Isaiah 48:21
And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he split the rock also, and the waters gushed out.
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(21) He caused the waters to flow . . .—A dead prosaic literalism makes men wonder that there is no record of such wonders on the return from Babylon. A truer insight recognises that the “water out of the rock” is, as ever, the symbol of spiritual refreshment (Isaiah 41:17-19; Isaiah 43:19-20; John 4:10).

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.And they thirsted not - This is a part of that for which they would be called to celebrate his name. It was not merely that he had redeemed them, but that he had abundantly provided for their needs in the desert, and guided them safe through the pathless wilderness to their own land (see the notes at Isaiah 35:6-7; Isaiah 41:17-18).

He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them - The allusion here is undoubtedly to the fact that God caused the waters to flow out of the rock that Moses smote in the wilderness Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11. This is not to be regarded as literally true that God would, in like manner, smite the rocks and cause waters to flow by miracle on their return from Babylon. There is no record that any such event took place, and it is not necessary so to understand this passage. It is a part of the triumphant song which they are represented as singing after their return to their own land. In that song, they celebrate his gracious interposition in language that was familiar to them, and by illustrations that were well known. They therefore speak of his mercy to them as if he had smitten the rock in the desert on their return, and caused the waters to flow; and the sense is, that his mercy to them then was similar to his goodness to their fathers when he led them to the land of promise. He met all their necessities; and his gracious interposition was experienced all the way as really as though he had smitten the rock, or caused cool and refreshing fountains to break out in the desert.

21. Ezra, in describing the return, makes no mention of God cleaving the rock for them in the desert [Kimchi]. The circumstances, therefore, of the deliverance from Egypt (Ex 17:6; Nu 20:11; Ps 78:15; 105:41) and of that from Babylon, are blended together; the language, while more immediately referring to the latter deliverance, yet, as being blended with circumstances of the former not strictly applicable to the latter, cannot wholly refer to either, but to the mystic deliverance of man under Messiah, and literally to the final restoration of Israel. This is part of the matter which the Jews are obliged to declare to all people, as they have opportunity, to wit, that God took the same care of them in their return from Babylon to Canaan, which was through many dry and desolate places, as he did in their march from Egypt to Canaan.

They thirsted not, & c., i.e. they shall not thirst. He speaks of things to come, as if they were already past or present, as the prophets commonly do. And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts,.... As when he led the people of Israel through the wilderness to Canaan's land, though they sometimes thirsted for want of water, yet they were supplied with it, by which their thirst was extinguished, to which the reference here is. So when they came out of Babylon, and passed through the waste and desert places which lay between that and Judea, they were supplied with all necessaries. Thus the apostles of Christ, when they travelled through the Gentile world, comparable to a desert, publishing redemption and salvation by Christ, had every needful supply, both of temporal and spiritual things; they lacked not any thing. In like manner the people of God, while they pass through the wilderness of this world to the heavenly glory, are furnished and refreshed with living water out of the fountain and fulness of grace in Christ, of which if a man drink, he shall thirst no more, John 4:14, Isaiah 49:10, he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for thee; that is, for the Israelites in the wilderness, when they were come out of Egypt, and wanted water, Exodus 17:6,

he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out; Psalm 78:15, the rock was a type of Christ, from whom the living waters of grace flow, to the support, supply, comfort, and refreshment of the saints in this world, 1 Corinthians 10:4. Grace is often signified by waters, because purifying and cleansing, reviving and refreshing, softening and fructifying, and an extinguisher of thirst: their gushing out denotes the abundance of it, which is received from Christ, not only at first conversion, in the regeneration and quickening of men; in the pardon of their sins, and the justification of their persons; but in the large communications of grace, after made, for the supply of their wants: and all which come from Christ the Rock, that is higher than they, from whence their bread is given them, and their waters are sure unto them; and who is the Rock of their refuge and salvation: and the cleaving of this Rock may signify his sufferings and death; his being smitten, bruised, and broken for his people, that they may partake of his grace, and the blessings of it.

And they {z} thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he broke the rock also, and the waters gushed out.

(z) He shows that it will be as easy to deliver them, as he did their fathers out of Egypt.

