God Reveals His Plan to Send the Servant Messiah to Be a Witness to Israel and the Nations, ישעיהו מד:ח-יד / Isaiah 44:7-14

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Introduction to Isaiah 44:8-14

Beginning with Isaiah 42:10, the Lord God has spoken of His power to overcome the enemies of Israel, and His ability to deliver His people from captivity. In these chapters from Isaiah 42-44, the Lord God of Israel has spoken of His power to deliver Israel and provides a message of hope and comfort for God’s people. The major theme of these chapters is that the God of Israel is the sovereign Lord over history, who has chosen Israel as His servant and will deliver them from their enemies and restore them to their land. God also reveals His plan to send a Messiah, who will be His servant and His witness to the nations, and who will bring justice and salvation to the world.

Summary of Isaiah 42-44 (Major Points)

  1. The introduction of the Servant King Messiah (Isaiah 42:1-4), and how God challenges the idol gods to predict the future (Isaiah 42:5-9) and the Lord God will lead the people out of captivity. (Isaiah 42:10-17)
  2. The Lord God is Creator and Redeemer, and calls His people by name and makes them His own (Isaiah 43:1-7).
  3. The Lord God is Savior (Isaiah 43:8-13) and will deliver His people similar to the way He did in Egypt (Isaiah 43:14-17). 
  4. Israel will be living witnesses for God’s power (Isaiah 43:10, 44:8)
  5. The Lord God reaffirms His life and choosing of His people and promises to pour out His Spirit on His people (Isaiah 44:1-5). 
  6. God challenges anyone to prove His words false (Isaiah 44:6-8).
  7. The Lord God reassures His people that He has swept away their sins and redeemed them (Isaiah 44:21-23).
  8. His anointed one will subdue Babylon and set His people free (Isaiah 44:24-28). 

In this summary we can see the complexity of God’s determination to deliver and save His people. The Lord God also provides hope and expectation of these things by speaking of His ability to overcome our enemies, to send His Messiah to save His people, and to reassure us that our sins have been forgiven. This is one of the central themes in the Scriptures, that God is faithful to His covenant and will not abandon us, even when we sin and suffer the consequences for our sins. Evidence for this can be found for example in Jeremiah 29:11-14.

ספר ירמיה פרק כט
יא   כִּי אָנֹכִי יָדַעְתִּי אֶת-הַמַּחֲשָׁבֹת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי חשֵׁב עֲלֵיכֶם נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה מַחְשְׁבוֹת שָׁלוֹם וְלֹא לְרָעָה לָתֵת לָכֶם אַחֲרִית וְתִקְוָה: יב   וּקְרָאתֶם אֹתִי וַהֲלַכְתֶּם וְהִתְפַּלַּלְתֶּם אֵלָי וְשָׁמַעְתִּי אֲלֵיכֶם: יג   וּבִקַּשְׁתֶּם אֹתִי וּמְצָאתֶם כִּי תִדְרְשֻׁנִי בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם: יד   וְנִמְצֵאתִי לָכֶם נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה וְשַׁבְתִּי אֶת-שְׁביּתְכֶם [שְׁבוּתְכֶם] וְקִבַּצְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מִכָּל-הַגּוֹיִם וּמִכָּל-הַמְּקוֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר הִדַּחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם שָׁם נְאֻם-יְהֹוָה וַהֲשִׁבֹתִי אֶתְכֶם אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-הִגְלֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם מִשָּׁם:

Jeremiah 29:11–14  
29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 29:12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 29:14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive. (KJV)

This passage shows that God has a plan for His people, a plan for sending His Messiah, and a plan for restoring His people to their land if they repent and seek Him. The complex nature of the prophetic text is found in the interwoven themes of the present-day reality that is coupled to the future expectation of the Messiah. Take for example from the Rabbinic literature that discusses these things. The rabbinic literature reflects on the theme of God’s deliverance from Babylonian captivity and the role of the Messiah. The rabbis interpret the biblical texts in various ways, sometimes allegorically, sometimes historically, sometimes eschatologically. They also debate the identity and characteristics of the Messiah, and the signs and conditions of his coming. For example, in the Talmud, tractate Sanhedrin, there is a discussion about the duration of the Babylonian exile and the calculation of the messianic era. The rabbis cite different verses from Daniel, Isaiah, and Psalms to support their opinions, and they also mention different traditions and stories about the Messiah and his predecessors. One of the most famous passages is the following:

Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 98a:11
ואמר רבי יוחנן אין בן דוד בא אלא בדור שכולו זכאי או כולו חייב בדור שכולו זכאי דכתיב (ישעיהו ס, כא) ועמך כולם צדיקים לעולם יירשו ארץ בדור שכולו חייב דכתיב (ישעיהו נט, טז) וירא כי אין איש וישתומם כי אין מפגיע וכתיב (ישעיהו מח, יא) למעני אעשה
And Rabbi Yoḥanan says: The son of David will come only in a generation that is entirely innocent, in which case they will be deserving of redemption, or in a generation that is entirely guilty, in which case there will be no alternative to redemption. He may come in a generation that is entirely innocent, as it is written: “And your people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever” (Isaiah 60:21). He may come in a generation that is entirely guilty, as it is written: “And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no intercessor; therefore His arm brought salvation to Him, and His righteousness, it sustained Him” (Isaiah 59:16). And it is written: “For My own sake, for My own sake will I do it; for how should it be profaned? And My glory I will not give it to another” (Isaiah 48:11).

In the Talmud, the rabbis believed that the coming of the Messiah was not dependent upon the moral state of the generation, but is purely a function of the timing and plan of God, and that God will act in this way for His own sake and glory, and not Israel’s glory. This conclusion suggests that the coming of the Messiah of God is independent of human merit, and is only dependent upon the Lord God Almighty. In both the biblical text and the rabbinic interpretations, we are told that the Messiah’s coming is connected to God’s power to accomplish His purpose in history, and that He will intervene in human affairs to bring about His will. Notice how this is single ended, and rejects the idea that man earned his place in heaven, or earns his salvation under the Torah of God. Notice also how this is consistent with Paul’s interpretations according to his epistles in the NT text. In Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 98:2, there is a comment on the verse: “And Jacob called unto his sons, and said: ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the end of days’” (Bereshit / Genesis 49:1). The rabbis believed  that the prophets foresaw the events of the messianic era, but not the ultimate state of the world to come, which is beyond human comprehension. The rabbis also believed that God has prepared a special reward for His faithful people, who will enjoy His goodness and presence in the future. The conclusion is that God has spoken of His determination and ability to deliver His people from captivity, and that He has also promised to send them the Messiah, who will bring salvation and blessing. Both the biblical and rabbinic sources demonstrate that God’s deliverance and the Messiah’s coming are related to God’s power to accomplish His purpose in history, and that His kingdom is established in justice and peace. The major point is that these things provide us with an overview on the prophecies in the Scriptures that relate to God’s deliverance and plan for His Messiah, which are consistent with what we read in the NT text. These things also speak to the love of God for His people, and how He is calling to all peoples to place their faith in Him and in His Messiah Yeshua. This calling is to turn from idolatry and sin, and seek the God of Israel, His Messiah, and His holy and righteous ways according to the Torah. We note that if we choose to ignore these things, then we are no different than the idols themselves the scriptures say are blind, deaf, and dumb. “(Tehillim / Psalms 115:4-8, 135: 15-18, Isaiah 44:9-20, Jeremiah 10:3-5) If we do not come to our senses and turn from these things, then we will be trapped in a cycle of sin and become like the creatures of this earth which simply live to propagate, and then die to no end. The scriptures are calling out to us as a witness that we are more than beasts that simply propagate and die. We are created in the image of God and are called to live our lives for His glory! 

Masoretic Text (MSS) on Isaiah 44:8-14

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 44:8.

ספר ישעיה פרק מד
ח   אַל-תִּפְחֲדוּ וְאַל-תִּרְהוּ הֲלֹא מֵאָז הִשְׁמַעְתִּיךָ וְהִגַּדְתִּי וְאַתֶּם עֵדָי הֲיֵשׁ אֱלוֹהַּ מִבַּלְעָדַי וְאֵין צוּר בַּל-יָדָעְתִּי: 

Isaiah 44:8 states, “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any. (אַל-תִּפְחֲדוּ וְאַל-תִּרְהוּ הֲלֹא מֵאָז הִשְׁמַעְתִּיךָ וְהִגַּדְתִּי וְאַתֶּם עֵדָי הֲיֵשׁ אֱלוֹהַּ מִבַּלְעָדַי וְאֵין צוּר בַּל-יָדָעְתִּי)”

Cross References Isaiah 44:8: Ge 49:24; Dt 4:35, 39; 32:4, 39; 1 Sa 2:2; 2 Sa 22:32; Ps 86:10; 93:2; 115:1–9; Is 17:10; 26:4; 30:29; 40:21; 41:8–16, 22; 42:6–12; 43:8–13; 44:8; 45:5; 48:3–8; Joe 2:27; Wis 13:11–16; Re 1:17–20; 22:10–21

