26. Lift up your eyes on high. The Prophet appears to linger too long on this subject, more especially because it presents no obscurity; for he repeats by many statements what is acknowledged by all, that God’s wonderful power and wisdom may be known from the beautiful order of the world. But we ought to observe what I have already said, that we are so wicked and ungrateful judges of the divine power, that we often imagine God to be inferior to some feeble man. We are more terrified frequently by the empty mask of a single man than we are strengthened by all the promises of God. Not in vain, therefore, does the Prophet repeat that God is defrauded of his honour, if his power do not lead us to warm admiration of him; nor does he spend his labour in what is superfluous, for we are so dull and sluggish that we need to be continually aroused and excited.
Men see every day the heavens and the stars; but who is there that thinks about their Author? By nature men are formed in such a manner as to make it evident that they were born to contemplate the heavens, and thus to learn their Author; for while God formed other animals to look downwards for pasture, he made man alone erect, and bade him look at what may be regarded as his own habitation. This is also described beautifully by a poet: “While other animals look downwards towards the earth, he gave to man a lofty face, and bade him look at heaven, and lift up his countenance erect towards the stars.”2 The Prophet therefore points out the wickedness of men who do not acknowledge what is openly placed before their eyes concerning God, but, like cattle, fix their snout in the earth; for, whenever we raise our eyes upwards, with any degree of attention, it is impossible for our senses not to be struck with the majesty of God.
And see who hath created them. By mentioning the stars, he states more clearly that the wonderful order which shines brightly in the face of the heavens preaches loudly that there is one God and Creator of the world; and all who shall observe, that amidst the vast number and variety of the stars, so regular an order and course is so well maintained, will be constrained to make this acknowledgment. For it is not by chance that each of the stars has had its place assigned to it, nor is it at random that they advance uniformly with so great rapidity, and amidst numerous windings move straight forwards, so that they do not deviate a hairbreadth from the path which God has marked out for them. Thus does their wonderful arrangement shew that God is the Author and worker, so that men cannot open their eyes without being constrained to behold the majesty of God in his works.
Bringing out by number their army. Under the word army he includes two things; their almost infinite number, and their admirable arrangement; for a small number of persons do not constitute an army, and not even a considerable number, if there be not also numerous companies. Besides, it is not called an “army,” when men are collected together at random, and without any selection, and in a confused manner, or when they wander about in a disorderly state, but where there are various classes of officers, who have the charge of ten, or a hundred, or a thousand men, and where the ranks are drawn up and arranged on a fixed plan. Thus the wonderful arrangement of the stars, and their certain courses, may justly be called an “army.”
By the word number he means that God always has this “army” at his command. In an army the soldiers may wander, and may not be immediately collected or brought back to their ranks by the general, though the trumpet sound. But it is otherwise with God. He always has his soldiers in readiness, and that “by number;” that is, he keeps a reckoning of them, so that not one of them is absent.
He will call to all of them by name. The same expression occurs, (Psalm 147:4,) and in the same sense. Some explain it to mean that God knows the number of the stars, which is unknown to us. But David and Isaiah meant a different thing, that is, that God makes use of the stars according to his pleasure; as if one should command a servant, calling him to him by name; and the same thing will afterwards be said of Cyrus, whose labours and service the Lord employed in delivering his people. (Isaiah 45:1.) In a word, it denotes the utmost submission and obedience, when he who is called instantly answers to his name.
By the greatness of his strength. Those who explain the preceding clause to mean that the Lord knows the number of the stars, are also mistaken in supposing that by giving them their names is meant their power and office. Others explain it, that there is not a star that has not its own power and energy, because the Lord gave to them those qualities they would always possess. But others connect these words with יקרא, (yĭkrā,) “he shall call;” as if he had said, “The Lord is so powerful that all the stars listen to his commands.” But a meaning which appears to me to be more appropriate is, that God is so powerful, that, as soon as he has issued an order, all the armies of the stars are ready to yield obedience. In this we have an extraordinary proof of his power, when those highly excellent creatures unhesitatingly submit to him, and by executing his orders testify that they acknowledge him to be their Author.
