Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The tone of the address is now suddenly changed. The sudden leap from reproach to consolation was very significant. It gave them to understand, that no meritorious work of their own would come in between what Israel was and what it was to be, but that it was God's free grace which came to meet it. "But now thus saith Jehovah thy Creator, O Jacob, and thy Former, O Israel! Fear not, for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by name, thou art mine. When thou goest through the water, I am with thee; and through rivers, they shall not drown thee: when thou goest into fire, thou shalt not be burned; and the flame shall not set thee on fire." The punishment has now lasted quite long enough; and, as ועתּה affirms, the love which has hitherto retreated behind the wrath returns to its own prerogatives again. He who created and formed Israel, by giving Abraham the son of the promise, and caused the seventy of Jacob's family to grow up into a nation in Egypt, He also will shelter and preserve it. He bids it be of good cheer; for their early history is a pledge of this. The perfects after כּי in Isa 43:1 stand out against the promising futures in Isa 43:2, as retrospective glances: the expression "I have redeemed thee" pointing back to Israel's redemption out of Egypt; "I have called thee by thy name" (lit. I have called with thy name, i.e., called it out), to its call to be the peculiar people of Jehovah, who therefore speaks of it in Isa 48:12 as "My called." This help of the God of Israel will also continue to arm it against the destructive power of the most hostile elements, and rescue it from the midst of the greatest dangers, from which there is apparently no escape (cf., Psa 66:12; Dan 3:17, Dan 3:27; and Ges. 103, 2).
Just as in Isa 43:1, kı̄ (for), with all that follows, assigns the reason for the encouraging "Fear not;" so here a second kı̄ introduces the reason for the promise which ensures them against the dangers arising from either water or fire. "For I Jehovah am thy God; (I) the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I give up Egypt as a ransom for thee, Ethiopia and Seba in thy stead. Because thou art dear in my eyes, highly esteemed, and I loved thee; I give up men in thy stead, and peoples for thy life." Both "Jehovah" and "the Holy One of Israel" are in apposition to "I" ('ănı̄), the force of which is continued in the second clause. The preterite nâthattı̄ (I have given), as the words "I will give" in Isa 43:4 clearly show, states a fact which as yet is only completed so far as the purpose is concerned. "A ransom:" kōpher (λύτρον) is literally the covering - the person making the payment. סבא is the land of Mero, which is enclosed between the White and Blue Nile, the present Dr Sennr, district of Sennr (Sen-rti, i.e., island of Sen), or the ancient Meriotic priestly state settled about this enclosed land, probably included in the Mudrya (Egypt) of the Achaemenidian arrowheaded inscriptions; though it is uncertain whether the Kusiya (Heb. Kūshı̄m) mentioned there are the predatory tribe of archers called Κοσσαῖοι (Strabo, xi. 13, 6), whose name has been preserved in the present Chuzistan, the eastern Ethiopians of the Greeks (as Lassen and Rawlinson suppose), or the African Ethiopians of the Bible, as Oppert imagines. The fact that Egypt was only conquered by Cambyses, and not by Cyrus, who merely planned it (Herod. i. 153), and to whom it is only attributed by a legend (Xen. Cyr. viii. 6, 20, λἐγεται καταστρἐψσασθαι Αἰγυπτον), does no violence to the truth of the promise. It is quite enough that Egypt and the neighbouring kingdoms were subjugated by the new imperial power of Persia, and that through that empire the Jewish people recovered their long-lost liberty. The free love of God was the reason for His treating Israel according to the principle laid down in Pro 11:8; Pro 21:18. מאשׁר does not signify ex quo tempore here, but is equivalent to אשׁר מפּני in Exo 19:18; Jer 44:23; for if it indicated the terminus a quo, it would be followed by a more distinct statement of the fact of their election. The personal pronoun "and I" (va'ănı̄) is introduced in consequence of the change of persons. In the place of ונתתּי (perf. cons.), ואתּן commended itself, as the former had already been used in a somewhat different function. All that composed the chosen nation are here designated as "man" (âdâm), because there was nothing in them but what was derived from Adam. תּחת has here a strictly substitutionary meaning throughout.
