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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Isaiah 45:9

 

 

"Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker-- An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, `What are you doing?' Or the thing you are making say, `He has no hands'?

Adam Clarke Commentary

Wo unto him that striveth with his Maker "To unto him that contendeth with the power that formed him" - The prophet answers or prevents the objections and cavils of the unbelieving Jews, disposed to murmur against God, and to arraign the wisdom and justice of his dispensations in regard to them; in permitting them to be oppressed by their enemies, and in promising them deliverance instead of preventing their captivity. St. Paul has borrowed the image, and has applied it to the like purpose with equal force and elegance: "Nay, but, O man! who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, out of the same lump to make one vessel to honor, and another to dishonor?" Romans 9:20, Romans 9:21. This is spoken says Kimchi, against the king of Babylon, who insulted the Most High, bringing forth the sacred vessels, drinking out of them, and magnifying himself against God.

Or thy work, He hath no hands "And to the workman, Thou hast no hands" - The Syriac renders, as if he had read, ידיך פעל היתי ולא velo hayithi pheal yadeycha, "neither am I the work of thy hands;" the Septuagint, as if they had reads לך ודים ואין פעלת ולא velo phaalta veeyn yaadim lecha, "neither hast thou made me; and thou hast no hands." But the fault seems to be in the transposition of the two pronouns; for ופעלך uphoolcha, read ופעלו uphoolo : and for לו lo, read לך lecha . So Houbigant corrects it; reading also ופעלו uphoolo ; which last correction seems not altogether necessary. The Septuagint, in MSS. Pachom. and 1. D. 2 have it thus, και το εργον ουκ εχεις χειρας, which favors the reading here proposed.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/isaiah-45.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Wo unto him that striveth with his Maker! - This verse commences a new subject. Its connection with the preceeding is not very obvious. It may be designed to prevent the objections and cavils of the unbelieving Jews who were disposed to complain against God, and to arraign the wisdom of his dispensations in regard to them, in permitting them to be oppressed by their enemies, and in promising them deliver ance instead of preventing their captivity. So Lowth understands it. Rosenmuller regards it as designed to meet a cavil, because God chose to deliver them by Cyrus, a foreign prince, and a stranger to the true religion, rather than by one of their own nation. Kimchi, and some others, suppose that it is designed to repress the pride of the Babylonians, who designed to keep the Jews in bondage, and who would thus contend with God. But perhaps the idea is of a more general nature.

It may be designed to refer to the fact that any interposition of God, any mode of manifesting himself to people, meets with enemies, and with those who are disposed to contend with him, and especially any display of his mercy and grace in a great revival of religion. In the previous verse the prophet had spoken of the revival of religion. Perhaps he here adverts to the fact that such a manifestation of his mercy would meet with opposition. So it was when the Saviour came, and when Christianity spread around the world; so it is in every revival now; and so it will be, perhaps, in the spreading of the gospel throughout the world in the time that shall usher in the millennium. Men thus contend with their Maker; resist the influences of his Spirit; strive against the appeals made to them; oppose his sovereignty; are enraged at the preaching of the gospel, and often combine to oppose him. That this is the meaning of this passage, seems to be the sentiment of the apostle Paul, who has borrowed this image, and has applied it in a similar manner: ‹Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel auto honor, and another unto dishonor?‘ Romans 9:20-21It is implied that people are opposed to the ways which God takes to govern the world; it is affirmed that calamity shall follow all the resistance which people shall make. This we shall follow, because, first, God has all power, and all who contend with him must be defeated and overthrown; and, secondly, because God is right, and the sinner who opposes him is wrong, and must and will be punished for his resistance.

Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds … of the earth - Lowth renders this,

Woe unto him that contendeth with the power that formed him;

The potsherd with the moulder of the clay.

