Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 43:3

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

I gave Egypt for thy ransom - This is commonly supposed to refer to the time of Sennacherib's invasion; who, when he was just ready to fall upon Jerusalem, soon after his entering Judea, was providentially diverted from that design, and turned his arms against the Egyptians, and their allies the Cushean Arabians, with their neighbors the Sabeans, probably joined with them under Tirhakah. See Isaiah 20:1-6; and Isaiah 37:9. Or as there are some reasonable objections to this opinion, perhaps it may mean more generally that God has often saved his people at the expense of other nations, whom he had, as it were in their stead, given up to destruction. Vitringa explains this of Shalmaneser's designs upon the kingdom of Judea after he had destroyed that of Samaria, from which he was diverted by carrying the war against the Egyptians, Cusheans, and Sabeans; but of this I think he has no clear proof in history. It is not to be wondered at that many things of this kind should remain very obscure for the want of the light of history, which in regard to these times is extremely deficient.

"Did not Cyrus overcome these nations? and might they not be given for releasing the Jews? It seems to have been so from Isaiah 45:14." - Secker.

Kimchi refers all this to the deliverance of Jerusalem from the invasion of Sennacherib. Tirhakah, king of Ethiopia, had come out to war against the king of Assyria, who was there-upon obliged to raise the siege of Jerusalem. Thus the Ethiopians, Egyptians, and Sabeans were delivered into the hands of the Assyrians as a ransom for Israel. - Kimchi. I cannot help thinking this to be a very rational solution of the text.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

For I am the Lord thy God - This verse continues the statement of the reasons why he would protect them. He was Yahweh their God. He was not only the true God, but he was the God who had entered into solemn covenant with them, and who would therefore protect and defend them.

The Holy One of Israel - It was one of his characteristics that he was the God of Israel. Other nations worshipped other gods. He was the God of Israel; and as it was presumed that a god would protect his own people, so he bound himself to deliver them.

Thy Saviour - This was another characteristic. He had saved them in days of peril; and he had assumed toward them the relation of a Saviour; and he would maintain that character.

I gave Egypt for thy ransom - This is a very important passage in regard to the meaning of the word ‹ransom.‘ The word נתתי nâthattı̂y - ‹I gave‘ is rendered by Gesenius (Commentary in loc.), and by Noyes, in the future, ‹I will give.‘ Gesenius supposes that it refers to the fact that the countries specified would be made desolate, in order to effect the deliverance of the Jews. He observes that although Cyrus did not conquer them, yet that it was done by his successors. In particular, he refers to the fact that Cambyses invaded and subdued Egypt (Herod. iii. 15); and that he then entered into, and subdued Ethiopia and Meroe (Strabo xvii.; Jos. Ant. ii. 10. 2). But the word properly refers to the past time, and the scope of the passage requires us to understand it of past events. For God is giving a reason why his people might expect protection, and the reason here is, that he had been their deliverer, and that his purpose to protect them was so fixed and determined, that he had even brought ruin on nations more mighty and numerous than themselves, in order to effect their deliverance.

The argument is, that if he had suffered Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba to be desolated and ruined instead of them, or in order to effect their deliverance, they had nothing to fear from Babylon or any other hostile nation, but that he would effect their deliverance even at the expense of the overthrow of the most mighty kingdoms. The word rendered ‹ransom‘ here is כפר kôpher It is derived from כפר kâphar - whence the Latin cooperio; the Italian coprire, the French couvrir; the Norman coverer, and converer; and the English cover, and means literally to cover; to cover over; to overlay with anything, as pitch, as in Genesis 6:14. Hence, to cover over sins; to overlook; to forgive; and hence, to make an expiation for sins, or to atone for transgression so that it may be forgiven Genesis 32:21; Exodus 30:15; Leviticus 4:20; 5:26; Leviticus 11:24; Leviticus 16:6; Psalm 65:4; Psalm 78:38; Proverbs 16:14; Ezekiel 45:20; Daniel 9:24. The noun (כפר kôpher ) means:

1. A village or hamlet, as beans a cover or shelter to the inhabitants (1 Samuel 6:18; compare the word כפר kâphâr in 1 Chronicles 27:25; Nehemiah 6:2; Genesis 6:14.

