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Isaiah 41:1 Keep silent before Me, islands, and let the peoples renew their strength. Let them come near, then let them speak. Let’s meet together for judgement- The "islands" may refer simply to the dry land inhabited by Gentiles within the eretz promised to Abraham (Is. 42:15). They are invited to accept the God of Israel, to come to Zion and realize they have no legal case against God, to accept their judgment and throw themselves upon Him. Hence LXX "Hold a feast to me, ye islands".

Isaiah 41:2 Who has raised up one from the east? Who called him to His foot in righteousness? He hands over nations to him, and makes him rule over kings. He gives them like the dust to his sword, like the driven stubble to his bow-
The servant songs or poems of Isaiah clearly have reference to a Messiah figure who was to appear at the time of the restoration from Babylon. The early songs have potential reference to Cyrus- he is named as such. Expositors such as Harry Whittaker and J.W. Thirtle have sought to prove the naming of Cyrus as an interpolation, claiming that Isaiah has sole primary reference to the days of Hezekiah. This seems to me to be desperate. The naming of Cyrus, and the specific references to his military campaigns in the prophecies, simply can’t be gotten around. To brush all this off as uninspired interpolation and fiddling with the text of holy Scripture just won’t do. The references to Cyrus aren’t merely the mention of his name. Is. 41:1-5 alludes unquestionably to the dramatic conquest of Sardis by Cyrus in 547 BC. The ‘servant’ is described as swooping down first from the east and then from the north, trampling local rulers beneath him (Is. 41:2-5,25; Is.  45:1; Is. 46:11). This ‘servant’ was to end the Babylonian empire (Is. 43:14; Is. 48:14,15), enable the captive Jews in Babylon to return to their land (Is. 42:6,7; Is. 43:5-7; Is. 45:13), restore Jerusalem and the ruined cities of Judah (Is. 44:26-28; 45:13). There can be no serious doubt that it was Cyrus who fulfilled these things. The servant is a “bird of prey from the east” (Is. 46:11)- according to Xenophon, the eagle was the emblem of Cyrus. The servant “victorious at every step” with lightning speed (Is. 41:2) surely refers to how Cyrus conquered the Medes, the former Assyrian empire, and the Lydians before taking Babylon in 539 BC. We should have no problem with a pagan king being described as God’s “servant”, for that very term is used of Nebuchadnezzar in Jer. 25:9.

When Cyrus failed to "know" or have relationship with Yahweh, other possible fulfillments came into view. Another possible fulfilment was in Zerubbabel or Joshua. Isaiah 41 describes the Messianic saviour as coming to the land from Babylon, from the north and from the east. Babylon was east of Judah, and yet the approach road came down from the north. This was the way Zerubbabel and Joshua would have come; but the prophecies suffered a massive deferment to the coming of the Lord Jesus in a more figurative sense from the north and east. Zech. 4 contained a vision of Joshua and Zerubbabel, likened to two olive trees which emptied their oil into the seven branched candlestick, representing the ecclesia of Judah. They represented the kingly and priestly offices. The whole ‘lightstand’ depended upon these two anointed ones, these providers of oil, and the fact they both in various ways failed to deliver true faith and spirituality meant that the victory over the world which the vision also prophesied could not come about; the final fulfilment had to come through the Lord Jesus, who was the ultimate Priest (cp. Joshua-Jesus) and Prince of Judah (cp. Zerubbabel).

Isaiah 41:3 He pursues them, and passes by safely, even by a way that he had not gone with his feet-
The sense is as GNB "He follows in pursuit and marches safely on, so fast that he hardly touches the ground!".

Isaiah 41:4 Who has worked and done it, calling the generations from the beginning?-
The idea of calling things which don’t exist into existence (Rom. 4:17) has suggestions of creation (Is. 41:4; 48:13). The new, spiritual creation is indeed a creation ex nihilo, an act of grace. Incomprehensible to the modern mind, the natural creation involved the creation of matter from out of God, and not out of any visible, concrete matter which already existed. The physical creation therefore looked forward to the grace of the new creation- creating people spiritually out of nothing, counting righteousness to them which they didn’t have, treating them as persons whom they were not.