The word rendered ‹potsherd‘ (חרשׁ cheresh ) means properly “a shard,” or “sherd,” that is, a fragment of an earthen vessel Leviticus 6:28; Leviticus 11:33; Job 2:8; Job 41:22; Psalm 22:16. It is then put proverbially for anything frail and mean. Here it is undoubtedly put for man, regarded as weak and contemptible in his efforts against God. Our translation would seem to denote that it was appropriate for man to contend with equals, but not with one so much his superior as God; or that he might have some hope of success in contending with his fellowmen, but none in contending with his Maker. But this sense does not well suit the connection. The idea in the mind of the prophet is not that such contentions are either proper or appropriate among people, but it is the supreme folly and sin of contending with God; and the thought in illustration of this is not that people may appropriately contend with each other, but it is the superlative weakness and fragility of man. The translation proposed, therefore, by Jerome, ‹Wo to him who contends with his Maker - testa de samiis terrae - a potsherd among the earthen pots (made of the earth of Samos) of the earth‘ - and which is found in the Syriac, and adopted by Rosenmuller, Gesenius, and Noyes, is doubtless the true rendering. According to Gesenius, the particle את 'êth here means “by” or “among”; and the idea is, that man is a potsherd among the potsherds of the earth; a weak fragile creature among others equally so - and yet presuming impiously to contend with the God that made him. The Septuagint renders this, ‹Is anything endowed with excellence? I fashioned it like the clay of a potter. Will the plowman plow the ground all the day long? Will the clay say to the potter,‘ etc.

Shall the clay … - It would be absurd for the clay to complain to him that moulds it, of the form which he chooses to give it. Not less absurd is it for man, made of clay, and moulded by the hand of God, to complain of the fashion in which he has made him; of the rank which he has assigned him in the scale of being; and of the purposes which he designs to accomplish by him.

He hath no hands - He has no skill, no wisdom, no power. It is by the hand chiefly that pottery is moulded; and the hands here stand for the skill or wisdom which is evinced in making it. The Syriac renders it, ‹Neither am I the work of thy hands.‘


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/isaiah-45.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 45:9

Woe unto him that striveth with Ms Maker!--

Striving with God

The strong word “strive,” and the emphatic reassertion of the mission of Cyrus (Isaiah 45:13), as well as the connection with Isaiah 45:1-8, show that deliberate opposition to the Divine purpose, and not mere faint-hearted unbelief (as in Isaiah 40:27; Isaiah 51:13), is here referredto.
(
Prof. J. Skinner, D. D.)

Opposing the Divine purpose

Those who were primarily addressed were at variance with God their Creator on two accounts--

1. Because He permitted His people to be led captive by their enemies into a distant country, where they were oppressed.

2. Because, notwithstanding the servants of the Lord spoke much concerning their liberation, the event seemed altogether improbable, and beyond even the power of God to effect. (R. Macculloch.)

Contending with God

I. BY MURMURING AT HIS DISPENSATIONS.

II. BY RESISTING HIS AUTHORITY.

III. BY CONTEMNING HIS INSTRUCTIONS. (R. Macculloch.)

Striving with our Maker

If we duly consider the life of man since the fall, we shall find it to be one continued struggle. In the great and most momentous affair of religion, upon which our whole happiness depends, what a domestic war do we find within our own breasts! Happy are they who are successful in this spiritual conflict; and are so wise as vigorously to join forces with the Lord of hosts! But woe be to him who is of a party with the enemy, and “striveth with his Maker.”

I. We will consider WHAT IT IS TO STRIVE WITH OUR MAKER. In general it is to resist His will, and oppose ourselves to His government, to struggle against the dispensations of His providence.

II. THE EXTREME VILENESS AND FOLLY OF SO DOING.

I. In general, if the height of ingratitude be a vile thing, and if to oppose and contend with our best Friend, who is infinitely wiser than we are, and loves us better than we do ourselves, and whose power too is so irresistible, that after all our strugglings His pleasure shall be accomplished one way or other, if not to our happiness, as He at first intended, then to our ruin, since we are resolved to have it so,--if this be a foolish thing, then to “strive with our Maker” does imply all the folly and baseness that a man can possibly be guilty of.

2. But more particularly, to strive with our Maker is a most vile and foolish thing, as it signifies--

III. THE MISERABLE CONSEQUENCE of thus striving with our Maker. “Woe unto him.”

1. As it signifies disobedience to His commands. For who can imagine but that a Governor so wise, and so powerful, and so just as God is, will in due time assert His authority, and secure His laws and government from contempt, by the condign punishment of those who have been so hardy as to resist and rebel against Him, and made no account of the plainest and most express declarations of His will? And when the Almighty shall proceed to do justice, who can withstand Him, or hope to avoid the stroke, but must sink under the weight of it for ever!

2. Nor will our discontents and murmurings at the Divine disposals escape without due punishment. For suppose that God should be so far provoked by our repinings as to throw us off from His care and protection, and leave us to ourselves, and in His anger comply with our foolish desires, and give us what we are so fond of, and which He sees will be our ruin, how sadly sensible shall we then soon be of the vast difference between God’s government and our own!

