The Lord Commissions His Special Servant1
1 “Here is my servant whom I support,
my chosen one in whom I take pleasure.
I have placed my spirit on him;
he will make just decrees2 for the nations.3
2 He will not cry out or shout;
he will not publicize himself in the streets.4
3 A crushed reed he will not break,
a dim wick he will not extinguish;5
he will faithfully make just decrees.6
4 He will not grow dim or be crushed7
before establishing justice on the earth;
the coastlands8 will wait in anticipation for his decrees.”9
5 This is what the true God,10 the Lord, says –
the one who created the sky and stretched it out,
the one who fashioned the earth and everything that lives on it,11
the one who gives breath to the people on it,
and life to those who live on it:12
6I, the Lord, officially commission you;13
I take hold of your hand.
I protect you14 and make you a covenant mediator for people,15
and a light16 to the nations,17
7 to open blind eyes,18
to release prisoners19 from dungeons,
those who live in darkness from prisons.
The Lord Intervenes
8 I am the Lord! That is my name!
I will not share my glory with anyone else,
or the praise due me with idols.
9 Look, my earlier predictive oracles have come to pass;20
now I announce new events.
Before they begin to occur,
I reveal them to you.”21
10 Sing to the Lord a brand new song!
Praise him22 from the horizon of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and everything that lives in it,23
you coastlands24 and those who live there!
11 Let the desert and its cities shout out,
the towns where the nomads of Kedar live!
Let the residents of Sela shout joyfully;
let them shout loudly from the mountaintops.
12 Let them give the Lord the honor he deserves;25
let them praise his deeds in the coastlands.26
13 The Lord emerges like a hero,
like a warrior he inspires himself for battle;27
he shouts, yes, he yells,
he shows his enemies his power.28
14I have been inactive29 for a long time;
I kept quiet and held back.
Like a woman in labor I groan;
I pant and gasp.30
15 I will make the trees on the mountains and hills wither up;31
I will dry up all their vegetation.
I will turn streams into islands,32
and dry up pools of water.33
16 I will lead the blind along an unfamiliar way;34
I will guide them down paths they have never traveled.35
I will turn the darkness in front of them into light,
and level out the rough ground.36
This is what I will do for them.
I will not abandon them.
17 Those who trust in idols
will turn back and be utterly humiliated,37
those who say to metal images, ‘You are our gods.’
The Lord Reasons with His People
18Listen, you deaf ones!
Take notice,38 you blind ones!
19 My servant is truly blind,
my messenger is truly deaf.
My covenant partner,39 the servant of the Lord, is truly blind.40
20 You see41 many things, but don’t comprehend;42
their ears are open, but do not hear.”
21 The Lord wanted to exhibit his justice
by magnifying his law and displaying it.43
22 But these people are looted and plundered;
all of them are trapped in pits44
and held captive45 in prisons.
They were carried away as loot with no one to rescue them;
they were carried away as plunder, and no one says, “Bring that back!46
23 Who among you will pay attention to this?
Who will listen attentively in the future?47
24 Who handed Jacob over to the robber?
Who handed Israel over to the looters?48
Was it not the Lord, against whom we sinned?
They refused to follow his commands;
they disobeyed his law.49
25 So he poured out his fierce anger on them,
along with the devastation50 of war.
