Isaiah 48:16 Commentaries: "Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit."
Isaiah 48:16
Come you near to me, hear you this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, has sent me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) Come ye near unto me.—Here the address would seem to be made to Israel. At first Jehovah appears as the speaker, and as using much the same language as before. At the close the prophet appears abruptly, as speaking in his own person. Perhaps, indeed, the prophet is the speaker throughout. A paraphrase will perhaps help to explain the sequence of thought. “I have not from the beginning of my prophetic work spoken in dark, ambiguous speeches like the oracles of the heathen. From the time that the great work began to unfold itself I was present, contemplating it. Now the time of revelation has come. The Lord God hath sent me (this is the Hebrew order); and His Spirit. This gives, it is believed, an adequate explanation. By some interpreters the closing words are referred to the mysterious “Servant of the Lord,” and by others the Spirit is made the object and not the subject of the word “sent.”

Isaiah 48:16. Come ye near unto me, &c. — That you may the better hear me. Here, as in Isaiah 48:14, Jacob and Israel are summoned to hearken to the prophet speaking in God’s name, and as a type of the great prophet, by whom God has in these last days spoken unto us. I have not spoken in secret — I have not suppressed, concealed, or kept back the counsel and word of God, or any part thereof, but have declared it openly and publicly. See note on Isaiah 45:19, where these very words are spoken by God in his own name, as they are here by the prophet in God’s name. From the beginning — From the first time that I began to prophesy until now: or, if the prophet be considered as uttering God’s words, the meaning is, From the beginning of my taking you to be my people, and revealing my mind to you. From the time that it was, there am, or rather, was, I — These words also, as well as the former, are the words either, 1st, Of the prophet; and so the sense is, From the time that I was first called to be a prophet, I have been there, that is, I have diligently pursued my prophetical function; I have hearkened, from time to time, to hear what God would speak to me, that I might impart it to you: or, 2d, Of God; and then the sense may be this: From the time that I first foretold it, I was there to take care to effect what I predicted. And now — This is opposed to the foregoing words, from the beginning; the Lord God and his Spirit — God, by his Spirit, or God, even the Spirit, namely, the Holy Ghost, to whom the sending and inspiring of God’s prophets is ascribed, 2 Peter 1:21; hath sent me — Namely, the prophet, who yet was a type of Christ, and so this may have a respect to him also.48:16-22 The Holy Spirit qualifies for service; and those may speak boldly, whom God and his Spirit send. This is to be applied to Christ. He was sent, and he had the Spirit without measure. Whom God redeems, he teaches; he teaches to profit by affliction, and then makes them partakers of his holiness. Also, by his grace he leads them in the way of duty; and by his providence he leads in the way of deliverance. God did not afflict them willingly. If their sins had not turned them away, their peace should have been always flowing and abundant. Spiritual enjoyments are ever joined with holiness of life and regard to God's will. It will make the misery of the disobedient the more painful, to think how happy they might have been. And here is assurance given of salvation out of captivity. Those whom God designs to bring home to himself, he will take care of, that they want not for their journey. This is applicable to the grace laid up for us in Jesus Christ, from whom all good flows to us, as the water to Israel out of the rock, for that Rock was Christ. The spiritual blessings of redemption, and the rescue of the church from antichristian tyranny, are here pointed to. But whatever changes take place, the Lord warned impenitent sinners that no good would come to them; that inward anguish and outward trouble, which spring from guilt and from the Divine wrath, must be their portion for ever.Come ye near unto me - (see Isaiah 48:14).

I have not spoken in secret - (See the notes at Isaiah 45:19). The idea here is, that he had foretold the raising up of Cyrus, and his agency in delivering his people, in terms so plain that it could not be pretended that it was conjectured, and so clear that there was no ambiguity.

From the time that it was, there am I-- From the moment when the purpose was formed, and when it began to be accomplished, I was present. The meaning is, that everything in regard to raising up Cyrus, and to the delivery of his people from Babylon, had been entirely under his direction.

And now the Lord God and his Spirit hath sent me - There is evidently a change in the speaker here. In the former part of the verse, it is God who is the speaker. But here it is he who is sent to bear the message. Or, if this should be regarded, as Lowth and many others suppose, as the Messiah who is speaking to the exiled Jews, then it is an assertion that he had been sent by the Lord God and his Spirit. There is an ambiguity in the original, which is not retained in our common translation. The Hebrew is, 'And now the Lord Yahweh hath sent me, and his Spirit;' and the meaning may be either, as in our version, that Yahweh and his Spirit were united in sending the person referred to; or that Yahweh had sent him, and at the same time had also sent his Spirit to accompany what he said. Grotius renders it, 'The Lord by his Spirit bas given me these commands.' Jerome understands the word 'Spirit' as in the nominative case, and as meaning that the Spirit united with Yahweh in sending the person referred to - Dominus Deus misit me, et spiritus ejus.

