Isaiah 41


There are three themes in this chapter:

a)      The heathen nations inability to refute Yahweh’s sovereign control

b)      Yahweh’s promise to deliver Israel ( who is headed into captivity and confusion)

c)      Yahweh’s plan to use a man of outstanding character to be Israel’s redeemer and deliver them.  This man is called “the servant” (Cyrus, Jesus)


Israel is reassured that the nations will not win.  Though Israel go into captivity and dispersion among the nations it is God’s plan.  The nations will have to do what God has            




This is the image of a courtroom scene.

Vs. 1 a call to judgment

Vs. 2-4 God’s case is presented (his acts in history)

Vs. 5-7 frightened response of Gentile nations



God calls the nations to a court case.

Ironically, He tells them to “renew their strength!”

a)      This could be a reference to go to their idol worship and false philosophies to get organized and empowered to stand before the judge of the universe.

b)      But, probably this is an invitation to the nations to respond as Isaiah wrote in 40:31 that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”

These Gentiles could be heirs of the promises of God along with God’s chosen people if they responded. (Isaiah 19:24-25; 27:13)



God is asking who among the nations can call on a conqueror to defeat all the nations.

Who is going to give Cyrus the nations?  The Lord is.

The fact that God tells them ahead of time that he is going to overrun them with Cyrus (later called by name in44:28 and 45:1)

a)      nations are handed to him

b)      kings subdued by him

c)      with sword and bow Cyrus turns them to dust and chaff

d)      Cyrus moves unharmed

e)      Cyrus goes places he has never seen



Who can control history like this? Only Yahweh.

Who can manipulate kings, generals, nations and empires in his divine plan and strategy?

Only Yahweh.



The nations hear and they know it is God.

They approach him but not to submit. 

They encourage each other in their rebellion saying, “Be strong!”



The source of their hope and strength is their idols and false philosophies.

These verses give us a description of the labor, the planning, the cooperation and teamwork to create an idol.  Finally, the inspector comes and declares it “good”.

Would it not be easier to trust God?  Isn’t organizing and leading a revolt a lot of work?

This rebellion of the nations is summed up in Psalm 2.



God speaks to Israel.

He will deal differently with Israel than he deals with the nations.



The nations need to fear, but Israel does not.

Though Israel will be punished and disciplined they will honor God and be delivered.



God tells Israel where they have come from.

He says:

a)      “I took you”

b)      “I called you”

c)      “You are My servant.”

d)      “I have chosen you”

e)      “I have not rejected you.”

Their identity is all based on God, his will, his actions, his plan.

They need not be afraid.



Because verse 41:9 is true and God is not going to change, then the statements in verse 41:10 are also true for Israel:

a)      “I am with you. . .do not be afraid.”

b)      “I am your God. . . do not be dismayed.”

c)      “I will strengthen you.”

d)      “I will help you.”

e)      “I will uphold you”


Never before had an exiled nations been brought back to their homeland to start over.

Israel is the only nation to undergo the five cycles of judgment and be brought back as a nation.  This has happened twice.



The promises to Israel continue but this time in reference to their enemies and the nations that opposes them.


a)      Disgrace and shame to those who rage against Israel

b)      Opponents are as nothing and will vanish

c)      Enemies can not be found

d)      Those who wage war against Israel will be as nothing at all.  (Ez. 38, 39 describes the end of today’s terrorist states.)


Of course, these promises were fulfilled in Cyrus’s day.

But, the principles of God’s dealing with Israel continue like this forever.



God says he will defend Israel even though Jacob is a defenseless worm.

Worm is used to describe Jacob’s condition and inability to help themselves.

Worm is obviously NOT a term used to ascribe Israel’s value to God.

Israel is called God’s treasure.



The worm has a relative, a next of kin called “go’el” in Hebrew and translated    “redeemer”.

This is the first of 13 appearances of the word this book.

The “go’el” or “redeemer” was the next of kin in Hebrew culture that was responsible for their well being.

Used in Exodus 6:6 and Exodus 15:13 of God relation with Israel

In the OT it is used as both a positive and a negative.

 It is positive towards the person being delivered, but negative towards the person doing the oppressing:

a)      of a relative who delivers a poor person from losing the family inheritance and slavery (Lev. 25:25; Ruth 4:1-8)

b)       of a person who avenges the blood of a murdered person by killing the murderer (Num. 35:21-27; Deut. 19:6; Josh. 20:5)


In its 13 uses in Isaiah it is used along with:

a)      “the Holy One of Israel (6x)

b)      “Lord of Hosts (3x)

c)      “the Mighty One of Jacob” (2x)

d)      “King of Israel” (1x)

e)      “First and Last” (1x)

f)        “Formed you from the Womb” (1x)

g)      “Made Everything” (1x)

h)      “God of the whole earth” (1x)

i)        “Our Father” (1x)

These descriptions and titles show that God is well able to be Israel redeemer. 

Who could stop him?  He will deliver Israel and He will have vengeance on the other nations.

Here he is the unhindered Holy One who can do what is right every time and no one can stop him.





Here the worm, the tiller of the soil in 41:14 has become the threshing sledge of the mountains and hills.



A sledge is used to tread the sheaves.
The sledge is drawn by cows or mules.
Its underside is set with flakes strips of band-saw shaped iron.

  • Heavy wooden platforms
  • Fit with sharp stones and metal
  • Used to prepare straw for winnowing
  • Separated the kernels from the husks

Two types of threshing sledges:

1)      frame of heavy timbers with sharp stones and metal

2)      one or two heavy rollers with stones and metal driven in.




Israel is described as a “new and sharp, with many teeth.”

