Here are promises of the influences of the Holy Spirit. (1-8) An exposure of the folly of idolatry. (9-20) Also the deliverance of God's people. (21-28)
Verses 1-8 Israel is here called Jeshurun, which means "the upright one." Such only are Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile. Those that serve God he will own. He will help them over difficulties, and in their services. Water is the emblem of the Holy Spirit; as water refreshes, cleanses, and makes the earth fruitful, so do his influences the soul. This gift of the Holy Ghost is the great blessing, the plentiful pouring out of which God kept for the latter days. Where God gives his Spirit, he will give all other blessings. Hereby shall be a great increase of the church; thus it shall be spread to distant places. Was there any other Rock, or Protector, that could defend them? None besides could foretell these things to come, of which God by his prophets gave notice. All was set in order in the Divine predictions, as well as in the Divine purposes. Could any other have done so? Who can compare with Israel's Redeemer and King?
Verses 9-20 Image-making is described, to expose the folly of idolaters. Though a man had used part of a log for fuel, he fell down before an image made of the remainder, praying it to deliver him. Man greatly dishonours God, when he represents him after the image of man. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, causing absurd reasonings in matters of religion. Whether men seek happiness in worldly things, or run into unbelief, superstition, or any false system, they feed on ashes. A heart deceived by pride, love of sin, and departure from God, turns men aside from his holy truth and worship. While the affections are depraved, a man holds fast the lie as his best treasure. Are our hearts set upon the wealth of the world and its pleasures? They will certainly prove a lie. If we trust to outward professions and doings, as if those would save us, we deceive ourselves. Self-suspicion is the first step towards self-deliverance. He that would deliver his soul, must question his conscience, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
Verses 21-28 Return unto me. It is the great concern of those who have backslidden from God, like the Jews of old, to hasten their return to him. The work of redemption wrought for us by Christ, encourages to hope for all blessings from him. Our transgressions and our sins are as a thick cloud between heaven and earth: sins separate between us and God; they threaten a storm of wrath. When God pardons sin, he blots out, he dispels this cloud, this thick cloud, so that the way to heaven is open again. The cloud is scattered by the Sun of righteousness; it is quite gone. The comforts that flow into the soul when sin is pardoned, are like clear shining after clouds and rain. Let not Israel be discouraged; nothing is too hard for God: having made all, he can make what use he pleases of any. Those that learn to know Christ, see all knowledge to be foolishness, in comparison with the knowledge of him. And his enemies will find their counsels turned into foolishness, and themselves taken in their craftiness. The exact fulfilling the prophecies of Scripture confirms the truth of the whole, and proves its Divine origin. The particular favours God designed for his people in captivity, were foretold here, long before they went into captivity. Very great difficulties would be in the way of their deliverance; but it is promised that by Divine power they should all be removed. God knew who should be the Deliverer of his people; and let his church know it, that when they heard such a name talked of, they might know their redemption drew nigh. It is the greatest honour of the greatest men, to be employed as instruments of the Divine favour to his people. In things wherein men serve themselves, and look no further, God makes them do all his pleasure. And a nobler Shepherd than Cyrus does his Father's will, till his work is fully completed.
Isaiah 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.
chosen--( Isaiah 41:8 ).
2. ( Isaiah 43:1 Isaiah 43:7 ).
formed . . . from . . . womb--(So Isaiah 44:24 , Isaiah 49:1 Isaiah 49:5 ). The sense is similar to that in Isaiah 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" [GESENIUS], ( Deuteronomy 32:15 ).
3. ( Isaiah 41:18 ).
him . . . thirsty--rather, "the land" ( Isaiah 35:6 Isaiah 35:7 ), figuratively for man thirsting after righteousness ( Matthew 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 ( Isaiah 11:2 , 32:15 ).
seed--( Isaiah 59:21 ).
4. they--thy "seed" and "offspring" ( Isaiah 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].
5. The third clause answers in parallelism to the first, the fourth to the second.
I am the Lord's--( Jeremiah 50:5 , 1 Corinthians 6:19 1 Corinthians 6:20 , 2 Corinthians 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 Isaiah 43:7 , Psalms 49:11 ). Or, "calls," that is, invokes and celebrates the name of Jacob, attaches himself to his nation and religion [MAURER], ( Psalms 24:6 ).
subscribe . . . hand unto . . . Lord--in solemn and public covenant, pledging himself to God's service (compare Nehemiah 9:38 ), before "witnesses" ( Hebrews 12:1 ), after the manner of a civil contract ( Jeremiah 32:10 Jeremiah 32:12 Jeremiah 32:44 ). So the Christian in the sacraments [BARNES]. Literally, "shall fill his hand with letters ( Exodus 32:15 , Ezekiel 2:10 ) in honor of Jehovah"; or "shall write upon his hand, I am Jehovah's" (compare Isaiah 49:16 , Revelation 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" ( Isaiah 45:4 ).
