Isaiah 40 to 45
Cyrus' Coming is a Comfort to God's People
This portion of Prophecy introduces Cyrus the Persian. He will be mentioned in every chapter up to chapter 49 beginning first obscurely but continuing to ever more clear statements even to naming him by name. The "contrast" between world events and the blessings to come when Zion appears is continued. This style of the book has continued from the very first chapters. Cyrus' conquest of Babylon, accomplished in about 539 BC, resulted in the 536 BC decree to free the captive nations and effectively end the Seventy Year captivity prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremian 25:11 and begun by Nebuchadnezzar in 606 BC. This policy of exporting nations to control the empire had been begun by the Assyrians and was continued by their successors, the Babylonian Empire. The decree to free the nations particularly included the Jews. It would seem certain that Daniel the prophet made Cyrus aware of the prophecies that preceded him by about 200 years. A thread of predictions concerning Cyrus begins here in chapter 40 which continues to chapter 49. There is yet a lot of living and suffering ahead for the nation to endure before the appearance of Zion. Thus the section opens with comforting words and the promise that the divine purpose of the nation would be accomplished. It would appear that much of the comfort would be written for the sake of the captive nation in Babylon to assure them that God was not through with them yet. This is particularly seen in the promise of the restoration of the nation by Cyrus and his decree that the foundation of the second Temple would be laid.Isaiah 40
Chapter 40 begins a new section separate from but not unrelated to what has gone on before. As in the first section where Tiglath Pileser, as a messenger of God, was contrasted with Messiah and the interaction of the Assyrian Empire with Israel and Judah occupied a large portion of the first section so in this section Isaiah foretells the interaction and the rise and fall of the Babylonian Empire with Israel and Judah and makes the contrast of two Messengers of God both of whom are Messiahs. Cyrus the Mead or Persian will be introduced and his activity, person and the details of his life will be offered up as proof that only the Almighty could write such details before they happen. Cyrus will be contrasted with the Exalted Messiah of Paradox who rises after the fall of Babylon and the return of Israel and Judah to the blessings promised to them.
There is great comfort offered but only because there are centuries of agony for the nation to suffer before the promises of God will be realized. Much evidence is offered that God is revealing the future and they will know that the deferred promises are at the end of the trials because God predicts great historical events along the way so that the future will be reconfirmed to each generation. Most of these events which will convince the Jews that the messianic kingdom will ultimately come relate to Cyrus the Persian overthrowing the Babylonian Empire which will end their oppression of the Jews. It must be remembered that Babylon had not risen as a great power at the time that Isaiah wrote and the captivity that Judah was to be released from was yet in the future by over 100 years and the return to the land and rebuilding of the Temple (which had not yet been destroyed when he wrote this) was over 200 years further on and in that period of the return beginning with the down fall of Babylon begun by Cyrus the true Messiah would appear. It is this future restoration that is offered as the comfort to the nation. The comfort offered to the Remnant of Israel and the Jewish nation is much like the Christian receives in the New Covenant. For instance the parable of the ten virgins has one major teaching among others of lesser importance and that is that the bridegroom's future appearance is assured but that he may delay his coming. You will need enough oil to hold out. Thus in the same way comfort is offered of future blessings and God's continual watch care of the nation until the promises are realized. The prophecies to follow therefore are urgings to stay faithful in the only true God in spite of the many trials to be endured while the pictures of the beauties of the future age are intermingled with the trials and triumphs along the way. This intermingling creates similar difficulties as encountered in the first portion of the book where the cast of characters and the scenes change without notice making interpretation difficult. With some outstanding exceptions the obscurity of change of scene will be a characteristic of the rest of the book but especially from chapter 40 through 52.
There are four major themes which will be intermingled but are separate while related to each other. These are given here but not in the order that Isaiah introduced them. He begins with the announcement of the coming of the Savior: But the four main themes of the final section are:
1. There is only one God and idolatry is foolish.
2. God's assurances of future promises being fulfilled are guaranteed by predictions already fulfilled, (the fall of Israel and Assyria would be in the past when anticipation of those in this section were in order) and historical events which will precede the setting up of Zion. Some of these are:
3. Babylon will rise as a great people and lead the Jews captive. God will raise up the pre-named Cyrus the Mead to punish Babylon whose fall to him will begin her final disappearance. The downfall of Babylon is to sudden but her disappearance is be extended, and finally complete.
