The Jews reproved for their idolatry. (1-8) Yet deliverance is promised them. (9-15) Solemn warnings of judgment upon those who persisted in evil. (16-22)
Verses 1-8 The Jews valued themselves on descent from Jacob, and used the name of Jehovah as their God. They prided themselves respecting Jerusalem and the temple, yet there was no holiness in their lives. If we are not sincere in religion, we do but take the name of the Lord in vain. By prophecy they were shown how God would deal with them, long before it came to pass. God has said and done enough to prevent men's boasting of themselves, which makes the sin and ruin of the proud worse; sooner or later every mouth shall be stopped, and all become silent before Him. We are all born children of disobedience. Where original sin is, actual sin will follow. Does not the conscience of every man witness to the truth of Scripture? May the Lord prove us, and render us doers of the word.
Verses 9-15 We have nothing ourselves to plead with God, why he should have mercy upon us. It is for his praise, to the honour of his mercy, to spare. His bringing men into trouble was to do them good. It was to refine them, but not as silver; not so thoroughly as men refine silver. If God should take that course, they are all dross, and, as such, might justly be put away. He takes them as refined in part only. Many have been brought home to God as chosen vessels, and a good work of grace begun in them, in the furnace of affliction. It is comfort to God's people, that God will secure his own honour, therefore work deliverance for them. And if God delivers his people, he cannot be at a loss for instruments to be employed. God has formed a plan, in which, for his own sake, and the glory of his grace, he saves all that come to Him.
Verses 16-22 The Holy Spirit qualifies for service; and those may speak boldly, whom God and his Spirit send. This is to be applied to Christ. He was sent, and he had the Spirit without measure. Whom God redeems, he teaches; he teaches to profit by affliction, and then makes them partakers of his holiness. Also, by his grace he leads them in the way of duty; and by his providence he leads in the way of deliverance. God did not afflict them willingly. If their sins had not turned them away, their peace should have been always flowing and abundant. Spiritual enjoyments are ever joined with holiness of life and regard to God's will. It will make the misery of the disobedient the more painful, to think how happy they might have been. And here is assurance given of salvation out of captivity. Those whom God designs to bring home to himself, he will take care of, that they want not for their journey. This is applicable to the grace laid up for us in Jesus Christ, from whom all good flows to us, as the water to Israel out of the rock, for that Rock was Christ. The spiritual blessings of redemption, and the rescue of the church from antichristian tyranny, are here pointed to. But whatever changes take place, the Lord warned impenitent sinners that no good would come to them; that inward anguish and outward trouble, which spring from guilt and from the Divine wrath, must be their portion for ever.
Isaiah 48:1-22 . THE THINGS THAT BEFALL BABYLON JEHOVAH PREDICTED LONG BEFORE, LEST ISRAEL SHOULD ATTRIBUTE THEM, IN ITS "OBSTINATE" PERVERSITY, TO STRANGE GODS ( Isaiah 48:1-5 ).
1. the waters of Judah--spring from the fountain of Judah ( Numbers 24:7 , Deuteronomy 33:28 , Psalms 68:26 ; Margin). Judah has the "fountain" attributed to it, because it survived the ten tribes, and from it Messiah was to spring.
swear by . . . Lord--( Isaiah 19:18 , 45:23 , 65:16 ).
mention--in prayers and praises.
not in truth--( Jeremiah 5:2 , John 4:24 ).
2. For--Ye deserve these reproofs; "for" ye call yourselves citizens of "the holy city" ( Isaiah 52:1 ), but not in truth ( Isaiah 48:1 , Nehemiah 11:1 , Daniel 9:24 ); so the inscription on their coins of the time of the Maccabees. "Jerusalem the Holy."
3. former--things which have happened in time past to Israel ( Isaiah 42:9 , Isaiah 44:7 Isaiah 44:8 , 45:21 , 46:10 ).
suddenly--They came to pass so unexpectedly that the prophecy could not have resulted from mere human sagacity.
4. obstinate--Hebrew, "hard" ( Deuteronomy 9:27 , Ezekiel 3:7 , Margin).
iron sinew--inflexible ( Acts 7:51 ).
brow brass--shameless as a harlot (see Jeremiah 6:28 , 3:3 , Ezekiel 3:7 , Margin).
