Introduction to Isaiah 44:1-7
Here in Isaiah 44:1-7, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the greatness of the promises of God from the sense that the Lord God will forgive His people by His mercy and grace. What we note about these scriptures (all of Isaiah 44) is how the Lord God reminds Judah and Jerusalem that their sins have removed Him from any obligation on their behalf. So, this is the idea that they are unable to ask for anything from the Lord, such as deliverance from their enemies. The purpose of the enemies coming such as Assyria and Babylon were for the purpose of drawing the people back to the one True God of Israel. The point that Isaiah makes is that for His name’s sake He will deliver the people, it is a free gift, and this should be motivation for the people to return to the Lord God of Israel and remain faithful to Him. The Lord God of Israel freely delivering the people is the concept of the grace of God being given in the Tanakh. We note that this concept of grace is not as clearly revealed if we do not study these things. The mercy and grace of God is found in the Tanakh in relation to how God has chosen Israel as an “am segola” (a treasured people) and not because they were particularly righteous. In the Torah, the Lord God provided a way to draw near to Him and to test the kavanah (motivation or intention) of the people through the sacrificial system. Scripture from the Tanakh that support the idea of the grace and mercy of God towards His people may be found in Bereshit / Genesis 15:6, Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Tehillim / Psalms 40:6-8, Isaiah 53:5-6, and Jeremiah 31:31-34.
Bereshit / Genesis 15:6
15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (KJV וְהֶאֱמִ֖ן בַּֽיהוָ֑ה וַיַּחְשְׁבֶ֥הָ לּ֖וֹ צְדָקָֽה׃)
Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:7–8
7:7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 7:8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (KJV לֹ֣א מֵֽרֻבְּכֶ֞ם מִכָּל־הָֽעַמִּ֗ים חָשַׁ֧ק יְהוָ֛ה בָּכֶ֖ם וַיִּבְחַ֣ר בָּכֶ֑ם כִּֽי־אַתֶּ֥ם הַמְעַ֖ט מִכָּל־הָעַמִּֽים׃ כִּי֩ מֵֽאַהֲבַ֨ת יְהוָ֜ה אֶתְכֶ֗ם וּמִשָּׁמְר֤וֹ אֶת־הַשְּׁבֻעָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר נִשְׁבַּע֙ לַאֲבֹ֣תֵיכֶ֔ם הוֹצִ֧יא יְהוָ֛ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם בְּיָ֣ד חֲזָקָ֑ה וַֽיִּפְדְּךָ֙ מִבֵּ֣ית עֲבָדִ֔ים מִיַּ֖ד פַּרְעֹ֥ה מֶֽלֶךְ־מִצְרָֽיִם׃)
Tehillim / Psalm 40:6–8
40:6 Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; Mine ears hast thou opened: Burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required. 40:7 Then said I, Lo, I come: In the volume of the book it is written of me, 40:8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: Yea, thy law is within my heart. (KJV זֶ֤בַח וּמִנְחָ֨ה׀ לֹֽא־חָפַ֗צְתָּ אָ֭זְנַיִם כָּרִ֣יתָ לִּ֑י עוֹלָ֥ה וַ֝חֲטָאָ֗ה לֹ֣א שָׁאָֽלְתָּ׃ אָ֣ז אָ֭מַרְתִּי הִנֵּה־בָ֑אתִי בִּמְגִלַּת־סֵ֝֗פֶר כָּת֥וּב עָלָֽי׃ לַֽעֲשֽׂוֹת־רְצוֹנְךָ֣ אֱלֹהַ֣י חָפָ֑צְתִּי וְ֝ת֥וֹרָתְךָ֗ בְּת֣וֹךְ מֵעָֽי׃)
53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon him; And with his stripes we are healed. 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (KJV וְהוּא֙ מְחֹלָ֣ל מִפְּשָׁעֵ֔נוּ מְדֻכָּ֖א מֵעֲוֺנֹתֵ֑ינוּ מוּסַ֤ר שְׁלוֹמֵ֙נוּ֙ עָלָ֔יו וּבַחֲבֻרָת֖וֹ נִרְפָּא־לָֽנוּ׃ כֻּלָּ֙נוּ֙ כַּצֹּ֣אן תָּעִ֔ינוּ אִ֥ישׁ לְדַרְכּ֖וֹ פָּנִ֑ינוּ וַֽיהוָה֙ הִפְגִּ֣יעַ בּ֔וֹ אֵ֖ת עֲוֺ֥ן כֻּלָּֽנוּ׃)
31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, That I will make a new covenant With the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 31:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers In the day that I took them by the hand To bring them out of the land of Egypt; Which my covenant they brake, Although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, And write it in their hearts; And will be their God, And they shall be my people. 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: For they shall all know me, From the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: For I will forgive their iniquity, And I will remember their sin no more. (KJV הִנֵּ֛ה יָמִ֥ים בָּאִ֖ים נְאֻם־יְהוָ֑ה וְכָרַתִּ֗י אֶת־בֵּ֧ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאֶת־בֵּ֥ית יְהוּדָ֖ה בְּרִ֥ית חֲדָשָֽׁה׃ לֹ֣א כַבְּרִ֗ית אֲשֶׁ֤ר כָּרַ֙תִּי֙ אֶת־אֲבוֹתָ֔ם בְּיוֹם֙ הֶחֱזִיקִ֣י בְיָדָ֔ם לְהוֹצִיאָ֖ם מֵאֶ֖רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲשֶׁר־הֵ֜מָּה הֵפֵ֣רוּ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֗י וְאָנֹכִ֛י בָּעַ֥לְתִּי בָ֖ם נְאֻם־יְהוָֽה׃ כִּ֣י זֹ֣את הַבְּרִ֡ית אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶכְרֹת֩ אֶת־בֵּ֨ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל אַחֲרֵ֨י הַיָּמִ֤ים הָהֵם֙ נְאֻם־יְהוָ֔ה נָתַ֤תִּי אֶת־תּֽוֹרָתִי֙ בְּקִרְבָּ֔ם וְעַל־לִבָּ֖ם אֶכְתֲּבֶ֑נָּה וְהָיִ֤יתִי לָהֶם֙ לֵֽאלֹהִ֔ים וְהֵ֖מָּה יִֽהְיוּ־לִ֥י לְעָֽם׃ וְלֹ֧א יְלַמְּד֣וּ ע֗וֹד אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־רֵעֵ֜הוּ וְאִ֤ישׁ אֶת־אָחִיו֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר דְּע֖וּ אֶת־יְהוָ֑ה כִּֽי־כוּלָּם֩ יֵדְע֨וּ אוֹתִ֜י לְמִקְטַנָּ֤ם וְעַד־גְּדוֹלָם֙ נְאֻם־יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֤י אֶסְלַח֙ לַֽעֲוֺנָ֔ם וּלְחַטָּאתָ֖ם לֹ֥א אֶזְכָּר־עֽוֹד׃)
What we note about these Scriptures is that in Bereshit / Genesis 15:6 it is the Lord God who counts Abraham righteous, and this is because of Abraham’s faith. In Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:7-8, we read how God loves His people, and has chosen His people because of His love and that He swore to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and it is because of this that God redeemed His people. Isaiah 53 speaks of the Servant king Messiah bearing the sins of God’s people out of the mercy and grace of God providing salvation and atonement for His people. In Tehillim / Psalms 40:6-8 we read how the psalmist states that sacrifice and offerings the Lord God does not require, and the reason is that the Lord God is looking for faith and faithfulness. The idea is that if we have faith and are faithful, we will do as the Scriptures tell us to do! This again demonstrates how these things are about the covenant family relationship we are in, and not man earning his way into heaven. (Remember how previously we had discussed the idea of man earning his way into heaven is a pagan way of man attempting to manipulate God to do what man wants.) Jeremiah speaks of how the Lord God will make a new covenant and write His Torah on the hearts of His people so that they love and desire His holy and righteous ways. It is in these few examples that the Tanakh teaches that salvation is not by works, but by faith in God and his promises.
It is important to note how the rabbinic commentary also speaks of the unmerited salvation of man. This is based on the Jewish concept of grace, which is called חסד (chesed) in the Hebrew bible. Chesed is often translated as lovingkindness, mercy, or steadfast love in the English translations. We note that when we study the NT in Hebrew, we see this word חסד being used to translate the word “grace” (Look at Paul’s letters for example). The NT Hebrew translation reveals the power of God through Mercy and Grace are attributes of God, and also one of the qualities that he expects from His people. The rabbinic literature speaks of how God’s חסד (chesed) is manifested in His covenant with Israel, in His forgiveness of sins, in His protection and provision, and in His sending of the Messiah into this world to save us from our sins. The rabbis also teach that חסד (chesed) is demonstrated in obedience to God’s commandments, in repentance, in prayer, and in acts of charity and justice. This is why these things are always emphasized in the rabbinic literature. The rabbinic literature also acknowledges that man cannot earn or deserve God’s חסד (chesed), but that he must rely on God alone for his salvation. However, they also emphasize that man must cooperate with God’s chesed by doing his part in fulfilling God’s will, which is paralleled to our living our lives according to His holy Word. Note the following rabbinic sources that support these concepts
Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 86a-b
R. Johanan said: Great is repentance, for it brings healing to the world … R. Johanan further said: Great is repentance, for it reaches up to the Throne of Glory … R. Johanan also said: Great is repentance, for it brings redemption nearer … R. Johanan said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: Great is repentance, for on account of an individual who repents the whole world is forgiven.
