Isaiah 55:4
Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.
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(4) I have given him . . .—Better, I gave, the words referring primarily to the historic David (Comp. Psalm 78:70-71), though realised fully only in Him who was the “faithful and true witness” (John 18:37; Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:14), the “captain” or “leader” of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10).

Isaiah 55:4-5. Behold, I have given him — I have already appointed, and will, in due time, actually give the David last mentioned, even Christ, for a witness — To declare the will of God concerning the duty and salvation of men; to bear witness to the truth, John 18:37; to confirm God’s promises, and, among others, those which respect the calling of the Gentiles; to be a witness of both parts of that covenant made between God and men; to the people — Not only to my people of Israel, but to all people, Gentiles no less than Jews, as is evident from the following verse, from Isaiah 49:6, and divers other places; a leader and commander to the people — A sovereign prince, to give them laws and exact their obedience, and in case thereof to give them protection and rewards. Behold thou — O Messiah, of whom he spake Isaiah 55:4, and to whom he now suddenly turns his speech; shalt call — Namely, to thyself, and to the knowledge of thy truth, and thereby unto an acquaintance and fellowship with God; a nation that thou knowest not — Or, rather, didst not know, namely, with that special knowledge which implies approbation. And nations that knew not thee — That had but little knowledge of the living and true God, and no knowledge of the Messiah; shall run unto thee — Upon thy call, shall readily and speedily come to thee, to receive instructions from thee, and to follow thee whithersoever thou shalt lead them; because of the Lord thy God — Because the Lord shall, by many evident and unquestionable tokens, manifest himself to be thy God, and thee to be his Son and faithful servant. And for the Holy One of Israel — Because the God of Israel, the only true God, will highly honour thee by his singular presence with thee; by his almighty power accompanying thy word, and making it effectual for the conversion of an innumerable company, both of Jews and Gentiles; and by confirming thy word with illustrious signs and miracles, and particularly by thy resurrection and glorious ascension. These, and other similar considerations, were the arguments which convinced the Gentiles that Christ was the true Messiah, and that the religion which he taught was the true religion.55:1-5 All are welcome to the blessings of salvation, to whom those blessings are welcome. In Christ there is enough for all, and enough for each. Those satisfied with the world, that see no need of Christ, do not thirst. They are in no uneasiness about their souls: but where God gives grace, he gives a thirst after it; and where he has given a thirst after it, he will give it. Come to Christ, for he is the Fountain opened, he is the Rock smitten. Come to holy ordinances, to the streams that make glad the city of our God. Come to the healing waters, come to the living waters, Re 22:17. Our Saviour referred to this, Joh 7:37. Come, and buy; make it your own by application of the grace of the gospel to yourselves. Come, and eat; make it still more your own, and enjoy it. The world comes short of our expectations; we promise ourselves, at least, water in it, and we are disappointed; but Christ outdoes our expectations. We come to him, and we find wine and milk. The gifts offered to us are such as no price can be set upon. The things offered are already paid for; for Christ purchased them at the full price of his own blood, 1Pe 1:19. Our wants are beyond number, and we have nothing to supply them; if Christ and heaven are ours, we see ourselves for ever indebted to free grace. Hearken diligently; let the proud heart stoop; not only come, but accept God's offers. All the wealth and pleasure in the world, will not yield solid comfort and content to the soul. They do not satisfy even the appetites of the body; for all is vanity and vexation. Let the disappointments we meet with in the world, help to drive us to Christ, and to seek for satisfaction in him only. Then, and not before, we shall find rest for our souls. Hear, and your soul shall live. On what easy terms is happiness offered us! By the sure mercies of David, we are to understand the Messiah. All his mercies are covenant mercies; they are purchased by him, they are promised in him, and out of his hand they are dispensed to us. We know not how to find the way to the waters, but Christ is given to be a Leader, a Commander, to show us what to do, and enable us to do it. Our business is to obey him, and follow him. And there is no coming to the Father but by him. He is the Holy One of Israel, true to his promises; and he has promised to glorify Christ, by giving him the heathen for his inheritance.Behold, I have given him - This is evidently the language of God respecting the Messiah, or of David as representing the Messiah. Rosenmuller supposes that the name David here is used to designate the Messiah, and in support of this appeals to Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5. An examination of these passages will show that they all refer to the Messiah by the name of David; and it is morally certain that in the passage before us, the name David Isaiah 55:3 suggested the Messiah. It seems to me that this is to be regarded as a direct address respecting the Messiah, and that the object of the speaker here is to state a reason why he should be embraced. That reason was that God had constituted him as a leader. The Chaldee renders this, 'Lo, I have constituted him as a prince to the people, a king and ruler over all kingdoms.' Kimchi says that it means that the Messiah would be a monitor or a mediator between people and him who would accuse them. Grotius supposes that Jeremiah is intended here; but in that opinion he is destined undoubtedly to stand forever alone. The almost unbroken interpretation, from the earliest times, is that which refers it directly to the Messiah.

