Isaiah 44:27
That said to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers:
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(27) That saith to the deep—i.e., to the Euphrates. The words find a literal fulfilment in the strategical operation by which Cyrus turned the river from its usual bed into the Sepharvaim channel, and thus enabled his soldiers to cross on foot (Herod. i. 191). Symbolically the words may mean simply the destruction of the power of Babylon, of which its river was the emblem. (Comp. Revelation 16:12.)

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.That saith to the deep, Be dry - Lowth supposes, that this refers to the fact that Cyrus took Babylon by diverting from their course the waters of the river Euphrates, and thus leaving the bed of the river dry, so that he could march his army under the walls of the city (see the notes at Isaiah 13; 14) With this interpretation, also, Vitringa, John II Michaelis, Grotius, Rosenmuller, and some others, accord. Gesenius supposes that it is a description of the power of God in general; and some others have referred it to the dividing of the waters of the Red Sea when the Hebrews came out of Egypt, as in Isaiah 43:16-17. The most obvious interpretation is that of Lowth, Vitringa, etc., by which it is supposed that it refers to the drying up of the Euphrates and the streams about Babylon, when Cyrus took the city. The principal reasons for this interpretation are, first, that the entire statement in these verses has reference to the events connected with the taking of Babylon; secondly, that it is strikingly descriptive of the manner in which the city was taken by Cyrus; and thirdly, that Cyrus is expressly mentioned Isaiah 44:28, as being concerned in the transaction here referred to. The word rendered 'deep' (צוּלה tsûlâh) denotes properly anything sunk; the depth of the sea; an abyss. 'But it may be applied to a deep river, and especially to the Euphrates, as a deep and mighty stream. In Jeremiah 51:36, the word 'sea' is applied to the Euphrates:

'I will dry up her sea,

And make her springs dry.'

Cyrus took the city of Babylon, after having besieged it a long time in vain, by turning the waters of the river into a vast lake, forty miles square, which had been constructed in order to carry off the superfluous waters in a time of inundation. By doing this, he laid the channel of the river almost dry, and was thus enabled to enter the city above and below, under the walls, and to take it by surprise. The Septuagint renders the word 'deep' here by Ἀβύσσῳ Abussō - 'Abyss.' The Chaldee, 'Who says to Babylon, Be desolate, and I will dry up your streams.'

I will dry up thy rivers - Referring doubtless to the numerous canals or artificial streams by which Babylon and the adjacent country were watered. These were supplied from the Euphrates, and when that was diverted from its usual bed, of course they became dry.

27. Referring to the Euphrates, which was turned into a different channel, close to Babylon, by Cyrus, who thereby took the city. "The deep" is applied to Euphrates as "sea" (Jer 51:32, 36). "Rivers" refers to the artificial canals from the Euphrates made to irrigate the country; when it was turned off into a different bed (namely, a lake, forty miles square, which was originally formed to receive the superfluous water in an inundation), the canals became dry. That with a word can and will dry up the sea (which in Scripture is very frequently called

the deep, as Psalm 107:24 Isaiah 63:13 Jonah 2:3, &c.) and rivers, and remove all impediments, and make the way plain, that my people may return. Some think these words relate to that stratagem of Cyrus, whereby he diverted, and in a great measure dried up, the river Euphrates, and made it passable for his army. But he seems rather to allude to that great action of God’s drying up the Red Sea and Jordan, to give passage to the Israelites. That saith to the deep, be dry,.... The Targum is,

"that saith to Babylon, be desolate;''

and most interpreters, Jewish and Christian, understand it of Babylon, which was situated in a watery place, by rivers of water, particularly the river Euphrates, and in a low valley:

and I will dry up thy rivers; some think the allusion is to the stratagem of Cyrus, made use of, under a divine direction, to drain the river Euphrates, and make it passable for his army; by which means he surprised the city of Babylon, and took it: though others think it refers to the drying up of the Red sea and the river Jordan, which are proofs of what God can do, and a periphrasis of his power.

That saith to the {e} deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:

(e) He shows that God's work would be no less notable in this their deliverance, than when he brought them out of Egypt, through the sea.

