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Isaiah 48

Jehovah’s servant calls on Jacob/Israel to forsake its idols and return in a new exodus out of Babylon.

1 Hear this, O house of Jacob,you who are named Israel—though youa stem from the lineageb of Judah—who take oaths in the name of Jehovahand invoke the God of Israel,though not in truth or in righteousness, 2 who call yourselves of the holy city,upheld by the God of Israel,whose name is Jehovah of Hosts:

Like the ancient Jacob/Israel category of Jehovah’s people, its end-time counterpart acts presumptuously. Its religion consists of going through the motions of worship but “not in truth or in righteousness”—not by Jehovah’s standard of righteousness as exemplified by his servant (Isaiah 41:2; 46:11-13). Its sins include improperly “taking oaths” or covenanting in the name of Jehovah and inappropriately “invoking” or referring to him. Yet they assume they are upheld by the God of Israel whose heavenly “hosts” are holy (Isaiah 40:26) even as their hypocrisy renders them and their “city” unholy.

3 The prophecies of the events of the pastI made known long beforehand;no sooner did they issue from my mouth,than I caused them to be announced.Then, suddenly, I acted and they came about.
4 For I knew how stubborn you were—your neck was an iron sinew, your brow brazen— 5 therefore I told you them beforehand;I announced them to you before they transpired,lest you should say, My idols did it;my graven and wrought images caused it!

Typical of Jehovah’s dealings with his people is his foretelling events before they occur. Where such prophecy is lacking (Isaiah 29:9-10; 41:22-24, 26), his Spirit has withdrawn because of wickedness. At that point people are prone to take matters into their own hands instead of turning to Jehovah (Isaiah 9:9-10; 17:8-11). Where ancient prophecies came to pass, it was a sign they were of God, not of man. Where prophecies apply to both the past and the end-time, as do Isaiah’s, their future fulfillment is assured based on past results. Jehovah’s servant—his mouth—conforms to that divine pattern.

6 But you have heard cthe whole vision;chow is it you do not proclaim it?Yet as of now, I announce to you new things,things withheld and unknown to you,

The “whole vision” or “vision of everything” (hazut kullah) refers to the vision of the end from the beginning Isaiah received at his second prophetic commission (Isaiah 40:1-6; 46:10). That vision, Isaiah embedded in his book as a message for the end-time (Isaiah 30:8). At fault are Jehovah’s end-time people for not proclaiming or even understanding it (Isaiah 29:11): “Have I not made it known to you from of old? Did I not foretell it, you being my witnesses?” (Isaiah 44:8). Their failing to serve as Jehovah’s witnesses places them among the blind and deaf (Isaiah 29:18; 42:18-20; 43:10, 12; 44:7-8).

6 But you have heard cthe whole vision;chow is it you do not proclaim it?Yet as of now, I announce to you new things,things withheld and unknown to you, 7 things now coming into being, not hitherto,things you have not heard of before,lest you should say, Indeed I knew them! 8 You have not heard them,nor have you known them;before this your ears have not been open to them.For I knew you would turn treacherous;you were called a transgressor from the womb.

The “new things” Jehovah predicts through his end-time servant (Isaiah 41:27; 42:9; 52:15) establish proof of Jehovah’s divinity and of the legitimacy of his servant at the time the world observes them coming to pass (vv 14-16; Isaiah 43:9-12; 44:26-28; 46:8-11). As Jehovah withholds knowledge that might condemn his people should they not live up to it, so “a day of small things” has prevailed until now (cf. Zechariah 4:10). Typifying the end-time, on the other hand, is Jehovah’s performing “wonders”—earthshaking deeds that are acknowledged throughout the earth (Isaiah 12:4-5; 25:1; 29:14).

The “new things” Jehovah does, however, pose a hazard to persons unfamiliar with the old. When his people assume that his former works no longer relate to today, they stand to reject the new works Jehovah does as well (Isaiah 28:14-22; 45:9-11; 50:8-11; 66:4-9). Only persons who know his dealings in the past will thus likely comprehend his dealings in the future. As all of Jehovah’s acts follow the patterns of the past, the new things he performs resemble the old with the exception that all now happens on a world scale and that new things may consist of composite replays of former things.

