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"Another reading is, In all their adversity, He was no Adversary."
The Companion Bible has the following note:
"Hebrew text reads: `In all their adversity (He was) no adversary'. But some codices,
with two early printed editions, read as text of A.V."
Bird's translation and note are:
"In all their affliction, His was the conflict."
"Note.--The received version, based on the keri (that which is "read", as an
alternative to that which was "written" kethib), seems here in substance the best, and
yields a most emphatic sense."
This passage looks at the problem of affliction, not so much from the human as from
the divine standpoint. No problem is raised by the words "all their affliction", for man is
born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. No, the wonder of the text is in the remainder of
the passage, namely, that in it all, He, too, was afflicted. Isaiah is referring to Israel's
early history, and his words bring to mind a passage in Exodus. While it is not a verbal
parallel, because a different Hebrew word is used, yet to limit the description of human
sorrow to the dimension of one word would not be true criticism but prejudice.
"And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt,
and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows"
(Exod. 3: 7).
This "knowledge" (Heb. yada) is most intimate in its character (Gen. 4: 1); it is the
result of experience (Exod. 6: 7; 7: 5); and its personal and experimental nature is
most blessedly set forth in the work of the Saviour. He was
"A man of sorrows, and acquainted (Heb. yada) with grief" (Isa. 53: 3).
"By His knowledge (Heb. daath, substantive of yada) shall My righteous Servant
justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities' (Isa. 53: 11).
When Jehovah said "I know their sorrows", He expressed a knowledge deeper than
that of mere observation. It was the knowledge of personal acquaintance. Isaiah makes
the Saviour's "knowledge" synonymous with "bearing iniquity".
To the words of our text, Isaiah adds: "And the Angel of His Presence saved them."
This "Angel of the Presence" speaks precious things of fellowship, of a God near at hand
and not afar off, of One Who, though the Almighty Creator, was yet One Who could
"grieve" over the waywardness and misery of His creatures.
Let us take comfort from the thought, that if our hearts are distressed at the folly and
the wickedness that surround us, we see but a fraction of the sorrow of a groaning
creation that is "known", experimentally known in its entirety, by the Lord of Glory. We
hope to return to this theme again and again, until the wonder and the blessedness of it
irradiates our tears with, as it were, its rainbow hues.