Isaiah 45:5 an Exposition Utilizing Rational Thought by Jack Kettler
In this study we will start with the text in Isaiah 45:5, then look at cross reference passages, a Hebrew transliteration and commentary evidence. Then we will take detailed look at language and rational thought.
“I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me.” (Isaiah 45:5)
“You have been shown this in order to know that 'the LORD is God' and there is no one like him.” (Deuteronomy 4:35)
“See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)
“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Isaiah 43:10)
“Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.” (Isaiah 44:8)
“So about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world, and that there is no God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:4)
Additional Scriptures stating that there is only one God:
Deuteronomy 6:4; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 83:18; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 45:18; Mark 12:29, 32; Romans 3:30; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; James 2:19.
Hebrew OT - Transliteration - Isaiah 45:5
"I am the LORD,
the proper name of the God of Israel
a prim. root
a prim. root
a going around, continuance, still, yet, again, beside
from an unused word
Me there is no
a prim. root
pl. of eloah
I will gird
to gird, encompass, equip
a prim. root
you, though you have not known
a prim. root
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on Isaiah 45:5:
“I am the Lord, and there is none else. Whom thou, O Cyrus, for the words are directed to him, ought to own, serve, and worship:
there is no God besides me; in heaven or earth, in any of the countries conquered by thee, and thou rulest over; for though there were gods and lords many, so called, these were only nominal fictitious deities; not gods by nature, as he was; of which the following, as well as what is before said, is a proof:
I girded thee, though thou hast not known me; the Lord girded him with a royal girdle, a symbol of kingly power; he made him king over many nations; he girded him with strength, courage, and valour for war; and made him so expeditious, successful, and victorious, as he was, though a Heathen prince, and ignorant of him, in order to answer some valuable ends of his own glory, and the good of his people, and particularly for what follows.” (1)
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
(5) There is no God beside me. —Commonly, the formula is used in antithesis to polytheism. Possibly we may think of it here as in contrast with the dualism of Persia, or, if that be assigned to a later date, of Babylonia. (2)
5. I am Jehovah. He confirms the preceding statement, and the repetition is not superfluous; for it was proper that it should be often repeated to Cyrus, that there is one God, by whose hands all rulers and nations are governed, that he might be drawn aside from all delusions and be converted to the God of Israel. Besides, it is clearly stated that we ought not to try to find divinity in any other; as if he had said, "Beware of ascribing this victory to idols, or forming any confused idea of a god such as men imagine; know that the God of Israel is the only author of this victory." Although Cyrus did not profit by this admonition to such an extent as to leave his idols and devote himself to the true God, yet it made so deep an impression on his heart that he acknowledged Jehovah to be God and to possess the highest authority. At the same time, it was proper that they who were members of the Church should embrace this doctrine, that they might boldly despise all pretended gods. (3)
Language and Rational Thought:
How do we approach language? Is it possible to have true knowledge?
At the outset I will acknowledge there is a creator/creature distinction. This means the creator’s knowledge is different insofar as it is exhaustive, original, and self-determining, whereas the creature’s knowledge is finite and dependent upon the creator for correct interpretation. However, this does not mean that when God speaks in Scripture that the words have a different meaning for God and man. If so, man would have no certainty of having true knowledge and we could not escape the wholly other god of Neo Orthodox Barthianism.
When looking at the Isaiah 45:5 passage, do we understand the words in a strait forward or normal way? Is God using cryptic codes, or is He equivocating? For example, a polytheist may approach the Isaiah passage and say that it is only applying to this world and does not deal with other deities scattered around the Universe. When a polytheist makes this kind of argument, is it rational? If language is used this way, is it fundamentally destructive of language itself?
Is there anything in the text that qualifies the assertion that that “besides Me, there is no God” in order to allow for the exitance of other gods elsewhere in the Universe? If so, what would that be? Does our theology make us equivocate? Do we come to the Scriptures with pre-conceived notions and try to prove them? If you equivocate on the Isaiah passages declaring only one God, how can you stop there and not let a faulty approach to language destroy all certainty of meaning elsewhere? “Besides Me there is no God” does not really mean there are no other gods. If this is true, how can we accept any other passage of Scripture at face value?
Moreover, if the God of Isaiah 45:5 is only one god among many, is He lying when he says; “beside Me there in no God?” If the God of Isaiah is omniscient (all knowing) and knows there are other gods and says He is the only God, how is this not lying? This is what is called the camel’s nose under the tent, or the slippery slope. This slippery slope ultimately destroys language and leads to skepticism. Taking the word of a religious leader or leaders that we can trust them overcome the unreliability of biblical language is no solution. If the Word of God is not reliable, neither would the word of man. For example, many religious leaders and politicians have said one thing publicly and mean something else. Do you really trust the word of man?
