Isaiah 46: Jacob, I Will Carry You
There is a connection made between God’s Word and His action. This is compounded by the second of the poetic doublets “I have purposed, I will also do it” which corresponds to “I have spoken, truly I will also bring it to pass.” Thus, there is no right action without the Word of God.
In the previous chapters the prophet has explained what Israel should expect from Cyrus. He now speaks of what is to come upon Babylon at the hands of Cyrus and his Persian armies. Chapters 46 through 48 are a trilogy of prophecies referring to Babylon.
While this chapter focuses mainly on the fall of the Babylonian deities, the powerless idols of gold and silver, contrasting these worthless gods to the omnipotent and omnipresent God of Israel; it concludes with an admonishment to Israel’s stubborn hearted exiles, reminding them that God is near to them and will establish salvation for them in the land of Israel, on Mount Zion: making the redeemed of Israel His glory, adornment, and beauty.
Isa 46:1 Beil (A chief Babylonian deity, from Ba’al, husband, master, lord: Phon. Beelsamin Lord of heaven) kara bowed down, Nevo (Babylonian deity presiding over learning of letters, nevo like navi meaning prophet) koreis cowered, their idols became la’chaiyah to the animals (to the living) and cattle, a heavy load carried about; to the weary, masa a tribute lifted up (a load, a lifting, an utterance, oracle, burden).
“Bel is bowed down, Nebo is cut down. Their images are in the likeness of serpents and beasts. The burdens of your idols shall be heavy upon those who carry them; because they be exhausted.” -Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel (2nd Century CE/AD)
Beil is thought by some to be a contraction of the Hebrew Ba’al, whom the Phoenicians, called Beel and Beelsamin, meaning “Lord of heaven”. In this case Beil is both a generic term for a god like the Hebrew El, and when used as a proper noun refers to the chief deity of Babylon Marduk. In Babylonian theology Marduk appears as creator, similar to the Greek god Zeus, but not like the God of Israel HaShem.
Others consider Beil to be named for the renowned king Belus of the Babylonians, who was deified after his death.
Beil’s idol is, probably Bel Merodach, whose temple stood on the banks of the Euphrates in Babylon, the construction of which is described by the ancient historian Herodotus.
Nevo is another of the Babylonian deities. In Babylonian mythology he is the son of the supreme God Marduk and is considered the spokesman of the gods. This is consistent with the fact that Nevo and the Hebrew navi (prophet) appear to share the same root. Nevo was also the supreme god of Nineveh and was supposed to be the god of wisdom and learning and is similar to the gods Mercury and Apollo.
Some consider Nevo to be synonymous with Beltis, just as Beil is considered synonymous with Belus. Thus, the deity Beil is sometimes symbolised by the sun and Beltis the moon, the former being masculine and the latter feminine.
The primary deities of the Babylonians are made subject to Cyrus. They bow down and cower, unable to resist him. Beil and Nevo, once carried on the shoulders of their worshippers, are now to be pulled down and carried away on the backs of beasts of burden. Thus they become nothing more than spoils of war, powerless gods unable to save. They are offered up as tribute to Cyrus, who in turn is directed by HaShem for His purposes.
Isa 46:2 Karesu They cower, chareu bowing down in unison, unable to deliver masa a tribute lifted up (a load, a lifting, an utterance, oracle, burden), and have walked nafsham (from nephesh: soul) their souls into captivity.
“They are cut off, yea, they are altogether cut to pieces, and they were not able to deliver them that carried them; and their worshippers are gone into captivity.” -Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel (2nd Century CE/AD)
This may be applied to both the idols and the people. Both bow in unison, unable to deliver themselves. The idols are walked into captivity on the backs of the beasts of burden and the people walk themselves into captivity under the supervision of the Persian armies.
Figuratively speaking the people of Babylon who have chosen to worship false gods and place their trust in them, have essentially brought about their own demise. Thus, they “have walked their souls into captivity”, both physical and spiritual bondage are the result of their sin. Those who had taken Israel captive have now become captives.
The gods of Babylon, once carried by worshippers in annual festive parades of enthronement are now broken and carried into captivity on the backs of pack animals. O how the mighty have fallen.
Isa 46:3 Shim’u eilaiy Listen, hear, pay attention to me, beiyt Yaakov house of Jacob (follower), vechol she’eriyt and all the remnant of the beiyt Yisrael house of Israel (overcome in God), who are carried miniy veten from the belly, who are ha’nesuiym lifted miniy from the racham womb (deep love, compassion, mercy):
“Listen and receive my words household of followers, and all the remaining household of those who overcome in God, who are carried from conception and lifted up from the womb of mercy.” -Authors remez paraphrase
In counter-distinction to the idols od Babylon who are carried away as dismantled spoil, Jacob has, is, and will always be carried in God’s womb from conception to adulthood and beyond. Israel is to be lifted up from the womb of Mercy Himself.
While the captive Jews watch the chaos of captivity unfold, they are reminded by God that He has never left them and will never forsake them. He has carried Israel and will birth a new day of rejoicing and freedom for those who remain.
Moses possess the rhetorical question to God:
“Have I conceived all this people? have I begotten them, that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nursing father bears the suckling child, unto the land which You swore to their fathers?’” -Numbers 11:13
Moses is acknowledging that Israel is begotten of God, Who has carried Jacob in His bosom and nursed the nation as a suckling child, carrying her to the land He promised to her forefathers.
Isa 46:4 Ve’ad And as far as your old age Ani Hu I am He; and as far as your grey hairs will Ani esbol I will carry (drag along, bear up) you: I have asiytiy fashioned, formed, accomplished you, and I will lift up; va’ani and I, even I will esbol carry (drag along, bear up), va’amaleit and will deliver you.
Unlike the people of Babylon, Israel will never be abandoned by her God. As long as they live God will carry them, reminding the people of Israel through His prophets by the Word of His King Messiah, that HaShem has formed and accomplished the Jewish people and will lift them up out of distress and captivity. God Himself will carry Israel and deliver her.
Note that the people of Babylon fashioned their own gods and received no help in the day of their distress but HaShem formed His people, whom He will never fail to help, delivering them time and again perpetually in this world and through the King Messiah, redeeming them for life everlasting in the Olam Haba (World to Come).
Isa 46:5 To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal, and compare Me, that we may be alike?
Once again the refrain which is so familiar in these chapters of Isaiah, affirms the immutable reality, that HaShem is God alone, there is no other.
Isa 46:6 They pour zahav gold out of the bag, ve’khesef and weigh silver in the balance, and hire tzoreif a goldsmith; and he makes it into a god: they fall down, yes, they prostrate themselves.
Once again the foolishness of idolatry is exposed for the illogical self-abuse that it truly is. Israel herself had once allowed her gold to be collected and made into an idolatrous image (Exodus 32:2).
Here it is the rich among the ruling class of the Babylonians that are pictured pouring out the excess of their gold and weighing out the excess of their silver. Thus the idols become symbols of excess and pride. The worshipper is in effect, bowing before his own achievements’, worshipping his own abilities.
Isa 46:7 They lift him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he stands; he will never move from his place: indeed, one shall cry to him, yet he cannot answer, nor save him out of his trouble.
In many ways this is a prequel to the former verses which describe the idols being destroyed and carried away on beasts of burden. Verse 7 thus explains the festive parades of Babylon which featured the idols carried on the shoulders of their worshippers.
Once the idol is placed in its temple it is unable to move itself because it is an inanimate object crafted by human beings. This in stark contrast to the God of Israel Who is alive and active, participating in His creation and working out His good purposes for the redemption and renewal of the created order.
Where the idols of Babylon are deaf to the petitions of their worshippers and unable to save, HaShem is always listening to and engaging with those who seek Him, and is all powerful and therefore, always able to save.
