Fear not, thou worm Jacob - In the rabbinical commentary on the five books of Moses, Yelamedenu, it is asked, Why are the Israelites called a worm? To signify, that as the worm does not smite, that is, gnaw the cedars, but with its mouth, which is very tender, yet it nevertheless destroys the hard wood; so all the strength of the Israelites is in prayer, by which they smite the wicked of this world, though strong like the cedars, to which they are compared, Ezekiel 31:3.
Fear not - (See the note at Isaiah 41:10).
Thou worm - This word is properly applied as it is with us, to denote a worm, such as is generated in putrid substances Exodus 16:20; Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 66:24; or such as destroy plants Jonah 4:7; Deuteronomy 28:39. It is used also to describe a person that is poor, afflicted, and an object of insignificance Job 25:5-6:
Behold even to the moon, and it shineth not;
Yea, the stars are not pure in his sight.
How much less man, that is a worm;
And the son of man which is a worm?
And in Psalm 22:6:
But I am a worm, and no man;
A reproach of men, and despised of the people.
In the passage before us, it is applied to the Jews in Babylon as poor and afflicted, and as objects of contempt in view of their enemies. It implies that in themselves they were unable to defend or deliver themselves, and in this state of helplessness, God offers to aid them and assures them that they have nothing to fear.
And ye men of Israel - (מתי ישׂראל yı̂s'erâ'ēl methēy ). Margin, ‹Few men.‘ There has been a great variety in the explanation of this phrase. Aquila renders it, Τεθνεῶτες Tethneōtes and Theodotion, Νεκροὶ Nekroi ‹dead.‘ So the Vulgate, Qui mortui estis ex Israel. The Septuagint renders it, ‹Fear not, Jacob, O diminutive Israel‘ ( ὀλιγοστὸς Ἰσραὴλ oligostos Israēl ). Chaldee, ‹Fear not, O tribe of the house of Jacob, ye seed of Israel.‘ Lowth renders it, ‹Ye mortals of Israel.‘ The Hebrew denotes properly, as in our translation, ‹men of Israel;‘ but there is evidently included the idea of fewness or feebleness. The parallelism requires us so to understand it; and the word men, or mortal men, may well express the idea of feebleness.
And thy Redeemer - On the meaning of this word, see the notes at Isaiah 35:9; Isaiah 43:1, Isaiah 43:3. It is applied here to the rescue from the captivity of Babylon, and is used in the general sense of deliverer. God would deliver, or rescue them as be had done in times past. He had done it so often, that this might be regarded as his appropriate appellation, that he was the redeemer of his people.
The Holy One of Israel - The Holy Being whom the Israelites adored, and who was their protector, and their friend (see the note at Isaiah 2:4). This appellation is often given to God (see Isaiah 5:19, Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 10:20; Isaiah 12:6; Isaiah 17:7; Isaiah 29:19; Isaiah 30:11-12). We may remark in view of these verses:
1. That the people of God are in themselves feeble and defenseless. They have no strength on which they can rely. They are often so encompassed with difficulties which they feel they have no strength to overcome, that they are disposed to apply to themselves the appellation of ‹worm,‘ and by ethers they are looked on as objects of contempt, and are despised.
2. They have nothing to fear. Though they are feeble, their God and Redeemer is strong. He is their Redeemer, and their friend, and they may put their trust in him. Their enemies cannot ultimately triumph over them, but they will be scattered and become as nothing.
3. In times of trial, want, and persecution, the friends of God should put their trust alone in him. It is often the plan of God so to afflict and humble his people, that they shall feel their utter helplessness and dependence, and be led to him as the only source of strength.
To those who feared they would not be received if they should return to God, the prophet declared: PK 316.1
“Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Verses 27-31. PK 316.2
The heart of Infinite Love yearns after those who feel powerless to free themselves from the snares of Satan; and He graciously offers to strengthen them to live for Him. “Fear thou not,” He bids them; “for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness.” “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye man of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 41:10, 13, 14. PK 316.3Read in context »