Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:
Isa 44:1-28. Continuation of the Previous Chapter.
1-5. Yet—Though thou hast sinned, yet hear God's gracious promise as to thy deliverance.
Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.
2. (Isa 43:1, 7).
formed … from … womb—(So Isa 44:24; Isa 49:1, 5). The sense is similar to that in Isa 1:2, "I have nourished and brought up children."
Jesurun—A diminutive term of endearment applied to Israel. The full title of affection was Israelun; contracted it became Jeshurun, with an allusion to the Hebrew root, jashar, "upright," "perfect" (see on Isa 42:19, note on "He that is perfect") [Gesenius], (De 32:15).
For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
3. (Isa 41:18).
him … thirsty—rather, "the land" (Isa 35:6, 7), figuratively for man thirsting after righteousness (Mt 5:6).
floods—the abundant influences of the Holy Spirit, stronger than "water."
spirit—including all spiritual and temporal gifts, as the parallel, "blessing," proves (Isa 11:2; 32:15).
And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
4. they—thy "seed" and "offspring" (Isa 44:3).
as among—needlessly inserted in English Version. Rather, "The seed shall spring up as willows among the grass beside canals of water" [Horsley]. Or, "They shall spring up among the grass (that is, luxuriantly; for what grows in the midst of grass grows luxuriantly) as willows by the water-courses," which makes the parallel clauses better balanced [Maurer].
One shall say, I am the LORD'S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
5. The third clause answers in parallelism to the first, the fourth to the second.
I am the Lord's—(Jer 50:5; 1Co 6:19, 20; 2Co 8:5).
call himself by the name of Jacob—The Gentiles (as the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Israel, the Lord's "seed," first) shall join themselves to the children of Jacob, in order to worship their God (compare Isa 43:7; Ps 49:11). Or, "calls," that is, invokes and celebrates the name of Jacob, attaches himself to his nation and religion [Maurer], (Ps 24:6).
subscribe … hand unto … Lord—in solemn and public covenant, pledging himself to God's service (compare Ne 9:38), before "witnesses" (Heb 12:1), after the manner of a civil contract (Jer 32:10, 12, 44). So the Christian in the sacraments [Barnes]. Literally, "shall fill his hand with letters (Ex 32:15; Eze 2:10) in honor of Jehovah"; or "shall write upon his hand, I am Jehovah's" (compare Isa 49:16; Re 13:16); alluding to the puncture with ink on the hand, whereby a soldier marked himself as bound to his commander; and whereby the Christians used to mark themselves with the name of Christ [Lowth]. The former view is simpler.
surname himself … Israel—Maurer and Gesenius interpret this as the Hebrew sanctions, answering to their rendering of the parallel second clause, "calls blandly (speaks in honorable terms of) the name of Israel." Retaining English Version, we must, from the Hebrew understand it thus, "Surname himself by the honorable name of Israel" (Isa 45:4).
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
6. Here follows an argument for Jehovah, as the only God, and against the idols, as vanity (see on Isa 41:4; Isa 43:1; Isa 43:10-12).
And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.
7. Who but God can predict future events and declare also the order and time of each (see on Isa 41:22, 23; Isa 45:21)?
call—"openly proclaim" (Isa 40:6) things to come [Maurer]. Or, "call forth" the event; command that it happen (Isa 46:11; 48:15), [Barnes].
set … in order—There is no chance or confusion; all events occur in the order best fitted to subserve God's plans.
for me—It is FOR God that all things exist and take place (Re 4:11). But Maurer translates, "Let him set it forth (Job 37:19) to me."
since … ancient people—I have given the Jews predictions of the future ever since I appointed them as My people in ancient times; therefore they were qualified to be His witnesses (Isa 44:8). As to their being God's "ancient (everlasting) people," see De 32:7-9; Jer 31:3; the type of the redeemed Church (Eph 1:4).
Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
8. be afraid—literally, "be astounded," or "distracted with fear."
from that time—namely, from the time that "I appointed the ancient people" (Isa 44:7). From the time of Abraham's call, his family were the depositories of the predictions of the Redeemer, whereas the promise of Cyrus was not heard of till Isaiah's time; therefore, the event to the prediction and accomplishment of which God appeals in proof of His sole Godhead, is the redemption of man by a descendant of Abraham, in whose person "the ancient people" was first formally "appointed." The deliverance of the Jews, by Cyrus, is mentioned afterwards only as an earnest of that greater mercy [Horsley].
no God—Hebrew, tsur, "rock" (De 32:4); that is, a stronghold to take refuge in, and a solid foundation to build on.
