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Isaiah 48:1 Hear this, house of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel, and have come forth out of the waters of Judah; who swear by the name of Yahweh, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth nor in righteousness- The exiles did not reject Yahweh, but as explained on :5, they were heavily involved in idolatry as well, apparently justifying this as a form of Yahweh worship. They called themselves by the name of Israel and swore by the name of Yahweh, and identified themselves as the people of Zion (:2). The emphasis is upon their naming of themselves, whereas God had wanted to place His Name upon them; see on Is. 44:5. And so we have here a powerful warning to nominal Christians, who use the culture and nomenclature of the true faith and yet whose hearts may be far from it.

Isaiah 48:2 (for they call themselves of the holy city, and rest themselves on the God of Israel; Yahweh of Armies is His name)-
As so often, form had dominated over content. As explained on :1, the exiles were very culturally loyal to Zion and proclaimed their "rest" or trust in Israel's God; and yet as explained on :5, they were heavily involved in idolatry as well, apparently justifying this as a form of Yahweh worship. And they didn't want to return to Zion and reestablish Yahweh's Kingdom. And so He reminds them that He, the God of Israel, is Yahweh of Armies. His unlimited power articulated through His Angelic hosts could actually bring about in practice the restoration of the Kingdom.

Isaiah 48:3 I have declared the former things from of old; yes, they went forth out of My mouth, and I showed them: suddenly I did them, and they happened-
This sudden action of God may refer to the sudden fall of Babylon described in Is. 47. See on :5. This is being cited as an encouragement to the exiles to see the powerful hand of their God in human history, to realize this was in fulfilment of His prophetic program, and they could take it further. His prophetic words had come out of His mouth; this was the intimacy achieved in the Divine-human encounter through the words of inspired prophets. "The words of the prophets are written on the subway wall", read en passant, heard, treated as ordinary and incidental... but the wonder of Divine inspiration, the fact these words and ideas dropped from the mouth of God was overlooked then as it is now.

Isaiah 48:4 Because I knew that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew, and your brow brass-
This hard hearted attitude of the Jews is commented upon by Ezekiel, who lived amongst these Jewish exiles in Babylon. God took into account their skepticism and hard hearts, and had therefore made amazing prophecies ahead of time, predicting Cyrus by name 150 years before (:5). We see here God's earnest desire to convince even the hard hearted, and not to just turn away from them if they rejected Him, but to construct His purpose ("project" may be a better word) in order to somehow still incorporate them within His salvation purpose. It's similar to how He mapped out the path of Israel through the wilderness lest they see war and be discouraged  (Ex. 13:17). He could have justifiably reasoned that what they had seen in the plagues and at the Red Sea ought to have been enough to motivate anyone to follow Him for the rest of their lives. But He was and is sensitive to our sins and unjustifiable weaknesses; and we should be likewise to others.

Isaiah 48:5 Therefore I have declared it in advance to you from of old; before it came to pass I showed it to you; lest you should say, ‘My idol has done them, and my engraved image, and my molten image, has commanded them’-
See on :4. This is a tragic reflection of the deep seated belief in idols amongst the exiles. It took some generations for them to quit idolatry, and I have noted throughout the book of Esther the extent of idolatry amongst the Jewish exiles. Ezekiel's ministry was to the exiles already in Babylon, and he frequently condemns their idolatry. It seems that the decree of Cyrus for the restoration and the "sudden" fall of Babylon (:3) were ascribed by the Jews to their idols. Hence the repeated emphasis that God had predicted these things, and even named Cyrus, well in advance. He and His prophetic word were to be given the credit, and not the idols.

Isaiah 48:6 You have heard it; see all this; and you, will you not declare it? I have shown you new things from this time, even hidden things, which you have not known-
LXX "Ye have heard all this, but ye have not known: yet I have made known to thee the new things from henceforth, which are coming to pass". As explained on :5, the exiles knew the prophetic words of Isaiah about the fall of Babylon and the decree of Cyrus and the restoration; but they attributed these events to their idols. They had heard but not known God's word in their hearts. And this is the challenge to all Bible readers; as to whether we are just hearing or reading God's word on a surface level, or whether we really know these things in the Hebraic sense of 'knowing'.