I Yahweh, the first and with the last, I am He- First and last are terms used by the Lord Jesus of those who shall be in His Kingdom (Mt. 20:16). "The last" would then refer to the last generation of God's people. Yahweh would save the exiles along with the "first" of His people such as Abraham; for at the time of the restoration of that last generation, there would be a resurrection of all God's true people, to form a new people would eternally inherit the reestablished Kingdom.

Isaiah 41:5 The islands have seen and fear. The ends of the earth tremble; they approach, and come-
They have been called to judgment in Zion (:1), and all they can do is try to make idols (:6,7). But these verses can also be understood quite differently. For "idols" aren't specifically named in the Hebrew text. The idea equally could be that here we have the Divine hope that the exiles would return from the ends of the earth / land, in the territories of Assyria, Babylon and Persia, and work together in building Zion. These different interpretations are because these were the various potential possibilities or scenarios which could have come about.

Isaiah 41:6 Everyone helps his neighbour, they say to their brothers, Be strong!-
This could be read as a condemnation of entire Gentile society, stressing how they together encouraged each other in making idols (:7). Or as noted on :5, it could also be the Divine vision for the returned exiles working together in rebuilding the things of His Kingdom in Zion. "Be strong!" is the word used multiple times in the records of the restoration of Zion (Ezra 1:6; 6:22; 7:28; 9:12; 10:4; Neh. 2:18; 3:4 and often, rendered "repair").

Isaiah 41:7 So the carpenter encourages the goldsmith. He who smoothes with the hammer encourages him who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, It is good; and he fastens it with nails-
This refers to the different types of people working together to build Jerusalem; the goldsmiths are mentioned specifically in Neh. 3:8,32; "carpenter" is s.w. Ezra 3:7. Yet as explained on :5, the whole passage here also has reference to those who made idols (s.w. Is. 45:16). Instead of fulfilling the possibilities in rebuilding the temple, they instead used their skills building idols and encouraging one another in that.

That it might not totter- Used about the idols made in Is. 40:20; but also of the reestablished Zion which would not move / totter (Ps. 125:1 s.w.). See on :5. 


Isaiah 41:8 But you, Israel My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend-
The servant here is clearly the people of Israel.
It is significant that Paul takes a passage from one of Isaiah’s servant songs and applies it to us. The servant who suffered and witnessed to the world was evidently the Lord Jesus. And yet Isaiah is also explicit that the servant is the whole seed of Abraham, “Jacob”, the slowly-developing people of God (Is. 41:8; 44:1), who now refer to all those in Christ.  There are many connections within Isaiah between the servant songs, and the descriptions of the people of Israel into which the songs are interspersed. The saviour-servant was to bring out the prisoners from the dungeons (Is. 42:7), so was every Israelite “to let the oppressed go free...loose the bonds”, and to “undo the bands of the [heavy] yoke” (Is. 58:6) as Christ did (Mt. 11:28,29); His work of deliverance is to be replicated by each of us in our witness. Whoever is in Him will by this very fact follow Him in this work. In Isaiah’s first context, the suffering servant was King Hezekiah. Yet all Israel were to see themselves as ‘in’ him, as spiritual Israel are to see themselves as in Christ. “He was oppressed”, as Israel at that time were being “oppressed” by Assyria. As they were covered in wounds and spiritual sickness (Is. 1:5,6), so the suffering servant bore their diseases and rose again in salvation victory.

Isaiah's restoration prophecies are shot through with references to Abraham, directly or indirectly. Israel / Judah are called by Isaiah to be Yahweh's chosen (Is. 41:8), fetched from the end of the land (Is. 41:9), to act like the seed of Abraham (Is. 41:8)... just like Abraham. But Abraham left Babylonia and journeyed to the promised land- and Judah likewise are bidden make that journey (Is. 44:2). By refusing to do so, they were showing themselves to not be the seed of Abraham- they were rejecting themselves from the covenant people. I've shown at length elsewhere that Abraham initially resisted the call to leave Ur, he struggled with the challenge, it took him years actually to truly leave Babylonia behind and head out in faith to the promised land. So the relevance to the Jews in exile was pertinent. It's the same with Isaiah's allusions to Israel's leaving Egypt. The Jews in Babylon were intended to live out the type by leaving Babylon and making the wilderness journey to the land- and God helped them in it. For example, Ezra 6:4 records how God moved the local authorities to pronounce that the residents around the returning exiles should give them silver, gold and goods. This was an exact re-living of how Israel left Egypt with Egypt's gold and silver (Ex. 12:35). Yet most of the Jews didn't want to return, they didn't want to live out the type.

