ISAIAH 43: 16-21

Douglas McC. L. Judisch

16. Thus has the LORD said,

the one giving a way in the sea

and a path in strong waters,

17. The one bringing forth chariot and horse,

army and strong one

(together do they lie down;

they do not rise;

they have been extinguished;

like the wick have they been quenched):

18. "Remember ye no more the former things,

Nor meditate ye more on the early things.

19. Behold, I am going to do a new thing:

Then will it sprout.

Will ye not know it?

Yea, I shall place a way in the wilderness,

rivers in wasteland.

20. The beast of the field will glorify Me,

jackals and ostriches,

For I will give waters in the wilderness,

rivers in the wasteland,

To give drink to My people,

My chosen.

21. This people have I formed for Myself;

They will recount My praise.

The reading from the Old Testament which is assigned to the Fifth Sunday in Lent in Series C of Lutheran Worship consists in six verses of the forty-third chapter of the Book of Isaiah, namely verses 16-21. (The exegesis of these verses below is, assuredly, in no way designed to promote the use in the main service of the week of any such modern selection of gospels and epistles as those suggested in Lutheran Worship. This exegete, on the contrary, would continue to urge, on various grounds, fidelity to the pericopal tradition inherited from the ancient church by the church of the reformation and modified only slightly by the Blessed Reformer of the Church, if one is speaking specifically of the gospels and epistles to be read in the main (eucharistic) service of the week. No comparable series of readings, on the other hand, from the Old Testament was either handed down from the ancient church or bestowed on us by the Blessed Reformer; nor, indeed, is there such a program of readings from the New Testament to be used in all the possible additional offices of any given week. In such cases, therefore, even such a traditionalist as this exegete is able, with consistency, to make use of any pericope drawn from the region of Holy Scripture desired.)



The historical and literary observations which follow assume the auctorial integrity of the Book of Isaiah which this exegete has defended elsewhere (especially in An Introduction to the Book of Isaiah). Isaiah ben-Amoz began his lengthy prophetic ministry of some six decades already in 739 B.C. in the final year of the reign of Uzziah as King of Judah. He then uttered the various prophecies contained in the first main unit of the Book of Isaiah (chapters 1-35 as we have come to call them since medieval times) on various occasions in the years leading up to 701 B.C. In the course of these years Isaiah prophesied again and again the miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians which finally occurred in 701 B.C. in the midst of the reign of Hezekiah -- as recounted in the "historical bridge" constituting chapters 36-39 of his magnum opus.

Isaiah then proceeded to compose in the course of the ensuing two decades the tightly integrated third unit of his book consisting in the chapters which we now enumerate as 40-66. The prophet had, indeed, evidently finished these chapters by the time that King Hezekiah died in 686 B.C. in view of the absence of any succeeding king from the superscription to the volume as a whole (1:1). Isaiah subsequently published the final edition of his book in its entirety circa 680 B.C., shortly before his martyrdom in the bloody persecution of the true faith sponsored by King Manasseh.

An additional presupposition in the exegesis here is the elaborate nature of the triadic structure which characterizes the whole third unit of Isaiah (chapters 40-66), as has, again, been delineated in detail elsewhere (ibid.). Chapters 40-48 of Isaiah constitute the first of the three main divisions of this third unit of Isaiah and, so also, the fifth of the seven distinct cantos of the volume in toto. Each of these cantos provides, in its own individual way, the rationale of the thesis of Isaiah as a whole, namely, that the Lord is the only reasonable object of faith.

Canto 5, then, of the Book of Isaiah argues that the Lord is the only reasonable object of faith because, in addition to all the points presented elsewhere, He proves to be the One True God as opposed to any of the gods of men. The unique deity of the One True God is asserted in these nine chapters, specifically, (1.) in opposition to all the idols of men in general (chapters 40-42), (2.) in opposition to the idols of Israel in particular (chapters 43-45) and (3.) in opposition to the idols of Babylon in particular (chapters 46-48).

