44:1–5 Despite Her Sin and Suffering (43:28), Israel will yet be Blessed and Delight in Yahweh’s Goodness

Verse 1 “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen”

Notice that the opening words “Yet now”, are a translation of the same Hebrew word used to open the parallel statement in 43:1, viz, “But now, thus saith Yahweh…”. The objective of this “Yet now” is not so much to draw a contrast between the judgment of 44:28, but to guard against a wrong conclusion being drawn that God had utterly cast off His people. The legal verdict calling for total destruction is not going to be the end of the issue!

“O Jacob my servant [lxx—Grk pais, child, attendant]; and Israel whom I have chosen” Remarkably, in a context expressing His frustration with His people we are told that they retain a lofty status, being still regarded by Him as His “servant” and His “chosen” people: “but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (rsv ‘irrevocable’; Rom 11:28–29). Note also that this form of address is repeated in verse 2, so emphasizing this indelible fact; also the verb “chosen” is in the perfect tense, indicating that the choice of Israel is a finality!

Verse 2 “Thus saith Yahweh that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.”

This is the word that Yahweh has for Jacob to hear. They must listen (v1), and they will learn that it is not punishment that will come their way but refreshment (v3) and relief.

“Yahweh that made [bara] thee, and formed [yatsar] thee from the womb” These terms also stress Yahweh’s crucial relationship to this people from their beginnings (cp 43:1,7,21); without His help at significant times in their past they would have passed into oblivion, like so many ancient peoples (Mal 3:6; Jer 30:10,11).

“which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob my servant” In these words, as in those before and after, there are wonderful expressions of comfort and consolation for a nation that has suffered so much in the past. There yet remains in the Divine economy a time of unequalled glory and favour for Jacob.

“will help” is in the imperfect tense, promising repeated beneficent acts as and when needed.

“Fear not” The fears of Israel’s past (eg during the Holocaust, cp Deut 28:66–67) and present, will become a receding, fading memory when God’s favour is restored to them.

“and thou, Jesurun” This word occurs four times, being a poetical name for Israel expressing tenderness and affection (Deut 32:15; 33:5,26). Gesenius says it is a diminutive form of the Hebrew gasher meaning “upright”, and the –un ending indicating affection.

The lxx has ēgapēmenos Israēl, that is, “beloved Israel”, and the mlb “the upright”. This surely is the character that Yahweh would like to see in His people, so it is used here with loving irony, stressing His affection despite their failure to fulfil their Maker’s intention thus far.

44:3–4 Blessing upon Descendants

Verse 3 “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.”

“For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty [rsv ‘upon the thirsty land’], and floods upon the dry ground” Rain from heaven on the dry, parched earth here symbolises the refreshing, life-giving blessing whereby God will transform the lives of His people. It is a figure often used in Scripture (Deut 32:2; Psa 72:6; Acts 3:19).

“I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” The figure of the previous lines is not explained until verse 4. The agency of this dramatic change will be His Spirit, which when poured out upon them will cause them to flourish (cp 59:21). The change of fortunes for Israel will be stark and evident to all, transforming them from the tail to the head of nations (27:6; Jer 30:16–24; 31:10–14; 32:39–42; Zech 8:23).

Notice that the promises are to Jacob’s “seed” and “offspring”. There is no prospect so consoling to the heart of parents than good laid up in store for their children. But, alas, here the fate of the parents would be dependent upon them listening and heeding Yahweh’s admonitions.

Verse 4 “And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses” Verse 4 continues the figure of rain upon the dry and thirsty ground. To portray the coming prosperity of Israel we are told of fresh, lush, luxuriant growth and well-watered fertility. The description is reminiscent of the prosperity and happiness of the righteous: “And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in season; his leaf also shall not wither (Psa 1:3, cp also Jer 17:8).

44:5 The Glad Response

Verse 5 “One shall say, I am Yahweh’s;  and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob;  and another shall subscribe with his hand unto Yahweh,  and surname himself by the name of Israel.”

There is parallelism in this verse, the first and third, and the second and fourth lines corresponding to each other. Here we have described the response of Israel to the Spirit’s word in their midst; the heart and affections of the people will change. There will be respect and love for, and a desire to identify with the history, the forefathers and above all Yahweh, the Saviour of the nation. Turning to Yahweh involves turning to His people, the one is inseparable from the other. This change is dramatically illustrated by the four professions.

(1) “One shall say, I am Yahweh’s” This expression of devotion to God recognizes the worthlessness of all human values and pursuits; that dedication to Yahweh’s service alone has a future —it signals that one is committed to Him, belongs to Him, having been bought with a price, even with the precious blood of His Son (1 Cor 6:20, 7:23; 1 Pet 1:18–19; 2 Pet 2:1).

(2) “and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob… (3) and surname himself by the name of Israel” To call oneself by the name of another is to regard oneself as belonging to his family, that is, in this case, of being affiliated with the religion, hopes, beliefs and, above all, the God of Jacob, who became Israel. In the day when this takes place, national Israelites will become spiritual Israelites. They shall have respect for their illustrious ancestry and their Creator, Yahweh of Israel. There will be no seeking to deny or hide their historical roots but a desire to proclaim them.