3. The cypressflower, the alhenna of the Arabs, so called because the powder of the leaves was used to cover over or besmear the nails in order to produce the reddish color which Oriental femmes regarded as an ornament (Simonis; Exodus 29:36; Exodus 30:10, Exodus 30:16. In such an expiation, that which was offered as the ransom was supposed to take the place of that for which the expiation was made, and this idea is distinctly retained in the versions of this passage.

Thus the Septuagint, Ἐποίησα ἄλλαγμά σου Αἴγυπτον, κ.τ.λ. Epoiēsa allagma sou Aigupton etc - ‹I made Egypt, etc., thy ἄλλαγμα allagma - a commutation for thee; a change for thee; I put it in thy place, and it was destroyed instead of thee.‘ So the Chaldee, ‹I gave the Egyptians as a commutation for thee‘ (חליפך chălı̂ypâk ). So the Syriac, ‹I gave Egypt in thy place.‘ The true interpretation, therefore, is, that Egypt was regarded as having been given up to desolation and destruction instead of the Israelites. One of them must perish; and God chose that Egypt, though so much more mighty and powerful, should be reduced to desolation in order to deliver his people. They took their place, and were destroyed instead of the Hebrews, in order that they might be delivered from the bondage under which they groaned. This may be used as a striking illustration of the atonement made for sin, when the Lord Jesus, the expiatory offering, was made to suffer in the stead - ἄλλαγμα allagma - of his people, and in order that sinners might live.

And if God‘s giving up the Egyptians to destruction - themselves so guilty and deserving of death - in order to save his people, was a proof of his love for them, how much greater is the demonstration of his love when he gives his own holy Son to the bitter pains of death on a cross, in order that his church may be redeemed! There has been much variety, as has already been intimated, in the interpretation of this, and in regard to the time and events referred to. It has, by many, been supposed to refer to the invasion by Sennacherib, who, when he was about to fall upon Jerusalem, turned his arms against the Egyptians and their allies, by which means Jerusalem was saved by devoting those nations to desolation. Vitringa explains it of Shalmaneser‘s design upon the kingdom of Judah, after he had destroyed that of Samaria, from which he was diverted by carrying the war against the Egyptians, Cusheans, and Sabeans. But of this, Lowth says, there is no clear proof in history.

Seeker supposes that it refers to the fact that Cyrus overcame those nations, and that they were given him for releasing the Jews. Lowth says, ‹perhaps it may mean, generally, that God had often saved his people at the expense of other nations, whom he had as it were in their stead given up to destruction.‘ The exact historical facts in the case cannot be clearly made out; nor is this to be wondered at, that many things of this nature should remain obscure for want of the light of history, which in regard to those times is extremely deficient. In regard to Egypt, however, I think the case is clear. Nothing is more manifest than that the prophet refers to that great and wonderful fact - the commonplace illustration of the sacred writers - that the Egyptians were destroyed in order to effect the deliverance of the Jews, and were thus given as a ransom for them.

Ethiopia - Hebrew, ‹Cush.‘ In regard to this country, see the note at Isaiah 18:1. It is not improbable that the prophet here refers to the facts referred to in that chapter, and the destruction which it is there said would come upon that land.

