God's unchangeable love for his people. (1-7) Apostates and idolaters addressed. (8-13) The deliverance from Babylon, and the conversion of the Gentiles. (14-21) Admonition to repent of sin. (22-28)
Verses 1-7 God's favour and good-will to his people speak abundant comfort to all believers. The new creature, wherever it is, is of God's forming. All who are redeemed with the blood of his Son, he has set apart for himself. Those that have God for them need not fear who or what can be against them. What are Egypt and Ethiopia, all their lives and treasures, compared with the blood of Christ? True believers are precious in God's sight, his delight is in them, above any people. Though they went as through fire and water, yet, while they had God with them, they need fear no evil; they should be born up, and brought out. The faithful are encouraged. They were to be assembled from every quarter. And with this pleasing object in view, the prophet again dissuades from anxious fears.
Verses 8-13 Idolaters are called to appear in defence of their idols. Those who make them, and trust in them, are like unto them. They have the shape and faculties of men; but they have not common sense. But God's people know the power of his grace, the sweetness of his comforts, the kind care of his providence, and the truth of his promise. All servants of God can give such an account of what he has wrought in them, and done for them, as may lead others to know and believe his power, truth, and love
Verses 14-21 The deliverance from Babylon is foretold, but there is reference to greater events. The redemption of sinners by Christ, the conversion of the Gentiles, and the recall of the Jews, are described. All that is to be done to rescue sinners, and to bring the believer to glory, is little, compared with that wondrous work of love, the redemption of man.
Verses 22-28 Those who neglect to call upon God, are weary of him. The Master tired not the servants with his commands, but they tired him with disobedience. What were the riches of God's mercy toward them? I, even I, am he who yet blotteth out thy transgressions. This encourages us to repent, because there is forgiveness with God, and shows the freeness of Divine mercy. When God forgives, he forgets. It is not for any thing in us, but for his mercies' sake, his promise' sake; especially for his Son's sake. He is pleased to reckon it his honour. Would man justify himself before God? The attempt is desperate: our first father broke the covenant, and we all have copied his example. We have no reason to expect pardon, except we seek it by faith in Christ; and that is always attended by true repentance, and followed by newness of life, by hatred of sin, and love to God. Let us then put him in remembrance of the promises he has made to the penitent, and the satisfaction his Son has made for them. Plead these with him in wrestling for pardon; and declare these things, that thou mayest be justified freely by his grace. This is the only way, and it is a sure way to peace.
Isaiah 43:1-28 . A SUCCESSION OF ARGUMENTS WHEREIN ISRAEL MAY BE ASSURED THAT, NOTWITHSTANDING THEIR PERVERSITY TOWARDS GOD ( Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 43:7 Isaiah 43:15 Isaiah 43:21 , Isaiah 44:2 Isaiah 44:21 Isaiah 44:24 ). So believers, "created in Christ Jesus" ( Ephesians 2:10 ), "a peculiar people" ( 1 Peter 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 Isaiah 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 Isaiah 42:6 , 48:12 , 51:2 , but designated as His own peculiar people (compare Isaiah 45:3 Isaiah 45:4 , Exodus 32:1 , 33:12 , John 10:3 ).
2. rivers . . . not overflow thee--so in passing Jordan, though at its "overflow," when its "swellings" were especially dangerous ( Joshua 3:15 , Jeremiah 12:5 ).
waters . . . fire--a proverbial phrase for the extremest perils ( Psalms 66:12 ; also Psalms 138:7 ). Literally fulfilled at the Red Sea ( Exodus 14:21 Exodus 14:22 ), and in the case of the three youths cast into the fiery furnace for conscience' sake ( Daniel 3:25 Daniel 3:27 ).
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, Genesis 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 [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.
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 ( Jeremiah 31:3 , Hosea 11:1 ); "honorable" and "loved," refer to outward marks of honor and love from God.
men . . . people--other nations for thee (so Isaiah 43:3 ).
thy life--thy person.
5. ( Deuteronomy 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 ( Jeremiah 30:10 Jeremiah 30:11 , Amos 9:9 , Zechariah 2:6-13 ).
6. Give up--namely, My people.
sons . . . daughters--The feminine joined to the masculine expresses the complete totality of anything ( Zechariah 9:17 ).
7. called by my name--belong to Israel, whose people, as sons of God, bear the name of their Father ( Isaiah 44:5 , 48:1 ).
for my glory--( Isaiah 43:21 , Isaiah 29:23 ).
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 ( Isaiah 41:1 ).
blind people--the Gentiles, who also, like Israel ( Isaiah 42:19 ), are blind (spiritually), though having eyes; that is, natural faculties, whereby they might know God ( Romans 1:20 Romans 1:21 ) [LOWTH]. Or else, the Jews [VITRINGA].