Its flames encircled them, but they did not realize it;51
it burned against them, but they did notice.52
1??sn Verses 1-7 contain the first of Isaiah’s “servant songs,” which describe the ministry of a special, ideal servant who accomplishes God’s purposes for Israel and the nations. This song depicts the servant as a just king who brings justice to the earth and relief for the oppressed. The other songs appear in 49:1-13; 50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12. 242:1tn Heb “he will bring out justice” (cf. ASV, NASB, NRSV). 342:1sn Like the ideal king portrayed in Isa 11:1-9, the servant is energized by the divine spirit and establishes justice on the earth. 442:2tn Heb “he will not cause his voice to be heard in the street.” 542:3sn The “crushed reed” and “dim wick” symbolize the weak and oppressed who are on the verge of extinction. 642:3tn Heb “faithfully he will bring out justice” (cf. NASB, NRSV). 742:4tn For rhetorical effect the terms used to describe the “crushed (רָצַץ, ratsats) reed” and “dim (כָּהָה, kahah) wick” in v. 3 are repeated here. 842:4tn Or “islands” (NIV); NLT “distant lands beyond the sea.” 942:4tn Or “his law” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NIV) or “his instruction” (NLT). 1042:5tn Heb “the God.” The definite article here indicates distinctiveness or uniqueness. 1142:5tn Heb “and its offspring” (so NASB); NIV “all that comes out of it.” 1242:5tn Heb “and spirit [i.e., “breath”] to the ones walking in it” (NAB, NASB, and NRSV all similar). 1342:6tn Heb “call you in righteousness.” The pronoun “you” is masculine singular, referring to the servant. See the note at 41:2. 1442:6tn The translation assumes the verb is derived from the root נָצַר (natsar, “protect”). Some prefer to derive it from the root יָצַר (yatsar, “form”). 1542:6tn Heb “a covenant of people.” A person cannot literally be a covenant; בְּרִית (bÿrit) is probably metonymic here, indicating a covenant mediator. The precise identity of עָם (’am, “people”) is uncertain. In v. 5 עָם refers to mankind, and the following reference to “nations” also favors this. But in 49:8, where the phrase בְּרִית עָם occurs again, Israel seems to be in view. 1642:6sn Light here symbolizes deliverance from bondage and oppression; note the parallelism in 49:6b and in 51:4-6. 1742:6tn Or “the Gentiles” (so KJV, ASV, NIV); the same Hebrew word can be translated “nations” or “Gentiles” depending on the context. 1842:7sn This does not refer to literal physical healing of the blind. As the next two lines suggest, this refers metonymically to freeing captives from their dark prisons where their eyes have grown unaccustomed to light. 1942:7sn This does not refer to hardened, dangerous criminals, who would have been executed for their crimes in ancient Near Eastern society. This verse refers to political prisoners or victims of social injustice. 2042:9tn Heb “the former things, look, they have come.” 2142:9tn Heb “before they sprout up, I cause you to hear.” The pronoun “you” is plural, referring to the people of Israel. In this verse “the former things” are the Lord’s earlier predictive oracles which have come to pass, while “the new things” are predicted events that have not yet begun to take place. “The former things” are earlier events in Israel’s history which God announced beforehand, such as the Exodus (see 43:16-18). “The new things” are the predictions about the servant (42:1-7). and may also include Cyrus’ conquests (41:25-27). 2242:10tn Heb “his praise.” The phrase stands parallel to “new song” in the previous line. 2342:10tn Heb “and its fullness”; NASB, NIV “and all that is in it.” 2442:10tn Or “islands” (NASB, NIV); NLT “distant coastlands.” 2542:12tn Heb “Let them ascribe to the Lord glory.” 2642:12tn Heb “and his praise in the coastlands [or “islands”] let them declare.” 2742:13tn Heb “like a man of war he stirs up zeal” (NIV similar). 2842:13tn Or perhaps, “he triumphs over his enemies” (cf. NIV); NLT “will crush all his enemies.” 2942:14tn Heb “silent” (so NASB, NIV, TEV, NLT); CEV “have held my temper.” 3042:14sn The imagery depicts the Lord as a warrior who is eager to fight and can no longer hold himself back from the attack. 3142:15tn Heb “I will dry up the mountains and hills.” The “mountains and hills” stand by synecdoche for the trees that grow on them. Some prefer to derive the verb from a homonymic root and translate, “I will lay waste.” 