Isa 46:8 Remember this, and show (prove) yourselves men: bring it again al upon leiv the core being (heart, mind), you fosheliym rebellious (transgressors).
“Remember this, and be ye strong; and bear it in mind, rebels!” -Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel (2nd Century CE/AD)
“Fortify yourselves against all temptations to idolatry, and against all the arguments and persuasions of idolaters…” – Yarchi
Israel is warned to remember that idols are worthless and unable to save but that God is always ready to receive and save the repentant. Therefore, “Prove yourselves, be intentional in reminding your core being, you rebellious.”
Isa 46:9 Remember the former things mei’olam from the ancient world: for I am El God, and there is none else; I am Elohiym God, ve’efes and there is none, (zero) like Me,
Israel is also instructed to remember the former deliverances of God, her freedom from bondage in Egypt, her deliverance from enemies all around her, the mighty signs and miracles of God seen by her Patriarchs and Matriarchs and passed on from generation to generation. She must remember that her God is God alone and place her trust in Him regardless of her circumstances.
Isa 46:10 Magid Making known the achariyt end me’reioshiyt from the beginning, umikedem and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, “Atzatiy My purpose (counsel) will stand, and all that delights Me I will do:”
Israel should remember that God has made known the end from the beginning by speaking her deliverance into time and space through the words of His prophets. She can be assured that His purposes will be made complete and His will shall be done on earth as it is in the heavens.
Isa 46:11 Calling mimizrach from the east a ayit a bird of prey, mei’eretz from a land merchak far off, a man chatzatov his purpose (advice, counsel) will be atzatiy My purpose (advice, counsel): truly, I have spoken, truly I will also bring it to pass; what yatzartiy I have purposed, I will also do it.
The bird from the east is Cyrus, whose purpose is guided by God.
There is a connection made between God’s Word and His action. This is compounded by the second of the poetic doublets “I have purposed, I will also do it” which corresponds to “I have spoken, truly I will also bring it to pass.” Thus, there is no right action without the Word of God.
Isa 46:12 Shimu Listen, hear, pay attention to Me, abiyrei you mighty leiv hearted (core being), that are far mitzedakah from righteousness:
This is spoken to the prideful among the people of Israel. The phrase “mighty heart” denotes pride, hence “far from righteousness”.
Isa 46:13 I bring near tzidkatiy My righteousness; it will not be far off, u’teshuatiy and my salvation will not delay: ve’natatiy and I will give, (place, set, bestow, grant, assign, designate, yield the produce of) teshuah salvation (deliverance) be’Tziyon in Zion (parched land) for Yisrael (Israel) tifartiy My glory, splendour, beauty.
“My righteousness is nigh, it is not far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion, and my glory in Israel.” -Targum Yonatan Ben Uziel (2nd Century CE/AD)
This verse is prophetic of both Israel’s freedom from captivity in Babylon and her freedom from sin through Messiah Yeshua. The temple was to be re-established in Jerusalem following the Babylonian exile and the Messiah Yeshua’s substitutionary sacrifice would also establish salvation in Zion. All this “for Israel” who God calls “My glory”. Israel is predestined to reflect the glory of God through His Messiah Yeshua.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Isaiah 45: Every Knee Will Bow
Both darkness and evil are subject to creation but light and peace are uncreated emanations of the Creator.
Isa 45:1 Thus says Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) limshiychu (from Moshiach: Messiah) to His anointed, le-Choresh to Cyrus (You possess the furnace), whose right hand I have held, to subdue nations before him; and I will loosen the loins of melachiym kings, to open le-fanav before his face delatayim many doors; u-sheariym and the gates will not be shut;
“Thus says Mercy to His Messiah, to You who possess the furnace, whose right hand has received strength from Me, in order to subdue nations before him; and I loosen the belts that carry the weapons of kings, to open before his face many doors, and the gates will not be shut against him.” -Author’s paraphrase
This is the only time in Scripture where a Gentile ruler is referred to as Mashiach (Messiah, literally Anointed one). This title is otherwise only reserved for the kings and high priests of Israel, and primarily for the ultimate Saviour of Israel, Yeshua the King/Priest Messiah (Daniel 7:14). Cyrus is called by this title in his role as God’s agent for delivering Israel from bondage and exile in Babylon.
It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew name Koresh (Cyrus) means “You who possess the furnace”. While the furnace was sometimes used as a means of execution, the figurative meaning denotes judgement in fire. Thus, God has assigned Cyrus a role in dispensing His judgement against the nations. The furnace of Cyrus will destroy the nations while refining Israel, who through the furnace will become purified as gold and glory in her King Creator HaShem.
We note also that any strength Cyrus has to do these things is from God, Who has taken hold of the right hand of Cyrus in order to impart power to him for fulfilling God’s purposes. The weapons belts of the kings that Cyrus comes against will be loosed, leaving them undefended against him. The many doors to the nations will be opened to him and the strongest gates will not be able to withhold him.
In comparison to the cruelty of the Assyrians and Babylonians, Cyrus and his dynasty were humane rulers. Following his capture of Babylon in 539 BCE (BC) Cyrus encouraged both Jews and other captives from the nations to return to their home lands. He also contributed generously to the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem (2 Chron. 36:22-23; Ezra 1:2, 5:13, 6:3-4).
The Cyrus Cylinder excavated at the site of ancient Babylon in 1882 further illuminates the outworking of Isaiah’s prophecy:
“Marduk… looked through all the countries searching for a righteous ruler… He pronounced the name Cyrus… and declared him to be ruler of the world.”
Isa 45:2 I will go le-faneiycha before your face, va-haduriym and the adorned high places I will a-yasheir level: daltot doors of nechushah brass ashabeir I will break in pieces, and bars of iron I will cut down:
There is some irony here. God will go before the idolater Cyrus to level the idolatrous high places.
The reference to doors of bronze is most likely a reference to the gates of Babylon. The historian Herodotus travelled to Babylon and said “There are a hundred gates to the circuit of the wall, all of bronze, with bronze uprights and lintels.” (Herodotus History pg.85 Penguin edition).
Isa 45:3 And I will give you the treasures of choshech darkness, and concealed riches of secret places, that you may know that I, Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), who calls you by your name, am the Eloheiy Yisrael (God of Israel).
Babylon was known for her commerce and her hording and storing of wealth. Her treasures were stored in secret vaults, and in the rooms of her many famous temples. Private citizens were also able to deposit their wealth in temple vaults for a fee. The Babylonian temples were some of the forerunners to our modern day banks.
The doublets of the Hebrew poetic form correlate darkness and secrecy, giving emphasis to the fact that those things kept hidden are most often the ill-gotten spoils of sinful action.
“For nothing is secret, that will not be revealed; neither anything hidden, that will not be known and brought out into the open.” -Luke 8:17
Cyrus will be given all these horded and hidden riches for one purpose, that he might “know that I HaShem Who calls you by name, am the God of Israel.”
Isa 45:4 For the sake of avdiy my servant Yaakov (follower), and Yisrael (overcomes in God, Israel) my chosen, I have even called you by your name: I have achanecha yet titled you, though you have not known Me.
Once again HaShem affirms that it is for the sake of His servant Jacob, His chosen people Israel, ethnic, religious, that He has called Cyrus to perform these things.
These words were spoken some 150 years prior to the birth of Cyrus. He did not exist and therefore, could not possibly have known God’s plan for his life, and yet, God had already allocated a role and title to Koresh (Cyrus: you possess the furnace).
Isa 45:5 I am Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), and there is no other, beside Me there is no Elohiym God (Judge): I encompassed you, though you have not known Me:
The phrases, “There is no other” and “Beside Me there is no God” are together used 10 times in this short chapter. There is a strong theme concerning the uniqueness of God, His omnipotence and omniscience. The Holy Name YHVH, first used in verse 1, is used a total of 14 times in this chapter. Thus, both the unique unity of God and the Divine attribute of Mercy are primary themes in this discourse.
