Isaiah 44
1Hear then, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
2Thus says the Lord who made you,
your help, who formed you from the womb:
Do not fear, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun,#Jeshurun: see note on Dt 32:15; cf. also Dt 33:5, 26. whom I have chosen.
3I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground,
streams upon the dry land;
I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring,
my blessing upon your descendants.
4They shall spring forth amid grass
like poplars beside flowing waters.#Is 54:1–3.
5One shall say, “I am the Lord’s,”
another shall be named after Jacob,
And this one shall write on his hand,#Write on his hand: an allusion to the Babylonian custom of tattooing the owner’s name on the hand of his slave. “The Lord’s,”
and receive the name Israel.#Is 43:7; 45:14.
The True God and False Gods
6#Prediction and fulfillment are here seen as the hallmarks of true divinity. See note on 43:9. Thus says the Lord, Israel’s king,
its redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
I am the first, I am the last;
there is no God but me.#No god but me: with Second Isaiah, Israel’s faith is declared to be explicitly monotheistic. However implicit it may have been, earlier formulas did not exclude the existence of other gods, not even that of the first commandment: “You shall not have other gods besides me” (Ex 20:3). Cf. also note on 41:21–29. #Is 41:4; 43:15; 45:21; 48:3, 12; 51:15; 54:5.
7Who is like me? Let him stand up and declare,
make it evident, and confront me with it.
Who of old announced future events?
Let them foretell to us the things to come.
8Do not fear or be troubled.
Did I not announce it to you long ago?
I declared it, and you are my witnesses.
Is there any God but me?
There is no other Rock,#Rock: place of refuge, a title here used of God; cf., e.g., Dt 32:4, 18; 1 Sm 2:2; Ps 18:3. I know of none!#Is 43:10, 12; Dt 32:4.
9#A satire on the makers and worshipers of idols. Those who fashion idols are all nothing;
their precious works are of no avail.
They are their witnesses:#Their witnesses: Israel has been called to bear witness to the awesome power of God (cf. 43:10, 12; 44:8), but idol makers cannot testify in support of their creations, for idols cannot act (Dt 4:28; Ps 135:15–18).
they see nothing, know nothing,
and so they are put to shame.#Is 48:5, 7.
10Who would fashion a god or cast an idol,
that is of no use?
11Look, all its company will be shamed;
they are artisans, mere human beings!
They all assemble and stand there,
only to cower in shame.
12The ironsmith fashions a likeness,
he works it over the coals,
Shaping it with hammers,
working it with his strong arm.
With hunger his strength wanes,
without water, he grows faint.#Wis 13:11–16.
13The woodworker stretches a line,
and marks out a shape with a stylus.
He shapes it with scraping tools,
with a compass measures it off,
Making it the copy of a man,#Copy of a man: in the biblical view human beings are made in the image of God; here gods are made in the image of human beings.
human display, enthroned in a shrine.
14He goes out to cut down cedars,
takes a holm tree or an oak.
He picks out for himself trees of the forest,
plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow.
15It is used for fuel:
with some of the wood he warms himself,
makes a fire and bakes bread.
Yet he makes a god and worships it,
turns it into an idol and adores it!
16Half of it he burns in the fire,
on its embers he roasts meat;
he eats the roast and is full.
He warms himself and says, “Ah!
I am warm! I see the flames!”
17The rest of it he makes into a god,
an image to worship and adore.
He prays to it and says,
“Help me! You are my god!”
18They do not know, do not understand;
their eyes are too clouded to see,
their minds, to perceive.
19He does not think clearly;
he lacks the wit and knowledge to say,
“Half the wood I burned in the fire,
on its embers I baked bread,
I roasted meat and ate.
Shall I turn the rest into an abomination?
Shall I worship a block of wood?”
20He is chasing ashes!#Chasing ashes: an exercise in futility.
A deluded mind has led him astray;
He cannot save himself,
does not say, “This thing in my right hand—is it not a fraud?”
21Remember these things, Jacob,
Israel, for you are my servant!
I formed you, a servant to me;
Israel, you shall never be forgotten by me:
22I have brushed away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like a mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
23Raise a glad cry, you heavens—the Lord has acted!
Shout, you depths of the earth.
Break forth, mountains, into song,
forest, with all your trees.
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
shows his glory through Israel.
Cyrus, Anointed of the Lord, Agent of Israel’s Liberation
24Thus says the Lord, your redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
I spread out the earth by myself.#Is 40:22; Jb 9:8.
25I bring to nought the omens of babblers,
make fools of diviners,
Turn back the wise
and make their knowledge foolish.
26I confirm the words of my servant,
carry out the plan my messengers announce.
I say to Jerusalem, Be inhabited!
To the cities of Judah, Be rebuilt!
I will raise up their ruins.
27I say to the deep, Be dry!
I will dry up your rivers.#Is 42:15; 51:10.
28I say of Cyrus,#Cyrus: king of Persia (559–529 B.C.); cf. note on 41:1–4. My shepherd!
He carries out my every wish,
Saying of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Lay its foundations.”#Jer 3:15; Ez 34:23.

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