If your approach to Scripture is one of equivocation, what will you do with the next two passages?
“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19)
“That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” (Hebrews 6:18)
Can God lie or not? To argue that the passage in Isaiah 45:5 has been mistranslated, then utilizing the Hebrew transliteration above, show how it is correctly translated. If then argument becomes the Hebrew text cannot be trusted, then the burden of proof rests upon the accuser to show why this is so. The extant manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments from multiple sources has confirmed the reliability of Scripture. For more study see: The Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Integrity by Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div. *
It is important to explore the use of rational language and the Bible:
In this section, we are going to survey some quotations from the Christian philosopher Gordon H. Clark on language. We will start with epistemology, the study of how we know things.
Clark on Epistemology:
“A theologian’s epistemology controls his interpretation of the Bible. If his epistemology is not Christian, his exegesis will be systematically distorted. If he has no epistemology at all, his exegesis will be unsystematically distorted.” (4)
Clark astutely notes that if your epistemology is false, you never be able to arrive at truth. There are generally understood to be three primary types or theories of gaining knowledge: 1. Empiricism; a view that experience, especially the senses, is the only source of knowledge. 2. Rationalism; a view that appeals to man's independent reason as a source of knowledge. And, 3. Scripturalism; all knowledge must be contained within a system and deduced from its starting principles, in the Christian case, the Bible. If your presuppositions or premises are none Christian, you will never arrive at a biblical conclusion or truth.
Gordon Clark goes on to illustrate the necessity of biblical revelation and logical arguments:
“When Paul in human Greek says that God justifies believers, did he speak the literal truth or some other, unknowable kind of truth that is not truth at all? A phrase similar to “human language” occurs frequently in other authors. They contrast “human logic” with “divine logic.” But do they dare make explicit what this phrase means? Human logic says, If all men are mortal, and if Socrates is a man, then Socrates is mortal. But if divine logic is different, then all men can be mortal and Socrates can be a man, yet Socrates will not be mortal. Or, again, if human mathematics says that two plus two is four, and if divine truth differs from ours, then for God two and two are five or ten or anything but four. The point here is that human logic and divine logic are identical. Human logic is a part of the divine image in man. It is God’s trademark stamped upon us. Only by rejecting the Biblical doctrine of God’s image can one contrast human language with divine language and divine logic with human. Finally, if human language cannot be literally true, any assertion “language is not literal” cannot be literally true. The position is self-refuting, and one can have little hope of explaining how “language formed on mythical patterns” can convey God’s truth.” (5)
To summarize the quote by Clark, we can say: As Christians we have a coherent theory of knowledge. God has spoken. This is certain: God speaks to us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us the difference between right and wrong. The meaning of Scripture is the same for God and man.
Clark goes on to further elucidate this point:
“Suppose the word mountain meant metaphor, and dog, and Bible, and the United States. Clearly, if a word meant everything, it would mean nothing. If, now, the law of contradiction is an arbitrary convention, and if our linguistic theorists choose some other convention, I challenge them to write a book in conformity with their principles. As a matter of fact it will not be hard for them to do so. Nothing more is necessary than to write the word metaphor sixty thousand times: Metaphor metaphor metaphor metaphor…. This means the dog ran up the mountain, for the word metaphor means dog, ran, and mountain. Unfortunately, the sentence "metaphor metaphor metaphor" also means, Next Christmas is Thanksgiving, for the word metaphor has these meanings as well.” (6)
In regards to what we have learned so far from Clark that helps us in regards to the passage in Isaiah, where Gods says; “besides Me, there is no God.” We can say without equivocation, there is only one God, period, not other gods ruling over other planets. One of God’s incommunicable attributes is omniscience. “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.” (Psalms 147:5) Infinite meaning limitless or endless in space, extent, or size; impossible to measure or calculate. God knows everything!
If you reject that God speaks to us in the Scriptures with human language utilizing logically structured sentences in which He tells us about Himself you are in an epistemological swamp of futility.
Clark goes on to make the case even tighter in the following two quotes:
“Does Logic deal with things, or is it a science of words? And the answer one gives to these questions has such far reaching implications that it controls every detail of the resulting system of philosophy.” (7)
“If God did not arrange [the world] this way, then there must be an independent factor in the universe. And if there is such, one consequence and perhaps two follow. First, the doctrine of creation must be abandoned. A Creation ex nihilo would be completely in God's control. Independent forces cannot be created forces, and created forces cannot be independent.
Then, second, if the universe is not God's creation, his knowledge of it--past and future--cannot depend on what he intends to do, but on his observation of how it works. In such a case, how could we be sure that God's observations are accurate? How could we be sure that these independent forces will not later show an unsuspected twist that will falsify God's predictions?