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 Isaiah 42:9 [MAURER]. Or, things that shall first come to pass [BARNES].
let them bring forth their witnesses--as I do mine ( Isaiah 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
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 Isaiah 43:3 Isaiah 43:4 , Isaiah 44:8 ).
and my servant--that is, the whole Jewish people ( Isaiah 41:8 ).
formed--before I existed none of the false gods were formed. "Formed" applies to the idols, not to God. Revelation 1:11 uses the same language to prove the Godhead of Jesus, as Isaiah here to prove the Godhead of Jehovah.
saviour--temporally, from Babylon: eternally, from sin and hell ( Hosea 13:4 , Acts 4:12 ). The same titles as are applied to God are applied to Jesus.
12. declared--predicted the future ( Isaiah 41:22 Isaiah 41:23 ).
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.
13. before--literally, from the time of the first existence of day.
let--Old English for "hinder" ( Isaiah 14:27 ). Rather, translate, "undo it" [HORSLEY].
14. sent--namely, the Medes and Persians ( Isaiah 10:5 Isaiah 10:6 , 13:3 ).
brought down--"made to go down" to the sea ( Isaiah 42:10 ), in order to escape the impending destruction of Babylon.
nobles--rather, "fugitives," namely, the foreigners who sojourned in populous Babylon ( Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 22:2 , Zephaniah 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.
15. creator of Israel--( Isaiah 43:1 ).
your--proved to be specially yours by delivering you.
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 ( Exodus 14:21 Exodus 14:22 Exodus 14:27 Exodus 14:28 ).
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.
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].
19. new--unprecedented in its wonderful character ( Isaiah 42:9 ).
spring forth--as a germinating herb: a beautiful image of the silent but certain gradual growth of events in God's providence ( Mark 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 Isaiah 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 ( Acts 9:2 , 18:26 ). "Rivers" express the influences of the Holy Spirit ( John 7:37-39 ). Israel's literal restoration hereafter is included, as appears by comparing Isaiah 11:15 Isaiah 11:16 .
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 ( Psalms 148:10 ) [JEROME].
dragons--"serpents," or else jackals
21. This people--namely, The same as "My people, My chosen" (see Isaiah 43:1 Isaiah 43:7 , Psalms 102:18 ).
my praise--on account of the many and great benefits conferred on them, especially their restoration.
22. But--Israel, however, is not to think that these divine favors are due to their own piety towards God. So the believer ( Titus 3:5 ).
weary of me--( Amos 8:5 Amos 8:6 , Malachi 1:13 ), though "I have not wearied thee" ( Isaiah 43:23 ), yet "thou hast been weary of Me."
23. small cattle--rather, the "lamb" or "kid," required by the law to be daily offered to God ( Exodus 29:38 , Numbers 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 ( Matthew 11:30 , Romans 8:15 , 1 John 4:18 , 5:3 ).
offering--bloodless ( Leviticus 2:1 Leviticus 2:2 ).
wearied--antithetical to Isaiah 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 ( Psalms 50:8-14 , Psalms 51:16 Psalms 51:17 , Micah 6:3 Micah 6:6-8 ).
24. bought--for "sweet cane" (aromatic calamus) was not indigenous to Palestine, but had to be bought from foreign countries ( Jeremiah 6:20 ). It was used among the Hebrews to make the sacred ointment ( Exodus 30:23 ). It is often offered as a mark of hospitality.
filled--satiated ( Jeremiah 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" ( Isaiah 43:23 ). Our sin made the Son of God to become "a servant." He served to save us from servile bondage ( Philippians 2:7 , Hebrews 2:14 Hebrews 2:15 ).
wearied me--Though I have "not wearied thee" ( Isaiah 43:23 ; see Isaiah 1:14 ).
25. I, even I--the God against whom your sin is committed, and who alone can and will pardon. ( Isaiah 44:22 ).
for mine own sake--( Isaiah 48:9 Isaiah 48:11 ). 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--( Jeremiah 31:34 ). When God forgives, He forgets; that is, treats the sinner as if He had forgotten his sins.
26. Put me in remembrance--Remind Me of every plea which thou hast to urge before Me in thy defense. Image from a trial ( Isaiah 1:18 , 41:1 ). Our strongest plea is to remind God of His own promises. So Jacob did at Mahanaim and Peniel ( Genesis 32:9 Genesis 32:12 ). 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" ( Isaiah 62:6 , Margin). "Declare God's righteousness" vindicated in Jesus Christ "that thou mayest be justified" ( Romans 3:26 ; compare Isaiah 20:1-6 , and Psalms 143:2 ).
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 , Malachi 2:7 ).
28. profaned the princes--( Psalms 89:39 , Lamentations 2:2 Lamentations 2:6 Lamentations 2:7 ). 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 ( 1 Chronicles 24:5 ); directing its holy services; priests.
curse--Hebrew, cherim, a "solemn anathema," or "excommunication."
reproaches--( Psalms 123:3 Psalms 123:4 ).