaiah 14:9-12, but the appearance on the scene of the new conqueror.

Isaiah 41:1. Keep, &c. — “The prophet, having in view the subversion of idolatry, had, in the former chapter, from Isaiah 41:18, argued against it, from the essence and nature of God, the supreme Creator and Ruler of the world, being such as not to be represented by any corporeal matter or figure. To this disputation he subjoined a consolation, directed to the people of God, from Isaiah 41:27 to the end of the chapter. Therefore, after this consolatory parenthesis, he renews his disputation against idolaters, by an argument taken from God’s certain foreknowledge, and foretelling of future events, from which he selects that remarkable one respecting Cyrus, as the deliverer of the people of God, and the destroyer of Babylon: an event utterly unknown to idols and idolaters, and therefore an astonishment to the nations; and yet an event which God so long time before exactly foretold in every circumstance by our prophet. He who can thus predict future events, the prophet urges, must be allowed to possess true divinity. He who cannot, has no claim to that honour. The prophet the rather makes use of this argument, because paganism so much gloried in its false prophecies and oracles. Here then is God exhibited, as if appearing in public, and preparing himself to dispute with idolaters, for his truth and glory; and therefore the islands and people, all the nations of the world, are summoned to plead their cause; and an awful silence is enjoined, according to the forms observed in courts of justice, for both in this and Isaiah 41:21 the expressions and ideas are taken from those courts.” See Vitringa and Dodd. The phrase, Let the people renew their strength, signifies, “Let them prepare themselves, and come forth to the cause, furnished with all the strength of argument and reason they can collect; let them unite all their powers, and set their cause in the best light possible.”

41:1-9 Can any heathen god raise up one in righteousness, make what use of him he pleases, and make him victorious over the nations? The Lord did so with Abraham, or rather, he would do so with Cyrus. Sinners encourage one another in the ways of sin; shall not the servants of the living God stir up one another in his service? God's people are the seed of Abraham his friend. This is certainly the highest title ever given to a mortal. It means that Abraham, by Divine grace, was made like to God, and that he was admitted to communion with Him. Happy are the servants of the Lord, whom he has called to be his friends, and to walk with him in faith and holy obedience. Let not such as have thus been favoured yield to fear; for the contest may be sharp, but the victory shall be sure.The design of this chapter is the same as that of the preceding, and it is to be regarded as the continuation of the argument commenced there. Its object is to lead those who were addressed, to put confidence in God. In the introduction to Isaiah 40 it was remarked, that this is to be considered as addressed to the exile Jews in Babylon, near the close of their captivity. Their country, city, and temple had been laid waste. The prophet represents himself as bringing consolation to them in this situation; particularly by the assurance that their long captivity was about to end; that they were about to be restored to their own land, and thai their trials were to be succeeded by brighter and happier times. In the previous chapter there were general reasons given why they should put their confidence in God - arising from the firmness of his promises, the fact that he had created all things; that he had all power, etc. In this chapter there is a more definite view given, and a clearer light thrown on the mode in which deliverance would be brought to them. The prophet specifies that God would raise up a deliverer, and that that deliverer would be able to subdue all their enemies. The chapter may be conveniently divided into the following parts:

I. God calls the distant nations to a public investigation of his ability to aid his people; to an argument whether he was able to deliver them; and to the statement of the reasons why they should confide in him Isaiah 41:1.

II. He specifies that he will raise up a man from the east - who should be able to overcome the enemies of the Jews, and to effect their deliverance Isaiah 41:2-4.

III. The consternation of the nations at the approach of Cyrus, and their excited and agitated fleeing to their idols is described Isaiah 41:5-7.

IV. God gives to his people the assurance of his protection, and friendship Isaiah 41:8-14. This is shown:

1. Because they were the children of Abraham, his friend, and be was bound in covenant faithfulness to protect them Isaiah 41:8-9.

2. By direct assurance that he would aid and protect them; that though they were feeble, yet he was strong enough to deliver them Isaiah 41:10-14.

V. He says that he will enable them to overcome and scatter their foes, as the chaff is driven away on the mountains by the whirlwind Isaiah 41:15-16.

VI. He gives to his people the special promise of assistance and comfort. He will meet them in their desolate condition, and will give them consolation as if fountains were opened in deserts, and trees producing grateful shade and fruit were planted in the wilderness Isaiah 41:17-20.

