Isaiah 41:25 Commentaries: "I have aroused one from the north, and he has come; From the rising of the sun he will call on My name; And he will come upon rulers as upon mortar, Even as the potter treads clay."
Isaiah 41:25
I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call on my name: and he shall come on princes as on mortar, and as the potter treads clay.
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(25) I have raised up one from the north.—The north points to Media, the east to Persia, both of them under the rule of the great Deliverer.

Shall he call upon my name.—The word admits equally of the idea of “invoking” or “proclaiming.” It may almost be said, indeed, that the one implies the other. The words find a fulfilment in the proclamations of Cyrus cited in 2Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:2-4

He shall come upon princes.—The Hebrew noun Sagan is a transitional form of a Persian (Delitzch) or Assyrian (Cheyne) title for a viceroy or satrap.

As the potter treadeth clay.—Commonly the image describes the immediate action of Jehovah. (Jeremiah 18:6; Jeremiah 19:10). Here it is used for the supreme dominance of His instrument.

Isaiah 41:25. I have raised up, &c. — You neither foreknow, nor can do any thing. But I do now fore-tel, and will certainly effect, a great revolution and change in the world, which you shall not be able to hinder; one from the north — Cyrus might be said to come from the north, because he was a Mede by his mother, as he was a Persian by his father; or because a great part of his army was gathered out of Media, which was northward in reference to Judea, and because Darius the Mede was joined with him in this expedition. From the rising, &c., shall he call upon my name — Or proclaim my name, as the words may be rendered, which Cyrus did in express and emphatical terms, Ezra 1:1-2. He shall come upon princes as upon mortar — Treading them down as easily as a man treadeth down mortar.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.I have raised up one - In the previous verses God had shown that the idols had no power of predicting future events. He stakes, so to speak, the question of his divinity on that point, and the whole controversy between him and them is to be decided by the inquiry whether they had the power of foretelling what would come to pass. He here urges his claims to divinity on this ground, that he had power to foretell future events. In illustration of this, he appeals to the fact that he had raised up, that is, in purpose, or would afterward raise up Cyrus, in accordance with his predictions, and in such a way that it would be distinctly seen that he had this power of foretelling future events. To see the force of this argument, it must be remembered that the Jews are contemplated as in Babylon, and near the close of their captivity; that God by the prophets, and especially by Isaiah, distinctly foretold the fact that he would raise up Cyrus to be their deliverer; that these predictions were uttered at least a hundred and fifty years before the time of their fulfillment; and that they would then have abundant evidence that they were accomplished. To these recorded predictions and to their fulfillment, God here appeals, and designs that in that future time when they should be in exile, his people should have evidence that He was worthy of their entire confidence, and that even the pagan should see that Yahweh was the true God, and that the idols were nothing. The personage referred to here is undoubtedly Cyrus (see the notes at Isaiah 41:2; compare Isaiah 45:1).

From the north - In Isaiah 41:2, he is said to have been raised up 'from the east.' Both were true. Cyrus was born in Persia, in the country called in the Scriptures 'the east,' but he early went to Media, and came from Media under the direction of his uncle, Cyaxares, when he attacked and subdued Babylon. Media was situated on the north and northeast of Babylon.

From the rising of the sun - The east - the land of the birth of Cyrus.

Shall he call upon my name - This expression means, probably, that he should acknowledge Yahweh to be the true God, and recognize him as the source of all his success. This he did in his proclamation respecting the restoration of the Jews to their own land: 'Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, Yahweh, God of heaven, hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth' Ezra 1:2. There is no decided evidence that Cyrus regarded himself as a worshipper of Yahweh, or that he was a pious man, but he was brought to make a public recognition of him as the true God, and to feel that he owed the success of his arms to him.

And he shall come upon princes - Upon the kings of the nations against whom he shall make war (see Isaiah 41:2-3). The word rendered here 'princes' (from סגן seggen or סגן ro n sâgân), denotes properly a deputy, a prefect, a governor, or one under another, and is usually applied to the governors of provinces, or the Babyionian princes, or magistrates Jeremiah 51:23, Jeremiah 51:28, Jeremiah 51:57; Ezekiel 23:6, Ezekiel 23:12, Ezekiel 23:33; Daniel 3:2, Daniel 3:27; Daniel 6:8. It is sometimes applied, however, to the chiefs and rulers in Jerusalem in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah Ezr 9:2; Nehemiah 2:16; Nehemiah 4:8, Nehemiah 4:13; Nehemiah 5:7. Here it is used as a general term; and the sense is, that he would tread down and subdue the kings and princes of the nations that he invaded.