Not one shall be wanting. The word איש (īsh) is applied by Hebrew writers not only to men and women, but also to other animals, and even to inanimate objects, as in a former passage, (Isaiah 34:16,) when, speaking of the birds that should occupy those splendid abodes, he said that “not one should be wanting,” he used the word איש (īsh). These words commend to us the power of God, that we may know that there is nothing in heaven or in earth that does not depend on his will and pleasure. Nothing, therefore, can be more shameful or unreasonable than to compare him to idols, which are as worthless as anything can possibly be.2
26 From the invitation to compare the author moves, as he did in vv. 19 and 20, to a possible comparison, here apparently the heavens. As mentioned above, the heavens are probably alluded to here because they were supposed to be a visible representation of the gods. This was true not only of Babylonian religion but also of Canaanite, as indicated by the reports that the Israelites sometimes succumbed to the temptation to worship “the host of heaven” (2 K. 17:16; 21:3). Here the prophet argues that far from being deities worthy of being worshiped, the stars (implied by their host and numbers them) are not even self-existent. They are contingent creatures who come and go at the command of the Lord as do sheep before a shepherd, or soldiers before a general. Would we compare such as these to the one who created them and rules them?
who created these is sublime in its simplicity. The root brʾ, “create,” occurs 16 times in chs. 40–55, 13 times between this verse and 45:18, 6 times in ch. 45 alone, as against 5 times in the rest of the book (4:5; 57:19; 65:17, 18 [bis]) and only 27 times in the remainder of the OT (11 times in Genesis; 6 times in Psalms; 3 times in Ezekiel; once each in seven other books). It is a fundamental truth for Isaiah that since God has the absolutely uncontingent freedom of the Creator, he is free to save his people. these encompasses in one ordinary word the whole breathtaking array of the night sky. But equally breathtaking is the simple faith involved. The stars have not existed forever; someone brought them into existence once. Who was that? The God enthroned above the cherubim in the temple in Jerusalem, of course. Who else?
Once again, as in vv. 22–23, the rhetorical question is answered with a participle. Who created these? He is the one who brings forth their host by number; by name he calls them all. This passage is describing God’s eternal, unchanging nature. host is a military term, and this sense is heightened by the use of number. So the general musters his troops. The daunting stars, wheeling about the sky imperturbably, are really only the obedient minions of one infinitely greater than they. To him they are not numberless; more than that, he knows them each by name. In the ancient world, to know the name of something was to know its essence, and thereby have power over it. What is the power and wisdom of one who knows each star by name? No wonder no star dares to miss muster!
We must not lose sight of one other aspect of this verse. No doubt the picture of God counting and naming the stars is figurative. Nevertheless, it is important to grasp the sense of the figure. Isaiah has insisted on the absolute transcendence of God: he is not part of the cosmos in any way, and the cosmos is not part of him. But to carry that line to its logical conclusion as Aristotle did is to end with a passionless, colorless force as the source of everything. It is to say that personality is an accident in time. Isaiah will not go that way. He insists on transcendence, but leaves no doubt that the Transcendent is a person with all that that means. When all is said and done, the combination of these two may be Israel’s greatest contribution to human thought.
26. bringeth out … host—image from a general reviewing his army: He is Lord of Sabaoth, the heavenly hosts (Job 38:32).
calleth … by names—numerous as the stars are. God knows each in all its distinguishing characteristics—a sense which “name” often bears in Scripture; so in Ge 2:19, 20, Adam, as God’s vicegerent, called the beasts by name, that is, characterized them by their several qualities, which, indeed, He has imparted.
by the greatness … faileth—rather, “by reason of abundance of (their inner essential) force and firmness of strength, not one of them is driven astray”; referring to the sufficiency of the physical forces with which He has endowed the heavenly bodies, to prevent all disorder in their motions [Horsley]. In English Version the sense is, “He has endowed them with their peculiar attributes (‘names’) by the greatness of His might,” and the power of His strength (the better rendering, instead of, “for that He is strong”).
Ver. 26.—Lift up your eyes, etc. Once more an appeal is made to creation, as proving God’s greatness. “Lift up your eyes on high, and see who hath created these (heavens), bringing out their host (i.e. the stars) by number, or in their full number (Cheyne), and calling them all by names” (comp. Ps. 147:4, 5, “He telleth the number of the stars, and calleth them all by their names,” which, however, is probably later than Isaiah). Omnipotence alone could have created the starry host. Omniscience is required to know their number and their names. The Israelites are supposed to have “learned that the constellations had names, in Babylon” (Cheyne, ad loc.); but a special name for each star, which the Babylonians did not give, seems to be here intended. Not one faileth; i.e. “not one star neglects to attend the muster when God marshals the host.” The stars are viewed as his army.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 475). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.