VII. He appeals directly to the enemies of the Jews, to the worshippers of idols. He challenges them to give any evidence of the power or the divinity of their idols; and appeals to the fact that he had foretold future events; that he had raised up a deliverer for his people in proof of his divinity, and his power to save Isaiah 41:21-29. The argument of the whole is, that the idol-gods were unable to defend the nations which trusted in them; that God would raise up a mighty prince who should be able to deliver the Jews from their long and painful calamity, and that they, therefore, should put their trust in Yahweh.

Keep silence before me - (Compare Zechariah 2:13) The idea is, that the pagan nations were to be silent while God should speak, or with a view of entering into an argument with him respecting the comparative power of himself and of idols to defend their respective worshippers. The argument is stated in following verses, and preparatory to the statement of that argument, the people are exhorted to be silent. This is probably to evince a proper awe and reverence for Yahweh, before whom the argument was to be conducted, and a proper sense of the magnitude and sacredness of the inquiry (compare Isaiah 41:21). And it may be remarked here, that the same reasons will apply to all approaches which are made to God. When we are about to come before him in prayer or praise; to confess our sins and to plead for pardon; when we engage an argument respecting his being, plans, or perfections; or when we draw near to him in the closet, the family, or the sanctuary, the mind should be filled with awe and reverence. It is well, it is proper, to pause and think of what our emotions should be, and of what we should say, before God (compare Genesis 28:16-17).

O islands - (איים 'iyiym). This word properly means islands, and is so translated here by the Vulgate, the Septuagint, the Chaldee, the Syriac, and the Arabic. But the word also is used to denote maritime countries; Countries that were situated on seacoasts, or the regions beyond sea (see the note at Isaiah 20:6). The word is applied, therefore, to the islands of the Mediterranean; to the maritime coasts; and then, also, it comes to be used in the sense of any lands or coasts far remote, or beyond sea (see Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 24:15; the notes at Isaiah 40:15; Isaiah 41:5; Isaiah 42:4, Isaiah 42:10, Isaiah 42:12; Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 25:22; Daniel 11:18). Here it is evidently used in the sense of distant nations or lands; the people who were remote from Palestine, and who were the worshippers of idols. The argument is represented as being with them, and they are invited to prepare their minds by suitable reverence for God for the argument which was to be presented.

And let the people renew their strength - On the word 'renew,' see the note at Isaiah 40:31. Here it means, 'Let them make themselves strong; let them prepare the argument; let them be ready to urge as strong reasons as possible; let them fit themselves to enter into the controversy about the power and glory of Yahweh' (see Isaiah 41:21).

Let us come near together to judgment - The word 'judgment' here means evidently controversy, argumentation, debate. Thus it is used in Job 9:32. The language is that which is used of two parties who come together to try a cause, or to engage in debate; and the sense is, that God proposes to enter into an argumentation with the entire pagan world, in regard to his ability to save his people; that is, he proposes to show the reasons why they should trust in him, rather than dread those under whose power they then were, and by whom they had been oppressed. Lowth renders it, correctly expressing the sense, 'Let us enter into solemn debate together.'


Isa 41:1-29. Additional Reasons Why the Jews Should Place Confidence in God's Promises of Delivering Them; He Will Raise Up a Prince as Their Deliverer, Whereas the Idols Could Not Deliver the Heathen Nations from That Prince.

1. (Zec 2:13). God is about to argue the case; therefore let the nations listen in reverential silence. Compare Ge 28:16, 17, as to the spirit in which we ought to behave before God.

before me—rather (turning), "towards me" [Maurer].

islands—including all regions beyond sea (Jer 25:22), maritime regions, not merely isles in the strict sense.

renew … strength—Let them gather their strength for the argument; let them adduce their strongest arguments (compare Isa 1:18; Job 9:32). "Judgment" means here, to decide the point at issue between us.God called Abraham, and was with him: the nations idolatrous, Isaiah 41:1-8. Israel encouraged by promises of safety and deliverance, Isaiah 41:9-20. The vanity of idols, Isaiah 41:21-24. Redemption by Christ, Isaiah 41:25-29.

Keep silence before me; attend diligently to my plea, and then answer it if you can.

O islands; O you inhabitants of islands, as the next clause explains this. By islands he here means, as he doth Isaiah 40:15, and elsewhere, countries remote from Judea, inhabited by the idolatrous Gentiles, with whom he here debateth his cause.

Let the people renew their strength; strengthen themselves to maintain their cause against me; let them unite all their strength together.

