Isaiah 48 Bible Commentary

Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown

(Read all of Isaiah 48)


1. the waters of Judah--spring from the fountain of Judah (Nu 24:7; De 33:28; Ps 68:26; Margin). Judah has the "fountain" attributed to it, because it survived the ten tribes, and from it Messiah was to spring.
swear by . . . Lord-- (Isa 19:18; 45:23; 65:16).
mention--in prayers and praises.
not in truth-- (Jer 5:2; Joh 4:24).

2. For--Ye deserve these reproofs; "for" ye call yourselves citizens of "the holy city" (Isa 52:1), but not in truth (Isa 48:1; Ne 11:1; Da 9:24); so the inscription on their coins of the time of the Maccabees. "Jerusalem the Holy."

3. former--things which have happened in time past to Israel (Isa 42:9; 44:7, 8; 45:21; 46:10).
suddenly--They came to pass so unexpectedly that the prophecy could not have resulted from mere human sagacity.

4. obstinate--Hebrew, "hard" (De 9:27; Eze 3:7, Margin).
iron sinew--inflexible (Ac 7:51).
brow brass--shameless as a harlot (see Jer 6:28; 3:3; Eze 3:7, Margin).

5. (See on Isa 48:1; Isa 48:3).

6. Thou, &c.--So "ye are my witnesses" (Isa 43:10). Thou canst testify the prediction was uttered long before the fulfilment: "see all this," namely, that the event answers to the prophecy.
declare--make the fact known as a proof that Jehovah alone is God (Isa 44:8).
new things--namely, the deliverance from Babylon by Cyrus, new in contradistinction from former predictions that had been fulfilled (Isa 42:9; 43:19). Antitypically, the prophecy has in view the "new things" of the gospel treasury (So 7:13; Mt 13:52; 2Co 5:17; Re 21:5). From this point forward, the prophecies as to Messiah's first and second advents and the restoration of Israel, have a new circumstantial distinctness, such as did not characterize the previous ones, even of Isaiah. Babylon, in this view, answers to the mystical Babylon of Revelation.
hidden--which could not have been guessed by political sagacity (Da 2:22, 29; 1Co 2:9, 10).

7. Not like natural results from existing causes, the events when they took place were like acts of creative power, such as had never before been "from the beginning."
even before the day when--rather [MAURER], "And before the day (of their occurrence) thou hast not heard of them"; that is, by any human acuteness; they are only heard of by the present inspired announcement.

8. heardest not--repeated, as also "knewest not," from Isa 48:7.
from that time--Omit "that." "Yea, from the first thine ear did not open itself," namely, to obey them [ROSENMULLER]. "To open the ear" denotes obedient attention (Isa 50:5); or, "was not opened" to receive them; that is, they were not declared by Me to thee previously, since, if thou hadst been informed of them, such is thy perversity, thou couldst not have been kept in check [MAURER]. In the former view, the sense of the words following is, "For I knew that, if I had not foretold the destruction of Babylon so plainly that there could be no perverting of it, thou wouldst have perversely ascribed it to idols, or something else than to Me" (Isa 48:5). Thus they would have relapsed into idolatry, to cure them of which the Babylonian captivity was sent: so they had done (Ex 32:4). After the return, and ever since, they have utterly forsaken idols.
wast called--as thine appropriate appellation (Isa 9:6).
from the womb--from the beginning of Israel's national existence (Isa 44:2).

9. refrain--literally, "muzzle"; His wrath, after the return, was to be restrained a while, and then, because of their sins, let loose again (Ps 78:38).
for thee--that is, mine anger towards thee.

10. (See on Isa 1:25).
with silver--rather, "for silver." I sought by affliction to purify thee, but thou wast not as silver obtained by melting, but as dross [GESENIUS]. Thy repentance is not complete: thou art not yet as refined silver. ROSENMULLER explains, "not as silver," not with the intense heat needed to melt silver (it being harder to melt than gold), that is, not with the most extreme severity. The former view is better (Isa 1:25; 42:25; Eze 22:18-20, 22).
chosen--or else [LOWTH], tried . . . proved: according to GESENIUS, literally, "to rub with the touchstone," or to cut in pieces so as to examine (Zec 13:9; Mal 3:3; 1Pe 1:7).

11. how should my name--MAURER, instead of "My name" from Isa 48:9, supplies "My glory" from the next clause; and translates, "How (shamefully) My glory has been profaned!" In English Version the sense is, "I will refrain (Isa 48:9, that is, not utterly destroy thee), for why should I permit My name to be polluted, which it would be, if the Lord utterly destroyed His elect people" (Eze 20:9)?
not give my glory unto another--If God forsook His people for ever, the heathen would attribute their triumph over Israel to their idols; so God's glory would be given to another.