The beautiful language “I encompassed you” denotes fidelity. This poetic language is usually reserved for Israel but is here offered to a ruler of the nations. God’s redemptive purpose for humanity overflows from His redemptive purpose for Israel.
Isa 45:6 That they may know mi-mizrach from the eastern shemesh sun, and from the west, there is none beside Me. I am Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), and there is no other.
From the first sunrise to the last sunset HaShem is Mercy, and there is no other.
Isa 45:7 I yotzer fashion or light, u-vorei (from borei) and create choshech darkness: I oseh accomplish shalom peace, u-vorei (from borei) and create ra evil, (bad, the opposite of good): I Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) accomplish all these things.
We note that the Or (uncreated light) is not said to be u-vorei (created, from that which didn’t exist), rather it is yotzer (fashioned) from God’s essence (Davar: Word). Thus, choshech (darkness), which will become a metaphor for evil, is not yotzer (fashioned) but is rather the result of u-vorei (creation).
We know that God did not create anything evil from the inception of creation because the days of creation are complete when the text says, “God saw everything that He made, and behold it was very good.”(Gen. 1:31). Therefore, at the beginning of all things even the darkness (which would later become a metaphor for evil) was good, in fact, it was very good. Thus, the meaning of “I accomplish peace (uncreated) and create (because evil didn’t pre-exist God, but fashioned itself from that which was created) evil” is that God created the substance and environment that made evil a possibility, in order to also make possible the free will necessary for love relationship.
Therefore, the uncreated attributes (emanations) of God, or (light) and shalom (peace) [which are also titles of our Messiah Yeshua], are fashioned to accomplish His purposes, whereas the work of darkness and evil are only possible based on the created order: meaning that Satan and his minions have no power except that which they have been allowed to have based on the fact that they are created beings subject to the King of Creation, the God of Israel, and to Yeshua, the Light (or) of the World, and Prince of Peace (shalom).
Thus, both darkness and evil are subject to creation but light and peace are uncreated emanations of the Creator.
Isa 45:8 Hariyfu Rain down shamayim heavens, mi-ma’al from above, and let the skies stream forth tzedek righteousness, justice: open the land, and let them bring forth yesha salvation, and let righteousness (justice) spring up yachad together; I Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) be’ratiyv have created it.
Righteousness and justice are yachad (one), and are created by God. They are watered from the heavens and grow in the earth, springing up together and relying on one another. There is no right action without justice, and no justice without right action.
Isa 45:9 Hoy Ah, alas, woe to him who contends with his Yotzero Maker! A pottery shard among pottery shards of adamah the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, “What have you made?” or “Your work has no hands”?
This passage appears to be addressing the complaints of some of Israel’s exiles, who may have taken issue with HaShem’s choice of a goy deliverer (Cyrus).
It is the height of hubris for a human being to accuse God of ill planning: it is so foolish as to be likened to a piece of pottery debating the plans of the potter. The Hebrew idiom “Your work has no hands”, is still used today in some Jewish communities to describe something that makes no sense.
Isa 45:10 Hoy Ah, alas, woe to him that says to his father, “What have you begotten?” u-leishah and to the woman, “What have you given birth to?”
So great is the foolishness of one who questions God’s work of redemption, that he is compared to a child questioning why his parents conceived him, or why his mother gave birth to him.
The “Woes” of these two verses are an incredulous rebuke that is to be heeded, lest the pottery shard be turned to dust, or the child given over to the fruit of his own foolish thinking.
Isa 45:11 Thus says Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), Kedosh Yisrael Holy One of Israel, ve’yotzero and his Maker, “Ask Me of things to come concerning banay My sons, and concerning the po’al work of yaday My hands, command Me.”
HaShem pre-exited Israel and is therefore the Holy One over her. He made Israel and knows the end from the beginning. Therefore, He responds to the complaints of His people by challenging them to ask Him what is to become of them (My sons), and as a counterpoint to “Your work has no hands” (v.9), “Command the work of My hands”… if you dare!
Isa 45:12 “I asiytiy have fashioned, accomplished, formed, made eretz the land (earth), ve’adam and humanity upon it: I, even yaday My hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all tzeva’am their armies, hosts, I tzeveitiy I have commanded.”
HaShem formed the earth so that it might receive humanity and provide the perfect environment in which humanity might prosper and grow. He alone created the heavens and is King of all the heavenly host.
Isa 45:13 “I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he will build My city, and he will let My captives go, without price or reward,” says Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzeva’ot Who goes warring (of heavens hosts, armies).
The focus now returns to the goy ruler whom HaShem has raised up to bring about the deliverance of Israel from her captivity. It is Cyrus who will rebuild Jerusalem (My city) and let the Jews return there. HaShem Who goes warring (of Hosts) will accomplish this.
Isa 45:14 Thus says Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), “The labour of Mitzrayim Egypt (double distress), and merchandise of Cush Ethiopia (black) u-sevaliym and of the Sabeans (drunkards), men of stature, will come over to you, and they will be yours: they will come after you; in chains they will come over, and they will fall down before you, they will make supplication to you, saying, ‘Surely bach in you is El God; ve’eiyn and there is none other od (perpetually going round): efes zero, ceasing finally elohiym the gods.
Some think this passage is addressed to Israel, however, Israel never waged war against Egypt or Ethiopia, although Egypt did wage war against Israel in more recent times.
It may also be addressed to Cyrus, although it was not Cyrus himself but Cambyses the son of Cyrus who conquered Egypt and Ethiopia.
Another possibility is that this passage refers to the end of days. At which time those repentant among the nations will submit to the King Messiah and the God of Israel. If so, then verse 14 corresponds to Isaiah 2:2-4.
Isa 45:15 Truly you are a El God that conceals yourself, Eloheiy Yisrael God of Israel, Moshiya Saviour.
God is concealed only from the perspective of those who do not walk with Him. The gods of the surrounding nations were promoted with spectacles and lavish rites and yet offered nothing but a deaf ear to their petitioners. The God of Israel on the other hand, revealed Himself to His people in true power and sought intimate relationship, offering an everlasting conversation, responding to Israel’s cries in a timely fashion. He is a true Saviour and a certain hope. However, He is discernible only through the eyes of faith. Therefore, when compared to the vain gods of the nations the God of Israel is mysterious and hidden, a stark contradistinction to the fact that even the hidden things of other gods will be brought into the light by HaShem.
“The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this Torah.” -Deuteronomy 29:29
Isa 45:16 They will be ashamed, and also humiliated, all together: they will go to confusion together those makers of idols.
Confusion and shame are all that awaits those who make and worship idols.
Isa 45:17 Yisrael Israel will be nosha saved be’YHVH in Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) te’shuat with a salvation olamiym everlasting: not ashamed nor humiliated ad-olmeiy ad as far as a world without end (perpetual).
Israel, whom God has chosen, need not end in confusion and shame because her God is One, Alone. Therefore, Israel will be saved be’YHVH in HaShem. There is no other means for her salvation outside of God alone. With an immutable and everlasting salvation God will deliver Israel (through His Mashiach Yeshua), and she will neither be ashamed or humiliated in the world that is without end, that is, the Olam Haba (World to come).
Isa 45:18 For thus says Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) Who borei (from bara, created from nothing) created ha-shamayim the heavens; Hu He is ha-Elohiym the God yotzeir that formed ha-aretz the land (earth) ve’osah and made it; Hu He has chonah established it (made it firm), He didn’t vera’ah create it in vain, la’shevet for habitation He yetzarah formed it: “I am Hashem (YHVH: Mercy); and there is none other.”
The purpose of God was always to have the earth be inhabited by humanity. He alone created and established our habitation. He alone is God.
