The final verses of Isaiah 42 speak of the blindness of the national servant, Israel, and the suffering it has brought upon Israel. There has been a complete inability to relate the afflictions with the cause and to recognize that Yahweh has controlled events. In chapter 43 assurance is given that the trials Israel has been subjected to are measured by the Holy One of Israel, and that He will yet deliver the people “created for his glory” from their calamities. His purpose with them is inviolate and stands fast.

43:1–7 Time for Change. At the End of Gentile Times Yahweh’s Unfailing Love for Israel is to be Demonstrated in His Preservation of Them in Trial and Redemption from Captivity

Verse 1 “But now thus saith Yahweh that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”

The afflictions Israel has suffered are not the end of the story. Yahweh’s ultimate purpose with the chosen people remains on track. They are exhorted to “Fear not” (v1,5) for no less than five salient reasons.

(1) “…Yahweh that created [Heb bârâʼ] thee, O Jacob” As creator of the nation He emphasizes His power to originate, maintain and direct their affairs. “Jacob” is the name reserved for the natural seed.

(2) “and he that formed [Heb yâtsar] thee, O Israel” Here the word used is from the potter’s work and is more intimate: the circumstances of the nation have been carefully weighed and the right pressure applied so that the finished vessel will match His specifications.

(3) “I have redeemed thee” [Heb gâ’al] Yahweh has accepted all the rights and responsibilities of the next of kin. There are overtones of His redemptive work of old (Exod 6:6; 15:13).

(4) “I have called thee by name” This illustrates how close His relationship is with them, for the one that is called by name is also called by His name (Jer 13:11; cp Isa 4:1)!

(5) “Thou art mine” The phrase envisages the ultimate marriage of Yahweh and His Bride (54:5; 62:4).

Verse 2 “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

Here there is the promise that calamities, however great and of whatever nature, will not obliterate His people. The difference between water and fire stresses the range and totality of Yahweh’s protection. Fire consumes and water overwhelms. Both are powerful destroying agents. But Yahweh’s purpose with His cherished people means He is in control. Destruction will go so far and no further, the waters will not drown nor the flame burn up. Thus the nation of Israel has been born and continues despite enemies on every side. The fires of the concentration camps, devastating as they were, could not bring about the “Final Solution”. Instead a nation was born in 1948!

Verse 3 “For I am Yahweh thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.”

For I am Yahweh thy God” This is the Divine Name declared at the time of the Exodus and as such is the guarantee of Israel’s deliverance and continuance (Exod 3:15; 6:6; Mal 3:6). The language of this verse reaches back to redemption from Egypt.

The Holy One of Israel” This title is frequently used in Isaiah (v14, 40:25; 55:5; 60:9). It combines the reality of God’s holiness, how separate and different He is to all the other idol-gods of the nations, with His special relationship with Israel. There is comfort in the title, for though His holiness has brought wrath on His people, He has not relinquished the relationship; it remains steadfast and secure in time.

Thy Saviour” Yahweh was their deliverer, the root idea behind “saviour” (cp v11,12; 49:26; 60:16). This was demonstrated at the birth of their nationhood, when they were delivered from the “iron furnace” of Egypt (Deut 4:20).

I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia [Heb ‘Cush’, Sudan] and Seba [ie descendents of Cush, Gen 10:7 located south of Egypt] for thee

Note that this is in the past tense, “I gave …”, and it contrasts with verse 14, which looks to the future, “I will give”. So verse 3 refers to past events, for God is giving a reason why His people might expect protection—He had delivered them in the past, even bringing ruin upon nations mightier and numerous than themselves (cp Exod 10:14).

Verse 4 “Since thou wast precious in my sight, [and] thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee and people [rsv ‘in exchange’] for thy life [Heb nephesh, soul, person].”

Here there are three reasons given why God would defend and deliver them. They all look back on Israel’s past, and particularly to their beginnings:

(1) “thou wast precious in my sight”

(2) “thou hast been honourable”

(3) “and I have loved thee” (Mal 1:2).

In explaining the election of Israel, Paul directs attention to their origins, to the forefathers of the nation: “but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes” (Rom 11:28; 9:5; Deut 7:8; 10:15).

For these reasons He would do for them in the future what He had done in the past.

give men for thee and people for thy life” The curse of God has rested upon Israel’s persecutors, many of them having passed into oblivion. The final act of this Divine drama is yet to be seen, for Yahweh will go forth and fight against the nations that gather together against Jerusalem to battle, and they shall pay the price of their wrath against His people (Zech 12:9; 14:1–3).

Verse 5 “Fear not: for I am with thee, I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west:

Verse 6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth

In verse 14 reference is made to the great deliverance of the Jewish captives in Babylon (by Cyrus). The focus in verses 5 and 6 is far wider. Here we have reference to the great release of God’s chosen people from all nations following Messiah’s intervention. These words echo the thoughts of Deuteronomy 30:1–6, when God will “turn their captivity” and in His mercy gather them from all the nations where they have been scattered: “If any of thine be driven out unto the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will Yahweh thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee.” Isaiah’s description is vivid and beautiful: all the lands are under the control of God and He issues a command which is heard in all corners of the globe for them to yield up His people to their own country! Woe to any who fail to heed such a behest!

Verse 7 “Even everyone that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory; I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”

roth “When for my own glory I have created—formed—yea made!”

This section has now turned full circle: there is a repetition and therefore confirmation of the expressions used of Jacob in verse 1. Compare everyone “called by my name”, and “I have created him”, “I have formed him” with verse 1. It is not the Creator’s will that man should perish forever, or that His purpose with Israel should be aborted. The new creation out of the old would be developed for His glory through the Servant’s work. Ultimately this creation would embrace Gentiles as well (Isa 49). Paul, apostle of the Gentiles, quotes words from this verse when writing to the ecclesia at Ephesus which was made up of Jew and Gentile: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (2:10).