3. And so for impatience under troubles and afflictions, suppose our outcries and strugglings and resistance should make God withhold His paternal chastisements, and suffer sin upon us without correction, and disregard us as desperate and incorrigible; what woe on earth could befall us greater than this?

4. What but the extremest of all woes can be expected from our rejecting those proposals of reconciliation to God, which are not only offered but pressed upon us daily by the ministers of Christ, and to which we are constantly moved by the workings of the Spirit of God within, upon our souls! (W. Bragge.)

The misery of contending with God

I. SPECIFY SOME INSTANCES IN WHICH THE SINNER MAY BE CONSIDERED AS STRIVING WITH GOD. I hardly think it worth while to mention atheism, which opposes His very being, and tries to banish Him from the world which He has made. Some, indeed, have supposed that a speculative atheist is an impossibility. How far God may give up a man “to strong delusion to believe a lie,” who has despised and rejected the advantages of revelation, it is not for us to determine,--but “if the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” It is undeniable, however, that we have a multitude of practical atheists. That is, we have thousands who live precisely as they would do if they believed there was no God. They strive with Him--

1. By transgressing His holy and righteous law.

2. By opposing the Gospel.

3. By violating the dictates of conscience.

4. By refusing to resign themselves to the dispensations of His providence.

5. By the persecution of His people.

6. By trying to hinder the spread of His cause.

II. CONSIDER THE “WOE” WHICH HIS OPPOSITION NECESSARILY ENTAILS UPON HIM. This striving with God is--

1. A practice the most shameful and ungrateful. What would you think of a child who should strive with his father, reproach his character, counteract all his designs, and endeavour to injure his concerns? But such is your conduct towards God.

2. A practice the most unreasonable and absurd. For observe--in all the instances in which you oppose Him He is aiming to promote your good: His design is to make you wise, to make you holy, to make you happy; and the advantages of compliance will be all your own. Besides, can you do without Him? In life? In death?

3. Therefore nothing can be more injurious and ruinous. In striving with Him, you only resemble the wave that dashes against the rock, and is driven back in foam; or the ox that kicks against the goad, and only wounds himself; or the thorns and briers that should set themselves in battle array against the fire. To improve this awful subject let me ask--Whether you are for God or against Him? There is no neutrality here. We have been speaking of a striving with God which is unlawful and destructive--but there is a striving with Him which is allowable and necessary. It is by prayer and supplication. (W. Jay.)

The indelicacy of criticising God

(verse l 0):--That a child should so speak of father or mother is unthinkably unnatural and impious. And such are they who criticise God’s method of saving His people through Cyrus. (A. B.Davidson, D. D.)


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 45:9". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/isaiah-45.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

"Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! A potsherd among the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto a father, what begettest thou? or to a woman, With what travailest thou?"

"That the infidel and discontented portion of the Jewish people is here intended, seems beyond dispute. No arguments could more forcibly evince the extreme arrogance and folly of creatures pretending to scan and carp at the plans of Divine Providence."[16] The apostle Paul quoted these words from Isaiah (Romans 9:20,21) and applied the passage there to the incredible folly of God's creatures complaining and murmuring against the doings of their Maker. Right here is another complete refutation of the silly postulation of some "Second Isaiah's" having written these prophecies. If there had ever been such a "Second Isaiah" as that imagined by critics, he would most certainly have belonged to the "establishment" of the chosen people; otherwise, he would never have been heard. But that "establishment" was precisely the reservoir of the critical attitude toward God which surfaces here. The corollary of this is that, in a thousand years, the "establishment" could never have produced such a conception as that of a pagan ruler such as Cyrus being chosen as God's anointed to deliver the people from slavery. This verse nine removes any possibility that we are dealing with anything other than the true prophecies of Isaiah in these wonderful chapters.

Regarding the question of what the objection among the infidel Jews actually was, Hailey and many others explain it as a rebellion against the idea that God "would raise up Cyrus, a heathen, to deliver Israel."[17] Some have suggested that they accused God of bungling their delivery by its long delay, or by his failure to prevent it altogether! What a stupid folly it is that mortal men would dare to murmur such criticisms against the infinite God!


