Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)The former things.—Not, as the Authorised Version suggests, the things of the remote past, but those that lie at the head, or beginning of things to come—the near future. Can the false gods predict them as the pledge and earnest of predictions that go farther? Can they see a single year before them? We note that the challenge exactly corresponds to Isaiah’s own method of giving “signs” that his words are not idly spoken (Isaiah 7:10-14; Isaiah 38:7-8). The other meaning is maintained, however, by some critics as more in harmony with Isaiah 43:18. The things “for to come” lie, as it were, in the middle future, the “hereafter” of Isaiah 41:23, in the more remote. All are alike hidden from the gods of the heathen oracles.
And show us what shall happen - None but the true God can discern the future, and predict what is to occur. To be able to do this, is therefore a proof of divinity to which God often appeals as a demonstration of his own divine character (see Isaiah 44:7-8; Isaiah 45:3-7; Isaiah 46:9-10). This idea, that none but the true God can know all things, and can with certainty foretell future events, is one that was admitted even by the pagan (see Xen. Cyr. i. 'The immortal gods know all things, both the past, the present, and those things which shall proceed from each thing. It was on this belief also that the worshippers of idols endeavored to sustain the credit of their idol-gods; and accordingly, nearly all the reputation which the oracle at Delphi, and other shrines, obtained, arose from the remarkable sagacity which was evinced in predicting future events, or the skillful ambiguity in which they so couched their responses as to be able to preserve their influence whatever might be the result.
Let them show the former things what they be - The idea in this passage seems to be, 'Let them foretell the entire series of events; let them predict in their order, the things which shall first occur, as well as those which shall finally happen. Let them not select merely an isolated and unconnected event in futurity, but let them declare those which shall have a mutual relation and dependency, and whose causes are now hid.' The argument in the passage is, that it required a far more profound knowledge to predict the serges of events as they should actually occur; to foretell their order of occur rence, than it did to foretell one single isolated occurrence. The latter, the false prophets of the pagan often undertook to do; and undoubtedly they often evinced great sagacity in it. But they never undertook to detail minutely a series of occurrences, and to state the order in which they would happen. In the Scriptures, it is the common way to foretell the order of events, or a series of transactions pertaining often to many individuals or nations, and stretching far into futurity. And it is perfectly manifest that none could do this but God (compare Isaiah 46:10).
Or declare us things for to come - Declare any event that is to occur; anything in the future. If they cannot predict the order of things, or a series of events, let them clearly foretell any single event in futurity.
former things … the latter end of them—show what former predictions the idols have given, that we may compare the event ("latter end") with them; or give new prophecies ("declare things to come") (Isa 42:9), [Maurer]. Barnes explains it more reconditely, "Let them foretell the entire series of events, showing, in their order, the things which shall first occur, as well as those which shall finally happen"; the false prophets tried to predict isolated events, having no mutual dependency; not a long series of events mutually and orderly connected, and stretching far into futurity. They did not even try to do this. None but God can do it (Isa 46:10; 44:7, 8). "Or … things to come" will, in this view, mean, Let them, if they cannot predict the series, even predict plainly any detached events.Let them; either the idols; or, which is all one, the idolaters in the name and by the help of their idols.
What shall happen; all future events; which he divides into two sorts in the following clause, the former and the latter, as we shall see.
Let them show the former things; which is not to be understood of such things as are past, for such things might easily be known by men from history, much more by the devils who possessed and acted in their idols; but of such things as should shortly come to pass, which may be better discerned than those things which are yet at a great distance. So he propounds the easiest part first. Let us try whether they can foretell 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, Heb. 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, or let us know by their information.
The latter end of them; the consequence of them, whether the events did answer to their predictions, or what things happened next after those former things.
Declare us things for to come, to wit, hereafter, or after a long time; which limitation may be easily gathered, both from the opposition of this clause to the former, and from the next following clause, where it is so limited and explained.
and show us what shall happen: what shall come to pass hereafter; and by that prove their divinity; for none but God can foretell things to come with certainty; for everything else but what comes from God, by his prophets, is all conjecture, ambiguous, uncertain, mere juggle, trick, and deception, as were the oracles of the Heathens; but what is clearly and plainly foretold, and agreeably to the prediction comes to pass, is a proof of deity, and as such is here challenged. The "us" here, and the "we" in the following clauses, either design God, and the Christians, the true worshippers of him; or rather the three divine Persons in the Godhead, Father, Son, and Spirit, the one true God, in opposition to the gods of the Heathens. The Targum renders it,
"what shall happen to us:''
let them show the former things what they be: either what were before the creation of the world, as Jarchi; what were purposed, decreed, and determined so early to be done; or let them write, or inspire their prophets to write, a history of the creation, and of the transactions of former times, as Moses did, under the inspiration of God; or let them show what things before predicted by them have come to pass, agreeably to their predictions; or rather "the first things, which may be, show" (y); what will first or presently come to pass, that show unto us if you can:
that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or, "and we will set our hearts upon them" (z); weigh them well in our minds, and diligently and attentively consider them, how and in what manner it is foretold they shall come to pass, and take notice and observe the issue of them, and whether the event answers to the prediction: or "declare us things for to come"; which are at a great distance; tell us not only what shall be done in the present age, but onward to the end of the world.Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)22. bring them forth and shew] It is assumed that the “strong arguments” must be predictions.
the former things] i.e. “things past” (from the standpoint of the speaker) as opposed to things still future (things to come). The expression (hâ-rî’shônôth) occurs with great frequency in the first part of this prophecy. Sometimes the stress lies on the event, sometimes on the prediction; but in reality the phrase includes both ideas—“past events as predicted.” So here the challenge is to produce past predictions which have been already verified by the event. There is no ground whatever for the view of Delitzsch and others that in this verse hâ-rî’shônôth refers to events still future, but in the immediate future, as opposed to the more remote future (“things to come”). See G. A. Smith, Exposition, p. 121, note.
the latter end of them] their issue. Sense and parallelism are undoubtedly improved if (with Duhm) we transpose the last two clauses, reading the closing lines thus:
the former things, what they are do ye announce, that we may lay it to heart; or the coming things let us hear, that we may know their issue.Verse 22. - Let them... show us what will happen. God claims that the power of predicting the future is his own inalienable prerogative. He defies the idol-gods and their votaries to give any clear prediction of future events. No doubt the claim to possess the power was made very generally among the idolatrous nations, who almost universally practised divination, and in many cases possessed oracles. But it was a false claim, based upon fraud and cunning, which deceived men as often as dependence was placed upon it (Herod., 1:53, 91) and landed them in misfortune. The former things... things for to come. Some commentators regard "the former things" as things actually past - "the beginnings of history, for instance, which to the heathen nations were wrapped in darkness" (Kay); but it seems better, on the whole, to understand (with Vitringa, Stier, Hahn, Cheyne, and Delitzsch) by "the former things" those in the immediate future, by "things for to come" those about to happen in remoter times. The former are, of course, much the easier to predict, since they fall to some extent within the domain of human foresight; the latter are more difficult; but the idol-gods are challenged to produce either the one or the other. What they be. A definite and clear statement is required to preclude such vague and ambiguous utterances as the heathen oracles delighted to put forth. That we may consider them (or, lay them to heart), and know the latter end of them; i.e. compare them with the event, when the time comes. 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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