Isaiah Chapter 48 Notes

Isaiah Ch 48 Commentary // larryhuntbiblecommentary.wordpress.com

Chapter Forty-eight:

v. 3: This and subsequent verses (like v. 10, which reads, “I have refined you”) seem to assume that Babylon’s conquest of Judah is in the past.  The fact that the narrator assumes that the conquest of Judah is in the past could mean that this part of the book was not written by Isaiah himself, since he died as an old man at least a century before the Babylonians conquered Judah.  But this interpretation is not necessarily true.  For whatever reason, Isaiah’s use of tense is very fluid throughout the book.[1]  He may have written this section and chosen to refer to the conquest of Judah in the past because he meant to address the Jewish captives in Babylon, years after his death, as contemporaries.  If Isaiah really did write it, referring to the conquest of Judah in the past tense may have had more rhetorical/emotional weight for the captive Jews because they would have had the impression that the prophet not only predicted the conquest of Judah so long before his death, but that he also has come into their own time (so to speak) to predict the return to Judah under the reign of Cyrus.[2]  But even if Isaiah did not write it,[3] the speaker is obviously a prophet and is predicting a future event (the return to Judah) and assuring his audience that this prophecy is true because God is the source of his knowledge.

v. 6:  In v. 1 God says, “Hear this;” then in v. 6 he continues: “You have heard; now see [4] all this.”  A paraphrase might be: You have heard of my past predictions (all of which came to pass), now behold in the present my new ones as they come to pass before your eyes.  The new ones (“new things”) are Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon (v. 14) and the return of the Jews to Judea (vs. 20-21).

So, there are the old predictions and their fulfillments, which the Jews have heard of.  I am not sure exactly what these old predictions refer to.

And then there are the new predictions (which the Jews have not heard of) and their fulfillments (which they will see).  God says that he has not shown them these new predictions before because he “knew that … [they] would deal very treacherously” with them, i.e. that they would misuse them by claiming that they “already knew them” (v. 7).  In making such a false claim, the Jews could attempt to justify their idolatry by arguing that their idols had made the prediction.[5]

But when were these new predictions made?  If they were made by Isaiah, then it seems like they would have come around the same time as his prophecies concerning the Babylonian Captivity.  If so, then the old predictions in this chapter, “the former things” cannot refer to the Babylonian Captivity.[6]  Perhaps “the former things” is a generic term meaning all the famous old predictions of legend like the deliverance of the Israelites from Pharaoh and their possession of the Holy Land, which v. 21 of this chapter seems to allude to.[7]

v. 9: The Babylonian Captivity had been the product of God’s just anger; therefore, God defers his anger, in this case, by ending the Babylonian Captivity.

10:  God explains his metaphorical reference to refining silver:  “I have [metaphorically] refined you [like silver], but not [literally] like silver [since] I have tested you in the furnace of adversity [rather than in a real furnace of fire].”

v. 11:  God does not rescue the Jews because they deserve it; Verses 1-2 seem to say that they are still insincere and rebellious.  He rescues them because of his own merciful nature.[8]

The specific “other” to whom God will not give his glory is an idol.

v. 16: I believe God is the speaker of all these verses until this one.  Even where the speaker refers to God in the third person (vs. 1-2, 14, etc.) one may reasonably conclude that the speaker is still God since God sometimes refers to himself in that way.[9]  But in v. 16, the speaker refers to himself in the first person and to God in the third person.  So who is the speaker?  I think it must be Cyrus, who was himself a foreshadowing of the Messiah in that he delivered God’s people from their captivity.

v. 22: This verse seems a little random.  Maybe I am missing something.  It occurs again in 57:21.

[1] Perhaps he did this as a rhetorical device or because, as a prophet, his visions came closer to reflecting God’s own perspective of time.

[2] See note on 41:22.

[3] I do not believe that Isaiah appears by name here or anywhere near this chapter to claim this particular prophecy as his own.

[4] Italics mine.

[5] God makes predictions known before the events they predict so that the people will not attribute the events themselves to their idols (v.5), but in this particular case, he did not make the prediction known for very long before the event.

[6] Throughout this latter part of Isaiah, the prophecies of deliverance from Babylon are interwoven with those concerning the Babylonian Captivity, suggesting that the two types of prophecy (those addressing the Captivity by and Deliverance from Babylon) were initially given around the same time, although (if Isaiah himself never mentioned deliverance from Babylon) I suppose a later editor could arrange Isaiah’s former prophecies about Captivity with a later prophet’s new prophesies of Deliverance.  The editor could justify such an arrangement by claiming Babylon in general as the unifying theme.  In such a scenario, the Babylonian Captivity could be “the former things” of this chapter, but I doubt this is what happened because I believe Isaiah himself spoke both of the Babylonian Captivity and the Deliverance from Babylon.

[8] Daniel 9:17-18.

[9] As did Jesus.


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