Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
Isa 43:1-28. A Succession of Arguments Wherein Israel May Be Assured that, Notwithstanding Their Perversity towards God (Isa 42:25), He Will Deliver and Restore Them.
1. But now—notwithstanding God's past just judgments for Israel's sins.
created—not only in the general sense, but specially created as a peculiar people unto Himself (Isa 43:7, 15, 21; Isa 44:2, 21, 24). So believers, "created in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:10), "a peculiar people" (1Pe 2:9).
redeemed—a second argument why they should trust Him besides creation. The Hebrew means to ransom by a price paid in lieu of the captives (compare Isa 43:3). Babylon was to be the ransom in this case, that is, was to be destroyed, in order that they might be delivered; so Christ became a curse, doomed to death, that we might be redeemed.
called … by … name—not merely "called" in general, as in Isa 42:6; 48:12; 51:2, but designated as His own peculiar people (compare Isa 45:3, 4; Ex 32:1; 33:12; Joh 10:3).
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
2. rivers … not overflow thee—so in passing Jordan, though at its "overflow," when its "swellings" were especially dangerous (Jos 3:15; Jer 12:5).
waters … fire—a proverbial phrase for the extremest perils (Ps 66:12; also Ps 138:7). Literally fulfilled at the Red Sea (Ex 14:21, 22), and in the case of the three youths cast into the fiery furnace for conscience' sake (Da 3:25, 27).
For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
3. Egypt for thy ransom—Either Egypt or Israel must perish; God chose that Egypt, though so much more mighty, should be destroyed, in order that His people might be delivered; thus Egypt stood, instead of Israel, as a kind of "ransom." The Hebrew, kopher, means properly "that with which anything is overlaid," as the pitch with which the ark was overlaid; hence that which covers over sins, an atonement. Nebuchadnezzar had subdued Egypt, Ethiopia (Hebrew, Cush), and Saba (descended from Cush, Ge 10:7, probably Meroe of Ethiopia, a great island formed by the Astaboras and the Nile, conquered by Cambyses, successor of Cyrus). Cyrus received these from God with the rest of the Babylonian dominions, in consideration of his being about to deliver Israel. However, the reference may be to the three years' war in which Sargon overcame these countries, and so had his attention diverted from Israel (see on Isa 20:1) [Vitringa]. But the reference is probably more general, namely, to all the instances in which Jehovah sacrificed mighty heathen nations, when the safety of Israel required it.
Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
4. Since—All along from the beginning; for there was never a time when Israel was not Jehovah's people. The apodosis should be at, "I will give." "Since ever thou wast precious in My sight, honorable, and that I loved thee, I will give," &c. [Maurer]. Gesenius, as English Version, takes "Since" to mean, "Inasmuch as." If the apodosis be as in English Version, "Since thou wast precious" will refer to the time when God called His people out of Egypt, manifesting then first the love which He had from everlasting towards them (Jer 31:3; Ho 11:1); "honorable" and "loved," refer to outward marks of honor and love from God.
men … people—other nations for thee (so Isa 43:3).
thy life—thy person.
Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
5. (De 30:3).
seed—descendants scattered in all lands. Vitringa understands it of the spiritual "seed" of the Church produced by mystical regeneration: for the expression is, "bring," not "bring back." This sense is perhaps included, but not to the exclusion of the literal Israel's restoration (Jer 30:10, 11; Am 9:9; Zec 2:6-13).
I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
6. Give up—namely, My people.
sons … daughters—The feminine joined to the masculine expresses the complete totality of anything (Zec 9:17).
Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
7. called by my name—belong to Israel, whose people, as sons of God, bear the name of their Father (Isa 44:5; 48:1).
for my glory—(Isa 43:21; Isa 29:23).
Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.
8. Solemn challenge given by God to the nations to argue with Him the question of His superiority to their idols, and His power to deliver Israel (Isa 41:1).
blind people—the Gentiles, who also, like Israel (Isa 42:19), are blind (spiritually), though having eyes; that is, natural faculties, whereby they might know God (Ro 1:20, 21) [Lowth]. Or else, the Jews [Vitringa].
Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.