Isaiah 48:7 They are created now, and not from of old; and before this day you didn’t hear them; lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them’
- see on Eph. 1:9,10. LXX "say not thou, Yea, I know them". Their attitude to the prophecies was that 'Sure, we know all that stuff'. But it was surface level reading and hearing; they refused to perceive the wonderful reality, that the events connected with Cyrus, the fall of Babylon and the decree for restoration had all been foretold and were all part of Yahweh's saving purpose. As noted on :3, "The words of the prophets are written on the subway wall", read en passant, heard, treated as ordinary and incidental... but the wonder of Divine inspiration, the fact these words and ideas dropped from the mouth of God was overlooked then as it is now.

Isaiah 48:8 Yes, you didn’t hear; yes, you didn’t know; yes, from of old your ear was not opened-
Their deafness to the real import of the prophetic word (see on :5-7) was their own fault, but they were confirmed in this by not having their ears and eyes opened by God. And yet He was willing and eager to open their ears (see on Is. 42:18; 43:8). But they didn't hear or know as intended because they didn't want to; they were unwilling for their narrative of life and self-identity in the prosperity of Babylon and Persia to be so radically interrupted.

For I knew that you dealt very treacherously, and were called a transgressor from the womb- The allusion is to the naming of Jacob from the womb. He was a heel-catcher, and treacherous. Their treachery is described in the word used of Babylon and Assyria's treachery against them (Is. 33:1; Lam. 1:2). And it is used of their marital unfaithfulness against Yahweh (Jer. 3:11,20; 5:11). Knowing that this is how they would be, Yahweh had still entered a relationship with them, exactly as Hosea did with the unfaithful Gomer. Hosea's relationship with her reflected that of God with an Israel who likewise were "treacherous" to Him (Hos. 5:7; 6:7 s.w.). His foreknowledge of their sins was thereby an even greater display of His passionate love, hope and grace toward His people.

Isaiah 48:9 For My name’s sake will I defer My anger, and for the sake of My praise will I refrain for you, that I not cut you off-
"Cut off" is the word used of how the Assyrians had threatened to cut down the cedars of the temple (Is. 37:24; 2:13; 10:34). And the Babylonians actually did this (Is. 14:8). But the Jews then cut down cedars and made idols from them (Is. 44:14 s.w.), acting like the Babylonians, and ignoring the great grace shown in Yahweh's averting or deferring the threatened Assyrian destruction of the temple by cutting down its cedars. See on Is. 48:9. But by not immediately judging His people for their unfaithfulness to Him (see on :8), God's grace as it were earns yet more praise for Him; from us, the spiritually discerning.

Even though so classically undeserving, Israel were saved "for His Name's sake" (Ps. 106:8; Ez. 20:9; 36:22 etc.)- and the same applies to the New Israel, baptized into the same saving Name of grace. They were not punished according to their sins for the Name's sake which they carried, and so will it be with us (Is. 48:9)- but we have to treat others baptized into the same covering Name in this same way as we are treated!

The usage of the idea of restraining anger, like the use of the terms 'remembering' and 'forgetting', suggests that God is so fully willing to enter into our kind of time; for a Being cannot forget and remember simultaneously, an element of time is involved. Likewise at times we read of God being slow to anger (Ex. 34:6), at others, of Him not restraining His anger, or restraining it (Ps. 78:38; Is. 48:9; Lam. 2:8; Ez. 20:22), and holding His peace (Is. 57:11; Ps. 50:21), and being provoked to anger by the bad behaviour of His covenant people (Dt. 32:21; Ps. 78:58; Is. 65:3; Jer. 8:19). God clearly has emotions of a kind which are not unrelated to the emotions we experience, as beings made in His image. But those emotions involve a time factor in order to be emotions. We read of the anger of God "for a moment" (Ps. 30:5; Is. 54:7,8), and of His wrath coming and going, leaving Him "calm" and no longer angry (Ez. 16:42). When we sin, we provoke God to anger- i.e. at a point in time, God sees our sin, and becomes angry. This is attested many times in Scripture. But it's meaningless if God is somehow outside of our time and emotions.