For a witness to the people - Noyes renders this, 'A ruler.' Rosenmuller, 'A monitor,' - one whose office it was publicly to admonish, or reprove others in the presence of witnesses. Jerome renders it, 'A witness.' The Septuagint, Μαρτύριον Marturion - 'A testimony.' The Chaldee (רב rab), 'A prince.' The Hebrew word (עד ‛ēd) means properly "a witness" Proverbs 19:5-9; then testimony, witness borne Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; then a prince, chief, lawgiver, commander. Compare the use of the verb in 2 Kings 17:13; Psalm 50:7; Psalm 81:9; Lamentations 2:13. The parallelism requires us to understand it in this sense here - as one who stood forth to bear solemn testimony in regard to God to his law, and claims, and plans; and one who, therefore, was designated to be the instructor, guide, and teacher of people.

A leader - Chaldee, 'A king.' The idea is, that he would sustain the relation of a sovereign. One of the important offices of the Messiah is that of king.

A commander - Or, rather, a lawgiver. He would originate the laws and institutions of his people.

4. him—the mystical David (Eze 37:24, 25; Jer 30:9; Ho 3:5). Given by God (Isa 49:6).

witness—He bore witness even unto death for God, to His law, claims, and plan of redeeming love (Joh 18:37; Re 1:5). Revelation is a "testimony"; because it is propounded to be received on the authority of the Giver, and not merely because it can be proved by arguments.

commander—"preceptor" [Horsley]; "lawgiver" [Barnes].

to the people—rather, "peoples."

I have given, I have already appointed, and will in due time actually give,

him; the David last mentioned, even Christ, the Son and successor of David, as is plain and certain from the titles and works ascribed to him in this and the following verse. But of this See Poole "Isaiah 55:3". For a witness; to be a Prophet or Teacher to declare the counsel and will of God concerning the duty and salvation of men; to bear witness unto the truth, as Christ himself affirmeth, John 18:37; to confirm God’s promises, Romans 15:8, and, amongst others, those which respect the calling and reconciliation of the Gentiles; to be a witness for both parties of that covenant made between God and men. To the people; not only to my people of Israel, but to all people, Gentiles no less than Jews, as is evident from the following verse, and from Isaiah 49:6, and divers other places.

A Leader and Commander; a sovereign Prince to give them laws, and exact their obedience, and in case of their obedience to give them protection and rewards. Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people,.... That is, the Messiah, as Aben Ezra, Kimchi, and Ben Melech rightly interpret it. This respects an act past in eternity, in God's eternal purposes and decrees, when he appointed Christ to the office of a Mediator; and this was an act of his grace, a free gift of his, flowing from his love to his people, both Jews and Gentiles, even all his elect, to whom Christ is a "witness", both of his father and of himself: of his father, of his good will to men, in forming the scheme of their salvation; of his love to sinners, in the mission of him; of his justice and holiness, which appear in his being the propitiation for sin; of his truth in his promises; of his whole mind and will, with respect to doctrine and worship: he is a witness of himself; of his deity and perfections; of his divine and eternal sonship; of his existence before his incarnation; of his Messiahship; of the end of his coming into the world; of his sufferings, death, and resurrection; of his second coming; and of the several characters he bears: he is a witness of the covenant itself, as well as the surety, Mediator, and messenger of it, and of truth in general; to which he has bore witness by his word and doctrines; by his works and miracles; by his sufferings and death; by the Scriptures of truth; by his Gospel, and the ministers of it; and by his spirit, and a faithful witness he is:

a leader and commander to the people; he is a "leader", as he is a teacher of his people, who teaches them to profit, and leads them in the way they should go; as a king that guides his subjects with the skilfulness of his hands, as David the type of him did; as a general leads out and on his armies to battle; as a shepherd leads his flock to good pastures; as a guide to those that know not the way; and as one that goes before others by way of example: Christ leads his people out of their own ways into his ways; and he leads them in a right way to the city of their habitation, to heaven at last; and he leads them on gradually and gently, as they are able to bear. He is a "commander" in a military way, a wise, powerful, valiant, and courageous one, and always victorious; and in a political sense, as a King commands his subjects, whose commands are to be obeyed; and indeed they are written on the hearts of his people; they are not grievous, though they cannot be performed in their own strength; nor is it designed that life and salvation should be obtained by the observance of them, but are done to testify subjection to Christ, and gratitude to him. The Targum is,

"behold, I have appointed him a Prince to the people, a King, and a ruler over all kingdoms.''

Behold, I have given {g} him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

(g) Meaning Christ, of whom David was a figure.

4. Behold, I have given him] Better, I have appointed him; or, if we adopt the view (a) above, “I set him” (aorist).

for a witness] of Jehovah’s power and faithfulness (cf. Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:8).

to the people] peoples (as R.V.).

a leader] The word nâgîd (ruler or prince) is used in 2 Samuel 7:8 of David’s kingship over Israel.