This verse from the Hebrew Bible is a declaration of God’s sovereignty and uniqueness as the only true God and the only One in whom we should trust, meaning that He is our source of strength and salvation. There are some interesting features about the Hebrew words that affect the interpretation and application of these verses to our lives. First, the word אַל (al), is a negative particle meaning “not” or “do not,” is repeated twice in this verse, emphasizing the negative command to not fear or be afraid. Here the Lord God is assuring His people that they have nothing to fear, because He has revealed Himself to them and chosen them as His witnesses. He challenges anyone to prove that there are any other gods besides Him. Second, the word עֵדָי (edai), means “my witnesses,” and is related to the word עֵדוּת (edut), meaning “testimony” or “covenant.” This word emphasizes that God’s people are not only witnesses of His deeds and words, but also participants in the covenant. We are called to testify to the uniqueness and faithfulness of God and we do so by living our lives according to His will. In addition, the word יָדָעְתִּי (yada’ti), meaning “I know,” is in the perfect tense, indicating a completed action. The Lord God is saying here that He knows of no other god which implies that He has searched and found none. The word צוּר (tsur), meaning “rock,” is a metaphor for God and so this is why the KJV translates this word as “God.” This word “rock” represents the solid foundation and stability of trusting in the Lord God along with His protection and salvation. We also note that this verse is not directly quoted in the NT text, but there are some parallels to the NT thought. For example, in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Paul affirms that there is only One God, the Father, and One Lord, Yeshua the Messiah, and that idols are nothing. In Revelation 1:17-18, Yeshua identifies Himself as the first and the last, the living one who was dead and is alive forevermore, echoing God’s words in Isaiah 44:6. In Revelation 2:17, Yeshua promises to give a white stone with a new name to those who overcome, possibly alluding to the idea of writing one’s name to the Lord and adopting the name Israel. In 1 Peter 2:4-10, Peter describes the believers as living stones, built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, who proclaim the excellencies of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. He also quotes several passages from Isaiah, including Isaiah 28:16, which uses the same word צוּר (tsur), meaning “rock,” to refer to the cornerstone that God lays in Zion. What all of these things speak to is that when God’s people trust in Him, when they seek to live in His holy and righteous ways according to the Scriptures, the world will not consume them. This confirms the ancient promises that have been given to Israel and all of those who would join themselves with the Lord through faith and faithfulness. We note how the Babylonian exile came approximately 150 years after the death of Isaiah. When this event happened, it was then that both Israel and the world could bear testimony that what God said was true, and that we can trust what the Lord says, even when predicted far in advance to the events happening. David in the Psalms speaks of how the Lord God is with those who believe that He is a present help in trouble (Tehillim / Psalms 46:1-2, 18:2-3, 8:31-32). This is what Moshe said in his song according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 32. Moshe writes that the Lord God is our Rock (Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:2, 32:15, 32:18, 32:30-31, 32:37). Because the Lord God is our Rock, He is the One whom we can faithfully trust in because He always remains faithful to us! (Isaiah 8:14, 17:10, 26:4, 30:29) 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 44:9.

ספר ישעיה פרק מד
ט   יֹצְרֵי-פֶסֶל כֻּלָּם תֹּהוּ וַחֲמוּדֵיהֶם בַּל-יוֹעִילוּ וְעֵדֵיהֶם הֵמָּה בַּל-יִרְאוּ וּבַל-יֵדְעוּ לְמַעַן יֵבֹשׁוּ: 

Isaiah 44:9 states, “They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.  (יֹצְרֵי-פֶסֶל כֻּלָּם תֹּהוּ וַחֲמוּדֵיהֶם בַּל-יוֹעִילוּ וְעֵדֵיהֶם הֵמָּה בַּל-יִרְאוּ וּבַל-יֵדְעוּ לְמַעַן יֵבֹשׁוּ)”

Cross References Isaiah 44:9: Ex 20:4; Le 19:4; Ps 97:7; 115:1–9; Is 1:29; 26:11; 40:17, 19; 41:8–16, 24, 29; 42:6–12, 17; 43:8–13; 44:8–11; 45:16; 48:3–8; 65:13; 66:5; Je 10:3–16; 22:22; Wis 13:11–16; Re 1:17–20; 22:10–21

This from the Hebrew Bible (Isaiah 44:9) speaks of the folly and futility of idolatry. The prophet Isaiah contrasts the living and true God, who created and redeemed Israel, with the false and powerless gods, who are made by human hands and cannot save anyone. The Hebrew text uses several words and phrases to emphasize the vanity and worthlessness of idols and their makers, for example, יֹצְרֵי-פֶסֶל (yotzerei-pesel) means “those who fashion a graven image.” The word פֶסֶל (pesel) is often used in the Bible to describe idols that are carved or sculpted from wood or stone (see Shemot / Exodus 20:4, Devarim / Deuteronomy 4:16, Isaiah 40:19). The word יֹצְרֵי (yotzerei) is derived from the verb יָצַר (yatsar), which means “to form, fashion, or shape.” Note that the same verb is used in the previous verse (Isaiah 44:8) to describe how God formed and shaped Israel as His people. The contrast is clear, the Lord God is the Creator, and idols are the creation of human hands. The next two words, כֻּלָּם תֹּהוּ (kullam tohu) means “all of them are nothing.” The word תֹּהוּ (tohu) is a key term that we remember from the Torah in Bereshit / Genesis 1:2 which describes emptiness, chaos, and futility. It is used in Bereshit / Genesis to describe the state of the earth before God’s creative work. It is also used in Isaiah 45:18 to affirm that God did not create the world in vain (תֹּהוּ), but to be inhabited. The word כֻּלָּם (kullam) means “all of them,” and it refers to both the idols and their makers. The prophet is saying that the idols are all nothing, worthless, and futile. Next we read, וַחֲמוּדֵיהֶם בַּל-יוֹעִילוּ (vachamudeihem bal-yo’ilu) which means “and their precious things are of no profit.” The word חֲמוּדֵיהֶם (chamudeihem) means “their precious things” or “their desirable things.” It is derived from the verb חָמַד (chamad), which means “to desire, covet, or delight in.” The word בַּל (bal) means “not” or “nothing,” and is repeated three times in this verse. The word יוֹעִילוּ (yo’ilu) means “they profit” or “they benefit.” It is derived from the verb יָעַל (ya’al), which means “to profit, benefit, or avail.” The phrase is saying that the idols, which are the objects of human desire and delight, are of no benefit or value to anyone. The next phrase states, וְעֵדֵיהֶם הֵמָּה בַּל-יִרְאוּ וּבַל-יֵדְעוּ (ve’edeihem hemah bal-yir’u uval-yed’u) which means “and their witnesses are they who do not see and do not know.” The word עֵדֵיהֶם (edeihem) means “their witnesses” or “their testimonies.” It is derived from the noun עֵד (ed), which means “witness, testimony, or evidence.” The phrase is saying that the idols and their makers are their own witnesses, from the sense of how they do not see or know the truth. They are blind and ignorant, and they should be ashamed of their folly. 

The New Testament does not quote this verse directly, but it echoes the same theme of the futility and foolishness of idolatry. For example, in Romans 1:18-23, Paul describes how the wrath of God is revealed against those who suppress the truth about God and exchange His glory for images of created things. He says that they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. He also says that they are without excuse, because God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen in His creation. This speaks to the creation as God’s witness to us as the Creator. Idols have nothing to be a witness for them besides their being deaf, mute, and lame. In 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, Paul warns the believers not to be involved with idolatry, because it is incompatible with the worship of the true God. He says that the things that the Gentiles sacrifice to idols are actually sacrificed to demons, and that those who participate in such sacrifices are provoking the Lord to jealousy. He also says that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one. Paul’s words reveal the outcome of idol worship, that one is interacting with demonic powers. Those who choose to worship and serve idols, their lives will be cast into chaos and despair. In Acts 17:22-31, Paul preaches to the Athenians, who were very religious and had many idols. He says that God does not dwell in temples made with hands, nor is He served by human hands, as if He needed anything. He also says that God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now commands all people everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained, the King Messiah. He also says that God has given assurance of this by raising Him (Yeshua) from the dead. The prophet Isaiah is saying that by choosing to follow the idol gods, men have blinded themselves and will face both the shame and disgrace of their idols. It is difficult to understand why anyone would want to worship and serve idol gods. We note how Paul uses the same examples in the NT text as we see here in Isaiah 44:9 to expose the vanity and worthlessness of idols and their makers, and to call people to turn to the living and true God, who alone can save and satisfy. 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 44:10-11.