Isaiah 41:9 You whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth and called from its corners and said to you-
The exiles were located in the very borders and corners of the land promised to Abraham, but from there they would be regathered. If they were willing to participate in the Divine plan, which sadly most of them weren't. They preferred to remain in exile from Him.

‘You are My servant, I have chosen you- Because the exiles refused to be Yahweh's servant, the words were reapplied to the Lord Jesus. And so this is quoted in Heb. 2:10,14 about God taking hold of Jesus, His servant. Is. 41:10 continues concerning Jesus, therefore, "Fear thou not; for I am with thee (the Angels' words to Joshua); be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen  thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness" (an Angel). The right hand Angel of God  strengthened, upheld and helped Jesus spiritually as it could have done the exiles and their potential Messianic leaders like Zerubbabel. His dismay which the verse implies He had was therefore at His feeling of being spiritually inadequate to fulfill His great calling- exactly like Joshua. But as with Joshua, the Angel strengthened Him.

Reasoning back from the addresses to the captives in later Isaiah, it appears they thought that Yahweh was a God who just operated in the land of Israel. The captives felt they couldn’t sing the songs of Yahweh in a Gentile land (Ps. 137). They thought that now they were outside His land and far from His temple, they were forgotten by Him (Is. 49:14,15), their cause ignored by Him (Is. 40:27) and they were “cast off” from relationship with Him (Is. 41:9). Hence Isaiah emphasizes that Yahweh is the creator and the God of the whole planet, and His presence is literally planet-wide. Likewise there is much stress in those addresses on the fact that Yahweh’s word of prophecy will come true. Remember that there had been many false prophets of Yahweh just prior to the captivity who predicted victory against Babylon and prosperity (Lam. 2:9,14; Jer. 44:15-19). And the 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah appeared to not be coming true, or at best was delayed or re-scheduled in fulfilment [even Daniel felt this, according to his desperate plea for fulfilment in Daniel 9]. And so there was a crisis of confidence in the concept of prophecy, and Yahweh’s word and prophets generally. Isaiah addressed this by stressing the nature and power of that word, and urging faith in its fulfilment and relevance.

And not cast you away’- The exiles needed assurance of this. But it could be that as with many today in the new Israel, their conclusion that God had cast them away was an excuse for remaining in a society where they were prosperous. 'Cast away' here is the same word as 'despise'. Judah had 'despised' God's laws (s.w. Lev. 26:15,43), casting them away (Is. 5:24) and yet God had 'cast them away' (Lev. 26:44 s.w.). He did not treat them as they treated Him. And yet God did cast them away temporarily (s.w. Is. 54:6; Jer. 7:29; Hos. 4:6); but His message was that now they were not cast away. 

Isaiah 41:10 Don’t you be afraid, for I am with you-
Time and again, Isaiah’s restoration prophecies told Judah that they should not fear, as Yahweh would mightily be with them in their work (Is. 41:10,13,14; 43:1,5; 44:2,8,11; 54:7,14; 59:19). But Judah feared the surrounding nations- Ezra and Nehemiah are full of this theme (Ezra 3:3), and in exile they feared condemnation. Nehemiah refused to be put in fear by the Samaritan opposition because of his faith in Isaiah’s promises (Neh. 6:14). And Isaiah further spoke to Judah’s heart in Is. 51:12,13: “I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; And forgettest the LORD thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations [s.w. re. the foundation of the temple being laid] of the earth [‘heaven and earth’ often refers to the temple]; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? and where is the fury of the oppressor?”. The fact they did fear meant that they had forgotten Yahweh who was so eager to re-establish their Kingdom.

Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God- The command not to be dismayed may be a command to not look to idols but to Yahweh as their God (s.w. :23; Is. 17:8).

I will strengthen you- Yahweh would strengthen His servant people, in contrast to the idols, which had to be strengthened by their makers (s.w. Is. 44:14). This phrase is used several times about Joshua being strengthened to enter the land and possess it; which was relevant to the exiles being encouraged to possess the same land (Dt. 31:6,7,23).