6. Here follows an argument for Jehovah, as the only God, and against the idols, as vanity
7. Who but God can predict future events and declare also the order and time of each
call--"openly proclaim" ( Isaiah 40:6 ) things to come [MAURER]. Or, "call forth" the event; command that it happen ( Isaiah 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 ( Revelation 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 ( Isaiah 44:8 ). As to their being God's "ancient (everlasting) people," see Deuteronomy 32:7-9 , Jeremiah 31:3 ; the type of the redeemed Church ( Ephesians 1:4 ).
8. be afraid--literally, "be astounded," or "distracted with fear."
from that time--namely, from the time that "I appointed the ancient people" ( Isaiah 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" ( Deuteronomy 32:4 ); that is, a stronghold to take refuge in, and a solid foundation to build on.
9. ( Isaiah 40:18 Isaiah 40:20 , 41:29 ).
delectable things--the idols in which they take such pride and delight.
not profit--( Habakkuk 2:18 ).
they are their own witnesses--contrasted with, "Ye are My witnesses" ( Isaiah 44:8 ). "They," that is, both the makers and the idols, are witnesses against themselves, for the idols palpably see and know nothing ( Psalms 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 Isaiah 28:13 , 36:12 . I say all this to show that they are doomed to perish with shame, which is their only fitting end.
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 ( 1 Corinthians 8:4 )!
11. his fellows--the associates of him who makes an idol; or of the idol (see Deuteronomy 7:26 , Psalms 115:8 , Hosea 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
yet--wrongly inserted in English Version. The issue of the trial shall be, "they shall fear," &c.
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.
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).
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 ( Psalms 80:15 Psalms 80:17 ) [GESENIUS]. But English Version gives a good sense: "strengtheneth"; that is, rears to maturity; a meaning suitable also to the context of Psalms 80:15 Psalms 80:17 , 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 ( Jeremiah 14:22 ).
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].
16. part . . . part--not distinct parts, but the same part of the wood (compare Isaiah 44:17 ).
eateth--that is, cooks so as to eat ( Isaiah 44:19 ).
I have seen--I feel its power.
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 ( Isaiah 6:9 Isaiah 6:10 ). "Shut," literally, "daubed," plastered up; it is an Eastern custom in some cases to seal up the eyes of offenders.
19. considereth--literally, "layeth it to heart," ( Isaiah 42:25 , Jeremiah 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 ( 1 Kings 11:5 1 Kings 11:7 ).
20. feedeth on ashes--figuratively, for the idolater delights in what is vain ( Proverbs 15:14 , Hosea 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 ( Isaiah 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 ( Romans 1:28 , Ephesians 4:18 ).
lie in . . . right hand--Is not my handiwork (the idol) a self-deceit?
21. Remember--"Be not like the idolaters who consider not in their heart" ( Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 44:19 ). See Isaiah 44:1 Isaiah 44:2 .
thou . . . not . . . forgotten of me--Therefore thou oughtest to "remember" Me.
22. blotted out--the debt of thy sin from the account-book in which it was entered ( Exodus 32:32 Exodus 32:33 , Revelation 20:12 ).
as a thick cloud--scattered away by the wind ( Psalms 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 ( Psalms 19:12 Psalms 19:13 , 1 John 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 ( Zechariah 12:10 , Luke 24:47 , Acts 3:18 Acts 3:19 ). He who believes in his being forgiven cannot but love ( Luke 7:43 Luke 7:47 ).
23. Call to inanimate nature to praise God; for it also shall share in the coming deliverance from "the bondage of corruption" ( Romans 8:20 Romans 8:21 ).
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 Psalms 96:11 Psalms 96:12 ).
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, Hosea 8:4 , John 5:30 ) [MAURER].
25. tokens--prognostics; the pretended miracles whiten they gave as proofs of their supernatural powers.
liars--( Jeremiah 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 ( Isaiah 36:9 , 1 Kings 2:15 ). The "wise men" are the diviners who, when Babylon was attacked by Cyrus, predicted his overthrow.
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 ( Malachi 3:1 , Matthew 21:34 Matthew 21:36 Matthew 21:37 , John 10:36 ); hence the singular, "His servant."
counsel--predictions; prophets' counsels concern the future (compare "counsellor," Isaiah 41:28 ).
Jerusalem--regarded prophetically, as lying in ruins.
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" ( Jeremiah 51:32 Jeremiah 51:36 ). "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.
28. my shepherd--type of Messiah ( Isaiah 40:11 , Psalms 23:1 , 77:20 , Ezekiel 34:23 ).
all my pleasure--so Messiah ( Isaiah 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.