(4) “and another shall subscribe with his hand unto Yahweh” (lxx “and another shall write with his hand”) The figure appears to be taken from the mode of making a contract where the names of those involved were written on the document (cp Neh 9:38).

44:6–20 Religion: the Divine and True Versus the Human and False

In chapters 40 and 41 the folly of idolatry is exposed by comparison with Yahweh’s creative power and glory, but in chapters 43 and 44 the absurdity of idolatry makes the glory of One True God to shine out.

“The idol has no power to act, save or change the human heart, but leaves the devotee in the same spiritual darkness and deception with which he started” (JA Motyer).

In verses 6 to 8 Yahweh is the instigator and architect of a purpose which incorporates, saves and glorifies His chosen; but verses 9 to 20 depict the human initiatives of the idolater—he is busy making his idol, but void of intelligent thought that could have spared him the trouble! He is left unchanged and absorbed in his own resources.

44:6–8 Consolation for Israel as Yahweh Alone is the Master of Prophecy and History

Verse 6 “Thus said Yahweh the King of Israel, and his redeemer, Yahweh of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God [Heb elohim]” This opening verse commences the argument that Yahweh is the only true God and that the idols are vain and worthless.

For comments on “King of Israel” and “Redeemer” see notes on 43:14–15. As King of Israel, Yahweh acts as a father and indeed is so described in Isaiah 63:16, a fact becoming clearer with the advent of His Son (Matt 6:9); as Redeemer, He is seen delivering His people from Egypt (Exod 15:13; Psa 77:15); as Yahweh of hosts, the One Who wields absolute power and omnipotence through His “heavenly hosts” (Psa 103:21; 89:6–8).

“I am the first, and I am the last” This is a comment on His nature. As “first” He does not derive His life from any other source (1 Tim 6:16), but is self-sufficient and self-existing.

As “last” He remains to the end, unchallenged and supreme (the use of this word is different to 41:4; refer to a previous issue).

“and beside me there is no god” This is repeatedly affirmed (cp 43:10–12; 45:5,6,14,18,21 [twice], 23; Deut 4:35,39)

Verse 7 “And who as I, shall call, and shall declare it [rsv ‘Who is like me? Let him proclaim it’], and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming [roth‘yet to be’], and shall come [roth‘and that shall come to pass’], let them shew unto them” This verse presents a challenge to all contenders. It sets the conditions that would have to be met in order to claim equality! What is referred to by the “it”, in the phrases, “shall declare it,” and “set it in order”?

Notice the three verbs used here

1 “shall call” This verb is used of the detailed control of the universe in 40:26, and of detailed historical events (41:4). So it means to be in control and in charge.

2 “shall declare” means to give an account of an event summoned into being.

3 “set it in order” is the verb used of getting all the details of the Tabernacle right (Ex 40:4), or putting a battle in order (1 Sam 17:8–9). It means to get everything in its rightful place, and to set events in a coherent plan of history.

“since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming [mlb ‘for I directed the ancient people and future events…’]”

Yahweh has proved His claims, having over centuries guided and governed His people Israel’s history. He calls upon the idol-gods to provide specific examples of where they had established and cared for a people! In the Old Testament the Exodus is the landmark event that demonstrates the caring relationship between Yahweh and His people. Is there a parallel event in the history of any other nation? No! Unlike the idols He did not leave Israel in affliction (cp v18–20).

The challenge then about the past:

1 to show initiative—“shall call” (proclaim)

2 to understand—“shall declare”, and

3 “to set in order”, becomes a challenge about the future and the ability to predict.

“let them show unto them [rsv Let them tell us (mrg them) what is yet to be]. In their own interest, let the idol-gods and their devotees vindicate themselves by predicting future events!

Verse 8 “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God [Heb eloah] beside me? yea, there is no God [Heb tzur]; I know not any”

“Fear ye not, neither be afraid” While verse 7 exposes the inability of the idol-gods, the real point being emphasised is the glory of the God of Israel and hence the security Israel can enjoy—“Fear not…”

“have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it, ye are even my witnesses” Yahweh’s revelations had been made known to His people. His special purpose with them was made clear at Sinai following their redemption from Egypt (Ex 19:5–6). And even now in spite of the threat to destroy them (43:28), they need not fear, for He has already made known his intention to blot out their transgressions (43:25). Of this comforting truth they were witnesses and in it they could find assurance.

“Is there a God [eloah] beside me?” The use of eloah in lieu of the word elohim, its only occurrence in Isaiah, stresses that He is the one and only God.

“yea there is no God [tzur]” A rock is a symbol of refuge (Psa 71:3; 95:1), trustworthiness, changeless integrity and reality as opposed to fantasy (Deut 32:31). The Lord who brought Israel to birth (Deut 32:4) will ultimately glorify His people. His character is the ultimate assurance of His people (Exod 34:6–8).