ספר ישעיה פרק מד
י   מִי-יָצַר אֵל וּפֶסֶל נָסָךְ לְבִלְתִּי הוֹעִיל: יא   הֵן כָּל-חֲבֵרָיו יֵבֹשׁוּ וְחָרָשִׁים הֵמָּה מֵאָדָם יִתְקַבְּצוּ כֻלָּם יַעֲמֹדוּ יִפְחֲדוּ יֵבֹשׁוּ יָחַד: 

Isaiah 44:10 states, “Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? (מִי-יָצַר אֵל וּפֶסֶל נָסָךְ לְבִלְתִּי הוֹעִיל)” Isaiah 44:11 “Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together. (הֵן כָּל-חֲבֵרָיו יֵבֹשׁוּ וְחָרָשִׁים הֵמָּה מֵאָדָם יִתְקַבְּצוּ כֻלָּם יַעֲמֹדוּ יִפְחֲדוּ יֵבֹשׁוּ יָחַד)”

Cross References Isaiah 44:10-11: 2 Ki 19:18; Ps 97:7; 115:1–9; Is 1:29; 37:19; 40:19–20; 41:6–16, 29; 42:6–12, 17; 43:8–13; 44:9; 45:16; 46:6–7; 48:3–8; Je 10:3–5; Hab 2:18; Wis 13:11–16; Ac 19:26; Re 1:17–20; 22:10–21

Here Isaiah continues in Isaiah 44:10-11 to speak of the futility and foolishness of idolatry. The prophet Isaiah asks rhetorical questions to expose the absurdity and irrationality of making and worshiping idols. The Hebrew text uses several words and phrases to emphasize the pointlessness and shamefulness of idols and their makers, for example in the phrase, מִי-יָצַר אֵל וּפֶסֶל נָסָךְ לְבִלְתִּי הוֹעִיל (mi-yatsar el u-pesel nasach le-vilti ho’il) means “Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit?” The word אֵל (el) means “god” or “deity.” It is often used in the Bible to refer to the true God, but it can also refer to false gods or idols and it requires context from the verse and the surrounding verses to understand how the word is being used. The word פֶסֶל (pesel) means “graven image” or “idol.” It is the same word used in the previous verse (Isaiah 44:9). The word נָסָךְ (nasach) means “to cast” or “to pour out.” It is often used in the Bible to describe the process of making metal idols by melting and molding them (Isaiah 40:19, 41:7, 46:6). The word לְבִלְתִּי (le-vilti) means “not” or “to no.” The word הוֹעִיל (ho’il) means “profit” or “benefit.” It is the same word used in the previous verse (Isaiah 44:9). The question is rhetorical and implies a negative answer. No one can fashion a god or cast an idol that can profit or benefit anyone. It is a waste of time and resources. Isaiah continues saying, הֵן כָּל-חֲבֵרָיו יֵבֹשׁוּ וְחָרָשִׁים הֵמָּה מֵאָדָם (hen kol-chaveraiv yevoshu ve-charashim hemah me-adam) means “Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human.” The word הֵן (hen) means “behold” or “look” and is used here to draw attention to something or to introduce a new point. The word יֵבֹשׁוּ (yevoshu) means “they will be put to shame” or “they will be confounded,” and is derived from the verb בּוֹשׁ (bosh), which means “to be ashamed, confounded, or disappointed.” The phrase is saying that the companions of the idol maker, who support and encourage him, will be put to shame when they see the worthlessness of their idols. This may suggest that there will come a point in one’s life that one will realize the worthlessness of their trusting in idols. The phrase is also saying that the craftsmen who make the idols are only human, and therefore limited and fallible. They cannot create anything that can rival or surpass the true God, who is the Creator of all things. Isaiah goes on saying, יִתְקַבְּצוּ כֻלָּם יַעֲמֹדוּ יִפְחֲדוּ יֵבֹשׁוּ יָחַד (yitkabbetsu kullam ya’amodu yifchadu yevoshu yachad) means “They will gather together, they will stand up, they will be terrified, they will be put to shame together.” Note that the word יֵבֹשׁוּ (yevoshu) means “they will be put to shame” or “they will be confounded,” and is the same word used earlier in this verse and we see the word יָחַד (yachad) which means “together” or “at the same time” implying that both those who worship and the idols will suffer shame. These phrases are saying that the idols and their makers will gather together and stand up to face the judgment of God, but they will be terrified and put to shame together, because they will see the futility and folly of their idolatry.

Again, the NT does not directly quote these verses, but it echoes the same theme on the futility and foolishness of idolatry. For example, in Revelation 9:20-21, John describes how the people who survived the plagues of God did not repent of their idolatry, but continued to worship the works of their hands, which are demons and not God. The text states that they did not repent of their murders, sorceries, sexual immorality, or thefts. We note the significance of these things according to Revelation 22:11.

Revelation 22:11  
22:11 Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.” (ESV, 11 ὁ ἀδικῶν ἀδικησάτω ἔτι ⸋καὶ ὁ ῥυπαρὸς ⸀ῥυπανθήτω ἔτι⸌,* καὶ ὁ δίκαιος δικαιοσύνην ποιησάτω ἔτι καὶ ὁ ἅγιος ἁγιασθήτω ἔτι.*)

What we note here about sin is that it is repetitive and seeks to keep the one who performs it in the cycle of sin. Revelation 22:1 speaks to this, and it is only by the power of God that we can be set free from this cycle of sin. This is the prayer that I have concerning this verse, that I do not live as an evildoer or filthy, and then continue to do so without hope. I pray that the Lord would help me to live a life of righteousness and holiness and then continue to repeat those actions of righteousness and holiness. As the people of God, we are called to live in the way of truth, righteousness, and holiness, and the way that we know how to do this is by reading God’s Torah. Note how in Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists the works of the flesh, which include idolatry, sorcery, and other sins. He says that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Also, in 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, Paul commends the believers for turning from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, Yeshua, who delivers us from the wrath to come. These are some of the examples of how the NT uses the same line of thought as Isaiah 44:10-11 to expose the pointlessness and shamefulness of idols and their makers, and to call people to turn to the living and true God, who alone can save and satisfy. We note here how the God of Israel is the God of life, freedom, and peace, and brings these things into the lives of His people. The idols on the other hand do not set men free from sin but deliver them to their evil desires. This is why Isaiah speaks to the craftsmen and all who are associated with the creation and worship of these idols to gather themselves and to provide evidence for their gods (Isaiah 41:21, 43:9) and the evidence that is asked of here is whether they have the capability to predict history, foretell the future and to bring their plans to pass like the God of Israel is able to. Immediately it is apparent that there is no evidence for this from the idol gods, and so those who created, served, and worshiped the idol gods realize the shame and worthlessness of their idols, and they are filled with the terror of God’s wrath which comes upon those who do not seek Him or the King Messiah Yeshua. (see John 3:36) We can see the continuity of thought here in both the Tanakh and the NT text! 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 44:12-14.

ספר ישעיה פרק מד
יב   חָרַשׁ בַּרְזֶל מַעֲצָד וּפָעַל בַּפֶּחָם וּבַמַּקָּבוֹת יִצְּרֵהוּ וַיִּפְעָלֵהוּ בִּזְרוֹעַ כֹּחוֹ גַּם-רָעֵב ואֵין כֹּחַ לֹא-שָׁתָה מַיִם וַיִּיעָף: יג   חָרַשׁ עֵצִים נָטָה קָו יְתָאֲרֵהוּ בַשֶּׂרֶד יַעֲשֵֹהוּ בַּמַּקְצֻעוֹת וּבַמְּחוּגָה יְתָאֳרֵהוּ וַיַּעֲשֵֹהוּ כְּתַבְנִית אִישׁ כְּתִפְאֶרֶת אָדָם לָשֶׁבֶת בָּיִת: יד   לִכְרָת-לוֹ אֲרָזִים וַיִּקַּח תִּרְזָה וְאַלּוֹן וַיְאַמֶּץ-לוֹ בַּעֲצֵי-יָעַר נָטַע אֹרֶן וְגֶשֶׁם יְגַדֵּל:  

Isaiah 44:12 states, “The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. (חָרַשׁ בַּרְזֶל מַעֲצָד וּפָעַל בַּפֶּחָם וּבַמַּקָּבוֹת יִצְּרֵהוּ וַיִּפְעָלֵהוּ בִּזְרוֹעַ כֹּחוֹ גַּם-רָעֵב ואֵין כֹּחַ לֹא-שָׁתָה מַיִם וַיִּיעָף)” Isaiah 44:13 “The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. (חָרַשׁ עֵצִים נָטָה קָו יְתָאֲרֵהוּ בַשֶּׂרֶד יַעֲשֵֹהוּ בַּמַּקְצֻעוֹת וּבַמְּחוּגָה יְתָאֳרֵהוּ וַיַּעֲשֵֹהוּ כְּתַבְנִית אִישׁ כְּתִפְאֶרֶת אָדָם לָשֶׁבֶת בָּיִת)” Isaiah 44:14 “He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. (לִכְרָת-לוֹ אֲרָזִים וַיִּקַּח תִּרְזָה וְאַלּוֹן וַיְאַמֶּץ-לוֹ בַּעֲצֵי-יָעַר נָטַע אֹרֶן וְגֶשֶׁם יְגַדֵּל)”

Cross References Isaiah 44:12-14: Jdg 17:4–5; Ps 80:15, 17; 115:1–9; Pr 26:21; Is 40:18–20, 28; 41:6–16, 19; 42:6–12; 43:8–13; 44:10, 12–20; 46:6–7; 48:3–8; 54:16; Je 10:3–5; Eze 8:10–11; Hab 2:18; Wis 13:11–16; Sir 24:13; 38:28; 50:10; Ac 17:29; Re 1:17–20; 22:10–21

Isaiah goes on to describe the methodology of the craftsman who fashions the idols according to Isaiah 44:12-14. Here the prophet Isaiah describes the process of making idols from metal, wood, and stone, and contrasts the weakness and frailty of the idol makers with the power and glory of the true God. These things are drawn out in the Hebrew text which uses several words and phrases to emphasize the pointlessness and shamefulness of idols and their makers. For example, חָרַשׁ בַּרְזֶל מַעֲצָד וּפָעַל בַּפֶּחָם וּבַמַּקָּבוֹת יִצְּרֵהוּ וַיִּפְעָלֵהוּ בִּזְרוֹעַ כֹּחוֹ גַּם-רָעֵב ואֵין כֹּחַ לֹא-שָׁתָה מַיִם וַיִּיעָף (charash barzel ma’atsad u-fa’al ba-pecham u-ba-makavot yitz’rehu va-yif’alehu bi-zro’a kocho gam-ra’ev ve-ein koach lo-shatah mayim va-yi’af) means “The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with the strength of his arms. Even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint.” The word חָרַשׁ (charash) means “craftsman, artisan, or engraver.” It is the same word used in the previous verse (Isaiah 44:11) to describe the makers of idols. We see the words בַּרְזֶל (barzel, “iron”), מַעֲצָד (ma’atsad,  “chisel/tool”), בַּפֶּחָם (ba-pecham, “in the coals” or “in the fire”) and וּבַמַּקָּבוֹת (u-ba-makavot, “and with the hammers”) all of these words are used to describe this process of idol manufacturing. 