4. The messianic age is promised as being God's purpose for Israel. The Person of the Messiah, his visit, appearance, kingdom, conquest of the Gentiles is described in precise terms. Each of these themes will be interwoven and the transfer of thought from one to the other is only easily seen after these definitions are made. Isaiah begins with the consummation of what the future holds and that is the messianic age with the visit of YHWH himself.
1. Be comforted, be comforted my people, says your God. 2 Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry to her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she has received double for all her sins from the LORD'S hand.
Verse 2: Her warfare is accomplished: The season of struggle against idolatry and punishment for the nation will be past. This indicates that punishment of the nation will be finally completed. As we shall see the punishment will include a Babylonian servitude from which God will restore the nation. At the consummation of the struggle against idolatry and after the return to the land to a rebuilt temple the messianic age will be introduced. The announcement is made beginning in the next verse.
3. The voice of him that cries in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Verse 3: Prepare the way of YHWH: This passage is quoted by all four Gospel writers as referring to John the Baptist as the forerunner and precursor of the kingdom message. Mt. 3:1-3; Mk. 1:2-4; Lu. 3:2-6; Jo. 1:23
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it. 6 The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodness of them is as the flower of the field: 7 The grass withers, the flower fades: because the spirit of the LORD blows on it: surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God shall stand for ever. 9. O Zion, who brings good tidings, get you up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, who brings good tidings, lift up your voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, Behold your God!
Verse 9: Cities of Judah: Jesus is a Nazarene from Galilee. It may be argued, to fulfill this passage, that he was first introduced as the Messiah to those in Judea at his baptism by John the Baptist not far from Jerico on the banks of the Jordan River. However most of his teaching ministry took place in Galilee. Peter's confession of his Godhood, which this verse makes the center of the announcement, was in Galilee and his most important miracles (excluding the resurrection) were performed in Galilee. However what is specifically pointed out here is that the cities of Judah are to receive him. Historically, in the return from Babylon, the second commonwealth of all twelve tribes was known as the Kingdom of Judah. The state of Israel was not reconstituted. Israel was contained in the nation of Judah. In that sense all the cities of the nation to which Jesus the Nazarene ministered and was announced as Messiah were, whether in Judea or Galilee, in Judah. Thus even Nazareth, Cana of Galilee and Capernaum were in Judah.
10 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
His Arm The arm of YHWH is a phrase that refers to the messiah. See further discussion on the places where the arm of the Lord refers exclusively to the coming of the Messiah.
11 He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. 12. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counselor has taught him? 14 With whom took he counsel, or who instructed him, or taught him in the path of judgment, or taught him knowledge, or showed to him the way of understanding? 15 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he takes up the isles as a very little thing. 16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts of it sufficient for a burnt offering. 17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. 18. To whom then will you liken God? or what likeness will you compare to him? 19 The workman melts a graven image, and the goldsmith spreads it over with gold, and casts silver chains. 20 He that is so impoverished that he has no oblation chooses a tree that will not rot; he seeks for himself a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved. 21 Have you not known? have you not heard? has it not been told you from the beginning? have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits upon the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are as grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens as a curtain, and spreads them out as a tent to dwell in:
Verse 22. Circle The Hebrew word here for "circle" is "chug" and is used in only two other places in the O.T. in Job 22:14 where it describes the circle of the heavens as seen from earth but more importantly in Proverbs 8:27. There it is in a context describing the person of ultimate wisdom (not YHWH but his embodiment of wisdom) who was present at the creation. The word means circle there as well and gives a description of when the earth in its shapeless and formless mass took on a circular shape. Thus this passage in Isaiah is indeed also like Proverbs a scientific precognition of a circular earth
23 That brings the princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth as vanity. 24 Yes, they shall not be planted; yes, they shall not be sown: yes, their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. 25 To whom then will you liken me, or shall I be compared? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who has created these things, who brings out their host by number: he calls them all by names by the greatness of his might, because he is strong in power; not one fails. 27. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God? 28 Have you not known? have you not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. 29 He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: 31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
Verse 29 - 31: Wings of eagles: This figure of speach is a hyperbole which describes the speed and strength and courage that will be imparted to the life of the faithful who will find a completion and reward and elation as a result of their waiting. It is not ment to be a literal flight through the air as some of late have ascribed to the present day aliyah of the dispersed Jews returning to Israel by jet planes. In fact the figure is used to describe YHWH's action in the Exodus from Egypt. This is found in Ex. 19:4 "Ye have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you to myself." In this context it refers to the end of the captivities by both the Assyrians and the Babylonians and the future restoration of the nation when it was restored in the second commonwealth under Zerubbabel and Joshua the Priest and the ultimate end of the restoration culminating in the appearance of the Messiah. This is another passage emphasising the fact that the Messiah was predicted to come in the period of the second commonwealth.