6. Thou, &c.--So "ye are my witnesses" ( Isaiah 43:10 ). Thou canst testify the prediction was uttered long before the fulfilment: "see all this," namely, that the event answers to the prophecy.
declare--make the fact known as a proof that Jehovah alone is God ( Isaiah 44:8 ).
new things--namely, the deliverance from Babylon by Cyrus, new in contradistinction from former predictions that had been fulfilled ( Isaiah 42:9 , 43:19 ). Antitypically, the prophecy has in view the "new things" of the gospel treasury ( Solomon 7:13 , Matthew 13:52 , 2 Corinthians 5:17 , Revelation 21:5 ). From this point forward, the prophecies as to Messiah's first and second advents and the restoration of Israel, have a new circumstantial distinctness, such as did not characterize the previous ones, even of Isaiah. Babylon, in this view, answers to the mystical Babylon of Revelation.
hidden--which could not have been guessed by political sagacity ( Daniel 2:22 Daniel 2:29 , 1 Corinthians 2:9 1 Corinthians 2:10 ).
7. Not like natural results from existing causes, the events when they took place were like acts of creative power, such as had never before been "from the beginning."
even before the day when--rather [MAURER], "And before the day (of their occurrence) thou hast not heard of them"; that is, by any human acuteness; they are only heard of by the present inspired announcement.
8. heardest not--repeated, as also "knewest not," from Isaiah 48:7 .
from that time--Mine anger towards thee. Omit "that." "Yea, from "the first thine ear did not open itself," namely, to obey them [ROSENMULLER]. "To open the ear" denotes obedient attention ( Isaiah 50:5 ); or, "was not opened" to receive them; that is, they were not declared by Me to thee previously, since, if thou hadst been informed of them, such is thy perversity, thou couldst not have been kept in check [MAURER]. In the former view, the sense of the words following is, "For I knew that, if I had not foretold the destruction of Babylon so plainly that there could be no perverting of it, thou wouldst have perversely ascribed it to idols, or something else than to Me" ( Isaiah 48:5 ). Thus they would have relapsed into idolatry, to cure them of which the Babylonian captivity was sent: so they had done ( Exodus 32:4 ). After the return, and ever since, they have utterly forsaken idols.
wast called--as thine appropriate appellation ( Isaiah 9:6 ).
from the womb--from the beginning of Israel's national existence ( Isaiah 44:2 ).
9. refrain--literally, "muzzle"; His wrath, after the return, was to be restrained a while, and then, because of their sins, let loose again ( Psalms 78:38 ). with silver
for thee--that is, that--omit "that": "From thee."
silver." I sought by affliction to purify thee, but thou wast not as silver
obtained by melting, but as dross [GESENIUS]. Thy repentance is not complete: thou art not yet as refined silver. ROSENMULLER explains, "not as silver," not with the intense heat
needed to melt silver (it being harder to melt than gold), that is, not with the most extreme severity. The former view is better ( Isaiah 1:25
, Ezekiel 22:18-20 Ezekiel 22:22
--or else [LOWTH], tried . . . proved: according to GESENIUS, literally, "to rub with the touchstone," or to cut in pieces so as to examine ( Zechariah 13:9
, Malachi 3:3
, 1 Peter 1:7
11. how should my name--MAURER, instead of "My name" from Isaiah 48:9 , supplies "My glory" from the next clause; and translates, "How (shamefully) My glory has been profaned!" In English Version the sense is, "I will refrain ( Isaiah 48:9 , that is, not utterly destroy thee), for why should I permit My name to be polluted, which it would be, if the Lord utterly destroyed His elect people" ( Ezekiel 20:9 )?
not give my glory unto another--If God forsook His people for ever, the heathen would attribute their triumph over Israel to their idols; so God's glory would be given to another.
12-15. The Almighty, who has founded heaven and earth, can, and will, restore His people.
the first . . . last--( Isaiah 41:4 , 44:6 ).
13. spanned--measured out ( Isaiah 40:12 ).
when I call . . . stand up together--( Isaiah 40:26 , Jeremiah 33:25 ). But it is not their creation so much which is meant, as that, like ministers of God, the heavens and the earth are prepared at His command to execute His decrees ( Psalms 119:91 ) [ROSENMULLER].
14. among them--among the gods and astrologers of the Chaldees ( Isaiah 41:22 , 43:9 , 44:7 ).