חָרַשׁ בַּרְזֶל מַעֲצָד וּפָעַל בַּפֶּחָם וּבַמַּקָּבוֹת יִצְּרֵהוּ וַיִּפְעָלֵהוּ בִּזְרוֹעַ כֹּחוֹ גַּם-רָעֵב ואֵין כֹּחַ לֹא-שָׁתָה מַיִם וַיִּיעָף

מַקָּבָה (makavah) = “hammer” 
יִצְּרֵהוּ (yitz’rehu) = “he shapes it” or “he forms it”
וַיִּפְעָלֵהוּ (va-yif’alehu) = “and he works it” or “and he makes it”
זְרוֹעַ (zro’a) = “arm, strength, or power”
כֹּחוֹ (kocho) = “his strength” or “his might”
כֹּחַ (koach) means “strength, might, or power”
לֹא-שָׁתָה (lo shatah) = “does not drink”
וַיִּיעָף (va-yi’af) = “and he is faint” or “and he grows weary”

Notice how these words all speak to the strength of the man who fashions the idols. The words are describing the process and the result of making a metal idol. The blacksmith uses various tools and his own strength to shape the iron into an image, but he becomes hungry, thirsty, and faint from his labor. He does not receive any help or sustenance from the idol he is making, nor does he acknowledge the true God who gives him life and breath.

In the next two verses, Isaiah 44:13-14, are a description of the carpenter who stretches out the ruler, he markes the line, he fits it with planes and marks the compass, and fashions the figure of a man according to the beauty of man, etc. (יג   חָרַשׁ עֵצִים נָטָה קָו יְתָאֲרֵהוּ בַשֶּׂרֶד יַעֲשֵֹהוּ בַּמַּקְצֻעוֹת וּבַמְּחוּגָה יְתָאֳרֵהוּ וַיַּעֲשֵֹהוּ כְּתַבְנִית אִישׁ כְּתִפְאֶרֶת אָדָם לָשֶׁבֶת בָּיִת: יד   לִכְרָת-לוֹ אֲרָזִים וַיִּקַּח תִּרְזָה וְאַלּוֹן וַיְאַמֶּץ-לוֹ בַּעֲצֵי-יָעַר נָטַע אֹרֶן וְגֶשֶׁם יְגַדֵּל:) We note the words for craftsman, wood, trees, etc, the concepts are that the idol god is being manufactured through a mundane process, similar to the process of drawing the lines, cutting, and fashioning anything that is wooden. It is interesting to observe how the process of manufacturing the idol is placed in reverse here in Isaiah 44:13-14. Isaiah is taking a backwards approach, providing the final steps in Isaiah 44:13, and showing the initial steps in Isaiah 44:14 which are the cutting down and the planting and the watering of the seeds. This implies for us how backwards are the actions of idol making. When one chooses to serve and worship idols, one is going backwards rather than forwards, since the idols again keep one in the habitual cycle of sin! Note that it does not matter how strong the craftsman may be, he will faint if he does not eat and drink. This is a significant contrast Isaiah is making with God’s statements to Israel regarding the Lord God of Israel and the idol worker. The reason is because Israel has not formed God! The Lord God Almighty is the One who has formed them, they need not be wearied (Isaiah 40:28–31). Note also that they do not carry him, but he carries them (Isaiah 45:20, 46:3), and also how we do not need to be hungry and thirsty (Isaiah 43:19-20) because it is the Lord God who feeds us, gives us both physical and spiritual food! Note how the act of idol manufacturing is making a god in man’s own image. To make an idol of the One Truth God is impossible because of the transcendent nature of God who created all that we see and know! 

Rabbinic Commentary on Isaiah 44:8-14

The Targum Jonathan is an Aramaic and Rabbinic translation of the book of Isaiah and therefore is a valuable resource for continuing to study the book of Isaiah!

תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל אל ישעיה פרק מד:ח-יד
ח  לָא תִדַחֲלוּן וְלָא תִתַּבְּרוּן הֲלָא מִבְּכֵן בְסַרְתָּךְ וְחַוֵיתִי וְאַתּוּן סָהֲדִין קֳדָמַי הֲאִית אֱלָהָא בַּר מִנִי וְלֵית דְתַקִיף אֱלָהֵן דְמִן קֳדָמַי מִתְיְהַב לֵיהּ תְּקוֹף: ט  עַבְדֵי צַלְמַיָא כּוּלְהוֹן לְמָא וּפָלְחֵיהוֹן דְלָא יַהֲנוּן לְהוֹן וְסָהֲדִין אִינוּן בְּנַפְשָׁתֵיהוֹן דְלָא חָזָן וְלָא יָדְעִין בְּדִין דְיִבַּהֲתוּן: י  מַן עֲבַד דַחֲלָא וְצַלְמָא אַתִיךְ בְּדִיל דְלָא לַהֲנָאָה: יא  הָא כָּל פָּלְחֵיהוֹן יִבָּהֲתוּן וְאוּמָנִין עוּבְדָנִין מִבְּנֵי אֱנָשָׁא יִתְכַּנְסוּן כּוּלְהוֹן יְקוּמוּן יִתַּבְּרוּן יִבַהֲתוּן כַּחֲדָא: יב  נַפְחָא מִבַּרְזְלָא חֲצִינָא עָבֵיד וּנְפַח נוּר בְּשִׁיחוּרִין וּבְמַקוּבִין מַתְקֵיף לֵיהּ וְעָבִיד לֵיהּ בִּתְקוֹף חֵילֵהּ דְאִם יִכְפַּן עַבְדֵהּ וְלָא יֵיכוּל לָא יְהֵי בֵיהּ חֵיל וְאִם יִצְחֵי וְלָא יִשְׁתֵּי מַיָא יְהֵי מְשַׁלְהֵי: יג  נַגָר אָעִין נָפֵיץ בְּחוּטָא מְסַר לֵיהּ בְּמַשְׁקוּלְתָּא מְגַזֵי לֵיהּ בְּאִזְמֵילַיָא וּבִנְצוּרִין מְאַחֵיד לֵיהּ וְעָבֵיד לֵיהּ כִּדְמוּת גְבַר כְּתוּשְׁבְּחַת אִתְּתָא לְמִיתַּב בְּבֵיתָא: יד  לְמִקַץ לֵיהּ אַרְזִין וּנְסִיב תְּרֵז וּבְלוּט וּמַתְקֵיף לֵיהּ בַּאֲעֵי חוּרְשָׁא נְצַב אוּרְנָא וּמִטְרָא יְרַבֵּי:

Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 44:8-14
44:8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye also are my witnesses, that there is no God beside me, and there is none strong, except he to whom strength is given from me. 44:9 They that make images are all of them vanity, and worship what does not profit them; and they are witnesses against themselves, that they do not see, nor know, that they may be ashamed. 44:10 Whoever maketh a god or a molten image, it is for no purpose. 44:11 Behold, all their worshippers shall be ashamed, and the working artificers are workmen of the sons of men; let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; they shall fear and be confounded together. 44:12 The smith maketh an axe out of iron, and bloweth the coals in the fire, and maketh it firm with the hammer, and worketh it with the power of his strength; but when he that worketh it is hungry, and does not eat bread, he hath no strength; and if he is thirsty, and drinketh no water, he fainteth. 44:13 The carpenter stretcheth out the line, he applieth the plummet to it; he carveth it with a knife, and he dove-taileth it together, and he maketh it after the likeness of a man, according to the beauty of a woman, that it may remain in the house. 44:14 He heweth for himself cedars and taketh the scarlet oak, and the chestnut, and seasons them. He plants the ash amongst the trees of the forest, and the rain nourisheth it. (TgJ)

