Isaiah 41:5
The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.
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(5) The isles saw it, and feared . . .—The words paint the terror caused by the rapid conquests of Cyrus, but the terror led, as the following verses show, to something very different from the acknowledgment of the Eternal. As the sailors in the ship of Tarshish called each man on his God (Jonah 1:5), so each nation turned to its oracles and its shrines. The gods had to be propitiated by new statues, and a fresh impetus was given to the manufacture of idols, probably for the purpose of being carried forth to battle as a protection. (Comp. 1Samuel 4:5-7; Herod. i. 26.)

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 isles saw it - The distant nations (see the note at Isaiah 41:1). They saw what was done in the conquests of the man whom God in this remarkable manner had raised up; and they had had demonstration, therefore, of the mighty power of Yahweh above the power of idols.

And feared - Were alarmed, and trembled. All were apprehensive that they would be subdued, and driven away as with the tempest.

The ends of the earth - Distant nations occupying the extremities of the globe (see the note at Isaiah 40:28).

Drew near, and came - Came together for the purpose of mutual alliance, and self-defense. The prophet evidently refers to what he says in the following verses, that they formed treaties; endeavored to prepare for self-defense; looked to their idol-gods, and encouraged each other in their attempts to offer a successful resistance to the victorious arms of Cyrus.

5. feared—that they would be subdued.

drew near, and came—together, for mutual defense.

The isles, even remote countries, as Isaiah 41:1, saw it; discerned the mighty work of God in delivering his people, and overthrowing their enemies, in so wonderful a manner.

Feared, lest they should be involved in the same calamity, as being conscious to themselves that they also were enemies to God’s people.

Drew near, and came; they gathered themselves together to consult for their common safety, and to maintain the cause of their idols, whom by this instance they perceived in great jeopardy. The isles saw it, and feared,.... Not the victory which Abraham got over the kings; nor Cyrus's expedition against Babylon, and other nations, and his deliverance of the Jews; but the progress of the Gospel, through the ministry of the Apostle Paul: the idolatrous inhabitants of the Gentile nations saw great multitudes embracing and professing the Gospel; they saw their idols neglected, and their temples abandoned; they feared what would be the consequence of all this, that their old religion their fathers retained, and they were brought up in, would be abolished; and especially a panic seized the priests on this account, whose livelihood depended upon it:

the ends of the earth were afraid; for the sound of the Gospel by him, and other apostles, went into all the earth, and their words to the end of the world, Romans 10:18 meaning the inhabitants that dwelt in the furthest parts of the earth, where ignorance and idolatry wholly reigned: they drew near, and came: not to God, nor to Abraham, or Cyrus; rather to their gods, to exert themselves in the defence of their religion; or, which is best, they got together to consult what was proper to be done on such an emergency.

The isles saw it, and {f} feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and {g} came.

(f) Considering my excellent works among my people.

(g) They assembled themselves and conspired against me to maintain their idolatry.

5. At the end of the verse LXX. seems to have read “and came together to judgment” (in accordance with Isaiah 41:1).

5–7. The alarm of the nations leads to the production of fresh images. The view that Isaiah 41:6-7 form part of ch. Isaiah 40:18-20 has already been mentioned. With regard to the suitability of the verses in their present connexion, opinions differ. While some consider the scene an appropriate sequel to Isaiah 41:1-4, and its irony exquisite and well-timed, others find the irony overstrained, and doubt if even the most benighted idolaters could be represented as seeking to arrest the advance of Cyrus by making “a particularly good and strong set of gods.” And it must be admitted that the transition from an assembly of peoples to the inside of an idol factory is extremely abrupt. The view in question gives a somewhat different turn to Isaiah 41:6 and probably necessitates the excision of Isaiah 41:5.Verse 5. - The isles saw it, and feared. A general terror seized the nations on the conquest of the Medes by Cyrus. Croesus of Lydia, Nabonidus of Babylon, and Amasis of Egypt, were at once drawn together by the common danger, and made alliance offensive and defensive (Herod., 1:77). The weaker tribes and peoples gave themselves up for lost. Scarcely any resistance seems to have been offered to the Persian arms by the tribes between the Halys and Indus, the Jaxartes and the Indian Ocean. Lydia and Babylon alone made a stout fight; but even these were conquered without very much difficulty. The ends of the earth... drew near; i.e. distant nations held (will hold) consultation together on the danger which threatens them. The league of Lydia, Babylon, and Egypt is the only known instance of such "drawing near" (see the preceding note). Isaiah anticipates marked consultations and exhortations with respect to the idol-gods, in which trust should be put; but perhaps he is scarcely serious in vers. 6, 7. Rather he is indulging his sarcastic humour at the expense of the idols and of those who put their trust in them. (For instances, however, of actual trust in particular idols, see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 4. p. 58; Herod., 5:67; 8:64,) Faith is all that is needed to ensure a participation in the strength (עצמה after the form חכמה), which He so richly bestows and so powerfully enhances. "And youths grow faint and weary, and young men suffer a fall. But they who wait for Jehovah gain fresh strength; lift up their wings like eagles; run, and are not weary; go forward, and do not faint." Even youths, even young men in the early bloom of their morning of life (bachūrı̄m, youths, from בּחר, related to בּכר, בּגר), succumb to the effects of the loss of sustenance or over-exertion (both futures are defective, the first letter being dropped), and any outward obstacle is sufficient to cause them to fall (נכשׁל with inf. abs. kal, which retains what has been stated for contemplation, according to Ges. 131, 3, Anm. 2). In Isaiah 40:30 the verb stands first, Isaiah 40:30 being like a concessive clause in relation to Isaiah 40:31. "Even though this may happen, it is different with those who wait for Jehovah," i.e., those who believe in Him; for the Old Testament applies to faith a number of synonyms denoting trust, hope, and longing, and thus describes it according to its inmost nature, as fiducia and as hope, directed to the manifestation and completion of that which is hoped for. The Vav cop. introduces the antithesis, as in Isaiah 40:8. החליף, to cause one to pursue, or new to take the place of the old (Lat. recentare). The expression וגו יעלוּ is supposed by early translators, after the Sept., Targ. Jer., and Saad., to refer to the moulting of the eagle and the growth of the new feathers, which we meet with in Psalm 103:5 (cf., Micah 1:16) as a figurative representation of the renewal of youth through grace. But Hitzig correctly observes that העלה is never met with as the causative of the kal used in Isaiah 5:6, and moreover that it would require נוצה instead of אבר. The proper rendering therefore is, "they cause their wings to rise, or lift their wings high, like the eagles" ('ēbher as in Psalm 55:7). Their course of life, which has Jehovah for its object, is as it were possessed of wings. They draw from Him strength upon strength (see Psalm 84:8); running does not tire them, nor do they become faint from going ever further and further.

The first address, consisting of three parts (Isaiah 40:1-11, Isaiah 40:12-26, Isaiah 40:27-31), is here brought to a close.

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