Yes, I will help you- Ezra was ashamed to ask for help against Judah’s enemies (Ezra 8:22), the implication being that he wanted that human help but was ashamed to ask for it from the King. He had initially believed those words of Isaiah, but found it hard to maintain that level of faith. But they should have had faith in the restoration prophecy’s promise: “Fear not ... I will help you” (Is.  41:10).

Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness- The servant, be it Israel the nation or an individual Messianic figure, would be upheld by Yahweh in order to achieve the restoration; and in the case of the likes of Cyrus and Zerubbabel, would have had righteousness imputed to them had they wished to go along with God's program.

Isaiah 41:11 Behold, all those who are incensed against you will be disappointed and confounded. Those who strive with you will be like nothing, and shall perish-
 The Samaritans could have provided a fulfilment of all this, just as the prideful Assyrians were before. And yet Sanballat, Tobiah, the Ammonites and Ashdodites were “wroth” [s.w. ‘incensed’] against Judah (Neh. 4:1,7). But they didn’t come to nothing, nor to shame, in that those very groups were the ones who married into Jewry, to the extent that Tobiah even shifted the tithes out of one of the chambers of the temple and set up his office there. But it was to be the makers of idols who were "confounded" (s.w. Is. 45:16) and only the true Israel would not be "confounded" (Is. 45:17; 54:4). The sinners in Israel had refused to be confounded or ashamed of their sins (Jer. 3:3 s.w.) and so they would be shamed in condemnation. Repentance involves an imagination of ourselves coming to judgment day and being condemned, and feeling shame for that; that is how we shall not be ashamed. And it is the servant alone who shall not be ashamed / confounded because of His righteousness (Is. 50:7). Our identity with Him removes that shame. If we condemn ourselves, we shall not be condemned (1 Cor. 11:31). The enemies of Israel would perish alongside the apostate within Israel, in the same judgment.

Isaiah 41:12 You will seek them, and won’t find them, even those who contend with you. Those who war against you will be as nothing, as a non-existent thing-
LXX "thou shalt not find the men who shall insolently rage against thee". Just as the Assyrians had raged against Yahweh and then be slain in a moment, so would all Judah's enemies. "Contend" is the word used for how Assyria and Babylon 'laid waste' Judah (Is. 37:26; Jer. 4:7). "War against" is s.w. "the controversy of Zion" (Is. 34:8). World geopolitics has moved to a state where in our day as never before, Jerusalem / Zion is a key issue which will bring about the war against Israel and Jewish people. But this is going to be resolved finally and in a moment, at the return of the Lord Jesus. The idea is really of bringing a case or legal "cause" in court- s.w. :21. And Yahweh Himself will plead that cause or "war" with latter day Babylon when it falls (s.w. Jer. 50:34). The Gentile opposition will be as nothing in that they will weigh as nothing on the scales of final judgment concerning Zion (s.w. Is. 40:17). The idea is not at all that people do not matter to God.

Isaiah 41:13 For I, Yahweh your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I will help you’-
This Fatherly image of help offered to a nervous child was to encourage the weak minded exiles to return to Zion and accept Yahweh's helping hand, just as His hand had 'helped' Hezekiah against the Assyrians (s.w. 2 Chron. 32:8). At the restoration, Ezra believed this "help" would enable the restoration to the extent that they didn't need any human soldiers to help them (Ezra 8:22 s.w.).

Isaiah 41:14 Don’t be afraid, you worm Jacob, and you men of Israel-
The sense of "you worm Jacob" may be as LXX "Israel few in number". But the idea can also be of absolute smallness and weakness (Is. 14:11; Job 25:6). The Lord as the suffering servant on the cross felt like a worm in that He totally bore Israel's feelings and sufferings (Ps. 22:6).

I will help you, says Yahweh, and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel- see on Is. 44:2. As Hosea ‘redeemed’ Gomer in His attempt to force through His fantasy for her (Hos. 3:1), so Yahweh is repeatedly described in Isaiah as Israel’s go’el , redeemer (Is. 41:14; Is. 43:14; Is. 44:6,24; Is. 47:4; Is. 48:17; Is. 49:7,26; Is. 54:5,8). The redeemer could redeem a close relative from slavery or repurchase property lost during hard times (Lev. 25:25,26, 47-55; Ruth 2:20; Ruth 3:9,12). The redeemer was also the avenger of blood (Num. 35:9-28; Josh. 20:3,9). All these ideas were relevant to Yahweh’s relationship to Judah in captivity. But the promised freedom didn’t come- even under Nehemiah, Judah was still a province within the Persian empire. And those who returned complained: “We are slaves this day in the land you gave…” (Neh. 9:36). The wonderful prophecies of freedom and redemption from slavery weren’t realized in practice, because of the selfishness of the more wealthy Jews. And how often is it that the freedom potentially enabled for those redeemed in Christ is in practice denied them by their autocratic and abusive brethren