Within the middle sub-canto (chapters 43-45) of Canto 5 of Isaiah the unique deity of the One True God is opposed to the idols of Israel in terms of His exclusive power to preserve her (chapter 43), His exclusive power to save her (chapter 44: 1-23), and His exclusive control of the future (chapters 44:24-45:25). The initial section of the middle sub-canto, which is coterminous with chapter 43, commences with the elaborate formula of divine introduction which comprises its first half-verse: "But now, thus has the LORD, the one creating thee, O Jacob, and the one forming thee, O Israel" (43:1). At the same time, however, the Lord who addresses Israel here remains, in the absence of any contrary indications, the same Lord who has been speaking in the preceding dozen verses of the previous chapter (42: 14-25).

The speaker is, then, the Divine "Servant of the Lord" who has been introduced for the first time in this specific way in chapter 42, where He is called "My Servant" by God the Father. This Divine Servant of the Lord then becomes, in fact, the central figure of the whole third division of Isaiah (chapters 40-66). He is, to be sure, none other than the Messiah who appears already as the Shepherd-Lord in Isaiah 40 (which serves as the introduction to all the following chapters of Isaiah) and who, indeed, appears already, with many other designations, as the central figure of all the earlier cantos of Isaiah.

Verses 1-9, however, of Isaiah 42 constitute the First Servant-Song as such. There God the Father introduces the Messiah as His Divine Servant, who then, accepting the pious paean of His people (verses 10-13), addresses friends and foes directly (verses 14-25). The Divine Servant, then, continues so to speak in the chapter now before us. There is, therefore, no danger of confusion between the Divine Servant of the Lord and Israel as the corporate servant of the Lord in verse 10, since it is the Divine Servant who there calls Israel "My servant whom I have chosen" to provide Him with witnesses to His omnipotence and grace.

The prophetic discourse which is conterminous with chapter 43 of Isaiah, as we have come to divide the book since medieval times, is clearly to be divided into three stanzas on the basis of the introductory formulae employed in verses 14 and 16. Thus, the brief intermediate stanza commences with the same words, koh 'amar YHWH ("thus has the Lord said"), which are preceded only by w'attah ("but now") at the beginning of the chapter: "Thus has the LORD said, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" (verse 14). The third and final stanza, which balances the first stanza in length, begins, again, with the same three words, but the divine speaker is then characterized in a much more elaborate fashion: "Thus has the LORD said, the one giving a way in the sea and a path in strong waters, the one bringing forth chariot and horse, army and strong one ..." (verses 16-17).



The following outline thus emerges of the Fifth Canto of Isaiah (chapters 40-48) with special emphasis on chapter 43 of the book:

The Lord's Manifestation of Himself as the One True God

Words Describing the Remainder of the Old Testament Era, Especially the Rise of Cyrus to Imperial Power circa 550 B.C.

I. As Opposed to the Idols of Men in General (40-42)

A. His Salvation (40)

1. Its future accomplishment (verses 1-11)

2. Its credibility: the Lord's power to create (verses 12-26)

3. Its implications: the folly of despair (verses 27-31)

B. His Control of the Future (41)

1. The victories of Cyrus (proclaimed to the heathen) (verses 1-7)

2. The victories of Israel (proclaimed to the faithful) (verses 8-20)

3. The victories of Cyrus (proclaimed to the idols themselves) (verses 21-29)

C. His Righteousness (42)

1. Which He imputes to men: the words of God the Father (verses 1-9)

a. God the Father speaking to His people concerning the Messiah (verses 1-4)

(1.) His relation to God the Father (verse 1a)

(2.) His relation to the Holy Spirit (verse 1b1)

(3.) His goal: justification (verse 1b2)

(4.) His humility (verse 2)

(5.) His goal: justification (verse 3)

(6.) His dedication (verse 4a1)

(7.) His goal: justification (verse 4a2-4b)

(a.) Objective justification (verse 4a2)

(b.) Subjective justification (verse 4b)

b. God the Father speaking to the Messiah (verses 5-7)