9. who … can declare this—who among the idolatrous soothsayers hath predicted this; that is, as to Cyrus being the deliverer of Israel?
former—predictions, as in Isa 42:9 [Maurer]. Or, things that shall first come to pass (see on Isa 41:21, 22) [Barnes].
let them bring forth their witnesses—as I do mine (Isa 43:10).
justified—declared veracious in their pretended prophecies.
or—rather, "and"; let men hear their prediction and say, from the event, It is verified (see on Isa 41:26).
Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
10. Ye—the Jews, to whom I have given predictions, verified by the event; and in delivering whom I have so often manifested My power (see Isa 43:3, 4; Isa 44:8).
and my servant—that is, the whole Jewish people (Isa 41:8).
formed—before I existed none of the false gods were formed. "Formed" applies to the idols, not to God. Re 1:11 uses the same language to prove the Godhead of Jesus, as Isaiah here to prove the Godhead of Jehovah.
I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.
saviour—temporally, from Babylon: eternally, from sin and hell (Ho 13:4; Ac 4:12). The same titles as are applied to God are applied to Jesus.
I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.
12. declared—predicted the future (Isa 41:22, 23).
saved—the nation, in past times of danger.
showed—namely, that I was God.
when … no strange god, &c.—to whom the predictions uttered by Me could be assigned. "Strange" means foreign, introduced from abroad.
Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?
13. before—literally, from the time of the first existence of day.
let—Old English for "hinder" (Isa 14:27). Rather, translate, "undo it" [Horsley].
Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships.
14. sent—namely, the Medes and Persians (Isa 10:5, 6; 13:3).
brought down—"made to go down" to the sea (Isa 42:10), in order to escape the impending destruction of Babylon.
nobles—rather, "fugitives," namely, the foreigners who sojourned in populous Babylon (Isa 13:14), distinct from the Chaldeans [Maurer].
whose cry is in the ships—exulting in their ships with the joyous sailors—cry, boastingly; their joy heretofore in their ships contrasts sadly with their present panic in fleeing to them (Isa 22:2; Zep 2:15). Babylon was on the Euphrates, which was joined to the Tigris by a canal, and flowed into the Persian Gulf. Thus it was famed for ships and commerce until the Persian monarchs, to prevent revolt or invasion, obstructed navigation by dams across the Tigris and Euphrates.
I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.
15. creator of Israel—(Isa 43:1).
your—proved to be specially yours by delivering you.
Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;
16, 17. Allusion to the deliverance of Israel and overthrow of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, the standing illustration of God's unchanging character towards His people (Ex 14:21, 22, 27, 28).
Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.
17. the power—the might of the enemies host, every mighty warrior.
they shall lie down together—as Pharaoh's army sank "together" in a watery grave.
Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
18. So wonderful shall be God's future interpositions in your behalf, that all past ones shall be forgotten in comparison. Plainly the future restoration of Israel is the event ultimately meant. Thus the "former things" are such events as the destruction of Sennacherib and the return from Babylon. "Things of old" are events still more ancient, the deliverance from Egypt and at the Red Sea, and entry into Canaan [Vitringa].
Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
19. new—unprecedented in its wonderful character (Isa 42:9).
spring forth—as a germinating herb: a beautiful image of the silent but certain gradual growth of events in God's providence (Mr 4:26-28).
way in … wilderness—just as Israel in the wilderness, between the Red Sea and Canaan, was guided, and supplied with water by Jehovah; but the "new" deliverance shall be attended with manifestations of God's power and love, eclipsing the old (compare Isa 41:17-19). "I will open a way, not merely in the Red Sea, but in the wilderness of the whole world; and not merely one river shall gush out of the rock, but many, which shall refresh, not the bodies as formerly, but the souls of the thirsty, so that the prophecy shall be fulfilled: 'With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation'" [Jerome]. "A way" often stands for the true religion (Ac 9:2; 18:26). "Rivers" express the influences of the Holy Spirit (Joh 7:37-39). Israel's literal restoration hereafter is included, as appears by comparing Isa 11:15, 16.
