Isaiah 41


The prophet, having intimated the deliverance from Babylon, and

the still greater redemption couched under it, resumes the

subject. He begins with the Divine vocation of Abraham, the

root of the Israelitish family, and his successful exploits

against the idolaters, 1-7.

He then recurs to the Babylonish captivity, and encourages the

seed of Abraham, the friend of God, not to fear, as all their

enemies would be ultimately subdued under them, 8-16;

and every thing furnished necessary to refresh and comfort them

in them passage homewards through the desert, 17-20.

The prophet then takes occasion to celebrate the prescience of

God, from his knowledge of events so very distant as instanced

in the prediction concerning the messenger of glad tidings

which should be given to Jerusalem to deliver her from all her

enemies; and challenges the idols of the heathen to produce the

like proof of their pretended divinity, 21-27.

But they are all vanity, and accursed are they that choose

them, 28, 29.


Verse 1. Keep silence before me, O islands-"Let the distant

nations repair to me with new force of mind"] εγκαινιζεσθε,

Septuagint. For hacharishu, be silent, they certainly

read in their copy hachadishu, be renewed; which is

parallel and synonymous with yechalephu coach, "recover

their strength; " that is, their strength of mind, their powers of

reason; that they may overcome those prejudices by which they have

been so long held enslaved to idolatry. A MS. has har, upon a

rasure. The same mistake seems to have been made in this word,

Zep 3:17. For

yacharish beahabatho, silebit in directione sua, as the Vulgate

renders it; which seems not consistent with what immediately

follows, exultabit super te in laude; the Septuagint and Syriac

read yachadish beahabatho, "he shall be renewed in

his love." elai, to me, is wanting in one of De Rossi's MSS.

and in the Syriac.

Verse 2. The righteous man] The Chaldee and Vulgate seem to

have read tsaddik. But Jerome, though his translation has

justum, appears to have read tsedek; for in his comment he

expresses it by justum, sive justitiam. However, I think all

interpreters understand it of a person. So the Septuagint in MS.

Pachom. εκαλεσεναυτον, "he hath called him;" but the other

copies have αυτην, her. They are divided in ascertaining this

person; some explain it of Abraham, others of Cyrus. I rather

think that the former is meant; because the character of the

righteous man, or righteousness, agrees better with Abraham than

with Cyrus. Besides, immediately after the description of the

success given by God to Abraham and his posterity, (who, I

presume, are to be taken into the account,) the idolaters are

introduced as greatly alarmed at this event. Abraham was called

out of the east; and his posterity were introduced into the land

of Canaan, in order to destroy the idolaters of that country, and

they were established there on purpose to stand as a barrier

against the idolatry then prevailing, and threatening to overrun

the whole face of the earth. Cyrus, though not properly an

idolater or worshipper of images, yet had nothing in his character

to cause such an alarm among the idolaters, Isa 41:5-7. Farther,

after having just touched upon that circumstance, the prophet with

great ease returns to his former subject, and resumes Abraham and

the Israelites; and assures them that as God had called them, and

chosen them for this purpose, he would uphold and support them to

the utmost, and at length give them victory over all the heathen

nations, their enemies; Isa 41:8-16.

Kimchi is of the same mind and gives the same reasons.

He gave them as the dust to his sword-"Hath made them like the

dust before his sword"] The image is strong and beautiful; it is

often made use of by the sacred poets; see Ps 1:4; 35:6;

Job 21:18, and by Isaiah himself in other places,

Isa 17:13; 29:5. But there is great difficulty in making out

the construction. The Septuagint read kashtam, charbam,

their sword, their bow, understanding it of the sword and bow of

the conquered kings: but this is not so agreeable to the analogy

of the image, as employed in other places. The Chaldee paraphrast

and Kimchi solve the difficulty by supposing an ellipsis of

liphney before those words. It must be owned that the ellipsis

is hard and unusual: but I choose rather to submit to this, than,

by adhering with Vitringa to the more obvious construction, to

destroy entirely both the image and the sense. But the Vulgate by

gladio ejus, to his sword, and arcui ejus, to his bow, seems to

express lecharbo, to his sword, and lekashto, to

his bow, the admission of which reading may perhaps be thought

preferable to Kimchi's ellipsis.