(1.) The introduction, stressing the unique omnipotence of the One True God (verse 5)

(a.) Shown in His creation of all things (verse 5a)

(b.) Shown in His preservation of all things (verse 5b)

(2.) The commission of the Messiah (verses 6-7)

(a.) His call and righteousness (verse 6a1)

(b.) His assistance by God the Father (verse 6a2)

(c.) His goal (verse 6b-7)

i. To provide a testamentary berith (verse 6b1)

ii. To provide thereby its testamentary benefits (verse 6b2-7)

c. God the Father speaking to His people, stressing the uniqueness of the One True God (verses 8-9)

(1.) His unique deity (verse 8)

(2.) His resulting omniscience (verse 9)

(a.) Its demonstrability (verse 9a)

(b.) Its reliability (verse 9b)

2. Which He proclaims to men: the words of the church (verses 10-13)

3. Which is foreign to men: the words of the Messiah (verses 14-25)

II. As Opposed to the Idols of Israel in Particular (the Words of Messiah) (43-45)

A. His Power to Preserve Her (43)

1. From worldly attacks (verses 1-13)

a. The thesis (verses 1-2)

(1.) The antecedents of the divine preservation of Israel (verse 1)

(a.) The divine creation of Israel (verse 1a)

(b.) The divine redemption and call of Israel (verse 1b)

(2.) The continuation of the divine preservation of Israel (verse 2)

b. The historical evidence: the exodus (verses 3-4)

(1.) The specific data (verse 3)

(2.) The interpretation of the data (verse 4)

c. The goal: the foundation of the church of the New Testament (verses 5-13)

(1.) By proclaiming the gospel of the Messiah to the world (verses 5-7)

(a.) The divine presence empowering the mission (verse 5a)

(b.) The universal scope of the mission (verses 5b-6a)

(c.) The divine authorization of the mission (verse (verses 6b-7)

i. The essence of the mission (verse 6b)

ii. The rationale of the mission in the divine election of the believers in the messianic gospel (verse 7)

(2.) By providing witnesses to the prophecies made and fulfilled by the One True God (verses 8-13)

(a.) Stated in the form of a judicial challenge by God (verses 8-9)

i. The presentation of the evidence to all the world (verse 8)

ii. The unique cogency of the evidence (verse 9)

(b.) Stated in the form of a commission by God (verse 10-13)

i. Its essence (verse 10a)

ii. Its basis in the uniqueness of the One True God (verses 10b-13)

[a.] His unique deity (verse 10b)

[b.] His unique ability to save (verse 11)

[c.] His unique omniscience (verse 12)

[d.] His unique omnipotence (verse 13)

2. From worldly alliances (verses 14-15)

a. As motivated by His redemption still to come (verse 14a)

b. As exemplified by His imminent destruction of Babylon (in 689 B.C.) (verse 14b)

c. As enabled by His omnipotence (verse 15)

3. From her own sinfulness (verses 16-28)

a. The work of God (verses 16-21)

(1.) In history, showing His ability to accomplish His future intention (verses 16-17)

(a.) The exodus as divine action (verse 16)

(b.) The exodus as divine condemnation (verse 17)

(2.) In the future (verses 18-21)

(a.) Expressed literally (verses 18-19a)

i. The unique greatness of the future work of God surpassing all previous actions (verse 18)

ii. The unique newness of the future work of God (verse 19a)

(b.) Expressed figuratively (verses 19b-20)

i. In terms of a way through trackless wilderness (verse 19b1)

ii. In terms of waters in arid wilderness (verse 19b2)

iii. In terms of animals of the wilderness (verse 20a)

iv. In terms of waters in arid wilderness (verse 20b)

(c.) Expressed literally (verse 21)

i. The grace of God (verse 21a)

ii. The response of His people (verse 21b)

b. The work of man (verses 22-24)

(1.) As expressed in sins of omission (verse (verses 22-23a)

(a.) Inattention to God in general (verse 22)