As upon mortar - (See the note at Isaiah 10:6).

25. raised up—in purpose: not fulfilled till a hundred fifty years afterwards.

north—In Isa 41:2, "from the East"; both are true: see the note there.

call … my name—acknowledge Me as God, and attribute his success to Me; this he did in the proclamation (Ezr 1:2). This does not necessarily imply that Cyrus renounced idolatry, but hearing of Isaiah's prophecy given a hundred fifty years before, so fully realized in his own acts, he recognized God as the true God, but retained his idol (so Naaman, 2Ki 5:1-27; compare 2Ki 17:33, 41; Da 3:28; 4:1-3, 34-37).

princes—the Babylonian satraps or governors of provinces.

mortar—"mire"; He shall tread them under foot as dirt (Isa 10:6).

I have raised up; you neither foreknow nor can do any thing; but I do now foretell, and will certainly effect, great revolution and change in the world, which you shall not be able to hinder. One; which word, though not expressed in the Hebrew, must necessarily be understood, as being oft designed in the following words by the pronoun he. He understands one people; or rather one person, prince, or general, together with his people or forces, as appears from the latter part of the verse. Some conceive that the prophet in this place speaks of two several persons; in the first clause of Nebuchadnezzar, who in Scripture is commonly said to come

from the north, as Jeremiah 1:13,15 4:6; and the next clause of Cyrus, who came from the east, Isaiah 46:11. And then the words may be thus rendered, one

from the north, and he shall come; and one

from the rising of the sun, he shall call, &c. But it seems more natural and easy to understand the whole context of one and the same person, even of Cyrus, of whom he spake before, Isaiah 41:2, &c., who might well be said to come, both from the north and from the east: from the north rather, because he was a Mede by his mother, as he was a Persian by his father; or because a great part of his army was gathered out of Media, which was, and in Scripture is said to be, northward in reference to Judea, Jeremiah 50:9,41 51:48; and because Darius the Mede was joined with him in this expedition: and from the east, because Persia was directly eastward from Judea. And peradventure this work of

calling upon or proclaiming God’s name is here ascribed to him as he came from the east, rather than as he came from the north, because that work was not done by Darius the Mede, but by Cyrus the Persian.

Shall he call upon my name; or rather, as others render it, who shall call upon; or rather, proclaim my name, which Cyrus did in express and emphatical terms, Ezra 1:12.

He shall come upon princes as upon mortar; treading them down as easily as a man treadeth down mortar. I have raised up one from the north,.... Either one people, or one person; a mighty king, as the Targum; meaning either Cyrus, who might be said to come from the north, and from the rising of the sun, or the east, as in the next clause; since he was by birth a Medo-Persian, hence called a mule; by his mother a Mede, and the country of Media lay rather to the north of Babylon; and by his father a Persian, and Persia lay to the east of it; and the forces he brought with him against it were partly Medes, and partly Persians; though some, as Jarchi observes, think two persons are meant in this and the next clause; in this Nebuchadnezzar, who came from Babylon, which lay north of Judea, to invade it; and in the other Cyrus, who came from the east, and proclaimed the name of the Lord, and liberty to the captive Jews. Kimchi and his father both interpret it of the King Messiah, as do also more ancient Jewish writers (c), of whom Cyrus was a type; but to me it seems best of all, as most agreeable to the scope and tenure of the prophecy, to understand it of Constantine, who, as reported, was born in Britain, in the northern part of the world; but, when called to the empire, was in the eastern parts of it; and so with great propriety it is expressed here, and in the following clause:

and from the rising of the sun he shall call upon my name; which those that apply the prophecy to Cyrus explain by Ezra 1:1, but is much more applicable to Constantine, who was a worshipper of the true God, which invocation of his name is expressive of; and who openly professed the name of Christ, and encouraged those that did, and spread his name and fame, his Gospel and his glory, throughout the empire, east and west:

and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay; that is, he shall come upon them with his army, and conquer them, and tread them down, and trample upon them, as morter is trodden upon, or mire in the streets; or as the clay is trodden by the potter, who does with it as he pleases; which those who interpret it of Cyrus understand of Astyages, Croesus, Belshazzar, and others; see Isaiah 14:1, and is as true of Constantine, who subdued the emperors of Rome, trod them under his feet, as Maximius, Maxentius, Licinius, &c.; moreover, the word "saganin", here used, is a word used by Jewish writers for priests, for such who were the deputies of the high priest; and it may design here the Pagan priests, and the destruction of them, and of Paganism in the Roman empire by Constantine.

