The Struggle of God’s People with idolatry and Refusal to Listen, ישעיהו מו:ז-יג / Isaiah 46:7-13

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Introduction to Isaiah 46:7-13

Isaiah 46:7-13 are passages that contrast the inability of idols to save with the sovereignty and salvation of God. It fits into the greater narrative of Isaiah, which often addresses the futility of idolatry and affirms the power and uniqueness of the Lord. The idolatry of Israel is cited as a primary reason for the exile of Israel to Babylon. In the Hebrew Bible, this captivity is portrayed as a punishment for idolatry and disobedience to HaShem, drawing parallels to the enslavement of the Israelites in ancient Egypt. 

The prophets, including Isaiah, warned that such practices would lead to divine judgment and ultimately to the nation’s downfall. The Babylonian Captivity, which began with the siege of Jerusalem in 597 BCE, was seen as a direct consequence of these actions. During Isaiah’s time, Israel was involved in various forms of idolatry, including the worship of Canaanite deities. 

Canaanite Deities Worshiped by the People

  • Baal (Isaiah 27:9)
  • Asherah (Isaiah 17:8)
  • Molech (Isaiah 57:5)
  • Ishtar (Isaiah 47:1)
  • Chemosh (Isaiah 16:12)
  • Dagon (Isaiah 37:38)
  • Tammuz (Isaiah 27:9)
  • The star god Kaiwan (Isaiah 24:21-23, Amos 5:26)

These idols were often represented by symbols or physical objects and were believed to be accessible points of contact with the gods. The practice of idol worship was not only a religious error but also a violation of the covenant with the Lord God of Israel. Isaiah’s prophecies frequently condemned this folly, emphasizing that idols, being human creations, could not save and were nothing compared to the one true God. Isaiah also mentions the gods of Babylon according to Isaiah 46:1.

  • Bel – Bel was a title meaning “lord” in the Babylonian language and was one of the chief gods of Babylon. Isaiah refers to Bel when discussing the fall of Babylon and the impotence of its gods (Isaiah 46:1).
  • Nebo – Nebo, or Nabu, was the Babylonian god of wisdom and writing. He is mentioned alongside Bel as being powerless and a burden to their worshippers (Isaiah 46:1).

We note that King Ahaz of Judah, who reigned during Isaiah’s time period, was particularly noted for his idolatrous practices. He went so far as to place a foreign idol in the Temple in Jerusalem, which was an abomination in the eyes of the prophet and a significant act of defiance against the commands of God in the Torah. These things represent the struggle of God’s people with idolatry and the subsequent refusal to listen to the prophetic warnings. Notice how there was a refusal to hear or heed the Word of God. This ultimately led to the nation’s exile and served to instruct future generations on the importance of faithfulness to God. These Scriptures from Isaiah 46:7-13 fit into the greater narrative of Isaiah by continuing the prophet’s message of judgment and hope for the people of Israel. In these verses, the Lord God is emphasizing His power and sovereignty over all nations, including Babylon, which is being used to punish Israel for their disobedience. This again notes how the Lord God works in the lives of men to bring to pass His plans, and to bring to pass what is written in His word in the Torah in regard to obedience and disobedience. In addition, the claims made in Isaiah 46:7-13 are consistent with the rest of the scriptures, as they emphasize God’s control over history. The claims in Isaiah 46:7-13 are consistent with the rest of the Scriptures, particularly themes in the Tanakh that emphasize God’s role as the creator, sustainer, and deliverer of His people. The passage reinforces the idea that God is actively involved in the history and destiny of Israel, unlike the lifeless idols of the nations.

Claims about the God of Israel in Isaiah 46:7-13

  1. God is distinct from idols: Unlike idols that need to be carried and cannot move or respond, God carries His people and is responsive to their needs.
  2. God is the sustainer: From birth to old age, God promises to carry and save His people.
  3. God is incomparable: There is no one like God; He is unique in His power and glory.
  4. God is the deliverer: He brings near His righteousness and salvation, fulfilling His promises.
  5. God’s salvation is for Zion: He will grant salvation in Zion and His glory for Israel.
  6. God’s timing is perfect: His salvation will not be delayed.

These claims highlight God’s active role in the lives of His people and His commitment to salvation and redemption. Isaiah seeks for His people to recall to memory that there is only one God, and how he has demonstrated this in the past, and that if they do not turn from their wicked ways, He will demonstrate it again using the Babylonian army. The Lord God is promising Israel that this is not the end, but that He will send a deliverer (Cyrus) and he predicts this 150 years prior to it happening. The question is will the people believe the Lord God, repent from their sins, and turn away from their idolatry? Living here on earth tends to cause men to become stubborn and rebellious and only able to focus upon the issues of their present troubles. This is why we are always being told to seek the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua. Here Israel (Judah and Jerusalem) cannot seem to be moved to repentance. This is why we need God’s help to turn from sin and to be empowered to overcome sin in our lives. The application of these things today for us is to trust in the Lord, to seek His Mercy, to be accountable to His Word, and to reject the idols in our lives regardless of what form they may take. These passages call us to evaluate and prioritize the God of Israel and His Messiah Yeshua in our lives, so the Lord God Almighty is central. The hope that we have in Yeshua, and reading God’s Word daily, these things help us to reflect upon our reliance on God, and to live according to His righteousness in obedience to His Word!

Massoretic Text (MSS) on Isaiah 46:7-15.

Isaiah continues saying the following according to Isaiah 46:7.