Midrash Rabbah, Ecclesiastes 7:19
R. Eliezer the Great says: Whoever has the Torah but lacks the service of God and deeds of kindness is like one who holds a deed of purchase for a grave in his hand.
Mishnah, Yoma 8:9
R. Akiba said: Happy are ye, O Israel: before whom do ye cleanse yourselves, and who cleanses you? Your Father who is in heaven, as it is said, And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. And it says, O hope of Israel, the Lord! Even as a fountain renders unclean things clean, so does the Holy One, blessed be He, render Israel clean.
Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a
R. Joshua b. Levi met Elijah standing at the entrance of R. Simeon b. Yohai’s tomb. He asked him: Have I a portion in the world to come? He said, If this Master desires it. R. Joshua b. Levi said, I saw two, but heard the voice of a third. He then asked him, When will the Messiah come? — He said, Go and ask him himself. Where is he sitting? — At the entrance. And by what sign may I recognise him? — He is sitting among the poor lepers: all of them untie [them] all at once, and rebandage them together, whereas he unties and rebandages each separately, [before treating the next], thinking, should I be wanted, [it being time for my appearance as the Messiah] I must not be delayed [through having to bandage a number of sores]. So he went to him and greeted him, saying, Peace upon thee, Master and Teacher. Peace upon thee, O son of Levi, he replied. When wilt thou come Master? he asked. To-day, he answered. On his returning to Elijah, the latter enquired, What did he say to thee? — Peace Upon thee, O son of Levi, he answered. Thereupon he [Elijah] observed, He thereby assured thee and thy father of [a portion in] the world to come. He said, He spoke falsely to me, stating that he would come to-day, but has not. He [Elijah] answered him, This is what he said to thee, To-day, if ye will hear his voice.
We note how these references speak of repentance and forgiveness emphasizing the power and importance of repentance, which is a gift from God that allows people to change their ways and receive forgiveness. God is merciful and gracious to those who repent sincerely and wholeheartedly, and he rewards them with healing, glory, and redemption. In addition, God forgives the sins of the entire world for the sake of one repentant person. Note the parallel to the sins of the world being forgiven through Yeshua the Messiah (similar concept). Secondly, these references also speak of the Torah and service to God, for example, that the Torah alone is not enough to save a person from death or judgment, but it must be accompanied by the service of God and deeds of kindness. God expects his people to obey his commandments and to act with compassion and justice towards others. The Torah is not a guarantee of life, but a covenant of responsibility and relationship with God. Thirdly, these references speak of the grace of God who cleanses Israel from her sins, using the metaphor of a fountain of water. God is the only one who can purify His people and make them holy. He also reaffirms His special love and choice of His people as His treasured possession and calls them to hope and trust in Him. The rabbinic literature supports the concept of unmerited salvation, how God’s mercy and grace is unmerited. This is where grace is understood to be God’s undeserved favor and kindness, while mercy is God’s compassion and forgiveness. The Scriptures teach us that all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and that the wages of sin is death. But God, in his love, sent his Son, Yeshua the Messiah, to die on the cross for the sins of the world, and to rise again from the dead, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. We note how this parallels the rabbinic concept of one repentant man saving all the world. The grace and mercy of God is a gift of God. Some NT scripture references that support these concepts are as follows:
3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 3:24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (KJV 23 πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ* 24 δικαιούμενοι δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ·*)
6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (KJV 23 τὰ γὰρ ὀψώνια τῆς ἁμαρτίας θάνατος, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα τοῦ θεοῦ ζωὴ αἰώνιος ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν*.)
2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (KJV 8 Τῇ γὰρ χάριτί ἐστε σεσῳσμένοι διὰ ⸆ πίστεως· καὶ τοῦτο οὐκ ἐξ ὑμῶν,* θεοῦ τὸ δῶρον· 9 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων, ἵνα μή τις καυχήσηται.*)
3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (KJV 16 οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν ⸆ τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλʼ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.*)
3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. (KJV *36 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν υἱὸν ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον· ὁ °δὲ ἀπειθῶν τῷ υἱῷ οὐκ ὄψεται ζωήν, ἀλλʼ ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ μένει ἐπʼ αὐτόν.*)
Here in Romans 3:23-24 Paul declares that all people have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, but they can be justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Yeshua. This means that God offers forgiveness and righteousness to anyone who believes in Yeshua, regardless of their past or present sins where repentance is also a key component. In Romans 6:23 Paul contrasts the consequences of sin and the benefits of faith. The wages of sin is death, meaning that sin leads to separation from God and eternal punishment. But the gift of God is eternal life through the Messiah, meaning that God grants eternal life and fellowship with Him to those who trust in Yeshua. In Ephesians 2:8-9 Paul emphasizes that salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works. Grace is God’s unmerited favor and kindness towards us, and faith is our response of trust and reliance on Him. Paul is emphasizing that salvation is not something that we can earn or boast about, but it is a gift of God that we receive by faith. The references to the gospel of John speak of the love of God towards all peoples by giving His son, and how everlasting life comes by faith. If we do not have faith, then the wrath and judgment of God according to the Torah will remain. These things are the core tenets of what Isaiah is saying in Isaiah chapter 44, how we need the mercy and grace of God. It is important to recognize how these references parallel what is in Isaiah 44 in relation to the mercy and grace of God to forgive Israel. Isaiah 44 is a chapter that reminds Israel of God’s love and faithfulness to them, despite their sins and idolatry. He calls the people to repent, to turn from their sinful ways, to seek Him and His holy and righteous ways, and also promises restoration and renewal through God’s Spirit and power.
NT Parallels to Isaiah Chapter 44
- Isaiah 44:22 states that the God of Israel has blotted out their transgressions like a cloud, and their sins like a mist. This is similar to Romans 3:24, which says that God justifies sinners freely by His grace.
- Isaiah 44:3 states that God will pour water on the thirsty land, and floods on the dry ground. He will also pour His Spirit on their descendants, and His blessing on their offspring. This is similar to Romans 6:23 and John 3:16, which say that God gives the gift of eternal life and His Spirit to those who believe in Yeshua.
- Isaiah 44:8 states that there is no other God besides the Lord, and no other Rock. He challenges Israel to not fear or be dismayed, but to trust in Him. This is similar to Ephesians 2:8-9, which says that salvation is by grace through faith, and not by works.
- Isaiah 44:24-28 states that God is the Creator and the Redeemer of Israel, who has foretold and fulfilled His plans for them. He has raised up Cyrus, a Persian king, to be His instrument to deliver them from exile. This is similar to John 3:36, which says that God has sent His Son to be the Savior of the world, and that those who believe in Him have life, but those who reject Him have death.
Looking very carefully at these scriptures, one can have little doubt of the connection of this chapter to the NT text. The major point is on the emphasis and contrast between the sinful condition of mankind, and what God promises in spite of man’s sinfulness. This is evidence of God being proactive to reach out to His people and seeking to call all men to repentance and truth. These things demonstrate how we cannot demand that we be saved and we cannot demand that we be delivered. Because we cannot demand these things, this does not mean that we will not receive forgiveness or deliverance, but that these things are a free gift from God that come from His great love for us!
Masoretic Text (MSS) on Isaiah 44:1-7
Isaiah begins chapter 44 saying the following according to Isaiah 44:1-2.