Israel is not a worn out, used tool.  They will be a sharp new tool for threshing

Israel, as the threshing sledge of God, will crush mountains and hills.  And prepare them for wind of God to blow them away.



What is Israel threshing?

Anything that stood in their way to return from Babylon under Cyrus’ directions:

  • Babylonians
  • Money
  • Provisions
  • Oppressors
  • Other nations
  • Sin
  • False doctrine

All of this was going to be threshed and blown out of the way in 538 BC.

See Ezra 1:1-4

Micah 4:10-13,
      “Writhe in agony, O Daughter of Zion,
       like a woman in labor,
       for now you must leave the city
       to camp in the open field.
       You will go to Babylon;
       there you will be rescued.
       There the LORD will redeem you
       out of the hand of your enemies.

 11 But now many nations
       are gathered against you.
       They say, "Let her be defiled,
       let our eyes gloat over Zion!"

 12 But they do not know
       the thoughts of the LORD;
       they do not understand his plan,
       he who gathers them like sheaves to the threshing floor.

 13 "Rise and thresh, O Daughter of Zion,
       for I will give you horns of iron;
       I will give you hoofs of bronze
       and you will break to pieces many nations."
       You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD,
       their wealth to the Lord of all the earth.”


This is still God’s plan.  He will again thresh with Israel.





Cyrus (580-529 BC) was the first Achaemenian Emperor. He founded Persia by uniting the two original Iranian Tribes- the Medes and the Persians. Although he was known to be a great conqueror, who at one point controlled one of the greatest Empires ever seen, he is best remembered for his unprecedented tolerance and magnanimous attitude towards those he defeated.

Upon his victory over the Medes, he founded a government for his new kingdom, incorporating both Median and Persian nobles as civilian officials. The conquest of Asia Minor completed, he led his armies to the eastern frontiers. Hyrcania and Parthia were already part of the Median Kingdom. Further east, he conquered Drangiana, Arachosia, Margiana and Bactria. After crossing the Oxus, he reached the Jaxartes, where he built fortified towns with the object of defending the farthest frontier of his kingdom against nomadic tribes of Central Asia. The victories to the east led him again to the west and sounded the hour for attack on Babylon and Egypt. When he conquered Babylon, he did so to cheers from the Jewish Community, who welcomed him as a liberator- he allowed the Jews to return to the promised Land. He showed great forbearance and respect towards the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of other races. These qualities earned him the respect and homage of all the people over whom he ruled.

As Prof. Richard Frye of Harvard said (in The Heritage of Persia, p10-151):

The victory over Babylonia expressed all the facets of the policy of conciliation which Cyrus had followed until then. He presented himself not as a conqueror, but a liberator and the legitimate successor to the crown. He took the title of "King of Babylon_ King of the Land". Cyrus had no thought of forcing conquered people into a single mould, and had the wisdom to leave unchanged the institution of each kingdom he attached to the Persian Crown. In 537 BC he allowed more than 40,000 Jews to leave Babylon and return to Palestine. This step was in line with his policy to bring peace to Mankind. A new wind was blowing from the east, carrying away the cries and humility of defeated and murdered victims, extinguishing the fires of sacked cities, and liberating nations from slavery.

Cyrus was upright, a great leader of men, generous and benelovent. The Hellenes, whom he conquered regarded him as 'Law-giver' and the Jews as 'the annointed of the Lord'.

Prior to his death, he founded a new capital city at Pasargade in Fars. and had established a government for his Empire. He appointed a governor (satrap) to represent him in each province, however the administration, legistlation, and cultural activities of each province was the responsibility of the Satraps. Accoding to Xenophon Cyrus is also reputed to have devised the first postal system, (Achaemenide achievements).

His doctrines were adopted by the future emperors of the Achaemenian dynasty. Darius I (521-486 BC) brought together skills and craftsmen from all over the empire in building the city of Persepolis.



This is the third portion of this chapter.

1.      The first was 1-7 calling the nations to come to God for renewed strength.

2.      God speaks to Israel in verse 8-16 assuring them they are not like the other nations and that He will take care of them.

3.      In 17-20 God uses descriptive, poetic language to restate verses 8-16


Israel is searching for water.

God will provide

The poor and needy here represent the powerless Israel.

The water represents much more than physical water



God will provide in places that there is no provision

a)      rivers flowing on hilltops

b)      more water in the valleys

c)      pools in the desert

d)      parched ground a springs


e) trees in the desert

f) pines in the wasteland (seven total trees are mentioned)



The reason?

So people will know it was an act of God.

So Israel will know he is still taking care of them



These verses describe the Servant (Cyrus and Jesus)


41:21-29 Yahweh makes it clear he is the one to trust because he can control and so predict the future.  This is his argument in these verses.



The court case resumes after the verse of encouraging Israel.



The idols are asked to demonstrate their power, control and foresight of the future.



The verdict is in: They are proved worthless compared to the creator who unleashes on them his plans for the future.



God proves he is better than the idols



Yahweh predicts Cyrus.

Cyrus came from the East but took Babylon from the North.  North is also the reference of Persia from Jerusalem.

Cyrus called on God for example in Ezra 1:2-4 where he says, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. . .”



The idols didn’t even know he was coming



God did and he was the first.

God made these predictions 160 years in advance.

Cyrus would take Babylon in 539 and deliver the Jews in 538 BC

Isaiah is writing after 701, probably in the year 698 BC



None of the idols said anything


The difference here than in 41:24 is that instead of judging the idols God judges the idolaters.


The idols words and philosophies are wind and confusion

Colossians 2:8, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this                    world rather than on Christ.”

Ephesians 4:14, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and         craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.”