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,) Isaiah 41:5In the following v. we have not a description of the impression made upon the heathen by the argument of Jehovah, but the argument itself is continued. Isaiah 41:5 "Islands have seen it, and shuddered; the ends of the earth trembled; they have approached, and drawn near." We have here a description of the effects which the victorious course of Cyrus had begun to produce in the heathen world. The perfects denote the past, and the futures a simultaneous past; so that we have not to compare Isaiah 41:5 with Habakkuk 3:10 so much as with Psalm 77:17. The play upon the words וייראּוּ ... ראּוּ pairs together both seeing and fearing. The Cumaeans, when consulting the oracle, commenced thus: ἡμεῖς δὲ δειμαίνοντες τὴν Περσέων δύναμιν. The perfect with the aorist following in Isaiah 41:5 places the following picture upon the stage: They have approached and drawn near (from all directions) to meet the threatening danger; and how? Isaiah 41:6, Isaiah 41:7 "One helped his companion, and he said to his brother, Only firm! The caster put firmness into the melter, the hammer-smoother into the anvil-smiter, saying of the soldering, It is good; and made him firm with nails, that he should not shake." Him, viz., the idol. Everything is in confusion, from the terror that prevails; and the gods from which they expect deliverance are not made till now, the workmen stimulating one another to work. The chârâsh, who casts the image, encourages the tsōrēph, whose task it is to provide it with the plating of gold and silver chains (Isaiah 40:19), to work more bravely; and the man who smooths with the hammer (pattish, instrumentalis) does the same to the man who smites the anvil (הולם with seghol, whereas in other cases, e.g., Ezekiel 22:25, the tone generally gives way without any change in the vowel-pointing). The latter finds the soldering all right, by which the gold plates of the covering are fastened together, so as to give to the golden idol a massive appearance. He is the last into whose hands it comes; and nothing more is wanting, than that he should forge upon the anvil the nails with which it is fastened, to prevent it from falling. To such foolish, fruitless proceedings have the nations resorted when threatened with subjugation by Cyrus.
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