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James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/isaiah-45.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker,.... That contends with him, enters into a controversy, and disputes with him, or litigates a point with him; quarrels with his purposes and decrees; murmurs and repines at his providences, and finds fault with his dispensations: this seems to have respect to the murmurs, quarrels, and contests of the Jews about Christ, the author of righteousness and salvation, when he should appear:

let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth; let men strive with men, who are as earthen vessels made of the same mass and lump, and so are upon an equal foot, and a match for each other; but let them not have the insolence and vanity to strive with their Maker, who, as he has made them, can dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel:

shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, what makest thou? yet this might be said with as much propriety and justice as that the Jews should quarrel with God for not sending the Messiah as a temporal prince to rescue them from the Roman yoke; but in a mean and humble manner, in the form of a servant, as a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs; and, at last, became obedient to the death of the cross, the way in which he was to be the Saviour of men: or

thy work, he hath no hands? or thus, or "thy work say unto thee, he, the potter, hath no hands"; no power nor skill to make me; I can make myself: as weakly, as wickedly, and as foolishly did the Jews, seeing no need of the Saviour sent them, nor of his righteousness and salvation, argue for justification by their own works, and in favour of their self-sufficiency to work out their own salvation. The Targum takes the words to be spoken to idolaters, and paraphrases the former part thus;

"woe to him who thinks to contend in judgment against the words of his Creator, and trusts that earthen images shall profit him, which are made out of the dust of the earth, &c.'

and there are many interpreters who think they are spoken against the idolatrous Babylonians, particularly against Belshazzar, as Kimchi; and others, against Astyages, a king of Persia, who was angry with the father and mother of Cyrus, and sought to have slain him as soon as bornF17Vid. Abendana in Miclol Yophi in loc. .


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-45.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

l Woe to him that contendeth with his Maker! [Let] the potsherd [contend] with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, m He hath no hands?

(l) By this he bridles their impatience, who in adversity and trouble murmur against God, and will not tarry his pleasure: willing that man would match with his like, and not contend against God.

(m) That is, it is not perfectly made.


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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/isaiah-45.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Anticipating the objections which the Jews might raise as to why God permitted their captivity, and when He did restore them, why He did so by a foreign prince, Cyrus, not a Jew (Isaiah 40:27, etc.), but mainly and ultimately, the objections about to be raised by the Jews against God‘s sovereign act in adopting the whole Gentile world as His spiritual Israel (Isaiah 45:8, referring to this catholic diffusion of the Gospel), as if it were an infringement of their nation‘s privileges; so Paul expressly quotes it (Romans 9:4-8, Romans 9:11-21).

Let … strive — Not in the Hebrew; rather, in apposition with “him,” “A potsherd among the potsherds of the earth!” A creature fragile and worthless as the fragment of an earthen vessel, among others equally so, and yet presuming to strive with his Maker! English Version implies, it is appropriate for man to strive with man, in opposition to 2 Timothy 2:24 [Gesenius].

thy … He — shall thy work say of thee, He … ?


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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/isaiah-45.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

Woe — As God here makes many glorious promises to Cyrus, so he pronounces a curse upon them, who should endeavour to hinder him.

Contend — Contend, if you please, with your fellow creatures, but not with your creator.

Or — He turns his speech to the potter.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/isaiah-45.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

9.and10.Wo to him that striveth with his Maker! This passage is explained in various ways. Some think that it refers to King Belshazzar, who, as is evident from Daniel, haughtily defied God, when he profaned the vessels of the Temple. (Daniel 5:3.) But that is too forced an exposition. The second might appear to be more probable, that the Lord grants far more to his children than a man would grant to his sons, or an artisan to his work; for they suppose that a comparison of this kind is made. “If the son rise up against the father, and debate with him, he will not be listened to. The father will choose to retain his power, and deservedly will restrain his son; and in like manner, if the clay rise up against the workman. But the Lord permits questions to be put to him, and kindly offers to satisfy the people; nay, even bids them put questions to him.” And thus they join together the 10th and 11th verses, and think that God’s forbearance is manifested by treating us with greater kindness, and condescending to greater familiarity, than men usually exhibit towards their sons.

The latter exposition is indeed more plausible, but both are at variance with the Prophet’s meaning; and therefore a more simple view appears to me to be, to understand that the Prophet restrains the complaints of men, who in adversity murmur and strive with God. This was a seasonable warning, that the Jews, by patiently and calmly bearing the cross, might receive the consolation which was offered to them; for whenever God holds us in suspense, the flesh prompts us to grumble, “Why does he not do more quickly what he intends to do? Of what benefit is it to him to torture us by his delay?” The Prophet, therefore, in order to chastise this insolence, says, “Does the potsherd dispute with the potter? Do sons debate with their fathers? Has not God a right to treat us as he thinks fit? What remains but that we shall bear patiently the punishments which he inflicts on us? We must therefore allow God to do what belongs to him, and must not take anything from his power and authority.” I consider הוי, (hoi,) Wo! to be an interjection expressive of reproof and chastisement.

