Isaiah 44:23
Sing, O you heavens; for the LORD has done it: shout, you lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
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(23) The Lord hath done it.—The pronoun supplied in the Authorised Version refers to the redemption of Isaiah 44:22; but the word may be taken absolutely in the sense hath done mightily.

Ye lower parts of the earth.—These, as in Ephesians 4:9, are equivalent to Sheol, or Hades. Even they, commonly thought of as echoing no song of praise (Psalm 6:5; Psalm 88:12; Isaiah 38:18), are invited to join in the great doxology.

44:21-28 Return unto me. It is the great concern of those who have backslidden from God, like the Jews of old, to hasten their return to him. The work of redemption wrought for us by Christ, encourages to hope for all blessings from him. Our transgressions and our sins are as a thick cloud between heaven and earth: sins separate between us and God; they threaten a storm of wrath. When God pardons sin, he blots out, he dispels this cloud, this thick cloud, so that the way to heaven is open again. The cloud is scattered by the Sun of righteousness; it is quite gone. The comforts that flow into the soul when sin is pardoned, are like clear shining after clouds and rain. Let not Israel be discouraged; nothing is too hard for God: having made all, he can make what use he pleases of any. Those that learn to know Christ, see all knowledge to be foolishness, in comparison with the knowledge of him. And his enemies will find their counsels turned into foolishness, and themselves taken in their craftiness. The exact fulfilling the prophecies of Scripture confirms the truth of the whole, and proves its Divine origin. The particular favours God designed for his people in captivity, were foretold here, long before they went into captivity. Very great difficulties would be in the way of their deliverance; but it is promised that by Divine power they should all be removed. God knew who should be the Deliverer of his people; and let his church know it, that when they heard such a name talked of, they might know their redemption drew nigh. It is the greatest honour of the greatest men, to be employed as instruments of the Divine favour to his people. In things wherein men serve themselves, and look no further, God makes them do all his pleasure. And a nobler Shepherd than Cyrus does his Father's will, till his work is fully completed.Sing, O ye heavens - (see Isaiah 42:10). It is common in the sacred writings to call on the heavens, the earth, and all created things, to join in the praise of God on any great and glorious event (see Psalm 96:1, Psalm 96:11-12; Psalm 148:1-14) The occasion of the joy here was the fact that God had redeemed his people - a fact, in the joy of which the heavens and earth were called to participate. An apostrophe such as the prophet here uses is common in all writings, where inanimate objects are addressed as having life, and as capable of sharing in the emotions of the speaker. Vitringa has endeavored to show that the various objects here enumerated are emblematic, and that by the heavens are meant the angels which are in heaven; by the lower parts of the earth, the more humble and obscure republics of the pagan; by the mountains, the greater and more mighty kingdoms; by the forest, and the trees, large and spacious cities, with their nobles. So Grotius also interprets the passage. But the passage is a highly-wrought expression of elevated feeling; the language of poetry, where the prophet calls on all objects to exult; - an apostrophe to the highest heavens and the lowest part of the earth - the mountains and the forests - the most sublime objects in nature - to exult in the fact that the Jewish people were delivered from their long and painful captivity, and restored again to their own land.

The Lord hath done it - Has delivered his people from their captivity in Babylon. There is, however, no impropriety in supposing that the eye of the prophet also rested on the glorious deliverance of his people by the Messiah; and that he regarded one event as emblematic of, and introductory to the other. The language used here will certainly appropriately express the feelings which should be manifested in view of the plan of redemption under the Messiah.

Shout, ye lower parts of the earth - The foundations of the earth; the parts remote from the high heavens. Let the highest and the lowest objects shout; the highest heavens, and the depths of the earth. The Septuagint renders it, Τὰ Θεμέλια τῆς γῆς Ta Themelia tēs gēs - 'The foundations of the earth.' So the Chaldee.

Ye mountains - So in Psalm 148:9, Psalm 148:13 : 'Mountains and all hills; fruitful trees and all cedars - let them praise the name of the Lord.'

O forest, and every tree therein - Referring either to Lebanon, as being the most magnificent forest known to the prophet; or to any forest as a great and sublime object.

23. Call to inanimate nature to praise God; for it also shall share in the coming deliverance from "the bondage of corruption" (Ro 8:20, 21).

done it—effected redemption for both the literal and spiritual Israel.

lower parts, &c.—antithetical to "heavens"; "mountains," "forest," and "tree," are the intermediate objects in a descending gradation (see Ps 96:11, 12).

By such invitations to the senseless creatures to praise God with and for his people, he signifies the transcendent greatness of this mercy and deliverance, sufficient to make even the stones, if it were possible, to break forth into God’s praises; and withal, that as the brute creatures were sufferers by man’s fall, so they should receive benefit by man’s redemption. Sing, O ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it,.... Done what he promised, the forgiveness of the sins of his people, and the redemption of them. So the Targum,

"because the Lord hath wrought redemption for his people.''

