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Isaiah 44

Chapter Forty-four:

v. 2:  According to Barnes and the Oxford commentary, “Jeshurun” is a poetic name for Israel.  Barnes says it connotes affection.  Its only other occurrence in the Bible is in Deuteronomy (32:15 and 33:5, 26).  Probably, Isaiah (or whoever recorded this prophecy) meant to allude to Deuteronomy by using this name and other wording similar to that found in Deuteronomy.  For instance, here in Isaiah 44:8, God calls himself a Rock, and Deuteronomy 32:15 (the same verse that uses the name Jeshurun) God is “the Rock of Salvation.”

v. 5:  The Oxford commentary claims that this verse refers to the future inclusion of Gentiles in the kingdom of God, but I think, based on the context, that the speakers in this verse are not proselytes but rather the “descendants” and “offspring” of Israel, who will “spring up…like willows by flowing streams” (vs. 3-4).  Of course, I admit that this could also apply to Gentile Christians as the spiritual descendants of Israel, but I see nothing in the context of the chapter that would suggest that the writer had this in mind.

The NRSV reads, “[A]nother will write on[1] the hand…,” but I think this must be a poor translation.  Barnes believes that the verse should read “[A]nother will write with[2] the hand…,” which makes more sense to me given the Law’s injunction against tattooing.

Concerning the word “surname” see notes on 45:4.

v. 15:  Here is a great illustration, demonstrating how illogical it is to venerate as God something whose substance is so perishable.  This appeal to the logical faculties and intelligence of the reader reminds me of Isaiah 1:18[3] and makes a nice segue into verse 18 of this chapter, which is a recapitulation of the common theme of losing the good of the intellect.[4]

v. 25:  It is interesting that Luther’s translation has Wahrsager (“sooth[truth]sayer”) where the OKJ and NRSV have “liars.”  Perhaps the English versions opted to express the writer’s intent rather than the denotation of the word itself.

v. 27:  Barnes makes a good case for reading this verse as a reference to Cyrus’ capture of Babylon.  Apparently Cyrus took Babylon by diverting the course of the Euphrates away from the city, leaving its channel dry and a great gap beneath the city walls under which the river had passed to flow through the ancient city.  Once this gap was laid bare, Cyrus led his troops into the city by it.  Barnes answers the objection that the sea itself is the reference here (rather than the Euphrates) by pointing out that Jeremiah 51:36 applies the same word that is here translated as “sea” to the river Euphrates (141-142).

v. 28:  The mention of Cyrus by name is probably offered as another proof of God’s ability to predict the future, which distinguishes him from the other so-called gods of wood and stone.[5]


[1] Italics mine.

[2] Italics mine

[3] “Come now, and let us reason together.”

[4] See Isaiah 6:9.

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