Isa 45:19 “lo vaseter dibartiy I have not spoken in secret, bimkum in the place eretz of land (earth), choshech dark, obscure, hidden: I did not say to the seed of Yaakov (follower, Jacob), ‘You seek Me in vain’: I Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) doveir speak tzedek righteousness, magiyd I make known meishariym equitable things.”
Unlike the demonic deities, witchcraft practitioners and secret religions of the heathen world, God does not keep secret the path to freedom. He has communicated clearly and in the open to Jacob, through His Torah, His prophets and His miraculous works. He is not like those false gods that offer redemption only to a select few, to the contrary, He offers redemption to all, and those that receive His offer become chosen.
Though Israel may have become disillusioned in her sufferings and exile, falsely concluding that to seek God was of no consequence, God reminds her that He has always been with her and has always had a plan in place for her redemption. He has made known publicly and frequently that righteousness is found in Him alone and that the fruit of that righteousness will be equity for all who receive it.
Isa 45:20 “Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped from among ha-goyim the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray to a el god that cannot yoshiya save.”
Now God turns to the nations with an offer of redemption. It is God’s will that none should perish. Therefore, He invites the idolatrous nations to come and draw near to Him, and to admit that they worship idols that cannot save.
Isa 45:21 “You make known, and bring them near; indeed, let them take counsel together: Who has declared this mikedem from ancient time? who has told it from that time? have not I Hashem (YHVH: Mercy)? and there is no El God beside Me; a El God of tzadik justice u-moshiya and a Saviour; there is none beside Me.”
HaShem challenges the idolaters to admit that their idols and false prophets are unable to properly predict future events or expound on past events. It is God alone Who is just and able to save. There is none like Him, nor is there any besides Him.
Isa 45:22 “Penu Look (turn) to Me, and you will be saved, col-afseiy all the ends of aretz the land (earth): for I am El God (Judge), and there is none other.”
This is a simple Gospel message. “Turn to face Me and you will be saved”. It’s spoken to all the nations of the earth. Why should they heed Him? Because He is “the Judge, and there is none other!”
Isa 45:23 “I have sworn by Myself, yatza it has gone out mipiy from My mouth tzedakah righteousness davar a word, and will not yashuv return, Ciy For liy to Me tichra will bow col-berech every knee, tishava col-lashon every tongue will swear.”
There is none higher than HaShem, and there is no god besides Him. Therefore, He must swear by Himself. The Davar (Word, King Messiah) has gone out in redemptive power and will not return void.
“For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” -Romans 14:11-12
"That at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, of things in the heavens, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Yeshua Ha-Mashiach Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” -Philippians 2:10-12
Isa 45:24 Indeed, ba’YHVH in Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) liy with me amar say “Tzedakot righteousness va’oz and strength:” adav up to him yavo men have come; col all ha-necheriym the incensed against him will be ashamed.
Only in HaShem is there righteousness and strength, and those who have defied Him and who have been filled with anger toward Him, will come to Him in shame.
Isa 45:25 Ba’YHVH In Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) yitzdeku will be justified ve’yithallu and shine (be praised, glory) col-zera all the seed of Yisrael Israel (overcome in God).
The fruit of HaShem’s redemptive work through Cyrus and ultimately through His King Messiah Yeshua of Israel, will be the physical and spiritual deliverance of Israel, ethnic, religious. In God she will be justified (through His Mashiach) and her generations will shine as those who have overcome in God.
“I say then, Has God cast away His people? A curse on that! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” -Rav Shaul (Paul) Letter to the Roman Ecclesia 11:1
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Isaiah 44: No Profit in Idols
The comfort of the revelation of fearless existence follows the poetic description of the choosing, conceiving and forming of the people of Israel. We do well to remember that these words apply to Israel as a nation, and while there is a spiritual principle here that can be applied to every believer, it is only so based on the plain application to the nation of Israel, ethnic, religious, chosen.
Isa 44:1 And now shema hear, listen, receive, understand, Yaakov (follower, Jacob) avdiy My servant; and Yisrael (overcome in God, Israel), whom I have chosen:
This chapter begins with the familiar refrain identifying Israel’s journey from inception to service and culminating in her chosen identity. Following the explanation of Israel’s terrible plight in the previous chapter the prophet now conveys a message of unsurpassed blessing. Therefore, “Listen carefully Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen”.
Isa 44:2 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Who osecha (from asah) fashioned you, ve’yotzer and formed (framed, bound together) you from the womb, who will help you; “Al tiyra No fear, Yaakov (follower, Jacob), avdiy My servant; and you, Yeshurun (upright, lawful, smooth, integrity), whom barchatiy I have chosen (elected, decided for).
The comfort of the revelation of fearless existence follows the poetic description of the choosing, conceiving and forming of the people of Israel. We do well to remember that these words apply to Israel as a nation, and while there is a spiritual principal here that can be applied to every believer, it is only so based on the plain application to the nation of Israel, ethnic, religious, chosen.
God is revealed as “Mercy, Helper, Creator, Artisan” and the One through Whom Israel is called Yeshurun “Upright One”.
The title Yeshurun is used elsewhere only three times (Deut. 32:15; 33:5, 26). The first of the three other instances, like the present example, places the “Upright One” in a state of unrighteousness. The second reference alludes to Moses as king in Yeshurun and the third proclaims the uniqueness of the God of Yeshurun, Who has no equal. Collecting these four occurrences of the name Yeshurun, we’re able to conclude that her uprightness is the state in which God sees her complete outside of circumstance and through His redemptive work. She is not upright of her own accord, nor have her actions made her that way, to the contrary, it is because God has chosen her that He has made certain of her redemption. This is the very essence of the Gospel of our King Messiah Yeshua.
Isa 44:3 For I will pour mayim water upon the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour ruachiy My Spirit upon your seed (progeny, offspring), u’virchatiy and My blessing upon your offspring:
The poetic form of repetition connects the figure of water poured onto dry ground to the Spirit of God poured out upon the seed of Israel. Both the water and the Spirit bear the fruit of blessing, physical and spiritual.
The Hebrew mayim even in its singular form, denotes an intensity found in plural use. Therefore, water carries the sense of waters.
The water is first poured out upon the thirsty, this with the purpose of satisfying the thirst of the desperately repentant. Subsequently the water floods the dry ground, something that results in sweeping away the transient layer of top soil. To this day in Israel’s desert region, when there is a torrential rainfall, flooding and mudslides cause great damage in the Negev and elsewhere, sometimes resulting in the deaths of residents and hikers caught in the deluge. Therefore, there is at least a sense in which the present verse reveals the Spirit of God as a double edged sword bringing deliverance and life to the repentant while sweeping away those who continue to wander from the truth.
“O God, You are my God; early will I seek You: my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land, where there is no water;” -Psalm 63:1
Isa 44:4 And they will spring up in the midst of grass, as willows in the water courses (streams, irrigation etc.)
The seed of Israel will spring up in the midst of a revived and green land, both literally and figuratively. Like the willows that grow in water ways with access to a constant supply of water, so too Israel’s progeny will grow immersed in the constant supply of God’s Spirit.
Isa 44:5 Zeh This one will yomar say, “to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) ani I am;” ve’zeh and this one will yikra call (proclaim) besheim-Yaakov in the name of Jacob (follower); and ve’zeh and this one will yichtov inscribe his hand to HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), u’vesheim and in the name of Yisrael (Israel, overcome in God) ye’khaneh a (future) title (actionable identity).
Each of the titles alluded to in this verse are chosen by individuals from among the people of Israel to show the desire of each one to be identified as belonging to the God of Israel. Thus, this verse is revealing the fact that in the future Israel will return to God both individually and corporately, each one delighting in the uniqueness of a personal and national identity found only in the redemptive work of God through the Messiah.