They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
9. (Isa 40:18, 20; 41:29).
delectable things—the idols in which they take such pride and delight.
not profit—(Hab 2:18).
they are their own witnesses—contrasted with, "Ye are My witnesses" (Isa 44:8). "They," that is, both the makers and the idols, are witnesses against themselves, for the idols palpably see and know nothing (Ps 115:4-8).
that they may be ashamed—the consequence deducible from the whole previous argument, not merely from the words immediately preceding, as in Isa 28:13; 36:12. I say all this to show that they are doomed to perish with shame, which is their only fitting end.
Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
10. Who … ?—Sarcastic question: "How debased the man must be who forms a god!" It is a contradiction in terms. A made god, worshipped by its maker (1Co 8:4)!
Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.
11. his fellows—the associates of him who makes an idol; or of the idol (see De 7:26; Ps 115:8; Ho 4:17).
they are of men—They are mortal men themselves; what better, then, can the idol be than its maker?
gathered together … stand up—as in a court of justice, to try the issue between God and them (see on Isa 41:1; Isa 41:21).
yet—wrongly inserted in English Version. The issue of the trial shall be, "they shall fear," &c.
The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
12. tongs—rather, "prepareth (to be supplied) an axe," namely, with which to cut down the tree designed as the material of the idol. The "smith" (Hebrew, "workman in iron") here answers to the "carpenter" (Hebrew, "workman in wood"). "He worketh it (the axe, not the idol, which was wood, not metal) in the coals," &c. The axe was wrought, not cast. The smith makes the axe for the carpenter.
hungry … drinketh no water—so eager is he to expedite his work while the iron is hot. If the god were worth anything, it would not let him grow "faint" with hunger and thirst. Williams, the missionary, states that the South Sea islanders when they make an idol abstain from food and drink.
The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
13. After the smith's work in preparing the instruments comes the carpenter's work in forming the idol.
rule—rather, "line" [Barnes].
with a line—rather, a "pencil," [Horsley]. Literally, "red ochre," which he uses to mark on the wood the outline of the figure [Lowth]. Or best, the stylus or graver, with which the incision of the outline is made [Gesenius].
planes—rather, "chisels" or "carving tools," for a plane would not answer for carving.
compass—from a Hebrew root, "to make a circle"; by it, symmetry of form is secured.
according to … beauty of a man—irony. The highest idea the heathen could form of a god was one of a form like their own. Jerome says, "The more handsome the statue the more august the god was thought." The incarnation of the Son of God condescends to this anthropomorphic feeling so natural to man, but in such a way as to raise man's thoughts up to the infinite God who "is a spirit."
that it may remain in … house—the only thing it was good for; it could not hear nor save (compare Wisdom 13:15).
He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.
14. Description of the material out of which the idol is formed.
cypress—rather, from Hebrew root, "to be hard," the holm oak," an evergreen abundant in Palestine [Gesenius].
strengtheneth—literally, "and he getteth strength to himself in the trees of the forest;" that is, he layeth in a great store of timber [Lowth]. Or, "chooseth," as "madest strong for thyself," that is, hast chosen (Ps 80:15, 17) [Gesenius]. But English Version gives a good sense: "strengtheneth"; that is, rears to maturity; a meaning suitable also to the context of Ps 80:15, 17, where Israel is compared to a vine planted by Jehovah [Maurer].
rain doth nourish it—Though the man planted the tree, yet he could not make it grow. In preparing to make an idol, he has to depend on the true God for rain from heaven (Jer 14:22).
Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
15. The same tree that furnishes the material for the god is in part used as fuel for a fire to cook his meals and warm himself!
thereto—rather, "he falleth down before them," that is, such images [Maurer].
He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:
16. part … part—not distinct parts, but the same part of the wood (compare Isa 44:17).
eateth—that is, cooks so as to eat (Isa 44:19).
I have seen—I feel its power.
And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
18. he, &c.—God hath given them over to judicial blindness; not His direct physical, but His providential agency in administering His moral government, is meant (Isa 6:9, 10). "Shut," literally, "daubed," plastered up; it is an Eastern custom in some cases to seal up the eyes of offenders.
And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
19. considereth—literally, "layeth it to heart," (Isa 42:25; Jer 12:11).
abomination—the scriptural term for an idol, not merely abominable, but the essence of what is so, in the eyes of a jealous God (1Ki 11:5, 7).