27. the deep] is a figure for the obstacles to the deliverance of Israel. It has been thought by some commentators (including Vitringa and Lowth) that the verse contains an allusion to the well-known stratagem by which Cyrus is said to have got possession of Babylon (Herodotus 1. 185–191). The Hebrew word for “deep” might no doubt be applied to a river, as a cognate word is in Zechariah 10:11. But the recently discovered Cyrus-inscriptions seem to shew that the narrative of Herodotus is legendary. See Introd. p. xviii.Verse 27. - That saith to the deep, Be dry (comp. Isaiah 42:15). "The flood" here is probably the main stream of the Euphrates, while "the rivers" are the various side streams which branched off from it and again united themselves with it. Some commentators regard the drying of Euphrates as a mere metaphor for the exhaustion and ruin of Babylon (Kay); but (with Delitzsch) I should be inclined to understand a reference to the action of Cyrus in drawing off the water of the river (see the comment on Isaiah 42:15). The second half of the prophecy commences with Isaiah 44:21. It opens with an admonition. "Remember this, Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art servant to me, O Israel: thou art not forgotten by me." The thing to which the former were blind - namely, that idolatry is a lie - Jacob was to have firmly impressed upon its mind. The words "and Israel," which are attached, are a contract for "and remember this, O Israel" (compare the vocatives after Vâv in Proverbs 8:5 and Joel 2:23). In the reason assigned, the tone rests upon my in the expression "my servant," and for this reason "servant to me" is used interchangeably with it. Israel is the servant of Jehovah, and as such it was formed by Jehovah; and therefore reverence was due to Him, and Him alone. The words which follow are rendered by the lxx, Targum, Jerome, and Luther as though they read לא תנשׁני, though Hitzig regards the same rendering as admissible even with the reading תנּשנּי, inasmuch as the niphal נשּׁה has the middle sense of ἐπιλανθάνεσθαι, oblivisci. But it cannot be shown that nizkar is ever used in the analogous sense of μιμνήσκεσθαι, recordari. The niphal, which was no doubt originally reflective, is always used in Hebrew to indicate simply the passive endurance of something which originated with the subject of the action referred to, so that nisshâh could only signify "to forget one's self." We must indeed admit the possibility of the meaning "to forget one's self" having passed into the meaning "to be forgetful," and this into the meaning "to forget." The Aramaean תנשׁי also signifies to be forgotten and (with an accent following) to forget, and the connection with an objective suffix has a support in ויּלּחמוּני in Psalm 109:3. But the latter is really equivalent to אתּי וילחמו, so that it may be adduced with equal propriety in support of the other rendering, according to which תּנּשׁני is equivalent to לי תנש (Ges., Umbr., Ewald, Stier). There are many examples of this brachyological use of the suffix (Ges. 121, 4), so that this rendering is certainly the safer of the two. It also suits the context quite as well as the former, "Oh, forget me not;" the assurance "thou wilt not be forgotten by me" (compare Isaiah 49:15 and the lamentation of Israel in Isaiah 40:27) being immediately followed by an announcement of the act of love, by which the declaration is most gloriously confirmed. - Isaiah 44:22 "I have blotted out thy transgressions as a mist, and thy sins as clouds: return to me; for I have redeemed thee." We have adopted the rendering "mist" merely because we have no synonym to "cloud;" we have not translated it "thick cloud," because the idea of darkness, thickness, or opacity, which is the one immediately suggested by the word, had become almost entirely lost (see Isaiah 25:5). Moreover, קל עב is evidently intended here (see Isaiah 19:1), inasmuch as the point of comparison is not the dark, heavy multitude of sins, but the facility and rapidity with which they are expunged. Whether we connect with מסהיתי the idea of a stain, as in Psalm 51:3, Psalm 51:11, or that of a debt entered in a ledge, as in Colossians 2:14, and as we explained it in Isaiah 43:25 (cf., mâchâh, Exodus 32:32-33), in any case sin is regarded as something standing between God and man, and impeding or disturbing the intercourse between them. This Jehovah clears away, just as when His wind sweeps away the clouds, and restores the blue sky again (Job 26:13). Thus does God's free grace now interpose at the very time when Israel thinks He has forgotten it, blotting out Israel's sin, and proving this by redeeming it from a state of punishment. What an evangelical sound the preaching of the Old Testament evangelist has in this passage also! Forgiveness and redemption are not offered on condition of conversion, but the mercy of God comes to Israel in direct contrast to what its works deserve, and Israel is merely called upon to reciprocate this by conversion and renewed obedience. The perfects denote that which has essentially taken place. Jehovah has blotted out Israel's sin, inasmuch as He does not impute it any more, and thus has redeemed Israel. All that yet remains is the outward manifestation of this redemption, which is already accomplished in the counsel of God.
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