“To HaShem I am.” In other words, “I belong to HaShem” or, “I belong to Mercy”. This is similar to the identifying mark on the forehead plate of the High Priest of Israel, Kadosh YHVH, “Holy unto HaShem” or, “Holy, set apart to Mercy”. Thus in some sense there is a connection to the priesthood of the nation of Israel.
“In the name of Jacob”. In other words, “I’m proud to be called a Jew” or, “I’m unashamed of the fact that I’m a follower of God”.
“Inscribe his hand to HaShem.” To inscribe one’s hand is to commit all action to that which is inscribed upon it. Thus, this is an act of devotion to God and to a life of service in His kingdom. This last identifier is followed by “In the name of Israel yet to be titled.” This is not a “surname” in the traditional English sense, rather the Hebrew prefix “ye” denotes something yet future and “Khaneh” refers to a title or secondary name. Therefore, it is an affirmation of Israel’s continued ethnic religious identity and a restating of her “overcoming in God”. Thus, her willingness to inscribe her actions to HaShem and her subsequent ministry as the servant of God will affirm her chosen status and reveal her completeness as Yeshurun, the beloved and upright one of God. Made upright through His redemptive work.
I have chosen to explain the so called “surname” in terms of “actionable identity”.
Isa 44:6 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Melekh-Yisrael the King of Israel, ve’goalo and his (kinsman) redeemer HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) tzeva’ot who goes warring (of hosts); “Ani I am rishon first, va’ani and I am acharon last (lasting); and beside me (without me) eiyn elohiym there is no god (there are no gods/judges).”
Corresponding to the titles adopted by Israel in verse 5 are the titles of HaShem in verse 6:
Verse 5 Verse 6
Belonging to Hashem Israel is subject to the King of Mercy. Jacob the follower finds redemption in a kinsman. Having been redeemed Israel is inscribed with freedom and Hashem goes to war for her. Israel chosen before creation by the One God, first and lasting.
Iben Ezra makes a correlation between Israel in the land and the title King of Israel: likewise he connects Israel’s exile with the title Redeemer.
Isa 44:7 And who, cha’moniy is like Me, who will call, and will declare it, and set it in order for Me, since I appointed am-olam a people forever (in worlds perpetual)? and the coming things, and that which will come, let them show.
“Am-olam (A people forever)” is applied elsewhere to those who have already gone on to Sheol (holding place of the departed). The epithet is evidence of the ancient Jewish understanding of the everlasting nature of the soul.
The God of Israel is like no other. The rhetorical questions posed expose the inability of the false gods and idols of Israel to accurately predict the future or establish Israel as a people.
Isa 44:8 “Al-tifchadu Don’t tremble (dread), ve’al-tirhu and don’t be afraid: have I not told you me’az from that time? and I have declared it! And you are certainly eidaiy My witnesses. Is there a god beside (without) Me? And, there is no tzur rock; I know not any.”
HaShem directs Israel to neither tremble or be afraid of that which He has foretold through His prophet Isaiah: the catastrophe coming on the nations at the hand of Cyrus. Thus, as Israel watches nation after nation crumble along with their deaf, dumb and incompetent idols, Israel is to rest in the knowledge that her God had foreseen and planned all these things (including her exile) for her ultimate benefit.
God reminds Israel that He has chosen her to bear witness of His redemptive wonders, and that He is her Rock (tzur: an immovable cliff face).
Isa 44:9 They that form an idol are all of them tohu formless; and their coveted things will not profit; and they are their own witnesses; don’t see, and don’t know; so that they may be ashamed. Isa 44:10 Who has formed el a god, or forged a graven image, which profits nothing?
Verses 9 through 20 explain the illogic and folly of idolatry.
We note that the opening phrase calls the idol maker “formless”. The verse goes on to explain that lusting after things (Something Rav Shaul called “the love of earthly wealth [mammon]”), bears no fruit. In counter distinction to Israel, who are chosen witnesses to God’s redemptive wonders, those who fashion idols and pursue worldly wealth are invalid witnesses because they testify to their own deeds. Added to this, they are blind and ignorant, giving eye witness accounts of what they can’t see and applying knowledge they haven’t learned. All this is allowed by God in order to bring them to a point of shame and repentance.
“For the love of worldly wealth is the root of all evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” -1Timothy 6:10
The first of the idols of verses 9-20 is forged. Subsequently hammered idols and wooden idols are also mentioned in order to cover the variety of idols created and worshipped by the surrounding nations.
Isa 44:11 Hein Now, behold, all chaveirav his companions will be ashamed: and the workmen, they are me’adam from humanity: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they will fear, and they will be ashamed together.
Fellow idol makers stand together and will likewise be ashamed of their futile work. Every idol maker described is a human being me’adam “from a man, from humanity”. They will fear and be ashamed together when they realize their error. The question remains, “Will they repent?”
Isa 44:12 The shaper with the axe both works in the coals, and fashions with hammers, and works with the strength of his arms: also, he gets hungry, and his strength fails: he drinks no water, and is faint.
This same ironical language is used in Jeremiah 10:3 to expose the futility of the human propensity for creating our own gods using created things and expending our energy to the point of exhaustion in order to complete something which will never complete us.
Isa 44:13 The cutter of eitziym trees stretches out his ruler; he marks out with a line; he fashions with planes, and he marks it out with the compass, and makes the figure of iysh a man, ke’tiferet according to the beauty, glory, adornment of adam humanity (a man); la’shevet to dwell in bayt a house.
Here the idol made of wood from the forest is made in the likeness of a man “iysh”, and the Hebrew “iysh” is connected to the Hebrew “eish” meaning “fire”. Thus, the irony of the same wood used to make the idol being burned in fire (v.15-16).
The second descriptor adam, meaning man or humanity, is thought by some to distinguish between iysh man and adam woman (human form). The Targum follows this understanding:
“according to the praise of a woman;'' -Targum Yonatan
Yarchi also understands the Hebrew text this way:
“this is a woman, who is the glory of her husband;''
If this is correct, both male and female idols are being alluded to in their distinct roles as symbolic governors of the land (male) and the home (female). Hence the Hebrew bayt (house) in reference to the adorned adam “dwelling in bayt”.
Isa 44:14 He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak, and is strengthened among the trees of the forest: he plants an ash, and the rain brings nourishment.
All the trees mentioned here are pleasant to look at and good for fuel but none bear fruit. Thus the spiritual truth that idolatry is fruitless, a self-defeating act that offers no progeny.
Isa 44:15 Then it becomes fuel for a man to burn: for he will take from them, and warm himself; he kindles it, and bakes bread; he makes el a god, and worships it; he fashions an idol, and prostrates before it.
The irony here goes beyond the simple lack of logic involved in worshipping something one uses for fuel. The wood born of creation is, like the human being himself, a created thing. This wood is created for the purpose of warming the human being and for use in food preparation, all this being a gift from the Creator. Therefore, having enjoyed the gift of warmth and sustenance from God, the human being chooses to worship the gift instead of the giver. Some today in the Christian Church do the same, so enamoured are they by miracles and manifestations, that they have begun to worship the gifts of God rather than the Giver.
Isa 44:16 Half saraph He burns b’mo in eish fire; al-chetzyo upon half basar flesh yocheil he eats; he roasts the roast, and is satisfied: indeed, he warms himself, and says, heach “Now aha, I am warm, I have seen Ur the light:”
“Ur” is light of the fire (also the name of the city from which Abraham came), not fire as in the burning flames but the light that emanates from it. It is spelled the same way as the uncreated light of the beginning “Or”. This is therefore, equivalent to the exclamation of epiphany made in colloquial English, “I have seen the light.” However, in this context the worshipper of an idol has not seen “The Light”, rather he has seen a false “light” that is born of darkness. Thus, he blasphemes the true “Light” by likening Him to the demonic light of the wood born idol.
