Isaiah 41:21 Commentaries: "Present your case," the LORD says. "Bring forward your strong arguments," The King of Jacob says.
Isaiah 41:21
Produce your cause, said the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, said the King of Jacob.
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(21) Produce your cause.—The scene of Isaiah 41:1 is reproduced. The worshippers of idols, as the prophet sees them in his vision hurrying hither and thither to consult their oracles, are challenged, on the ground not only of the great things God hath done, but of His knowledge of those things. The history of Herodotus supplies some striking illustrations. Crœus and the Cumœans, and the Phocæans, and the Athenians are all sending to Delphi, or consulting their seers, as to this startling apparition of a new conqueror.

Your strong reasons.—Literally, bulwarks, or strongholds. So we speak of impregnable proofs.

Isaiah 41:21-24. Produce your cause — He renews his challenge to the idolaters to plead the cause of their idols, and give convincing proof of their divinity: see on Isaiah 41:1. Bring forth your strong reasons — Hebrew, הגישׁו עצמותיכם, which Bishop Lowth renders, “Produce these your mighty powers;” and Jerome, “Accedant idola vestra, quæ putatis esse fortissima,” let those of your idols, whom you think most powerful, approach. “I prefer this,” says the bishop, “to all other interpretations of this place. The false gods are called upon to come forth and appear in person, and to give evident demonstration of their foreknowledge and power, by foretelling future events, and exerting their power in doing good or evil.” Let them — Either the idols, or the idolaters in the name and by the help of their idols; show us what shall happen — All future events, which he divides into two sorts in the following clause, the former and the latter. Let them show the former things — Let the idols, or you their worshippers, prove that they ever uttered any true oracles or prophecies relating to former times, and, that the event hath exactly answered the prediction, and this will give credit to any predictions they shall deliver relating to things yet future. Or, by the former things, may be meant such things as should shortly come to pass, which might be better discerned than those things which were yet at a greater distance. So understood, he proposes the easiest part first. Let us try whether they can foretel those things which are even at the door, and, if so, we will try them further. Let them tell us what things shall happen, and in what order; which first and which last. That we may consider them — Hebrew, ונשׁימה לבנו, and we will set our heart to it. We will allow the argument its due weight, and either fairly answer it, or give up our cause against idols; and know — That we may know; the latter end of them — The consequence of them, as אחריתןmay be rendered, whether the events answer to their predictions. Or declare us things for to come — Namely, after a long time. That we may know that ye are gods — That we may have, if not a certain proof, yet a probable argument of your deity. Yea, do good or do evil — Protect your worshippers, whom I intend to destroy, or destroy my people, whom I intend to save; that we may be dismayed, &c. — That I and my people may be astonished, and forced to acknowledge your godhead. Behold, ye are of nothing — You lately were nothing, without any being at all; and your work of naught — Your operations are like your beings; there is no reality in your beings, nor efficacy in your actions. An abomination is he that chooseth you — He that chooseth you for his gods is most abominable for his folly, as well as his wickedness.41:21-29 There needs no more to show the folly of sin, than to bring to notice the reasons given in defence of it. There is nothing in idols worthy of regard. They are less than nothing, and worse than nothing. Let the advocates of other doctrines than that of salvation through Christ, bring their arguments. Can they tell of a cure for human depravity? Jehovah has power which cannot be withstood; this he will make appear. But the certain knowledge of the future must be only with Jehovah, who fulfils his own plans. All prophecies, except those of the Bible, have been uncertain. In the work of redemption the Lord showed himself much more than in the release of the Jews from Babylon. The good tidings the Lord will send in the gospel, is a mystery hid from ages and generations. A Deliverer is raised up for us, of nobler name and greater power than the deliverer of the captive Jews. May we be numbered among his obedient servants and faithful friends.Produce your cause - This address is made to the same persons who are referred to in Isaiah 41:1 - the worshippers of idols; and the prophet here returns to the subject with reference to a further argument on the comparative power of Yahweh and idols. In the former part of the chapter, God had urged his claims to confidence from the fact that he had raised up Cyrus; that the idols were weak and feeble compared with him; and from the fact that it was his fixed purpose to defend his people, and to meet and refresh them when faint and weary. In the verses which follow Isaiah 41:21, he urges his claims to confidence from the fact that he alone was able to predict future events, and calls on the worshippers of idols to show their claims in the same manner. This is the 'cause' which is now to be tried.

Bring forth your strong reasons - Adduce the arguments which you deem to be of the greatest strength and power (compare the notes at Isaiah 41:1). The object is, to call on them to bring forward the most convincing demonstration on which they relied, of their power and their ability to save. The argument to which God appeals is, that he had foretold future events. He calls on them to show that they had given, or could give, equal demonstration of their divinity. Lowth regards this as a call on the idol-gods to come forth in person and show their strength. But the interpretation which supposes that it refers to their reasons, or arguments, accords better with the parallelism, and with the connection.

21. A new challenge to the idolaters (see Isa 41:1, 7) to say, can their idols predict future events as Jehovah can (Isa 41:22-25, &c.)?

your strong reasons—the reasons for idol-worship which you think especially strong.

Produce your cause: the prophet having pleaded God’s cause against the idolatrous Gentiles, whom he challenged to a dispute, Isaiah 41:1, he now reneweth the challenge, and gives them liberty and invitation to speak whatsoever they can on the behalf of their idols.