Verse 3. And passed safely-"He passeth in safety"] The

preposition seems to have been omitted in the text by mistake; the

Septuagint and Vulgate seem to have had it in their copies; εν

ειρηνη, to pace, beshalom, "prosperously." It is so in

one of De Rossi's MSS.

Verse 4. Who hath wrought and done it-"Who hath performed and

made these things"] A word is here lost out of the text. It is

supplied by an ancient MS., elleh, "these things;" and by the

Septuagint, ταυτα; and by the Vulgate, haec; and by the

Chaldee, elin; all of the same meaning.

Verse 5. Were afraid-"And they were terrified"] Three MSS. have

vaiyecheridu, adding the conjunction vau, which

restores the second member of the sentence to its true poetical


Verse 7. That it should not be moved-"That it shall not move."]

Five MSS., (two ancient,) and the ancient Versions, add the

conjunction vau, "and," reading velo, "and not," which

seems to be right.

Verse 9. And called thee from the chief men thereof-"And called

from the extremities thereof"] atsil meatsileyha,

signifies the arm, ascilla, ala; and is used like canaph,

"the wing," for any thing extended from the extremity of another,

or joined on to it. It is here parallel with and synonymous to

mikkatsoth, "from the ends," in the preceding member.

Verse 10. Be not dismayed- veal tishta, "AND be not

dismayed." The vau is added by twenty-one of Dr. Kennicott's

MSS., thirty of De Rossi's, and one of my own, and three editions.

It makes the sense more complete.

Verse 14. Fear not, thou worm Jacob] In the rabbinical

commentary on the five books of Moses, Yelamedenu, it is asked,

Why are the Israelites called a worm? To signify, that as the worm

does not smite, that is, gnaw the cedars, but with its mouth,

which is very tender, yet it nevertheless destroys the hard wood;

so all the strength of the Israelites is in prayer, by which they

smite the wicked of this world, though strong like the cedars, to

which they are compared, Eze 31:3.

Verse 15. A new sharp threshing instrument having teeth-"A

threshing wain; a new corn-drag armed with pointed teeth"]

See Clarke on Isa 28:27; "Isa 28:28".

Thou shalt thresh the mountains] Mountains and hills are here

used metaphorically for the kings and princes of the


Verse 19. I will plant in the wilderness the cedar] The two

preceding verses express God's mercy to them in their passage

through the dry deserts, in supplying them with abundant water,

when distressed with thirst, in allusion to the exodus. This verse

expresses the relief afforded to them, fainting with heat in their

journey through that hot country, destitute of shelter, by causing

shady trees, and those of the tallest and most beautiful kinds, to

spring up for their defense. The apocryphal Baruch, speaking of

the return from Babylon, expresses God's protection of his people

by the same image: "Even the woods and every sweet-smelling tree

shall overshadow Israel by the commandment of God." Isa 5:8.

The oil tree] This, Kimchi says, is not to be understood of the

olive tree, for the olive is distinguished, Ne 8:15; but it

means the pine or fir, from which pitch is extracted.

Verse 20. And consider] The verb yasimu, without

leb added, cannot signify to apply the heart, or to attend to a

thing, as Houbigant has observed; he therefore reads

yashshemu, they shall wonder. The conjecture is ingenious; but

it is much more probable that the word leb is lost out of the

text; for all the ancient versions render the phrase to the same

sense, as if it were fully expressed, yasimu leb; and the

Chaldee renders it paraphrastically, yet still retaining the very

words in his paraphrase, vishavvun dechalti

al lebehon, "that they may put my fear in their heart." See also

Isa 41:22, where the same phrase is used.