(b.) Inattention to the worship of God in particular (verses 23-24a)

i. Its essence (verse 23a)

ii. Its occurrence despite the ease of satisfying the demands of God (verse 23b)

iii. Its manifestations (verse 24a)

(2.) As expressed in sins of commission (verse 24b)

c. The work of God (verses 25-28)

(1.) Forgiving sinners in general (verse 25)

(2.) Judging self-righteous impenitents (verses 26-28)

(a.) Challenging them to justify themselves (verse 27)

(b.) Convicting them of sin (verse 27)

i. Inherited sin (verse 27a)

ii. Continuing sin (verse 27b)

(c.) Condemning them, as the unrepenting nation of Israel, to destruction (verse 27)

B. His Power to Save Her (44: 1-23)

1. Stated directly (verses 1-8)

2. Stated indirectly (by contrast with her idols) (verses 9-20)

3. Stated directly (verses 21-23)

C. His Control of Her Future (44:24-45:25)

1. The evidence: Israel's physical restoration by Cyrus (44:24-45:7)

a. God's use of such evidence in general (44: 21-27)

b. God's identification of Cyrus (44:28)

c. God's use of Cyrus in particular (expressed in the form of an address to Cyrus) (45: 1-7)

2. The general idea (45: 8-13)

a. The goal (introducing the idea of 45: 14-25) (verse 8)

b. The fact: God's control of Israel's future (verses 9-12)

c. The evidence (reiterating the idea of 44:24-45:7) (verse 13)

3. The goal: Israel's proclamation of the gospel to the world (verses 14-25)

III. As Opposed to the Idols of Babylon in Particular (the Word of Messiah) (46-48)

A. Who Cannot Save the Jewish Allies of Babylon (46)

1. Since the Babylonian idols cannot save themselves (verses 1-2)

2. Since the Babylonian idols are inanimate (verses 3-7)

3. Since the true God alone can control history (the future) (verses 8-13)

B. Who Cannot Save Babylon Herself from Destruction (47)

1. Its occurrence (verses 1-3)

2. Its rationale (verses 4-7)

3. Its inevitability (despite sorcery) (verses 8-15)

C. Who Cannot Save the Jewish Allies of Babylon (48)

1. Since the true God condemns them (verses 1-11)

2. Since the true God alone can control history (the future) (verses 12-16)

3. Since the true God alone can save people (verses 17-22)

In the division of verses in chapter 43 into parts "a" and "b" the line of demarcation is ordinarily the massoretic 'athnach. The sole exception to the rule is verse 21, which was evidently considered too brief to receive such accentuation. The bifurcation in this case, therefore, occurs with the zaqeph-qaton, which stands above li ("for Myself"). Within verse 19b, similarly, the division between parts 1 and 2 has been made at the zaqeph-qaton, which sits atop derekh ("way").

The six verses, then, which are the objects of this study fall within the third stanza of the middle sub-canto of the Seventh Canto of Isaiah, which has as its theme the exclusive deity of the One True God. Verses 16-21, specifically, form the first of the three sections of the third stanza of the prophetic discourse which comprises chapter 43. They speak, first historically and then prophetically, of the work of the One True God in preserving Israel from her own sinfulness.


[16.] Thus has the LORD said,

the one giving a way in the sea

and a path in strong waters,

[17.] the one bringing forth chariot and horse,

army and strong one

(together do they lie down;

they do not rise;

they have been extinguished;

like the wick have they been quenched).

The One True God reintroduces Himself at some length as the God of the exodus, which was remembered by the people of Judah the most miraculous occurrence connected with the foundation of Israel as the theocratic nation of the Old Testament. The Lord returns, thereby, to the same historical proof of His omnipotence which He had already cited in verses 3 and 4 of Isaiah 43:

For I am the LORD, thy God,

the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior;

I gave Egypt as thy ransom,

Cush and Seba in thy place.

Wherefore thou hast been precious in Mine eyes,

thou hast been honored,

yea, I Myself have loved thee,

therefore do I give man in thy place,

yea, peoples in place of thy soul.