Isaiah 41:15 Behold, I have made you into a new sharp threshing instrument with teeth. You will thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and will make the hills like chaff-
This and :16 is full of reference to Daniel 2. It was as if the prophecy of Dan. 2 could have been fulfilled by Judah and their ‘Messiah’ as the stone- right then. As explained on Dan. 2:44, the stone from the mountain of Babylon returning to the eretz could have had application to the returned exiles. LXX "I have made thee as new saw-shaped threshing wheels of a wagon" alludes to the cherubim; faithful Judah would become identified with Yahweh's Angel chariot and would become the vehicle for His operations against the Gentiles. This threshing will come ultimately true in the last days (s.w. Mic. 4:13).

Isaiah 41:16 You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, and the whirlwind will scatter them. You will rejoice in Yahweh, you will glory in the Holy One of Israel-
See on :15. This joy is presented as the joy of harvest; and the harvest will have been the judging of the nations of the eretz who refuse to accept Yahweh. The winnowing figure implies however that the wind would indeed take away the chaff, but the wheat would fall to the ground and be saved. Always in these figures of judgment there is an ultimately positive outcome somehow in view. Israel's joy of harvest would therefore be in that some wheat has come out of the judgment process; some will repent amongst their enemies, and they will have learnt the lesson of Jonah, and this shall be their great joy.

Isaiah 41:17 The poor and needy seek water, and there is none, their tongue fails for thirst. I Yahweh, will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them-
As the book of Esther makes clear, the exiles were prosperous in their various societies. Their spiritual thirst would be met. And as food and water were provided for Israel in their wilderness journey, so everything physically necessary would be provided for their return.

Isaiah 41:18 I will open rivers on the bare heights and springs in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water-
Like Hosea with Gomer (see on Is. 1:26), Yahweh wanted to repeat the wilderness romance with which He had started His relationship with them. He wanted to again provide water in the desert (Is. 41:18); He wanted their return from Babylon across the desert to be like their exodus from Egypt and passage through the desert to the land. Hosea talks of starting a relationship again with his wife, a re-marriage; Ez. 37 expresses this same reality in another figure in speaking of how Israel would be resurrected, and this new person would return to Zion. Is. 41:19 speaks of how God would even line their route from Babylon to Zion with trees. In the wilderness, the place where God told Moses that Israel were not His people, there God intended to again tell them that they were His people (Hos. 2:1); God’s judgment against His people involved taking them into the wilderness and slaying them with thirst (Hos. 2:5); and yet there, through that judgment, they would again become His people. God’s plan therefore was to bring Judah out of Babylon / Persia, and reveal Himself to them as their God on their wilderness journey home, and then return together with joy to Zion.

Isaiah 41:19 I will put cedar, acacia, myrtle, and oil trees in the wilderness. I will set fir trees, pine, and box trees together in the desert-
See on :18. God would even line their route from Babylon to Zion with trees. The myrtle was a native of Persia, the land of their exile. But it was as it were to be transplanted to Judah; it is the language of return from exile.

Isaiah 41:20 that they may see, know, consider, and understand together, that the hand of Yahweh has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it-
They would perceive that their return to the land was part of a new creation. But they didn't at the time of the restoration, they returned seeking their own personal benefit from it, and were met by droughts, pests, opposition from the locals- and prophetic condemnation. And so the new creation became reapplied to the work of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17) and the latter day reestablishment of the Kingdom at the Lord's return.

Isaiah 41:21 Produce your cause, says Yahweh. Bring forth your strong reasons, says the King of Jacob-
GNB ""You gods of the nations, present your case. Bring the best arguments you have!". The following section concludes in :29 with a round condemnation of idols. The gods of the nations are arrayed in court against Yahweh. This continual polemic against idolatry is surely a tacit reflection upon the fact that idolatry continued to be a problem for the exiles in the initial generations, as the messages of Ezekiel make clear enough. It was only later that the exiles quit idolatry. The truth is that many Jews and Israelites assimilated into the areas of their captivity and accepted the gods and culture of their surrounding society.