Bring forth your strong reasons, to prove the divinity of your idols. Produce your cause, saith the Lord,.... The Lord having comforted his people under their afflictions and persecutions from their enemies in the first times of Christianity, returns to the controversy between him and the idolatrous Heathens, and challenges them to bring their cause into open court, and let it be publicly tried, that it may be seen on what side truth lies:

bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob; or King of saints, the true Israel of God, who acknowledge the Lord as their King and their God, and whom he rules over, protects and defends; and this title is assumed for the comfort of them, that though he is King over all the nations of the world, yet in an eminent and peculiar sense their King; and he does not style himself the God of Jacob, though he was, because this was the thing in controversy, and the cause to be decided, whether he was the true God, or the gods of the Gentiles; and therefore their votaries are challenged to bring forth the strongest reasons and arguments they could muster together, in proof of the divinity of their idols; their "bony" arguments, as the word (x) signifies; for what bones are to the body, that strong arguments are to a cause, the support and stability of it.

(x) os.

{r} Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.

(r) He bids the idolaters to prove their religion and to bring forth their idols, that they may be tried whether they know all things, and can do all things, which if they cannot do, he concludes that they are not gods, but vile idols.

21. your strong reasons] Lit. “your strengths,” a military metaphor transferred to controversy; cf. Job 13:12. The related word ‘iṣma is used in the same way in Arabic.

the King of Jacob] (Cf. ch. Isaiah 43:15, Isaiah 44:6), referring back, perhaps, to Isaiah 41:8 f.,—the King whose “servant” Jacob is.

21–24. The argument of Isaiah 41:1-4 is resumed, but now the idols (Isaiah 41:23), not their worshippers, are addressed. Foreknowledge is the test of divinity. Can the idols produce any instance whatever of their power to predict, or indeed any proof of life and activity at all?Verses 21-29. - JEHOVAH'S CONTROVERSY WITH THE NATIONS AND THEIR IDOL-GODS. The argument is now taken up from vers. 1-4. Jehovah and his worshippers are on the one side; the idol-gods and their votaries on the other. The direct challenge, however, is given by Jehovah himself to the idols:

1. What predictions of their own can they bring forward as proofs of supernatural knowledge?

2. What indications can they give of power either to do good or to do evil (vers. 22, 23)? If they can do neither, they are vanity (ver. 24). Jehovah has both reared up Cyrus he and he only - and has announced the good tidings to his people (vers. 25-27). No such announcement has been made by the idol-gods; they are therefore mere "wind and confusion" (vers. 28, 29). Verse 21. - Produce your cause. The nations had been told to "draw near" - to "keep silence" while God spoke - and "then to speak" (ver. 1). Now the time for them to speak is come, and they are challenged to "produce" and plead "their cause." Your strong reasons; literally, your bulwarks, or defences. Saith the King of Jacob. The king and tutelary god of the nation, Israel, really holding the position that the idol-gods were regarded as holding towards the peoples that worshipped them. The "kingly" character of the idol-gods was indicated in such names as Moloch (equivalent to "king"), Melkarth (equivalent to "king of the city"), Adrammelech (equivalent to "glorious king"), Baal (equivalent to "lord"), Adonis (equivalent to "my lord"), etc. The consolatory words, "Fear not," are now repeated, for the purpose of once more adding the promise that Israel will not succumb to its foes, but will acquire power over its enemies. "Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and handful Israel: I will help thee, saith Jehovah; and thy Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I have made thee a threshing roller, a sharp new one, with double edges: thou wilt thresh mountains, and pound them; and hills thou wilt make like chaff. Thou wilt winnow them, and wind carries them away, and tempest scatters them: and thou wilt rejoice in Jehovah, and glory in the Holy One of Israel." Israel, which is now helplessly oppressed, is called "worm of Jacob" (gen. appos.) in compassion, i.e., Jacob that is like a worm, probably with some allusion to Psalm 22:7; for the image of the Messiah enriches itself in these discourses, inasmuch as Israel itself is looked upon in a Messianic light, so that the second David does not stand by the side of Israel, but appears as Israel's heart, or true and inmost essence. The people are then addressed as the "people of Israel," with some allusion to the phrase מספּר מתי (i.e., few men, easily numbered) in Genesis 34:30; Deuteronomy 4:27 (lxx ὀλιγοστὸσ ̓Ισραήλ; Luther, Ir armer hauffe Israel, ye poor crowd of Israel). They no longer formed the compact mass of a nation; the band of the commonwealth was broken: they were melted down into a few individuals, scattered about hither and thither. But it would not continue so. "I help thee" (perfect of certainty) is Jehovah's solemn declaration; and the Redeemer (redemtor, Leviticus 25:48-49) of His now enslaved people is the Holy One of Israel, with His love, which perpetually triumphs over wrath. Not only will He set it free, but He will also endow it with might over its oppressors; samtı̄kh is a perfect of assurance (Ges. 126, 4); mōrag (roller) signifies a threshing-sledge (Arab. naureg, nōreg), which has here the term חרוּץ (Isaiah 28:27) as a secondary name along with חדשׁ, and is described as furnished on the under part of the two arms of the sledge not only with sharp knives, but with two-edged knives (פּיפיּות a reduplication, like מאסּאה in Isaiah 27:8, whereas מימי is a double plural). Just like such a threshing machine would Israel thresh and grind to powder from that time forth both mountains and hills. This is evidently a figurative expression for proud and mighty foes, just as wind and tempest denote the irresistible force of Jehovah's aid. The might of the enemy would be broken down to the very last remnant, whereas Israel would be able to rejoice and glory in its God.
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