ספר ישעיה פרק מד
א וְעַתָּה שְׁמַע יַעֲקֹב עַבְדִּי וְיִשְֹרָאֵל בָּחַרְתִּי בוֹ: ב כֹּה-אָמַר יְהֹוָה עֹשֶֹךָ וְיֹצֶרְךָ מִבֶּטֶן יַעְזְרֶךָּ אַל-תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב וִישֻׁרוּן בָּחַרְתִּי בוֹ:
Isaiah 44:1 states, “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: (וְעַתָּה שְׁמַע יַעֲקֹב עַבְדִּי וְיִשְֹרָאֵל בָּחַרְתִּי בוֹ)” Isaiah 44:2 “Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen. (כֹּה-אָמַר יְהֹוָה עֹשֶֹךָ וְיֹצֶרְךָ מִבֶּטֶן יַעְזְרֶךָּ אַל-תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב וִישֻׁרוּן בָּחַרְתִּי בוֹ)”
Cross References for Isaiah 44:1-2: Ge 2:7; 16:11; Nu 23:21; Dt 32:15; 33:5, 26; Ps 71:6; 139:13; 149:2; Is 14:1; 27:11; 41:8–16; 42:1; 43:1–7, 10, 20; 44:21, 24; 45:4; 49:7, 15; 65:9, 15, 22; Je 1:5; 30:7–13; 46:1–28; Eze 36:20–25; Joe 2:1–32; Ac 2:1–47; Ga 1:15
These verses are not directly quoted in the NT text, but there are some thematic connections with the concept of God choosing people to be His. For example, in Romans 9:6-8, Paul declares that not all Israelites are true children of God, but only those who have faith in the Messiah of God. Paul argues uses the phrase יִשְׂרָאֵל הַשַּׁיָּכִים לֵאלֹהִים “Israel belongs to God” in Galatians 6:16 to refer to those who consist of both Jew and Gentile who believe in the Messiah Yeshua. Similarly, in Isaiah 44:1-2, the Lord God of Israel speaks to יַעֲקֹב Jacob (or Israel) as his servant (עַבְדִּי) and his chosen one (בָּחַרְתִּי), but he also gives him a new name: Jeshurun (וִישֻׁרוּן). This name וִישֻׁרוּן means “the upright one” and it implies that God’s chosen people are those who are faithful and obedient to him, not just those who are physically descended from Jacob. One interesting feature in the Hebrew text is the use of parallelism, which is a common poetic device in the Hebrew Bible. Parallelism means that two or more lines express the same or similar idea using different words or phrases. For example, in verse 1, God says שְׁמַע יַעֲקֹב עַבְדִּי “listen Jacob my servant” and then repeats the same idea with וְיִשְֹרָאֵל בָּחַרְתִּי “and Israel my chosen one.” In verse 2, he says יְהֹוָה עֹשֶֹךָ “the Lord who made you” and then וְיֹצֶרְךָ מִבֶּטֶן “who formed you from the womb.” Parallelism helps to emphasize and reinforce the main message of the text, as well as to create a rhythmic and musical effect. Another interesting feature in the Hebrew text is the use of the word וִישֻׁרוּן “Jeshurun” as a name for Israel. This word is only found four times in the Hebrew Bible, three times in sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy 32:15, 33:5, 33:26) and once here in Isaiah 44:2. It is derived from the root word “yashar,” which means “straight” or “right.” It suggests that God expects his chosen people to be upright and righteous in their conduct and relationship with him. However, in the song of Moshe, according to Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:15, the word is used ironically, as it says that Jeshurun grew fat and rebelled against God. This shows that God’s chosen people can also fall into sin and idolatry. This has significant implications for us today since it also speaks to our ability to fall into sin and idolatry, and that we need to live repentant lives and continually turn to Him!
We also note the imagery that is used here in these verses are from the Torah. For example, the idea of God creating and forming Israel in the womb echoes the creation story in Genesis, where God creates human beings in his image and likeness (Bereshit / Genesis 1:26-27). It also recalls the story of Jacob, who was born holding his twin brother Esau’s heel, and who later wrestled with God and received a new name: Israel (Bereshit / Genesis 25:26, 32:28). The idea of God choosing Israel as his servant and his people is also based on the Torah, where God makes a covenant with Abraham and his descendants, promising to bless them and make them a great nation (Bereshit / Genesis 12:1-3, 15:1-21, 17:1-14). God also calls Israel his “treasured possession” and a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” in Shemot / Exodus 19:5-6, before giving them the Ten Commandments and the Torah. The imagery of God giving water to the thirsty land and streams to the dry ground in verse 3 is also related to the Torah, where God provides water for the Israelites in the wilderness, such as when he makes water flow from a rock in Shemot / Exodus 17:1-7 and Bamidbar / Numbers 20:1-13. These images all tie together to help with the interpretation of these verses, as they show that God is the creator, the covenant-maker, and the provider of his chosen people, and that he expects them to be faithful and obedient to him. We note that even though the people are going to be exiled, the Lord God will continue to use them to reveal to the world that there is only One God, the Creator, the God of Israel! (Isaiah 43:10, 44:8) Note how in Isaiah 44:2 how the Lord God speaks of making and forming Israel, and follows with do not fear (אַל-תִּירָא), these are words of encouragement that are implied in the opening lines of Isaiah chapter 40 and here to reiterate how Israel is a chosen nation and how the Lord God still looks at Israel as His beloved son. Note the name given to Israel וִישֻׁרוּן (Jeshrun) which is used only 3 other places in the Scriptures, found in Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:15, 33:5, 33:26. The root word is ישר which means “straight or upright.” This leads to the idea of how God sees His people, as those who are just and upright, which again leads us back to the Torah from the sense of God giving His Torah as an instruction for life.
Isaiah continues saying the following according to Isaiah 44:3-5.
ספר ישעיה פרק מד
ג כִּי אֶצָּק-מַיִם עַל-צָמֵא וְנוֹזְלִים עַל-יַבָּשָׁה אֶצֹּק רוּחִי עַל-זַרְעֶךָ וּבִרְכָתִי עַל-צֶאֱצָאֶיךָ: ד וְצָמְחוּ בְּבֵין חָצִיר כַּעֲרָבִים עַל-יִבְלֵי-מָיִם: ה זֶה יֹאמַר לַיהֹוָה אָנִי וְזֶה יִקְרָא בְשֵׁם-יַעֲקֹב וְזֶה יִכְתֹּב יָדוֹ לַיהֹוָה וּבְשֵׁם יִשְֹרָאֵל יְכַנֶּה:
Isaiah 44:3 states, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: (כִּי אֶצָּק-מַיִם עַל-צָמֵא וְנוֹזְלִים עַל-יַבָּשָׁה אֶצֹּק רוּחִי עַל-זַרְעֶךָ וּבִרְכָתִי עַל-צֶאֱצָאֶיךָ)” Isaiah 44:4 “And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses. (וְצָמְחוּ בְּבֵין חָצִיר כַּעֲרָבִים עַל-יִבְלֵי-מָיִם)” Isaiah 44:5 “One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. (זֶה יֹאמַר לַיהֹוָה אָנִי וְזֶה יִקְרָא בְשֵׁם-יַעֲקֹב וְזֶה יִכְתֹּב יָדוֹ לַיהֹוָה וּבְשֵׁם יִשְֹרָאֵל יְכַנֶּה)”
Cross References for Isaiah 44:3-5: Ex 13:9; Le 23:40; Ne 9:38; Job 5:25; 32:21–22; 40:22; Ps 1:3; 20:1; 72:16; 116:16; Pr 9:5; Is 11:2; 14:1; 19:21; 30:25; 32:2, 15; 35:6–7; 41:8–17; 43:1–7; 45:4, 14; 54:1–3; 60:3; 61:9; 65:23; 66:23; Je 30:7–13; 46:1–28; 50:5; Eze 34:26; 36:20–25, 27; Joe 2:1–32; 3:18; Zec 8:20–22; 13:9; 14:16; Mal 3:10; Mk 1:8; Lk 24:49; Jn 4:10; 7:38; Ac 2:1–47; Ga 3:14; 6:17; Re 13:16
These verses from Isaiah 44:3-5 are a promise of God’s blessing and of the pouring out of God’s Spirit on His people. Searching the Tanakh and the NT text, there are some connections and parallels. For example, the Hebrew word for “pour” (אֶצָּק) is used twice in this passage, once for water and once for the Spirit. This suggests a connection between water and the Spirit of God from the sense that both are essential for life and growth. Water is often a symbol of the Spirit in the Scriptures, such as in John 4:7-12 and in John 7:37-39, where Yeshua invites the woman at the well and then later in general inviting anyone who is thirsty to come to him and drink, and Yeshua promises that by doing so streams of living water (the Spirit) will flow from their hearts. The Hebrew word for “thirsty” (צָמֵא) is also used in Isaiah 55:1, where God invites everyone who is thirsty to come and buy wine and milk without money. This shows that God’s grace is free and abundant, and that he satisfies the deepest needs of his people. The word for “dry ground” (יַבָּשָׁה) is the same word used in Bereshit / Genesis 1:9, where God separated the water from the dry land. This reminds us that God of Israel is the Creator who can bring order and life out of nothingness / chaos and barrenness. He can transform the desert into a fertile land, as he did for Israel in the Shemot / Exodus 21:6 (Tehillim / Psalm 105:41). The word for “offspring” or “seed” (זֶרַע) is a central concept in God’s covenant with Abraham, where He promised to make him a great nation and bless all the families of the earth through his seed (see Bereshit / Genesis 12:2-3, 15:5, 22:17-18).
ספר בראשית פרק יב’ ב-ג
ב וְאֶֽעֶשְׂךָ֙ לְגֹ֣וי גָּדֹ֔ול וַאֲבָ֣רֶכְךָ֔ וַאֲגַדְּלָ֖ה שְׁמֶ֑ךָ וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה׃ ג וַאֲבָֽרֲכָה֙ מְבָ֣רְכֶ֔יךָ וּמְקַלֶּלְךָ֖ אָאֹ֑ר וְנִבְרְכ֣וּ בְךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל מִשְׁפְּחֹ֥ת הָאֲדָמָֽה׃
Bereshit / Genesis 12:2–3
12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (KJV)
ספר בראשית פרק טו’ ה
ה וַיֹּוצֵ֨א אֹתֹ֜ו הַח֗וּצָה וַיֹּ֨אמֶר֙ הַבֶּט־נָ֣א הַשָּׁמַ֗יְמָה וּסְפֹר֙ הַכֹּ֣וכָבִ֔ים אִם־תּוּכַ֖ל לִסְפֹּ֣ר אֹתָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לֹ֔ו כֹּ֥ה יִהְיֶ֖ה זַרְעֶֽךָ׃
Bereshit / Genesis 15:5
15:5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. (KJV)
ספר בראשית פרק כב’ יז-יח
יז כִּֽי־בָרֵ֣ךְ אֲבָרֶכְךָ֗ וְהַרְבָּ֨ה אַרְבֶּ֤ה אֶֽת־זַרְעֲךָ֙ כְּכֹוכְבֵ֣י הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וְכַחֹ֕ול אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־שְׂפַ֣ת הַיָּ֑ם וְיִרַ֣שׁ זַרְעֲךָ֔ אֵ֖ת שַׁ֥עַר אֹיְבָֽיו׃ 22:18 וְהִתְבָּרֲכ֣וּ בְזַרְעֲךָ֔ כֹּ֖ל גֹּויֵ֣י הָאָ֑רֶץ עֵ֕קֶב אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׁמַ֖עְתָּ בְּקֹלִֽי׃
Bereshit / Genesis 22:17–18
22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (KJV)
We note here how the blessing of God is found in our children, and so this provides a very significant reason why it is so important for us to raise our children to know the Lord, and to protect them from harm and from the evils of this world! In addition, the word for “offspring” or “seed” (זֶרַע) is also used in Isaiah 53:10, where it refers to the Messiah, the suffering servant who would die for the sins of many and see his seed prolong his days.