The Vulgate Latin version adds, "mercy" (o); and so the Septuagint version, "because God hath had mercy on Israel" (p); and therefore the heavens are called upon to sing on this occasion, as the angels of heaven did when the Redeemer was born, and who rejoice at the salvation of God's elect, Luke 2:13,

shout, ye lower parts of the earth; the earth, which is low in comparison of the heavens; the inhabitants of it, especially the Gentiles, which dwelt in the lower parts of the world, in comparison of Judea, which lay high:

break forth into singing, ye mountains; kings and great men of the earth, like the strong and lofty mountains:

O forest, and every tree therein; the multitude of the common people; see Isaiah 10:18 these are called upon to express their joy, for the following reason:

for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel; which is to be understood not merely of their redemption from the Babylonish captivity, but of the redemption by Christ, which the former was a type of, and in which all God's people in all nations are concerned, and therefore have reason to rejoice; and in which all the divine perfections are glorified, not only the wisdom, power, goodness, grace, and mercy of God, but his holiness and justice; and saints not only have reason to rejoice, because they are redeemed from sin and Satan, and the law, and death and hell, and all spiritual enemies, but because the glory of God is great in their salvation.

(o) "Quia fecit misericordiam", V. L. (p) , Sept.

{b} Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree in it: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.

(b) He shows that the work of the Lord toward his people will be so great, that the insensible creatures will be moved with it.

23. The prophet in a transport of joy calls on heaven and earth to celebrate the wonders of Israel’s redemption. Cf. ch. Isaiah 42:10-13, Isaiah 45:8. The poetic outburst marks the end of the section.

the Lord hath done it] The redemption is already as good as complete; see the end of the verse.

ye lower parts of the earth] or depths of the earth, the antithesis to “ye heavens.”

break forth into singing] Cf. ch. Isaiah 14:7.

and glorified] R.V., more correctly: and will glorify. Cf. ch. Isaiah 49:3, Isaiah 60:21, Isaiah 61:3.

Ch. Isaiah 44:24 to Isaiah 45:25. Jehovah’s Commission to Cyrus, His anointed, whose victories shall bring about the universal recognition of the true God

The distinctive feature of this important section of the book is the prominence given to the person and work of the Persian conqueror, Cyrus. The leading idea is no longer the relation of Israel to Jehovah, but the glorious effects that are to follow its deliverance through the agency of this divinely chosen hero. In the earlier allusions to Cyrus (ch. Isaiah 41:1-4; Isaiah 41:25-29) he is spoken of as one whose remarkable career has challenged the attention of the world and illustrated the inability of the heathen religions to deal with the great crises of history. There have been abundant intimations that he is the destined instrument of Israel’s restoration, but these have hitherto occupied a secondary place in the prophet’s thoughts. Here, however, the figure of Cyrus is brought prominently on the scene, he is addressed directly and by name, and the ultimate scope of his mission is clearly unfolded. He is to set the exiles free, to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple; and the far-reaching moral result of his singular generosity to Israel will be the downfall of heathenism everywhere and the universal conviction that Jehovah is the only God who is a Deliverer. There are five divisions:

i. ch. Isaiah 44:24-28 is an introduction to the central passage, which immediately follows. Jehovah, still addressing Israel, describes Himself by a majestic series of attributes, gradually converging from the thought of His creative power to the particular point which is the subject of the present discourse, His selection of Cyrus as the instrument of His purpose.

ii. ch. Isaiah 45:1-8.—The Divine speaker now addresses Cyrus in person, promising to him an uninterrupted career of victory (1–3); yet it is in the interest of Israel that he, a stranger to the true God, is thus called and commissioned (4); and the final issue of his achievements will be a general recognition throughout the world of the sole Godhead of Jehovah (5–7).—The last verse (8) is a poetic interlude like ch. Isaiah 42:10 ff., Isaiah 44:23, &c.

iii. Isaiah 44:9-13.—Here the prophet turns aside to rebuke the murmurs of dissent which this novel announcement calls forth amongst his fellow countrymen (9–11). It would appear that there were some of the Israelites who rebelled against the thought of a foreign prince as the Anointed of Jehovah and the Saviour of Israel. The answer to these cavillers is an assertion of the absolute sovereignty of Jehovah, who reaffirms His choice of Cyrus as the instrument of Israel’s deliverance (12, 13).

iv. Isaiah 44:14-17.—Transporting himself to the time when the Divine purpose shall be realised, the writer depicts the procession of conquered nations who do homage to Israel as the people of the true God, and, renouncing idolatry, acknowledge the hand of Jehovah in Israel’s everlasting salvation.