Potsherd to potsherds. That is, as we say in common language, (Que chacun se prenne a son pareil,) “Let each quarrel with his like,” “Let potsherds strive with potsherds of the earth.” (198) When he sends men to those who are like themselves, he reproves their rashness and presumption, in not considering that it is impossible to maintain a dispute with God without leading to destruction; as if he had said, “With whom do they think that they have to deal? Let them know that they are not able to contend with God, (199) and that at length they must yield. And if, unmindful of their frailty, they attack heaven after the manner of the giants, they shall at length feel that they did wrong in warring (200) with their Maker, who can without any difficulty break in pieces, and even crush into powder, the vessels which he has made.

Some interpret חשים (charasim) to mean “workmen” or “potters,” and suppose the meaning to be, “Shall the potsherd rise up against the potter?” But those interpreters change the point and read ש (schin) instead of ש (sin). I acknowledge that such diversity and change may easily occur, but I prefer to follow the ordinary reading, and to adopt this simple meaning, “Shall the clay say to its maker? A potter is allowed to make any vessel of what form he pleases, a father is allowed to command his sons; will you not admit that God possesses a higher right?” Thus he reproves those who in adversity remonstrate with God, and cannot patiently endure afflictions.

We ought therefore to listen to the warning given by Peter, when he bids us learn to submit to God, and to “humble ourselves under his mighty hand,” (1 Peter 5:6,) so as to yield to his authority, and not to strive with him, if he sometimes tries us by various afflictions; because we ought to acknowledge his just right to govern us according to his pleasure. If we must come to debate, he will have such strong and decisive arguments as shall constrain us, being convicted, to be dumb. And when he restrains the insolence of men, it is not because he is destitute of argument, but because it is right and proper that we should yield and surrender ourselves to be wholly governed according to his pleasure; but at the same time he justly claims this right, that his own creatures should not call him to render an account. What can be more detestable than not to approve of his judgments, if they do not please men?

Paul makes use of the same metaphor, but on a higher subject; for he argues about God’s eternal predestination, and rebukes the foolish thoughts of men, who debate with God why he chooses some, and reprobates and condemns others. He shews that we ought, at least, to allow to God as much power as we allow to a potter or workman; and therefore he exclaims,

“O man, who art thou, that repliest against God? Shall the clay say to the potter, Why hast thou made me thus?”
(
Romans 9:20.)

“Who is so daring as to venture to oppose God, and to enter into debate with him?” Thus he perfectly agrees with the Prophet, though he makes use of this metaphor on a different and more intricate subject; for both affirm that God has full power over men, so as to permit themselves to be ruled and governed by him, and to endure patiently all adverse events. There is only this difference, that Isaiah reasons about the course of the present life, but Paul ascends to the heavenly and eternal life.

His work hath no hands. The Prophet speaks in ordinary language, as we say that one “puts the last hand,” when a thing is completed, and that “hands are wanting,” when a work is disorderly, confused, or imperfect. Thus, whenever men murmur against God for not complying with their wishes, they accuse him either of slothfulness or of ignorance.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-45.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Isaiah 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! [Let] the potsherd [strive] with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

Ver. 9. Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker.] That contends with him, [Romans 9:20] or presumes to prescribe to him, as some impatient spirits among the captives may seem to have done. We may not measure God’s dealings by our models, nor murmur against his counsels; since his holy will is the most perfect rule of right.

Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth.] And not dash against the rock of ages; let him meddle with his match, and not "contend with a mightier than he," [Ecclesiastes 6:10] What though God create him darkness and evil, {as Isaiah 45:7} let him wait upon God for better times, and not think to mend himself by murmuring against his Maker as too severe.

Shall the clay say, &c., ] q.d., This were an intolerable petulance.

Or thy work, it hath no hands?] Or, He hath no hands, sc., to fashion me aright. Thus the work seemeth to make answer to the clay; for as the clay said to the potter, Quid fecisti, What hast thou made? so the work saith, by way of jeer, he hath no hands, sc., to make me as he should have done.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-45.html. 1865-1868.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 940

STRIVING WITH OUR MAKER

Isaiah 45:9. Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!