Isaiah 48:10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction-
LXX "I have rescued thee from the furnace of affliction", just as Daniel's friends had been. They were representative of all the exiles. But despite that 'rescue', they refused to leave Persia. Nor would they perceive their prosperity in Babylon / Persia as in fact a furnace, a living out of condemnation. They chose for the most part to remain in it. The idea may be that despite the refining fire of the affliction of exile, they had still not become as silver; the dross was not removed. This is the tragedy of Israel's long history; so much fire, but the dross still held on to, and not removed. And it is so in the lives of so many associated with the new Israel.


Isaiah 48:11 For My own sake, for My own sake, will I do it; for how should My name be profaned? I will not give My glory to another-
We sense here the struggle within God, which we see too throughout Hosea, especially in Hos. 11:8. They had been unfaithful and treacherous to Him, and His anger was kindled (:8,9); they needed to be judged. But He had refrained the expression of that anger (:9). On one hand, He cannot let His Name be profaned; but on the other, He will not give His glory to another. This conflict is at the very heart of His being, for His "own sake". The fact the pole of His grace and mercy emerges stronger than the pole of His anger and judgment is not to say that He is simply soft hearted. That triumph of mercy over judgment is the result of real conflict and tension within the heart of God Himself, at the very core of His character.

God will not let His Name be polluted by His people (Is. 48:11; Ez. 20:9). But God polluted His people (Is. 47:6). They did pollute His Name (Jer. 34:16; Mal. 1:7). God invites us to see His efforts to stop His Name being polluted as somehow defeated by the extent of Israel's pollutions. This theme comes out clearly in Ezekiel: they polluted Him, but He strove lest His Name should be polluted. Here is the extent of freewill which God gives man to sin- and also the extent of the hopefulness of God. It's as if He didn't imagine they would pollute Him as much as they did.

Isaiah 48:12 Listen to Me, O Jacob, and Israel My called: I am He; I am the first, I also am the last-
The sense may be as in Is. 41:4: "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 48:13 Yes, My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, and My right hand has spread out the heavens: when I call to them, they stand up together-
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.

In the same context of Babylon's apparent might being brought down by God's hand, God reasoned that He would perform His will against Babylon, and this should be believed because His hand had created the heavens and earth (Is. 48:13,14). Likewise He taught Job the futility of having such metaphysical doubts about Him, of the joy there is all around us in creation regardless of our personal suffering…through an exposition of His power as creator. All this is why the disciples were inspired to faith that their prayers for deliverance would be answered by the recollection of the fact that God has created all things and therefore nothing is too hard for Him (Acts 4:24 RV).

Isaiah 48:14 Assemble yourselves all of you, and hear; who among them has declared these things? He whom Yahweh loves shall perform His will on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans-
Babylon fell so that Persia would take over the administration of the 127 provinces where the Jews were scattered, and would allow them to return to Judah. The cup of judgment which Judah drunk for 70 years was passed to Babylon (Is. 51:22). This accounts for Isaiah’s repeated and detailed emphasis on the coming fall of Babylon for Judah / Israel’s sake (e.g. Is. 47). Although they had sinned, Yahweh showed His gracious love for His people by bringing down Babylon. “For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee [Cyrus] by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me “ (Is. 45:4). World geopolitics are manipulated for the sake of God's people. And yet we can refuse to participate in the program, as the exiles did. Likewise the iron curtain came down to allow preachers of God’s Truth to take it to those once in darkness. And English has become the lingua-franca of the world, enabling Christian preaching to now penetrate societies literally world-wide. See on Ezra 2:1. But "Israel would not". I explained on Is. 46:1 and Is. 47:11 that Cyrus did not particularly destroy "the Chaldeans" as envisaged in these prophecies. He did not respond to Yahweh's love and refused to "know Him". And so these things are more fully to be realized in the fall of latter day Babylon at the hand of the Son of God's love, the Lord Jesus.