Isa 44:17 And the remainder he makes a god, his graven image: he prostrates himself before it, and worships it, and prays to it, and says, “Deliver me; for you are eiliy my god.”
Here the idol is called an el “god”. Thus, while inanimate objects have no power of their own, none the less, spiritual entities are often associated with them and dwell near them in order to deceive and bind idolaters.
“And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils,” -Psalm 106:36-37
“And he ordained him priests for the high places, and for the demons, and for the calves which he had made.” -2 Chronicles 11:15
“What say I then? that the idol is anything, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is anything? But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils.” -1 Corinthians 10:19-20
“The rest of humanity, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk,” -Revelation 9:20
In the case of Israel, any one among the people of Israel who is asking a false god to “deliver” them is in direct opposition to the Deliverer of Israel, Hashem.
Isa 44:18 They have not yadeu known nor yaviynu discerned: for He has shut their eyes, so they cannot see; and livotam their hearts, so they cannot yashiyv turn.
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” -Romans 1:18-25
Isa 44:19 And none yashiv turns back in li’bo his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burned part of it in fire; certainly, also I have baked bread upon the coals from it; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and will I now make the remainder of it le’toeivah into an abomination (disgusting thing)? Will I prostrate myself before the stock of a tree?”
There is heartbreak in these words, “And none turns back”. HaShem longs for right relationship with these idolaters, and yet they resist His love. With incredulity the prophet describes the idolaters lack of ability to apply basic logic to the situation. Thus he quotes what he sees as the appropriate revelation of the situation, “I’ve made a god out of a tree, which I also used for warmth and food and now like a fool am I going to bow down to what’s left of it?”
Isa 44:20 He feeds on eipher ashes: a deceived leiv heart has turned him aside, so he can’t deliver nafsho his soul, nor say, “Is this not a lie in my right hand?”
The Hebrew eipher meaning ashes is also used figuratively to refer to a worthless practice. We note that it is the idolaters own deceived heart (core being) that has turned him away from God, and that he is unable to deliver his own soul, not even by simply recognizing that “this idol built with the strength of my right hand is a lie”.
Isa 44:21 “Zechor Remember these, Yaakov (follower, Jacob) and Yisrael (overcomes in God, Israel); for you are avdiy My servant: I have formed you; you are eved-liy My servant: you Yisrael (Israel), will not be forgotten by Me.”
Having explained the futility of idolatry the prophet now repeats the words of HaShem that began the chapter. HaShem implores Israel to remember the futility of the idolatrous practices that she herself has been engaged in and instead accept the role of witness to HaShem’s wonderous acts of deliverance and redemption.
All would do well to remember the promise of Hashem here:
“Israel will not be forgotten by Me!”
Isa 44:22 “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, peshaeicha your rebellion (transgressions) and, as a dark cloud, chatoteicha your sins (missing the mark): shuvah return to Me; for ge’altiycha (from goel, a kinsman) I have redeemed you.”
Ultimately it is Hashem’s desire that Israel return to Him in love. Having exposed the worthless practices of Israel and the surrounding nations He now offers forgiveness with open arms, through the redeeming act of blotting out the rebellion and sin of His chosen people. He reminds Israel that it is He Himself who has redeemed her as a kinsman redeemer redeems a family member.
Isa 44:23 Ranu He overcomes, shamayim you heavens; for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has done it: ha-riu give a blast (shout), you lowest parts of aretz land (earth): break forth hariym the mountains rinah in a ringing cry, O forest, and every tree therein: for HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has ga’al redeemed Yaakov (Jacob), and in Yisrael (Israel) yitpa’ar adorned (glorified) himself.
We notice that for all the worthless uses of creation observed in the practice of idolatry there is a counterpoint here. The heavens which had given the rain for the growth of the trees (cut down to make idols) are now called upon to witness the spiritual overcoming of Israel in the One true God HaShem. The land and soil beneath which had provided nutrients for the trees from which the idols were made is now called on to witness the works of God, and the mountains on which the idols were worshipped (at the high places) are called on to give a ringing cry along with the trees themselves, announcing that HaShem has redeemed Jacob and has adorned Himself in Israel with glory: all this in direct opposition to the adorning of the idolatrous humanoid figures of verse 13.
Creation celebrates the redemption of humanity and the renewal of all things:
“For the earnest expectation of created thing waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the created thing was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the created thing itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” -Romans 8:19-23
Isa 44:24 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), go’alecha your redeemer, and He that yotzercha formed (bound together) you from the womb, “I am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) that oseh makes all things; that stretches forth the shamayim heavens levadiy Myself; and spreads abroad ha’aretz the earth (land) water;”
HaShem is affirmed again as Kinsman Redeemer, Creator and the One intimately involved in Israel being knitted together from her conception. He alone is Creator of the universe, and it is He alone Who has provided the waters of the heavens to bring life to the soil of the earth, providing sustenance to His creation.
Isa 44:25 That frustrates otot the signs (omens) of the badiym liars, and makes diviners mad; Who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolish;
HaShem intentionally frustrates the omens offered by spiritualists and mediums, false prophets and Sooth Sayers. Specifically badiym “Babbling liars” and those who consult spirits and pretend to control demonic forces. Those who think themselves wise are turned back and made to look foolish because their wisdom is of men and not of God.
Isa 44:26 Me’kiym Continually raising de’var a word avdo of His servant, and the counsel of His messengers yashliym makes peace; Who says to Yerushalayim (Downpour of peace, Jerusalem), “You will be inhabited;” and to the cities of Yehudah (praise, Judah), “You will be built, and I will raise up the decayed places there:”
“Me’kiym” is a contraction made up of “me” from, and “kum” arise, and in this plural form denotes a continual arising of something. In this case that something is “de’var” a word for God’s servant (singular) and a counsel that comes from His messengers “malachaiv” (angels, prophets etc). His servant Isaiah brings a word (Messiah) and that word (Messiah) is also imparted through the prophets and messengers of God to Israel. He promises to restore Jerusalem (literally and figuratively), and the cities of Judah. He promises to rebuild the people of Israel and the decayed land of her idolatrous practices.
Isa 44:27 Who says latzulah to the deep (ocean), “Be dry, and I will dry up your rivers:”
This is an idiom referring to Sheol (in a figurative way). The deep (Sheol), will one day be dried up (emptied), and the rivers of decay that result from death (fruit of sin) will no longer affect humanity.
Isa 44:28 Who says of Koresh Cyrus (you possess the furnace), “Roiy My shepherd, and all that I desire, yashliym makes peace:” even saying to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), “You will be built; and to the temple, your foundation will be laid (established).”
“Koresh” Cyrus, is mentioned by name here some 150 years before his birth. There can be no doubt that the God of Israel knows the end from the beginning.
Cyrus is called “My Shepherd” by HaShem because HaShem has appointed him to bring discipline to Israel and restore her again to the land of Israel following her exile. In fact, it was to be Cyrus who issued the decree for the Jews of Persia to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (Ezra 1 through 3; 2 Chronicles 36:22-23).
Josephus the Jewish historian of the first century CE (AD) writes that when Cyrus was made aware of this portion of the scroll of Isaiah, that he immediately decreed the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and gave them permission to rebuild the temple (Josephus Antiquities 11:2).
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Isaiah 43: Through Water and Fire
“I will even make a way from within the word, and in the desolation, living waters."
Isa 43:1 And now, thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) who bora’acha (from bara, used of God’s creative action) created you Yaakov (Follower: Jacob), and He that yotzer formed (fashioned) you, Yisrael (Overcome in God), “Al-tiyra No Fear: for I have ge’al’tiycha redeemed (from goel: Kinsman redeemer) you, I have called you ve’shimcha by your name; liy-atah Mine you are.”