(c) Vajikra Rabba, sect. 9. fol. 153. 1. Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 13. fol. 208. 1. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 19. 2.

I have raised up one from the north, {t} and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he {u} call upon my name: and he shall come upon {x} princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.

(t) Meaning, the Chaldeans.

(u) That is, Cyrus, who will do all things in my name and by my direction: by which he means that both their captivity and deliverance will be ordered by God's providence and appointment.

(x) Both of the Chaldeans and others.

25. raised up] Strictly: stirred up (as in Isaiah 41:2) i.e. “impelled into activity” (Driver).

from the north … from the rising of the sun (cf. Isaiah 41:2)] Scarcely: “from Media (in the north)” and “from Elam (in the east).” The terms are poetic; the north is the region of mystery, and the east the region of light (ch. Isaiah 24:15). In point of fact Cyrus came from the north-east.

shall he call upon my name] Render with R.V. one that calleth (or, shall call) on my name. The clause is a relative one, and forms the obj. to “stirred up.” The expression can hardly mean less than that Cyrus shall acknowledge Jehovah as God; the meaning “make known everywhere, by his deeds” (Dillmann) is not to be defended. It is true that in ch. Isaiah 45:4 f. it is said that Cyrus had not known Jehovah; but it is also said (Isaiah 41:3) that the effect of his remarkable successes will be “that thou mayest know that I am Jehovah that calleth thee by thy name, the God of Israel.” There is therefore no difficulty in the idea that Cyrus, who was at first the unconscious instrument of Jehovah’s purpose, shall at length recognise that Jehovah was the true author of his success. But the further explanation that Cyrus shall “become conscious of his original religious affinity to the Jews, and act upon that consciousness” (Cheyne) goes beyond the language of the prophet.

come upon princes] is a possible construction; but it is better, with many comm. since Clericus, to read “tread” (yâbûṣ for yâbô’). The word for “princes” (ṣâgân) is Assyrian (shaknu) and occurs first in Ezekiel.

25–29. The general argument is now brought to bear on the particular case of the raising up of Cyrus.Verse 25. - It remains for Jehovah to plead his own cause, to vindicate his own Divinity. He adduces, as proof of his power in action, the fact of his raising up Cyrus; as proof of his ability to predict, the fact that he has announced his coming. One from the north... from the rising of the sun. Both as a Persian, and as King of Elam, Cyrus might be considered to come from the east. In fact, however, when he attacked Babylon, he fell upon it mainly from the north. After his conquest of Astyages (Istivegu), he made Ecbatana his capital (Herod., 1:153); and it was from this comparatively northern city that he directed his attack upon Nabonidus. His march lay by way of Arbela ('Transactions of the Society of Bibl. Archaeol.,' vol. 7. p. 159) and Sippara (ibid., p. 165), through the district called Akkad to the Chaldean capital. Herodotus agrees with the monuments in bringing him to Babylon from the north. Shall he call upon my Name; or, shall he. proclaim my Name. (For the actual proclamation of Jehovah's Name by Cyros, see Ezra 1:3; and note especially the phrase, "He [i.e. Jehovah] is the God.") Recent discoveries have raised the suspicion that Cyrus was a eyncretist, who was willing to accept the chief god of any nation as identical with his own Ormuzd. But it is to be borne in 'mind that the document which has produced this impression is one issued by the priestly authorities of Babylon in their own language, and may have been quite unknown to the Persian court. Cyrus may have been a better Zoroastrian than he is represented by the priests of Merodach. The Zoroastrian religion was, as Delitzsch observes, "nearest to the Jewish religion of all the systems of heathenism" (see . Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 3. pp. 93-117; and comp. Pusey, 'Lectures on Daniel,' pp. 530-550). He shall come upon princes as upon mortar; i.e. he shall tread them underfoot, mortar being commonly mixed with the feet, as was also clay for bricks and pottery (Herod., 2:36). The chief" princes" whom Cyrus is known to have conquered were Astyages of Media, Croesus of Lydia, and Nabenidus of Babylon. He was studiously mild in his treatment of royal captives, but naturally deprived them of all power. 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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