The encouraging "Fear not" is here resumed, for the purpose of assigning a still further reason. "Fear not; for I am with thee: I bring thy seed from the east, and from the west will I gather them; 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 end of the earth; everything that is called by my name, and I have created for my glory, that I have formed, yea finished!" The fact that Jehovah is with Israel will show itself in this, that He effects its complete restoration from all quarters of the heaven (compare the lands of the diaspora in all directions already mentioned by Isaiah in Isa 11:11-12). Jehovah's command is issued to north and south to give up their unrighteous possession, not to keep it back, and to restore His sons and daughters (compare the similar change in the gender in Isa 11:12), which evidently implies the help and escort of the exiles on the part of the heathen (Isa 14:2). The four quarters and four winds are of the feminine gender. In Isa 43:7 the object is more precisely defined from the standpoint of sacred history. The three synonyms bring out the might, the freeness, and the riches of grace, with which Jehovah called Israel into existence, to glorify Himself in it, and that He might be glorified by it. They form a climax, for בּרא signifies to produce as a new thing; יצר, to shape what has been produced; and עשׂה, to make it perfect or complete, hence creavi, formavi, perfeci.
We come now to the third turn in the second half of this prophecy. It is linked on to the commencement of the first turn ("Hear, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see"), the summons being now addressed to some one to bring forth the Israel, which has eyes and ears without seeing or hearing; whilst, on the other hand, the nations are all to come together, and this time not for the purpose of convincing them, but of convincing Israel. "Bring out a blind people, and it has eyes; and deaf people, and yet furnished with ears! All ye heathen, gather yourselves together, and let peoples assemble! Who among you can proclaim such a thing? And let them cause former things to be heard, appoint their witnesses, and be justified. Let these hear, and say, True! Ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and see that it is I: before me was no God formed, and there will be none after me." "Bring out" does not refer here to bringing out of captivity, as in Eze 20:34, Eze 20:41; Eze 34:13, since the names by which Israel is called are hardly applicable to this, but rather to bringing to the place appointed for judicial proceedings. The verb is in the imperative. The heathen are also to gather together en masse; נקבּצוּ is also an imperative here, as in Joe 3:11 = הקּבצוּ (cf., נלווּ, Jer 50:5; Ewald, 226, c). In Isa 43:9 we have the commencement of the evidence adduced by Jehovah in support of His own divine right: Who among the gods of the nations can proclaim this? i.e., anything like my present announcement of the restoration of Israel? To prove that they can, let them cause "former things" to be heard, i.e., any former events which they had foretold, and which had really taken place; and let them appoint witnesses of such earlier prophecies, and so prove themselves to be gods, that is to say, by the fact that these witnesses have publicly heard their declaration and confirm the truth thereof. The subject to וגו וישׁמעוּ (they may hear, etc.) is the witnesses, not as now informing themselves for the first time, but as making a public declaration. The explanation, "that men may hear," changes the subject without any necessity. But whereas the gods are dumb and lifeless, and therefore cannot call any witnesses for themselves, and not one of all the assembled multitude can come forward as their legitimate witness, or as one able to vindicate them, Jehovah can call His people as witnesses, since they have had proofs in abundance that He possesses infallible knowledge of the future. It is generally assumed that "and my servant" introduces a second subject: "Ye, and (especially) my servant whom I have chosen." In this case, "my servant" would denote that portion of the nation which was so, not merely like the mass of the people according to its divine calling, but also by its own fidelity to that calling; that is to say, the kernel of the nation, which was in the midst of the mass, but had not the manners of the mass. At the same time, the sentence which follows is much more favourable to the unity of the subject; and why should not "my servant" be a second predicate? The expression "ye" points to the people, who were capable of seeing and hearing, and yet both blind and deaf, and who had been brought out to the forum, according to Isa 43:8. Ye, says Jehovah, are my witnesses, and ye are my servant whom I have chosen; I can appeal to what I have enabled you to experience and to perceive, and to the relation in which I have in mercy caused you to stand to myself, that ye may thereby be brought to consider the great difference that there is between what ye have in your God and that which the heathen (here present with you) have in their idols. "I am He," i.e., God exclusively, and God for ever. His being has no beginning and no end; so that any being apart from His, which could have gone before or could follow after, so as to be regarded as divine (in other words, the deity of the artificial and temporal images which are called gods by the heathen), is a contradiction in itself.
