"Hear this, House of Jacob, who are called by the name Israel and issue from the wells of Yehudah: You swear in the Name of G-d and invoke the Lord of Israel, but not with truth and sincerity." - Isaiah 48:1
The people of Yehudah are not reproached for those very sins which brought down Babylon - arrogance and idolatry. The people who descended from the righteous ones, Jacob and Yehudah, and themselves are called Israel, are now no more than priggish when they swear in G-d's Name, even when they are swearing falsely. They were not worthy of G-d's deliverance, not from Sancheiriv nor from Babylon.
"For they referred to as, "From the Holy City" and relied on the G-d of Israel, the Lord of Hosts is His Name." - Isaiah 48:2
Furthermore, they thought that Jerusalem would never be captured, that the City's holiness would stand by for them, that the merit of Israel-Jacob would always be there to save them. But specifically because they lived in Jerusalem and were descendants of Jacob-Israel, G-d demanded more of them. Nevertheless, G-d saved them from Sancheiriv to prevent His Name from being desecrated by those who would say, "He cannot save those who rely upon Him."
"Long ago I foretold past events. They issued from My mouth and I announced them. Suddenly I acted and they came about." - Isaiah 48:3
G-d had foretold of Sancheiriv's fall long before it happened. You should then have had faith in G-d's Omnipotence and have faithfully followed His Teachings.
"You heard and saw it all - you yourselves can attest to it. Now I will tell you new things, hidden secrets you did not know." - Isaiah 48:6
You witnessed yourselves the fall of Sancheiriv - you can attest to it for all generations. So why don't you believe, now, the new foretellings that Babylon will destroy Jerusalem?
"For the sake of My Name I shall forbear and for the sake of My glory I shall be patient with you, so as not to destroy you." - Isaiah 48:9
Even if the Jewish people do not deserve G-d's grace, for His own sake He will not destroy them. Even though G-d's way is to await sinners' repentance, "born rebels" will gain His patience only for the sake of His glory.
"Lo, I smelted you, but not as silver; I have refined you in the furnace of penury." - Isaiah 48:10
Although G-d put the Jewish people through a refining process, all their impurities were not removed. Had he refined them as one refines silver, no remains of them would have been left! G-d chose to refine them in the "furnace of penury," so that they turn to Him to fill their needs.
"For My own sake, for My own sake I shall do it, so that (My Name) not be profaned - I shall not give My glory to another." - Isaiah 48:10
G-d will redeem the Jewish people only for His own sake, so that the nations will not say that He could not do it. Just as He redeemed them from Egypt for His own sake - there, too, they were lacking in merit - will He redeem them for His own sake in the Future. He will not exchange them for a different nation, for He will not give His glory to another people.
"So listen to Me, Jacob and Israel, My called ones; I am He, I am the First and I am the Last." - Isaiah 48:12
Though you may lack merit to earn Redemption, if you listen to G-d, you will merit to be called after your righteous ancestor, Jacob. You have, then, no reason to ever forsake Him, for He is the "First One," Who created all things, and He is the "Last One," Who will renew the world in the Future.
"My hand founded the earth and My right hand measured the heavens. I called out to them and they all came into existence." - Isaiah 48:13
Since G-d created the heavens and the earth simply by calling them into existence, He can do with them as He wishes. So as they all stand ready to carry out His wishes, so should the Jewish people.
"All of you, assemble and listen: Who among them foretold this? He whom G-d loves will mete out His will upon Babylon and His might upon the Chaldeans. I, I, have spoken and have called him; I have brought him and he shall succeed in his task." - Isaiah 48:14-15
Neither the conquered Babylonians nor the conquering Persians-Medes would have believed that it could happen - "Who among them could have foretold it?" It was only because Koresh (Cyrus) attributed his successes to G-d and, thus, was loved by Him, that he was granted success against Babylon. And it was only because Koresh heard G-d's calling, that he was encouraged to attack Babylon.
"Come near to Me and hear this: From the beginning, I did not speak in secret; I was there from its outset. And now, the Lord G-d has sent me with His spirit." - Isaiah 48:16
Isaiah now proclaims how his prophecies were well known - he made a point to prophesy in public. Indeed, even faraway Sancheiriv, Nevuchadnetzar and Koresh were informed of them. He had no fear that his prophecies would prove false, for he knew Whose word he was speaking. Whether when prophesying about Sancheiriv's siege of Jerusalem or Nevuchadnetzar's destruction of it, G-d's message was the same from the outset: Jewish sins were the cause of it. And now, in his prophecy about Babylon's fall, it is also G-d's spirit which has sent him.
"Thus says G-d, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am the Lord your G-d, Who disciplines you to do benefit, Who guides you in the path you should go." - Isaiah 48:17
And this is G-d's message that Isaiah conveys now: Even though G-d will redeem you from Babylon, it will not be because of your own merit. You had the choice to lead spiritual lives, as G-d advised in the Torah. Had you done so, the whole world would have benefited, but, instead, you chose not to do so. Yet, G-d will redeem you because He is the Holy One of Israel and will yet teach you to follow His ways.
"If only you would heed My precepts, your peace would be like a river and your favor like the ocean waves. Your offspring would be like the sand and your issue like its grain - their name would never be cut off or destroyed before Me." - Isaiah 48:18-19
Do not worry that when returning from Babylon, you will be only small in numbers, for if you hearken to G-d's word, you will earn His favor and Hew will bless you with peace and countless descendants. You would then need not fear another exile, for you would then never again be cut off from Him.
And when you go forth from Babylon, it will not be in stealth, but with the loud voice of joyous singing. But make sure to proclaim that it is not really Koresh (Cyrus), but G-d Who is your Redeemer.
"There is no peace for the wicked, says G-d." - Isaiah 48:22
At the same time, the Jewish people are urged to flee Babylon to avoid getting caught up in their sins - for them there shall be no peace. And those of the Jewish people who will learn from their ways will also have no peace.
Commentary by Meam Loez