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 clave 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. Isaiah 48:21So far the address is hortatory. In the face of the approaching redemption, it demands fidelity and faith. But in the certainty that such a faithful and believing people will not be wanting within the outer Israel, the prophecy of redemption clothes itself in the form of a summons. "Go out of Babel, flee from Chaldaea with voice of shouting: declare ye, preach ye this, carry it out to the end of the earth! Say ye, Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob His servant. And they thirsted not: He led them through dry places; He caused water to trickle out of rocks for them; He split rocks, and waters gushed out. There is no peace, saith Jehovah, for the wicked." They are to go out of Babylon, and with speed and joy to leave the land of slavery and idolatry far behind. Bârach does not mean literally to flee in this instance, but to depart with all the rapidity of flight (compare Exodus 14:5). And what Jehovah has done to them, is to be published by them over the whole earth; the redemption experienced by Israel is to become a gospel to all mankind. The tidings which are to be sent forth (הוצי) as in Isaiah 42:1), extend from גאל to the second מים, which is repeated palindromically. Jehovah has redeemed the nation that He chose to be the bearer of His salvation, amidst displays of love, in which the miracles of the Egyptian redemption have been renewed. This is what Israel has to experience, and to preach, so far as it has remained true to its God. But there is no peace, saith Jehovah, to the reshâ‛ı̄m: this is the name given to loose men (for the primary meaning of the verbal root is laxity and looseness), i.e., to those whose inward moral nature is loosened, without firm hold, and therefore in a state of chaotic confusion, because they are without God. The reference is to the godless in Israel. The words express the same thought negatively which is expressed positively in Galatians 6:16, "Peace upon the Israel of God." "Shâlōm is the significant and comprehensive name given to the coming salvation. From this the godless exclude themselves; they have no part in the future inheritance; the sabbatical rest reserved for the people of God does not belong to them. With this divine utterance, which pierces the conscience like the point of an arrow, this ninth prophecy is brought to a close; and not that only, but also the trilogy concerning "Babel" in chapters 46-49, and the whole of the first third of these 3 x 9 addresses to the exiles. From this time forth the name Kōresh (Cyrus), and also the name Babel, never occur again; the relation of the people of Jehovah to heathenism, and the redemption from Babylon, so far as it was foretold and accomplished by Jehovah, not only proving His sole deity, but leading to the overthrow of the idols and the destruction of their worshippers. This theme is now exhausted, and comes into the foreground no more. The expression איּים שׁמעוּ, in its connection with עמּי נחמוּ, points at once to the diversity in character of the second section, which commences here.
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