Lord . . . loved him; he will, &c.--that is, "He whom the Lord hath loved will do," &c. [LOWTH]; namely, Cyrus ( Isaiah 44:28 , Isaiah 45:1 Isaiah 45:13 , 46:11 ). However, Jehovah's language of love is too strong to apply to Cyrus, except as type of Messiah, to whom alone it fully applies ( Revelation 5:2-5 ).
his pleasure--not Cyrus' own, but Jehovah's.
15. brought--led him on his way.
he--change from the first to the third person [BARNES]. Jehovah shall make his (Cyrus') way prosperous.
16. not . . . in secret--( Isaiah 45:19 ). Jehovah foretold Cyrus' advent, not with the studied ambiguity of heathen oracles, but plainly.
from the time, &c.--From the moment that the purpose began to be accomplished in the raising up of Cyrus I was present.
sent me--The prophet here speaks, claiming attention to his announcement as to Cyrus, on the ground of his mission from God and His Spirit. But he speaks not in his own person so much as in that of Messiah, to whom alone in the fullest sense the words apply ( Isaiah 61:1 , John 10:36 ). Plainly, Isaiah 49:1 , which is the continuation of the forty-eighth chapter, from Isaiah 48:16 , where the change of speaker from God ( Isaiah 48:1 Isaiah 48:12-15 ) begins, is the language of Messiah. Luke 4:1 Luke 4:14 Luke 4:18 , shows that the Spirit combined with the Father in sending the Son: therefore "His Spirit" is nominative to "sent," not accusative, following it.
17. teacheth . . . to profit--by affliction, such as the Babylonish captivity, and the present long-continued dispersion of Israel ( Hebrews 12:10 ).
18. peace--( Psalms 119:165 ). Compare the desire expressed by the same Messiah ( Matthew 23:37 , Luke 19:42 ).
river--( Isaiah 33:21 , 41:18 ), a river flowing from God's throne is the symbol of free, abundant, and ever flowing blessings from Him ( Ezekiel 47:1 , Zechariah 14:8 , Revelation 22:1 ).
righteousness--religious prosperity; the parent of "peace" or national prosperity; therefore "peace" corresponds to "righteousness" in the parallelism ( Isaiah 32:17 ).
19. sand--retaining the metaphor of "the sea" ( Isaiah 48:18 ).
like the gravel thereof--rather, as the Hebrew, "like that (the offspring) of its (the sea's) bowels"; referring to the countless living creatures, fishes, &c., of the sea, rather than the gravel [MAURER]. JEROME, Chaldee, and Syriac support English Version.
his name . . . cut off--transition from the second person, "thy," to the third "his." Israel's name was cut off "as a nation" during the Babylonish captivity; also it is so now, to which the prophecy especially looks ( Romans 11:20 ).
20. Go . . . forth . . . end of the earth--Primarily, a prophecy of their joyful deliverance from Babylon, and a direction that they should leave it when God opened the way. But the publication of it "to the ends of the earth" shows it has a more world-wide scope antitypically; Revelation 18:4 shows that the mystical Babylon is ultimately meant.
redeemed . . . Jacob--( Isaiah 43:1 , Isaiah 44:22 Isaiah 44:23 ).
21. Ezra, in describing the return, makes no mention of God cleaving the rock for them in the desert [KIMCHI]. The circumstances, therefore, of the deliverance from Egypt ( Exodus 17:6 , Numbers 20:11 , Psalms 78:15 , 105:41 ) and of that from Babylon, are blended together; the language, while more immediately referring to the latter deliverance, yet, as being blended with circumstances of the former not strictly applicable to the latter, cannot wholly refer to either, but to the mystic deliverance of man under Messiah, and literally to the final restoration of Israel.
22. Repeated ( Isaiah 57:21 ). All the blessings just mentioned ( Isaiah 48:21 ) belong only to the godly, not to the wicked. Israel shall first cast away its wicked unbelief before it shall inherit national prosperity ( Zechariah 12:10-14 , Zechariah 13:1 Zechariah 13:9 , Zechariah 14:3 Zechariah 14:14 Zechariah 14:20 Zechariah 14:21 ). The sentiment holds good also as to all wicked men ( Job 15:20-25 Job 15:31-34 ).