The address now closes by holding up once more the object and warrant of faith. "I am Jehovah; and beside me there is no Savour. I have proclaimed and brought salvation, and given to perceive, and there was no other god among you: and ye are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and I am God. Even from the day onwards I am so; and there is no deliverer out of my hand: I act, and who can turn it back?" The proper name "Jehovah" is used here (Isa 43:13) as a name indicating essence: "I and no other am the absolutely existing and living One," i.e., He who proves His existence by His acts, and indeed by His saving acts. מושׁיע and Jehovah are kindred epithets here; just as in the New Testament the name Jehovah sets, as it were, but only to rise again in the name Jesus, in which it is historically fulfilled. Jehovah's previous self-manifestation in history furnished a pledge of the coming redemption. The two synonyms הגּדתּי and השׁמעתּ have הושׁעתּי in the midst. He proclaimed salvation, brought salvation, and in the new afflictions was still ever preaching salvation, without there having been any zâr, i.e., any strange or other god in Israel (Deu 32:16; see above, Isa 17:10), who proved his existence in any such way, or, in fact, gave any sign of existence at all. This they must themselves confess; and therefore (Vav in sense equivalent to ergo, as in Isa 40:18, Isa 40:25) He, and He alone, is El, the absolutely mighty One, i.e., God. And from this time forth He is so, i.e., He, and He only, displays divine nature and divine life. There is no reason for taking מיּום in the sense of יום מהיות, "from the period when the day, i.e., time, existed" (as the lxx, Jerome, Stier, etc., render it). Both the gam (also) and the future 'eph‛al (I will work) require the meaning supported by Eze 48:35, "from the day onwards," i.e., from this time forth (syn. לפני־יום, Isa 48:7). The concluding words give them to understand, that the predicted salvation is coming in the way of judgment. Jehovah will go forward with His work; and if He who is the same yesterday and today sets this before Him, who can turn it back, so that it shall remain unaccomplished? The prophecy dies away, like the massâ' Bâbhel with its epilogue in Isa 14:27. In the first half (Isaiah 42:1-17) Jehovah introduced His servant, the medium of salvation, and proclaimed the approaching work of salvation, at which all the world had reason to rejoice. The second half (Isaiah 42:18-43:13) began with reproaching, and sought to bring Israel through this predicted salvation to reflect upon itself, and also upon its God, the One God, to whom there was no equal.
In close connection with the foregoing prophecy, the present one commences with the dissolution of the Chaldean empire. "Thus saith Jehovah, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, For your sake I have sent to Babel, and will hurl them all down as fugitives, and the Chaldeans into the ships of their rejoicing. I, Jehovah, am your Holy One; (I) Israel's Creator, your King." Hitzig reads באניות, and adopts the rendering, "and drowned the shouting of the Chaldeans in groaning." Ewald also corrects Isa 43:14 thus: "And plunge their guitars into groanings, and the rejoicing of the Chaldeans into sighs." We cannot see any good taste in this un-Hebraic bombast. Nor is there any more reason for altering ברייחם (lxx φεύγοντας) into ברייחם (Jerome, vectes), as Umbreit proposes: "and make all their bolts
(Note: This would require כּל־בּריחיה.)
fall down, and the Chaldeans, who rejoice in ships" (bāŏniyōth). None of these alterations effect any improvement. For your sakes, says Jehovah, i.e., for the purpose of releasing you, I have sent to Babylon (sc., the agents of my judgments, Isa 13:3), and will throw them all down (viz., the πάμιμκτος ὄχλος of this market of the world; see Isa 13:14; Isa 47:15) as fugitives (bârı̄chı̄m with a fixed kametz, equivalent to barrı̄chı̄m), i.e., into a hurried flight; and the Chaldeans, who have been settled there from a hoary antiquity, even they shall be driven into the ships of their rejoicing (bŏŏniyōth, as in Pro 31:14), i.e., the ships which were previously the object of their jubilant pride and their jubilant rejoicing. והורדתּי stands in the perf. consec., as indicating the object of all the means already set in motion. The ships of pleasure are not air-balloons, as Hitzig affirms. Herodotus (i. 194) describes the freight ships discharging in Babylon; and we know from other sources that the Chaldeans not only navigated the Euphrates, but the Persian Gulf as well, and employed vessels built by Phoenicians for warlike purposes also.
