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
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Founder of the Beth Melekh International Messiah Following Jewish Community,