“Mercy, Who created you from nothing and formed you from something…”
Following the tragic description of Israel’s disciplining in 42:18-25, the tone of the prophet’s address once again returns to consolation. This is the modus operandi of Isaiah’s prophetic scroll and the rhythm of God’s redemptive practice within the fallen world.
He who created Jacob and formed Israel, by giving Abraham the son of the promise, and causing the seventy members of Jacob's family to grow up into a nation through the bondage of Egypt, promises He will shelter and preserve His people. God reminds Israel that He has removed fear from her through redemption and that she can trust Him according to the evidence of His faithfulness seen in her early history.
The reason that Israel should receive the fearless reality of God is that He has (past tense) redeemed her. Like the Servant of Isaiah 42:1-7, HaShem Himself is the covenant that redeems Israel. We note that the past tense indicates both the redemption from Egypt within time and space and the eternal purpose that has been established for Israel outside of time and space (Romans 11:23-26). The redemption of Israel is purchased through the blood of the Servant King Messiah, sacrificed before the creation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
We note that “goel” is a kinsman redeemer, meaning that in order to qualify for this phrasing God must be speaking of a manifestation of His being that is also literally a Hebrew (a Jew). This is of course a reference to the King Messiah Yeshua, Who is Imanuel (with us God).
“I have called you by your name” is more than just a phrase of endearment, it is a direct reference to Jacob’s wrestling with the man Who is also God (Gen. 32:22-32). Again, this is an allusion to the King Messiah, and a reminder that the tenacious spirit of Jacob, realized in his vulnerability, caused him to hold tight to Imanuel and through trusting Him, received a new name, Yisra (overcome in) El (God: Judge).
HaShem is not God of Israel because we chose Him but because He chose us.
“We love him, because he first loved us.” -1 John 4:19
Isa 43:2 “When you pass ba’mayim through the waters, it’techa Ani with you I Am; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you: when you teileich walk be’mov in the eish fire, you will not be burned; and the flame will not consume you (be kindled upon you).”
Iben Ezra explains that the waters and the fire refer to the armies of Persia and media respectively.
We can also read, “For passing through waters, I am with you; and through the rivers, they will not drown you: for walking in the fire, you will not be burned, and the flame will not consume you.”
Israel had passed through the Red sea and was unharmed, she had crossed over the river Jordan into the land of Israel (speaking to her present location), and her devote representatives in exile, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, will literally pass through fire and yet will neither be burned nor consumed (Daniel 3).
Isa 43:3 “For I am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Eloheycha your (God: Judge), the Kedush Holy One of Yisrael (Israel), moshi’echa your Saviour: I gave Mitzrayim (Double distress: Egypt) for your ransom, Cush (Black: Ethiopia) and Seva (You drink: son of Cush) in your place.”
“For I Mercy your Judge, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour…”
God explains that His Mercy and Judgement are always available to Israel because He is the Holy One of Israel, and her Saviour.
Throughout this portion of Isaiah HaShem affirms the fact that His very Name is connected to His chosen people Israel (ethnic, religious). In the first verse of chapter 43 He reminds Israel that He has called her by name: now in the present verse He affirms His intrinsic connection to Israel by using the title “Holy One of Israel”.
“I gave Egypt for your ransom” is in the past tense and may refer to Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. This could also refer to the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses the son of Cyrus.
Therefore, the giving over of the Egyptians and Ethiopians to Cyrus can be understood as the means by which God is seeding Israel’s return to the land from exile, made possible by the edicts of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-8). Thus, these nations were given as ransom in order to return Israel to the land.
Isa 43:4 “Since you were precious in my sight, you have nichbadta (from kavod: glory) weighed heavy, full of glory, and I ahavtiycha have loved you: therefore I will give adam a man (humanity) in your place, and uleumiym tribes for nafshecha (nefesh) your soul (existence).”
It is because Israel is precious to the God and is a continual weight upon His heart, and because of His unfailing love for her that He will give “adam” a man in her place, and tribes for her ongoing survival. While it is true, as Iben Ezra says, that adam can refer to humanity, it is none the less, only one possible translation. Given the individualistic language used to qualify the Servant of the previous chapter (42:1-7), and the allusion to the giving of Israel’s name, it seems more likely that the present text refers to the individual King Messiah than to humanity as a whole. Thus, the substitution offered in verse 4 by a man, is an allusion to the spiritual redemption of Israel through the substitutionary sacrifice of the Messiah, and the tribes given are for her physical survival.
Isa 43:5 “Al tiyra No fear: for with you I Am: mi’mizrach from the east (sunrise) I will bring your zarecha seed, umima’arav and from the west (sunset) gather you;”
“No fear” is qualified by “for I am with you”. Thus, the fear of God is an end to fear.
HaShem is promising to literally return the progeny of Israel from the farthest point of the east (Babylon) and the farthest point of the west (Egypt, Assyria: Ezra. 6:22). In fact, as the text continues to say, He will return them from every point of the compass: He is God over all things.
This can also be understood figuratively to apply to the beginning (sunrise) and the end (sunset) of time.
Isa 43:6 “I will say to the tzafon north (hidden), Give up; and to the teiyman south (right hand), Keep not back: bring vanaiy my sons from afar, and venotaiy my daughters from the extremity of ha-aretz the land (earth);”
Those nations in the north who have held Jews captive are commanded to release them from hidden places (oppression, imprisonment). Likewise those to the south are not to hold back the Jews leaving to return to the land of Israel. The word “teiyman” (south) literally means “to the right hand” that is, to the right when facing east, east being the focus of the Hebrew compass, the Temple mount being the Jewish equivalent of “True North”.
HaShem promises to bring both sons and daughters back to the land.
Isa 43:7 “Cal All those called by vishmiy My name: ve’lich’vodiy and for My glory I have berativ (from bara) created him for my glory, yitzartiyv I have formed him; certainly, I have made him.”
This must be understood in context. The plain meaning denotes all those called by the name of the “Holy One of Israel”. Thus, it specifically refers to Hebrews from all the tribes of Israel (Jews). This is further affirmed by the phrasing “For My glory I have created him” (a reference to Jacob [v.1]) and, “I have formed him” (a reference to Israel [v.1]). Both are ethnic designations of the Jewish people: as followers (Jacob) and as overcomers in God (Israel). Jacob and Israel are synonymous terms referring to the chosen ethnic people of God. Thus, the final clause, “I have made him”.
Isa 43:8 “Bring forth am a people blind that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.”
Regardless of Israel’s spiritual blindness and deafness, she still has eyes and ears. Thus, it is still possible for her to one day see and hear, and return to HaShem.
Isa 43:9 “Cal Let all ha-goyim the nations be assembled together, and let le’umiym the peoples be gathered: who among them can declare this, and show zot to us former things? let them bring forward their eideihem witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, ‘It is truth.’”
Not only all the nations but also all the tribes within those nations are called to appear before HaShem. “Us” refers to HaShem, the heavenly host, and Israel. The nations are challenged to show how they and their gods can prove miracles like those HaShem has performed for Israel. They are also challenged to speak with prophetic authority of the things to come, if they can: of course they cannot. Thus, the witnesses they bring forth to prove their case will have no other choice but to testify to the fact that the God of Israel alone speaks the truth of these things.
Isa 43:10 “Atem You (plural) eidaiy My witnesses, says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), ve’avdiy and my servant whom I have chosen: that you teideu may know veta’amiynu and believe (have faith in) Me, and understand that I am He: lefanaiy before My face there was no el God (Judge) formed, neither will there be after Me.” Isa 43:11 “I, certainly I, am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy); and beside Me there is no moshiya saviour.”
The counterpoint to the folly of the witnesses of the nations is the chosen servant of Hashem, that is, Israel. In spite of her spiritual blindness and deafness, she is none the less witness to all the miraculous deliverances of God and the certain truth of His prophetic word through His prophets. Israel remains God’s witness against the idolatrous nations and their heathen worship.