9 For my own name’s sake I have bridled my wrath;on account of my renownI have shown restraint toward youby not entirely destroying you. 10 See, I am refining you, though not as silver;I am testingd you in the crucible of affliction. 11 For my own sake, on my own account, I do it,that my namee be not dishonored,nor my glory, which I give to no other.

As Jehovah’s Day of Judgment entails both deliverance and destruction, what is it that determines who lives and who dies? The answer is that Jehovah is bound by the terms of the covenants he has made. With Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for example, he covenanted that he would preserve their lineage on the earth—not all, but at least a remnant (Genesis 22:17-18; 26:4; 28:14; Exodus 2:24). With David and others he covenanted the same (Psalm 89:3-4; Jeremiah 33:17-22). Hence the expressions “for my own sake” and “on my own account” as Jehovah honors his covenants (Isaiah 37:35; 43:25).

Under the terms of the Davidic Covenant, Jehovah additionally delivers his people for the sake of his end-time servants: “As when there is juice in a cluster of grapes and someone says, ‘Don’t destroy it, it is still good,’ so I will do for the sake of my servants by not destroying everything: I will extract offspring out of Jacob, and out of Judah heirs of my mountains; my chosen ones shall inherit them, servants shall dwell there” (Isaiah 65:8-9; emphasis added; cf. 63:17). Jehovah’s delivering Hezekiah’s people “for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David” is a case in point (Isaiah 37:35).

A third covenant under whose terms Jehovah saves his people is the Sinai Covenant. It stipulates that if his people prove loyal as a nation, then Jehovah is bound to preserve them (Exodus 23:20-33; Leviticus 26:1-13; Numbers 14:41-45). Jehovah’s bridling his wrath or anger, therefore—his constraining the king of Assyria/Babylon from destroying all his people—serves a dual purpose: (1) it fulfills Jehovah’s covenants with his righteous people and with elect individuals; and (2) it preserves alive a remnant of his people that repents as a result of passing through the archtyrant’s refiner’s fire.

12 Hear me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I have called:I am he who was at the first,and I am he who is at the last. 13 It was my hand that founded the earth,my right hand that stretched out the heavens;when I call them, they arise at once.

Before testifying of his servant (vv 14-15), Jehovah again speaks of himself as creator of the heavens and the earth, this time with the added implication that his servant—his hand and right hand—assisted in their creation (Isaiah 45:12). The God who was “at the first,” moreover—at the creation of the heavens and the earth—will also be “at the last” (Isaiah 41:4), suggesting that with the coming of his servant the world’s end-time scenario begins. Jehovah’s “calling” the heavenly host signifies their divine enthronement (Isaiah 40:26), fulfilling his promise to Abraham of a celestial posterity (Genesis 22:17).

14 All of you, assemble and hear:Who among youf foretold these things?It is him Jehovah loves,who shall perform his will in Babylon;his arm shall be against the Chaldeans. 15 I myself have spoken it, and also called him;I have brought him, and I will prosperg his way.

Although the Jacob/Israel category of Jehovah’s people doesn’t anticipate the coming of the king of Assyria/Babylon or Jehovah’s servant, all becomes evident when the servant appears. In case of doubt, the God who created the heavens and the earth (v 13) has “spoken it,” “called him,” “brought him,” “loves” him, and “prospers his way” (Isaiah 41:2; 42:6; 45:3-4; 46:11, 13; 49:1; 55:3-4). As Jehovah’s arm, the servant intervenes in Greater Babylon to lead Jehovah’s elect out of all nations, setting in motion their end-time restoration (Isaiah 40:10-11; 51:5, 9-11; 52:7-12; 59:16; 62:8-12; 63:11-12).

16 Come near me and hear this:I have not made predictions in secret;at their coming to pass, I have been present.Now my Lord Jehovah has sent me;his Spirit is in me.h

After Jehovah introduces him (vv 14-15), the servant speaks. As Jehovah testifies of him, so he testifies of Jehovah. Instead of turning people away as the archtyrant does, he invites them to hear him. Unlike the blind and deaf prophets of Jehovah’s people (Isaiah 41:21-24, Isaiah 41:21-24, 26; 56:10; 56:10), he predicts the future; and what he predicts comes to pass. As the servant’s covenant Lord or emperor under the terms of the Davidic Covenant, Jehovah has “sent” him (selahani), a term signifying apostleship, and his “Spirit” is in him—word links confirming him as Jehovah’s servant (Isaiah 11:2; 19:20; 42:1; 61:1).

