Again we have in this section one of Isaiah’s favourite literary forms, the courtroom drama. The parties are assembled and consist of Israel (v8) and the nations (v9). The issue to be settled is whether what Yahweh asserts are fables or attested by the facts of history. Can the idol-gods predict and fulfil their predictions? As the proceedings unravel, the silence of any pretenders to omnipotence gives way to Yahweh’s claim to alone have the sovereign capacity to outline in prophecy a course of action, and to see it through. This is followed by the just claims of truth and power (v10–13). How could a people, the very subject of Yahweh’s predictions and choice, fail to know and believe in Him?

The following break-up is helpful

Verses 8,9 The Court Assembled

Verse 9 The Issue Announced

Verse 10 Yahweh’s Witnesses (“… that I am he”)

Verses 10,11 Yahweh’s Claims (“before me…”)

Verse 12 The Issue Settled

Verse 13 The Verdict

43:8–13 The Absolute Certainty of What Yahweh has Promised. Israel, though Blind to the Fact, is the Key Witness. Yahweh is Sovereign for He Alone Predicts and Performs.

Verse 8 “Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears,

Verse 9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and show us former things? Let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear and say, It is truth.”

A courtroom scene is presented to us. The parties are assembled in the court to hear the evidence. One party (v8) consists of the blind who have eyes and the deaf who have ears! This is a constant description of Judah in Isaiah’s prophecy (6:9–10; 42:19–20,16). Though they have been in the vanguard of Yahweh’s work in the earth, they have not “seen” or understood (cp 42:25). The other party is an international group, “all the nations”. Of such crucial importance is the issue to be considered that all should be present to deliberate the facts.

“Who among them can declare this, and show us former things” What is the “this” and the “former things”? Reference is being made to the Exodus events of verse 3: “I gave Egypt for thy ransom” etc. “This” and “former” refer to the same happening. The redemption of Israel from Egypt was the first or former act of Yahweh for the nation. The false idol-gods of the nations are unable to allege any similar act to their credit. Yahweh of Israel alone has the sovereign capacity to declare His purpose and to do it without let or hindrance. This is the hallmark of omnipotence.

“let them bring forth their witnesses that they may be justified: or let them hear and say, It is truth”

The only way to annul God’s sovereign claims is to bring forth evidence to confute them. By this means only can idol worship and indifference to Him be “justified”. In the face of total failure to find “witnesses”, the course of wisdom is silence and acknowledgement of Yahweh’s omnipotence—“let them hear and say, It is truth”!

Verse 10 “Ye are my witnesses, saith Yahweh, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed [roth ‘not formed a god; mrg ‘nothing formed of God’] neither shall there be after me.”

Verse 11 “I, even I, am Yahweh; and beside me there is no saviour.”

Israel enjoyed a unique relationship with God. Through the prophet Amos Yahweh said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (3:2). Of the singular relationship with Israel the Psalmist writes: “He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them” (147:19-20). So Israel was “His witness”, “His servant” and “His chosen” people and enjoying such an exalted privilege they should have (1) “known”, (2) believed, and (3) understood that He was the one true and eternal God, or “I am he”. But the tragedy was that His appeal to them for witness and testimony was apparently met by silence—they were blind! Yahweh must become solely responsible for His own case, and His contention covers (1) His being (v10), and (2) His work (v11).

(1) His Being—“before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” This contrasts with “the gods of the pagan world who were often spoken of as formed, created, coming into being or standing in genealogical relationship to each other” (JA Motyer). Yahweh proceeds from none and has no successor! He existed from the beginning without superior or inferior. He is the one and only true God (John 17:3; 1 Tim 1:17; 6:13–16; Rev 4:10–11).

(2) His Work —“I, even I, am Yahweh; and beside me there is no saviour” This stated fact should have been plain to the chosen people. Events of the Exodus are again in view, and the survival of Israel from Egyptian bondage: were it not for the intervention of Yahweh, the Saviour, Israel would have perished in infancy (cp Exod 2:25; 3:7-8, 15-16).

In a broader sense, we know that Yahweh’s work as the Saviour of man has been demonstrated in the giving of His only begotten Son. By him, men of all nations can be reconciled to God and find salvation. Whilst Jesus Christ is the “Saviour of the world” (John 4:42), he was doing the will of his Father who is supremely the Saviour (cp Titus 1:3–4; 2:10, 13; 3:4,6. In each case God and Jesus Christ are called “our Saviour”, and in each case God is put first! He is the prime mover, the great Architect and Instigator of salvation, and Jesus Christ was sent by Him to do His will).

Verse 12 The Issue Settled

“I have declared [ie foretold], and have saved, and I have showed [ie proclaimed], when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith Yahweh, that I am God [El].

That is, what idols or oracles cannot do, Yahweh has done. There is a significant sequence of verbs in the first line of verse 12.

(1) “declared” In the case of Yahweh “truth” does not slowly ‘emerge’ as people struggle to understand the acts of God. Rather, as in Exodus 3–4 God’s purpose is plainly made known: He tells Moses and His people what coming events will be and what they will mean!

(2) “and have saved” This is then followed by the events, the deliverance of His people from Egypt (Exod 4–15).

(3) “and I have showed” (proclaimed). After the events (the Exodus deliverance) the further and deeper significance of Israel’s relationship to them is brought to them through men divinely inspired.

when there was no strange god among you” (cp Deut 32:16). At the time there was no foreign deity or idol in their midst and so no other agency, human or “divine”, could have been responsible for such intimations about His work and purpose.

“ye are my witnesses, saith Yahweh, that I am God [El]

Here is again a statement with much feeling. God is prompting the blind and deaf nation to bear record to the truth of these words, but, alas, they are silent!

Verse 13 The Verdict

“Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let [rsv hinder, roth reverseth] it?”

Because His people Israel fail to witness and affirm His words, Yahweh must engage in self-proclamation. He steps into the role of presiding judge and announces the verdict. The sentiments of verses 10 and 11 are recapitulated. The verdict goes in favour of Yahweh and His work.

“Yea, before the day was [niv ‘Yes, from ancient days’] I am he”. The idea is that from the beginning of time, and at the present time as well (not just in the past at the Exodus), and even reaching into the future, He is God (Rev 1:4; 11:17). This is a comprehensive claim. Yahweh is the sole deity.

There is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work and who can reverse [niv] it” Yahweh reaffirms His sovereignty in deciding what shall happen to His people. He issues a challenge to any who might stand in His path!