Isaiah 41:8
But you, Israel, are my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
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(8) But thou, Israel, art my servant . . .—The verse is important as the first introduction of the servant of the Lord who is so conspicuous throughout the rest of the book. The idea embodied in the term is that of a calling and election, manifested now in Israel according to the flesh, now in the true Israel of God, realising its ideal, now, as in the innermost of the three concentric circles, in a person who gathers up that ideal in all its intensity into himself. The three phrases find their parallel in St. Paul’s language as to (1) the seed of Abraham according to the flesh; (2) the true seed who are heirs of the faith of Abraham; (3) the seed, which is none other than the Christ Himself (Romans 9:7; Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:16). Here we have the national aspect, Israel as he is in the idea of God. So in the later language of Christian thought we have (1) the visible Church falling short of the ideal; (2) the spiritual Church approximating to the ideal; (3) Christ Himself, as identified with His people.

The seed of Abraham my friend.—The word for “friend” implies loving as well as being loved. Of all the names of Abraham, it has had the widest currency (comp. 2Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23). For the Arabs of the present time Abraham is still Khalil Allah—the friend of God, or simply, el Khalil, the friend.

Isaiah 41:8-13. But thou, Israel, art my servant — Thus the Gentiles show themselves to be the servants of their idols, and own them for their gods: but thou art my people, and I am and will be thy God. Jacob, whom I have chosen — Out of the multitude of idolatrous nations, to be my peculiar people. The seed of Abraham my friend — With whom I made a strict league of perpetual friendship: see Genesis 12:2-3; Genesis 15:1; Genesis 15:8. “The expressions are very endearing: it is honourable to be God’s servant, still more so to be his chosen servant, and to be descended from one to whom he vouchsafed the title of friend, as God did to Abraham, (2 Chronicles 20:7,) the greatest honour that any man is capable of: which glorious privilege Christ was pleased to communicate to his disciples, John 15:13. Thou whom I have taken, &c. — Thou Israel, whom I took to myself, and brought hither in the loins of thy father Abraham, from a remote country, namely, from Chaldea; or, whom I brought out of Babylon into thine own land: which, though yet to come, he may speak of as of a thing past, according to the usual custom of the prophets when foretelling future events. But the former interpretation seems better to agree with the foregoing verse. And called thee from the chief men thereof — From the midst of many great and noble persons, among whom he lived in Chaldea. But the Hebrew, מאציליה, is rendered by Vitringa and Dr. Waterland, from the sides thereof, and by Bishop Lowth, from the extremities thereof, which is probably the prophet’s meaning. I have chosen, and not cast thee away — Or, and will not reject thee: I have chosen thee and thy seed through all generations. They that were incensed against thee shall be confounded — Both because their hopes and designs shall be utterly disappointed, and because the mischief which they contrived against thee shall fall on themselves. They shall be as nothing — Shall come to nothing, or perish. Thou shalt not find them — They shall be so totally consumed, that although thou search for them, thou shalt not be able to find them anywhere in the world. “The powerful monarchies that have been incensed against the church, and have contended with her, have been put to shame, and brought to nothing: and this prediction hath already been fulfilled in the ruin of the Egyptian, Assyrian, Chaldean, Macedonian, and Roman empires, which we now may seek for in vain; for no vestiges of the four former, and scarcely any of the last, can be found; while the church still subsists! In like manner all that now do, or hereafter shall contend with her, shall perish.” — Scott. I the Lord will hold thy hand — Or, will strengthen it, as מחזיקsignifies: I will assist and enable thee to vanquish all thine enemies.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.But thou, Israel, art my servant - This is an address directly to the Jews, and is designed to show them, in view of the truths which had just been urged, that God was their protector and friend. Those who relied on idols were trusting to that which could not aid them. But those who trusted in him were safe. For their protection he had raised up Cyrus, for this purpose he had subdued the nations before him. God now expresses to them the assurance that though the nations should be destroyed, yet that he had chosen them, and would remember them, and his promise made to Abraham, their illustrious ancestor. The word 'servant' here is used in a mild and gentle sense, not to denote bondage or slavery, but to denote that they had been engaged in his service, and that he regarded them as subject to his laws, and as under his protection.

Jacob whom I have chosen - The descendants of Jacob, whom I have selected to be my people. Abraham my friend. Hebrew, 'Loving me,' my lover. Abraham was regarded as the friend of God (see 2 Chronicles 20:7). 'And he was called the Friend of God' James 2:23. This most honorable appellation he deserved by a life of devoted piety, and by habitually submitting himself to the will of God. The idea in this verse is, that as they were the descendants of his friend, God deemed himself bound to protect and deliver them according to his gracious promises; and this is one of the many instances where the divine favor is manifested to descendants in consequence of the piety and prayers of their ancestors.