GOD is a mighty Sovereign, greatly and exclusively to be feared. To shew that those who were exalted as rivals to Him had no power, he challenged them all to foretell any future event; or, if they could not do that, to acknowledge his supremacy. As for himself, all things were naked and open before him, yea, and were done by him: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things [Note: ver. 7.].” But, in despite of all the manifestations which he has given of his supremacy, men would still continue to rebel against him: and therefore he warns them of the terrible danger to which they exposed themselves: “Woe to him that striveth with his Maker!”

To elucidate these words, I will point out,

I. The conduct reprobated—

It may be supposed impossible for men to strive with their Maker: but the fact is, that men may do it in a variety of ways:

1. By resisting his will—

[He has made known his will in his written Law — — — But men will not obey it — — — Tell them that God has enjoined this, and forbidden that; and they will spurn at the restraint imposed upon them, and say, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord; neither will I obey his voice [Note: Exodus 5:2 and Psalms 12:4.]” — — — And what is this, but downright rebellion? Sure I am, that we should account it so, if we were so treated by our child or our servant: and no doubt God will impute it to us as a deliberate resistance of his will.]

2. By murmuring at his dispensations—

[God acts according to his sovereign will, in the dispensations both of his providence and grace. The rich and the poor owe to him their respective lots; as do also all who are appointed to health or sickness, life or death [Note: Deuteronomy 32:39.]. There is not any trial with which man is visited, but it proceeds from him. But where do we find one who, in a state of trouble, has not been ready to murmur and repine? And what is that, but striving with our Maker? So he construes it [Note: The text.]: and so it will be found in the last day [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:10.]. As to the sovereign exercise of his grace, that is still more offensive to our proud hearts. Though we claim for ourselves a right to dispose of our own property as we please, we refuse that right to him; as if, in benefiting others, he did to us an injury [Note: Romans 9:19-21.]. The very case is stated by St. Paul; who, having instanced, in the case of Pharaoh, and in the destinies of Jacob and of Esau, the uncontrolled sovereignty of God, states the feelings of an ungodly man: “Thou wilt say unto me, Why then doth he find fault? for who hath resisted his will?” To which he indignantly replies, “Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say unto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?” Here, then, we see indisputably in what light God views all such instances of murmuring and complaint: for, in all circumstances whatever, our only wish should be, “Not my will, but thine, be done.”]

3. By rejecting his Gospel—

[God, in his Gospel, comes and entreats of man to accept of reconciliation with him through the Son of his love — — — But how do men treat this divine message? They reject it utterly; and say in their hearts, respecting the Lord Jesus Christ, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” In the parable of the wedding-feast, “all who were invited began to make excuse” — — — And thus it is with us. Any thing is deemed sufficient to justify our refusal of God’s gracious invitations — — — And from his sentence in reference to them, we know in what light he will regard us and in what way he will deal with us [Note: Luke 14:16-24.] — — —]

The woe denounced against such conduct leads us to consider,

II. The evil of it—

It cannot possibly be painted in too strong colours: for it is,

1. Presumptuous—

[In the words following my text, this is set forth by two very opposite illustrations. Let us conceive a piece of clay, dissatisfied with the form given to it by the potter, rising up against the potter, and accusing him of ignorance or injustice; should we not say, that it was presumptuous in the extreme? Or, let us suppose a child to rise up against his parents; and to ask the one why he did not beget, and the other why she did not bring forth, a more perfect being: should we not think that he arrogated to himself an authority which did not belong to him? Thus, then, it is with all who in any way strive with their Maker: they are altogether out of their place, and, in the whole of their conduct, are guilty of the most unwarrantable presumption.]

2. Foolish—

[Can any one suppose that he shall prevail against his Maker? As well might the clay hope to prevail against the potter, who can see nothing in his work but arrogance and folly. And so God has told us: “The counsel of the Lord, that shall stand; and he will do all his pleasure [Note: Isaiah 46:10,]” — — —]

3. Ruinous—

[Vain, utterly vain, is such a contest as this. And so we are plainly warned. What would be the issue of a contest between briers and thorns and a devouring fire? Such will be the issue of the strife between God and his rebellious creatures: “Who would set briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, and burn them up together [Note: Isaiah 27:4.].” That pointed interrogation, “Who hath hardened himself against God, and prospered?” must for ever determine this question; and shew, that to “strive with our Maker” is, to involve ourselves in inevitable and eternal ruin — — —]