Verse 31: Wait upon the Lord: Those who divided the Scriptures into chapters and verses had a difficult time because there is much continuity of thought from one chapter to the next as is evident here. The introduction of the messianic age in the beginning of the chapter and the ending of the announcement of YHWH's presence in the Messiah is punctuated with the poetic beauty of verse 11. This is then followed by the Rhetorical questions about and descriptions of the omniscience and omnipresence of the Almighty and contrasted with the foolishness of making a wood or stone god. This verse ends the section with the assurance that the first promises of the coming of the Messiah will be realized. But it will be necessary to wait. This assurance is further strengthened in the next chapter where a further set of rhetorical questions about future events relative to Cyrus are introduced in verse 2 below. See next note.
1. Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment. 2 Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.
Verse 2: The righteous man from the east: This refers to Cyrus who is also called righteous in 45:13. As in all other places in Isaiah, important people and events are introduced obscurely at first and then more details are subsequently added with additional mentions of the same person and events. It is this continuity of description of the two messiahs, the fall of Babylon, the return of the remnant, and the setting up of the messianic Zion which unifies this section and gives it continuity. The section at first appears but is not fragmentary. Cyrus, called the LORD's anointed in 45:1, is introduced here for the first time. He and his exploits will be mentioned again and again. The fall of Babylon to Cyrus is the great event which is here placed in contrast in this section to the setting up of Zion under the Messiah and which is behind all of the pleadings to prove God by history and forsake idolatry. Who else could tell the future things, about the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, his release of the captives of Israel as well as the Nazarene Savior who later will call the gentiles into a reestablished Zion, except the one true God.. The introduction of the future fall of Babylon is in 43:14-21. The next obscure mention of Cyrus is in 41:25. The next and stunning mention of Cyrus is in 44:26 - 45:4,5; 45:13, 14; 46:11; 48:14,15; Seeing all these references together may help.
3 He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet. 4 Who has wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he. 5 The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came. 6 They helped every one his neighbor; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage. 7 So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smoothes with the hammer him that strikes the anvil, saying, It is ready for the soldering: and he fastened it with nails, so it would not be moved. 8 But you, Israel, are my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. 9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called you from their chief men, and said to you, You are my servant; I have chosen you, and have not cast you away. 10. Fear not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness. 11 Behold, all they that were incensed against you shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with you shall perish. 12 You shall seek them, and shall not find them, even them who fight with you: they that war against you shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. 13 For I the LORD your God will hold your right hand, saying to you, Fear not; I will help you. 14 Fear not, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel; I will help you, says the LORD, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. 15 Behold, I will make you a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shall make the hills as chaff. 16 You shall fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them and you shall rejoice in the LORD, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel. 17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18 I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 19 I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together: 20 That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it. 21. Produce your cause, says the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, says the King of Jacob. 22 Let them bring them forth, and show us what shall happen: let them show the former things, as they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things to come. 23 Tell the symbols of the latter days, that we may know that you are gods: indeed, make either a good thing or an evil thing, that we may be amazed, and behold it together. 24 Behold, you are of nothing, and your work is worthless: he that chooses you is an abomination. 25 I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treads clay. 26 Who has declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yes, there is none that shows, yes, there is none that declares, yes, there is none that hears your words. 27 The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that brings good tidings. 28 For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counselor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word. 29 Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.
41:2-3 Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow. 3 He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.
41:25 I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon mortar, and as the potter treated clay.
44:26-45:5 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: 27 That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: 28 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. 45:1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; 2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: 3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. 4 For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. 5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
45:13-14 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts. 14 Thus saith the LORD, The labor of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.
46:11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
48:14-15 All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans. 15 I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous.