3242:15tc The Hebrew text reads, “I will turn streams into coastlands [or “islands”].” Scholars who believe that this reading makes little sense have proposed an emendation of אִיִּים (’iyyim, “islands”) to צִיּוֹת (tsiyyot, “dry places”; cf. NCV, NLT, TEV). However, since all the versions support the MT reading, there is insufficient grounds for an emendation here. Although the imagery of changing rivers into islands is somewhat strange, J. N. Oswalt describes this imagery against the backdrop of rivers of the Near East. The receding of these rivers at times occasioned the appearance of previously submerged islands (Isaiah [NICOT], 2:126). 3342:15sn The imagery of this verse, which depicts the Lord bringing a curse of infertility to the earth, metaphorically describes how the Lord will destroy his enemies. 3442:16tn Heb “a way they do not know” (so NASB); NRSV “a road they do not know.” 3542:16tn Heb “in paths they do not know I will make them walk.” 3642:16tn Heb “and the rough ground into a level place.” 3742:17tn Heb “be ashamed with shame”; ASV, NASB “be utterly put to shame.” 3842:18tn Heb “look to see”; NAB, NCV “look and see”; NRSV “look up and see.” 3942:19tc The precise meaning of מְשֻׁלָּם (mÿshullam) in this context is uncertain. In later biblical Hebrew the form (which appears to be a Pual participle from the root שָׁלַם, shalam) occurs as a proper name, Meshullam. The Pual of שָׁלַם (“be complete”) is attested with the meaning “repaid, requited,” but that makes little sense here. BDB 1023 s.v. שָׁלַם relates the form to the denominative verb שָׁלַם (“be at peace”) and paraphrases “one in a covenant of peace” (J. N. Oswalt suggests “the covenanted one”; Isaiah [NICOT], 2:128, n. 59) Some emend the form to מֹשְׁלָם (moshÿlam, “their ruler”) or to מְשֻׁלָּחִי (mÿshullakhi, “my sent [or “commissioned”] one”), which fits nicely in the parallelism (note “my messenger” in the previous line). The translation above assumes an emendation to כְּמוֹ שֹׁלְמִי (kÿmo sholÿmi, “like my ally”). Isaiah uses כְּמוֹ in 30:22 and perhaps 51:5; for שֹׁלְמי (“my ally”) see Ps 7:5 HT (7:4 ET). 4042:19tn Heb “Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like my messenger I send? Who is blind like my commissioned one, blind like the servant of the Lord?” The point of the rhetorical questions is that no one is as blind/deaf as this servant. In this context the Lord’s “servant” is exiled Israel (cf. 41:8-9), which is spiritually blind and deaf and has failed to fulfill God’s purpose for it. This servant stands in contrast to the ideal “Israel” of the servant songs. 4142:20tn The consonantal text (Kethib) has a perfect, 2nd person masculine singular; the marginal reading (Qere) has an infinitive absolute, which functions here as a finite verb. 4242:20tn Heb “but you do not guard [i.e., retain in your memory]”; NIV “but have paid no attention.” 4342:21tn Heb “The Lord was pleased for the sake of his righteousness [or “justice”], he was magnifying [the] law and was making [it] glorious.” The Lord contrasts his good intentions for the people with their present crisis (v. 22). To demonstrate his just character and attract the nations, the Lord wanted to showcase his law among and through Israel (Deut 4:5-8). But Israel disobeyed (v. 24) and failed to carry out their commission. 4442:22tc The Hebrew text has בַּחוּרִים (bakhurim, “young men”), but the text should be emended to בְּהוֹרִים (bÿhorim, “in holes”). 4542:22tn Heb “and made to be hidden”; NAB, NASB, NIV, TEV “hidden away in prisons.” 4642:22tn Heb “they became loot and there was no one rescuing, plunder and there was no one saying, ‘Bring back’.” 4742:23tn The interrogative particle is understood in the second line by ellipsis (note the preceding line). 4842:24tn Heb “Who gave to the robber Jacob, and Israel to the looters?” In the first line the consonantal text (Kethib) has מְשׁוֹסֶה (mÿshoseh), a Polel participle from שָׁסָה (shasah, “plunder”). The marginal reading (Qere) is מְשִׁיסָּה (mÿshissah), a noun meaning “plunder.” In this case one could translate “Who handed Jacob over as plunder?” 4942:24tn Heb “they were not willing in his ways to walk, and they did not listen to his law.” 5042:25tn Heb “strength” (so KJV, NASB); NAB “fury”; NASB “fierceness”; NIV “violence.” 5142:25tn Heb “and it blazed against him all around, but he did not know.” The subject of the third feminine singular verb “blazed” is the divine חֵמָה (khemah, “anger”) mentioned in the previous line. 5242:25tn Heb “and it burned against him, but he did not set [it] upon [the] heart.”