Isaiah 48:15 I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him; I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous-
The Jews of Isaiah’s day would have had big problems with the idea of a pagan king like Cyrus becoming  the King of Israel and being Yahweh’s special “servant” and even Messiah; see on Is. 45:1. Folk have the same problem and resistance to the idea today. But passages like Is. 45:9-13, Is. 48:14-16 and much of the material that follows the servant songs, are in fact seeking to answer objections to this- e.g. by saying that God is the potter and men are mere clay, and He will raise up precisely whom He wishes- even pagan Cyrus- to be His man, the arm of His salvation, at least potentially. His way was made prosperous, potentially; the "way" to the restored Zion of Is. 40 had been potentially prepared.

Isaiah 48:16 Come near to Me and hear this: ‘From the beginning I have not spoken in secret; from the time that it was, there am I’. Now the Lord Yahweh has sent me, with His Spirit-
The sending forth of Isaiah was the sending forth of God's word to His people (s.w. Is. 6:8; 9:8). Isaiah like the Lord Jesus and like us, was the word made flesh; his prophetic word about Cyrus and the restoration was published and not spoken in secret, and he was sent in the power of the Spirit to authenticate his message. And in Isaiah, the man became his message; there was a congruence between him personally and the word preached. In the immediate context, Isaiah himself was the servant messenger sent forth (s.w. Is. 42:19; 48:16; 61:1); hence GNB "Now the Sovereign LORD has given me his power and sent me". But he was largely rejected, and Jewish tradition has it that Isaiah was sawn in two by Hezekiah's son Manasseh (Heb. 11:37). And so the messenger came to fulfilment in the Lord Jesus.

Isaiah 48:17 Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel-
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.

I am Yahweh your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way that you should go- LXX "I have shewn thee how thou shouldest find the way wherein thou shouldest walk". The way to Zion had been prepared (see on Is. 40), but they had to walk in it. They were being led in that way, potentially, just as many are today- but they refused to walk in it. The idols and the Gentile nations amongst whom they lived would not "profit" them (s.w. Is. 30:5,6; 44:9,10); but as the book of Esther makes clear, they were profiting well, apparently, from remaining amongst them. But the only real "profit" would be if they quit all that and returned to Zion. But they saw no "profit" in being forgiven and restored as God's people (s.w. Job 35:3).

Isaiah 48:18 Oh that you had listened to My commandments! then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea-
This was the potential possible if they had repented and returned to Judah.  The promises to Abraham (:19) and the coming of the Messianic seed of Abraham could have been fulfilled; but because Israel chose to be wicked, there was no such peace: “There is no peace… unto the wicked” (:22).

Because of His capacity to imagine, to see possible futures, God feels rejected both by His children and by His wife at the same time. Hence the poignancy behind His words of regret here, seeing what could have been. Likewise "Oh that they would have a mind such as this always" (Dt. 5:29), "O Israel, if you would but listen to Me" (Ps. 81:8,13). It's as if He could see the potentially happy future which they could've had stretching out before Him.

Isaiah 48:19 your seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of your body like its grains: his name would not be cut off nor destroyed from before Me-
The promises to Abraham and the coming of the Messianic seed of Abraham could have been fulfilled then, had they repented (:18). The offspring of their body could have been as sand grains; they really could have personally been as Abraham. Likewise for us, the receipt of the promises to Abraham means that we stand absolutely with him (Gal. 3:27-29). But the LXX reads as if despite their refusal of these things, all the same God would not totally reject them: "Neither now shalt thou by any means be utterly destroyed, neither shall thy name perish before me".