The Septuagint, like the Hebrew, is ambiguous - Νῦν κύριος κύριος ἀπέστειλέ με, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ Nun kurios kurios apesteile me, kai to pneuma autou. The Syriac has the same ambiguity. The Targum of Jonathan renders it, 'And now Jehovah (יי yeyâ) God hath sent me and his word.' It is perhaps not possible to determine, where there is such ambiguity in the form of the sentence, what is the exact meaning. As it is not common, however, in the Scriptures, to speak of the Spirit of God as sending, or commissioning his servants; and as the object of the speaker here is evidently to conciliate respect for his message as being inspired, it is probably to be regarded as meaning that he had been sent by Yahweh and was accompanied wish the influences of his Spirit. Many of the reformers, and others since their time have supposed that this refers to the Messiah, and have endeavored to derive a demonstration from this verse of the doctrine of the Trinity. The argument which it has been supposed these words furnish on that subject is, that three persons are here spoken of, the person who sends, that is, God the Father; the person who is sent, that is, the Messiah; and the Spirit, who concurs in sending him, or by whom he is endowed.

But the evidence that this refers to the Messiah is too slight to lay the foundation for such an argument; and nothing is gained to the cause of truth by such forced interpretations. "It would require more time, and toil, and ingenuity to demonstrate that this passage had reference to the Messiah, than it would to demontstrate the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of the Redeemer, from the unequivocal declarations of the New Testament." The remark of Calvin on this verse, and on this mode of interpretation, is full of good sense: 'This verse interpreters explain in different ways. Many refer it to Christ, but the prophet designs no such thing. Cavendoe autem sunt nobis violentoe et coactoe interpretations - (such forced and violent interpretations are to be avoided).' The scope of the passage demands, as it seems to me, that it should be referred to the prophet himself. His object is, to state that he had not come at his own instance, or without being commissioned. He had been sent by God, and was attended by the Spirit of inspiration. He foretold events which the Spirit of God alone could make known to mankind. It is, therefore, a strong asseveration that his words demanded their attention, and that they had every ground of consolation, and every possible evidence that they would be rescued from their bondage. It is a full claim to divine inspiration, and is one of the many assertions which are found in the Scriptures where the sacred writers claim to have been sent by God, and taught by his Spirit.

16. not … in secret—(Isa 45:19). Jehovah foretold Cyrus' advent, not with the studied ambiguity of heathen oracles, but plainly.

from the time, &c.—From the moment that the purpose began to be accomplished in the raising up of Cyrus I was present.

sent me—The prophet here speaks, claiming attention to his announcement as to Cyrus, on the ground of his mission from God and His Spirit. But he speaks not in his own person so much as in that of Messiah, to whom alone in the fullest sense the words apply (Isa 61:1; Joh 10:36). Plainly, Isa 49:1, which is the continuation of the forty-eighth chapter, from Isa 48:16, where the change of speaker from God (Isa 48:1, 12-15) begins, is the language of Messiah. Lu 4:1, 14, 18, shows that the Spirit combined with the Father in sending the Son: therefore "His Spirit" is nominative to "sent," not accusative, following it.

Come ye near unto me, that you may the better hear me, as it follows. A speech of God after the manner of men.

I have not spoken in secret; I have not smothered the counsel and word of God, but have plainly and publicly declared it. unto you; or, I have openly revealed my mind to you. See Poole "Isaiah 45:19", where these very words are spoken by God in his own name, as here by the prophet in God’s name; and so all comes to one.

From the beginning; either,

1. From the first time that I began to prophesy until this time. Or,

2. From the beginning of my taking you to be my people, and of revealing my mind to you. See Poole "Isaiah 41:26".

From the time that it was these words also, as well as the former, are the words, either,

1. Of the prophet; and so the sense seems to be this, From the time that I was first called to be a prophet, I have been there, i.e. I have diligently pursued my prophetical function; I have hearkened from time to time, to hear what God would speak to me, that I might impart it to you. Or,

