8 Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
who are deaf, yet have ears!
9 All the nations gather together,
and the peoples assemble.
Who among them can declare this,
and show us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right,
and let them hear and say, It is true.
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
11 I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior.
12 I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.
13 Also henceforth I am he;
there is none who can deliver from my hand;
I work, and who can turn it back?”
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Is 43:8–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
8–13 The atmosphere of the prophecy changes from comfort to challenge. Once again the reader is transported to a courtroom (cf. 1:2; 41:1, 21); Israel and the nations are in court together. What is being examined is the Lord’s claim to uniqueness, to sole deity. Most striking is the repetition of the first person singular, over and over again, which makes an overwhelming impact particularly in the Hebrew of vv. 11–13, where it occurs twelve times.
First of all, it is implied that God alone can foretell the future (v. 9; cf. 41:25–29). He alone is divine, and this always has been and always will be the truth. From his dealings with Israel in the past—as Revealer and Savior of his people (v. 12) and Judge of others at a time (presumably the exodus) when the people’s trust was solely in him—it is clear that he alone is God and Savior (v. 11). The reference to the formation of other gods (v. 10) may allude to idolatry or else to Near Eastern myths concerning the coming into being of various gods.
Israel appears in these verses as God’s witness (vv. 10, 12), bearing testimony to what he has done, just as later the apostles were witnesses of a still greater work of God in Christ (Ac 1:8). Other nations can give no witness for their own impotent deities, but Israel has so much to declare, for the Lord’s wonderful works have been done before her and in her behalf. Yet sadly, though she is God’s chosen servant, she is blind and deaf (cf. Isa 42:18–20). To make matters worse, her choice by him was with a view to intelligent faith in him, which should have made her most articulate and effective as a witness for him.
43:8–13 / At first, the command in verse 8 resonates with that in 42:18. It might sound like another sharp scorning of the fact that the one called to be servant is blind and deaf and a commanding that Jacob-Israel’s obtuseness be exposed. The return to the court setting in verse 9a increases that possibility. So Jacob-Israel is to be arraigned before the world, as they were at the very beginning of the book (1:2). But then the prophecy takes a new, yet familiar, turn. It transpires that the court is turning its attention from the dispute between Jacob-Israel and Yahweh and reverting to the case Yahweh had initiated against the nations, the question of who really controls history. The nations have been summoned as the accused, not as witnesses. Indeed, they are now challenged to produce some witnesses who can testify to their (or their gods’) having announced events such as the rise of Cyrus and the coming fall of Babylon. That would demonstrate that they had been involved in planning and executing a purpose over the centuries.
Yahweh then directly addresses Jacob-Israel itself with the astonishing words you are my witnesses (v. 10). It transpires that the reason for bringing the blind and deaf into court is to tell them that they have an important role there. The blind are commissioned to be witnesses.
We have recalled the time at Sinai when Yahweh wanted to abandon Israel and start again. Israel’s later abandonment of its side of the covenant commitment that led to Samaria’s and then to Jerusalem’s fall might indeed have led to Yahweh’s having a further inclination of that kind. If Yahweh could not get out of the relationship with Israel, one might alternatively have imagined Yahweh in some way keeping Israel as covenant partner but finding some other agent in the world. Perhaps that might have been abandonment in another guise, in substance if not in form. For whatever reason, characteristically Yahweh moves in the opposite direction instead. Israel has not been very good at its job, so Yahweh enlarges its remit. It becomes Yahweh’s witnesses in the court case that was initiated in chapter 41. They have eyes but are blind. But at least they have eyes, so perhaps those eyes can be opened. And thus they continue to be my servant whom I have chosen. No, Yahweh is not taking the road of finding another servant, despite the evidence against this servant in 42:18–25. Yahweh is persevering with Jacob-Israel as servant. Putting “witnesses” and “servant” together also thus helps to establish how Yahweh’s servant fulfills the role described in 42:1–4.