These verses require some commentary here if verses 16-17, which hark back to them, are to be understood within the contextual contours of the particular discourse of Isaiah in which both pairs figure so prominently.

The noun kopher in verse 3 denotes a "ransom" as "the price of a life" [BDB, 495] -- on the basis, presumably, of such a price propitiating the wrath of enemies or, more generally, satisfying the demands of those in possession of someone else. The kopher here, of course, can scarcely be the spiritual price of any individual soul, which would require the perfect life of someone else to be offered in its place. Even, therefore, the whole mass of all others guilty of sin could by no means pay the price required to satisfy the demands of divine justice on but one sinful soul.

The sons of Korah remind us of this truth in the midst of Psalm 49 (verses 8-10, MT; 7-9, EV; NASB, with alterations in accord with the RSV in verses 8b-9):

No man can by any means redeem his brother,

or give to God a ransom for him;

For the redemption of his soul is costly,

and it can never suffice,

That he should continue to live one forever,

that he should not see the pit.

Only a man who was God Himself could, therefore, possibly proffer such a price, as this exegete has asserted more fully elsewhere [especially in his "Propitiation in the Prophecy of the Old Testament"]. The word translated as "his soul" (naphsham) in Psalm 49:8 in the New American Standard Bible actually has a plural possessive suffix, showing a generic reference to mankind in general [ibid., footnote 3].

The reference, therefore, can only be a ransom of a physical and national kind which would satisfy the demands of divine justice in earthly terms. For in verse 4 the "soul" is not the spiritual life of any individual, but rather the national life of Israel. The idea of verses 3 and 4, then, is that God sacrificed the lives of many men of foreign nations in order to bring Israel into existence as a nation. For the national foundation of Israel was accomplished only in conjunction with the physical and, indeed, eternal death of the soldiers who were drowned in the waters of the Red Sea. It is no surprise to read that these soldiers included, not only Egyptians, but also men from regions to the south of Egypt which, as at other times, lay within the bounds of her empire at the time of the exodus.

The kopher was by no means, however, as so many modern commentators imagine, the divine award of extra territory to the Persian Empire in return for its liberation of Israel. This theory conflicts both with the facts of history and the prophecy made of Cyrus the Persian in the Isaiah 45 (verse 13, AV):

I have raised him up in righteousness,

and I will direct all his ways;

He shall build my city,

and he shall let go my captives,

Not for price or reward,

saith the LORD of hosts.

Although, moreover, Cyrus, in accordance with the general policy which he applied to all his conquered peoples, allowed the descendants of Israel to return to Judah, they still remained his subjects under Jewish or Persian governors.

The following verse, to be sure, in Isaiah 45 speaks of "the labor of Egypt" and "the merchandise of Cush and the Sabeans" coming over to the addressee and, indeed, these peoples themselves becoming the subjects of the addressee (45:14). This addressee, however, is clearly, not Cyrus, but the Israel of the New Testament, in whose midst men of all nations would find the One True God (45:14b). The beautiful irony, then, is that the salvation to be accomplished by the Messiah would bring eternal life also to those peoples whose representatives found only eternal death in the exodus from Egypt of the Israel of the Old Testament.

For the exodus itself, contrary to much modern thinking, was by no means the gospel or the slightest fraction of the gospel, but only a memorable miracle which contributed to the foundation of the nation which God was preparing to receive the saving Messiah properly when He should rise again from His self-sacrificial death. No one was saved by means of the exodus, as the Apostle Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 10. Many men, indeed, were damned by the exodus, as Exodus 14 avers (verses 24-28) and as Isaiah reminds us here in his forty-third chapter.

The argument, nevertheless, in this sub-canto of Isaiah is, quite reasonably, that the miraculous extravagance of the exodus from Egypt proves, beyond any shadow of doubt, the omnipotence of the God of Israel. He clearly, therefore, has the power as well to carry through with the promises of salvation which He has made on the basis of the work of the God who was to become a man in the womb of a daughter of Israel. He likewise has the power to make His sinful brethren in Israel His instruments in the foundation and expansion of the church of His New Testament.