(Note: See G. Rawlinson, Monarchies, i. 128, ii. 448.)
הוריד itself might indeed signify "to hurl to the ground" (Psa 56:8; Psa 59:12); but the allusion to ships shows that בּ הוריד are to be connected (cf., Isa 63:14), and that a general driving down both by land and water to the southern coast is intended. By thus sweeping away both foreigners and natives out of Babylon into the sea, Jehovah proves what He is in Himself, according to Isa 43:15, and also in His relation to Israel; we must supply a repetition of אני here (Isa 43:15), as in Isa 43:3. The congregation which addresses Him as the Holy One, the people who suffer Him to reign over them as their King, cannot remain permanently despised and enslaved.
There now follows a second field of the picture of redemption; and the expression "for your sake" is expounded in Isa 43:16-21 : "Thus saith Jehovah, who giveth a road through the sea, and a path through tumultuous waters; who bringeth out chariot and horse, army and hero; they lie down together, they never rise: they have flickered away, extinguished like a wick. Remember not things of olden time, nor meditate upon those of earlier times! Behold, I work out a new thing: will ye not live to see it? Yea, I make a road through the desert, and streams through solitudes. The beast of the field will praise me, wild dogs and ostriches: for I give water in the desert, streams in solitude, to give drink to my people, my chosen. The people that I formed for myself, they shall show forth my praise." What Jehovah really says commences in Isa 43:18. Then in between He is described as Redeemer out of Egypt; for the redemption out of Egypt was a type and pledge of the deliverance to be looked for out of Babylon. The participles must not be rendered qui dedit, eduxit; but from the mighty act of Jehovah in olden time general attributes are deduced: He who makes a road in the sea, as He once showed. The sea with the tumultuous waters is the Red Sea (Neh 9:11); ‛izzūz, which rhymes with vâsūs, is a concrete, as in Psa 24:8, the army with the heroes at its head. The expression "bringeth out," etc., is not followed by "and suddenly destroys them," but we are transported at once into the very midst of the scenes of destruction. ישׁכּבוּ shows them to us entering upon the sleep of death, in which they lie without hope (Isa 26:14). The close (kappishtâh khâbhū) is iambic, as in Jdg 5:27. The admonition in Isa 43:18 does not commend utter forgetfulness and disregard (see Isa 66:9); but that henceforth they are to look forwards rather than backward. The new thing which Jehovah is in the process of working out eclipses the old, and deserves a more undivided and prolonged attention. Of this new thing it is affirmed, "even now it sprouts up;" whereas in Isa 42:9, even in the domain of the future, a distinction was drawn between "the former things" and "new things," and it could be affirmed of the latter that they were not yet sprouting up. In the passage before us the entire work of God in the new time is called chădâshâh (new), and is placed in contrast with the ri'shōnōth, or occurrences of the olden time; so that as the first part of this new thing had already taken place (Isa 42:9), and there was only the last part still to come, it might very well be affirmed of the latter, that it was even now sprouting up (not already, which עתה may indeed also mean, but as in Isa 48:7). In connection with this, תדעוּה הלוא (a verbal form with the suffix, as in Jer 13:17, with kametz in the syllable before the tone, as in Isa 6:9; Isa 47:11, in pause) does not mean, "Will ye then not regard it," as Ewald, Umbreit, and others render it; but, "shall ye not, i.e., assuredly ye will, experience it." The substance of the chădâshâh (the new thing) is unfolded in Isa 43:19. It enfolds a rich fulness of wonders: אף affirming that, among other things, Jehovah will do this one very especially. He transforms the pathless, waterless desert, that His chosen one, the people of God, may be able to go through in safety, and without fainting. And the benefits of this miracle of divine grace reach the animal world as well, so that their joyful cries are an unconscious praise of Jehovah. (On the names of the animals, see Khler on Mal 1:3.) In this we can recognise the prophet, who, as we have several times observed since chapter 11 (compare especially Isa 30:23-24; Isa 35:7), has not only a sympathizing heart for the woes of the human race, but also an open ear for the sighs of all creation. He knows that when the sufferings of the people of God shall be brought to an end, the sufferings of creation will also terminate; for humanity is the heart of the universe, and the people of God (understanding by this the people of God according to the Spirit) are the heart of humanity. In v. 21 the promise is brought to a general close: the people that (zū personal and relative, as in Isa 42:24)
(Note: The pointing connects עם־זוּ with makkeph, so that the rendering would be, "The people there I have formed for myself;" but according to our view, עם should be accented with yethib, and zū with munach. In just the same way, zū is connected with the previous noun as a demonstrative, by means of makkeph, in Exo 15:13, Exo 15:16; Psa 9:16; Psa 62:12; Psa 142:4; Psa 143:8, and by means of a subsidiary accent in Psa 10:2; Psa 12:8. The idea which underlies Isa 42:24 appears to be, "This is the retribution that we have met with from him."' But in none of these can we be bound by the punctuation.)