8. Contrast between the idolatrous nations whom God will destroy by Cyrus, and Israel whom God will deliver by the same man for their forefathers' sake.

servant—so termed as being chosen by God to worship Him themselves, and to lead other peoples to do the same (Isa 45:4).

Jacob … chosen—(Ps 135:4).

my friend—literally, "loving me."

But thou, Israel, art my servant: thus the Gentiles show themselves to be the servants of their idols, and own them for their god; but thou art my people, and I am and will be thy God.

Whom I have chosen, out of the heap of the idolatrous nations, to be my peculiar people.

Abraham my friend; with whom I made a strict league of perpetual friendship; of which see Genesis 12:2,3 15:1,18. But thou, Israel, art my servant,.... As the great spread and success of the Gospel could not fail of drawing the resentment of the idolatrous Heathens on those who embraced and professed it, and by whom they were grievously persecuted under the Roman emperors; wherefore, to support them under these trials, the Lord speaks these and the following comfortable words unto them; for not carnal, but spiritual Israel are here meant; such who by the power of divine grace were turned from idols to serve the living God, who were made willing to become his servants, and whose honour it was to be so called and accounted; and being so, they might be assured their Lord and Master would protect and defend them, bless and reward them:

Jacob whom I have chosen; Israelites indeed, Jacob like, plain hearted men, wrestling and prevailing ones in prayer with God, whom he chose to be his people, and peculiar treasure; who, though disallowed of men, were like their Lord and Saviour, chosen of God, and precious:

the seed of Abraham my friend: the spiritual seed of Abraham, being believers in Christ, and friends of his, as Abraham was; and whom he uses and shows to be such, by disclosing his secrets to them, John 15:15.

But thou, Israel, art my {i} servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.

(i) And therefore ought not to pollute yourself with the superstition of the Gentiles.

8–10. Israel is bidden “Fear not,” because of its peculiar relation to Jehovah.

But thou, Israel] In opposition to the other peoples (Isaiah 41:1). Omit “art” with R.V.

my servant] Cf. Jeremiah 30:10 f., Jeremiah 46:27 f.; Ezekiel 28:25; Ezekiel 37:25,—the only older passages (if those in Jeremiah be really older) where the name is applied to Israel. The title is used in its simplest and widest sense, being applied to the nation as a whole, although of course in its ideal aspect, as it exists in the mind of Jehovah. The idea, however, is already a complex one, although the writer does not as yet analyse it into its different elements. (See Introduction, p. xxxi.) The one fact emphasized in this passage is the irrevocable choice or election of God, by which Israel was from its origin in Abraham constituted His servant. Cf. ch. Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:1 f., Isaiah 49:7.

seed of Abraham my friend] (cf. 2 Chronicles 20:7) lit. “my lover”: but as Duhm remarks Heb. has no single word to express the reciprocal relation of friendship as distinct from companionship. Cf. James 2:23, φίλος θεοῦ ἐκλήθη. So among the Mohammedans, Abraham is designated chalîl ullah, “Friend of God.” Note that Abraham is called “my servant” in Genesis 26:24.Verses 8-20. - A PROMISE TO ISRAEL OF GOD'S PROTECTION AND SUPPORT THROUGH THE TROUBLOUS PERIOD THAT IS APPROACHING. Israel is assured

(1) of God's faithfulness (vers. 8, 9);

(2) of special divinely infused strength (ver. 10);

(3) of the infusion of weakness into their enemies (vers. 11, 12);

(4) of external Divine aid (vers. 13, 14);

(5) of an aggressive vigour that shall enable them to scatter their foes (vers. 15, 16); and

