Isaiah 48:8
Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.
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48:1-8 The Jews valued themselves on descent from Jacob, and used the name of Jehovah as their God. They prided themselves respecting Jerusalem and the temple, yet there was no holiness in their lives. If we are not sincere in religion, we do but take the name of the Lord in vain. By prophecy they were shown how God would deal with them, long before it came to pass. God has said and done enough to prevent men's boasting of themselves, which makes the sin and ruin of the proud worse; sooner or later every mouth shall be stopped, and all become silent before Him. We are all born children of disobedience. Where original sin is, actual sin will follow. Does not the conscience of every man witness to the truth of Scripture? May the Lord prove us, and render us doers of the word.Yea, thou heardest not - This verse is designed to show not only that these events could not have been foreseen by them, but that when they were actually made known to them, they were stupid, dull, and incredulous. It is not only re-affirming what had been said in the previous verses, but is designed to show that they were characteristically and constantly a perverse, hardened, and insensible people. The phrase, 'thou heardest not,' therefore means that they did not attend to these things when they were uttered, and were prone to disregard God, and all his predictions and promises.

Yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened - The word 'that' which is here supplied by our translators, greatly obscures the sense. The meaning is, 'from the first, thine ear was not open to receive them' (Lowth); that is, they were stupid, insensible, and uniformly prone to disregard the messages of God. To open the ear, denotes a prompt and ready attention to what God says (see Isaiah 50:5), and to close the ear denotes an unwillingness to listen to what is spoken by him.

For I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously - I knew that, as a people, you are characteristically false and perfidious. This does not refer to their conduct toward other nations, but to their conduct toward God. They were false and unfaithful to him, and the sense is, that if God had not foretold the destruction of Babylon and their deliverance from it so clearly that there could have been no misunderstanding of it, and no perversion, they would have also perverted this, and ascribed it to something else than to him. Perhaps they might, as their forefathers did, when they came out of Egypt Exodus 32:4, have ascribed it to idols (compare Isaiah 48:5), and the result might have been a relapse into that very sin, to cure which was the design of removing them to Babylon.'

And wast called - This was thy appropriate appellation.

From the womb - From the very commencement of your national history; from the very time when the nation was first organized (see the notes at Isaiah 44:2).

8. heardest not—repeated, as also "knewest not," from Isa 48:7.

from that time—Omit "that." "Yea, from the first thine ear did not open itself," namely, to obey them [Rosenmuller]. "To open the ear" denotes obedient attention (Isa 50:5); or, "was not opened" to receive them; that is, they were not declared by Me to thee previously, since, if thou hadst been informed of them, such is thy perversity, thou couldst not have been kept in check [Maurer]. In the former view, the sense of the words following is, "For I knew that, if I had not foretold the destruction of Babylon so plainly that there could be no perverting of it, thou wouldst have perversely ascribed it to idols, or something else than to Me" (Isa 48:5). Thus they would have relapsed into idolatry, to cure them of which the Babylonian captivity was sent: so they had done (Ex 32:4). After the return, and ever since, they have utterly forsaken idols.

wast called—as thine appropriate appellation (Isa 9:6).

from the womb—from the beginning of Israel's national existence (Isa 44:2).

Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; the same thing is repeated again and again, because this was so illustrious a proof of the infinite power and providence of the God of Israel, and so clear and full a discovery of the vanity of idols.

Yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened; Heb. yea, from then (of which phrase see the foregoing verse) thine ear was not opened, i.e. thou didst not hear, to wit, from me; I did not reveal these things unto thee; for so this phrase of opening the ear is understood, 1 Samuel 9:15 2 Samuel 7:27.

I knew that thou wouldest deal treacherously; I knew all these cautions were necessary to cure thine infidelity and apostacy.

Wast called, to wit, justly and truly; or, thou wast indeed such a person; to be called put for to be, as we have oft noted.

Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened,.... This, as Kimchi rightly observes, is said by way of reproof; showing that they were so far from knowing these things before the prophecy of them was given out, that when it was, they did not hearken or listen to them; they did not understand them, nor receive and embrace them, but turned a deaf ear to them; their hearts being hardened, and they given up blindness of mind; which was the case of the Jews, even when the Messiah, the antitype of Cyrus, came, and there was a more clear revelation of Gospel truths, as was foretold, Isaiah 6:9. To this sense is the Targum,

"yea, thou has not heard the words of the prophets; yea, thou hast not received the doctrine of the law; yea, thou hast not inclined thine ear to the words of the blessings and curses of the covenant I made with thee at Horeb:''

for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously: with God, and with one another, as they did; and were, as Jeremiah calls them, an assembly of treacherous men; and especially so they were in Christ's time, and to him; one of his own disciples treacherously betrayed him into the hands of the Jews, and they delivered him into the hands of the Gentiles to be crucified and slain; all which he knew before hand, John 6:64. And so the Lord knows all the wickedness and unfaithfulness of men, and of his own people, who are by nature children of wrath, as, others; yet this hindered not the designs of his grace, and the discoveries of his love to them, after expressed:

and wast called a transgressor from the womb; from the time of their civil birth, as a people and state, God was their Father that settled and established them; in this sense they were his children, whom he begot, brought up, and nourished; though they rebelled against him, and as soon almost as born, soon after they came out of Egypt, which were the days of their youth, of their infancy as a church and people; witness their murmurings and unbelief, their idolatry in making a golden calf, and worshipping it: and this is applicable to every particular person, and his natural birth, even to everyone of God's elect; who are all conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity; go astray from God from the womb; and the imagination of whose heart is evil from their youth, and are continually transgressing the righteous law of God, and therefore justly deserve this name.

Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thy ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the {i} womb.

(i) From the time that I brought you of Egypt: for that deliverance was as the birth of the Church.

8. Yea, thou heardest not &c.] Better: Thou hast neither heard nor known, nor was thine ear opened beforehand. The verbal form for “was opened” is properly transitive. It is used, however, in ch. Isaiah 60:11 of gates standing open, and in Song of Solomon 7:13 of the opening of a flower. The LXX. reads “I opened,” and this gives a better sense, the assertion being not that Israel’s ear refused to open, but that Jehovah had not opened it, i.e. had not given a revelation. A similar conception of revelation, though with a different verb, in ch. Isaiah 22:14; 1 Samuel 9:15; with the same verb, in ch. Isaiah 50:5.

that thou wouldest deal very treacherously] Rather: that thou art utterly treacherous. a transgressor] a rebel. Such has been the character of Israel as revealed in its past history; it would have abused the knowledge if the predictions had been made earlier.

Verse 8. - Thou heardest not... thou knewest not. Again we seem to hear the voice of complaint, as in vers. 1, 2, 4. Israel had not "ears to hear" to any purpose such highly spiritual truths as those of the coming section. They had not profited by what was taught concerning Christ in the Law and the Psalms. From that time that thine ear was not opened; rather, from that time thine ear hath not been open. "From that time" means "from of old," or "from the beginning." Isaiah 48:8But in order to determine exactly what "the former things" were, which Jehovah had foretold in order that Israel might not ascribe them to this idol or the other, we must add Isaiah 48:6-8 : "Thou hast heard it, look then at it all; and ye, must ye not confess it? I give thee new things to hear from this time forth, and hidden things, and what thou didst not know. It is created now, and not long ago; and thou hast not heard it before, that thou mightest not say, Behold, I knew it. Thou hast neither heard it, nor known it, nor did thine ear open itself to it long ago: for I knew thou art altogether faithless, and thou art called rebellious from the womb." The meaning of the question in Isaiah 48:6 is very obvious: they must acknowledge and attest, even thou against their will (Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 44:8), that Jehovah has foretold all that is now confirmed by the evident fulfilment. Consequently the "former things" are the events experienced by the people from the very earliest times (Isaiah 46:9) down to the present times of Cyrus, and more especially the first half or epoch of this period itself, which expired at the time that formed the prophet's standpoint. And as the object of the prediction was to guard Israel against ascribing to its idols that which had taken place (which can only be understood of events that had occurred in favour of Israel), the "former things" must include the preparation for the redemption of Israel from the Babylonian captivity through the revolution brought to pass by Cyrus. Hence the "new things" will embrace the redemption of Israel with its attendant circumstances, and that not merely on its outward side, but on its spiritual side as well; also the glorification of the redeemed people in the midst of a world of nations converted to the God of Israel, and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth; in short, the New Testament aeon (compare עם לברית, lxx εἰς διαθήκην γένους, Isaiah 42:6), with the facts which contribute to its ultimate completion (f. Isaiah 42:9). The announcement and realization of these absolutely new and hitherto secret things (cf., Romans 16:25) take place from this time forward; Israel has not heard of them "before today" (compare מיּום, "from this day forward," Isaiah 43:13), that it may not lay claim to the knowledge conveyed to it by prophecy, as something drawn from itself. This thought is carried to a climax in Isaiah 48:8 in three correlated sentences commencing with "yea" (gam). פּתח signifies patescere here, as in Isaiah 60:11 (Ewald, 120, a). Jehovah had said nothing to them of this before, because it was to be feared that, with their faithlessness and tendency to idolatry, which had run through their entire history, they would only abuse it. This is strange! On the one hand, the rise of Cyrus is spoken of here as predicted from of old, because it belonged to the "former things," and as knowable through prophecy - a statement which favours the opinion that these addresses were written before the captivity; and, on the other hand, a distinction is drawn between these "former things" and certain "new things" that were intentionally not predicted before the expiration of these "former things," which certainly seems to preclude the possibility of their having been composed before the captivity; since, as Ruetschi observes, if "the older Isaiah had predicted this, he would have acted in direct opposition to Jehovah's design." But in actual fact, the dilemma in which the opponents of the authenticity of these prophecies find themselves, is comparatively worse than this. For the principal objection - namely, that a prophet before the captivity could not possibly have known or predicted anything concerning Cyrus - cannot be satisfactorily removed by attributing these prophecies to a prophet of the time of the captivity, since they expressly and repeatedly affirm that the rise of Cyrus was an event foreknown and predicted by the God of prophecy. Now, if it is Isaiah who thus takes his stand directly in the midst of the captivity, we can understand both of these: viz., the retrospective glance at previous prophecies, which issued in the rise of Cyrus that prepared the way for the redemption from Babylon, since, so far as the prophet was concerned, such prophecies as Isaiah 13-14:23; Isaiah 21:1-10, and also Isaiah 11:10-12 (Micah 4:10), are fused into one with his present predictions; and also the prospective glance at prophecies which are now first to be uttered, and events which are now fore the first time about to be accomplished; inasmuch as the revelations contained in these prophecies concerning Israel's pathway through suffering to glory, more especially so far as they grew out of the idea of the "servant of Jehovah," might really be set down as absolutely new to the prophet himself, and never heard of before. Meanwhile our exposition is not affected by the critical question; for even we most firmly maintain, that the prophet who is speaking here has his standpoint in the midst of the captivity, on the boundary line of the condition of suffering and punishment and its approaching termination.
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