The final phrase of verse 17, kappishtah khabhu, brings together the same noun and verb which are conjoined in the middle clause of verse 3 of the preceding chapter. There, in the course of the First Servant-Song, God the Father bears witness to the compassionate patience of His Son: "a dim wick -- He will not quench it" (Isaiah 42:3). There also pishtah is a symbol of weakness; a man who is weak, specifically, in faith is pictured as a wick which is burning feebly and so on the point of extinction. The point there is that the Messiah's proper work would be to save, not to destroy.

The idea here is, quite to the contrary, the ease with which the Lord eliminates any resistance to His will, as easily as a man quenches the typical flaxen wick of an oil-burning lamp of antiquity. The feminine noun pishthah actually denotes "flax" in the same way as the more common pesheth (which is also feminine). Thus, pishtah refers to a crop of flax which was still in the field in Exodus 9 (twice in verse 31). Even, however, as pesheth is often applied to the linen which was woven from flex, so in chapters 42 and 43 of the Prophet Isaiah does pishtah speak of strands of flax which were wound into the wick of a lamp burning oil.

The linum usitatissimum grows from two to four feet high and bears blue flowers of unusual beauty among plants of such utility [W.E. Shewell-Cooper, ZPEB, II, 545b, in 545b-546a]. Flax is mentioned in the Gezer Calendar, and seeds dating from the Early Bronze Age have surfaced in the archaeological excavations in Palestine [Irene Jacob and Walter Jacob, ABD, II, 815a, in 803b-817a]. In biblical times the closely planted stalks of flax were pulled up whole when in the boll (having borne the capsules called bolls) and then allowed to dry, as appears from Exodus 9:31 and Joshua 2 (verses 1 and 6) respectively [Shewell-Cooper, 546a]. Then soaking the flax in water for three or four weeks causes the "retting" in which the tough fibers separate from the soft tissue of the plants [Shewell-Cooper, 546a; Jacob and Jacob, 815a]. Once the resulting flaxen fibers have been be combed and spun, they can be twisted into wicks or woven into linen of several grades, namely, coarse, intermediate, and fine [Shewell-Cooper, 546a; Jacob and Jacob, 815a].

[18.] "Remember ye no more the former things,

Nor meditate ye more on the early things.

The word "meditate" in the translation above renders the masculine plural of the second person of the hithpolel imperfect of byn. Related to the preposition bayin-beyn (translated, idiomatically, as "between") [BDB, 107a-108a], the basic meaning of the verb is "discern" in a sensual or mental way, which is to say perceiving the difference between things [BDB, 106b, in 106b-107a]. While "be discerning" is the significance of the niphal [BDB, 106b-107a], the hiphil either intensifies the idea of the root or, in accord with the ordinary role of this binyan, makes the meaning causative [BDB, 107a].

The hithpolel, which occurs in twenty-two places in the Old Testament, both intensifies the basic meaning of byn and imparts the reflexive nuance which is characteristic of the hithpael and its variants among the weak verbs of Classical Hebrew [BDB, 107a]. Thus, the hithpolel of byn represents someone as exercising himself in discerning something and so showing himself attentive thereto [BDB, 107a]. This binyan of the verb is found three times elsewhere in the Book of Isaiah, namely, in chapters 1:3, 14:16, and, most importantly, in 52:15. In this last instance it is the saving work of the Messiah, once accomplished, which becomes the focus of all meditation, even at the expense of any preceding works of the Lord.

Verse 17, of course, of Isaiah 43 by no means requires forgetfulness of the events of the Old Testament in a cognitive sense. An imperative, indeed, would be self-contradictory if it reminded readers of something which was to be forgotten. Of related significance is the use of 'al, as opposed, to lo', as the particle of negative preceding the non-perfective aspect of the verb in this instance.

