on Isaiah 41 :2
The righteous man - The Chaldee and Vulgate seem to have read צדיק tsaddik. But Jerome, though his translation has justum, appears to have read צדק tsedek; for in his comment he expresses it by justum, sive justitiam. However, I think all interpreters understand it of a person. So the Septuagint in MS. Pachom. εκαλεσεν αυτον, "he hath called him;" but the other copies have αυτην, her. They are divided in ascertaining this person; some explain it of Abraham, others of Cyrus. I rather think that the former is meant; because the character of the righteous man, or righteousness, agrees better with Abraham than with Cyrus. Besides, immediately after the description of the success given by God to Abraham and his posterity, (who, I presume, are to be taken into the account), the idolaters are introduced as greatly alarmed at this event. Abraham was called out of the east; and his posterity were introduced into the land of Canaan, in order to destroy the idolaters of that country, and they were established there on purpose to stand as a barrier against the idolatry then prevailing, and threatening to overrun the whole face of the earth. Cyrus, though not properly an idolater or worshipper of images, yet had nothing in his character to cause such an alarm among the idolaters, Isaiah 41:5-7. Farther, after having just touched upon that circumstance, the prophet with great ease returns to his former subject, and resumes Abraham and the Israelites; and assures them that as God had called them, and chosen them for this purpose, he would uphold and support them to the utmost, and at length give them victory over all the heathen nations, their enemies; Isaiah 41:8-16. Kimchi is of the same mind and gives the same reasons.
He gave them as the dust to his sword "Hath made them like the dust before his sword" - The image is strong and beautiful; it is often made use of by the sacred poets; see Psalm 1:4; Psalm 35:6; Job 21:18, and by Isaiah himself in other places, Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 29:5. But there is great difficulty in making out the construction. The Septuagint read קשתם חרבם kashtam, charbam, their sword, their bow, understanding it of the sword and bow of the conquered kings: but this is not so agreeable to the analogy of the image, as employed in other places. The Chaldee paraphrast and Kimchi solve the difficulty by supposing an ellipsis of לפני liphney before those words. It must be owned that the ellipsis is hard and unusual: but I choose rather to submit to this, than, by adhering with Vitringa to the more obvious construction, to destroy entirely both the image and the sense. But the Vulgate by gladio ejus, to his sword, and arcui ejus, to his bow, seems to express לחרבו lecharbo, to his sword, and לקשתו lekashto, to his bow, the admission of which reading may perhaps be thought preferable to Kimchi's ellipsis.
on Isaiah 41 :2
Who raised up - This word (העיר hē‛yr) is usually applied to the act of arousing one from sleep Sol 2:7; Sol 3:5; Sol 8:4; Zechariah 4:1; then to awake, arouse, or stir up to any enterprise. Here it means, that God had caused the man here referred to, to arouse for the overthrow of their enemies; it was by his agency that he had been led to form the plans which should result in their deliverance. This is the first argument which God urges to induce his people to put confidence in him, and to hope for deliverance; and the fact that he had raised up and qualified such a man for the work, he urges as a proof that he would certainly protect and guard his people.
The righteous man from the east - Hebrew, צדק tsedeq - 'righteousness.' The Septuagint renders it literally, Δικαιοσὺνην Dikaiosunēn - 'righteousness.' The Vulgate renders it, 'The just;' the Syriac as the Septuagint. The word here evidently means, as in our translation, the just or righteous man. It is common in the Hebrew, as in other languages, to put the abstract for the concrete. In regard to the person here referred to, there have been three principal opinions, which it may be proper briefly to notice.
1. The first is, that which refers it to Abraham. This is the interpretation of the Chaldee Paraphrast, who renders it, 'Who has publicly led from the east Abraham, the chosen of the just;' and this interpretation has been adopted by Jarchi, Kimchi, Abarbanel, and by the Jewish writers generally. They say that it means that God had called Abraham from the east; that he conducted him to the land of Canaan, and enabled him to vanquish the people who resided there, and particularly that he vanquished the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, and delivered Lot from their hands Genesis 14; and that this is designed by God to show them that he who had thus raised up Abraham would raise up them also in the east. There are, however, objections to this interpretation which seem to be insuperable, a few of which may be referred to.
(a) The country from which Abraham came, the land of Chaldea or Mesopotamia, is not commonly in the Scriptures called 'the east,' but the north (see Jeremiah 1:13-15; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1; Jeremiah 23:8; Jeremiah 25:9, Jeremiah 25:26; Jeremiah 31:8; Jeremiah 46:10; Jeremiah 50:3; Daniel 11:6, Daniel 11:8, Daniel 11:11. This country was situated to the northeast of Palestine, and it is believed is nowhere in the Scriptures called the country of the east.
(b) The description which is here given of what was accomplished by him who was raised up from the east, is not one that applies to Abraham. It supposes more important achievements than any that signalized the father of the faithful. There were no acts in the life of Abraham that can be regarded as subduing the 'nations' before him; as ruling over 'kings;' or as scattering them like the dust or the stubble. Indeed, he appears to have been engaged but in one military adventure - the rescue of Lot - and that was of so slight and unimportant a character as not to form the peculiarity of his public life. Had Abraham been referred to here, it would have been for some other trait than that of a conqueror or military chieftain.
(c) We shall see that the description and the connection require us to understand it of another - of Cyrus.
2. A second opinion is, that it refers directly and entirely to the Messiah. Many of the fathers, as Jerome, Cyril, Eusebius, Theodoret, Procopius, held this opinion. But the objections to this are insuperable.
(a) It is not true that the Messiah was raised up from the east. He was born in the land of Judea, and always lived in that land.
(b) The description here is by no means one that applies to him. It is the description of a warrior and a conqueror; of one who subdued nations, and scattered them before him.
(c) The connection and design of the passage does not admit of the interpretation. That design is, to lead the Jews in exile to put confidence in God, and to hope for a speedy rescue. In order to this, the prophet directs them to the fact that a king appeared in the east, and that he scattered the nations; and from these facts they were to infer that they would themselves be delivered, and that God would be their protector. But how would this design be accomplished by a reference to so remote an event as the coming of the Messiah?
3. The third opinion, therefore, remains, that this refers to Cyrus, the Persian monarch, by whom Babylon was taken, and by whom the Jews were restored to their own land. In support of this interpretation, a few considerations may be adverted to.
(a) It agrees with the fact in regard to the country from which Cyrus came for purposes of conquest. He came from the land which is everywhere in the Scriptures called the East.
(b) It agrees with the specifications which Isaiah elsewhere makes, where Cyrus is mentioned by name, and where there can be no danger of error in regard to the interpretation (see Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-4, Isaiah 45:13). Thus in Isaiah 46:11, it is said of Cyrus, 'Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my commandments from a far country.
(c) The entire description here is one that applies in a remarkable manner to Cyrus, as will be shown more fully in the notes at the particular expressions which occur.
on Isaiah 41 :2