v. Isaiah 44:18-25.—This deliverance of Israel culminates in salvation to the world at large. The passage contains some of the most striking thoughts in the whole prophecy. The character of Jehovah, His goodwill to men, is to be learned from His creation of a habitable world (18) and from the manner of His revelation to Israel (19). He has shewn Himself to be the only “righteous and saving God” (21); and the heathen are now invited to share in His salvation through faith in His sole divinity (20, 22). It is His irrevocable purpose thus to secure universal homage (23–25).Verse 23. - Sing, O ye heavens. The sympathy of external nature with the fortunes of Israel is assumed throughout Isaiah, as it is throughout the Psalms (see Psalm 11:6-8; 24:4-7; 29:17; 30:25, 26; 33:9; 35:1, 2, 7, etc.). If Israel is depressed, the earth must "mourn and languish," the heavens grow dark; the mountains shrink and "be ashamed." If, on the contrary, Israel prospers, heaven and earth, mountain and forest, Isaiah 49:13),of the joy felt by the angels over the returning and pardoned sinner; but the context of both passages is in favour of the material heavens being meant. It is quite possible that there is a real and not merely a fancied sympathy between the material and the spiritual worlds. The Lord hath done it; literally, the Lord hath wrought - what he has wrought is not said. Mr. Cheyne translates, "Jehovah hath done nobly." Shout, ye lower parts of the earth. Metonymy of the part for the whole - "the lower parts of the earth" for "the earth even to its lowest depths." There is no thought of Sheol or of its inhabitants. Break forth into singing (comp. Isaiah 14:7; Isaiah 35:2). As children and birds sing from the very gladness of their hearts, thereby venting the joy that almost oppresses them, so all nature is called upon, not merely to rejoice, but to give vent to its joy, now that Israel is redeemed and God glorified. The prophet now traces the origin of the idols still further back. Their existence or non-existence ultimately depends upon whether it rains or not. "One prepares to cut down cedars, and takes holm and oak-tree, and chooses for himself among the trees of the forest. He has planted a fig, and the rain draws it up. And it serves the man for firing: he takes thereof, and warms himself; he also heats, and bakes bread; he also works it into a god, and prostrates himself; makes an idol of it, and falls down before it. The half of it he has burned in the fire: over the half of it he eats flesh, roasts a roast, and is satisfied; he also warms himself, and says, Hurrah, I am getting warm, I feel the heat. And the rest of it he makes into a god, into his idol, and says, Save me, for thou art my god." The subject of the sentence is not the carpenter of the previous verse, but "any one." ארזים apparently stands first, as indicating the species; and in the Talmud and Midrash the trees named are really described as ארזים מיני. But tirzâh (from târaz, to be hard or firm) does not appear to be a coniferous tree; and the connection with 'allōn, the oak, is favourable to the rendering ἀγριοβάλανος (lxx, A. Th.), ilex (Vulg.). On 'immēts, to choose, see Isaiah 41:10. ארן (with Nun minusculum), plur. ארונים (b. Ros-ha Sana 23a) or ארנים (Para iii. 8), is explained by the Talmud as ערי, sing. ערא, i.e., according to Aruch and Rashi, laurier, the berries of which are called baies. We have rendered it "fig," according to the lxx and Jerome, since it will not do to follow the seductive guidance of the similarity in sound to ornus (which is hardly equivalent to ὀρεινός).

(Note: The ἀρία of Theophrastus is probably quercus ilex, which is still called ἀρία; the laurus nobilis is now called βαΐηά, from the branches which serve instead of palm-branches.)

The description is genealogical, and therefore moves retrogressively, from the felling to the planting. והיה in Isaiah 44:15 refers to the felled and planted tree, and primarily to the ash. מהם (of such as these) is neuter, as in Isaiah 30:6; at the same time, the prophet had the עצים (the wood, both as produce and material) in his mind. The repeated אף lays emphasis upon the fact, that such different things are done with the very same wood. It is sued for warming, and fore the preparation of food, as well as for making a god. On the verbs of adoration, hishtachăvâh (root shach, to sink, to settle down) and sâgad, which is only applied to idolatrous worship, and from which mes'gid, a mosque, is derived, see Holemann's Bibelstudien, i. 3. למו may no doubt be take as a plural ( equals להם, as in Isaiah 30:5), "such things (taila) does he worship," as Stier supposes; but it is probably pathetic, and equivalent to לו, as in Isaiah 53:8 (compare Psalm 11:7; Ewald, 247, a). According to the double application of the wood mentioned in Isaiah 44:15, a distinction is drawn in Isaiah 44:16, Isaiah 44:17 between the one half of the wood and the other. The repeated chetsyō (the half of it) in Isaiah 44:16 refers to the first half, which furnishes not only fuel for burning, but shavings and coals for roasting and baking as well. And as a fire made for cooking warms quite as much as one made expressly for the purpose, the prophet dwells upon this benefit which the wood of the idol does confer. On the tone upon the last syllable of chammōthı̄, see at Job 19:17; and on the use of the word ראה as a comprehensive term, embracing every kind of sensation and perception, see my Psychologie, p. 234. Diagoras of Melos, a pupil of Democritus, once threw a wooden standing figure of Hercules into the fire, and said jocularly, "Come now, Hercules, perform thy thirteenth labour, and help me to cook the turnips."

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