1. Behold my servant, whom I uphold; my elect, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor shout, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment to truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. 5. Thus says God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which comes out of it; he that gives breath to the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
Verse 6: I will Keep (Nazar): The use of the phrase "I will keep you" in Hebrew can be "I will make you a Nazar" or Nazarene. This is in the context of the coming Messiah being also a covenant and a light to the Gentiles. Tell me dear reader, What Jew connected with the word Nazar has had any influence greater than Jesus of Nazareth on the Gentiles? see further on this verse
7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house. 8 I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. 9 Behold, I declared the former things and they have come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring up I tell you of them.
Verse 9: New things: The new things are not declared here but they are cause for rejoicing described in the next three verses. The "new things" are declared in 48:6 where he incredibly names Nazareth.
10 Sing to the LORD a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, you that go down to the sea, and all that is in it; the isles, and the inhabitants of them.
Verse 10: Sing a new song: It has been suggested that this refers to the time after the second coming of Christ as the final results of the Messiah's visit. From chapter 40 onward the new section is decidedly messianic from the announcement of the Baptist's ministry through the personality and manners of the Messiah and His conquest of all through chapters 40 to 43. The first part of chapter 42 describing his speaking and servanthood and especially the call of the Gentiles establishes that the Messiah is spoken of. Especially pregnant with meaning is verse 6 which contains the mystical word "Nazar" and can be translated "I will make you a Nazarene and give you for a covenant and light of the Gentiles." There is no good reason to translate the word "keep" except that they don't know what else to do with it. The passive participle of the same word is "Nazareth" [Heb. netsuroth] and where THE LORD shows them the "new things" mentioned in verse 9 --- They are declared to them in 48:6,--there the new things are "hidden things" or "Nazareth" The translators really didn't know what to do with the word in that verse either. It is not related to anything remotely like "hidden things" in any lit. past or present. Isaiah identifies Nazareth and Nazarene and relates them to the Messiah in 42:6 and 48:9. But that is not what we address here. There are two messianic visitations spoken of in this section. the first is identified by the Almighty as Cyrus the Persian who will restore the faithful remnant to their land and a glorified period of rebuilding the nation. Even though it is possible for rejoicing relating to the second of the messianic visits to extend to the final results i.e. second coming -- there are no second coming references in Isaiah that I have been able to identify. Isaiah speaks of a dual glorification of the remnant, the major one in the coming of the Messiah who will set up Zion which admittedly is transcendent, but the conditions Isaiah sees are those of the call of the Gentiles into Zion and the glories that accompany the messianic completion of the national hope at the end of the Assyrian and Babylonian oppression, and "in those days and at that time" there would be a time worth singing about. That has already and is still happening and many of us are still singing about it. These passages [42:10-13] sound like "When the Messiah comes we will rejoice and carry the message, evangelizing to the ends of the earth." The only "end time" prophecies seen in Isaiah are from chapters 24 to 27 which describe the end of the world, the final judgement, the resurrection from the dead and the end of Satan. 27 describes the end of Satan in the first verse followed by the assurance for the rest of the chapter that the Nazarene vineyard [Nazar is used twice in 27:3 relating to the vineyard, the church] will endure through it all. And even though the admonition to identify the vineyard and "sing to it" is mentioned after the destruction of Satan, (27:2,3) it is only in that position to assure us that that which started at the first coming of Jesus, when the word of the Lord went forth from Mt Zion, is to endure and transcend. The first coming of Jesus and the events surrounding Calvary still inspire the loftiest human thoughts and the greatest music. Sing of the vineyard,-- not, as I see it,-- to the second coming.
11 Let the cities of the wilderness lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12 Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the islands. 13. The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, even, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. 14 I have held my peace a long time; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once. 15 I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. 16 And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do to them, and not forsake them. 17 They that trust in graven images shall be turned back, they that say to the molten images, you are our gods, shall be greatly ashamed,, . 18. Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see. 19 Who is blind, but my servant? or as deaf as my messenger that I sent? who is as blind as he that is perfect, and as blind as the LORD'S servant? 20 Seeing many things, but you observe not; opening the ears, but he hears not. 21 The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honorable. 22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled; all of them are snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivers; for a spoil, and none says, Restore. 23 Who among you will give ear to this? who will listen and hear for the time to come? 24 Who gave Jacob for a spoil, and Israel to the robbers? did not the LORD, he against whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in his ways, neither were they obedient to his law. 25 Therefore he has poured upon him the fury of his anger, and the strength of battle: and it has set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart.
