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scripture

 

CHAPTER 41

The Liberator of Israel

1Keep silence before me, O coastlands;*

let the nations renew their strength.

Let them draw near and speak;

let us come together for judgment.

2Who has stirred up from the East the champion of justice,

and summoned him to be his attendant?

To him he delivers nations

and subdues kings;

With his sword he reduces them to dust,

with his bow, to driven straw.

3He pursues them, passing on without loss,

by a path his feet scarcely touch.

4Who has performed these deeds?

Who has called forth the generations from the beginning?a

I, the LORD, am the first,

and at the last* I am he.

5The coastlands see, and fear;

the ends of the earth tremble:

they approach, they come on.

6Each one helps his neighbor,

one says to the other, “Courage!”

7The woodworker encourages the goldsmith,

the one who beats with the hammer, him who strikes on the anvil,

Saying of the soldering, “It is good!”

then fastening it with nails so it will not totter.

8But you, Israel, my servant,b

Jacob, whom I have chosen,

offspring of Abraham my friend—

9You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth

and summoned from its far-off places,

To whom I have said, You are my servant;

I chose you, I have not rejected you—

10Do not fear: I am with you;

do not be anxious: I am your God.

I will strengthen you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

11Yes, all shall be put to shame and disgrace

who vent their anger against you;

Those shall be as nothing and perish

who offer resistance.

12You shall seek but not find

those who strive against you;

They shall be as nothing at all

who do battle with you.

13For I am the LORD, your God,

who grasp your right hand;

It is I who say to you, Do not fear,

I will help you.

14Do not fear, you worm Jacob,

you maggot Israel;

I will help you—oracle of the LORD;

the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.*

15I will make of you a threshing sledge,

sharp, new, full of teeth,

To thresh the mountains and crush them,

to make the hills like chaff.

16When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off,

the storm shall scatter them.

But you shall rejoice in the LORD;

in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

17The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,

their tongues are parched with thirst.

I, the LORD, will answer them;

I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.

18I will open up rivers on the bare heights,

and fountains in the broad valleys;

I will turn the wilderness into a marshland,

and the dry ground into springs of water.

19In the wilderness I will plant the cedar,

acacia, myrtle, and olive;

In the wasteland I will set the cypress,

together with the plane tree and the pine,

20That all may see and know,

observe and understand,

That the hand of the LORD has done this,

the Holy One of Israel has created it.

21Present your case, says the LORD;*

bring forward your arguments, says the King of Jacob.

22Let them draw near and foretell to us

what it is that shall happen!

What are the things of long ago?

Tell us, that we may reflect on them

and know their outcome;

Or declare to us the things to come,*

23tell what is to be in the future,

that we may know that you are gods!

Do something, good or evil,

that will put us in awe and in fear.

24Why, you are nothing

and your work is nought;

to choose you is an abomination!

25I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes;

from the east I summon him* by name;

He shall trample the rulers down like mud,

like a potter treading clay.

26Who announced this from the beginning, that we might know;

beforehand, that we might say, “True”?

Not one of you foretold it, not one spoke;

not one heard you say,

27“The first news for Zion: here they come,”

or, “I will give Jerusalem a herald of good news.”

28When I look, there is not one,

not one of them to give counsel,

to make an answer when I question them.

29Ah, all of them are nothing,

their works are nought,

their idols, empty wind!

* [41:14] Earlier prophets had spoken of the Assyrians and Babylonians as the Lord’s instruments for the punishment of Israel’s sins; here the Lord is described as raising up and giving victory to a foreign ruler in order to deliver Israel from the Babylonian exile. The ruler is Cyrus (44:28; 45:1), king of Anshan in Persia, a vassal of the Babylonians. He rebelled against the Babylonian overlords in 556 B.C., and after a series of victories, entered Babylon as victor in 539; the following year he issued a decree which allowed the Jewish captives to return to their homeland (2 Chr 36:2223; Ezr 1:14). For Second Isaiah, the meteoric success of Cyrus was the work of the Lord to accomplish the deliverance promised by earlier prophets.

* [41:4] The first…the last: God as the beginning and end encompasses all reality. The same designation is used in 44:6 and 48:12.

* [41:14] Redeemer: in Hebrew, go’el, one who frees others from slavery and avenges their sufferings; cf. Lv 25:48; Dt 19:6, 12. Cf. note on Ru 2:20.

* [41:2129] This indictment of Babylonian gods is patterned on a legal trial, in which they are challenged to prove power over events of history and so justify their status as gods (vv. 2124). Israel’s God, on the other hand, has foretold and now brings to pass Israel’s deliverance (vv. 2527). The accused are unable to respond (vv. 2829). By such polemics (see also 43:12) the prophet declares that all gods other than the Lord are nonexistent; this implicit claim of monotheism later becomes explicit (see 43:1011; 45:57, 14, 18, 2122; 46:9; and note on 44:6).

* [41:22] Things of long ago…things to come: there are no predictions attributed to idols that have since been fulfilled. Second Isaiah makes frequent reference to “things of long ago,” sometimes in conjunction with “things to come” or “new things” in connection with the Lord’s activity (cf. 42:9; 43:9, 18; 46:910; 48:38); both the old things (e.g., creation, exodus) and the new things (release from exile) God brings to pass (cf. 51:911), which is why he can declare them beforehand.

* [41:25] I summon him: Cyrus.

a. [41:4] Is 44:7; 46:10.

b. [41:89] Is 44:12, 21; 45:4.






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