12-15. The Almighty, who has founded heaven and earth, can, and will, restore His people.
the first . . . last-- (Isa 41:4; 44:6).

13. spanned--measured out (Isa 40:12).
when I call . . . stand up together-- (Isa 40:26; Jer 33:25). But it is not their creation so much which is meant, as that, like ministers of God, the heavens and the earth are prepared at His command to execute His decrees (Ps 119:91) [ROSENMULLER].

14. among them--among the gods and astrologers of the Chaldees (Isa 41:22; 43:9; 44:7).
Lord . . . loved him; he will, &c.--that is, "He whom the Lord hath loved will do," &c. [LOWTH]; namely, Cyrus (Isa 44:28; 45:1, 13; 46:11). However, Jehovah's language of love is too strong to apply to Cyrus, except as type of Messiah, to whom alone it fully applies (Re 5:2-5).
his pleasure--not Cyrus' own, but Jehovah's.

15. brought--led him on his way.
he--change from the first to the third person [BARNES]. Jehovah shall make his (Cyrus') way prosperous.

16. not . . . in secret-- (Isa 45:19). Jehovah foretold Cyrus' advent, not with the studied ambiguity of heathen oracles, but plainly.
from the time, &c.--From the moment that the purpose began to be accomplished in the raising up of Cyrus I was present.
sent me--The prophet here speaks, claiming attention to his announcement as to Cyrus, on the ground of his mission from God and His Spirit. But he speaks not in his own person so much as in that of Messiah, to whom alone in the fullest sense the words apply (Isa 61:1; Joh 10:36). Plainly, Isa 49:1, which is the continuation of the forty-eighth chapter, from Isa 48:16, where the change of speaker from God (Isa 48:1, 12-15) begins, is the language of Messiah. Lu 4:1, 14, 18, shows that the Spirit combined with the Father in sending the Son: therefore "His Spirit" is nominative to "sent," not accusative, following it.

17. teacheth . . . to profit--by affliction, such as the Babylonish captivity, and the present long-continued dispersion of Israel (Heb 12:10).

18. peace-- (Ps 119:165). Compare the desire expressed by the same Messiah (Mt 23:37; Lu 19:42).
river-- (Isa 33:21; 41:18), a river flowing from God's throne is the symbol of free, abundant, and ever flowing blessings from Him (Eze 47:1; Zec 14:8; Re 22:1).
righteousness--religious prosperity; the parent of "peace" or national prosperity; therefore "peace" corresponds to "righteousness" in the parallelism (Isa 32:17).

19. sand--retaining the metaphor of "the sea" (Isa 48:18).
like the gravel thereof--rather, as the Hebrew, "like that (the offspring) of its (the sea's) bowels"; referring to the countless living creatures, fishes, &c., of the sea, rather than the gravel [MAURER]. JEROME, Chaldee, and Syriac support English Version.
his name . . . cut off--transition from the second person, "thy," to the third "his." Israel's name was cut off "as a nation" during the Babylonish captivity; also it is so now, to which the prophecy especially looks (Ro 11:20).

20. Go . . . forth . . . end of the earth--Primarily, a prophecy of their joyful deliverance from Babylon, and a direction that they should leave it when God opened the way. But the publication of it "to the ends of the earth" shows it has a more world-wide scope antitypically; Re 18:4 shows that the mystical Babylon is ultimately meant.
redeemed . . . Jacob-- (Isa 43:1; 44:22, 23).

21. Ezra, in describing the return, makes no mention of God cleaving the rock for them in the desert [KIMCHI]. The circumstances, therefore, of the deliverance from Egypt (Ex 17:6; Nu 20:11; Ps 78:15; 105:41) and of that from Babylon, are blended together; the language, while more immediately referring to the latter deliverance, yet, as being blended with circumstances of the former not strictly applicable to the latter, cannot wholly refer to either, but to the mystic deliverance of man under Messiah, and literally to the final restoration of Israel.

22. Repeated (Isa 57:21). All the blessings just mentioned (Isa 48:21) belong only to the godly, not to the wicked. Israel shall first cast away its wicked unbelief before it shall inherit national prosperity (Zec 12:10-14; 13:1, 9; 14:3, 14, 20, 21). The sentiment holds good also as to all wicked men (Job 15:20-25, 31-34).