ספר ישעיהו פרק נג’ י
י וַיהוָ֞ה חָפֵ֤ץ דַּכְּאֹו֙ הֶֽחֱלִ֔י אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשֹׁ֔ו יִרְאֶ֥ה זֶ֖רַע יַאֲרִ֣יךְ יָמִ֑ים וְחֵ֥פֶץ יְהוָ֖ה בְּיָדֹ֥ו יִצְלָֽח׃
53:10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (KJV)
The apostle Paul explains that the seed (זֶרַע) of Abraham is ultimately the Messiah and that this is the hope of those who belong to Yeshua, they are also Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promise and the kingdom (see Galatians 3:16, 3:29). The word for “write” (כָּתַב) is often used in the context of writing God’s law or covenant on a stone, a scroll, or a doorpost (see Shemot / Exodus 24:4, 34:1, 34:27, Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:20, and Jeremiah 31:33). The words יִכְתֹּב יָדוֹ “writing on the hand” suggests a permanent mark of ownership or allegiance to HaShem which provides the imagery of permanency such as in the case of a tattoo or a seal. In Revelation 13:16-17, the beast forces people to receive a mark on their right hand or forehead, which is contrasted with the seal of God on the foreheads of his servants in Revelation 7:3, 9:4, 14:1. The writing on the hand could also imply a personal commitment or vow, as we read in Tehillim / Psalm 119:48, where the psalmist says, “I reach out for your commands, which I love, that I may meditate on your decrees.” In addition to this, the Hebrew word for “name” (שֵׁם) is more than just a label or a title. It represents the character, reputation, and authority of a person. To call on the name of the Lord is to worship him, trust him, andrely upon His power and presence (see Bereshit / Genesis 4:26, 12:8, 21:33, Tehillim / Psalm 116:4, 116:13). This is why taking the name of the Lord or using the name of the Lord in vain is a dishonor to Him. This is what it means to misuse His name, or swear falsely by His name (Shemot / Exodus 20:7, Vayikra / Leviticus 19:12). To be called by the name of the Lord is to belong to Him, to be a part of His people, and to bear His name among the nations (see Devarim / Deuteronomy 28:10, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Isaiah 43:7). Therefore, we are grafted into the family of God and this is why the Scriptures speak of the importance of identifying ourselves with Israel because we are identifying with God’s chosen people, who are also called by His name (see Isaiah 43:1, 45:4). Note that this is why Paul says in Romans 10:13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” These things challenge us to respond to the invitation of God to the covenant relationship, and to devote our lives to God in faithfulness, which is our loyalty and devotion to Him as a people of faith!
We also know the significance of these verses which speak to how the Lord God will infuse His people with His Spirit. This is important since it is a divine intervention in our lives which brings renewal and faithfulness into our lives. Without the Spirit of God in our lives, only death and corruption would reign. Note the connection made to spiritual renewal by the other prophetic promises of the Spirit of God in Isaiah 32:15, Ezekiel 36:26–28, Joel 2:12–14, and 3:1–2 and in English bibles: Joel 2:28–29). The giving of God’s Spirit is a function of His mercy and grace on our lives and establishes the fact that He loves us and is doing what we need to become a people who live their lives for the Lord. We see that Yeshua also taught of these things and believed that the prophets foretold the pouring out of the Spirit of God. (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4, 2:16, 2:38) Also note that Isaiah 44:5 which states “One shall say, I am the LORD’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel. (זֶה יֹאמַר לַיהֹוָה אָנִי וְזֶה יִקְרָא בְשֵׁם-יַעֲקֹב וְזֶה יִכְתֹּב יָדוֹ לַיהֹוָה וּבְשֵׁם יִשְֹרָאֵל יְכַנֶּה)” also does not restrict this to the Jewish people only, but this alludes to the Gentile proselyte who would wish to be associated with Israel’s God! The major point is that a day is coming when, because of the work of God’s Spirit among His people, Israel will be held in honor, not contempt, and people of all sorts will seek to belong to the God of Israel in this way.
Isaiah continues saying the following according to Isaiah 44:6-7.
ספר ישעיה פרק מד
ו כֹּה-אָמַר יְהֹוָה מֶלֶךְ-יִשְֹרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן וַאֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים: ז וּמִי-כָמוֹנִי יִקְרָא וְיַגִּידֶהָ וְיַעְרְכֶהָ לִי מִשּׂוּמִי עַם-עוֹלָם וְאֹתִיּוֹת וַאֲשֶׁר תָּבֹאנָה יַגִּידוּ לָמוֹ:
Isaiah 44:6 states, “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. (כֹּה-אָמַר יְהֹוָה מֶלֶךְ-יִשְֹרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן וַאֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים)” Isaiah 44:7 “And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them. (וּמִי-כָמוֹנִי יִקְרָא וְיַגִּידֶהָ וְיַעְרְכֶהָ לִי מִשּׂוּמִי עַם-עוֹלָם וְאֹתִיּוֹת וַאֲשֶׁר תָּבֹאנָה יַגִּידוּ לָמוֹ)”
Cross References for Isaiah 44:6-7: Dt 6:4; 18:22; 32:39; 1 Ch 17:20; Job 19:25; 38:5; Ps 18:31; 86:10; 115:1–9; Is 41:4, 8–16, 21–23, 26–27; 42:6–12; 43:1, 8–15; 44:8, 24; 45:5–6, 21; 48:3–8, 12; 51:15; 54:5; Wis 13:11–16; Re 1:8, 17–20; 22:10–21
Here we read how the Lord God of Israel is declaring His uniqueness and His sovereignty as Lord and King over Israel and as the redeemer over His people. This again functions as a challenge to the ancient peoples to turn from idolatry and turn to the God of Israel who is the Creator and the Almighty God. We notice in the Hebrew text the name of God, יְהֹוָה (YHWH) which is the personal name of God, which is translated as “the LORD” in English through the tradition of the use of the circumlocution. We remember from the Torah in Shemot / Exodus 3 how the name of God is derived from the verb הָיָה (hayah), meaning “to be” or “to exist.” The Name of God implies that God is the self-existent and eternal one, who is the source of all being and life. In Isaiah 44:6 the Name of God is coupled to the word מֶלֶךְ (melekh)meaning “king” or “ruler.” This illustrates how the Lord God has authority and dominion over Israel and the nations. It also implies that God is the protector and defender of his people, who delivers them from their enemies. The word גֹאֲלוֹ (go’alo) “redeemer” is also coupled to the Name of God and refers to the one who buys back or rescues a relative or property from slavery, debt, or danger from the Torah based perspective. This implies that the Lord God is the one who saves Israel from their sins and restores them to their inheritance. The title Adonai Tseva’ot (צְבָאוֹת, tseva’ot) means “Lord of Hosts” and is a title given for God that expresses His power and majesty as the commander of the heavenly and earthly forces. The title also implies that God is the one who fights for Israel and grants them victory. The Scripture states אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן וַאֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן “I am the first and I am the last” indicating that God is the beginning and the end, the eternal and unchanging one. This implies that God is the only one and how He has no predecessor or successor and is comparable to no other and incomprehensible. This is further emphasized in the phrase וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים “and besides me there is no other god” stating that there are no other deities that are alongside of Him like the pagan religions believe. This is a statement of monotheism and exclusivism, that affirms that HaShem alone is the true and living God, who deserves all worship and obedience. This chapter is part of the Servant King chapters, and so these verses have their application from the NT perspective, that Yeshua who is the King Messiah, is the redeemer and the only one who leads us to the God of Israel, who guides us in the ways of the Torah, and how to apply God’s Word to our lives. (John 14:6, Philippians 2:9-11, Revelation 1:8, 22:13) We note that this concept that there are no other gods is echoed in the NT text, and we are told that Yeshua is the one who reveals to us the Father in heaven. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6, Ephesians 4:4-6)