1. But now thus says the LORD who created you, O Jacob, and he that formed you, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed you, I have called you by your name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not flow over you: when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned; neither shall the flame light upon you. 3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior: I gave Egypt for your ransom, Ethiopia and Sheba for you. 4 Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honorable, and I have loved you: therefore will I give men for you, and people for your life. 5 Fear not: for I am with you: I will bring your seed from the east, and gather you from the west; 6 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; 7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yes, I have made him. 8. Bring out the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. 9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? let them bring on their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.
Verse 9: For the Hebrew student: Almost all the verbs in this verse are jussive. This is a good example of jussive verbs showing little change from normal imperfect verb forms. There is no subjunctive in Hebrew. "A wish" is expressed by jussive. In this case "that they might tell," "that they might be justified," "that they might hear," "that they might say." This supports the use of jussive to interpret Isaiah 32:1 properly. Read more about jussive there.
10 You are my witnesses, says the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. 11 I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior. 12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore you are my witnesses, says the LORD, that I am God. 13 Yes, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall stop it? 14. Thus says 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.
Verse 14: Babylon: The section beginning with Isaiah 40 and extending through 49 blends and merges the four themes of: 1. The foolishness of Idolatry; 2. The proof that YHWH is the only God by predicting the history of Cyrus the Persian who will release the Jews from their Babylonian captivity which has already been predicted (39:6-8). 3. The fall of Babylon and: 4. The final outcome of all: the setting up of Zion by the Messiah and the call of the Gentiles into Zion. Here in verse 14 is the first mention in this section (40-49) that refers directly to Babylon. The rise and fall of Babylon and the captivity of the Jews has already been covered by Isaiah in chapters 13 and 14; also in 21:1-10; 39:6-8. The other references to Babylon in this section are 46:1,2; 47:1-15; 48:14; 48:20.
15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King. 16 Thus says the LORD, which makes a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; 17 Which brings forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are snuffed out like a wick. 18 Do not bring to mind the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. 20 The beast of the field shall honor 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.
Verses 19 and 20: Desert In Hebrew the word "desert" in the phrase "rivers in the desert" is "Jeshimon" used also in Numbers 19 and I Samuel (see 1 Sam 23:19,24) as a place name which describes the wilderness of Judea, south of Jerusalem between Hebron and the Dead Sea which is a desolate desert place indeed.
21 This people have I formed for myself; they shall show my praise. 22. But you have not called upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel. 23 You have not brought me even the small cattle of your burnt offerings; neither have you honored me with your sacrifices. I have not caused you to serve with an offering, nor wearied you with incense. 24 You have bought me no sweet cane with money, neither have you filled me with the fat of your sacrifices: but you have made me to serve with your sins, you have wearied me with your iniquities. 25 I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and will not remember your sins. 26 Remind me, let us judge together: explain how you are justified. 27 Your first father has sinned, and your teachers have transgressed against me. 28 Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.
1. Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: 2 Thus says the LORD who made you, formed you from the womb, and who will help you; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
Verse 2: Jeshurun: From "yashar" plus an affectionate diminutive ending meaning "straight" or upright. The passive participle as a name means that she has been made straight, i.e. "having been straightened." It implies that she had been crooked previously. Thus it speaks of the condition of Israel at any time including in Isaiah's day and looks forward to the future when God will have completed his will with his people Israel. The word used as a term of affection by YHWH for Israel is also found in Deut 32:15, 33:5, 33:26
3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon your seed, and my blessing upon your offspring: 4 And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. 5 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 to the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. 6 Thus says 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. 7 And who is like me, who can call, and explain, and arrange before me the things that have happened since I placed the people of antiquity? Let them show to us the things that are in the near and the distant future.
Verse 7: Antiquity...Future: This chapter, which is largely a description of the foolishness of making a "god" out of a piece of stone, wood or metal, predicates the contrast between a foolish idol and the everlasting God in the fact that YHWH has revealed the history of the worlds before the flood (here called am-'olam literally: people of the ages or eternity) He not only reveals the remote past to his people Jacob but he also reveals the future to the same people. To illustrate this element of future revelation, (among other things in Isaiah see the astounding revelation of 48:6). In this chapter YHWH reveals the most incredibly accurate outline of Cyrus, future king of Persia. (See verse 28 below and ff.)