ספר ישעיה פרק מו
ז   יִשָּׂאֻהוּ עַל-כָּתֵף יִסְבְּלֻהוּ וְיַנִּיחֻהוּ תַחְתָּיו וְיַעֲמֹד מִמְּקוֹמוֹ לֹא יָמִישׁ אַף-יִצְעַק אֵלָיו וְלֹא יַעֲנֶה מִצָּרָתוֹ לֹא יוֹשִׁיעֶנּוּ: ח   זִכְרוּ-זֹאת וְהִתְאֹשָׁשׁוּ הָשִׁיבוּ פוֹשְׁעִים עַל-לֵב: 

Isaiah 46:7 states, “They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble. (יִשָּׂאֻהוּ עַל-כָּתֵף יִסְבְּלֻהוּ וְיַנִּיחֻהוּ תַחְתָּיו וְיַעֲמֹד מִמְּקוֹמוֹ לֹא יָמִישׁ אַף-יִצְעַק אֵלָיו וְלֹא יַעֲנֶה מִצָּרָתוֹ לֹא יוֹשִׁיעֶנּוּ)” Isaiah 46:8 “Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors. (זִכְרוּ-זֹאת וְהִתְאֹשָׁשׁוּ הָשִׁיבוּ פוֹשְׁעִים עַל-לֵב)”

Cross References for Isaiah 46:7-8: Ex 16:10–14; 32:1–4; 1 Sa 4:9; 5:3; 1 Ki 18:26; Ps 33:7–15; 115:5, 7; 148:1–7; Is 1:2; 40:20; 41:7, 28; 43:25; 44:1–28; 45:20; 46:1; 47:13; 50:1; Je 10:5; Am 5:26; Wis 13:15; Sir 51:13; Let Jer 6:4, 16–22; 1 Co 16:13

There is a lot of meaning in the content of these verses. The first word יִשָּׂאֻהוּ (yissauhu) means “they lift it,” and emphasizes the effort required to move idol gods, which makes them burdensome because they cannot move themselves and this is further emphasized in the word יַעֲמֹד (ya’amod) which means “it stands,” indicating the idols’ inability to act or respond. The Hebrew text clearly defines what is going on saying לֹא יָמִישׁ (lo yamish) “it cannot move,” אַף-יִצְעַק (af-yitz’ak) “even though he cries out,” and וְלֹא יַעֲנֶה (velo ya’aneh) “it cannot answer,” again this highlights how idol gods are unable to respond to human pleading, and further illustrates the impotence of all idols. In addition to these things, we also see the word תַחְתָּיו (tachtav) which means “below him” and is used to describe the idols being placed beneath their worshippers. The phrase וְיַנִּיחֻהוּ (veyanichuhu) means “and they will leave/rest him” and speaks to the abandonment of idols when they prove ineffective. The word תַחְתָּיו (tachtav) is used to emphasize the humiliating position of the idols. Isaiah is being very specific in describing the problem with idolatry, and this futility in idolatry suggests that the worship of these things are worthless and have no value. 

In the NT text, there are several passages that parallel the content of Isaiah 46:7-8. For example, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 8:4-6:

1 Corinthians 8:4–6  
8:4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one. 8:5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. (KJV Περὶ τῆς βρώσεως οὖν τῶν εἰδωλοθύτων, οἴδαμεν ὅτι οὐδὲν εἴδωλον ἐν κόσμῳ καὶ ὅτι οὐδεὶς θεὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς. καὶ γὰρ εἴπερ εἰσὶν λεγόμενοι θεοὶ εἴτε ἐν οὐρανῷ εἴτε ἐπὶ γῆς, ὥσπερ εἰσὶν θεοὶ πολλοὶ καὶ κύριοι πολλοί, ἀλλʼ ἡμῖν εἷς θεὸς ὁ πατὴρ ἐξ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς αὐτόν, καὶ εἷς κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς διʼ οὗ τὰ πάντα καὶ ἡμεῖς διʼ αὐτοῦ. Ἀλλʼ οὐκ ἐν πᾶσιν ἡ γνῶσις· τινὲς δὲ τῇ συνηθείᾳ ἕως ἄρτι τοῦ εἰδώλου ὡς εἰδωλόθυτον ἐσθίουσιν, καὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτῶν ἀσθενὴς οὖσα μολύνεται. βρῶμα δὲ ἡμᾶς οὐ παραστήσει τῷ θεῷ· οὔτε ἐὰν μὴ φάγωμεν ὑστερούμεθα, οὔτε ἐὰν φάγωμεν περισσεύομεν.)

Notice how Paul takes these concepts from Isaiah, about the folly of idolatry, and emphasizes the power of the one true God. Paul speaks of the God of Israel being the Creator in his statement “the Father, of whom are all things” and of the importance of the Messiah of God who brings the Word of God to His people, saying “whom are all things, and we by him” speaks to the importance of the one who comes in the Power and Word of God. These things draw us back to the Jewish concept of the Word of God being the Etz Chayim, the tree of life, and how we have life in the Messiah of God. Paul is drawing on his Jewish understanding of the Torah while he writes to the Corinthians about idolatry. Elsewhere in Colossians 2:8-10, Paul warns against the worship of angels and other created beings, again emphasizing the supremacy of the Messiah. In summary, the Hebrew text of Isaiah 46:7-8 contains rich imagery and powerful language that warns against the futility of idolatry and the power of the one true God of Israel. The NT text parallels these verses, reinforcing the message of the supremacy of God and the danger of idolatry. Paul says that Idols have no real existence in this world (1 Corinthians 8:4). These scriptures from Isaiah and the NT text remind us that only God is capable of hearing and saving, encouraging us to place our trust in Him rather than in lifeless objects or false ideologies. The message that Isaiah and Paul are giving us is timeless and applicable to our lives today, as it calls us to consider where we place our trust and to remember the sovereignty and power of God. Note again how Isaiah emphasizes there is only one God who is other than this world and that He has a specific will for all of mankind. In addition, these things all remind us of how Parashat Haazinu opens in the Torah.