Isaiah 41:22 Let them announce and declare to us what shall happen. Declare the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or show us things to come-
Statements like these in Isaiah are often interpreted as meaning that God's prophecies of the future are the ultimate proof that He is God. But I have noted throughout Isaiah and all the prophets that God's prophecies are largely conditional; in the spirit of Jer. 18:8-10, they are statements of outcomes which will happen if there is no repentance. Human repentance and intercession can change the stated outcomes; either completely precluding them, or resulting in their reapplication, amelioration, rescheduling or reinterpretation. So Bible prophecy would not be automatically fulfilled as stated, and therefore it would not be that compelling an argument. It would also require evidence that the original manuscripts existed from the required date, and the originals don't exist. In the course of my missionary work, I have been involved in literally thousands of people from atheistic or Islamist backgrounds coming to faith in the Bible and the Lord Jesus. Not one of these was persuaded by "Bible prophecy". The path from unbelief to belief is, I suggest and observe, along different tracks to that. And there is in any case no Euclidean evidence for God's existence, as faith is not based upon "seen" evidence (Heb. 11:1). There may be confirmations for faith, but faith is ultimately a step taken without these things as a safety net or motivator. It is "the word of God", the message of His love in His Son, which is in our age of itself the basis for faith.

The first half of the verse about future things matches the second half about past things- "Explain to the court the events of the past, and tell us what they mean" (GNB). The emphasis and flavour of the words used is not upon prediction but rather explanation, of attaching meaning to event. God alone can provide such explanation of both past and future events according to the far reaching narrative found in the prophets. The idol religions explained just a few isolated incidents. This is what is unique about the one true God- that He alone attaches meaning to event, both in personal and collective life, and indeed to all human history. Whether we correctly perceive it is another question, but He alone does this and holds the masterplan.

Isaiah 41:23 Declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods. Yes, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and see it together-
LXX "declare ye to us the things that are coming on at the last time". See on :22.
It could be inferred from this that what is unique about the one true God, Yahweh of Israel, is that He is responsible for both good and evil, as stated in Is. 45:5-7. As today, false and mistaken religious systems suggest a good God or gods, and an evil one or demons. The idea of "good and evil" being created by God  goes back to the simple statement in Gen. 2:9 that it was God who created the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The synthesis of all experience, positive and negative, as coming from one God... is what makes Him so unique amongst all religions and belief systems. The popular belief in Satan as a cosmic being separate from God, and of God as only interested in giving us prosperity... is sadly missing out fundamentally in understanding the unique nature of Yahweh.

Isaiah 41:24 Behold, you are of nothing, and your work is of nothing. He who chooses you is an abomination-
The idols and their supporters have been charged in :23 and asked to "declare" their answer. But there is silence; see on :26. And so this is the judgment pronounced, and the conclusion that any who chooses them is like them, "an abomination". Their silence is connected with their judgment- they are nothing. Nothingness and vanity is a major theme in later Isaiah. As explained on Is. 40:17, the idea is not that any persons are irrelevant to God; but that their weight is insignificant in the scale of judgment. They have no argument, and so nothing to add to the scale. "Of nothing" is the phrase translated "without man" in describing the utter desolation to come upon idolatrous Judah (Is. 6:11; Jer. 4:7).

Isaiah 41:25 I have raised up one from the north, and he has come; from the rising of the sun, one who calls on My name; and he shall come on rulers as on mortar, and as the potter treads clay-
As explained on :2, Cyrus came from both the north and the east.
But evidently the intended, possible fulfilment just didn’t happen; for although he was indeed used by God, he did not "call on My name". He, along with the revived, repentant community of exiles, could have come upon the feet of iron and clay of the Dan. 2 vision and destroyed it. For that image had a fulfilment as the Babylonian empire, headed up by Nebuchadnezzar. But the fulfilment has been deferred until the return of the Lord Jesus. He will come from Heaven, the figurative “north”, rather than literal Persia / Babylon; the essence will be gloriously fulfilled, but not every literality. And so it may well be with the prophecies of the temple and worship system which was to be restored. "I have raised up... he has come" is an example of the prophetic perfect; Cyrus was still 150 years in the future, and the Lord Jesus yet further in the future. 