Verse 21. Bring forth your strong reasons-"Produce these your

mighty powers"] "Let your idols come forward which you consider to

be so very strong." Hieron. in loc. I prefer this to all other

interpretations of this place; and to Jerome's own translation of

it, which he adds immediately after, Afferte, si quid forte

habetis. "Bring it forward, if haply ye have any thing." The false

gods are called upon to come forth and appear in person; and to

give evident demonstration of their foreknowledge and power by

foretelling future events, and exerting their power in doing good

or evil.

Verse 23. That we may be dismayed, and behold it together-"Then

shall we be struck at once with admiration and terror."] The word

venere is written imperfectly in the Hebrew text; the

Masoretes supply he at the end; and so it is read in twenty-two

MSS. and four editions; that is, venireh, and we shall

see. But the true reading seems to be venira, and we

shall fear, with yod supplied, from yara.

Verse 24. Your work of naught-"Your operation is less than

naught"] For meepha, read meephes; so the Chaldee

and Vulgate. A manifest error of the text; compare Isa 40:17. The

rabbins acknowledge no such error, but say that the former word

signifies the same with the latter, by a change of the two letters

samech and ain.-Sal. ben Melec in loc.

Verse 25. I have raised up one from the north] "That is," says

Kimchi, "the Messiah. The king of Assyria placed the ten tribes

in Chalach and Chabar by the river Gozan, and in the cities of the

Medes, 2Ki 17:6, which lands lie northerly and easterly."

He shall come upon princes-"He shall trample on princes"] For

yabo, Le Clerc reads yebes, from the Chaldee,

who seems to read both words. "Forte legend. vaiyebes vel

vaiyirmos: sequitur ." "This should perhaps be read

vaiyebes, or vaiyirmos: a samech

follows."-Secker. See Na 3:14.

Verse 26. Your word] imrntheychem; but, instead of

this, one of my most ancient MSS. has dibreychem. The

meaning is nearly the same: but in this reading this MS. is


Verse 27. The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them-"I

first to Zion gave the word, Behold they are here"] This verse is

somewhat obscure by the transposition of the parts of the

sentence, and the peculiar manner in which it is divided into two

parallel lines. The verb at the end of the sentence belongs to

both parts; and the phrase, Behold, they are here! is parallel to

the messenger of glad tidings; and stands like it, as the

accusative case to the verb. The following paraphrase will explain

the form and the sense of it. "I first, by my prophets, give

notice of these events, saying, Behold, they are at hand! and I

give to Jerusalem a messenger of glad tidings."

Verse 28. Among them-"Among the idols"] For umeelleh, I

read umeellim, with the Septuagint, καιαποτων

ειδωλων, "and from or among the idols." See Ex 15:11;

Isa 57:5.

R. D. Kimchi has many good observations on this chapter. Bishop

Lowth follows him in applying it to Abraham, and not to Cyrus;

the whole being spoken in the past tense, which is not used, or

rarely, in such a case for the future. Almost the whole of the

rabbins understand it of Abraham. On Kimchi's plan, the following

is a paraphrase.

The righteous man-Abram, from the east-the land of his nativity,

called the land of the children of the east, Ge 29:1.

Brought him to his feet-Whithersoever his feet went, he preached

righteousness and truth; as it is written, "There he proclaimed in

the name of JEHOVAH," Ge 21:31. And he called it

vaiyikraehu-that is, tsedek, righteousness, to his feet,

enabled him to hold it forth wherever he went.

He called the nations-To leave their idols and worship him who

made the universe. He taught them the way of righteousness, truth,

and faith. Was there ever a prodigy like to this? A man who had

been an idolater, rising up against all the nations of the earth,

reproving their faith, and not fearing before them nor their

kings! Who stirred up his heart to do this? Was it not the Lord?

Gave the nations before him-And made him rule over

kings-Chedorlaomer, and the kings which were with him: whom the

Lord gave as dust to his sword, and stubble to his bow.

He pursued them-He and his three hundred and eighteen servants.

He passed safely- shalom for beshalom, in

safety; so said, because he lost not one of his men in this

expedition. See Kimchi.

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