פרשת האזינו – א   הַאֲזִינוּ הַשָּׁמַיִם וַאֲדַבֵּרָה וְתִשְׁמַע הָאָרֶץ אִמְרֵי-פִי:

This is the antidote to unbelief, it is “to remember” (הַאֲזִינוּ) and listen (וְתִשְׁמַע). Isaiah’s solution to unbelief is the same theme found in Ha’sefer Devarim (the book of Deuteronomy). The God of Israel and His Messiah are to be remembered in history and in life. We remember how Yeshua referred to all of the prophets and to Moshe (Luke 24:27, 24:44, Devarim / Deuteronomy 18:18) about who He is, and about the actions of our Father who is in heaven. Isaiah is saying that when we remember Moshe and all of the prophets, we know that we can entrust ourselves to the God of Israel! These things underscore the role of Yeshua as the promised Messiah who directs us to our Father God in heaven. 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 46:9-10.

ספר ישעיה פרק מו
ט   זִכְרוּ רִאשֹׁנוֹת מֵעוֹלָם כִּי אָנֹכִי אֵל וְאֵין עוֹד אֱלֹהִים וְאֶפֶס כָּמוֹנִי: י   מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית וּמִקֶּדֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא-נַעֲשֹוּ אֹמֵר עֲצָתִי תָקוּם וְכָל-חֶפְצִי אֶעֱשֶֹה: יא   קֹרֵא מִמִּזְרָח עַיִט מֵאֶרֶץ מֶרְחָק אִישׁ עֲצָתִו [עֲצָתִי] אַף-דִּבַּרְתִּי אַף-אֲבִיאֶנָּה יָצַרְתִּי אַף-אֶעֱשֶֹנָּה:       

Isaiah 46:9 states, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, (זִכְרוּ רִאשֹׁנוֹת מֵעוֹלָם כִּי אָנֹכִי אֵל וְאֵין עוֹד אֱלֹהִים וְאֶפֶס כָּמוֹנִי)” Isaiah 46:10 “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית וּמִקֶּדֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא-נַעֲשֹוּ אֹמֵר עֲצָתִי תָקוּם וְכָל-חֶפְצִי אֶעֱשֶֹה)” Isaiah 46:11 “Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it. (קֹרֵא מִמִּזְרָח עַיִט מֵאֶרֶץ מֶרְחָק אִישׁ עֲצָתִו [עֲצָתִי] אַף-דִּבַּרְתִּי אַף-אֲבִיאֶנָּה יָצַרְתִּי אַף-אֶעֱשֶֹנָּה)” 

Cross References for Isaiah 46:9-11: Ge 15:11; 41:25; Ex 8:10; 16:10–14; Nu 23:19; Dt 32:7; Jdg 4:10; Ezr 1:2; Job 28:7; Ps 33:7–15; 115:3; 148:1–7; Pr 19:21; 21:30; Is 5:19; 7:7, 9; 8:8; 14:24; 18:6; 25:1; 37:26; 40:8; 41:2, 4, 22–23, 25–27; 42:9; 43:18; 44:6–8, 26, 28–45:1, 5, 21; 48:3; 65:17; Je 12:9; 44:28; Eze 39:4; Sir 42:19; Mk 12:32; Ac 5:39; Eph 1:11; Heb 6:17

Here in Isaiah 46:9-10 the Lord God declares clearly that there are none like Him, and how this uniqueness is found in the ability to predict things to come. The Lord God of Israel does what He wants to bring these things to pass. This is why Isaiah opens with the word זִכְרוּ (zikru) “Remember. Note that this word is written as an imperative in the Hebrew bible:

Both verse 8 and 9 open with the imperative זִכְרוּ commanding us to remember. An imperative in grammar refers to a sentence that gives an instruction, makes a request, or issues a command. It’s expressed using the imperative mood, which is the verb form used for commands or requests. For example, “Please sit down” or “Close the door” are imperative sentences. The subject of an imperative sentence is often implied, typically being you, and is not explicitly stated. Here this verb is a command to actively recall or consider past events or truths, suggesting that remembering God’s past actions and character is crucial for understanding the present and future work of God in our lives. The phrase זִכְרוּ רִאשֹׁנוֹת מֵעוֹלָם means remember the former things from the past, which refers to events or deeds that highlight who God is by His actions in history. The Lord says כִּי אָנֹכִי אֵל declaring that He is God, and then concludes in verse 9 that there are no other gods (וְאֵין עוֹד אֱלֹהִים וְאֶפֶס כָּמוֹנִי). In verse 10, Isaiah writes מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית “declaring the first from the last” and this again indicates God’s control over history and the words עֲצָתִי “my counsel” and חֶפְצִי “my pleasure / desire” refers to the fact that God has a plan and so Isaiah is encouraging us to trust in God’s plans by reminding us to remember that God is active in this world, and in our lives! 

The Apostle Paul writes something similar as he writes to the Ephesians according to Ephesians 1:11.

Ephesians 1:11  
1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (KJV 11 Ἐν ᾧ καὶ ⸀ἐκληρώθημεν προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν ⸆ τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ)

Notice here how Paul writes very similarly to Isaiah, that God works according to the counsel of His own will, this parallels Isaiah 46:10. Additionally, 1 Timothy 1:17, speaks of God as the eternal King, immortal and invisible. These themes are central to both the Hebrew Bible and the NT, providing a consistent message about God’s nature and His governance over history. It is important to recognize these things since the Word of God wants us to reflect on all of what God has done. Note again how the uniqueness of God and remember are placed in contrast to the false gods of the nations. These false gods cannot make the same claims, they cannot predict the future because they do not speak openly and plainly to the people. 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 46:12-13.

