Isaiah 41:23 Commentaries: Declare the things that are going to come afterward, That we may know that you are gods; Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.
Isaiah 41:23
Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods: yes, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.
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(23) Do good, or do evil.—The challenge reminds us of Elijah’s on Mount Carmel (1Kings 18:27). Can the heathen point to any good or evil fortune which, as having been predicted by this or that deity, might reasonably be thought of as his work? It lies in the nature of the case that every heathen looked to his gods as having sent blessings, or the reverse, but it was only Jehovah who could give the proof supplied by prediction.

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.That we may know that ye are gods - The prediction of future events is the highest evidence of omniscience, and of course of divinity. In this passage it is admitted that if they could do it, it would prove that they were worthy of adoration; and it is demanded, that if they were gods they should be able to make such a prediction as would demonstrate that they were invested with a divine nature.

Yea, do good, or do evil - Do something; show that you have some power; either defend your friends, or prostrate your foes; accomplish something - anything, good or bad, that shall prove that you have power. This is said in opposition to the character which is usually given to idols in the Scriptures - that they were dumb, deaf, dead, inactive, powerless (see Psalm 95:1-11) The command here to 'do evil,' means to punish their enemies, or to inflict vengeance on their foes; and the idea is, that they had no power to do anything; either to do good to their worshippers, or harm to their enemies; and that thus they showed that they were no gods. The same idea is expressed in Jeremiah 10:3-5 : 'They (idols) are upright as the palm-tree, but speak not; they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.'

That we may be dismayed - (See the note at Isaiah 41:10). The word 'we' here refers to those who were the friends and worshippers of Yahweh. 'That I, Yahweh, and my friends and worshippers, may be alarmed, and afraid of what idols may be able to do.' God and his people were regarded as the foes of idols, and God here calls on them to prove that there is any reason why he and his people should be afraid of their power.

And behold it together - That we may all see it; that I and my people may have full demonstration of your power.

23. do good … evil—give any proof at all of your power, either to reward your friends or punish your enemies (Ps 115:2-8).

that we may be dismayed, and behold it together—Maurer translates, "That we (Jehovah and the idols) may look one another in the face (that is, encounter one another, 2Ki 14:8, 11), and see" our respective powers by a trial. Horsley translates, "Then the moment we behold, we shall be dismayed." "We" thus, and in English Version, refers to Jehovah and His worshippers.

That we may know that ye are gods; that we may have, if not a certain proof, yet at least a probable argument, of your deity. It may be objected that the devil hath foretold future events by idols; but it may be answered, that such predictions were but rare, and oftentimes were false, and confuted by the event; and generally were dark and doubtful, as hath been noted; and when they were verified by the event, that was only done by Divine permission and revelation, for the trial or punishment of wicked men, of which we have an instance, Deu 13:1-3, and therefore doth no more prove them to be gods than the predictions made known by God unto the prophets proved them to be gods.

Do good, or

do evil; protect and bless your worshippers whom I intend to destroy, and destroy my people whom I intend to save, and then you have some colour to assert your deity. But, alas! you can neither do good nor evil.

That we may be dismayed, and behold it together; that I and my people may be astonished, and confounded, and forced to acknowledge your godhead. Show the things that are to come hereafter,.... From henceforward to the consummation of all things: so the Targum,

"show what shall come to the end;''

or at the end, the end of all things; or show wonderful things, which shall be hereafter; so Jarchi interprets the word; a word like this having the signification of signs and wonders:

that we may know that ye are gods; as ye are said to be; that we may own and acknowledge you to be such, there being this clear proof of it, if it can be made out, foretelling things to come, both near and far off. The Targum is,

"that we may know whether ye worship idols, in whom there is any profit;''

as if the words were spoken not to the idols, but to the worshippers of them: "yea, do good, or do evil"; not in a moral, but in a civil sense; do good to your friends, to your worshippers; bestow favours upon them, as I do on mine; or inflict punishment on your enemies, such as despise your deity, and will not worship you, as I do on those that despise me, and will not regard my service and worship:

that we may be dismayed, and behold it together: that when we see your deity, and are convinced of it by the above proofs, we may be amazed and astonished, as not expecting such proof, and be confounded, and have no more to object unto it. The Targum is,

"that we may consider and reason together;''

and bring the matter in controversy to an issue, as it is in the next verse.

Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.
23. do good, or do evil] i.e. “do anything whatever, good or bad” (Jeremiah 10:5; Zephaniah 1:12), give any sign of vitality or intelligence.

that we may be dismayed] Rather: that we may stare (in astonishment). (The same word in Isaiah 41:10.)Verse 23. - Yea, do good, or do evil. Here the proof required of the idol-gods is changed. If they cannot prophesy, can they effect anything? Can they do either good or harm? Let them show this. It is a plain "abatement" from the first demand, and therefore properly introduced by "yea" (aph); comp. 1 Kings 8:27. That we may be dismayed; i.e. rather, perhaps, that we may look to it, or examine it; i.e. see if yon have really shown a power of doing anything. At the present time, indeed, the state of His people was a helpless one, but its cry for help was not in vain. "The poor and needy, who seek for water and there is none, their tongue faints for thirst. I Jehovah will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I open streams upon hills of the field, and springs in the midst of the valleys; I make the desert into a pond, and dry land into fountains of water. I give in the desert cedars, acacias, and myrtles, and oleasters; I set in the steppe cypresses, plane-trees, and sherbin-trees together, that they may see, and know, and lay to heart and understand all together, that the hand of Jehovah hath accomplished this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it." Kimchi, Hitzig, and others refer these promises to the returning exiles; but there is also a description, without any restriction to the return home, of the miraculous change which would take place in the now comfortless and helpless condition of the exiles. The shephâyı̄m, i.e., bare, woodless hills rising up from the plain, Jeremiah 12:12, the beqâ‛ōth, or deep valleys, by the sides of which there rise precipitous mountains, and the 'erets tsiyyâh, the land of burning heat or drought (cf., Psalm 63:2), depict the homeless condition of Israel, as it wandered over bald heights and through waterless plains about a land with parched and gaping soil. For the characteristics of the object, which is placed before אענם, we may therefore compare such passages as Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 55:1. נשׁתּה is either a pausal form for נשׁתּה, and therefore the niphal of שׁתת (to set, become shallow, dry up), or a pausal form for נשׁתה, and therefore the kal of נשׁת with dagesh affectuosum, like נתנּוּ in Ezekiel 27:19 (Olshausen, 83, b). The form נשׁתה in Jeremiah 51:30 may just as well be derived from שׁתת (Ges. 67, Anm. 11) as from נשׁת, whereas נשּׁתוּ may certainly be taken as the niphal of שׁתת after the form נמּל, נחר (Ges. 67, Anm. 5), though it would be safer to refer it to a kal נשׁת, which seems to be also favoured by ינּתשׁוּ in Jeremiah 18:14 as a transposition of ינּשׁתוּ. The root נש, of which נשׁת would be a further expansion, really exhibits the meaning to dry up or thirst, in the Arabic nassa; whereas the verbs נוּשׁ, אנשׁ, נסס (Isaiah 10:18), נשׁה, Syr. nas', nos', Arab. nâsa, nasnasa, with the primary meaning to slacken, lose their hold, and נשׁא, נשׁה, נסע, to deceive, derange, and advance, form separate families. Just when they are thus on the point of pining away, they receive an answer to their prayer: their God opens streams, i.e., causes streams to break forth on the hills of the field, and springs in the midst of the valleys. The desert is transformed into a lake, and the steppe of burning sand into fountains of water. What was predicted in Isaiah 35:6-7 is echoed again here - a figurative representation of the manifold fulness of refreshing, consolation, and marvellous help which was to burst all at once upon those who were apparently forsaken of God. What is depicted in Isaiah 41:19, Isaiah 41:20, is the effect of these. It is not merely a scanty vegetation that springs up, but a corresponding manifold fulness of stately, fragrant, and shady trees; so that the steppe, where neither foot nor eye could find a resting-place, is changed, as by a stroke of magic, into a large, dense, well-watered forest, and shines with sevenfold glory - an image of the many-sided manifestations of divine grace which are experienced by those who are comforted now. Isaiah is especially fond of such figures as these (vid., Isaiah 5:7; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 27:6; Isaiah 37:31). There are seven (4 + 3) trees named; seven indicating the divine character of this manifold development (Psychol. p. 188). 'Erez is the generic name for the cedar; shittâh, the acacia, the Egyptian spina (ἄκανθα), Copt. shont; hadas, the myrtle, ‛ēts shemen, the wild olive, as distinguished from zayith (ἡ ἀγριέλαιος, opposed to ἡ ἐλαία in Romans 11:17); berōsh, the cypress, at any rate more especially this; tidhâr we have rendered the "plane-tree," after Saad.; and te'asshūr the "sherbin" (a kind of cedar), after Saad. and Syr. The crowded synonyms indicating sensual and spiritual perception in Isaiah 41:20 (ישׂימוּ, sc. לבּם, Isaiah 41:22) are meant to express as strongly as possible the irresistible character of the impression. They will be quite unable to regard all this as accidental or self-produced, or as anything but the production of the power and grace of their God.
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