Isaiah 41:26 Who has declared it from the beginning, that we may know? And before, that we may say, ‘He is right?’. Surely, there is no one who declares like this. Surely, there is no one who shows, surely, there is no one who hears your words-
LXX "there is no one that speaks beforehand, nor anyone that hears your words". As explained on :22, the idea is not simply that God foretold Cyrus (:25) in advance and was thereby justified as God because His prophecies came true. Rather is the force of "declared" that He had explained and given meaning to events of history, rather than simply meaning 'He has predicted this'. It is that metanarrative built into history by Yahweh which is "right" or 'righteous'. "Nor anyone that hears your words" may be a reference to the silence of the idols and their supporters in court as suggested on :24. Hence GNB "None of you said a word about it; no one heard you say a thing!".

Isaiah 41:27 I am the first to say to Zion, ‘Behold, look at them;’ and I will give one who brings good news to Jerusalem-
LXX "I will give dominion to Sion, and will comfort Jerusalem". This is the scene of Is. 40:9; 52:7, where Zion is comforted with the message that now she can return and the Kingdom of God will be reestablished. The initial possibilities of fulfilment failed, and so it is the Lord Jesus and perhaps the latter day Elijah ministry announcing Him which is in view. But His message would only be "good news" for the humble and penitent (Is. 61:1 s.w.). "I am the first to say to Zion" may be a reference, in the context, to how God had conceived this plan "at the first". Hence GNB "I, the LORD, was the first to tell Zion the news; I sent a messenger to Jerusalem to say, 'Your people are coming! They are coming home!'".

Isaiah 41:28 When I look, there is no man; even among them there is no counsellor who, when I ask of them, can answer a word-
There are many mocking allusions to Marduk, showing Yahweh’s supremacy over him. Marduk was formed- but Yahweh had no god before Him and will have none after Him (Is. 43:10). Marduk had a counsellor, Ea, called in the inscriptions “the all-wise one”. But Yahweh has all wisdom and has no such counsellor (Is. 40:13,14; Is. 41:28). All this reference to the Marduk cult was in my opinion not merely a pointless mockery and poking of fun at the Persian culture. It was a very real appeal to the Jewish exiles to quit it, to come out and be separate; remember again and again that Mordecai [and perhaps Esther too] had adopted names reflective of the Marduk cult. See on Is. 40:25.

In the context of this section, the gods / idols are being asked to answer up, and they are silent; see on :23,26. The "no man" who can answer anything may simply mean 'there was none', i.e. none of the gods who are being questioned in court. Hence GNB "When I looked among the gods, none of them had a thing to say; not one could answer the questions I asked".

And yet another take is possible. God sent His prophets to appeal to Israel for repentance. They could have lead to repentance. But Israel would not. The marriage feast was totally ready and waiting for the Jewish people; they could have had it. But they didn’t want it, and so the course of human history was extended. Therefore finally God sent His Son. The Lord Jesus Himself was amazed that no other man had achieved the work which He had to; and therefore He clad Himself with zeal and performed it (Is. 41:28; 50:2; 59:16 cp. Rev. 5:3,4). God knew that salvation in the end would have to be through the death of His Son. But there were other possible scenarios for the repentance and salvation of mankind, which no man achieved. And so, as in the parable of the servants sent to get fruit from the vineyard, there was left no other way but the death of God’s only Son.

Isaiah 41:29 Behold, all of them, their works are vanity and nothing. Their molten images are wind and confusion-
LXX "For these are your makers, as ye think, and they that cause you to err in vain".
The idols and their supporters have been charged in :23 and asked to "declare" their answer. But there is silence; see on :26. And so this is the final judgment pronounced. Their silence is connected with their judgment- they are nothing. As explained on Is. 40:17, the idea is not that any persons are irrelevant to God; but that their weight is insignificant in the scale of judgment. They have no argument, and so nothing to add to the scale. "Confusion" is tohu, the word used in Gen. 1:2 of how the earth / land was "without form", and then the Spirit / wind (s.w.) moved upon it. Here we have again the presence of "wind" (s.w.). Now the idols have been declared vain and non-existent, a new creation can begin. There is always this positive hint in the Divine judgments pronounced.