8 Fear you not, neither be afraid: have I not made it known to you from that time, and have told it? you are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? I do not know any stone god. 9. 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 do not see nor know; that they may be ashamed. 10 Who forms a god, or casts a graven image that gives no profit? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be ashamed for the workmen are mere humans; When they gather themselves together and stand up they shall be terrified and suffer shame together. 12 The iron worker works with tongs in the coals, and fashions it with hammers, and works it with the strength of his arms: he is hungry, and his strength fails: he drinks no water, and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches out his ruler; he marks it out with a line; he fits it with planes, and he marks it out with the compass, and makes it in the shape of a man, according to human excellence, so it may abide in the home. 14 He hews down cedars, and takes the cypress and the oak, which he strengthens for himself among the trees of the forest: he plants an ash, and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it shall be used for a man to burn: because he will take a piece, and warm himself; yes, he kindles it, and bakes bread; yes, he makes a god, and worships it; he makes of it a graven image, and falls down before it. 16 He burns part of it in the fire; with part of it he eats flesh; he roasts meat, and is satisfied: he warms himself, and says, Ah, I am warm, I have seen the fire: 17 And with the residue he makes a god, even his graven image: he falls down before it and worships it and prays to it, and says, Deliver me; for you are my god. 18 They have not known nor understood: for he has shut their eyes, so they cannot see; and their hearts, so they cannot understand. 19 And none considers in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; also I have baked bread upon the coals of it; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue of it an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? 20 He feeds on ashes: a deceived heart has turned him aside, so that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is this not a fraud in my right hand? 21. Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for you are my servant: I have formed you; you are my servant: O Israel, you shall not be forgotten by me. 22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins: return to me; for I have redeemed you. 23 Sing, O you heavens; for the LORD has done it: shout, you lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree there: for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel. 24 Thus says the LORD, your redeemer, and he that formed you from the womb, I am the LORD who makes all things; who stretches forth the heavens alone; who spreads abroad the earth by myself; 25 Who frustrates the tokens of the liars, and makes diviners mad; who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolish; 26 Who confirms the word of his servant, and performs the counsel of his messengers; The one saying to Jerusalem, You shall be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, you shall be built, and I will raise up your decayed places:
Verse 26: The One saying In Hebrew the participle "ha-omer" is accurately translated here and may refer to the "messenger" Cyrus although the rest of the participles have YHWH as the subject. In verse 28 below it is confirmed that YHWH put this message into Cyrus' mouth.
Verse 26: You shall be inhabited: This is one of those characteristic prophecies of Isaiah. The Seer predicts the rehabilitation of the forsaken city of Jerusalem and the rebuilding of the city as well as the towns of Judah. Isaiah thereby implies the destruction of the kingdom of Judah and her cities and the exile by predicting the return of the exiles to the same city which was abandoned as well as the rebuilding of the nation. This was accomplished after the 70 years of Babylonian exile which was ended by Cyrus which Isaiah predicts in the following verses. The purpose of the precision of these predictions, even to calling Cyrus by name in the next verse, is to offer proof that God will perform the good works which are promised for his people and would hardly seem possible during the time of extinction of statehood for Israel and Judah. Who would believe during the exile, with or without these prophetic assurances, that there would be a second commonwealth joining all 12 tribes into one nation and a second temple? Only those who put their faith in the future of "Zion" and did not "look to the earth" for answers and as Isaiah puts it, those who trust in Zion, would have the confidence in God's purpose. To confirm that YHWH is the only God he calls the name of Cyrus and gives specific descriptions of the things that he will undertake.
27 Who says to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers:
Verse 27: Dry up your rivers: In the context of using Cyrus as His Messiah (see note under 45:1 below) and of describing the things that Cyrus would do (next verse) Cyrus is said to "dry up rivers." Herodotus tells how Cyrus, upon losing his favorite steed when attempting to cross the torrent of a tributary of the Tigris punished the river with his troops by spending the whole summer digging 360 separate channels (I:190) to divert the waters of the river and make it so "a woman could get over without difficulty." Cyrus also redivided the Euphrates in a number of channels to subdue it and rediverted the river into an old lake bed which works had been done in previous generations before the fall of Nineveh. (See Herod 1:179-185) Diverting the river into the lake bed that had been previously dug by Nitocris (Herod 1:185) so that his army could go under the walls of Babylon in the dry river bed in water no deeper "than a man's thighs" is recorded in Herod. (1:190-192).