And Seba - This was the name of a people descended from Cush Genesis 10:7; and hence, the name of the country which they occupied. According to Josephus (Ant. ii. 10. 2), it seems to have been Meroe, a province of Ethiopia, distinguished for its wealth and commerce, surrounded by the two arms or branches of the Nile. There still remain the ruins of a metropolis of the same name, not far from the town of Shandy (Keppel‘s Travels in Nubia and Arabia, 1829). Meroe is a great island or peninsula in the north of Ethiopia, and is formed by the Nile, and the Astaboras, which unites with the Nile. It was probably anciently called Seba, and was conquered by Cambyses, the successor of Cyrus, and by him called Meroe, after his sister. That it was near to Ethiopia is apparent from the fact that it is mentioned in connection with it (compare Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 45:14: Herod. iii. 20). They would naturally ally themselves to the Ethiopians. and share the same fate.

Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 382

When trouble comes upon us, how often we are like Peter! We look upon the waves, instead of keeping our eyes fixed upon the Saviour. Our footsteps slide, and the proud waters go over our souls. Jesus did not bid Peter come to Him that he should perish; He does not call us to follow Him, and then forsake us. “Fear not,” He says; “for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.” Isaiah 43:1-3. DA 382.1

Jesus read the character of His disciples. He knew how sorely their faith was to be tried. In this incident on the sea He desired to reveal to Peter his own weakness,—to show that his safety was in constant dependence upon divine power. Amid the storms of temptation he could walk safely only as in utter self-distrust he should rely upon the Saviour. It was on the point where he thought himself strong that Peter was weak; and not until he discerned his weakness could he realize his need of dependence upon Christ. Had he learned the lesson that Jesus sought to teach him in that experience on the sea, he would not have failed when the great test came upon him. DA 382.2

Day by day God instructs His children. By the circumstances of the daily life He is preparing them to act their part upon that wider stage to which His providence has appointed them. It is the issue of the daily test that determines their victory or defeat in life's great crisis. DA 382.3

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Ellen G. White
The Ministry of Healing, 122-3

The same power that Christ exercised when He walked visibly among men is in His word. It was by His word that Jesus healed disease and cast out demons; by His word He stilled the sea and raised the dead, and the people bore witness that His word was with power. He spoke the word of God, as He had spoken to all the prophets and teachers of the Old Testament. The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ. MH 122.1

The Scriptures are to be received as God's word to us, not written merely, but spoken. When the afflicted ones came to Christ, He beheld not only those who asked for help, but all who throughout the ages should come to Him in like need and with like faith. When He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee;” when He said to the woman of Capernaum, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace,” He spoke to other afflicted, sin-burdened ones who should seek His help. Matthew 9:2; Luke 8:48. MH 122.2

So with all the promises of God's word. In them He is speaking to us individually, speaking as directly as if we could listen to His voice. It is in these promises that Christ communicates to us His grace and power. They are leaves from that tree which is “for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:2. Received, assimilated, they are to be the strength of the character, the inspiration and sustenance of the life. Nothing else can have such healing power. Nothing besides can impart the courage and faith which give vital energy to the whole being. MH 122.3

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Ellen G. White
Prophets and Kings, 723

Often the church militant is called upon to suffer trial and affliction; for not without severe conflict is the church to triumph. “The bread of adversity,” “the water of affliction” (Isaiah 30:20), these are the common lot of all; but none who put their trust in the One mighty to deliver will be utterly overwhelmed. “Thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” Isaiah 43:1-4. PK 723.1

There is forgiveness with God; there is acceptance full and free through the merits of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. Isaiah heard the Lord declaring to His chosen ones: “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Put Me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.” “Thou shalt know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Verses 25, 26; 60:16. PK 723.2

“The rebuke of His people shall He take away,” the prophet declared. “They shall call them, The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord.” He hath appointed “to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.” PK 724.1

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Ellen G. White
That I May Know Him, 12.3

Christ was using the great name of God that was given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence. [See Ex. 3:14.] Isaiah also saw Christ, and his prophetic words are full of significance. He says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Speaking through him, the Lord says, “I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour.... Fear not: for I am with thee.... I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.... Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he.... I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King” (Isaiah 43:3-15).... When Jesus came to our world, He proclaimed Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).... TMK 12.3

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