These verses from Isaiah 44:6-7 are a direct reminder for us of what is written in the Torah starting with the name of God that was revealed to Moses at the burning bush, when God said, “I AM WHO I AM” (Shemot / Exodus 3:14). In addition to this, the comments on there being no other gods (וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים) is paralleled to the first commandment from the Aseret haDevarim (עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת) which forbids all of God’s people to have any other gods besides HaShem (Shemot / Exodus 20:3, Devarim / Deuteronomy 5:7). These verses also reinforce the covenant relationship that God established with Israel, as King and Redeemer, who brought the people with a mighty hand out of Egypt and gave them the land of Canaan (see Shemot / Exodus 19:4-6 and Devarim / Deuteronomy 7:6-9). These verses are also connected to the rest of the Tanakh (the Prophets and the Writings) reflecting the theme of God’s sovereignty and uniqueness, which is expressed throughout the Tanakh in various ways, such as God’s Creation of the world (Bereshit / Genesis 1:1, Tehillim / Psalm 33:6-9). We see demonstrated in the Scriptures how the Lord God is in control of history (see Isaiah 46:9-10, Daniel 2:20-22), His gives judgment to the nations (Isaiah 40:15-17, Jeremiah 10:10-16), and His provides Salvation and Redemption for His people (see Tehillim / Psalm 103:1-5 and Micah 7:18-20). We also saw how the Lord God is the only one who provides future restoration and redemption of Israel, which is promised in the Tanakh in various ways, such as the gathering of the exiles (Isaiah 43:5-7, Ezekiel 37:21-28), in the Lord God establishing His kingdom (Tehillim / Psalm 2:6-9, Zechariah 14:9-11), and in the revelation of God’s glory (see Isaiah 60:1-3 and Habakkuk 2:14). These things are emphasized in the parallelism that is found in the text such as in the following phrases from the Hebrew bible:
יְהֹוָה מֶלֶךְ-יִשְֹרָאֵל וְגֹאֲלוֹ יְהֹוָה צְבָאוֹת
אֲנִי רִאשׁוֹן וַאֲנִי אַחֲרוֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַי אֵין אֱלֹהִים
Note how the parallelism emphasizes the uniqueness of God where these lines express the same or contrasting ideas using different words or phrases. The parallelism here emphasizes the identity and uniqueness of God, by using different names and titles for him, and by repeating his claim to be the only one. In addition, parallelism helps us to understand the meaning of the words, by comparing and contrasting them with other words. For example, the word גֹאֲלוֹ (go’alo, redeemer) can be understood in relation to the word מֶלֶךְ (melekh, king). The word גֹאֲלוֹ (go’alo) implies a personal and familial relationship between God as a close relative to His people, while the word מֶלֶךְ (melekh, king) implies a political and legal relationship between God and Israel. Both words show different aspects of God’s role and relationship towards His people. Note also the “rhetorical question” that is stated in Isaiah 44:7 וּמִי-כָמוֹנִי יִקְרָא וְיַגִּידֶהָ וְיַעְרְכֶהָ לִי מִשּׂוּמִי עַם-עוֹלָם וְאֹתִיּוֹת וַאֲשֶׁר תָּבֹאנָה יַגִּידוּ לָמוֹ “And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.” The way the text is written implies the answer that there is “no one.” No one can match God’s ability to declare and fulfill the future and to bring to completion His plan just as He has declared. The rhetorical question challenges both people and their idols about the power of the One true God and asks them to prove their claims by showing their works and words. The rhetorical question also invites the readers to give honor and praise to God for his wonderful and powerful deeds! We note something about these verses, how they call us to worship and praise the One True God who is King and Redeemer of His people. The worship and praise of God comes through confessing our faith in Him and in His Messiah, and being faithful through obeying His commands. When we obey God’s commands, we are trusting in His promises by giving Him glory through our actions. It is through out actions that we reject the idolatry of this world, such as money, power, pleasure, fame, or anything else that we may love or fear more than God. Notice here how God says that Israel is a witness to the truth of His claims to predict the future (Isaiah 43:12), and then we are going to see how the Lord God will say this again in Isaiah 44:8. It is at this point that we have a great future hope and expectation of the power of God in our lives, and of spending eternity with Him as His people. The word of God functions as a witness to these things, and to those who are willing to believe in the one who is able to do all things! (Ephesians 3:20)
Rabbinic Commentary on Isaiah 43:1-7
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:א-ז
א וּכעַן שְמַע יַעְקֹב עַבדִי וְיִשׂרָאֵל דְאִתרְעִיתִי בֵיה׃ ב כִדנָן אְמַר יוי דְעָבְדָך וּדאַתקְנָך מִמְעַיִן יְסַעְדִינָך לָא תִדחַל עַבדִי יַעְקֹב וִישוּרוּן דְאִתרְעִיתִי בֵיה׃ ג אְרֵי כְמָא דְמִתיַהבִין מַיָא עַל אְרַע בֵית צַהוָנָא וּמִתנַגדִין עַל יַבַשתָא כֵין אַתֵין רוּחַ קוּדשִי עַל בְנָך וּבִרכְתִי עַל בְנֵי בְנָך׃ ד וְיִתרַבֹון צַדִיקַיָא רַכִיכִין וּמפֻנְקִין כְלַבלַבֵי עְסַב כְאִילָן דִמשַלַח שוּרשֹוהִי עַל נִגדִין דְמַיִין׃ ה דֵין יֵימַר מִדָחְלַיָא דַיוי אְנָא וְדֵין יְצַלֵי בְשֹום יַעְקֹב וְדֵין יְקָרֵיב קוּרבָנֵיה קֳדָם יוי וּבִשמָא דְיִשׂרָאֵל יִתקָרַב׃ ו כִדנָן אְמַר יוי מַלכֵיה דְיִשׂרָאֵל וּפָרְקיֵה יוי ”צְבָאֹות“ אְנָא הוּא אְנָא הוּא דְמִלְקַדמִין אַף עָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָא דִילִי אִנוּן וּבָר מִנִי לֵית אְלָה׃ ז וּמַן כְוָתִי דִיעָרְעִינַה וִיחַוֵינַה וִיסַדְרִינַה קֳדָמַי מִשַוָיוּתִי עַמָא דְמִן עָלְמָא וּדאַתיָן וְדַעְתִידָן לְמֵיתֵי יְחַוֹון לַנָא׃
Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 44:1-7
44:1 Yet now hear, O Jacob, my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: 44:2 Thus saith the Lord, thy Maker; and He that formed thee from the womb, He will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant, and thou, O Israel, whom I have chosen. 44:3 For as waters are discharged upon the thirsty land, and are set flowing upon the dry land, so will I give my Holy Spirit unto thy children, and my blessing unto thy children’s children. 44:4 The righteous shall grow, and tender and delicate as the flowers of the grass, as a tree that sends forth its roots by the streams of waters. 44:5 This one shall say, I am of them that fear the Lord, and another shall pray in the name of the God of Jacob; this one shall offer his oblation before the Lord, and draw near in the name of Israel. 44:6 Thus saith the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts; I am He who was from the beginning, yea, eternities of eternities are mine; and beside me there is no God. 44:7 Who like me shall proclaim this, shall declare it, and set it in order before me, from the time that I appointed the ancient people? and let them declare unto us the things that are coming, and shall come. (TgJ)
|ספר ישעיהו פרק מד
א וְעַתָּ֥ה שְׁמַ֖ע יַעֲקֹ֣ב עַבְדִּ֑י וְיִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בָּחַ֥רְתִּי בֽוֹ׃
א וּכעַן שְמַע יַעְקֹב עַבדִי וְיִשׂרָאֵל דְאִתרְעִיתִי בֵיה׃
א וּכְעַן שְׁמַע יַעֲקֹב עַבְדִי וְיִשְׂרָאֵל דְאִתְרְעֵיתִי בֵיהּ:
The Targum Jonathan opens saying the following according to Isaiah 44:1, א וּכעַן שְמַע יַעְקֹב עַבדִי וְיִשׂרָאֵל דְאִתרְעִיתִי בֵיה׃ 44:1 Yet now hear, O Jacob, my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: (TgJ) This verse from the TgJ differ from the Hebrew bible by adding the word דְאִתרְעִיתִי (de’itre’iti), which means “I have delighted in him” or “I have chosen him with delight,” at the end of the verse. This word is not found in the Hebrew Bible, but it emphasizes God’s love and favor for Israel as his chosen people. The Targum Jonathan uses the word עַבדִי (avdi), which means “my servant,” instead of the word בָּחַרְתִּי (bacharti), which means “I have chosen,” in the second half of the verse. This change reflects the Targum’s interpretation of Israel as God’s servant, who has a special role and mission in the world. The differences in the comparison of these texts emphasize the grace of God in the Targum through the addition of the word דְאִתרְעִיתִי (de’itre’iti) this emphasizes the grace of God despite the sins and failures of the people. This highlights the relationship that God’s people have with the Lord God Almighty, as children and Him being our Father who loves us. The major concept in this verse is on the chosen people, and in the NT text, this is applied to those who believe and follow Yeshua the Messiah of God. Note how those who believe are called “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). The concept of God’s servant is applied to Yeshua himself, who is identified as the King Messiah and Servant of the Lord that was prophesied by Isaiah, who suffers and dies for the sins of the world (see Isaiah 53:1-12, Acts 3:13, 4:27). We note again how God’s Spirit is interpreted in both Isaiah and the NT as being poured out on believers which was demonstrated during Shavuot (Pentecost) and it is this presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives who empowers us to be a witness for the God of Israel and to serve Him. (Isaiah 44:3, Acts 2:17-18, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11) This verse supports the idea that the God of Israel is merciful and how the NT text expands on these things demonstrating the interpretation of these things from the Tanakh and the Aramaic tradition. In addition to this, the Midrashim also support this interpretation based upon Midrash Tanchuma Beshalach 15:1.