I have formed for myself will have richly to relate how I glorified myself in them.
It would be the praise of God, however, and not the merits of their own works, that they would have to relate; for there was nothing at all that could give them any claim to reward. There were not even acts of ceremonial worship, but only the guilt of grievous sins. "And thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob, that thou shouldst have wearied thyself for me, O Israel! Thou hast not brought me sheep of thy burnt-offerings, and thou hast not honoured me with thy slain-offerings. I have not burdened thee with meat-offerings, and have not troubled thee about incense. Thou hast bought me no spice-cane for silver, nor hast thou refreshed me with fat of thy slain-offerings. No; thou hast wearied me with thy sins, troubled me with thine iniquities." We cannot agree with Stier, that these words refer to the whole of the previous worship of Israel, which is treated here as having no existence, because of its heartlessness and false-holiness. And we must also not forget, that all these prophecies rested on either the historical or the ideal soil of the captivity. The charge commences with the worship of prayer (with calling upon Jehovah, as in Psa 14:4; Psa 18:7), to which the people were restricted when in exile, since the law did not allow them to offer sacrifice outside the holy land. The personal pronoun אתי, in the place of the suffix, is written first of all for the sake of emphasis, as if the meaning were, "Israel could exert itself to call upon other gods, but not upon Jehovah." The following kı̄ is equivalent to ut (Hos 1:6), or ‛ad-kı̄ in Sa2 23:10, adeo ut laborasses me colendo (so as to have wearied thyself in worshipping me). They are also charged with having offered no sacrifices, inasmuch as in a foreign land this duty necessarily lapsed of itself, together with the self-denial that it involved. The spelling הביאת (as in Num 14:31) appears to have been intended for the pronunciation הביאת (compare the pronunciation in Kg2 19:25, which comes between the two). The ‛ōlōth (burnt-offerings) stand first, as the expression of adoration, and are connected with sēh, which points to the daily morning and evening sacrifice (the tâmı̄d). Then follow the zebâchı̄m (slain-offerings), the expression of the establishment of fellowship with Jehovah (וּזבחיך is equivalent to וּבזביחך, like חמה = בּחמה, Isa 43:25). The "fat" (chēlebh) in Isa 43:24 refers to the portions of fat that were placed upon the altar in connection with this kind of sacrifice. After the zebâchı̄m comes the michâh, the expression of desire for the blessing of Jehovah, a portion of which, the so-called remembrance portion ('azkârâh), was placed upon the altar along with the whole of the incense. And lastly, the qâneh (spice-cane), i.e., some one of the Amoma,
(Note: The qâneh is generally supposed to be the Calamus; but the calamus forms no stalk, to say nothing of a cane or hollow stalk. It must be some kind of aromatic plant, with a stalk like a cane, either the Cardamum, Ingber, or Curcuma; at any rate, it belonged to the species Amomum. The aroma of this was communicated to the anointing oil, the latter being infused, and the resinous parts of the former being thereby dissolved.)