2. Of God; and then the sense may be this, From the time that I first spoke of it, or foretold it, I am or was there, to take care to effect what I had foretold; I minded it carefully from that time, as being then more especially obliged to do it, lest my truth or power should be questioned. Or the words may be thus rendered and explained, from the time that this shall be, when the time appointed for the doing of this work shall come, there I will be, to encourage and assist Cyrus in the work. There am I: this is opposed to those foregoing words, from the beginning. God and his Spirit; God by his Spirit; or, God, even the Spirit or the Holy Ghost, to whom the sending and inspiring of God’s prophets is ascribed, 2 Peter 1:21. Hath sent me, to wit, the prophet Isaiah; who yet was a type of Christ, and so this may have a respect to him also. Come ye near unto me, hear ye this,.... An address to the Jews, to attend the ministry of Christ, and hear the doctrine he had delivered to them:

I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the beginning of his ministry; which be exercised not in private houses, but in the synagogues of the Jews, and in the temple, whither a large concourse of people resorted, John 18:20,

from the time that it was, there am I; from the time that his ministry began there, he was in the same places, in Judea and Galilee, always publicly preaching the Gospel, and doing good: or rather, "before the time that it was, there was I" (n); Christ existed before his incarnation, before he appeared as the great Prophet in Israel; he existed as the Word and Son of God from all eternity, and was with God his Father from everlasting; he was by him, and brought up with him, and lay in his bosom so early:

and now the Lord God and his Spirit hath sent me; in the fulness of time, in the likeness of sinful flesh, to preach the Gospel, fulfil the law, and to redeem and save the Lord's people. Here is a glorious testimony of a trinity of Persons in the Godhead; Christ the Son of God is sent in human nature, and as Mediator Jehovah the Father and the Spirit are the senders of him; and so is a proof of the mission, commission, and authority of Christ, who came not of himself, but was sent of God, John 8:42, it may be rendered, "and now the Lord God hath sent me and his Spirit" (o); both were sent of God, and in this order; first, Christ, to be the Redeemer and Saviour; and then the Spirit, to be the Convincer and Comforter; see John 14:26.

(n) "ex tempore antequam fieret", V. L. "nondum existente tempore horum eventuum", Forerius. (o) "misit me et spiritum ejus", Lutherus, Castalio; "et spiritum suum", Cocceius, Vitringa.

Come ye near to me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the {s} beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath {t} sent me.

(s) Since the time that I declared myself to your fathers.

(t) Thus the Prophet speaks for himself, and to assure them of these things.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. I have not spoken in secret] Cf. ch. Isaiah 45:19.

from the beginning; from the time that it was] The sense is somewhat obscure. The pronoun “it” cannot refer to the world or the creation, which would require to be expressed; the implied antecedent must be the subject of which the prophet is speaking, the purpose of Jehovah against Babylon. The “beginning” will therefore be either the origin of revelation in general, or of the series of prophecies now being fulfilled. The meaning may be paraphrased thus: Jehovah has never from the beginning spoken in dark and uncertain oracles, and He does not conceal Himself now when events are already moving towards the accomplishment of His words; He is there, interpreting as well as guiding the course of history. That Jehovah is the speaker thus far cannot be questioned, in spite of the last clause of the verse. For the phrase “there am I,” comp. Proverbs 8:27 (in the mouth of the personified Wisdom of God).

