Isaiah 48

The Word Made Fresh

1Listen, house of Jacob, you whose name is Israel.
You are descended from the children of Judah.
You swear by the name of the LORD
and call on the God of Israel, but you are not sincere.
2You identify yourselves by the holy city
and say you depend on the God of Israel
whose name is the LORD Almighty.

3I declared long ago the things that took place.
With my mouth I made them known,
then suddenly I did them and they came to pass.
4I knew how obstinate you are,
stiff-necked and headstrong.
5I told you these things long ago,
so you knew about them before they happened,
and you couldn’t claim that your idol,
or your carved wood and cast metal images, had done them.

6You have heard about all these things.
Look at them. Will you admit it?
From now on I will reveal new things to you,
things that were hidden and unknown to you.
7They were created only just now, not long ago.
You had never heard of them before today.
You can’t claim that you already knew them.
8You have never heard nor known about them.
Your ears have never heard of them.
I knew that you were unfaithful.
From the day you were born you were rebellious.
9For the sake of my own name I curbed my anger.
For the sake of my praise, I hold it back from you
and refuse to cut you off.
10Do you see how I have refined you, though not like silver?
I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.
11I have done this for my own sake
so that my name would not be slandered.
I will not give my glory to anyone else.

12Listen to me, Jacob. Listen to me, Israel. I have called you.
I am the One, the first and the last.
13My own hands laid the earth’s foundation.
My right hand spread the heavens,
and when I call for them, they stand at attention.

14Come together, all of you, and listen:
Which of your idols has told of these things?
The LORD has chosen the one
who will accomplish my purpose for Babylon.
Yes, I will be against the Chaldeans.
15I have spoken and called him.
I have brought him, and his plans will prosper.
16Come closer and listen well.
I have never spoken in secret since the beginning.
I have been there all along.

And now the LORD God has sent me and the Holy Spirit,
17to say, “Your savior, the Holy One of Israel says,
‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you for your own good,
and who leads you down the path you should take.
18If you had paid attention to my commandments
your prosperity would have flowed like a river,
and you would have succeeded like the waves of the sea.
19Your children and your descendants would have been like the sand,
and their names would never have been cut off
or removed from my sight.

20So, leave Babylon. Flee from Chaldea.
Declare this with a shout of joy.
Tell about it everywhere
that the LORD has redeemed Jacob!’”
21They didn’t thirst when the LORD led them through the desert,
for the LORD split open the rock and water gushed out.
22But there is no peace for the wicked says the LORD.


1-2: The prophet addresses Israel (the house of Jacob), particularly the tribe of Judah which became a nation in its own right after the time of Solomon when the northern tribes separated from Judah and became another nation called Israel.

3-5: They are a stubborn people, he says, but God compensated for that by announcing (through the prophets) ahead of time what would happen, so they can’t claim some idol had done it.

6-8: God is announcing a new thing, something they couldn’t possibly guess (what God is announcing will come in verse 20).

9-11: God refrained from destroying them for God’s own sake, not for theirs.

12-13: God’s “credentials” are given once again. The one speaking is the very creator of the earth’s foundations.

14-16: Scholars have long debated the identity of who is speaking in these verses and who is being spoken of. It seems clear that Cyrus, summoned by God to be the instrument by which Babylon will get its comeuppance (see 45:1), is intended in verses 14 and 15, but verse 16 then appears to be the prophet speaking, because he is the one being sent to announce these things. He seems to be saying, “From the moment God informed me of what he was planning I have been speaking out. God has sent me to tell you these things.”

17-19: If you had listened to the LORD in the first place, he says, none of this (the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon) would have happened.

20-21: Isaiah encourages them (once Cyrus has conquered Babylon) to flee from there and return to Jerusalem, for that is the meaning of “God has redeemed God’s servant Jacob.” This is the “new thing” mentioned in verses 6-8. God tells them not to be concerned about the journey. God will take care of them. Clearly Isaiah sees the return from exile as a second “Exodus,” giving Israel a new start.

22: “The wicked” is likely a reference to Babylon.


God is with us and for us, even when we disobey. Even when we refuse to listen. We cannot lose God’s love for us. God is always ready to take us back. We only have to ask.