points to the holy anointing oil (Exo 30:23), or if it refer to spices generally, to the sacred incense, though qâneh is not mentioned as one of the ingredients in Exo 30:34. The nation, which Jehovah was now redeeming out of pure unmingled grace, had not been burdened with costly tasks of this description (see Jer 6:20); on the contrary, it was Jehovah only who was burdened and troubled. He denies that there was any "causing to serve" (העביד, lit., to make a person a servant, to impose servile labour upon him) endured by Israel, but affirms this rather of Himself. The sins of Israel pressed upon Him, as a burden does upon a servant. His love took upon itself the burden of Israel's guilt, which derived its gravitating force from His won holy righteous wrath; but it was a severe task to bear this heavy burden, and expunge it - a thoroughly divine task, the significance of which was first brought out in its own true light by the cross on Golgotha. When God creates, He expresses His fiat, and what He wills comes to pass. But He does not blot out sin without balancing His love with His justice; and this equalization is not effected without conflict and victory.
Nevertheless, the sustaining power of divine love is greater than the gravitating force of divine wrath. "I, I alone, blot out thy transgressions for my own sake, and do not remember thy sins." Jehovah Himself here announces the sola gratia and sola fides. We have adopted the rendering "I alone," because the threefold repetition of the subject, "I, I, He is blotting out thy transgressions," is intended to affirm that this blotting out of sin is so far from being in any way merited by Israel, that it is a sovereign act of His absolute freedom; and the expression "for my own sake," that it has its foundation only in God, namely, in His absolute free grace, that movement of His love by which wrath is subdued. For the debt stands written in God's own book. Justice has entered it, and love alone blots it out (mâchâh, ἐξαλείφει, as in Isa 44:22; Psa 51:3, Psa 51:11; Psa 109:14); but, as we know from the actual fulfilment, not without paying with blood, and giving the quittance with blood.
Jehovah now calls upon Israel, if this be not the case, to remind Him of any merit upon which it can rely. "Call to my remembrance; we will strive with one another: tell now, that thou mayst appear just." Justification is an actus forensis (see Isa 1:18). Justice accuses, and grace acquits. Or has Israel any actual merits, so that Justice would be obliged to pronounce it just? The object to hazkı̄rēnı̄ and sappēr, which never have the closed sense of pleading, as Bttcher supposes, is the supposed meritorious works of Israel.
But Israel has no such works; on the contrary, its history has been a string of sins from the very first. "Thy first forefather sinned, and thy mediators have fallen away from me." By the first forefather, Hitzig, Umbreit, and Knobel understand Adam; but Adam was the forefather of the human race, not of Israel; and the debt of Adam was the debt of mankind, and not of Israel. The reference is to Abraham, as the first of the three from whom the origin and election of Israel were dated; Abraham, whom Israel from the very first had called with pride "our father" (Mat 3:9). Even the history of Abraham was stained with sin, and did not shine in the light of meritorious works, but in that of grace, and of faith laying hold of grace. The melı̄tsı̄m, interpreters, and mediators generally (Ch2 32:31; Job 33:23), are the prophets and priests, who stood between Jehovah and Israel, and were the medium of intercourse between the two, both in word and deed. They also had for the most part become unfaithful to God, by resorting to ungodly soothsaying and false worship. Hence the sin of Israel was as old as its very earliest origin; and apostasy had spread even among those who ought to have been the best and most godly, because of the office they sustained.
Consequently the all-holy One was obliged to do what had taken place. "Then I profaned holy princes, and gave up Jacob to the curse, and Israel to blasphemies." ואחלל might be an imperfect, like ואכל, "I ate," in Isa 44:19, and ואבּיט, "I looked," in Isa 63:5; but ואתּנה by the side of it shows that the pointing sprang out of the future interpretation contained in the Targum; so that as the latter is to be rejected, we must substitute ואחלל, ואתּנה (Ges. 49, 2). The "holy princes" (sârē qōdesh) are the hierarchs, as in Ch1 24:5, the supreme spiritual rulers as distinguished from the temporal rulers. The profanation referred to was the fact that they were ruthlessly hurried off into a strange land, where their official labours were necessarily suspended. This was the fate of the leaders of the worship; and the whole nation, which bore the honourable names of Jacob and Israel, was give up to the ban (chērem) and the blasphemies (giddūphı̄m) of the nations of the world.