17 Thus says Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel,your Redeemer:I Jehovah your God instruct you to your good,guiding you in the way you should go.

Whether through his servant or through his holy Spirit, Jehovah instructs or teaches his people (Isaiah 30:21; 50:10; 59:21), guiding them in the way they should go. As there are essentially two ways—one good and one evil (Isaiah 1:16-17; 7:15-16; 65:2)—his people should choose the good and enjoy the blessings of his covenant. If not, covenant curses accrue. Jehovah’s titles—“Holy One of Israel,” “your Redeemer,” and “your God”—convey the idea of his unchanging fidelity that is grounded in his divine benevolence, inviting his errant people to return to a covenant relationship with him.

18 Had you but obeyed my commandments,your peace would have been as a river,your righteousness like the waves of the sea; 19 your offspring would have beenas the sands in number,your descendants as many as their grains.Their names would not have been cut offand obliterated from my presence.

Keeping Jehovah’s commandments—the law of his covenant—defines righteousness by Jehovah’s standard (Isaiah 42:21; 51:4-5, 7) and begets peace (Isaiah 26:2-3; 57:2). Righteousness, moreover—as a spiritual attribute and as Jehovah’s servant personifies it (Isaiah 26:7-10; 41:2)—begets salvation (Isaiah 46:12-13; 56:1), which is itself synonymous with peace (Isaiah 26:1, 3; 52:7). Peace, in turn, implies an absence of the power of chaos Sea and River, which the archtyrant personifies (Isaiah 5:30; 8:7-8) but which Jehovah subdues when his people keep the terms of his covenant (Isaiah 60:5; 66:12).

As Abraham exemplified righteousness (Genesis 15:6), and as Jehovah promised him offspring as many as the sands of the sea (Genesis 22:17), so he promises the same to those whose righteousness compares with Abraham’s. The alternative to covenant blessings, however, are covenant curses. Instead of receiving “an everlasting name that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 56:5; cf. 62:2; 66:22), the names of Jehovah’s unrepentant people and their offspring are “cut off”—that is, excluded from his covenant people and included in the Greater Babylon category that is damned (Isaiah 14:22; 63:19; 65:15).

20 Go forth out of Babylon, flee from Chaldea!Make this announcement with resounding voice;broadcast it to the end of the earth.Say, Jehovah has redeemed his servant Jacob. 21 They thirsted not when he led them through arid places:he caused water to flow for them from the rock;he cleaved the rock and water gushed out.

To find peace, Jehovah’s people must exit Greater Babylon—the world at large (Isaiah 13:1, 9, 11, 19)—in a new exodus to Zion from the four directions of the earth (Isaiah 11:11-12, 15-16; 43:6-8). Jehovah’s servant or voice and Zion’s watchmen announce it (Isaiah 52:7-12). As Jehovah provided water for his people when Moses smote the rock at Israel’s former wandering in the wilderness (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:7-11), so he provides water when that event repeats itself (Isaiah 41:17-18; 43:20; 49:9-12). Jehovah—his people’s rock—is their source of living water (Isaiah 12:2-3; 26:4).

22 But there is no peace, says Jehovah,for the wicked.

He who begets peace is Jehovah: “O Jehovah, you bring about our peace” (Isaiah 26:12); “I occasion peace and cause calamity” (Isaiah 45:7; cf. 53:5; 66:12). While “they who walk uprightly shall attain peace and rest in their beds” (Isaiah 57:2), transgressors know no peace: “The wicked are like the raging Sea, unable to rest, whose waters heave up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:20-21); “They are unacquainted with the way of perfection; integrity is not within their bounds. They have made crooked their paths; none who treads them knows peace” (Isaiah 59:8).

  • a1 Hebrew they.
  • b1 Literally, loins. Hebrew mimmê, from the waters, emended to mimměᶜê; compare the term in verse 19.
  • c6 Hebrew ḥazēh kullāh, See all of it! emended to ḥāzût kullāh; compare 29:11.
  • d10 So 1QIsaa; MT choosing.
  • e11 So LXX; term not in MT.
  • f14 Hebrew bāhem, among them, emended to bākem.
  • g15 So LXX; MT and he shall prosper.
  • h16 Compare 63:11.


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