Midrash Tanchuma, Beshalach 15:1
יְמִינְךָ ה’ יְמִינְךָ ה’, פְּשׁוּטָה לְקַבֵּל שָׁבִים, שֶׁנָּתַתָּ אַרְכָּה לְדוֹר הַמַּבּוּל לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: לֹא יָדוֹן רוּחִי בָאָדָם לְעֹלָם (בראשית ו, ג). וְלֹא גָּמַרְתָּ עֲלֵיהֶם כְּלָיָה, עַד שֶׁהִשְׁלִימוּ רִשְׁעָתָן לְפָנֶיךָ. וְכֵן אַנְשֵׁי הַמִּגְדָּל נָתַתָּ לָהֶם אַרְכָּה לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה, וְלֹא גָּמַרְתָּ עֲלֵיהֶן כְּלָיָה, עַד שֶׁהִשְׁלִימוּ רִשְׁעָתָן לְפָנֶיךָ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְעַתָּה לֹא יִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם (בראשית יא, ו). וְאֵין וְעַתָּה אֶלָּא תְּשׁוּבָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: וְעַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל מָה ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ שֹׁאֵל וְגוֹ’ (דברים י, יב), וְעַתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל שְׁמַע אֶל הַחֻקִּים (דברים ד, א), וְעַתָּה שְׁמַע (ישעיה מד, א).
Thy right hand, O Lord (Exod. 15:6). This verse indicates that the Lord’s right hand is stretched out to receive repentant sinners. Though You set a time for the generation of the flood in which to do penance, as it is said: My spirit shall not abide in man forever (Gen. 6:3), You did not decree their destruction until they committed their most evil acts before You. Similarly, You set a time limit in which the men of the Tower of Babel were to repent, yet You did not decree their extinction until they performed their most wicked acts, as it is said: And now nothing will be withholden from them (ibid. 11:6). The expression and now is employed only to signify that they had an opportunity to repent, as is said: And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee? (Deut. 10:12); And now, O Israel, hearken unto the statutes (ibid. 4:1); And yet now hear, O Jacob (Isa. 44:1).
We note here how Midrash Tanchuma is attributed to the talmudic sage Rabbi Tanchuma. The Midrash is a commentary on Shemot / Exodus 15:6 which is the section of the Torah where Moshe and the Israelites sing a song of praise to God for delivering them from the Egyptians at the Red Sea. The midrash draws a contrast between God’s right hand, which is extended to receive repentant sinners, and God’s left hand, which is used to punish the wicked. The midrash cites several examples from sefer Bereshit (the book of Genesis), where God gave the generation of the flood and the builders of the Tower of Babel a chance to repent before destroying them. This is the Midrashic way of describing the grace and mercy of God being demonstrated to all peoples. The midrash also uses the expression “and now” to indicate an opportunity for repentance and quotes several verses from Deuteronomy and Isaiah that use this expression to exhort Israel to obey God’s mitzvot (commandments). The concepts presented in the Midrash are consistent with what is written in the NT text. For example, God’s right hand is a symbol of his power and mercy, while his left hand is a symbol of his wrath and judgment. These concepts are illustrated in Matthew 25:31-46 where Yeshua states that he will separate the sheep from the goats at his second coming and place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left hand. The sheep will inherit the kingdom of God, while the goats will go into eternal punishment. Another example is regarding the patience and long suffering of God with sinners, providing men time to repent before executing His justice. For example, Peter says according to 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Repentance is a necessary condition for receiving God’s forgiveness and salvation just as it is written in Acts 2:38 where Peter states to the crowd on Shavuot (Pentecost) to Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Yeshua the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins and then you will receive the gift of the presence of God via the Holy Spirit.
|ספר ישעיהו פרק מד
ב כֹּה־אָמַ֨ר יְהוָ֥ה עֹשֶׂ֛ךָ וְיֹצֶרְךָ֥ מִבֶּ֖טֶן יַעְזְרֶ֑ךָּ אַל־תִּירָא֙ עַבְדִּ֣י יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב וִישֻׁר֖וּן בָּחַ֥רְתִּי בֽוֹ׃ ג כִּ֤י אֶצָּק־מַ֙יִם֙ עַל־צָמֵ֔א וְנֹזְלִ֖ים עַל־יַבָּשָׁ֑ה אֶצֹּ֤ק רוּחִי֙ עַל־זַרְעֶ֔ךָ וּבִרְכָתִ֖י עַל־צֶאֱצָאֶֽיךָ׃ ד וְצָמְח֖וּ בְּבֵ֣ין חָצִ֑יר כַּעֲרָבִ֖ים עַל־יִבְלֵי־מָֽיִם׃
ב כִדנָן אְמַר יוי דְעָבְדָך וּדאַתקְנָך מִמְעַיִן יְסַעְדִינָך לָא תִדחַל עַבדִי יַעְקֹב וִישוּרוּן דְאִתרְעִיתִי בֵיה׃ ג אְרֵי כְמָא דְמִתיַהבִין מַיָא עַל אְרַע בֵית צַהוָנָא וּמִתנַגדִין עַל יַבַשתָא כֵין אַתֵין רוּחַ קוּדשִי עַל בְנָך וּבִרכְתִי עַל בְנֵי בְנָך׃ ד וְיִתרַבֹון צַדִיקַיָא רַכִיכִין וּמפֻנְקִין כְלַבלַבֵי עְסַב כְאִילָן דִמשַלַח שוּרשֹוהִי עַל נִגדִין דְמַיִין׃
ב כִּדְנַן אֲמַר יְיָ דְעַבְדָךְ וּדְאַתְקְנָךְ מִמְעִין יְסַעְדִינָךְ לָא תִדְחַל עַבְדִי יַעֲקֹב וְיִשְׂרָאֵל דְאִתְרְעִיתִי בֵיהּ: ג אֲרֵי כְמָא דְמִתְיַהֲבִין מַיָא עַל אֲרַע בֵּית צַחֲוָנָא וּמִתְנַגְדִין עַל יַבֶּשְׁתָּא כֵּן אֶתֵּן רוּחַ קוּדְשִׁי עַל בְּנָךְ וּבִרְכָתִי עַל בְּנֵי בְנָךְ: ד וְיִתְרַבּוּן צַדִיקַיָא רַכִּיכִין וּמְפַנְקִין כְּלַבְלַבֵי עֲסַב כְּאִילָן דִמְשַׁלַח שָׁרְשׁוֹהִי עַל נַגְדִין דְמַיִין:
Isaiah continues to say the following according to the Targum on Isaiah 44:2-4, ב כִדנָן אְמַר יוי דְעָבְדָך וּדאַתקְנָך מִמְעַיִן יְסַעְדִינָך לָא תִדחַל עַבדִי יַעְקֹב וִישוּרוּן דְאִתרְעִיתִי בֵיה׃ 44:2 Thus saith the Lord, thy Maker; and He that formed thee from the womb, He will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant, and thou, O Israel, whom I have chosen. ג אְרֵי כְמָא דְמִתיַהבִין מַיָא עַל אְרַע בֵית צַהוָנָא וּמִתנַגדִין עַל יַבַשתָא כֵין אַתֵין רוּחַ קוּדשִי עַל בְנָך וּבִרכְתִי עַל בְנֵי בְנָך׃ 44:3 For as waters are discharged upon the thirsty land, and are set flowing upon the dry land, so will I give my Holy Spirit unto thy children, and my blessing unto thy children’s children. ד וְיִתרַבֹון צַדִיקַיָא רַכִיכִין וּמפֻנְקִין כְלַבלַבֵי עְסַב כְאִילָן דִמשַלַח שוּרשֹוהִי עַל נִגדִין דְמַיִין׃ 44:4 The righteous shall grow, and tender and delicate as the flowers of the grass, as a tree that sends forth its roots by the streams of waters. (TgJ) These verses from the Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 44:2-4 differ from the Hebrew Bible in several ways. The Targum adds the phrase “my Holy Spirit” (רוּחַ קוּדשִי) to verse 3, implying that God will pour out his Spirit not only on the land, but also on the people of Israel, especially their descendants. In addition, the Targum interprets the word “Jeshurun” (וִישוּרוּן) in verse 2 as a term of endearment for Israel, meaning “the upright one” or “the beloved one.” The Targum uses the word יִשׂרָאֵל (yisrael) instead of the word יְשׁוּרוּן (yeshurun), which means “the upright one,” in the second half of the verse. This change may be due to the Targum’s preference for using the more common and familiar name of Israel, rather than the rare and poetic name of Yeshurun, which is only used four times in the Hebrew Bible. The Targum renders the word “grass” (חָצִיר) in verse 4 as “the righteous” (צַדִיקַיָא), suggesting that the descendants of Israel will be righteous and blessed by God. The Targum also uses the word “willows” (אִילָן) in verse 4 instead of “poplars” (עֲרָבִים) in the Hebrew Bible, possibly because willows are more common in the land of Israel and are associated with water and fertility. These differences affect the interpretation and application of these scriptures compared to the Hebrew Bible rendition, because they emphasize the role of the Spirit and the righteousness of Israel in God’s plan of salvation. Some of the concepts mentioned in these verses are used in the New Testament text, such as in the idea of God forming and choosing His servant from the womb, which is applied to Yeshua in Luke 1:35 and Galatians 1:15, where he is called the Son of God and the one who was set apart by God for His ministry. The idea of God pouring out His Spirit on His people is fulfilled in Acts 2:17-18 and 10:45, where the Holy Spirit is given to the Jews and the Gentiles who believe in Yeshua. In addition to this, the idea of God’s people being like grass or trees by the water is echoed in Tehillim / Psalm 1:3 and Jeremiah 17:8, which are quoted in the NT as metaphors for the blessedness and fruitfulness of those who delight in God’s Torah and trust in Him (see Matthew 5:6, Romans 4:7-8, and Revelation 22:14). Rashi goes on to interpret these verses to say the following:
Rashi on Isaiah 44:4 Part 1
וצמחו בבין חציר. בתוך עמלק על ידי גרים שיתוספו עליהם, בין חציר הוא עמלק שנאמר עליו והיתה נוה תנים חציר לבנות יענה (לעיל ד):
And they shall sprout among the grass among Esau (mss. and K’li Paz). [The Jewish nation will grow] through the proselytes who will join them. [The expression,] “among the grass” refers to Esau, for it is stated concerning Edom (supra 34:13): “And it shall be the habitat of jackals, an abode (חָצִיר) for ostriches.” (Editions reading, “Amalek,” are erroneous cf. reference.)