Isaiah 48:20 Go forth from Babylon, flee from the Chaldeans; with a voice of singing declare, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth: say, ‘Yahweh has redeemed His servant Jacob’-
The idea in Is. 47:15 was that the people from the nations within the Babylonian empire would leave Babylon and return home- including the Jews. But this didn't happen; see on Is. 46:1. The idea here is that the Jews were intended to flee Babylon before she fell, but they didn't; and so God put another plan into operation, whereby the fall of Babylon was to lead to all the foreigners there, including the Jews, thereby being freed to return to their ancestral homelands. But still the Jews remained, as the book of Esther testifies. God tried then and tries now, by all means, to bring His chosen people to His Kingdom. Human resistance to His efforts is tragic. He must have pleasure in we weak sinners who have at least said "Yes" to His plans.

“Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17) is picking up the language of Is. 48:20; 52:11; Jer. 50:8; Zech. 2:7 concerning the return of the exiles from Babylon. The edict of Cyrus for the Jews to return to the land was reapplied to God’s command to us to leave the spirit of Babylon, the Gentile world, and go up to do His work. The returned exiles are us. God told His people to flee from Babylon, to come out of her and return to His land and Kingdom (Is. 48:20; 52:7; Jer. 50:8; Zech. 2:7). Babylon offered them a secure life, wealth, a society which accepted them (Esther 8:17; 10:3), houses which they had built for themselves (Jer. 29:5). And they were asked to leave all this, and travel the uncertain wilderness road to the ruins of Israel. They are cited in the NT as types of us in our exit from this world (2 Cor. 6:17; Rev. 18:4). Those who decided to obey God’s command and leave Babylon were confirmed in this by God: He raised up their spirit to want to return and re-build Jerusalem, and He touched the heart of Cyrus to make decrees which greatly helped them to do this (Ezra 1:2-5). And so the same Lord God of Israel is waiting to confirm us in our every act of separation from the kingdoms of this world, great or small; and He waits not only to receive us, but to be a Father unto us, and to make us His sons and daughters (2 Cor. 6:18).

The command to flee Babylon must be compared with Is. 52:12: "For you shall not go out in haste, neither shall you go by flight: for Yahweh will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your vanguard". Although the exodus from Egypt was in many ways a pattern for the exiles to leave Babylon, in distinction from then, they would not "go out in haste" (s.w. Dt. 16:3). They would not be persecuted in Babylon, leading them to flee. Rather they were to "flee" from Babylon spiritually (Is. 48:20) of their own volition and desire. 

Isaiah 48:21 They didn’t thirst when He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them; He split the rock also, and the waters gushed out-
Just as everything had been provided for them when they left Egypt, so they need not worry about the logistics of returning to Judah. The practical issues which loom in the minds of those confronted with the Gospel of the Kingdom will all likewise be dealt with by the God who desperately wants us to say "yes". But the exiles generally said "no", and so these things are reapplied and reinterpreted to  new Israel who say "Yes" to the invitation to participate in the restored Kingdom of God in Judah. The Lord Jesus spoke of how out of Him would come "living water", not still well water, but bubbling water fresh from a fountain (Jn. 4:11; 7:38). And He invites His people to drink of it. It was this kind of water that bubbled out of the smitten rock. Ps. 78:15,16,20; 105:41; Is. 48:21 describe it with a variety of words: gushing, bursting, water running down like a high mountain stream, "flowed abundantly"... as if the fountains of deep hidden water had burst to the surface ("as out of the great depths", Ps. 78:15). So the Lord was saying that He was like the rock, and we like Israel drinking of what came out of Him.

We note here that the rock gave water throughout the wilderness journey (Is. 48:21). This would surely necessitate that the giving of water at Horeb was not a one-off solution to a crisis. There is a word play in the Hebrew text of Is. 48:21: "He led them through the Horebs [AV 'desert places']" by making water flow from the rock. The Horeb experience was repeated for 40 years; as if the rock went on being smitten. Somehow the water from that smitten rock went with them, fresh and bubbling as it was the first moment the rock was smitten, right through the wilderness. It was living, spring water- not lying around in puddles.

Isaiah 48:22 There is no peace, says Yahweh, for the wicked-
"The wicked" are the Jewish exiles of :18 who refused the potential peace with God which was offered if they repented and returned to Judah to reestablish His Kingdom of peace.