Let them come near unto me, that we may stand together, and plead our cause before any indifferent judge.

Let them speak; I will give them free liberty to say what they can on their own behalf.

Keep silence before me, O islands,.... The great controversy in the world after the coming of Christ, which is expressly spoken of in the preceding chapter, was, as Cocceius observes, whether he was a divine Person; this was first objected to by the Jews, and afterwards by many that bore the Christian name; some, in the times of the apostles, especially the Apostle John; and others in later ages; some affirmed that he was a mere man, as Ebion and Cerinthus; others that he was a created God, as Arius; and others a God by office, as Socinus and his followers; now these are called upon, wherever they were, whether on the continent, or in the isles of the sea; and especially all such places which were separated from Judea by the sea, or which they went to by sea, were called islands, perhaps the European nations and isles are more particularly intended; and now, as when the judge is on the bench, and the court is set, and a cause just going to be tried, silence is proclaimed; so here, Jehovah himself being on the throne, and a cause depending between him and men being about to be tried, they are commanded silence; see Zechariah 2:13,

and let the people renew their strength; muster up all their force, collect the most powerful arguments they had, and produce their strong reasons in favour of their sentiments:

let them come near, then let them speak; let them come into open court, and at the bar plead their cause, and speak out freely and fully all they have to say; and let them not pretend that they were deterred from speaking, and not suffered to make their defence, or were condemned without hearing:

let us come near together in judgment: and fairly try the cause; the issue of which is put upon this single point that follows.

Keep {a} silence before me, O isles; and let the people {b} renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.

(a) God as though he pleaded his cause with all nations requires silence, that he may be heard in his right.

(b) That is, gather all their power and supports.

1. Jehovah calls the heathen nations to a disputation concerning the appearance of Cyrus.

Keep silence before me] A pregnant constr. in the Heb. = Listen in silence unto me. On islands, see on ch. Isaiah 40:15.

renew their strength] The words are somewhat suspicious, as they are repeated from ch. Isaiah 40:31, and the thought is hardly suitable at the beginning of an argument. Job 38:3 is not an exact parallel. Possibly the eye of a scribe may have wandered to the previous verse.

judgment] (mishpâṭ) is used in the same sense as in Malachi 3:5 (= “judicial process.”) Cf. Jdg 4:5.

Verses 1-7. - ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE DELIVERER, AND EFFECT ON THE SURROUNDING NATIONS. Isaiah returns to the standpoint of Isaiah 40:9-11. A deliverer of Israel is about to appear. The nations are therefore summoned to attend, and consider the facts (ver. 1). He will carry all before him (vers 2, 3), being raised up by God (ver. 4). The nations will tremble, and seek the protection of their idol-deities (vers. 5-7). Verse 1. - Keep silence before me, O islands. God is the speaker. The "islands," or maritime lands of Western Asia, are to be silent before him, pondering the facts with a view to future argument. "Then let them speak" (see vers. 21-29). Let the people renew their strength; rather, the peoples or the nations; i.e. the inhabitants of the maritime tracts. To judgment; i.e. to a discussion,, which shall terminate in a right verdict. Isaiah 41:1Summons to the contest: "Be silent to me, ye islands; and let the nations procure fresh strength: let them come near, then speak; we will enter into contest together." The words are addressed to the whole of the heathen world, and first of all to the inhabitants of the western islands and coasts. This was the expression commonly employed in the Old Testament to designate the continent of Europe, the solid ground of which is so deeply cut, and so broken up, by seas and lakes, that it looks as if it were about to resolve itself into nothing but islands and peninsulas. על החרישׁ is a pregnant expression for turning in silence towards a person; just as in Job 13:13 it is used with min, in the sense of forsaking a person in silence. That they may have no excuse if they are defeated, they are to put on fresh strength; just as in Isaiah 40:31 believers are spoken of as drawing fresh strength out of Jehovah's fulness. They are to draw near, then speak, i.e., to reply after hearing the evidence, for Jehovah desires to go through all the forms of a legal process with them in pro et contra. The mishpât is thought of here in a local sense, as a forum or tribunal. But if Jehovah is one party to the cause, who is the judge to pronounce the decision? The answer to this question is the same as at Isaiah 5:3. "The nations," says Rosenmller, "are called to judgment, not to the tribunal of God, but to that of reason." The deciding authority is reason, which cannot fail to recognise the facts, and the consequences to be deduced from them.
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