ספר ישעיה פרק מד
ח   אַל-תִּפְחֲדוּ וְאַל-תִּרְהוּ הֲלֹא מֵאָז הִשְׁמַעְתִּיךָ וְהִגַּדְתִּי וְאַתֶּם עֵדָי הֲיֵשׁ אֱלוֹהַּ מִבַּלְעָדַי וְאֵין צוּר בַּל-יָדָעְתִּי: 
לוגוס
ח      לָא תִדחְלוּן וְלָא תִיתַברוּן הְלָא מִבְכֹון בַסַרתָך וְחַוִיתִי וְאַתוּן סָהְדִין קֳדָמַי הְאִית אְלָה בָר מִנִי וְלֵית דְתַקִיף אְלָהֵין דְמִן קֳדָמַי מִתיְהֵיב לֵיה תְקֹוף׃ 
ספריה
ח    לָא תִדַחֲלוּן וְלָא תִתַּבְּרוּן הֲלָא מִבְּכֵן בְסַרְתָּךְ וְחַוֵיתִי וְאַתּוּן סָהֲדִין קֳדָמַי הֲאִית אֱלָהָא בַּר מִנִי וְלֵית דְתַקִיף אֱלָהֵן דְמִן קֳדָמַי מִתְיְהַב לֵיהּ תְּקוֹף: 

Isaiah continues in the TgJ to say the following according to Isaiah 44:8, ח  לָא תִדַחֲלוּן וְלָא תִתַּבְּרוּן הֲלָא מִבְּכֵן בְסַרְתָּךְ וְחַוֵיתִי וְאַתּוּן סָהֲדִין קֳדָמַי הֲאִית אֱלָהָא בַּר מִנִי וְלֵית דְתַקִיף אֱלָהֵן דְמִן קֳדָמַי מִתְיְהַב לֵיהּ תְּקוֹף: 44:8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye also are my witnesses, that there is no God beside me, and there is none strong, except he to whom strength is given from me. (TgJ) The Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 44:8 is an Aramaic translation and paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible and sometimes adds or changes words or phrases to clarify the meaning or to harmonize with other biblical passages in the Tanakh.The Targum Jonathan differs from the Hebrew Bible in several ways: the TgJ uses the word `דְמִן קֳדָמַי` (from before me) instead of `מִבַּלְעָדַי` (besides me) to emphasize God’s eternal existence and sovereignty over all other gods. We also see the phrase `וְלֵית דְתַקִיף אֱלָהֵן` (and there is none strong) to stress God’s incomparable power and might over the idols of the nations. The Targum also adds the phrase `דְמִן קֳדָמַי מִתְיְהַב לֵיהּ תְּקוֹף` (except he to whom strength is given from me) to imply that any strength or authority that humans or angels have is derived from God and dependent on His will. This is opposed to the phrase וְאֵין צוּר בַּל-יָדָעְתִּי (there is no God, I know not any) which implies that the TgJ makes a statement of faith that strength and authority comes from God, whereas the Masoretic text is stating the challenge that there is no other god besides the God of Israel. These differences in the translation may affect the interpretation and application of this verse in our lives in the following ways. The Targum reminds us that God is the source and origin of everything, and that nothing can exist or act independently of Him. Therefore, we should acknowledge Him as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, and trust in His providence and wisdom regardless of our situation. The Targum also warns us that the God of Israel is the only true and living God, and that all other gods are false and powerless. Therefore, we are to worship Him alone and not be deceived by the idols of the world, which can neither help nor harm us. The TgJfurther teaches us that the Lord God is the giver and taker of strength, and that he can empower or weaken anyone according to his purpose. Therefore, we should humble ourselves before Him and not rely on our own strength or abilities, but on His grace and mercy. 

This verse is used in the New Testament in several places, where it is quoted or alluded to by Yeshua and his disciples. Some of the parallels are found in Revelation 1:17-18 where Yeshua identifies himself as the first and the last, the living one who was dead and is alive forevermore, echoing the words of God in Isaiah 44:6. In 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Paul affirms that there is no God but one, and that for believers there is one God, the Father, and one Lord, Yeshua the Messiah, which reflects the monotheistic message of Isaiah 44:8. In Acts 1:8, Yeshua promises his disciples that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and that they will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, fulfilling the role of Israel in Isaiah 44:8 according to the Targum translation. Rashi also interprets this verse in the following way:

Rashi on Isaiah 44:8 Parts 1-5
ואל תרהו. אין לו דמיון ופתרונו לפי הענין כמו אל תחתו מלהודיע את שמי לבין העכו”ם:
and be not dismayed Heb. תִּרְהוּ. There is no similar word, and its interpretation according to its context is like תֵּחַתּוּ, be not dismayed from making My name known among the heathens (nations [K’li Paz and mss.]).
הלא מאז השמעתיך. מהר סיני והגדתי לכם שם שאין אלוהי מבלעדי:
let you hear from Mount Sinai, and I told you there that there is no God besides Me.
ואתם עדי. שפתחתי לכם שבעה רקיעים והראיתי אתכם שאין אחר ואתם עדי בדבר הזה שאין אלוה מבלעדי:
and you are My witnesses that I opened for you seven heavens and showed you that there is no other, and you are My witnesses to this thing that there is no God besides Me.
ואין צור בל ידעתי. ת”י ולית דתקיף אלהן דמן קדמי מתיהב ליה תקיף:
and there is no rock I did not know Jonathan renders: And there is no strong one unless he is given strength by Me.
בל ידעתי. לשון ואדעך בשם (שמות ל״ג:י״ז) ידע לכתך (דברים ב׳:ז׳) אני ידעתיך במדבר (הושע י״ג:ה׳):
I did not know Heb. יָדַעְתִּי. An expression similar to (Exodus 33:17) “And I knew you by name (וָאֵדָעֲךָ)”; (Deut. 2:7) “He knew (יָדַע) your going”; (Hosea 13:5) “I knew you (יְדַעְתִּיךָ) in the desert.”

The major conclusion that Rashi makes here in his commentary on Isaiah 44:8 is that the Lord God is the only true and eternal God, who has revealed Himself to Israel and chosen them as His witnesses. He also explains the meaning of some difficult words and phrases in the verse, and compares them with the Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic translation and paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible. In part 1, Rashi explains the word תִּרְהוּ (be not dismayed) has no similar word in the Hebrew language, and its interpretation depends on the context. He suggests that it means “be not dismayed from making My name known among the heathens (nations),” as in the word תֵּחַתּוּ (be not dismayed) in Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:21. Rashi goes on to discuss the phrase הֲלֹא מֵאָז הִשְׁמַעְתִּיךָ (did I not let you hear from then) which he says refers to Mount Sinai, where the Lord God spoke to Israel and told them that there is no God besides Him. In Part 3 he adds that וְאַתֶּם עֵדַי (and you are My witnesses) means that God opened for them seven heavens and showed them that there is no other god, and that they are His witnesses to this fact. So, the concept here is that God’s revelation is multidimensional which was necessary for proving there are no other gods, and that His revelation has many layers of application to our lives! In Part 4 Rashi compares the phrase וְאֵין צוּר בִּלְעַדַי (and there is no rock besides Me) with the Targum Jonathan, which renders it as וְלֵית דְתַקִּיף אֱלָהֵן דְמִן קֳדָמַי מִתְיְהַב לֵיהּ תְּקוֹף (and there is no strong one unless he is given strength by Me). He explains that the word צוּר (rock) means God, and that the word בִּלְעַדַי (besides Me) means “from before Me,” as in the word דְמִן קֳדָמַי (from before Me) in the Targum. In Part 5 he also says that the word יָדַעְתִּי (I did not know) means “I did not acknowledge,” as in the expressions “I knew you by name” (Shemot / Exodus 33:17), “He knew your going” (Devarim / Deuteronomy 2:7), and “I knew you in the desert” (Hosea 13:5). Rashi uses these various references because they work together to help us understand the Isaiah text better in its application to our lives by showing us how God’s knowledge of His people is not merely intellectual, but relational and personal. The Lord God knows us by name, by our actions, and by our circumstances. Notice how this implies that our actions are an important part of our faith and relationship with the God of Israel! The LorD God knows us intimately and cares for us deeply. He also expects us to know Him and obey Him, as He is the only true and eternal God. This is very significant in relation to who we are as the people of God! These things should inspire us to cultivate a closer relationship with God and His Messiah, to trust in His love and guidance, and to acknowledge His sovereignty and uniqueness. These Scriptures also challenge us to be faithful witnesses of God to the world, and to avoid idolatry and falsehood. These Scriptures also comfort us in times of trouble, knowing that the Lord God knows us and is with us. 

