Isaiah 44

CHAPTER XLIV

This chapter, besides promises of redemption, of the effusion

of the Spirit, and success of the Gospel, 1-5,

sets forth, in a very sublime manner, the supreme power and

foreknowledge, and absolute eternity, of the one true God; and

exposes the folly and absurdity of idolatry with admirable

force and elegance, 6-20.

And to show that the knowledge of future events belongs only to

Jehovah, whom all creation is again called to adore for the

deliverance and reconciliation granted to his people, 21-23,

the prophet concludes with setting in a very strong point of

view the absolute impotence of every thing considered great and

insurmountable in the sight of men, when standing in the way of

the Divine counsel; and mentions the future deliverer of the

Jewish nation expressly by name, nearly two hundred years

before his birth, 24-28.

NOTES ON CHAP. XLIV

Verse 2. Jesurun] Jeshurun means Israel. This name was given to

that people by Moses, De 32:15; 33:5, 26. The most probable

account of it seems to be that in which the Jewish commentators

agree; namely, that it is derived from yashar, and signifies

upright. In the same manner, Israel, as a people, is called

meshullam, perfect, Isa 42:19, They were taught of God, and

abundantly furnished with the means of rectitude and perfection in

his service and worship. Grotius thinks that yeshurun is a

diminutive of yishrael, Israel; expressing peculiar fondness

and affection; ισραηλιδιον, O little Israel.

Verse 4. They shall spring up as among the grass-"They shall

spring up as the grass among the waters"] bebeyn

chatsir, "They shall spring up in the midst of, or rather, in

among, the grass." This cannot be right: eleven MSS., and thirteen

editions, have kebeyn, or keben. Twenty-four MSS.

read it without the yod, beben, in the son of the grass;

and so reads the Chaldee; beben, in the son of the grass.

Twenty-four MSS. of Dr. Kennicott's, thirty-three of De Rossi's,

and one of my own, with six editions, have this reading. The

Syriac, mibbeyn. The true reading is in all probability

kebeyn; and the word mayim, which should have

followed it, is lost out of the text: but it is happily supplied

by the Septuagint, ωςαναμεσονυδατος, as among the water. "In

every place where there is water, there is always grass; for water

makes every thing grow in the east." Sir John Chardin's note on

1Ki 17:5.

Harmer's Observations i. 64.

Verse 5. Shall call himself-"Shall be called"] Passive,

yikkare; κληθησεται, Symmachus.

Another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord-"This shall

inscribe his hand to JEHOVAH"] καιετεροςεπιγραψειχειρι (χειρα,

Aq., Sym.) αυτουτουθεουειμι "And another shall write upon

his hand, I belong to God."-Sept. They seem to have read here, as

before, laihovah ani, I belong to JEHOVAH. But the

repetition of the same phrase without any variation is not

elegant. However, they seem to have understood it rightly, as an

allusion to the marks, which were made by punctures rendered

indelible, by fire or by staining, upon the hand or some other

part of the body, signifying the state or character of the person,

and to whom he belonged. The slave was marked with the name of his

master, the soldier, of his commander; the idolater, with the name

or ensign of his god: στιγματαεπιγραφομεναδιατωνστρατευομενων

ενταιςχερσιν "Punctural inscriptions made by the soldiers on

their hands." Aetius apud Turnebum Advers. xxiv. 12. Victuris in

cute punctis milites scripti et matriculis inserti jurare solent.

"The soldiers having indelible inscriptions on their skin, and

inserted in the muster-rolls, are accustomed to make oath."

Vigetius, ii. 5. And the Christians seem to have imitated this

practice, by what Procopius says on this place of Isaiah: τοδετη

χειριδιατοστιζεινισωςπολλουςεπικαρπωνηβραχιονωνητου

σταυρουσημειονητηνχριστουπροσηγοριαν. "Because many marked

their wrists, or their arms, with the sign of the cross, or with

the name of Christ." See Re 20:4;

Spencer, De Leg. Hebr. lib. ii., cap. 20.

Verse 7. Let them show unto them-"Let them declare unto us."]

For lamo, unto them, the Chaldee reads lanu,

unto us. The Septuagint read lachem, unto you; which

is preferable to the reading of the text. But lamo, and

lanu, are frequently mistaken one for the other, see Isa 10:29;

Ps 80:7; 64:6.

Verse 8. Fear ye not] tirehu never occurs. Perhaps it

should be tireu, fear ye. Two MSS. read tirehu,

and one of mine taharu.