Rashi’s major conclusions in his interpretation on Isaiah 44:4 are that he identifies the grass (חָצִיר) as a metaphor for Esau, the ancestor of Edom, based on a cross-reference to Isaiah 34:13, where Edom is described as a desolate place for jackals and ostriches. He also understands the sprouting (צָמְחוּ) of the Israelites among the grass as a reference to the growth of the Jewish nation through the proselytes who will join them from among the nations, especially from Edom. This suggests a future gentile inclusion from among the nations into the nation of Israel, gentiles who will leave their idolatrous worship and seek the God of Israel and His holy and righteous ways. Rashi appears to reject the reading of “Amalek” instead of “Esau” in some manuscripts and editions, arguing that it is an error, and that Amalek is not mentioned in the verse. We also note that Esau and Amalek are used in the rabbinic literature as symbols of the enemies of Israel, who are often associated with Rome and other oppressive empires. The rabbis viewed Esau and Amalek as the inheritors of the hatred and jealousy that Esau had for his brother Jacob, and as the perpetrators of violence and persecution against the Jewish people throughout history. In this context, Rashi is trying to say that despite the hostility and oppression of Esau and his descendants, the Jewish people will survive and flourish, and even attract converts from among their enemies because of the greatness of the God of Israel!
Something that should be pointed out in Rashi’s commentary is his opinion on the gentile inclusion from Esau and Amalek and the parallels in the NT text on gentile inclusion. We note how both Esau and Amalek were descendants of Abraham, but they were not part of the covenant that God made with Isaac and Jacob. They represent the nations that were separated from the people of God and became their enemies. Similarly, the Gentiles in the NT are called the descendants of Adam which more generalizes the people who are non-Jewish, the Gentiles. The NT illustration demonstrates how the gentiles were not part of the covenant that God made with Israel. They were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise as Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:12. As we read the biblical narrative in the Tanakh, we see how both Esau and Amalek had a history of conflict and hostility with Israel, especially during the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan. They tried to oppose and destroy the people of God, but they failed. God promised to make war with Amalek from generation to generation (see Shemot / Exodus 17:16). Similarly, the Gentiles in the NT are also called the enemies of God and his people, living in sin and rebellion. They are under the wrath of God and the power of Satan according to Romans 1:18-32 and Ephesians 2:1-3. In addition to these things, we also observe in the biblical text that both Esau and Amalek were also objects of God’s mercy and grace, despite their wickedness. God did not utterly destroy them but gave them opportunities to repent and join his people. Some of them did, such as Obed-Edom the Gittite, who hosted the ark of God (2 Samuel 6:10-12), and Haman’s sons, who became Jews in the days of Esther (Esther 8:17 and 9:27). The parallels that we find in the NT text, comparatively speaking, the gentiles were also recipients of God’s mercy and grace, despite their ignorance and idolatry. God sent His Son and His Spirit to bring them the gospel and the gift of faith. Many believed and became part of the body of the Messiah. (see Acts 10:34-48, Galatians 3:26-29). Notice how these observations from the Tanakh and the NT text have significant implications when we consider Rashi’s understanding and teaching in relation to normative Judaism today. Rashi acknowledges that God has a plan for the Gentiles, and that he will use them to bless and increase the Jewish people. He does not deny or reject the Gentile inclusion, but rather interprets it in light of the prophecies of Isaiah and the history of Israel. Rashi also implies that the Gentile inclusion is not based on the Gentiles becoming Jews based upon their faith and repentance. He does not impose any conditions or restrictions on the Gentiles who join the people of God, but rather welcomes them as fellow heirs of the promises. Rashi’s understanding and teaching on Gentile inclusion is a challenge to normative Judaism today. The challenge is found in the antimissionaries who reject the NT approach to gentile inclusion. The NT approach is through faith in the Messiah of God, the gentiles also receive the Holy Spirit of God which empowers them to turn from their idolatry and unrighteousness, and to have the desire to seek the God of Israel and His holy and righteous ways meaning that gentiles will see God and His salvation. These things from Rashi, the Tanakh, and the NT text should encourage dialogue and cooperation between Judaism and Christianity today who share the same faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
|ספר ישעיהו פרק מד
ה זֶ֤ה יֹאמַר֙ לַֽיהוָ֣ה אָ֔נִי וְזֶ֖ה יִקְרָ֣א בְשֵֽׁם־יַעֲקֹ֑ב וְזֶ֗ה יִכְתֹּ֤ב יָדוֹ֙ לַֽיהוָ֔ה וּבְשֵׁ֥ם יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל יְכַנֶּֽה׃ פ ו כֹּֽה־אָמַ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה מֶֽלֶךְ־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְגֹאֲל֖וֹ יְהוָ֣ה צְבָא֑וֹת אֲנִ֤י רִאשׁוֹן֙ וַאֲנִ֣י אַחֲר֔וֹן וּמִבַּלְעָדַ֖י אֵ֥ין אֱלֹהִֽים׃ ז וּמִֽי־כָמ֣וֹנִי יִקְרָ֗א וְיַגִּידֶ֤הָ וְיַעְרְכֶ֙הָ֙ לִ֔י מִשּׂוּמִ֖י עַם־עוֹלָ֑ם וְאֹתִיּ֛וֹת וַאֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּבֹ֖אנָה יַגִּ֥ידוּ לָֽמוֹ׃
ה דֵין יֵימַר מִדָחְלַיָא דַיוי אְנָא וְדֵין יְצַלֵי בְשֹום יַעְקֹב וְדֵין יְקָרֵיב קוּרבָנֵיה קֳדָם יוי וּבִשמָא דְיִשׂרָאֵל יִתקָרַב׃ ו כִדנָן אְמַר יוי מַלכֵיה דְיִשׂרָאֵל וּפָרְקיֵה יוי ”צְבָאֹות“ אְנָא הוּא אְנָא הוּא דְמִלְקַדמִין אַף עָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָא דִילִי אִנוּן וּבָר מִנִי לֵית אְלָה׃ ז וּמַן כְוָתִי דִיעָרְעִינַה וִיחַוֵינַה וִיסַדְרִינַה קֳדָמַי מִשַוָיוּתִי עַמָא דְמִן עָלְמָא וּדאַתיָן וְדַעְתִידָן לְמֵיתֵי יְחַוֹון לַנָא׃
ה דֵין יֵימַר מִדָחֲלַיָא דַייָ אֲנָא וְדֵין יְצַלֵי בְשׁוּם יַעֲקֹב וְדֵין יְקָרֵיב קוּרְבָּנֵהּ קֳדָם יְיָ וּבִשְׁמָא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל יִתְקְרֵי: ו כִּדְנַן אֲמַר יְיָ מַלְכָּא דְיִשְׂרָאֵל וּפַרְקֵהּ יְיָ צְבָאוֹת אֲנָא הוּא דְמִלְקַדְמִין אַף עַלְמֵי עָלְמַיָא דִילִי אִינוּן וּבַר מִנִי לֵית אֱלֶהּ: ז וּמַן כְּוָתִי דִין עַרְעִינָהּ וִיחַוִינָהּ וִיסַדְרִינָהּ קֳדָמַי מִשַׁוָיוּתִי עַמָא דְמִן עַלְמָא וּדְאָתְיָן וְדַעֲתִידִין לְמֵיתֵי יְחַווּן לָנָא:
Isaiah goes on saying the following according to the Targum on Isaiah 44:5-7, ה דֵין יֵימַר מִדָחְלַיָא דַיוי אְנָא וְדֵין יְצַלֵי בְשֹום יַעְקֹב וְדֵין יְקָרֵיב קוּרבָנֵיה קֳדָם יוי וּבִשמָא דְיִשׂרָאֵל יִתקָרַב׃ 44:5 This one shall say, I am of them that fear the Lord, and another shall pray in the name of the God of Jacob; this one shall offer his oblation before the Lord, and draw near in the name of Israel. ו כִדנָן אְמַר יוי מַלכֵיה דְיִשׂרָאֵל וּפָרְקיֵה יוי ”צְבָאֹות“ אְנָא הוּא אְנָא הוּא דְמִלְקַדמִין אַף עָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָא דִילִי אִנוּן וּבָר מִנִי לֵית אְלָה׃ 44:6 Thus saith the King of Israel, and His Redeemer, the Lord of hosts; I am He who was from the beginning, yea, eternities of eternities are mine; and beside me there is no God. ז וּמַן כְוָתִי דִיעָרְעִינַה וִיחַוֵינַה וִיסַדְרִינַה קֳדָמַי מִשַוָיוּתִי עַמָא דְמִן עָלְמָא וּדאַתיָן וְדַעְתִידָן לְמֵיתֵי יְחַוֹון לַנָא׃44:7 Who like me shall proclaim this, shall declare it, and set it in order before me, from the time that I appointed the ancient people? and let them declare unto us the things that are coming, and shall come. (TgJ) The Targum translation on Isaiah 44:5-7 differs from the Hebrew Bible in several ways, such as according to verse 5, the Targum adds the phrase “of them that fear the Lord” (מִדָחְלַיָא דַיוי) to the first clause, and the word “pray” (יְצַלֵי) to the second clause. These additions emphasize the piety and devotion of the Israelites who belong to the Lord and call on His name. In verse 6, the Targum replaces the phrase “I am the first and I am the last” with “I am He who was from the beginning, yea, eternities of eternities are mine” (אְנָא הוּא אְנָא הוּא דְמִלְקַדמִין אַף עָלְמֵי עָלְמַיָא). This change expresses the eternity and transcendence of God more explicitly than the Hebrew text. These differences affect the interpretation and application of these verses to our lives in various ways. For example, the TgJ reminds us that belonging to the Lord is not merely a matter of identity, but also of obedience and worship. We should fear the Lord and