And, finally, on this view God's knowledge would be empirical, rather than an integral part of his essence, and thus he would be a dependent knower. These objections are insurmountable. We can consistently believe in creation, omnipotence, omniscience, and the divine decree. But we cannot retain sanity and combine any one of these with free will.” (8)
Hopefully the reader can grasp the significance of what Clark has said. Going on:
Logic and Language; from God and Logic by Gordon H. Clark:
“This point brings us to the central issue of language. Language did not develop from, nor was its purpose restricted to, the physical needs of earthly life. God gave Adam a mind to understand the divine law, and he gave him language to enable him to speak to God. From the beginning, language was intended for worship. In the Te Deum, by means of language, and in spite of the fact that it is sung to music, we pay “metaphysical compliments” to God. The debate about the adequacy of language to express the truth of God is a false issue. Words are mere symbols or signs. Any sign would be adequate. The real issue is: Does a man have the idea to symbolize? If he can think of God, then he can use the sound God, Deus, Theos, or Elohim. The word makes no difference, and the sign is ipso facto literal and adequate.
The Christian view is that God created Adam as a rational mind. The structure of Adam’s mind was the same as God’s. God thinks that asserting the consequent is a fallacy; and Adam’s mind was formed on the principles of identity and contradiction. This Christian view of God, man, and language does not fit into any empirical philosophy. It is rather a type of a priori rationalism. Man’s mind is not initially a blank. It is structured. In fact, an unstructured blank is no mind at all. Nor could any such sheet of white paper extract any universal law of logic from finite experience. No universal and necessary proposition can be deduced from sensory observation. Universality and necessity can only be a priori.
This is not to say that all truth can be deduced from logic alone. The seventeenth-century rationalists gave themselves an impossible task. Even if the ontological argument be valid, it is impossible to deduce Cur Deus Homo, the Trinity, or the final resurrection. The axioms to which the a priori forms of logic must be applied are the propositions God revealed to Adam and the later prophets.” (9) **
Gordon H. Clark’s essay 1 and 2 Timothy.
“The inerrancy of Scripture, as Quenstedt so carefully detailed it, is of fundamental importance. Nowhere else can we learn of salvation. Nowhere else could we learn of justification by faith alone. Nowhere else is there any information about Jesus Christ. Whatever later Christian authors have written about the virgin birth, the atonement, the resurrection, has its source in Scripture. If the Scripture is in error here and there, it is possible that it is in error here. Then too, from the standpoint of logic, there is a question the new so-called evangelicals are reluctant to answer. It is this: If the Bible contains falsehoods here and there, the theologian must have a criterion to distinguish the parts that are true from the parts that are false: What is the criterion? In a court of law, if the judge and jury detect a witness perjuring himself two or three times, or even once, they cannot accept any of the remainder of his testimony. If some things he says happen to be true, they must be proved by other witnesses. Therefore, attacks on the evangelical position are obliged to state the criterion they use in separating the truths of the Bible from its falsehoods. What is this criterion by which, from its superior position, it convicts the Scripture of error? Are the Assyrian inscriptions infallible in matters of history? Is Swedenborg an inerrant authority on Heaven and Hell? Bultmann at least had the consistency to say, “We do not know a single thing Jesus ever said or did.” (10) ***
I encourage the reader to go over the section of Language and Rational Thought several times and let it think in. Also, the reader is encouraged to visit the links below to do additional research. Either God has spoken reliably in Scripture or He has not. If not, then we are doomed to skepticism. Listening to a Pope or prophet is no solution, since the same objections that Clark raised above applies to them.
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen” (Romans 16:27). “heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28, 29).
1. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, Isaiah, 9 Volumes, John, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p.710.
2. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Isaiah, Vol. IV., (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 535.
3. John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Isaiah, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 401.
4. Gordon H. Clark, The Incarnation, (Jefferson, Maryland, The Trinity Foundation), p. 46-47.
5. Gordon Clark, God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, (Jefferson, Maryland, The Trinity Foundation), p. 161-162.
6. Gordon H. Clark, God's Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, (Jefferson, Maryland, The Trinity Foundation), p. 49-50.
7. Gordon H. Clark, Thales To Dewey, (Jefferson, Maryland, The Trinity Foundation), p. 260.
8. Gordon Clark, From: God and Evil (Unicoi, TN: Trinity Foundation, 2004), 25 26. Cited in Reymond, What Is God? 132 133.
9. Gordon H. Clark, God and Logic, Trinity Foundation.
10. Gordon H. Clark, Essay 1 and 2 Timothy, Trinity Foundation, March/ April 1983.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
* The Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Integrity by Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div. http://ap.lanexdev.com/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=357
** Gordon H. Clark, God and Logic, Trinity foundation http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=16
*** Gordon H. Clark, Essay 1 and 2 Timothy, Trinity Foundation, March/ April 1983 http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=52