Verse 9. - 10. That they may be ashamed. Who hath formed a

god-"That every one may be ashamed, that he hath formed a god"]

The Bodleian MS., one of the first extant for its antiquity and

authority, instead of mi, at the beginning of the tenth

verse, has ki, which greatly clears up the construction of a

very obscure passage. Doederlein approves of this reading. The

Septuagint likewise closely connect in construction the end of

Isa 44:9 with the beginning of Isa 44:10; and wholly omit the

interrogative mi, which embarrasses the sentence:

αισχυνθησονταιοιπλασσοντεςθεονκαιγλυφοντεςπαντεςανωφελη

"But they shall be confounded that make a god; and they who

engrave unprofitable things;" agreeably to the reading of the MS.

above mentioned.

Verse 10. See Clarke on Isa 44:9.

Verse 11. His fellows] chaberaiv: but abadaiv,

his servants or worshippers, is the reading of one of De Rossi's

MSS., and of the Chaldee.

And the workmen, they are of men-"Even the workmen themselves

shall blush"] I do not know that any one has ever yet interpreted

these words to any tolerably good sense:

vecharashim hemmah meadam. The Vulgate and our translators, have

rendered them very fairly, as they are written and pointed in the

text: Fabri enim sunt ex hominibus. "And the workmen they are of

men." Out of which the commentators have not been able to extract

any thing worthy of the prophet. I have given another explanation

of the place; agreeable enough to the context, if it can be

deduced from the words themselves. I presume that adam,

rubuit, may signify erubuit, to be red through shame, as well as

from any other cause; though I cannot produce any example of it in

that particular sense; and the word in the text I would point

meoddam; or if any one should object to the irregularity of the

number, I would read meoddamim. But I rather think that the

irregularity of the construction has been the cause of the

obscurity, and has given occasion to the mistaken punctuation. The

singular is sometimes put for the plural. See Ps 68:31; and the

participle for the future tense, see Isa 40:11.-L.

Verse 12. The smith with the tongs, &c.-"The smith cutteth off a

portion of iron"] meatstsed, Participium Pihel of

atsad, to cut; still used in that sense in the Arabic. See

Simonis Lex. Heb. The Septuagint and Syriac take the word in

this form: but they render it sharpeneth the iron. See Castell.

Lex. in voce.

The sacred writers are generally large and eloquent upon the

subject of idolatry; they treat it with great severity, and set

forth the absurdity of it in the strongest light. But this passage

of Isaiah, Isa 44:12-20, far exceeds any thing that ever was

written upon the subject, in force of argument, energy of

expression, and elegance of composition. One or two of the

apocryphal writers have attempted to imitate the prophet, but with

very ill success; Wisd. 13:11-19; 15:7, &c.; Baruch vi.,

especially the latter, who, injudiciously dilating his matter, and

introducing a number of minute circumstances, has very much

weakened the force and effect of his invective. On the contrary a

heathen author, in the ludicrous way, has, in a line or two, given

idolatry one of the severest strokes it ever received:-

Olim truncus eram ficulnus, inutile lignum,

Cum faber incertus, scamnum faceretne Priapum,

Maluit esse Deum. Deus inde ego.

HORAT. Satyr, lib. 1. sat. viii.

"Formerly I was the stump of a fig tree, a useless log; when the

carpenter, after hesitating whether to make me a god or a stool,

at last determined to make me a god. Thus I became a god!"

From the tenth to the seventeenth verse, a most beautiful strain

of irony is carried on against idolatry. And we may naturally

think that every idolater, who either read or heard it, must have

been for ever ashamed of his own devices.-L.

Verse 14. He heweth him down-"He heweth down"] For

lichroth, the Septuagint and Vulgate read carath or

yichroth.

Verse 16. With part-"AND with part"] Twenty-three MSS., the

Septuagint, and Vulgate add the conjunction vau, and

veal.

Verse 17. He falleth down unto it] There were four forms of

adoration used among the Hebrews: 1. HISHTACHAVAH, The

prostration of the whole body. 2. KADAD, The bowing of the

head. 3. CARA, The bending of the upper part of the body down

to the knees. 4. BARACH, Bowing the knee, or kneeling. See on

Isa 49:23.

Verse 18. He hath shut their eyes-"Their eyes are closed up"]

The Septuagint, Chaldee, and Vulgate, for tach, read

, tachu. See Clarke on Isa 6:10.