Address—

1. In a way of indignant proof—

[Who amongst us has not been guilty of the crime here reprobated? Yea, whose life has not been one continued act of rebellion against God! Now, if it were “our Maker” only that had been so treated by us, no words would have been sufficient to declare the enormity of our crime. But our Maker has been our Redeemer also; yea, and has given his own life a ransom for us: yet have we “trodden under foot his blood” by our contemptuous indifference, and even “crucified him afresh” by our continuance in sin. Judge ye, then, what we deserve at God’s hands. And now let me ask, whether ye intend to persist in this conduct? If ye do, I can say nothing but what Paul said to persons of this character, “Your damnation is just [Note: Romans 3:8.]” — — —]

2. In a way of compassionate exhortation—

[The Prophet Jeremiah, having stated the very argument before us, and shewn that God might justly, as a potter, mar the work which had presumed to rise up against him, goes on to observe, that, notwithstanding all our past guilt, God is yet ready to forgive us, if only with penitent and contrite hearts we turn unto him [Note: Jeremiah 18:6-8.]. And happy am I to confirm this blessed sentiment; yea, and to declare, that not one, whatever may have been his guilt in past times, shall ever be cast out, provided he come in the name of Jesus Christ, founding his hope on His all-atoning sacrifice, and His all-prevailing intercession. As God’s servant, then, I now announce to you these blessed tidings; and declare, in God’s name, that “though your sins may have been red as scarlet, they shall be as snow: though they have been as crimson, they shall be as wool [Note: Isaiah 1:18.].” Only cease from strife on your part, and God will be reconciled to you, and be your God, for ever and ever.]


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Bibliography
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/isaiah-45.html. 1832.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! This woe is denounced, either,

1. Against those Jews who, hearing this and many other prophecies and promises of their deliverance out of captivity, and vet continuing in captivity, were ever prone to distrust God, and to murmur at him for punishing them so grievously, and for not making more speed to deliver them. Or,

2. Against the Babylonians, the great opposers of Cyrus, and of the deliverance of God’s people, whom they were resolved to keep in bondage, in spite of God and men. And therefore as God here makes many glorious promises to Cyrus, in order to this work; so he pronounceth a curse upon them who should endeavour to hinder it, and admonisheth the Babylonians, that they did not only fight against Cyrus, a man like themselves, but against God, the Maker and Governor of the world. For what Nebuchadnezzar spoke with respect to those three Jews, Daniel 3:15, the Babylonians spoke in their hearts, in reference to the people of the Jews, Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth; contend, if you please, with your fellow creatures, but not with your Creator.

Thy work: he turneth his speech to the potter, of whom he spake in the third person in the foregoing clause; such sudden changes of persons being usual in prophetical writings.

He hath no hands; the potter that made me had no hands, i.e. no ability or skill to make good work.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/isaiah-45.html. 1685.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

"Woe" is a funeral cry that, in this context, indicates the extreme folly of dictating to the Creator how He may work (cf. chs5; 28-33). The Israelites, and we, must let God be God. People are clay vessels that God has made for His own purposes (cf. Isaiah 29:16; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 9:20-21). We have no right to dictate to our Maker how He should behave, any more than the works of our hands have a right to question how we make them.


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Bibliography
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-45.html. 2012.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Earthen. Literally, "Samian." (Haydock) --- Samos was famous for its pottery. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xxxv. 12.) Hebrew, "Clay, disputest thou against the potters of the earth?" He shews the folly of idols, after having proved his own divinity. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth." (Haydock)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/isaiah-45.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

earth = ground: i.e. here, clay.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/isaiah-45.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! - anticipating the objections which the Jews might raise as to why God permitted their captivity, and when He did restore them, why He did so by a foreign prince, Cyrus, not a Jew (Isaiah 40:27, etc.), but mainly and ultimately the objections about to be raised by the Jews against God's sovereign act in adopting the whole Gentile world as His spiritual Israel (Isaiah 45:8, referring to this catholic diffusion of the Gospel), as if it were an infringement of their nation's privileges. So Paul expressly quotes it, Romans 9:4-8; Romans 9:11-21.

(Let) the potsherd (strive) with the potsherds of the earth. "Let ... strive' is not in the Hebrew. The words may be in apposition with "him." 'A potsherd among the potsherds of the earth.' So the Vulgate, Syriac, and apparently the Arabic. A creature fragile and worthless as the fragment of an earthen vessel, among others equally so, and yet presuming to strive with his Maker! (Gesenius.) But it favours the English version that the Hebrew 'eth (Hebrew #853), being translated with in the first clause, should naturally be so in the second clause. Of course the English version does not enjoin strife with one's fellow-men (2 Timothy 2:24); but implies simply that whatever good one might promise himself from striving with his fellow-creature of the earth, to strive with one's Maker is suicidal madness on the face of it (Isaiah 27:4).