28 Who says of Cyrus, he is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, you shall be built; and to the temple, your foundation shall be laid.
Verse 28: Who says of Cyrus: The record of the decree to rebuild the Temple can be found in 2 Chron. 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1, 2 with several other references in Ezra. The precision of the prediction made by Isaiah about 720 BC concerning events following 536 B,C more than, 184 years later is illustrated here and by the subsequent history. Cyrus reversed the policy of moving and resettling captive nations in unfamiliar places to keep them submissive, which policy had been started by the Assyrians and improved on by the Chaldeans. Ending this period, Cyrus declared the policy of restoring the captive nations to their homelands where possible.
There is a well preserved cylinder seal in the Yale University Library from Cyrus which contains his commands to resettle the captive nations. Cyrus died within 5 years of the decree to rebuild Jerusalem and thus he served YHWH exactly as the prophecy says. Cyrus commanded the return and rebuilding and that the Temple be "founded." He did not live to see the Temple built nor the structure to rise above the foundations. So precise is the prophecy!
1. Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two doored gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
Verse 1: To Cyrus his anointed "le meshicho le Koresh," lit Hebrew is "to his Messiah to Cyrus." The LXX has "to christo mou koro," lit. Grk "to my Christ Cyrus" Cyrus is called by name and his mission for God is described in detail before he was born. That God knows the personalities of men's lives before they are conceived is awe inspiring and should fill one with the fear of God. This certainly proof to those listening that YHWH is God and there is none other! Cyrus is the only secular king who is called the anointed or messiah of God. This may be because Cyrus is the instrument of the return to Zion, and the land of Palestine which is the province of the Messiah in many passages.
Verse 1: Two Doored Gates These gates are described in this prophecy in great detail and here the detail that they were not a single door is added.
Verse 1: Gates shall not be shut: Cyrus, in preparation for completing his greatest work for God, that is decreeing the return of the nation and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, his most important moment was the conquest of the city of Babylon. How Cyrus diverted the river to make it possible to enter the city is described above. The river went through the middle of the city and its banks were walled on either side with periodic huge gates of brass which would be used to shut out an invader in just such an assault as was raised by Cyrus. Herodotus in recording the history of the event includes these words:"If the Babylonians had learnt what Cyrus was doing they could have let the Persians enter then, by shutting the Gates which led to the water side and manning the walls on either side of the river they could have caught them in a trap and wiped them out. But as it was they were taken by surprise. The Babylonians themselves say that owing to the great size of the city the outskirts were captured without the people in the center knowing anything about it; there was a festival going on, and even while the city was falling they continued to dance and enjoy themselves, until hard facts brought them to their senses." (Herod 1:193)The fall of the city and the festival going on at the same time is described by Daniel who was there and told Belshazzar that the city was to be taken by the Medes and Persians the same night. The historical description of Herodotus perfectly supports what Isaiah wrote about the event before it happened and verifies what Daniel wrote about in Daniel 5 when he was an eyewitness.
2 I will go before you, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut apart the bars of iron: 3 And I will give you the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who calls you by your name, am the God of Israel. 4 For my servant Jacob's sake, and Israel my elect, I have even called you by your name: I have surnamed you, though you have not known me.
Verse 2: Gates of Brass (or bronze): The accuracy of the things faced by Cyrus and what he would overcome no doubt convinced him of the integrity of the Isaiah prophecy. He was to find not only open gates but over come Gates of brass. Herodotus' description of the walls and gates of Babylon makes an interesting insertion at this point.