Verse 20. He feedeth on ashes] He feedeth on that which

affordeth no nourishment; a proverbial expression for using

ineffectual means, and bestowing labour to no purpose. In the same

sense Hosea says, "Ephraim feedeth on wind." Ho 12:1.

Verse 22. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy

transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins-"I have made thy

transgressions vanish away like a cloud, and thy sins like a

vapour"] Longinus admired the sublimity of the sentiment, as well

as the harmony of the numbers, in the following sentence of

Demosthenes: τουτοτοψηφισματοντοτετηπολειτερισταντα

κινδυνονπαρελθεινεποιησενωσπερνεφος. "This decree made the

danger then hanging over the city pass away like a cloud."

Probably Isaiah alludes here to the smoke rising up from the

sin-offering, dispersed speedily by the wind. and rendered

invisible. He who offered his sacrifice aright was as sure that

the sin for which he offered it was blotted out, as that the smoke

of the sacrifice was dispersed by the wind, and was no longer

discernible.

Verse 24. By myself] Thirteen MSS., six ancient, confirm the

reading of the Keri, meittai.

Verse 27. That saith to the deep, Be dry-"Who saith to the deep,

Be thou wasted"] Cyrus took Babylon by laying the bed of the

Euphrates dry, and leading his army into the city by night through

the empty channel of the river. This remarkable circumstance, in

which the event so exactly corresponded with the prophecy, was

also noted by Jeremiah, Jer 50:38; 51:36.

"A drought shall be upon her waters, and they shall

be dried up:-

I will lay her sea dry

And I will scorch up her springs."

It is proper here to give some account of the means and method

lay which the stratagem of Cyrus was effected.

The Euphrates in the middle of the summer, from the melting of

the snows on the mountains of Armenia, like the Nile, overflows

the country. In order to diminish the inundation, and to carry off

the waters, two canals were made by Nebuchadnezzar a hundred miles

above the city; the first on the eastern side called Naharmalca,

or the Royal River, by which the Euphrates was let into the

Tigris; the other on the western side, called Pallacopas, or

Naharaga, ( nahar agam, The river of the pool,) by which

the redundant waters were carried into a vast lake, forty miles

square, contrived, not only to lessen the inundation, but for a

reservoir, with sluices, to water the barren country on the

Arabian side. Cyrus, by turning the whole river into the lake by

the Pallacopas, laid the channel, where it ran through the city,

almost dry; so that his army entered it, both above and below, by

the bed of the river, the water not reaching above the middle of

the thigh. By the great quantity-of water let into the lake, the

sluices and dams were destroyed; and being never repaired

afterwards, the waters spread over the whole country below, and

reduced it to a morass, in which the river is lost. Ingens modo et

navigabilis, inde tenuis rivus, despectus emoritur; et nusquam

manifesto exitit effluit, ut alii omnes, sed deficit. "And thus a

navigable river has been totally lost, it having no exit from this

morass. No wonder then that the geographical face of this country

is completely changed;" MELA iii. 8; HEROD. i. 186, 190; XENOPHON,

Cyrop. vii.; ARRIAN vii.

Verse 28. That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd-"Who saith to

Cyrus, Thou art my shepherd"] Pastor meus es; Vulg. The true

reading seems to be roi attah; the word attah,

has probably been dropped out of the text. The same word is lost

out of the text, Ps 119:57. It is supplied in the

Septuagint by the word ει, thou art.

Saying to Jerusalem] For velemor, the Septuagint and

Vulgate read haomer.

And to the temple] uleheychal, as

lirushalayim, before; the preposition is necessary, and the

Vulgate seems to read so.-Houbigant.

That saith of CYRUS, He is, or thou art, my shepherd-Saving to

JERUSALEM, "Thou shalt be built;" and to the TEMPLE, "Thy

foundation shall be laid."-There is a remarkable beauty and

propriety in this verse.

1. Cyrus is called God's shepherd. Shepherd was an epithet which

Cyrus took to himself; and what he gave to all good kings.

2. This Cyrus should say to the temple: "Thy foundation shall be

laid." Not-thou shalt be built. The fact is, only the foundation

was laid in the days of Cyrus, the Ammonites having prevented the

building; nor was it resumed till the second year of Darius, one

of his successors. There is often a precision in the expressions

of the prophets which is as honourable to truth, as it is

unnoticed by careless readers.

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