We are familiar with the use in religious contexts of the idea of being a “witness” for God and of giving one’s “testimony,” but the expressions have lost their legal significance. This language presupposes that there is a case to be argued and evidence to be presented. The evidence lies not in subjective experience, which is not a law court’s concern, but in objective fact. There are events in the world that may seem to make little sense. Indeed, world history as a whole may seem to make little sense. But the Jewish people, and then the Christian church, possesses God’s announcements of intentions and God’s interpretations of actual events, and these provide the keys to understanding the enigmas of history. Isaiah 40–55 presupposes that this evidence needs pressing in public court, and that its force will be recognized—not least because there are no rivals to Yahweh who can offer a convincing and satisfying set of answers to the enigmas that otherwise confront the world.
A further surprise follows in verse 10b. One might have expected that Yahweh chose Jacob-Israel as witnesses so that the world would come to acknowledge Yahweh. We have presupposed as much in considering the implications of the court case metaphor. Instead, Yahweh says that the object of so choosing Jacob-Israel is that the people themselves should come to acknowledge Yahweh. That longstanding purpose was the one Yahweh could not go back on. And their call as witnesses now has as its own aim the convincing of the witnesses themselves. Their being called to bring other people out of darkness will be the means by which they themselves are brought out of darkness, by which their eyes and ears are opened. Yahweh goes on (v. 10b–13) to spell out the content of their witness and the evidence that is to convince them. These are the facts about Yahweh that their own history has proved to them. Yahweh has long been speaking and then acting, and thereby has been both sovereign in history and proving sovereignty in history. They know it, and they know that it is not true of other so-called gods. They must come to acknowledge it.
43:8–13 The Lord now summons Israel and all the nations to a court test. Let them bring … witnesses as to the ability of idols to predict future events. Otherwise let them acknowledge that only God is true. The Lord calls Israel as His witnesses; they should testify that He is the only true God, that He is eternal, that besides Him there is no savior and Deliverer, and that His decrees and acts cannot be thwarted.
8–13 Here Israel is faced again with her sin against the light (8; cf. 42:18–20); yet she is held to her high calling as servant and chosen (10), as much for her own instruction (that you may know … believe … and understand) as that of the world. Her very history testified for Yahweh (10–12); one day the title my witnesses was to have its full force (cf. Acts 1:8), but for the present Israel appears as a passive and reluctant exhibit. The forensic setting is that of 41:1–4, 21–23; the point at issue is the non-existence of any God but Yahweh, in ages past, present or to come (10b, 11, 13).
43:11–13 These verses form a magnificent celebration of the sovereignty of God (14:24, 26, 27; compare Num. 23:19). no foreign god: The Hebrew text contains merely the word foreign; the word god is implied. The point is that only the living God was at work in the Israelites’ midst. savior: This same Hebrew term is used in v. 3. before the day: The Lord was always at work—saving, protecting, guiding, and disciplining His people. The concluding line of the song of praise—there is no one … My hand—is quoted from Deut. 32:39.
43:11–13. The Lord’s deliverance of Israel also shows that He is the true God. He is her only Savior and no one can oppose His plans. “Savior” is another title of God that Isaiah used frequently (cf. 17:10; 43:3; 45:15, 21; 49:26; 60:16; 62:11; 63:8). God’s revealing His plans and saving His people could not be duplicated by any foreign god. Israel’s existence witnesses to His sovereignty and eternity. No one can reverse what God puts into action or thwart His plans (cf. Job 42:2).
Over against the magnificent portrayal of the future of God’s people is present reality: Israel is still blind and deaf (43:8–13). In spite of this condition, however, God still has a future for them. They will be witnesses to his majesty and authority over the nations. He cannot use the nations for this purpose because they have given themselves over to idolatry. God’s people should know only Yahweh, having experienced his deliverance.
The phrases I am he (v. 10b) and I am God (v. 12) signify that only Yahweh, the God of Israel, is God. He is also the powerful Redeemer who has already shown his ability to his people. Yahweh as the God of his people has revealed himself by words as well as deeds so that all might know that he is the only true God.
 Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 745–746). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Goldingay, J. (2012). Isaiah. (W. W. Gasque, R. L. Hubbard Jr., & R. K. Johnston, Eds.) (pp. 246–248). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 970). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Kidner, F. D. (1994). Isaiah. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 658). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 851). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1097). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
 VanGemeren, W. A. (1995). Isaiah. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 501). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.