The negative command announces, rather, in a dramatic way an end to the ceremonial commemoration of the exodus and the associated events connected with the foundation of Israel. The church of the New Testament would no longer commemorate the exodus in the feast of the passover or the reception of the Mosaic Berith in the feast of weeks or the sojourn in the wilderness in the feast of booths. Much less would she continue the sacrifices which were only shadows thrown backward by the all-placating self-sacrifice of the Messiah which was to come.

The reason why the church of the New Testament would observe none of the festivals of the ceremonial code of the Old Testament would be her preoccupation with developments which would far outshine in importance any in the history of Israel. The church of the New Testament would be meditating on the events which would by then have taken place in the life of the Messiah Himself. For nothing which occurred in the course of the Old Testament was saving in any ultimate sense; its history consisted in events which merely served to prepare people for the coming of the Messiah. Only the events which occurred during the thirty-three years or so of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ have provided salvation, even to those, such as Isaiah, who lived before His conception.

[19.] Behold, I am going to do a new thing:

Then will it sprout.

Will ye not know it?

Yea, I shall place a way in the wilderness,

rivers in wasteland."

The adverbial "then" in the translation above renders the temporal adverb 'attah, which is properly the accusative of the noun 'eth (meaning "time") [BDB, 773b-774b; 773a-b]. Thus, "at the time" is the basic significance of 'attah. The particular time concerned is the present time in the absence of any contrary indication, so that "now" is the most common translation. The adverb may, however, be readily applied to "the impending future" or to "a time ideally present" in the parlance of the Hebrew and English Lexicon [774a]. In such a case the reference is equivalent to "then" from the point of view of the original audience [BDB, 774a].

The adverb is utilized in this way also elsewhere in the Book of Isaiah. The usage occurs twice, indeed, in the same verse 22 of Isaiah 29:

Therefore thus has the LORD said,

unto the house of Jacob,

He that shall redeem Abraham:

Then will Jacob be ashamed no more,

Yea, then will his face wax pale no more.

In the second half of the verse the phrases lo'-'attah ("then ... no more") and wlo' 'attah ("yea, then ... no more") respectively occupy emphatic positions introducing its final two clauses. Additional examples of this usage of 'attah may be found in Hosea 10 (verse 3) and in chapters 4 and 5 of the Book of Micah (4:9, 4:10, 4:11, 4:14, and 5:3, MT; 4:9, 4:10, 4:11, 5:1, and 5:4, EV) [BDB, 774a].

The time of which Isaiah is speaking is not, as modern commentators generally suppose, the post-exilic period begun by return from the Babylonian Captivity, but rather the era of the New Testament introduced by the saving work of the Messiah. Only this undertaking is a totally new thing which surpasses even the exodus of Israel from Egypt in its ecclesiastical significance. The verb tzmch and its nominal derivative tzemach are applied to the Coming One and His work by various prophets in both pre-exilic and post-exilic times. Thus, Isaiah himself calls the Messiah the Tzemach-YHWH ("the Sprout of the LORD") already in the fourth chapter, and so in the very first edition, of his book (verse 2).

[20.] The beast of the field will glorify Me,

jackals and ostriches,

For I will give waters in the wilderness,

rivers in the wasteland,

To give drink to My people,

My chosen.

[21.] This people have I formed for Myself;

They will recount My praise.

Holy Scripture often describes this world as a "wilderness" or, more specifically, as a "wasteland" in its moribund state of sin. The gospel of the Messiah, correspondingly, provides its believers with a way though this spiritual wilderness into the presence of a gracious God. In the meantime, indeed, the messianic gospel provides its believers with the spiritual sustenance which they need to survive as believers in the wasteland of unbelief which surrounds them in this earthly life.

The Apostle Peter is evidently building on the final two verses of the pericope before us in the second chapter of his First Epistle. There the apostle speaks the following well-known words to the church of the New Testament: "ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9). St. Peter has, of course, combined in this affirmation phrases drawn from in various places in the Old Testament, but its foundation seems to be verses 20 and 21 of Isaiah 43 in view of the conjunction of a "chosen" and "peculiar people" (laos eis peripoiesin) with showing forth "the praises" of God.