The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
20. beast—image of idolaters, defiled with blood and pollutions, dwelling like dragons, &c., in the wastes of Gentile ignorance: even they shall be converted. Or else, literally, such copious floods of water shall be given by God in the desert, that the very beasts shall (in poetic language) praise the Lord (Ps 148:10) [Jerome].
dragons—"serpents," or else jackals (see on Isa 13:22).
This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.
21. This people—namely, The same as "My people, My chosen" (see Isa 43:1, 7; Ps 102:18).
my praise—on account of the many and great benefits conferred on them, especially their restoration.
But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
22. But—Israel, however, is not to think that these divine favors are due to their own piety towards God. So the believer (Tit 3:5).
weary of me—(Am 8:5, 6; Mal 1:13), though "I have not wearied thee" (Isa 43:23), yet "thou hast been weary of Me."
Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.
23. small cattle—rather, the "lamb" or "kid," required by the law to be daily offered to God (Ex 29:38; Nu 28:3).
sacrifices—offered any way; whereas the Hebrew for "holocaust," or "burnt offering," denotes that which ascends as an offering consumed by fire.
I have not caused thee to serve—that is, to render the the service of a slave (Mt 11:30; Ro 8:15; 1Jo 4:18; 5:3).
offering—bloodless (Le 2:1, 2).
wearied—antithetical to Isa 43:22, "Thou hast been weary of Me." Though God in the law required such offerings, yet not so as to "weary" the worshipper, or to exact them in cases where, as in the Babylonish captivity, they were physically unable to render them; God did not require them, save in subordination to the higher moral duties (Ps 50:8-14; 51:16, 17; Mic 6:3, 6-8).
Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.
24. bought—for "sweet cane" (aromatic calamus) was not indigenous to Palestine, but had to be bought from foreign countries (Jer 6:20). It was used among the Hebrews to make the sacred ointment (Ex 30:23). It is often offered as a mark of hospitality.
filled—satiated (Jer 31:14). God deigns to use human language to adapt Himself to human modes of thought.
made me to serve—though "I have not caused thee to serve" (Isa 43:23). Our sin made the Son of God to become "a servant." He served to save us from servile bondage (Php 2:7; Heb 2:14, 15).
wearied me—Though I have "not wearied thee" (Isa 43:23; see Isa 1:14).
I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
25. I, even I—the God against whom your sin is committed, and who alone can and will pardon. (Isa 44:22).
for mine own sake—(Isa 48:9, 11). How abominable a thing sin is, since it is against such a God of grace! "Blotted out" is an image from an account-book, in which, when a debt is paid, the charge is cancelled or blotted out.
not remember … sins—(Jer 31:34). When God forgives, He forgets; that is, treats the sinner as if He had forgotten his sins.
Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.
26. Put me in remembrance—Remind Me of every plea which thou hast to urge before Me in thy defense. Image from a trial (Isa 1:18; 41:1). Our strongest plea is to remind God of His own promises. So Jacob did at Mahanaim and Peniel (Ge 32:9, 12). God, then, instead of "pleading against us with His great power," "will put His strength" in us (Job 23:6); we thus become "the Lord's remembrancers" (Isa 62:6, Margin). "Declare God's righteousness" vindicated in Jesus Christ "that thou mayest be justified" (Ro 3:26; compare Isa 20:1-6, and Ps 143:2).
Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me.
27. first father—collectively for "most ancient ancestors," as the parallelism ("teachers") proves [Maurer]. Or, thy chief religious ministers or priests [Gesenius]. Adam, the common father of all nations, can hardly be meant here, as it would have been irrelevant to mention his sin in an address to the Jews specially. Abraham is equally out of place here, as he is everywhere cited as an example of faithfulness, not of "sin." However, taking the passage in its ultimate application to the Church at large, Adam may be meant.
teachers—literally, "interpreters" between God and man, the priests (Job 33:23; Mal 2:7).
Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.
28. profaned the princes—(Ps 89:39; La 2:2, 6, 7). I have esteemed, or treated, them as persons not sacred. I have left them to suffer the same treatment as the common people, stripped of their holy office and in captivity.
princes of the sanctuary—"governors of" it (1Ch 24:5); directing its holy services; priests.
curse—Hebrew, cherim, a "solemn anathema," or "excommunication."
reproaches—(Ps 123:3, 4).