"Babylon lies in a wide plain, a vast city in the form of a square with sides nearly fourteen miles long and a circuit of some 56 miles, and in addition to its enormous size it surpasses in splendor any city of the known world. It is surrounded by a broad, deep moat, full of water and within the moat there is a wall 50 royal cubits high (approx 80 feet, ed note) .. The soil dug out of the moat was used to build the wall. While the digging was going on the dirt that was shoveled out was formed into bricks, which were basked in an oven as soon. as they were made; then using hot bitumen (a natural product of crude oil, ed) for mortar the workmen began by building parapets along each side of the moat, and then went on to erect the actual wall. In both cases, they laid rush mats between every 30 courses of brick. On the top of the wall they constructed along each edge, a row of one room buildings facing inward with enough space between for a four horse chariot to turn. There are 100 gates in the circuit of the wall, all of bronze with bronze uprights and lintels. ...The Euphrates, a broad deep swift river which rises in Armenia and flows into the Persian Gulf, runs through the middle of the city and divides it in two. The wall is brought right down to the water on both sides and at an angle to it there is another wall on each bank build of baked bricks without mortar running through the town. There are a great many houses of three and four stories. The main streets and side streets which lead to the river are all dead straight, and for every one of the side streets or alleys there was a bronze gate in the river wall by which the water could be reached." (emphasis mine) Herod. Book I:179. See a further description of these river gates in Herodotus. The 100 gates are also mentioned again in Herodotus.
5. I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded you, though you have not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Verse 6: Create evil: Delitzsch, we agree, properly thinks this a reference to oppose the false doctrine of Dualism which would be the religion of Cyrus' Zoroastrian roots. In that system there are two equal gods, one who is in charge of good and light while the other is the champion of darkness and evil. The Sovereign YHWH declares that all that exists is His responsibility even evil. There is therefore no evil sovereign. The choice to do good can not exist without its opposite of evil. God did not commit evil acts but created the possibility of evil when he gave mankind free will.
8 Drop down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it. 9 Woe to him that strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashions it, What are you making? or your work, He has no hands?
Verse 9: Woe to the one striving against his maker: This admonition is for Cyrus. His task that God has made for him is required and he is warned not to question it. That the context continues to be instructions and revelations to Cyrus is seen in the continuing reference to Cyrus and his work in verse 13 below where it is repeated that he will cause the city to be built and the captives to be released.
10 Woe to him that says to his father, What did you beget? or to the woman, What have you brought forth? 11. Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command me. 12 I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. 13 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let my captives go, not for price nor reward, says the LORD of hosts. 14 Thus says the LORD, The labor of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you, and they shall be yours: they shall come after you; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down to you, they shall make supplication to you, saying, Surely God is in you; and there is none else, there is no God.
Verse 14: Egypt, Ethiopia, and Arabia: Assurance is given here to Cyrus in prophecy. According to Herodotus (Book I:174-178) he captured the eastern provinces of Media and Persia and the Punjab as far as the Indus River first and then turned to Babylon and Palestine where Daniel would show him these passages. He would afterward turn his attention to Egypt, Arabia and Ethiopia with the assurance that these verses contain. They told him the rest of the nations would totally and unconditionally submit to him, which was the case.
15 Truly you are a God who hides yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior. 16 The makers of idols shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together. 17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: you shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end. 18 For thus says the LORD creator of the heavens; God himself who formed the earth and made it; he has established it, he did not create it in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
Verse 18: In vain: Although often used by those who believe in a pre-adamic race this verse is not teaching that doctrine. Even though the word "vain" ( ) tohu) is translated void or empty in Gen. 1:2 and some say that the verse means that the earth became empty after the original creation and according to them Genesis 1 is an account of recreation after the rebellion of Satan in a first creation. We consider this a "far-fetched" idea not supported by the scriptures. The word in question could just as easily be correctly translated unprofitable which is the meaning it has in the next verse where it says that YHWH did not say to Jacob "Seek me in vain.". In other words God created the earth with a purpose of it being inhabited. That he made the earth to be inhabited is attested by daily experience of all environments on the earth being able to support life. At the time of this writing space exploration advocates are alive with the possibility that life may exist on Mars and that men may colonize it. Lost in this fervor are the facts that equatorial Martian territory is colder than the Antarctic and the winds are stronger and the storms more severe. It is easier to colonize and sustain a colony in the coldest part of the Antarctic than on the warmest part of Mars. God made the earth to have a balanced eco-system which supports and sustains life. That is the meaning of "He made the earth to be inhabited." Even if humans can create a limited shell in which to live on Mars it is obvious that God did not make it to be full of life and to be inhabited.
19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I did not say in vain to the seed of Jacob, Seek me; I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. 20. Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray to a god that cannot save. 21 Proclaim, and bring them near; let them take counsel together: who has declared this from ancient time? who has told it from that time? Have not I the LORD? and there is no other God beside me; a just God and a Savior; there is none beside me. 22 Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is no one else. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return empty, That to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. 24 Surely, one shall say, In the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
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