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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 44



Verse 1

1. Jacob my servant — The names Jacob and Israel, both synonymous, are used in these chapters to aid rhetorical effect by parallelism. They originally expressed psychological differences: The word Jacob meant a supplanter, and was changed to Israel, prevailer, when he who bore it wrestled and prevailed with God at Mahanaim, (Genesis 32:28,) and was ever afterward “a new man” and a faithful servant.

Verse 2

2. Fear not — Notwithstanding so many backslidings, God has intense love for his chosen, and to signify this he applies to them the name Jeshurun, which means, “people of my deepest affection.” — Gesenius. This name, with same meaning, is found in Deuteronomy 32:14; Deuteronomy 33:5; Deuteronomy 33:26. The name implies all that belongs to the designation elect people.

Verse 3

3. Water… thirsty… floods… ground — Of the two parallelisms here the second explains the first. “Here, the Lord says to the beloved people why they need not be afraid. In the judgment that is to consume the fleshly Israel, the spiritual Israel is to remain unharmed.” — Nagelsbach. Abundant water promised in drought symbolizes great spiritual outpourings upon the true Israel, as predicted in the second chapter of Joel. See also Isaiah 41:17-18; Isaiah 43:18-21. Floods, rivers, streams, waters, and the like, are staple terms with the prophet to illustrate copious outpourings of the Holy Spirit in Messianic times.

Verse 4

4. They — Jehovah’s spiritual seed, converted Jews and Gentiles.

Spring up as among the grass — In Isaiah 40:6-8, grass was the emblem for perishable mankind. In the midst of a frail human race God’s people are to flourish in beauty and abiding strength.

Verse 5

5. When truth and holiness shall prevail among God’s people, then shall the latter be in such honour. Gentiles to the far ends of the earth shall vie to come into association with them. The triple parallels of this verse are picturesque; זה, (zeh,) thrice used, this, this, this. One shall proclaim his adherence to the Christians; another shall write it: and another shall add Christian as his surname.

Verse 6

SEC. 4, (1) CYRUS AND IMMANUEL, Isaiah 44:6 to Isaiah 45:23.

1. The folly of idols, Isaiah 44:6-28.

6. Observe the same attributes are assumed by Christ in Revelation 1:8; Revelation 1:17; Revelation 22:13. This mission of the Lord Jesus in its outcome, as the New Testament presents it, is, that he is also Messiah, and that he is king and judge of Messiah’s kingdom, the kingdom of all the true Israel, whether of Jews or Gentiles.

Verse 7-8

7, 8. Who, as I — Who, except God, the King of Israel, is sufficiently all knowing to predict events future, and to declare the time and order of each?

Shall call — That is, to proclaim openly the event, and to place its occurrence in exact order as it will occur.

For me — God overrules events, so that in the end they turn to the furtherance of his plans.

Ancient people — Either, since the first generations from Adam, or since the first covenant made with Abraham. As relates to predictive power, it makes little difference which.

Things that are coming — Probably referring to the deliverance by Cyrus.

Shall come — More remote, so commentators of highest repute; not unlikely Messiah’s coming.

Fear ye not — Ye shall be disappointed in none of these things. Is there a God (literally, a Rock) beside me — An abiding foundation. Promises resting on such a Rock can never fail.

There is no God — Not, other than me, but, none independent of me. I am the sole eternal Being.

Verse 9

9. They that make… image… vanity — The subject is, heathendom itself can be called and become, like yourselves, my witnesses. They make idols which they know to be nothing.

They are their own witnesses — Or, Their witnesses are these things. That is, the heathen are fully aware that dumb idols can testify to absolutely nothing. “Their,” means, these makers and worshippers of idols. “These,” that is, the idols themselves. The folly of idolatry is a mark of fatuity in those engaged in it, and must lead to manifest shame. Not to shame merely, but to alarm also, when they assemble to put their system to the test.

Verse 12-13

12, 13. Notably, withering sarcasm is presented in these verses. Let the ridiculous farce come out in the translation following, that of Delitzsch: In the workshops, “The iron smith has a chisel, and works with redhot coals, and shapes it with hammer, and works it with his powerful arm. He gets hungry thereby, and his strength fails. If he drinks no water his strength fails. The carpenter draws the line, marks it with pencil, carries it out with the planes, makes a drawing of it with the compass, and carries it out like the figure of a man, like the beauty of a man, that it may dwell in the house.” Note the points: Great haste to have the idol made quickly. Some emergency. Hunger is neglected, and fainting occurs from thirst. Very eager to expedite the work while the iron is hot. Yet the god gives or allows no relief, except to hunger and thirst. Is such a god of any worth? Then the idol must be like a man — a beautiful man — and its divinity is on the same level.