4, 5. (a) Most modern authorities hold that the person spoken of in Isaiah 55:4 is the historical David, and that Isaiah 55:4-5 institute a parallel between the position he occupied in the heathen world of his time and that which Israel shall occupy in the future; the thought expressed, therefore, is that the Messianic hope is transferred from the dynasty to the nation. The view is thus succinctly stated by Driver; “as David became ruler of subject nations (2 Samuel 8), a knowledge of his religion, however imperfect, spread among them; thus he was a ‘witness’ to them. This position of David is idealised in Psalm 18:43 (‘Thou makest me a head of nations; a people whom I have not known shall serve me’); and the position, as thus idealised, is here enlarged, and extended in a spiritual sense to Israel (Isaiah 55:5).” (Isaiah 2, p. 156.) (b) Others think that the reference in Isaiah 55:4 is to the future Messianic king (who is called David in Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23 f.), so that the two verses represent under two aspects the future greatness of Israel. (c) An intermediate position is taken by some, viz., that Isaiah 55:4 goes back to the promise made to David, but regards it as one destined to be fulfilled in the person of his son the Messiah. It is very difficult to decide between these conflicting explanations. Against (b) and (c) it is urged (1) that the tenses in Isaiah 55:4 are perfects and are naturally understood of the historic past, since those of Isaiah 55:5 are futures. (2) The idea of a personal Messiah appears nowhere else in the prophecy. (3) A further objection, which however savours of fastidiousness, is that the Messiah is never named David absolutely, even in Jeremiah 30 and Ezekiel 34. On the other side it may be said, (1) that the distinction of tense is accounted for by the fact that Isaiah 55:4 speaks of what is really past (viz. Jehovah’s decree concerning the Messiah), whereas Isaiah 55:5 refers to a consequence still to be manifested. (2) Although the idea of the Messiah is not found elsewhere in the book, there is nothing in the prophet’s conceptions inconsistent with it; where he thinks of Israel as a restored nation he will naturally think of it as represented by a Davidic king. (3) Neither in the fundamental passage (2 Samuel 7) nor in any of those which point back to it (2 Samuel 23; Psalms 18, 89) is anything said of David being a “witness” to the true religion; and it could hardly occur to anyone to think of him as in the first instance a witness and in the second a prince. The third view (c) seems on the whole the best; the original covenant guarantees an endless dominion to the family of David, and after the restoration this will assume a spiritual character and expand into universal empire in the reign of the Messiah. This interpretation, however, is complicated by the further question as to the relation of the Messiah to the Servant of the Lord. If the Servant be the ideal Israel there is of course no difficulty; the two conceptions stand side by side and are independent. But if he be an individual, he is almost necessarily to be identified with the ideal king, although features are thus introduced into the portrait of the Messiah of which hardly a trace is found in the subsequent literature, until the conception of Messiahship through suffering and death was realised in Christ.Verse 4. - Behold, I have given him for a witness. By ordinary rules of grammar, the pronoun "him" should refer to David; and so the passage is understood by Gesenius, Maurer, Hitzig, Ewald, Knobel, Delitzsch, and Mr. Cheyne. But, as Isaiah frequently sets aside ordinary grammatical rules, and as the position to the person here spoken of seems too high for the historical David, a large number of commentators, including Vitringa, Michaelis, Dathe, Rosenmuller, Umbreit, and Dr. Kay, consider that the Messiah is intended. It is certainly difficult to see how the historical David could be, at this time and in the future, a "leader and commander to the peoples" who were about to flock into the Messianic kingdom. A witness... a leader and commander. Christ was all these. He "came to bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37), and "before Pilate witnessed a good confession" (1 Timothy 6:13). He "feeds and leads" his people (Revelation 7:17), and is the "Commander" under whose banner they serve (2 Timothy 2:3, 4). What he is to his people, he is also of the "peoples" generally; for they have been called into his kingdom, People... people; rather, peoples. In perfect keeping with this grace through righteousness, Jerusalem will then stand firm and impregnable. "Through righteousness wilt thou be fortified: be far from anxiety, for thou hast nothing to fear; and from terror, for it will not come near thee. Behold, men crowd together in crowds; my will is not there. Who crowd together against thee? - he shall fall by thee." Both the thought and action of Jerusalem will be righteousness then, and it will thereby acquire strength; תּכּונני is a pausal future hithpalel, with the ת of the reflective opening syllable assimilated (Ges. 53, 2, b). With this reciprocal influence of its moral character and imparted glory, it can, and is to keep far away from all thought of oppression and terror; for, through divine grace and a corresponding divine nature, it has nothing to fear. הן (Isaiah 54:15), when pointing to any transaction as possible (as, for example, in Job 12:14; Job 23:8), acquires almost the significance of a conditional particle (Ewald, 103, g). The equally hypothetical parallel clause is clothed in the form of an interrogative. For the verb gūr, the meaning "to gather together" (related to אגר), more especially to join together with hostile intention (cf., συνάγεσθαι, Revelation 19:19; Revelation 20:8), is sustained by Psalm 56:7; Psalm 59:4; and with גּרה, lacessere, it has nothing to do (Hitzig and Ewald). אתּך has the force of contra te, as in the case of verbs of combat. The first apodosis is this: "but it takes place entirely away from me," i.e., without and against my will; מאותי equals מאתּי (as in Isaiah 59:21), and אותם equals אתּם, are no sure signs of a later usage; for this alternation of the two forms of את is met with as early as Joshua 14:12. The second apodosis is, "he will fall upon (or against) thee," or, as we should say, "founder," or "be wrecked." It is far more likely that this is the meaning of the words, than that they mean "he will fall to thy lot" (על נפל, like ל נפל elsewhere, to fall to a person); for the context here is a totally different one from Isaiah 45:14, and we look for nothing more than a declaration of the utter failure and ruin of the undertaking.
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