ספר ישעיה פרק מד
ט   יֹצְרֵי-פֶסֶל כֻּלָּם תֹּהוּ וַחֲמוּדֵיהֶם בַּל-יוֹעִילוּ וְעֵדֵיהֶם הֵמָּה בַּל-יִרְאוּ וּבַל-יֵדְעוּ לְמַעַן יֵבֹשׁוּ: י   מִי-יָצַר אֵל וּפֶסֶל נָסָךְ לְבִלְתִּי הוֹעִיל: יא   הֵן כָּל-חֲבֵרָיו יֵבֹשׁוּ וְחָרָשִׁים הֵמָּה מֵאָדָם יִתְקַבְּצוּ כֻלָּם יַעֲמֹדוּ יִפְחֲדוּ יֵבֹשׁוּ יָחַד: 
לוגוס
ט      עָבְדֵי צַלמָא כוּלהֵון לָמָא וּפָלְחֵיהֹון דְלָא יַהנֹון לְהֹון וְסָהְדִין אִינוּן בְנַפשָתְהֹון דְלָא חָזַן וְלָא יָדְעִין בְדִיל דְיִבַהתוּן׃ י     מַן עְבַד דַחלָא וְצַלמָא אַתֵיך בְדִיל דְלָא לַהְנָאָה׃ יא     הָא כָל פָלְחֵיהֹון יִבַהתוּן וְאוּמָנִין עְבַדוּנִין מִבְנֵי אְנָשָא יִתכַנשוּן כוּלְהֹון יְקוּמוּן יִתַברוּן וְיִבַהתוּן כַחדָא׃ 
ספריה
ט    עַבְדֵי צַלְמַיָא כּוּלְהוֹן לְמָא וּפָלְחֵיהוֹן דְלָא יַהֲנוּן לְהוֹן וְסָהֲדִין אִינוּן בְּנַפְשָׁתֵיהוֹן דְלָא חָזָן וְלָא יָדְעִין בְּדִין דְיִבַּהֲתוּן: י    מַן עֲבַד דַחֲלָא וְצַלְמָא אַתִיךְ בְּדִיל דְלָא לַהֲנָאָה: יא    הָא כָּל פָּלְחֵיהוֹן יִבָּהֲתוּן וְאוּמָנִין עוּבְדָנִין מִבְּנֵי אֱנָשָׁא יִתְכַּנְסוּן כּוּלְהוֹן יְקוּמוּן יִתַּבְּרוּן יִבַהֲתוּן כַּחֲדָא: 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to the TgJ on Isaiah 44:9-11, ט  עַבְדֵי צַלְמַיָא כּוּלְהוֹן לְמָא וּפָלְחֵיהוֹן דְלָא יַהֲנוּן לְהוֹן וְסָהֲדִין אִינוּן בְּנַפְשָׁתֵיהוֹן דְלָא חָזָן וְלָא יָדְעִין בְּדִין דְיִבַּהֲתוּן: 44:9 They that make images are all of them vanity, and worship what does not profit them; and they are witnesses against themselves, that they do not see, nor know, that they may be ashamed. י  מַן עֲבַד דַחֲלָא וְצַלְמָא אַתִיךְ בְּדִיל דְלָא לַהֲנָאָה: 44:10 Whoever maketh a god or a molten image, it is for no purpose. יא  הָא כָּל פָּלְחֵיהוֹן יִבָּהֲתוּן וְאוּמָנִין עוּבְדָנִין מִבְּנֵי אֱנָשָׁא יִתְכַּנְסוּן כּוּלְהוֹן יְקוּמוּן יִתַּבְּרוּן יִבַהֲתוּן כַּחֲדָא: 44:11 Behold, all their worshippers shall be ashamed, and the working artificers are workmen of the sons of men; let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; they shall fear and be confounded together. (TgJ) Here the Targum uses the word `צַלְמַיָא` (images) instead of `פֶּ֣סֶל` (graven image) to describe the idols that the people make and worship. This may be to emphasize how the idols are the creation of man from the imagery that he has in his own mind. This word also implies the futility and vanity of worshiping something that is merely a representation of God. Remember that God commands that we do not make idols or images of Him according to the Torah in Shemot / Exodus 20:1-5.

ספר שמות פרק כ
א   וַיְדַבֵּר אֱלֹהִים אֵת כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה לֵאמֹר:   ס   ב   אָנֹכִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים: ג   לֹא-יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל-פָּנָי: ד   לֹא-תַעֲשֶֹה לְךָ פֶסֶל וְכָל-תְּמוּנָה אֲשֶׁר בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וַאֲשֶׁר בָּאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת וַאֲשֶׁר בַּמַּיִם מִתַּחַת לָאָרֶץ: ה   לֹא-תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶה לָהֶם וְלֹא תָעָבְדֵם כִּי אָנֹכִי יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֵל קַנָּא פֹּקֵד עֲוֹן אָבֹת עַל-בָּנִים עַל-שִׁלֵּשִׁים וְעַל-רִבֵּעִים לְשֹֹנְאָי: 

Shemot / Exodus 20:1–5  
20:1 And God spake all these words, saying, 20:2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (KJV)

Here the Lord God says directly not to make any image or likeness of other gods before him! The TgJ is emphasizing the Torah command in the use of the word `צַלְמַיָא` (images) instead of `פֶּ֣סֶל` (graven image) to describe the idols that the people make and worship. The Targum adds the phrase `וּפָלְחֵיהוֹן דְלָא יַהֲנוּן לְהוֹן` (and worship what does not profit them) to explain why the idol-makers are nothing and their idols are worthless. This emphasizes the contrast between the true God who benefits His people and the false gods who cannot help them at all. The word `בְּנַפְשָׁתֵיהוֹן` (against themselves) specifies that the idol-worshippers are their own witnesses of their ignorance and shame. This implies that they have no excuse for their idolatry and that they will be held accountable for their actions. This again ties back to Rashi’s interpretation that God knows our actions, this is also how the Torah interprets our relationship with God, our actions speak to the truth that is in our hearts, what we truly believe! The Targum uses the word `פָּלְחֵיהוֹן` (their worshippers) to include the worshippers in the group that will be ashamed and confounded. This may be to show that both the producers and the consumers of idols are guilty and liable for their sin. These differences in the translation may affect our interpretation and application of these scriptures by the Targum reminding us that God is the only true and living God, and that hHe alone deserves our worship and devotion. Therefore, we should avoid any form of idolatry, whether it is worshiping images, objects, people, or anything else that is not God. The TgJ warns us that idolatry is not only a waste of time and resources, but also a source of shame and dishonor. Seeking the God of Israel and His Messiah makes the use of our time beneficial, unlike those who seek the false gods who can neither help nor harm us. The TgJ further teaches us that idolatry is self-deception and self-condemnation. This implies that we are to be humble and honest before the God of Israel and acknowledge our need for Him, and not be proud and foolish and think that we can make or find something better than Him.

We also note some NT parallels where these verses are quoted or alluded to by Yeshua and his talmudim (disciples). For example, in Acts 17:29, Paul argues that God is not like gold or silver or stone, shaped by human hands and the imagination. Stating these things he is echoing the words of Isaiah 44:10. Paul describes according to Romans 1:21-23 how the Gentiles exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles, reflecting the words of Isaiah 44:9-11. According to 1 Corinthians 8:4, Paul affirms that there is no God but one, and that an idol is nothing in this world but the worship of demons, reflecting the words of Isaiah 44:6-8. Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 that the things the Gentiles sacrifice to are demons and not to God, implying what is written in Isaiah 44:9-11. In addition, Revelation 9:20 reports how the rest of mankind, who were not killed by the plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk, recalling the words of Isaiah 44:9-11. What this implies is how what is happening is meant to be a wakeup call, but due to the hardness of heart one does not recognize the the call of God to walk in Teshuvah and seek His holy and righteous ways, and believe in His Messiah Yeshua!

We note Midrash Rabbah Bereshit 24:7 interpretation of these verses say the following:

Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 24:7
רַבִּי תַּנְחוּמָא בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר וְרַבִּי מְנַחֵם בְּשֵׁם רַב אָמַר כָּל הָאֻמָנִיּוֹת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן לְמָדָם, מַאי טַעְמֵיהּ (ישעיה מד, יא): וְחָרָשִׁים הֵמָּה מֵאָדָם, מֵאָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן. רַבָּנָן אָמְרִין אֲפִלּוּ סִרְגּוּלוֹ שֶׁל סֵפֶר, אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן לְמָדוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (בראשית ה, א): זֶה סֵפֶר, הוּא וְסִרְגּוּלוֹ. (בראשית ה, א): בְּיוֹם בְּרֹא אֱלֹהִים אָדָם, הָדָא מְסַיְּעָא לְהַהִיא דְּאָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר בֶּן עֲזַרְיָה שָׁלשׁ פְּלָאִים נַעֲשׂוּ בְּאוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם, בּוֹ בַּיּוֹם נִבְרְאוּ, בּוֹ בַּיּוֹם שִׁמְשׁוּ, בּוֹ בַּיּוֹם הוֹצִיאוּ תּוֹלָדוֹת. בֶּן עֲזַאי אוֹמֵר (בראשית ה, א) :זֶה סֵפֶר תּוֹלְדֹת אָדָם, זֶה כְּלַל גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה, רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אוֹמֵר (ויקרא יט, יח): וְאָהַבְתָּ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ, זֶה כְּלַל גָּדוֹל בַּתּוֹרָה, שֶׁלֹא תֹאמַר הוֹאִיל וְנִתְבַּזֵּיתִי יִתְבַּזֶה חֲבֵרִי עִמִּי, הוֹאִיל וְנִתְקַלַּלְתִּי יִתְקַלֵּל חֲבֵרִי עִמִּי. אָמַר רַבִּי תַּנְחוּמָא אִם עָשִׂיתָ כֵּן דַּע לְמִי אַתָּה מְבַזֶּה בִּדְמוּת אֱלֹהִים עָשָׂה אוֹתוֹ.
Rabbi Tanḥuma in the name of Rabbi Elazar, and Rabbi Menaḥem in the name of Rav said: Adam the first man learned all the crafts [in the world]. What is the source? “And craftsmen, they are me’adam” (Isaiah 44:11) – from Adam the first man. He learned even how to score a parchment, as it is stated: “This is the book” – it and its scoring.
“[This is the book of the descendants of Adam,] on the day that God created man” – this supports what Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya said: Three miracles occurred on that day: On that day they [Adam and Eve] were created, on that day they cohabited, and on that day they produced offspring.
Ben Azzai says: “This is the book of the descendants of Adam” – this verse represents the central tenet of the Torah. Rabbi Akiva says: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) – that verse represents the central tenet of the Torah, [as it teaches] that you should not say: Since I have been disparaged, let someone else be disparaged along with me; since I was cursed, let someone else be cursed along with me. Rabbi Tanḥuma said: If you do act like that, know who it is that you are disgracing: “in the likeness of God He made him” (Genesis 5:1).