He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
20. feedeth on ashes—figuratively, for the idolater delights in what is vain (Pr 15:14; Ho 12:1). "Feedeth on wind." There is an allusion, perhaps, also, to the god being made of a tree, the half of which was reduced to ashes by fire (Isa 44:15-17); the idol, it is implied, was no better, and could, and ought, to have been reduced to ashes like the other half.
deceived heart—The heart and will first go astray, then the intellect and life (Ro 1:28; Eph 4:18).
lie in … right hand—Is not my handiwork (the idol) a self-deceit?
Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
21. Remember—"Be not like the idolaters who consider not in their heart" (Isa 44:19).
these—things just said as to the folly of idol-worship.
my servant—not like the idolaters, slaves to the stock of a tree (Isa 44:19). See Isa 44:1, 2.
thou … not … forgotten of me—Therefore thou oughtest to "remember" Me.
I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.
22. blotted out—the debt of thy sin from the account-book in which it was entered (Ex 32:32, 33; Re 20:12).
as a thick cloud—scattered away by the wind (Ps 103:12).
as a cloud—a descending gradation. Not only the "thick cloud" of the heavier "transgressions," but the "cloud" ("vapor" [Lowth], not so dense, but covering the sky as a mist) of the countless "sins." These latter, though not thought much of by man, need, as much as the former, to be cleared away by the Sun of righteousness; else they will be a mist separating us from heaven (Ps 19:12, 13; 1Jo 1:7-9).
return … for—The antecedent redemption is the ground of, and motive to, repentance. We do not repent in order that He may redeem us, but because He hath redeemed us (Zec 12:10; Lu 24:47; Ac 3:18,19). He who believes in his being forgiven cannot but love (Lu 7:43, 47).
Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
23. Call to inanimate nature to praise God; for it also shall share in the coming deliverance from "the bondage of corruption" (Ro 8:20, 21).
done it—effected redemption for both the literal and spiritual Israel.
lower parts, &c.—antithetical to "heavens"; "mountains," "forest," and "tree," are the intermediate objects in a descending gradation (see Ps 96:11, 12).
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
24-28. Confirmation of His promises to the Church and Israel, by various instances of His omnipotence; among these the restoration of the Jews by Cyrus.
alone—literally, "Who was with Me?" namely, when I did it; answering to "by Myself," in the parallel clause (compare similar phrases, Ho 8:4; Joh 5:30) [Maurer].
That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;
25. tokens—prognostics; the pretended miracles which they gave as proofs of their supernatural powers.
liars—(Jer 50:36). Conjurers; or, astrologers; men leading a retired contemplative life in order to study divination by the signs of the stars [Vitringa].
backward—with shame at their predictions not being verified. "To turn away the face" is to frustrate defeat (Isa 36:9; 1Ki 2:15). The "wise men" are the diviners who, when Babylon was attacked by Cyrus, predicted his overthrow.
That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
26. servant—in a collective sense, for the prophets in general, who foretold the return from Babylon; answering to "His messengers" (plural, in the parallel clause) [Maurer]. Antitypically, and ultimately, Messiah, who is the consummating embodiment of all the prophets and messengers of God (Mal 3:1; Mt 21:34, 36, 37; Joh 10:36); hence the singular, "His servant."
counsel—predictions; prophets' counsels concern the future (compare "counsellor," Isa 41:28).
Jerusalem—regarded prophetically, as lying in ruins.
That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:
27. Referring to the Euphrates, which was turned into a different channel, close to Babylon, by Cyrus, who thereby took the city. "The deep" is applied to Euphrates as "sea" (Jer 51:32, 36). "Rivers" refers to the artificial canals from the Euphrates made to irrigate the country; when it was turned off into a different bed (namely, a lake, forty miles square, which was originally formed to receive the superfluous water in an inundation), the canals became dry.
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
28. my shepherd—type of Messiah (Isa 40:11; Ps 23:1; 77:20; Eze 34:23).
all my pleasure—so Messiah (Isa 42:1; 53:10). This is the first time Cyrus is named expressly; and that, a hundred fifty years before the time when in 550 B.C. he began his reign. The name comes from the Persian khorschid, "the sun"; kings often taking their names from the gods; the sun was worshipped as a god in Persia.
saying—rather, "and that saith"; construed with God, not with Cyrus. God's word is instantaneously efficient in accomplishing His will.
to … to—or, "of Jerusalem … of the temple," as previously, the same Hebrew word is translated, "of Cyrus" [Barnes]. English Version is more graphic. Cyrus, according to Josephus, heard of this prophecy of Isaiah delivered so long before; hence he was induced to do that which was so contrary to Oriental policy, to aid in restoring the captive Jews and rebuilding their temple and city.