pray to Him as the God of Jacob and Israel, the names that He gave to our forefather and our nation. The Targum translation emphasizes the uniqueness and incomparability of God, who to be sought after for truth and life. The God of Israel alone knows the past and the future, and He alone can fulfill His promises and plans for His people. We should trust in Him and not in any other gods or idols, who are powerless and worthless. The Targum translation also highlights the sufficiency and satisfaction of God, who is able to meet all our needs and desires. He is the one who pours out His Spirit and His blessing on us, and He is the one who redeems us and forgives us. The parallel concepts in the NT text are related to these things. In John 4:14, Yeshua states, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This echoes the imagery of Isaiah 44:3, where God says He will pour water on the thirsty and His Spirit on His seed. In Revelation 1:17-18, John sees a vision of Yeshua, who says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” This reflects the words of Isaiah 44:6 on the everlasting nature of God and His Servant King Messiah. In Romans 11:5-6, Paul writes, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” This relates to the idea of Isaiah 44:5, where some say they belong to the Lord, and others call themselves by the name of Jacob and Israel. These are the names that God gave by His grace, not by human works. Note how there is a continuity between the concepts taught in the NT text and what we read in the Tanakh and the interpretation by the rabbinic texts and by the Targum. These things provide evidence for the importance of studying these things out and knowing that Yeshua is the promised Messiah according to the prophet Isaiah! We note the significance of these things couple with the idea that gentiles will be included in being called by God to turn from their unrighteousness. The point is that God shows His grace and mercy to gentiles by giving His Spirit to them in order to cause them to be drawn to the Torah of God which is His instructions for those who are in a covenant relationship with Him. We note the significance of the Torah according to Shenei Luchot HaBerit, Torah Shebikhtav, Re’eh, Torah Ohr 1, The commentary states:
“The commandments mentioned in this portion may be divided into three categories. They correspond to the three “pillars” that support the universe, i.e. תורה-עבודה-גמילות חסדים, Torah, service of the Lord and the dispensation of kind deeds. Torah is represented by commandments such as not to add or to deduct from them. In other words, we are ordered to preserve the שלימות, perfection, wholeness of the Torah. Philosophers have already said that it is part of the definition of perfection that one cannot add to it or detract from it. Perfection is indivisible. Torah is totally bound up with the great and Holy Name of G–d i.e. תורת ה’ תמימה. I have elaborated on this in my treatise מסכת שבועות, section תורה אור. The Zohar, commenting on Exodus 3,15: זה שמי … זה זכרי, points out that the numerical value of י-ה+שמי=365, whereas the numerical value of ו-י+זכרי=248, together 613, i.e. the number of commandments in the Torah. G–d also describes Himself as אני ראשון ואני אחרון, “I am first and I am last,” indicating total perfection.”
The commentary states that the Torah teaches there are three pillars that support the universe which are (i) Torah, (ii) service of the Lord, and (iii) the dispensation of kind deeds. The commentary also states that the Torah is represented by the commandment not to add or to deduct from it, which implies its perfection and wholeness. The commands of God are also connected to the name of God, which has the numerical value of 613, the number of commandments in the Torah and that the Lord God describes Himself as the first and the last, indicating His total perfection according to these verses in Isaiah 44:1-7. The commands of God are so powerful, that Akeidat Yitzchak in his commentary also describes the commands as partnering with the Divine.
Akeidat Yitzchak 44:4:2
In considering that the purpose of observing Torah is to acquire the aforementioned level of partnership with the Divine, the question arises whether this is an exclusive objective, or whether one may have other more mundane benefits in mind which accrue to one in the process of fulfilling G-d’s commandments. If the former, the chances are that most people would not be able to take the long term view in order to live a life devoted to the performance of the mitzvot. The argument that mundane side benefits through the observance of mitzvot are not permissible, could be sustained by the following two considerations. 1) The more highly placed a worker or servant, the more lofty are the tasks that he is entrusted to perform. Man, as the most sophisticated creature on earth, would naturally only be concerned with the loftiest endeavors and objectives. 2) If we were to postulate that carrying out G-d’s will would have as its purpose merely human objectives, this would contradict the maxim that the objective is primary. If the prophet Isaiah 44,6, proclaims in the name of G-d “I am first and I am last,” this clearly implies that the only considerations in all our endeavors must be centered around G-d and His purpose. Antignos, who has said in Avot,1 “do not be like the servant who serves the master for the sake of the reward,” surely had this thought in mind. Also the saying of Ben Azzai “the reward for performing one mitzvah is another mitzvah, may be understood in a similar vein. In other words, performance of the commandments is an end in itself, not a means to an end. The Sifrey in Parshat Eykev says “a man might say to himself I’ll perform the commandments in order to gain riches, or to acquire the title of Rabbi, or even in order to acquire a share in the hereafter; therefore the Torah says (Deut. 11,13) “in order to love the Lord your G-d.” Your purpose in obeying should be to demonstrate your love for G-d. … [snip]
This commentary is quite long but the most pertinent concepts are provided in this short section which parallel Yeshua’s words in the gospel of John. Take for example, Yeshua spoke of being one with the Father in heaven according to John 10:30 and this concept parallels the idea of Akeidat Yitzchak on the purpose of observing Torah is to acquire the level of partnership with the Divine. We note that Yeshua kept the Torah perfectly, and this follows through to what Yeshua had said that all that he does, all of his endeavors, actions, motives, are centered around God and His purposes. Yeshua said that he came to do the will of the Father who sent him, and that he always does what pleases the Father (see John 4:34, 5:30, 8:29). This is similar to the idea of Akeidat Yitzchak that the performance of the commandments is an end in itself, not a means to an end, and that one should not seek any mundane benefits from fulfilling God’s will. (Note also how the Tanakh, the NT, and the rabbinic literature all speak against the false doctrine taught in the church today that man earned his way into heaven by keeping the commands.) Yeshua further stated that if anyone loves him, they will keep his commandments, and that whoever has his commandments and keeps them is the one who loves him (see John 14:15, 14:21). This is similar to the idea of Akeidat Yitzchak that the observance of Torah is a manifestation of one’s love and fear of God, and that one should not serve God for the sake of the reward. So again, what we are observing here are clear parallels of these rabbinic concepts in the NT text concerning Yeshua, the Servant King Messiah of God! These things also demonstrated how complex these integrated concepts are between the Tanakh, the NT, and rabbinic literature (Judaism). There is a common history and heritage of the writers of the bible, and so they often quoted from what they knew and how they understood the Scriptures. These things demonstrate for us that we can without a doubt trust every word of the NT text and know that the concepts that are provided to us in the NT text are very Jewish concepts! The rabbinic literature actually complements the Tanakh and NT texts, and so when we look at the rabbinic response to the scriptures, we should not take the approach that the rabbis are diametrically opposed to what is written in the NT concerning Yeshua the Messiah! As demonstrated here, these things are complimentary, and since these concepts are so complex and interwoven, naturally there will be a lot of differences in scholarly opinions and interpretations. The point is that the biblical text is trustworthy, and the rabbinic texts do not cast doubt upon the NT in any way, shape, or form!