The unity and uniqueness of the One true God is reaffirmed in the emphatic statement “Understand that I am He: before My face there is no god formed, neither will there be after Me! I, certainly I, am HaShem; and beside Me there is no saviour.”
There are many similarities between the servant of Adonai as a nation (Israel) [Isaiah 42:18-25] and the Servant of Adonai as an individual person (Yeshua the Messiah) [Isaiah 42:1-7]. Both are chosen by God (42:1; 43:10). Both are loved by God (42:1; 43:4). And yet, the differences between the two are also abundantly clear. In both her obedience and disobedience Israel the nation is a witness to the works of God and His faithfulness. She can testify that there is no other god like Hashem. Corporately Israel is essentially blind (v.8) and a passive servant/observer (v.10), this regardless of her morality. On the other hand the Servant Messiah acts to accomplish God’s redemptive purpose for Israel and the nations. He is absolutely obedient, never faltering, never sinning. He delights to do God’s will (42:4).
Isa 43:12 “I have declared, vehosha’tiy and have saved, and I have shown, when there was no strange god among you: therefore you are eidiy My witnesses, says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), va’ani-El and I am God (Judge).”
What God has declared He has performed. He spoke these things long before Israel allowed the strange gods of her rebellion to cloud her judgement. Israel has seen His love and salvation on many occasions and with great miracles, thus, she remains His witness.
Isa 43:13 “Gam Also, miyom from before the day was I am He; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand: I will work, and who will allow it?”
From before the first day, God existed, uncreated. He alone is God over time and space: no other power can deliver out of His hand. No one can say that they have allowed Him to act. He was King, He is King, He will always be King of all things.
Isa 43:14 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), your redeemer, Kedush the Holy One of Yisrael Israel; “For your sake I have sent to Vavelah Babylon (Confusion), and have brought down all their nobles, and the Casdiym Chaldeans (Clod breakers), whose cry is in the ships.”
In other words, “I have sent Cyrus to Babylon to crush it”. The Chaldeans were a leading tribe of Babylonia and Babylon’s last Kings came from the Chaldeans. Hence the names Babylonian and Chaldean became synonymous.
Isa 43:15 “Ani I am HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), kedushechem your Holy One, borei Creator of Yisrael Israel, malkechem your King.”
HaShem reminds Israel of His identity. He is first Mercy, the Being, relational. Second, Holy, Israel’s Holy One. Third, Creator of all things, and fourth, King over Israel.
Isa 43:16 Thus says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy), which makes a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;
A reference to Israel’s deliverance through the Red sea. Or, as Iben Ezra says, a reference to the defeat of the Babylonian ships by Cyrus.
Isa 43:17 Who brings forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they will lie down together, they will not rise: they are extinguished, like a flax wick they are quenched.
A description of Pharaoh and his chariots drowned in the Red sea while pursuing Israel to destroy her. Or, the forces of Babylon in defeat against the Persians, as per Iben Ezra.
Isa 43:18 “Don’t you remember the former things, neither consider the things of old?”
An incredulous exhortation asking Israel if she remembers the miraculous deliverances of HaShem attested to by her forebears.
Isa 43:19 “Hineniy Behold, now, I will do a new thing; now it will spring forth; will you not know it? I will even make derekh a way ba’midbar in the wilderness (from within the word), and beiyshimon in the desert (desolation) neharot rivers.”
In the context of this passage the “new thing” will be Israel’s return from exile in the east. He will make a way through the desert to the east of the land of Israel, returning the exiled children of Israel to the land.
The waters once parted to save are now given to revitalize. This is a beautifully ironic Hebrew poetic form.
In the context of God’s greater redemptive purpose the “new thing” is the spiritual redemption of Israel through the Servant King Messiah. Thus, we read, “I will even make a way from within the word, and in the desolation, living waters.”
Isa 43:20 “The beast of the field will honour Me, the taniym serpents (dragons) uvenot and the daughters of ya’anah owls: because I give mayim waters va’’midbar in the wilderness, and neharot rivers beiyshimon in the desert, to give drink to Amiy My people, My chosen.”
This will be both literally and figuratively true. The serpents and owls may be interpreted to refer to demonic beings.
The purpose of the waters is to hydrate “My people, My chosen” ethnic Israel. God will hydrate her both physically and spiritually. These promises precede the coming exile so as to instil a memory of hope into rebellious Israel.
Isa 43:21 “Am A people I have formed for Myself; they will show forth my praise.”
The ultimate outcome of Israel’s discipline will be her repentance and formation as a nation that comes into right relationship with God and send forth His praise. However, this is yet future.
Isa 43:22 “But you have not called upon Me, Yaakov (Jacob: follower); but you have been weary of Me, Yisrael (Israel: overcomes in God).”
Jacob the follower has not followed and Israel the overcomer has not overcome. Israel has been made blind by her own idolatrous vision, and has become deaf through hearing the lies of the nations that surround her.
This is a poignant reminder to us. By watching media we become blind, and listening to media we become deaf. For those with eyes to see there is light in the darkness. For those with ears to hear there is truth in the silence.
Isa 43:23 “You have not brought Me the small of the flock of your oloteicha burnt offerings; uzevacheicha and your sacrifices don’t honour Me. I have not caused you to serve with an offering, nor wearied you with incense.”
This can be understood in at least two ways. It may refer to the fact that Israel had neglected the proper sacrificial practice within the land prior to her exile, or, it may refer prophetically to her inability to offer sacrifices to God in the land of her exile.
Isa 43:24 “None have bought me ba’kesef silver (money) or sugar cane, vecheilev the fat of your sacrifices has not filled Me: but you have made Me to serve, with your chatah sins (missing the mark), you have wearied Me with your avon perversities (iniquities).”
Rather than bringing the appropriate offerings of the Torah, Israel has instead offered money and sugar cane to other gods. Thus, they have not filled HaShem. None the less, Hashem has endured and become weary of Israel’s sin and perversity. This being the counterpoint to her having become weary of Him (v. 22).
Isa 43:25 “I, even I, am he that mocheh blots out your feshaeicha rebellion for My own sake, and will not remember your chatah sins (missing the mark).”
Regardless of Israel’s disobedience, it is not her observance or her lack thereof that is reason for God’s blotting out of her rebellion. To the contrary, it is for His own sake that He will wipe away all memory of her sin.
Isa 43:26 “Remember Me: let us adjudicate together: make your declaration, that you might be justified.”
God implores Israel to remember her true King Hashem and repent so that she might receive justification through Him.
“Come now, and let us reason together, says Adonai: though your sins be as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they will be as wool.” -Isaiah 1:18
Isa 43:27 “Aviycha Your father ha-rishon the first has chatah sinned (missed the mark), and your teachers have pasheu rebelled against Me.”
“Your first father” may refer either to Abraham or to Jacob. The teachers are those who have mislead Israel with the idol philosophies and beliefs of the nations. They may also be the priestly shepherds of Israel who have neglected the proper service of worship which was commanded by God and concerned the Temple cult in Jerusalem.
Isa 43:28 “Therefore I have profaned the shareiy princes of kodesh the sanctuary (Holiness), and have given Yaakov (Jacob: follower) la-cherem to be a dedicated thing, and Yisrael (Israel) le’giddufim to vilification.”
Thus, because Israel’s spiritual leaders had not honoured God and had mislead the people, HaShem will cause the priests, princes of the Sanctuary (a reference to the Temple) to be profaned, ridiculed, dishonoured. HaShem will also give the common people of Jacob to be a dedicated or destroyed thing, and the name of the nation of Israel will become synonymous with villainy. All this is intended to discipline Israel and return her to God through the covenant of the Servant King Messiah.
© 2018 Yaakov Brown
Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,