Verses 14-17

14-17. Heweth… cedars… cypress… oak — Back of manufacture, the prophet now goes for the origin of idols. He seeks the trees from which they are made — trees which require rains long before they can be made into idols. He seeks the cedar, oak, holm oak. (Why seek trees of Palestine if this prophet is of Babylon at the time of Cyrus, and is not Isaiah one hundred and fifty years before?) The fig tree is used, too, but half of it — its chips — is taken for fuel to cook and warm by. Why such a material for the making of a god? Delitzsch quotes as follows, in loco: “Diagoras of Melos, a pupil of Democritus, once threw a wooden figure of Hercules into the fire, and said jocularly, “Hercules, come now, perform thy thirteenth labour, and help me cook my turnips.” With as keen a point does Isaiah virtually ask: “Is there a god in your cedar, holm, or fig tree logs or billets?”

Verses 18-20

18-20. The whole system of idol religion, in like manner, is simply foolish. Its votaries embrace it only to be blinded in conscience and reason. The makers and worshippers of idols are alike fools. And the sarcastic prophet cannot lament the dementing effects of the idol system in language more fitting than in the exactly literal words of Isaiah 44:19-20, which sufficiently explain themselves.

Verse 21

21. This sarcasm he turns into admonition of God’s people. For them chiefly he has drawn the foregoing picture, and from it he turns to the contrast.

Remember these, O Jacob and Israel — Note your own condition in comparison.

Thou art my servant — That is, one co-operating with me in establishing a kingdom of truth and salvation.

Verse 22

22. Blotted… clouds… sins — Two-fold figure of clouds obscuring the sun and of sins hiding the face of God. Clouds being removed, the sun, with the clear blue heavens, comes to view; so sins repented of, bring sense of approval from God, revealing the truth, I have redeemed thee.

Verse 23

23. Sing… shout… the Lord hath redeemed — Gospel hope is herein so full and assured, and Messianic prospect so grandly cheering, that a chorus of rejoicing is called for from the universe, the heavens, the earth’s depths, mountains, and forests. Such signs of victory and superiority — infinitely exceptional as to devils and created beings, and nothingnesses of the idol worship — are worthy of shouts through the universe in behalf of the Lord God Almighty and the Redeemer of Israel.

Verses 24-28

24-28. The remaining verses of the chapter virtually make a single paragraph, unbroken in sense; the sense being a confirmation of the divine promises to Israel — that is, to the Church — by instances cited of God’s omnipotence exercised in Israel’s peculiar behalf. They are the original forming of Israel by the Maker of all things, who made the heavens, (as well as man,) and phenomenally spread them out; and the earth also.

By myself — That is, by himself alone, no one being in existence besides him.

Frustrateth the tokens of the liars — Putting diviners to flight and shame; but, on the other hand, aiding his servants the prophets to foretell that Jerusalem shall be built, and Zion again occupied.

That saith to the deep, Be dry — Removeth all barriers to the return, seas and rivers opening dry passages therefor, (referring to Israel’s history, first at the Red Sea and the Jordan, and last at the Euphrates,) and who, at last, names the deliverer, Cyrus, God’s fold-builder for the flock.


The mention of Cyrus by name at the close (Isaiah 44:28) of an array of divine titles and perfections is no trivial circumstance — no dim prediction of this personage — one hundred and seventy years before his coming. There is significance in his coming and in his reign at such a time of the greatest importance to the world’s civilization. The character of Cyrus is variously drawn in the fragments of the old histories, but in none of them is there any thing otherwise than what, in the hands of divine providence, he could have been with full free will shaped to be a coadjutor of Jehovah — the Lord’s servant. Prior to his connexion with the Jews he is represented as a great conqueror and organizer, but not wanting in humane and noble feelings toward his subjects — to the Jews especially: who, both as colonists in Palestine and as citizens and residents in the East, adhered patriotically to him amid all attempted revolts.

The liberation from exile was a thing small, indeed, in itself, when compared with the other great events of his reign, yet it ranks with the greatest events as seen in its issues to mankind. Naturally endowed with great special gifts, and these sanctified measurably by the divinity which rules over as well as in men, he was prepared to be thus “the anointed of Jehovah” in the special work of furthering the redemption of mankind.

Speculations as to the name Cyrus, from Kur or Kuru, (Persian,) and this Hebraized in Koresh, may be waived; but the ancient references to him may well be noted as to his character. Eschylus (Persae) says, “He was naturally gentle;” Plutarch and Diodorus preserve traditions greatly favourable. Josephus also. Thus he was eminently fitted to facilitate the progress of the redemptive work of Christ. Melchizedec and Cyrus (both of them Gentiles outside the sacred enclosure from Abraham) were certainly proper to be called types of Christ at points in which they shadowed the Christ-like character. How came Cyrus to so touch at those points? By direct providential ordering leading to his consent to be so fashioned of God.

God “raised him up in righteousness.” (Isaiah 45:13.) God chose him “to perform his will in Babylon.” (Isaiah 48:14.) See also 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, and first verse in Ezra 1. Not unlikely Cyrus was in direct communication with Daniel (So Josephus.) Doubtless Cyrus was not a polytheist. His religion, (if that were Zoroastrianism,) did not allow it as heathenism allows it. It is conceivable that, through Daniel, those chapters in Isaiah were exhibited to Cyrus. Daniel, though then, it may be, in his last years, could not but be serviceable and influential with the young conqueror; for Daniel was a sage, a statesman, a tried man as to his own religion, and so far himself also a conqueror.


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 44:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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