21. These are still words of the ransomed people. The allusions are to the miracles in the wilderness of Sinai (cf. Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11) which are represented as having been repeated during the desert journey of the returning exiles.Verse 21. - They thirsted not (comp. Isaiah 43:19, and the comment ad loc). The literal meaning is not to be altogether excluded. We have no historical account of the journey made by the bulk of the exiles who returned with Zerubbabel; but they must almost certainly have experienced difficulties with respect to water; and it is quite possible that a miraculous supply was vouchsafed to them. Most commentators, however, are content to explain both this and the earlier passage as merely "symbolical." The Israelites - they say - had spiritual refreshment on their homeward journey, by God's goodness, constantly. The prophecy opened with "Hear ye;" and now the second half commences with "Hear." Three times is the appeal made to Israel: Hear ye; Jehovah alone is God, Creator, shaper of history, God of prophecy and of fulfilment. "Hearken to me, O Jacob, and Israel my called! I am it, I first, also I last. My hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: I call to them, and they stand there together. All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear: Who among them hath proclaimed this? He whom Jehovah loveth will accomplish his will upon Babel, and his arm upon the Chaldeans. I, I have spoken, have also called him, have brought him here, and his way prospers. Come ye near to me! Hear ye this! I have not spoken in secret, from the beginning: from the time that it takes place, there am I: and now the Lord Jehovah hath sent me and His Spirit." Israel is to hearken to the call of Jehovah. The obligation to this exists, on the one hand, in the fact that it is the nation called to be the servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 41:9), the people of sacred history; and on the other hand, in the fact that Jehovah is הוּא (ever since Deuteronomy 32:39, the fundamental clause of the Old Testament credo), i.e., the absolute and eternally unchangeable One, the Alpha and Omega of all history, more especially of that of Israel, the Creator of the earth and heavens (tippach, like nâtâh elsewhere, equivalent to the Syriac tephach, to spread out), at whose almighty call they stand ready to obey, with all the beings they contain. אני קרא is virtually a conditional sentence (Ewald, 357, b). So far everything has explained the reason for the exhortation to listen to Jehovah. A further reason is now given, by His summoning the members of His nation to assemble together, to hear His own self-attestation, and to confirm it: Who among them (the gods of the heathen) has proclaimed this, or anything of the kind? That which no one but Jehovah has ever predicted follows immediately, in the form of an independent sentence, the subject of which is אהבו יהוה (cf., Isaiah 41:24): He whom Jehovah loveth will accomplish his will upon Babylon, and his arm (accomplish it) upon the Chaldeans. וּזרעו is not an accusative (as Hitzig, Ewald, Stier, and others maintain); for the expression "accomplish his arm" (? Jehovah's or his own) is a phrase that is quite unintelligible, even if taken as zeugmatic; it is rather the nominative of the subject, whilst כּשׂדּים equals בּכּשׂדּים, like תהלתי equals תהלתי למען in Isaiah 48:9. Jehovah, He alone, is He who has proclaimed such things; He also has raised up in Cyrus the predicted conqueror of Babylon. The prosperity of his career is Jehovah's work.

As certainly now as הקּבצוּ in Isaiah 48:14 is the word of Jehovah, so certain is it that אלי קרבוּ is the same. He summons to Himself the members of His nation, that they may hear still further His own testimony concerning Himself. From the beginning He has not spoken in secret (see Isaiah 45:19); but from the time that all which now lies before their eyes - namely, the victorious career of Cyrus - has unfolded itself, He has been there, or has been by (shâm, there, as in Proverbs 8:27), to regulate what was coming to pass, and to cause it to result in the redemption of Israel. Hofmann gives a different explanation, viz.: "I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; not from the time when it came to pass (not then for the first time, but long before); I was then (when it occurred)." But the arrangement of the words is opposed to this continued force of the לא, and the accents are opposed to this breaking off of the אני שׁם, which affirms that, at the time when the revolution caused by Cyrus was preparing in the distance, He caused it to be publicly foretold, and thereby proclaimed Himself the present Author and Lord of what was then occurring. Up to this point Jehovah is speaking; but who is it that now proceeds to say, "And now - namely, now that the redemption of Israel is about to appear (ועתּה being here, as in many other instances, e.g., Isaiah 33:10, the turning-point of salvation) - now hath the Lord Jehovah sent me and His Spirit?" The majority of the commentators assume that the prophet comes forward here in his own person, behind Him whom he has introduced, and interrupts Him. But although it is perfectly true, that in all prophecy, from Deuteronomy onwards, words of Jehovah through the prophet and words of the prophet of Jehovah alternate in constant, and often harsh transitions, and that our prophet has this mark of divine inspiration in common with all the other prophets (cf., Isaiah 62:5-6), it must also be borne in mind, that hitherto he has not spoken once objectively of himself, except quite indirectly (vid., Isaiah 40:6; Isaiah 44:26), to say nothing of actually coming forward in his own person. Whether this takes place further on, more especially in Isaiah 61:1-11, we will leave for the present; but here, since the prophet has not spoken in his own person before, whereas, on the other hand, these words are followed in Isaiah 49:1. by an address concerning himself from that servant of Jehovah who announces himself as the restorer of Israel and light of the Gentiles, and who cannot therefore be ether Israel as a nation or the author of these prophecies, nothing is more natural than to suppose that the words, "And now hath the Lord," etc., form a prelude to the words of the One unequalled servant of Jehovah concerning Himself which occur in chapter 49. The surprisingly mysterious way in which the words of Jehovah suddenly pass into those of His messenger, which is only comparable to Zechariah 2:12., Zechariah 4:9 (where the speaker is also not the prophet, but a divine messenger exalted above him), can only be explained in this manner. And in no other way can we explain the ועתּה, which means that, after Jehovah has prepared the way for the redemption of Israel by the raising up of Cyrus, in accordance with prophecy, and by his success in arms, He has sent him, the speaker in this case, to carry out, in a mediatorial capacity, the redemption thus prepared, and that not by force of arms, but in the power of the Spirit of God (Isaiah 42:1; cf., Zechariah 4:6). Consequently the Spirit is not spoken of here as joining in the sending (as Umbreit and Stier suppose, after Jerome and the Targum: the Septuagint is indefinite, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ); nor do we ever find the Spirit mentioned in such co-ordination as this (see, on the other hand, Zechariah 7:12, per spiritum suum). The meaning is, that it is also sent, i.e., sent in and with the servant of Jehovah, who is peaking here. To convey this meaning, there was no necessity to write either ורוּחו אתי שׁלח or ואת־רוחו שׁלחוי, since the expression is just the same as that in Isaiah 29:7, וּמצדתהּ צביה; and the Vav may be regarded as the Vav of companionship (Mitschaft, lit., with-ship, as the Arabs call it; see at Isaiah 42:5).

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