Isaiah 44:15 Commentaries: Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it.
Isaiah 44:15
Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yes, he kindles it, and bakes bread; yes, he makes a god, and worships it; he makes it a graven image, and falls down thereto.
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(15-17) Then shall it be. . . .—The point on which the prophet dwells with indignant iteration is that it is a mere chance which half of the shapeless log is to be worshipped as a god, and which to be used for cooking the workmen’s dinner. Diagoras of Melos, the reputed atheist disciple of Democritus, is said to have thrown a wooden Hercules on his hearth, bidding the hero-god do a thirteenth labour, and boil his turnips (Del.).

44:9-20 Image-making is described, to expose the folly of idolaters. Though a man had used part of a log for fuel, he fell down before an image made of the remainder, praying it to deliver him. Man greatly dishonours God, when he represents him after the image of man. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, causing absurd reasonings in matters of religion. Whether men seek happiness in worldly things, or run into unbelief, superstition, or any false system, they feed on ashes. A heart deceived by pride, love of sin, and departure from God, turns men aside from his holy truth and worship. While the affections are depraved, a man holds fast the lie as his best treasure. Are our hearts set upon the wealth of the world and its pleasures? They will certainly prove a lie. If we trust to outward professions and doings, as if those would save us, we deceive ourselves. Self-suspicion is the first step towards self-deliverance. He that would deliver his soul, must question his conscience, Is there not a lie in my right hand?Then shall it be for a man to burn - It will afford materials for a fire. The design of this verse and the following is, to ridicule the idea of a man's using parts of the same tree to make a fire to cook his victuals, to warm himself, and to shape a god. Nothing could be more stupid than the conduct here referred to, and yet it is common all over the pagan world. It shows the utter debasement of the race, that they thus of the same tree make a fire, cook their food, and construct their gods. 15. The same tree that furnishes the material for the god is in part used as fuel for a fire to cook his meals and warm himself!

thereto—rather, "he falleth down before them," that is, such images [Maurer].

Having related the practices of idolaters, he now discovers the vanity and folly of them; that he maketh his fire and his god of the same materials, distinguished only by the art of man. Then shall it be for a man to burn,.... And which indeed is the proper use of it, but not all that this man puts it to; only the boughs, and what he cuts off as useless to his purpose, and the chips he makes, which he commits to the fire:

for he will take thereof, and warm himself; with some part of it he makes a fire in his parlour, and warms himself when it is cold weather:

yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; he heats his oven with another part of it, and bakes the bread he has made for himself and family to live on, and which is putting it to a good use:

yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh a graven image, and falleth down thereto; the other part of the tree, and which is the better part, he makes an image of, and carves it, and calls it a god; and not only so, but when he has done, falls down and worships it; than which there cannot be a greater instance of stupidity and folly.

Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take of it, and {u} warm himself; indeed, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down to it.

(u) He sets forth the obstinacy and malice of the idolaters who though they see by daily experience that their idols are no better than the rest of the matter of which they are made, yet they refuse the one part, and make a god of the other, as the papists make their cake god, and the rest of their idols.

15, 16. Comp. (with Lowth) Horace, Sat. 1. 8, 1 ff.:

“Olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum,

Cum faber, incertus, scamnum faceretne Priapum,

Maluit esse Deum.”

Also Wisd. Sol. 13:11–13.

The word rendered “falleth down (ṣâgad)” is an Aramaic verb meaning “worship,” recurring in the O.T. only Isaiah 44:17; Isaiah 44:19 and ch. Isaiah 46:6. It is the root of the Arabic word mosque (musğid).Verse 15. - Then shall it be for a man to burn. The tree that has been planted, and nourished, and has grown up is naturally "for a man to burn." That is its ordinary destination; and even the idolater applies it partly to this purpose; but out of a portion he maketh a god. The very same tree serves him both for fuel and for a divinity. The heathen gods are so far from being a ground of trust, that all who trust in them must discover with alarm how they have deceived themselves. "The makers of idols, they are all desolation, and their bosom-children worthless; and those who bear witness for them see nothing and know nothing, that they may be put to shame. Who hath formed the god, and cast the idol to no profit? Behold, all its followers will be put to shame; and the workmen are men: let them all assemble together, draw near, be alarmed, be all put to shame together." The chămūdı̄m (favourites) of the makers of idols are the false gods, for whose favour they sue with such earnestness. If we retain the word המּה, which is pointed as critically suspicious, and therefore is not accentuated, the explanation might possibly be, "Their witnesses (i.e., witnesses against themselves) are they (the idols): they see not, and are without consciousness, that they (those who trust in them) may be put to shame." In any case, the subject to yēbhōshū (shall be put to shame) is the worshippers of idols. If we erase המה, (עדיהם will be those who come forward as witnesses for the idols. This makes the words easier and less ambiguous. At the same time, the Septuagint retains the word (καὶ μάρτυρες αὐτῶν εἰσίν). As "not seeing" here signifies to be blind, so "not knowing" is also to be understood as a self-contained expression, meaning to be irrational, just as in Isaiah 45:20; Isaiah 56:10 (in Isaiah 1:3, on the other hand, we have taken it in a different sense). למען implies that the will of the sinner in his sin has also destruction for its object; and this is not something added to the sin, but growing out of it. The question in Isaiah 44:10 summons the maker of idols for the purpose of announcing his fate, and in הועיל לבלתּי (to no profit) this announcement is already contained. Isaiah 44:11 is simply a development of this expression, "to no profit." יצר, like נטע in Isaiah 44:14, is contrary to the rhythmical law milra which prevails elsewhere. חבריו (its followers) are not the fellow-workmen of the maker of idols (inasmuch as in that case the maker himself would be left without any share in the threat), but the associates (i.e., followers) of the idols (Hosea 4:17; 1 Corinthians 10:20). It is a pernicious work that they have thus had done for them. And what of the makers themselves? They are numbered among the men. So that they who ought to know that they are made by God, become makers of gods themselves. What an absurdity! Let them crowd together, the whole guild of god-makers, and draw near to speak to the works they have made. All their eyes will soon be opened with amazement and alarm.
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