Shall the clay say ... or thy work, He hath no hands? - or 'Shall thy work say of thee, He hath no hands?'


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah-45.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(9) Woe unto him that striveth . . .—The sequence of thought is not at first apparent. Were those who strove, the heathen nations who resisted Cyrus, or Israelites who desired some other deliverer, say a prince of the house of David? The latter seems more probable. In either case men were guilty of the folly of criticising the Almighty.

Let the potsherd strive . . .—The sentence, as the italics show, is abrupt, but is better taken without inserting the verbs, and in apposition with the pronoun—Woe unto him . . . a potsherd among the potsherds; a frail mortal like all his fellows.

Shall the clay say . . .—The potsherd suggests the potter, not without an allusive reference to the history of man’s creation in Genesis 2:7. As in Jeremiah 18:1-10; Romans 9:20-21, the thought pressed is that of absolute sovereignty, the belief in the wisdom and equity of that sovereignty being kept in the background, as a reserve force. The two clauses represent different aspects of presumption—the first questions, the other arrogantly condemns. The potter’s vessel says that the potter “has no hands,” is without creative power or skill.


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Bibliography
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/isaiah-45.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
unto him
64:8; Exodus 9:16,17; Job 15:24-26; 40:8,9; Psalms 2:2-9; Proverbs 21:30; Jeremiah 50:24; 1 Corinthians 10:22
Shall the clay
10:15; 29:16; Jeremiah 18:6; Romans 9:20,21

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/isaiah-45.html.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

STRIVING WITH GOD

Isa . Woe unto him, &c.

The idea of rebellion is one of frequent recurrence in this book. A sinner rebels against God's authority and dominion. Is frequently styled an enemy, and this is evident both from his heart, tongue, and life. Is frequently described as fighting against God, or contending with Him, and this is the idea of the text.

I. MANIFESTATION OF THIS STRIFE. To strive is to oppose, and in a variety of ways sinners exhibit opposition to God.

1. The unblushing opposition of infidelity. Nothing can exhibit more daring wickedness. Rejects the Scriptures, and boasts of the sufficiency of nature to teach us virtue and religion. How devoted they are in prosecuting their work! How eager to dissuade others from their adherence to the Christian religion!

2. The fearless transgressions of the bold and daring in iniquity. Who lay aside all the restrictions of conscience, and the respect of the virtuous around them. Who give themselves up to every evil way and work. Who have no fear, &c. (Luk ).

3. Those who resist the providential dealings and interpositions of God for their salvation. Providence subserves the designs of grace. Adversity, &c., are often employed to lead to thought and consideration, &c. The resistance of these is striving against God. If these do not soften, they harden (H. E. I. 56-59, 145, 229).

4. Those who will not yield to the overtures of the Gospel. The Gospel proclaims men enemies, and seeks their return to friendship. The Gospel proclaims an amnesty; but of course it is on the principle of their throwing down their weapons and ceasing to strive and rebel. Whoso persists in unbelief strives against God—yea, against the riches of His grace.

II. THE EVILS OF THIS STRIFE.

1. It is full of infatuation. It cannot be vindicated upon the principle of reason or propriety. A sign of the mind being blinded by the wicked one. There cannot be greater madness or more complete folly than to strive against God.

2. It is fraught with evils to our own souls. It excludes the greatest blessings God has to bestow (Jer )—the divine favour, peace, hope, all the rich communications of heaven. It degrades the mind, hardens the heart, &c.; converts conscience into a gnawing worm. Often makes life insupportable.

3. It is full of ingratitude. The child—the befriended. But all figures must fail in the illustration.

III. ITS FINAL RESULTS.

1. We cannot injure Deity. We might a potsherd like ourselves. Neither,

2. can we benefit ourselves. Who hath hardened himself against the Lord and prospered? Nor can we,

3. Escape the triumphs of the Divine judgments over us. One must prevail. We cannot! Then God will; and His prevailing will be our "woe." The woe of His righteous sentence, &c. To each and all such (Rom ).

CONCLUSION.—

1. Let the careless think and stop in their career.

2. Let the hesitating allow good emotions to prevail (H. E. I. 1489).

3. Let the seeking now exclaim, "I yield, I yield, I can hold out no more," &c.

4. Let the children of God rejoice, and labour for the weal of others.—The Pulpit Cyclopœdia, vol. iii. pp. 150-152.


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Bibliography
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:9". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/isaiah-45.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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