ספר ישעיה פרק מו
      יב   שִׁמְעוּ אֵלַי אַבִּירֵי לֵב הָרְחוֹקִים מִצְּדָקָה: יג   קֵרַבְתִּי צִדְקָתִי לֹא תִרְחָק וּתְשׁוּעָתִי לֹא תְאַחֵר וְנָתַתִּי בְצִיּוֹן תְּשׁוּעָה לְיִשְֹרָאֵל תִּפְאַרְתִּי: 

Isaiah 46:12 states, “Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness: (שִׁמְעוּ אֵלַי אַבִּירֵי לֵב הָרְחוֹקִים מִצְּדָקָה)” Isaiah 46:13 “I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory. (קֵרַבְתִּי צִדְקָתִי לֹא תִרְחָק וּתְשׁוּעָתִי לֹא תְאַחֵר וְנָתַתִּי בְצִיּוֹן תְּשׁוּעָה לְיִשְֹרָאֵל תִּפְאַרְתִּי)”

Cross References for Isaiah 46:12-13: Ex 16:10–14; 32:9; Ps 33:7–15; 74:2; 76:5; 85:9; 119:150; 148:1–7; Is 1:26; 9:9; 43:7; 44:23; 45:8; 46:3; 48:1, 4; 51:5; 56:1; 61:3, 11; 62:11; Je 2:5; Joe 2:32; 3:17; Hab 2:3; Zec 7:11–12; Mal 3:13; Ro 1:17; 3:21; 10:3; 1 Pe 2:6

In Isaiah 46:12 God says שִׁמְעוּ אֵלַי “listen to me” through the prophet Isaiah. This emphasizes attention and obedience, very similar to what Moshe wrote according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:1-5. Moshe writes in the Torah on the importance of listening to God’s word. Verse 12 goes on saying אַבִּירֵי לֵב הָרְחוֹקִים מִצְּדָקָה “mighty of heart that are far from righteousness.” Notice how the call to listen is contrasted with those who are distant from righteousness. The word heart (לֵב) represents the center of our emotions, and directs us to the source of unrighteousness. Notice this is what Yeshua was pointing out according to Mark chapter 7. He stated that impurity and uncleanness, which are other words to describe unrighteousness, comes from within, and not from touching something with your hands. The Pharisees believed that unwashed hands transmitted sin to food through touching / contact, and that this then followed when one ate food. This is why the text states at the end of the discussion, “thus cleansing all foods” because this is in reference to unrighteousness, and the belief that unrighteousness (impurity, uncleanness) was transmitted through contact, and Yeshua was pointing out that it is within the heart that is the source of unrighteousness. The reason is the heart is the source is because men do not want the righteousness of God, and choose to turn from the Word of God and reject the ways of God that He has instructed us to live by. We are told according to the NT text that by faith in Yeshua, God sends His presence into our lives by dwelling within each of us, His Holy Spirit indwells us, and then causes us to have the desire and power to overcome sin. Sin and unrighteousness are an issue for all men, women, and children, and so Isaiah concludes chapter 46 in verse 13 saying that God says, קֵרַבְתִּי צִדְקָתִי “I bring near my righteousness.” This is again the Lord God reaching out to mankind to draw men to the truth. The words צִדְקָתִי (Tzidkati) and תְּשׁוּעָה (Teshu’ah) both denote the justice and salvation of God that the Lord God Almighty Himself is providing. These words emphasize the promises that God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and that He would draw people to faith and hope in what He has planned according to His Word. 

There are parallels in the NT text on the concepts of God’s righteousness and salvation which are echoed throughout. For example, in Romans 3:22, Paul speaks of “the righteousness of God through faith in Yeshua the Messiah for all who believe,” which resonates with the theme of divine righteousness found in Isaiah. In Romans 11:26, it says, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.'” This verse echoes the theme of divine intervention and salvation for Israel, as seen in Isaiah 46. Additionally, in Romans 10:13, it quotes from Joel 2:32 and says, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This verse emphasizes the urgency of calling on God for salvation, similar to the call in Isaiah 46:13. These verses (Isaiah 46:12-13) represent the conclusion that God can and will deliver His people. We can trust the Lord, we do not have to have a hardened heart like those who stood at Kadesh Barnea (Bamidbar / Numbers 14:1-10). We notice what it is that the people may be doubting, take for example the following list:

The People’s Doubts about God

  • Is God really strong enough to deliver His people from the gods of Babylon? 
  • Does God want to save His people since their sin has been so grievous? 
  • Is the conquest of Babylon by another pagan king Cyrus really an acceptable mode of deliverance? 

Something to note here is that how God delivered His people, was not in the expected way. This is common today, many people have expectations or how God should work in their lives, and many or most of the time it isn’t as one expects. This is an important concept since this is exactly what is going on in the anti-missionary claim that Yeshua is not the Messiah of God. There is a presupposition that God is going to deliver in one specific way, and what we are learning here in Isaiah is how God can use any way He chooses to deliver His people. The point is that God is patient and slow to anger but there comes a point when the opportunity to repent is over, and the consequences come regardless of what one does because the movement of history has been committed, just as we see how at this point the Babylonian army is at the walls of Jerusalem in the book of Jeremiah. Note that at the writing of Isaiah’s words, the people still have the opportunity to repent and turn from their sins. 