We note here in the Midrash the rabbis are commenting on the verse “This is the book of the generations of Adam” (Genesis 5:1), which introduces the genealogy of Adam and his descendants until Noah and connects this to Isaiah 44:9-11. The major conclusions of the midrash are that Adam was the first human and the source of all crafts and skills, as implied by the wordplay between “craftsmen” (umenaḥem) and “from Adam” (me’adam) in Isaiah 44:11. This verse is part of a passage that mocks the idol-makers, who are contrasted with the true God, the Creator of all things. Adam and Eve experienced three miracles on the day of their creation: they were created, they cohabited, and they produced offspring. This is based on the phrase “on the day that God created man” (Bereshit / Genesis 5:1), which implies that all these events happened on the same day. This shows the power and blessing of God, who gave them life, companionship, and fruitfulness. Note that the Torah narrative however lays out a timeline that has the fall of man into disobedience between the companionship and fruitfulness parts of God’s blessing on Adam and Eve. The verse “This is the book of the generations of Adam” (Bereshit / Genesis 5:1) represents the central tenet of the Torah, according to Ben Azzai, because it teaches the dignity and value of every human being, who are all descendants of Adam and made in the image of God. Rabbi Akiva agrees, but he cites another verse, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:18), as the central tenet of the Torah, because it teaches the ethical and moral implications of being created in God’s image. Rabbi Tanḥuma warns against harming or insulting others, because that would be disrespecting God’s image in them. These various parts of the Scriptures are drawn together to support the derivation of the meaning of the text from the literal and figurative sense of the words, such as in the wordplay between “craftsmen” and “from Adam” in Isaiah 44:11, or the meaning of “book” and “scoring” in Genesis 5:1. The rabbis compare or contrast different verses or passages for the purpose of understanding the contrast between the idol-makers in Isaiah 44:9-20 and the true God in Isaiah 44:21-28, and parallel this to the comparison between the creation of Adam and Eve in Bereshit / Genesis 1:26-28 and 2:7-25. We note how they deduce from the text that Adam and Eve cohabited and produced offspring on the same day of their creation from Bereshit / Genesis 5:1 and compare this to the application that we should love our neighbor as ourselves from Vayikra / Leviticus 19:18. These connections help us to understand the importance of the Torah in our lives in regards to the immediacy in obeying the commands of God, there should be no delay. The Torah reveals the nature and character of God, who is the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all things, and who is worthy of our worship and obedience. The Torah teaches us the value and purpose of human life, which is to reflect God’s image and glory, and to be fruitful and multiply, and to fill the earth and subdue it. And the Torah instructs us to live in harmony and love with God and with our fellow human beings, who are all our neighbors and relatives, and to avoid any harm or hatred that would mar God’s image in us and in them. All of these concepts are important and are related to the concepts presented in Isaiah 44:9-11. 

ספר ישעיה פרק מד
יב   חָרַשׁ בַּרְזֶל מַעֲצָד וּפָעַל בַּפֶּחָם וּבַמַּקָּבוֹת יִצְּרֵהוּ וַיִּפְעָלֵהוּ בִּזְרוֹעַ כֹּחוֹ גַּם-רָעֵב ואֵין כֹּחַ לֹא-שָׁתָה מַיִם וַיִּיעָף: יג   חָרַשׁ עֵצִים נָטָה קָו יְתָאֲרֵהוּ בַשֶּׂרֶד יַעֲשֵֹהוּ בַּמַּקְצֻעוֹת וּבַמְּחוּגָה יְתָאֳרֵהוּ וַיַּעֲשֵֹהוּ כְּתַבְנִית אִישׁ כְּתִפְאֶרֶת אָדָם לָשֶׁבֶת בָּיִת: יד   לִכְרָת-לוֹ אֲרָזִים וַיִּקַּח תִּרְזָה וְאַלּוֹן וַיְאַמֶּץ-לוֹ בַּעֲצֵי-יָעַר נָטַע אֹרֶן וְגֶשֶׁם יְגַדֵּל: 
לוגוס
יב     נַפָחָא מִבַרזְלָא חְצִינָא עָבֵיד וְנָפַח נוּר בְשִיחֹורִין וּבמַקֹוביָן מְתַקֵיף לֵיה וְעָבֵיד לֵיה בִתקֹוף חֵילֵיה דְאִם יִכפַן עָבְדֵיה וְלָא יִכֹול לָא יְהֵי בֵיה חֵיל וְאִם יִצהֵי וְלָא יִשתֵי מַיָא יְהֵי מְשַלהֵי׃ יג     נַגָרָא אָעִין נָפֵיץ בְחוּטָא מָסַר לֵיה בְמַשקֻלתָא מְגַזֵי לֵיה בְאוּזמֵילָא וּבנָצֹורִין מְאַחֵיד לֵיה וְעָבֵיד לֵיה כִדמוּת גְבַר כְתֻשבְחָת אִתָא יָתְבַת בֵיתָא׃ יד     לְמִקַץ לֵיה אַרזִין וְנָסֵיב תְרַן וּבַלוּט וּמתַקֵיף לֵיה בְאָעֵי חֻרשָא נְצַב אוּרנָא וּמִטרָא מְרַבֵי׃
ספריה
יב    נַפְחָא מִבַּרְזְלָא חֲצִינָא עָבֵיד וּנְפַח נוּר בְּשִׁיחוּרִין וּבְמַקוּבִין מַתְקֵיף לֵיהּ וְעָבִיד לֵיהּ בִּתְקוֹף חֵילֵהּ דְאִם יִכְפַּן עַבְדֵהּ וְלָא יֵיכוּל לָא יְהֵי בֵיהּ חֵיל וְאִם יִצְחֵי וְלָא יִשְׁתֵּי מַיָא יְהֵי מְשַׁלְהֵי: יג    נַגָר אָעִין נָפֵיץ בְּחוּטָא מְסַר לֵיהּ בְּמַשְׁקוּלְתָּא מְגַזֵי לֵיהּ בְּאִזְמֵילַיָא וּבִנְצוּרִין מְאַחֵיד לֵיהּ וְעָבֵיד לֵיהּ כִּדְמוּת גְבַר כְּתוּשְׁבְּחַת אִתְּתָא לְמִיתַּב בְּבֵיתָא: יד    לְמִקַץ לֵיהּ אַרְזִין וּנְסִיב תְּרֵז וּבְלוּט וּמַתְקֵיף לֵיהּ בַּאֲעֵי חוּרְשָׁא נְצַב אוּרְנָא וּמִטְרָא יְרַבֵּי:

Isaiah continues saying the following according to the TgJ in Isaiah 44:12-14, יב  נַפְחָא מִבַּרְזְלָא חֲצִינָא עָבֵיד וּנְפַח נוּר בְּשִׁיחוּרִין וּבְמַקוּבִין מַתְקֵיף לֵיהּ וְעָבִיד לֵיהּ בִּתְקוֹף חֵילֵהּ דְאִם יִכְפַּן עַבְדֵהּ וְלָא יֵיכוּל לָא יְהֵי בֵיהּ חֵיל וְאִם יִצְחֵי וְלָא יִשְׁתֵּי מַיָא יְהֵי מְשַׁלְהֵי: 44:12 The smith maketh an axe out of iron, and bloweth the coals in the fire, and maketh it firm with the hammer, and worketh it with the power of his strength; but when he that worketh it is hungry, and does not eat bread, he hath no strength; and if he is thirsty, and drinketh no water, he fainteth. יג  נַגָר אָעִין נָפֵיץ בְּחוּטָא מְסַר לֵיהּ בְּמַשְׁקוּלְתָּא מְגַזֵי לֵיהּ בְּאִזְמֵילַיָא וּבִנְצוּרִין מְאַחֵיד לֵיהּ וְעָבֵיד לֵיהּ כִּדְמוּת גְבַר כְּתוּשְׁבְּחַת אִתְּתָא לְמִיתַּב בְּבֵיתָא: 44:13 The carpenter stretcheth out the line, he applieth the plummet to it; he carveth it with a knife, and he dove-taileth it together, and he maketh it after the likeness of a man, according to the beauty of a woman, that it may remain in the house. יד  לְמִקַץ לֵיהּ אַרְזִין וּנְסִיב תְּרֵז וּבְלוּט וּמַתְקֵיף לֵיהּ בַּאֲעֵי חוּרְשָׁא נְצַב אוּרְנָא וּמִטְרָא יְרַבֵּי:44:14 He heweth for himself cedars and taketh the scarlet oak, and the chestnut, and seasons. (TgJ) The Targum paraphrases adding in verse 12 the phrase `דְאִם יִכְפַּן עַבְדֵהּ וְלָא יֵיכוּל לָא יְהֵי בֵיהּ חֵיל` (if he is weary from his work and cannot, he will have no strength in him), which is not in the Hebrew text. This phrase emphasizes the contrast between the human weakness of the idol-maker and the divine power of the true God. In verse 13, the Targum uses the word `נַגָרָא` (carpenter) instead of the Hebrew word `חָרָשׁ` (craftsman), which is more specific and descriptive of the type of work involved in making an idol. The Targum also adds the word `בְּאִזְמֵילַיָא` (with a knife) to explain how the carpenter carves the idol, which is not in the Hebrew text. In verse 14, the Targum changes the order of the trees mentioned in the Hebrew text, and replaces the word `תִּרְזָה֙` (cypress) with `בְלוּט` (oak), which may be a different species of tree or a variant reading of the Hebrew text. The Targum also adds the word `נְצַב` (to plant, to store up) to describe how the idol-maker obtains the fir tree, which is not in the Hebrew text. These differences in the translation suggest that we are to recognize the futility and foolishness of idolatry, and to contrast it with the sovereignty and majesty of the true God, who created and sustains all things. We may also reflect on how we may be tempted to trust in human-made things or ideas, rather than in the living God, and how we may repent and turn to him for salvation and guidance. Notice how this is what Judah and Jerusalem have been doing and is a theme that Isaiah has been prophesying about throughout His book to call the people back to faith in God alone! 

These verses are not directly quoted or alluded to in the NT text, but there are some parallels to these verses in the New Testament. Take for example in Romans 1:18-25, Paul describes how the Gentiles exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things, and how they worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator. This passage echoes the theme of Isaiah 44:9-20, which exposes the absurdity and wickedness of idolatry. In 1 Corinthians 12:2, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they were formerly Gentiles, carried away to mute idols, which implies the contrast between the idols, which have no voice or power, and the true God, who speaks and acts through His Spirit and blessings. In 1 John 5:21, John concludes his epistle with the exhortation, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” This passage implies the danger and deception of idolatry, and the need to remain faithful to the true God, who is the source of eternal life and love. We also note how this also speaks to the eternal truth that is taught in the Torah regarding idolatry, how God’s people remain bound to the Torah by faith in Yeshua the Messiah! The commentary Shenei Luchot HaBerit, Torah Shebikhtav, Bereshit, Torah Ohr 118 has the following to say concerning these verses.

Shenei Luchot HaBerit, Torah Shebikhtav, Bereshit, Torah Ohr 118
הרי נתבאר סוד ההיולי שהוא התהו הנזכר בסוד ראשית המחשבה, ועל סוד זה מביא תלמודא פסוק (ישעיה מה, יח) לא לתהו בראה כי אם לשבת יצרה לענין פריה ורביה, כי מי שאינו עוסק בפריה ורביה אף שאינו משחית זרעו לבטלה רק נשאר למעלה במוח במקום מחשבה, הנה הוא תהו, כי הבן הוא בכח האב במוח שהוא היולי שלו כמבואר בפרדס בשער הצחצחות פ”ד, על זה אמר לא לתהו בראה ואמר לשבת יצרה, כתיב הכא לשבת, וכתיב התם (ישעיה מד, יג) כתפארת אדם לשבת בית, וכבר הודעתי כי חכמה ובינה, אב ואם. ותפארת ומלכות, בן ובת. וכן דין פריה ורביה, כי תפארת ברא כרעא דאבוה יצא מכח האב שהיא המחשבה, ויצא מן התהו הרוחני הנעלם לפועל, וזהו לשבת יצרה כתפארת אדם לשבת והדברים ברורים למבינים:
We had raised the question in the introduction to Parshat Bereshit, why the Talmud in Chagigah 2 did not quote the commandment of פרו ורבו in Genesis when it wanted to tell us about the severity of neglecting to fulfill the commandment of procreation, and chose the line from Isaiah about G–d not having created the universe in order for it to remain תהו, in an elementary state. We can now understand this when we consider that the message the Talmud wanted to convey was that someone who fails to heed that commandment is as if he arrested the whole process of creation and its purpose by allowing the universe to remain static, in the state of Tohu, its very beginning.

This rabbinic commentary on Isaiah 44:12-14 is from the work of Shenei Luchot HaBerit, a 17th century kabbalistic commentary by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz. The major conclusions of the midrash are that the היולי (hyle), or the primordial matter, is the same as the תהו (tohu), or the chaos, that is mentioned in the beginning of creation (Bereshit / Genesis 1:2). This is the secret of the first thought of God, which is the source of all existence. The commentary points out that God did not create the world to remain in a state of tohu, but to be inhabited and populated by His creatures. This is the meaning of the verse in Isaiah 45:18: “He did not create it a waste, but formed it for habitation.” The commentary also draws upon the commandment of procreation as the way to fulfill God’s purpose in creation, by bringing the potential for procreation into actuality, and by transforming the tohu into a cosmos. This is why the Talmud in Chagigah 2a cites this verse to emphasize the importance of this commandment. The rabbis draw from the phrase from Bereshit / Genesis “In the beginning God created” (Bereshit / Genesis 1:1) to interpret the significance of the commands of God in our lives, because they see this phrase as implying that God had a plan and a purpose for creation, and that He gave us the commands to help us realize that plan and purpose. The commands of God are not arbitrary or oppressive, but they are expressions of His love and wisdom, and are the tools to transform the tohu into a cosmos, and to reveal the hidden light of the first thought of God. We note how God’s word brings order to our lives, as opposed to the chaos of sin. This is how the rabbis are interpreting these things that when one violates a command or refuses to listen, he is putting in danger the entire universe, because he interrupts the process of obedience and its completion. He leaves the world in a state of tohu, which is unstable and chaotic, and he prevents the manifestation of God’s glory and goodness in the world. He also deprives himself of the opportunity to participate in God’s creative act, and to become a partner with Him with deeds of kindness towards others which are a creative act in and of itself. The disobedient man also denies himself the joy and fulfillment of obeying God’s commands, there is great joy in performing a command since we are made in the image and likeness of God.

Rabbinic Sources that Support this Interpretation 

  • In Midrash Rabbah on Bereshit / Genesis 1:1, the rabbis state that God created the world for the sake of Israel and the Torah, and that He consulted with the Torah before creating the world. This implies that God had a plan and a purpose for creation, and that the Torah is the blueprint and the guide for that plan and purpose.
  • In Midrash Rabbah on Bereshit / Genesis 1:28, the rabbis say that God blessed Adam and Eve and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply, and that this was the first commandment that God gave to humanity. This implies that procreation is the primary and essential commandment, and that it is the way to fulfill God’s blessing and will in creation.
  • In Midrash Rabbah on Genesis 2:4, the rabbis say that God made two worlds, one upper and one lower, and that He placed Adam in the lower world to connect it with the upper world. This implies that the human being is a spiritual link to what is above. This parallels the concept that the man who obeys the commands is partnering with the divine. Mankind has the responsibility to do this through his actions and his obedience to God’s commands.

We note again that the word “Torah” is more properly translated as “instruction” and it is God’s instruction or teaching for His people. The Torah reveals God’s will, character, and promises, and guides us in how to live a righteous and holy life. The Torah also points to Yeshua, who fulfilled the Torah (Romans 10:4). Yeshua is also the Living Word of God, who came to reveal God’s grace and truth, and to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21, John 1:1, 1:14, 1:17). The Torah itself says that the one who obeys will experience well-being, happiness, and faith in God. The Torah teaches that God blesses those who obey his commandments, and that He is the source of all good things (Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Tehillim / Psalm 119:1-2, James 1:17). The Torah also demonstrates that God is faithful and loving, and that he has a plan and purpose for his people (see Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:9, Jeremiah 29:11, and Romans 8:28). The Torah also helps a believer to appreciate the gift of Yeshua, who is the expression of God’s love and mercy, and who enables us to have a personal relationship with God through his death and resurrection (see John 3:16, Romans 5:8, and Ephesians 2:8-9). By trusting in Yeshua, a believer can also experience well being, happiness, and faith in God. Yeshua sends the Spirit of God to empower us to obey the Torah and to produce the fruits of righteousness, joy, and peace (see Galatians 5:22-23, Philippians 1:11). Yeshua also gives us his grace, which enables the forgiveness of our sins and frees us from guilt and condemnation (see Romans 8:1, Hebrews 10:22). Yeshua also gives us hope, which assures us of eternal life and a glorious future with the God of Israel (see John 14:2-3, 1 Peter 1:3-4). Based upon all of these things, the conclusion is that the Torah of God and the faith in Yeshua are connected and complementary, not contradictory or opposed. They both reveal God’s character and will, and they both lead us to well being, happiness, and faith in him. As Yeshua himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).