and now the Lord God &c.] Render: and now the Lord Jehovah hath sent me and (i.e. with) His spirit; “His spirit” being not a second subject along with Jehovah, but a second object. For the idea cf. ch. Isaiah 61:1 and Zechariah 7:12. The Spirit is never spoken of in the O.T. as the sender of the prophets, or as an independent agent distinct from Jehovah. The isolation of this sentence from its context raises doubts as to its genuineness. The sudden change of speaker disconnects it from what precedes, and it is equally unsuitable as an introduction to Isaiah 48:17-19, where Jehovah Himself is again introduced by the ordinary prophetic formula. A prelude to ch. 49. (Delitzsch) it cannot possibly be; and it is utterly arbitrary and unnatural to suppose that the words are spoken by the “Servant of Jehovah.” If they are genuine they are undoubtedly words of the prophet, who here calls attention to himself and his mission, in a way which has no parallel in ch. 40–55. Duhm and Cheyne hold that the words are interpolated; the motive for their insertion being a misunderstanding of the first part of the verse. Taking “from the beginning” and “from the time that it was” to refer to the Creation, the editor supplied the contrast (“and now”), which he believed the author to have in his mind.Verses 16-22. - THE THIRD ADDRESS. Israel is reminded of God's merciful teaching and leading in the past (vers. 16, 17); expostulated with on their disobedience (vers. 18, 19); exhorted to go forth boldly and joyfully from Babylon (vers. 20, 21); and finally warned that God's blessings - even such a blessing as deliverance - are no blessings to any but the righteous (ver. 22). Verse 16. - I have not spoken in secret from the beginning. God, "from the beginning," i.e. from his first dealings with Israel, had raised up a succession of prophets, who had declared his will, not "in secret," or ambiguously, but openly and plainly, so that all who heard might understand (comp. Isaiah 45:19, and see the comment ad loc.). From the time that it was, there am I; i.e. "from the time that the earth was, there (in the succession of my prophetic messengers) was I." It was I who spake by their mouth, and thus announced my will publicly. And now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me. Dr. Kay supposes that "one Divine Personage is here sent by another" - the Second Person of the Holy Trinity by the First and by the Third; but it is against the analogy of faith that the Third Person should send the Second. Probably Mr. Cheyne is right in suggesting that "here a fresh speaker is introduced," and also right in his supposition that the fresh speaker is "the prophet himself," who tells us that he is now carrying on the goodly succession which has been "from the beginning," and is sent to deliver his message by God (the Father) and his (Holy) Spirit. On the tendency of Isaiah to "hypostatize" the Spirit of God, see the comment on Isaiah 40:13; and compare Mr. Cheyne's note on the same passage ('Prophecies of Isaiah,' vol. 1. p. 243). The people now expiating its offences in exile has been from time immemorial faithless and inclined to apostasy; nevertheless Jehovah will save it, and its salvation is therefore an unmerited work of His compassion. "For my name's sake I lengthen out my wrath, and for my praise I hold back towards thee, that I may not cut thee off. Behold, I have refined thee, and not in the manner of silver: I have proved thee in the furnace of affliction. For mine own sake, for mine own sake I accomplish it (for how is it profaned!), and my glory I give not to another." The futures in Isaiah 48:9 affirm what Jehovah continually does. He lengthens out His wrath, i.e., He retards its outbreak, and thus shows Himself long-suffering. He tames or chains it (חטם, like Arab. chṭm, root טם, compare domare, root Sanscr. dam, possibly also to dam or damp) for the sake of Israel, that He may not exterminate it utterly by letting it loose, and that for the sake of His name and His praise, which require the carrying out of His plan to salvation, on which the existence of Israel depends. What Israel has hitherto experienced has been a melting, the object of which was not destruction, but testing and refinement. The Beth of בכסף ולא is not Beth pretii in the sense of "not to gain silver," or "not so that I should have gained silver as operae pretium," as Umbreit and Ewald maintain (and even Knobel, who explains it however as meaning "in the accompaniment of silver," though in the same sense). Such a thought would be out of place and purposeless here. Nor is Rosenmller's explanation admissible, viz., "not with silver, i.e., with that force of fire which is necessary for the smelting out of silver." This is altogether unsuitable, because the sufferings inflicted upon Israel did resemble the smelting out of the precious metal (see Isaiah 1:25). The Beth is rather the Beth essentiae, which may be rendered by tanquam, and introduces the accusative predicate in this instance, just as it introduces the nominative predicate in the substantive clause of Job 23:13, and the verbal clause of Psalm 39:7. Jehovah melted Israel, but not like silver (not as men melt silver); the meaning of which is, not that He melted it more severely, i.e., even more thoroughly, than silver, as Stier explains it, but, as the thought is positively expressed in Isaiah 48:10, that the afflictions which fell upon Israel served as a smelting furnace (kūr as in Deuteronomy 4:20). It was, however, a smelting of a superior kind, a spiritual refining and testing (bâchar is Aramaic in form, and equivalent to bâchan). The manifestation of wrath, therefore, as these expressions affirm, had a salutary object; and in this very object the intention was involved from the very first, that it should only last for a time. He therefore puts an end to it now for His own sake, i.e., not because He is induced to do so by the merits of Israel, but purely as an act of grace, to satisfy a demand made upon Him by His own holiness, inasmuch as, if it continued any longer, it would encourage the heathen to blaspheme His name, and would make it appear as though He cared nothing for His own honour, which was inseparably bound up with the existence of Israel. The expression here is curt and harsh throughout. In Isaiah 48:9, למען and אפּי are to be supplied in thought from Isaiah 48:9; and in the parenthetical exclamation, יחל איך (niphal of חלל, as in Ezekiel 22:26), the distant word שׁים (my name), also from Isaiah 48:9. "I will do it" refers to the carrying out of their redemption (cf., Isaiah 44:23). In Ezekiel 36:19-23 we have, as it were, a commentary upon Isaiah 48:11.
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