Rabbinic Commentary on Isaiah 46:7-12

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 מו:ז-יג
ז  נַטְלִין לֵיהּ עַל כַּתְפֵּיהוֹן סַבְלִין לֵיהּ מַחֲתִין לֵהּ בְּאַתְרֵהּ וְקָאֵים מֵאַתְרֵהּ לָא אֶפְשַׁר לֵיהּ דִינוּד אַף יִבְעֵי מִנֵהּ לָא יְתִיבִינֵהּ מַעַקְתֵהּ לָא יִפְרְקִנֵהּ: ח  אַדְכָּרוּ דָא וְאִתַּקָפוּ וַאֲתִיבוּ מְרוֹדִין עַל לֵב: ט  אִדְכַּרוּ קַדְמְיָתָא דְמִן עַלְמָא אֲרֵי אֲנָא אֱלָהּ וְלֵית עוֹד אֱלָהּ בַּר מִינִי: י  מְחַוֵי מִן אַוְלָא לְסוֹפָא וּמִלְקַדְמִין דְלָא אִתְעֲבִידָא אֲמַר מִלְכִי יִתְקַיֵם וְכָל רְעוּתִי אַעְבֵּד: יא  דַאֲמַר לְכַנָשָׁא גַלְוָתָא מִמַדִינְחָא לְאַיְתָאָה בִגְלֵי כְעוֹף קַלִיל מַאֲרַע רְחִיקָא בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם רְחִימִי אַף מַלְלֵית אַף אַיְתִינָהּ אַף אַתְקֵינְתָּא אַף אַעְבְּדִינָהּ: יב  קַבִּילוּ לְמֵימְרִי תַּקִיפֵי לִבָּא דִרְחִיקִין מִזְכוּתָא: יג  קְרִיבָא זַכְוָתִי לָא תִתְרַחֵק וּפוּרְקָנִי לָא יִתְעַכֵּב וְאֶתֵּן בְּצִיוֹן פָּרִיק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל תּוּשְׁבַּחְתִּי:

Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 46:7-13
46:7 They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him and set him in his place, and he abideth; it is not possible for him to move from his place; yea, one supplicates to him; but he does not answer him, nor save him out of his distress. 46:8 Remember this, and be ye strong; and bear it in mind, O rebels! 46:9 Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no God whatever besides me, 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 46:11 Who hath promised to gather together the captivity from the East, to bring openly, as a swift bird, the sons of Abraham, my chosen, from a distant land; yea, I have promised it; yea, I will bring it to pass; I have ordained it; yea, I will do it. 46:12 Hearken unto my WORD, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness. 46:13 My righteousness is nigh, it is not far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion, and my glory in Israel. (TgJ)

ספר ישעיה פרק מו
ז   יִשָּׂאֻהוּ עַל-כָּתֵף יִסְבְּלֻהוּ וְיַנִּיחֻהוּ תַחְתָּיו וְיַעֲמֹד מִמְּקוֹמוֹ לֹא יָמִישׁ אַף-יִצְעַק אֵלָיו וְלֹא יַעֲנֶה מִצָּרָתוֹ לֹא יוֹשִׁיעֶנּוּ:       ח   זִכְרוּ-זֹאת וְהִתְאֹשָׁשׁוּ הָשִׁיבוּ פוֹשְׁעִים עַל-לֵב: ט   זִכְרוּ רִאשֹׁנוֹת מֵעוֹלָם כִּי אָנֹכִי אֵל וְאֵין עוֹד אֱלֹהִים וְאֶפֶס כָּמוֹנִי: 
לוגוס
ז      נָטְלִין לֵיה עַל כַתפֵיהֹון סָבְלִין לֵיה וּמַחְתִין לֵיה בְאַתרֵיה וְקָאֵים מֵאַתרֵיה לָא אִפשָר לֵיה דִינוּד אַף יִבעֵי מִנֵיה וְלָא יָתִיבִנֵיה מֵעָקְתֵיה לָא יִפרְקִנֵיה׃ ח      אִדְכַרוּ דָא וְאִיתַקַפוּ וַאְתִיבוּ מָרֹודִין עַל לֵב׃ ט      אִדְכַרוּ קַדמַיָתָא דְמִן עָלְמָא אְרֵי אְנָא אְלָהָא וְלֵית עֹוד אְלָה בָר מִנִי׃ 
ספריה 
ז  נַטְלִין לֵיהּ עַל כַּתְפֵּיהוֹן סַבְלִין לֵיהּ מַחֲתִין לֵהּ בְּאַתְרֵהּ וְקָאֵים מֵאַתְרֵהּ לָא אֶפְשַׁר לֵיהּ דִינוּד אַף יִבְעֵי מִנֵהּ לָא יְתִיבִינֵהּ מַעַקְתֵהּ לָא יִפְרְקִנֵהּ: ח  אַדְכָּרוּ דָא וְאִתַּקָפוּ וַאֲתִיבוּ מְרוֹדִין עַל לֵב: ט  אִדְכַּרוּ קַדְמְיָתָא דְמִן עַלְמָא אֲרֵי אֲנָא אֱלָהּ וְלֵית עוֹד אֱלָהּ בַּר מִינִי: 

Isaiah states according to the TgJ on Isaiah 46:7-9 saying, ז  נַטְלִין לֵיהּ עַל כַּתְפֵּיהוֹן סַבְלִין לֵיהּ מַחֲתִין לֵהּ בְּאַתְרֵהּ וְקָאֵים מֵאַתְרֵהּ לָא אֶפְשַׁר לֵיהּ דִינוּד אַף יִבְעֵי מִנֵהּ לָא יְתִיבִינֵהּ מַעַקְתֵהּ לָא יִפְרְקִנֵהּ: 46:7 They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him and set him in his place, and he abideth; it is not possible for him to move from his place; yea, one supplicates to him; but he does not answer him, nor save him out of his distress. ח  אַדְכָּרוּ דָא וְאִתַּקָפוּ וַאֲתִיבוּ מְרוֹדִין עַל לֵב: 46:8 Remember this and be ye strong; and bear it in mind, O rebels! ט  אִדְכַּרוּ קַדְמְיָתָא דְמִן עַלְמָא אֲרֵי אֲנָא אֱלָהּ וְלֵית עוֹד אֱלָהּ בַּר מִינִי: 46:9 Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no God whatever besides me, (TgJ) The Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 46:7-9 differs from the Hebrew Bible translation in that it emphasizes God’s power and control over all things when it states in verse 9 אִדְכַּרוּ קַדְמְיָתָא דְמִן עַלְמָא (remember the former things of old). This parallels the Masoretic text and is contrasted to the idols who need to be carried and fastened in place, who are just objects that do not answer or deliver. The emphasis on God’s power and control inspire a greater sense of trust and faith in God’s ability to provide and protect. The general theme of God’s power and control parallels the NT from the sense of the importance of trusting and having faith in God and in His promised Messiah. For example, according to John 14:6, Yeshua says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This verse underlines the exclusivity of the Messiah of God in God’s plan for salvation and eternal life, similar to the emphasis on the singularity of God in Isaiah 46:9.  Rashi also conveys this idea of the exclusivity of God by reiterating the remembering of the former things. 