(6) of spiritual refreshment even amidst their worst sufferings (vers. 17-19). The eye of the prophet travels perhaps, in part, beyond the period of the Captivity; but he is mainly bent on giving the people grounds of comfort and trust during that trying time. Verse 8. - Israel... my servant (comp. Isaiah 44:1, 2, 21; Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 49:3-6, etc.). The title characterizes these later chapters, and, while standing no doubt in some special relation to the "Servant of Jehovah" who is the subject of Isaiah 42:1-5; Isaiah 49:5-7, etc., is perhaps mainly selected, and dwelt on, to console Israel in captivity, when servants of the King of Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:20), by the thought that their true Master was God himself, and that to him, and him only, did they really belong. Jacob whom I have chosen (comp. Isaiah 44:1). (On this "choice," and the love which it implied, see Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Deuteronomy 10:15) Abraham my friend; or, Abraham that loved me. It was the special privilege of Abraham to be known as God's friend (see 2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23) among the Hebrews, even as he is among the Arabs to this day. The "friendship" intended comprised, no doubt, both an active and a passive element, but it is the active element which the word principally enforces. Abraham loved God, and showed his love by his obedience. The parties invited are now to be thought of as present, and Jehovah commences in Isaiah 41:2 : "Who hath raised up the man from the rising of the sun, whom justice meets at his foot, He giveth up nations before him, and kings He subdues, giveth men like the dust to his sword, and like driven stubble to his bow?" The sentence governed by "who" (mı̄) ends at leraglō (at his foot); at the same time, all that follows is spoken with the echo of the interrogative accent. The person raised up is Cyrus, who is afterwards mentioned by name. The coming one (if, that is to say, we adhere to the belief in Isaiah's authorship of these addresses) first approaches gradually within the horizon of the prophet's ideal present; and it is only little by little that the prophet becomes more intimately acquainted with a phenomenon which belongs to so distant a future, and has been brought so close to his own eyes. Jehovah has raised up the new great hero "from the east" (mimmizrâch), and, according to Isaiah 41:25, "from the north" also. Both of these were fulfilled; for Cyrus was a Persian belonging to the clan of Achaemenes (Hakhâmanis), which stood at the head of the tribe, or of the Pasargadae. He was the son of Cambyses; and even if the Median princess Mandane were not his mother, yet, according to nearly all the ancient accounts, he was connected with the royal house of Media; at any rate, after Astyages was dethroned, he became head and chief of the Medes as well as of the Persians (hence the name of "Mule" which was give to him by the oracle, and that given by Jerome, "agitator bigae"). Now Media was to the north of Babylonia, and Persia to the east; so that his victorious march, in which, even before the conquest of Babylon, he subjugated all the lands from the heights of Hinduku to the shores of the Aegean Sea, had for its starting-point both the east and north.

(Note: See Pahl'es Geschichte des Oriental. Alterthums. (1864), p. 170ff.)

The clause לרגלו יקראהוּ צדק is an attributive clause, and as such a virtual object: "him whom (supply עת־אשׁר) justice comes to meet (קרא) equals קרה, Ges. 75, vi.) on his track" (cf., Genesis 30:30; Job 18:11; Habakkuk 3:5). The idea of tsedeq is determined by what follows: Jehovah gives up nations before him, and causes kings to be trodden down (causative of râdâh). Accordingly, tsedeq is either to be understood here in an attributive sense, as denoting the justice exercised by a person (viz., the justice executed successfully by Cyrus, as the instrument of Jehovah, by the force of arms); or objectively of the justice awarded to a person (to which the idea of "meeting" is more appropriate), viz., the favourable result, the victory which procures justice for the just cause of the combatant. Rosenmller, Knobel, and others, are wrong in maintaining that tsedeq (tsedâqâh) in chapters 40-66 signifies primarily justice, and the prosperity and salvation as its reward. The word means straightness, justice, righteousness, and nothing more (from tsâdaq, to be hard, firm, extended, straight, e.g., rumh-un-tsadq, a hard, firm, and straight lance); but it has a double aspect, because justice consists, according to circumstances, of either wrath of favour, and therefore has sometimes the idea of the strict execution of justice, as in this instance, sometimes of a manifestation of justice in fidelity to promises, as in Isaiah 41:10. יתּן is repeated here in Isaiah 41:2 (just like וילמדהו in Isaiah 40:14) with the same subject, but in a different sense. To make sword and bow the subject, in the sense of "his sword gives (sc., 'the foe')," is a doubtful thing in itself; and as cherebh and qesheth are feminines, it is by no means advisable. Moreover, in other instances, the comparative כ leaves it to the reader to carry out the figure indicated according to his own fancy. And this is the case here: He (Jehovah) makes his sword as if there were dust, his bow as if there were hunted stubble (Bttcher), i.e., pounding the enemy like dust, and hunting it like flying stubble. Our text has כּעפר, but in certain codices we find כּעפר with tzere; and this reading, which is contrary to rule, has in its favour the express testimony of Moses the punctuator.

(Note: In his הנקוד דרכי (rules of pointing), with which the Masora finalis is surrounded.)

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