Rashi on Isaiah 46:9:1
זכרו ראשונות מעולם. אשר ראיתם כי אנכי אל ואין עוד, אנכי אלהים ואפס כמוני:
Remember the first things of old that you have seen that I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.

In Isaiah 46:9, the “former things” (ראשונות) refer to the events and actions God has performed in the past. This includes His miraculous works, predictions of future events that have been fulfilled, and His interventions in the world and for His people. These acts serve as proof of God’s sovereignty, authority, and unique ability to declare the end from the beginning, showcasing His omniscience and omnipotence. These verses call on the people to remember the works of God as a testament to the fact that there is no other god besides the one true God. The reason being that our God works in the open and makes known His ways to His people. The remembrance is meant to encourage faithfulness and trust in God, especially in contrast to the idols that cannot predict the future nor deliver on their promises. Again, these verses convey the idea of the uniqueness and supremacy of the God of Israel and the Messiah who directs us to the Father in heaven (the God of Israel), highlighting the exclusive nature and the belief that there is no other god or entity that can be compared to the Creator.

In the Midrashim, the rabbis also describe the God of Israel in relation to who He is and who we as His people are supposed to be. Take for example Tanna DeBei Eliyahu Rabbah 26:1.

Tanna DeBei Eliyahu Rabbah 26:1
This is what God said to Israel: My children what do I seek from you? I seek no more than that you love one another, and honor one another, and that you have awe for one another

Notice the sentiment that is expressed in Tanna DeBei Eliyahu Rabbah 26:1, where God asks for mutual love, honor, and respect among the people of Israel. This parallels several teachings in the New Testament that emphasize love and respect within the community of believers. Note the following parallels. Yeshua said in John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Paul wrote in Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” And Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” These NT passages emphasize the importance of love and respect as central tenets of the faith which aligns with the values presented in the Midrash. The New Testament often reinforces the idea that love is the fulfillment of the Torah, and this is from the sense that one does not harm those whom he or she loves. Believers (God’s people) are to live in harmony, showing honor and respect to one another. These concepts are all taught according to the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings in the Tanakh which parallel the NT text demonstrating consistency throughout Scripture how we are to be faithful to God and towards others in love and respect. 

ספר ישעיה פרק מו
י   מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית וּמִקֶּדֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא-נַעֲשֹוּ אֹמֵר עֲצָתִי תָקוּם וְכָל-חֶפְצִי אֶעֱשֶֹה: יא   קֹרֵא מִמִּזְרָח עַיִט מֵאֶרֶץ מֶרְחָק אִישׁ עֲצָתִו [עֲצָתִי] אַף-דִּבַּרְתִּי אַף-אֲבִיאֶנָּה יָצַרְתִּי אַף-אֶעֱשֶֹנָּה:       יב   שִׁמְעוּ אֵלַי אַבִּירֵי לֵב הָרְחוֹקִים מִצְּדָקָה: יג   קֵרַבְתִּי צִדְקָתִי לֹא תִרְחָק וּתְשׁוּעָתִי לֹא תְאַחֵר וְנָתַתִּי בְצִיּוֹן תְּשׁוּעָה לְיִשְֹרָאֵל תִּפְאַרְתִּי:       
לוגוס
י     מְחַוֵי מִן אַולָא לְסֹופָא וּמִלְקַדמִין דְלָא אִתעְבִידָא אָמַר מַלכִי יִתקַייַם וְכָל רְעוּתִי אַעְבֵיד׃ יא     דְאָמַר לְכַנָשָא גָלְוָתָא מִמַדנְחָא לְאֵיתָאָה בִגלַאי כְעֹוף קַלִיל מֵאְרַע רַחִיקָא בְנֵי אַברָהָם בְחִירִי אַף מַלֵילִית אַף אַיתֵינַה אַתקֵינתַה אַף אַעבְדִינַה׃ יב     קַבִילוּ לְמֵימְרִי תַקִיפֵי לִבָא דְרַחִיקִין מִזָכוּתָא׃ יג     קָרִיבָא זְכוּתִי לָא תִתרַחַק וּפוּרקָנִי לָא יִתעַכַב וְאַתֵין בְצִיֹון פָרִיק לְיִשׂרָאֵל תֻשבַחתִי׃
ספריה 
י  מְחַוֵי מִן אַוְלָא לְסוֹפָא וּמִלְקַדְמִין דְלָא אִתְעֲבִידָא אֲמַר מִלְכִי יִתְקַיֵם וְכָל רְעוּתִי אַעְבֵּד: יא  דַאֲמַר לְכַנָשָׁא גַלְוָתָא מִמַדִינְחָא לְאַיְתָאָה בִגְלֵי כְעוֹף קַלִיל מַאֲרַע רְחִיקָא בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם רְחִימִי אַף מַלְלֵית אַף אַיְתִינָהּ אַף אַתְקֵינְתָּא אַף אַעְבְּדִינָהּ: יב  קַבִּילוּ לְמֵימְרִי תַּקִיפֵי לִבָּא דִרְחִיקִין מִזְכוּתָא: יג  קְרִיבָא זַכְוָתִי לָא תִתְרַחֵק וּפוּרְקָנִי לָא יִתְעַכֵּב וְאֶתֵּן בְּצִיוֹן פָּרִיק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל תּוּשְׁבַּחְתִּי:

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 46:10-13, י  מְחַוֵי מִן אַוְלָא לְסוֹפָא וּמִלְקַדְמִין דְלָא אִתְעֲבִידָא אֲמַר מִלְכִי יִתְקַיֵם וְכָל רְעוּתִי אַעְבֵּד: 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: יא  דַאֲמַר לְכַנָשָׁא גַלְוָתָא מִמַדִינְחָא לְאַיְתָאָה בִגְלֵי כְעוֹף קַלִיל מַאֲרַע רְחִיקָא בְּנֵי אַבְרָהָם רְחִימִי אַף מַלְלֵית אַף אַיְתִינָהּ אַף אַתְקֵינְתָּא אַף אַעְבְּדִינָהּ: 46:11 Who hath promised to gather together the captivity from the East, to bring openly, as a swift bird, the sons of Abraham, my chosen, from a distant land; yea, I have promised it; yea, I will bring it to pass; I have ordained it; yea, I will do it. יב  קַבִּילוּ לְמֵימְרִי תַּקִיפֵי לִבָּא דִרְחִיקִין מִזְכוּתָא: 46:12 Hearken unto my WORD, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness. יג  קְרִיבָא זַכְוָתִי לָא תִתְרַחֵק וּפוּרְקָנִי לָא יִתְעַכֵּב וְאֶתֵּן בְּצִיוֹן פָּרִיק לְיִשְׂרָאֵל תּוּשְׁבַּחְתִּי:46:13 My righteousness is nigh, it is not far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion, and my glory in Israel. (TgJ) Here we read how the TgJ writes that God will gather His people and bring them from captivity כְעֹוף קַלִיל like a swift bird. This is reminiscent of what God had told Moshe on the mountain of Sinai according to Shemot / Exodus 19:4. 

ספר שמות פרק יט
ד   אַתֶּם רְאִיתֶם אֲשֶׁר עָשִֹיתִי לְמִצְרָיִם וָאֶשָּׂא אֶתְכֶם עַל-כַּנְפֵי נְשָׁרִים וָאָבִא אֶתְכֶם אֵלָי: 

Shemot / Exodus 19:4  
19:4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. (KJV)

This verse from Shemot / Exodus 19:4 uses the metaphor of “eagles’ wings” to describe how God supported and protected Israel during their exodus from Egypt. It suggests that God carried them swiftly and powerfully, as an eagle carries its young, ensuring their safety and speed of travel. This was very important back in the ancient days, such as in the case during the trip from Babylon back to Israel, there were thieves who would attack and steal, and so God protected the people. Ezra, for example, prayed for a safe journey from Babylon to Israel with the sacred vessels. This event is documented in the Book of Ezra, particularly in Ezra 8:21-23, where Ezra proclaimed a fast to seek a safe journey for themselves, their children, and all their possessions. The scripture reference that mentions the sacred vessels is Ezra 1:7-11, where King Cyrus of Persia releases the temple vessels that were taken by Nebuchadnezzar to be returned to Jerusalem. The imagery of eagles wings, or as we see here in the Targum God bringing the people like a swift bird emphasizes God’s nurturing care and the deliverance of the Israelites into a covenant relationship with Him, away from the oppression of Egypt and towards spiritual freedom and communion with God. Note how the phrase “brought you to Myself” signifies the establishment of a direct and personal relationship between God and Israel, highlighting the transition from physical slavery to spiritual liberation and the formation of a community committed to divine values and worship. 

In Isaiah 46:10-13, God speaks of declaring the beginning from the end. The commentary Likutei Moharan comments on this in the following way:

Likutei Moharan, Part II 15:1:6
וּצְדָקָה הִיא בְּחִינַת מַיִם, בִּבְחִינַת (שם קיד): הַהֹפְכִי הַצּוּר אֲגַם מָיִם, הַצּוּר – זֶה בְּחִינַת (תהילים ע״ג:כ״ו): צוּר לְבָבִי, כִּי יֵשׁ לֵב אֶבֶן (יחזקאל ל״ו:כ״ו), דְּהַיְנוּ אַבִּירֵי לֵב הָרְחוֹקִים מִצְּדָקָה (ישעיהו מ״ו:י״ב), וְזֶהוּ: הַהֹפְכִי הַצּוּר אֲגַם מָיִם, דְּהַיְנוּ שֶׁנִּתְהַפֵּךְ לְלֵב רַךְ, בְּחִינַת (איכה ב׳:י״ט): שִׁפְכִי כַמַּיִם לִבֵּךְ נֹכַח פְּנֵי ה’, הַיְנוּ לֵב רַךְ לְהִתְנַדֵּב לִצְדָקָה. וּבִשְׁבִיל זֶה נִקְרָא צְדָקָה מַיִם, כְּמוֹ שֶׁכָּתוּב (עמוס ה׳:כ״ד): וּצְדָקָה כְּנַחַל אֵיתָן, וְזֶה בְּחִינַת (קהלת י״א:א׳): שַׁלַּח לַחְמְךָ עַל פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם, הַנֶּאֱמָר בִּצְדָקָה.
Now, charity is synonymous with water, as in “Who turns the rock into a pool of water” (Psalms 114:8). “The rock” corresponds to “the rock of my heart” (Psalms 73:26), for there is “a heart of stone” (Ezekiel 36:26)—i.e., “the hardhearted, who are far from charity” (Isaiah 46:12). Thus, this is the meaning of “Who turns the rock into a pool of water.” In other words, the heart turns soft, as in “pour out your heart like water before God” (Lamentations 2:19)—i.e., a soft heart able to give charity generously. This is the reason that charity is referred to as water, as it is written (Amos 5:24), “charity like an unfailing stream.” This is also the concept of “Cast your bread upon the waters” (Ecclesiastes 11:1), which is said in regard to charity.

The commentary from Likutei Moharan relates to Isaiah 46:10-13 by drawing a parallel between the transformation of the heart and the divine act of creation and prophecy. In Isaiah 46:10-13, God speaks of being the author of life and declaring the end from the beginning and accomplishing His purpose, emphasizing His omnipotence and the certainty of His plans. This passage again highlights God’s control over history and the future, asserting that His will shall be established. The commentary interprets the transformation of a “heart of stone” into a “heart of flesh” as a metaphor for the softening of the heart towards the holy and righteous ways of God. This parallels the Lord God transforming the dry or desert place into a well watered place, such as in Isaiah 41:18-20 and Isaiah 58:11. This transformation is seen as a divine act, reflecting the power and certainty of God’s plan to transform lives. The heart, once hard and unyielding, becomes soft and generous, capable of serving God freely like water, which is a life-giving and renewing force. This idea is further supported by other scriptural references to water as a symbol of charity, such as Amos 5:24 and Ecclesiastes 11:1, which speak of justice and charity flowing like a perennial stream and casting bread upon the waters, respectively. This commentary aligns with Isaiah by illustrating the transformative power of the presence of God, both in the grand scheme of creation and in the human heart.

The Midrash Tanchuma interprets and relates Isaiah 64:10-13 in the following way:

Midrash Tanchuma, Vaera 4:2
דָּבָר אַחֵר, מָה רָאוּ לְהָקִישׁ הַמַּלְכוּת לַנָּחָשׁ? מַה הַנָּחָשׁ הוֹלֵךְ מְעֻקָּם, אַף הַמַּלְכוּת מְעַקֶּמֶת דְּרָכִים. לְפִיכָךְ אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְמֹשֶׁה, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַנָּחָשׁ מְעֻקָּם, כָּךְ פַּרְעֹה הָרָשָׁע מְעֻקָּם. וּכְשֶׁיָּבוֹא לְהִתְעַקֵּם, וְאָמַרְתָּ אֶל אַהֲרֹן קַח אֶת מַטְּךָ, יִתְלֶה אֶת הַמַּטֶּה כְּנֶגְדּוֹ. כְּלוֹמַר, מִזֶּה אַתְּ לוֹקֶה. מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית (ישעיה מו, י). עַד שֶׁמֹּשֶׁה בַּסְּנֶה, הֶרְאָה לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא, הֵיאַךְ פַּרְעֹה עָתִיד לְהִתְעַקֵּם. לְפִיכָךְ עָשָׂה מַקְלוֹ נָחָשׁ. כְּלוֹמַר, שֶׁפַּרְעֹה הָרָשָׁע, כְּשֵׁם שֶׁהַנָּחָשׁ מְעֻקָּם, כָּךְ פַּרְעֹה יִתְעַקֵּם.
Another comment on why they compared the kingdom of Egypt to a serpent. Just as the serpent winds its way about, so the government of Egypt follows devious paths. Hence the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Just as the serpent is cunning, so too is the wicked Pharaoh. When he is about to deal cunningly with you, say to Aaron, “Take your rod, and raise it toward him, as though warning him, You will be smitten with this.” Declaring the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10). While Moses was still at the burning bush, the Holy One, blessed be He, revealed to him that Pharaoh would act treacherously in the future. When he turned his staff into a serpent, it indicated that the wicked Pharaoh was like a treacherous serpent. Hence, Pharaoh acted treacherously.

The Midrash Tanchuma uses the imagery of a serpent to compare the deceptive and treacherous nature of Pharaoh’s rule in Egypt with the cunning behavior of a serpent. The imagery being used here of the serpent implies a government’s ability to cause harm through their devious ways. Take for example, the changes in the US government’s policy on LGBTQ rights and how this has had a significant impact on traditional values and the nuclear family. The policies encourage acceptance and inclusion of sinful lifestyles and behaviors into the family structures. As society becomes more accepting of different sexual orientations and gender identities, the definition of a “traditional” family becomes confused. This has led to diverse non-biblical family structures, including single-parent families, same-sex couples with children, and families with transgender or non-binary members. The legalization of same-sex marriage has challenged the traditional view of marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This has led to a shift in societal attitudes towards marriage, with an increasing emphasis on acceptance of sinful lifestyles and rejection of God’s word. Prior to the 1970s, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) classified homosexuality as a mental illness. With the APA changing their definition of mental illness and homosexuality, this has led to an increase in the level of mental illness like we see today with the gender identity and trans movements. Overall, this is what the Midrash is speaking of in relation to the changes in the US government’s policy on LGBTQ rights have contributed to greater levels of mental illness and ungodliness and parallels the serpent analogy on a government’s ability to cause harm through devious ways through policy. This statement in Isaiah that God “declares the end from the beginning,” implies that no matter what happens, God’s plans are immutable and will come to pass as He has decreed, regardless of human actions. In addition, His Word in the Scriptures is unchanging, and his instruction for life as God’s people has not changed either! The midrash uses the imagery of the serpent to illustrate that, just as God knew the serpent’s nature in the Garden of Eden, He also knows the leaders of this world, and this serves as a reminder that while mankind, like Pharaoh, may have their own plans and schemes, ultimately, it is God’s will that prevails. The serpent imagery is apt because it conveys the idea of a hidden threat that can only be overcome by divine intervention, much like the challenges Moses and Aaron faced against Pharaoh. This reinforces the message of Isaiah 46:10-13 about God’s ultimate authority and the fulfillment of His divine plan. This also emphasizes how the Scriptures demonstrate that there is a need for God to intervene in our lives, to help us to become overcomers, through the Messiah of God who overcame this world and was victorious over death! These things demonstrate for us today that we all need the presence of God in our lives to live a life filled with peace and happiness. The commands are meant to bring peace and stability to life, and this is for our benefit.