Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 49

Verses 1-11

The Servant of Jehovah

Isaiah 49:1-13. The Servant of Jehovah tells of His call and mission. Jehovah confirms the confidence of His servant.

14-26. Objections arising from little faith answered: (a) it cannot be that Zion is forgotten by Jehovah, as she thought (Isaiah 49:14-23); (b) the grasp of the captors is not too strong for Jehovah to release His people (Isaiah 49:24-26).

Isaiah 50:1-11. The people's banishment is not by Jehovah's will, and He is able to deliver them. The Servant of Jehovah declares the conditions of his work. The prophet's comment on the Servant's words.

Verses 1-21

This section is not so argumentative in tone as the last. Its distinguishing feature is the development of the prophet's teaching concerning the Servant of Jehovah. The conception seems to arise, as has been noted, with the nation considered collectively as a Servant of God (Isaiah 41:8-9; Isaiah 44:1-2, Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 45:4). So long as the attitude and work of God in relation to the nation are solely in view, there is no limitation of the idea; but when the nation's work and attitude to Him and the fulfilment of His purposes come to be considered, the Servant of God seems to take on a narrower sense. The actual Israel, with its many shortcomings—its blindness to the truth, its deafness to God's message—gives way to those more select souls—a part only of the people—through whom the duties and destiny of the nation will be fulfilled. At the same time, it is clear that the idea passes on to an individual distinct from the nation (Isaiah 49:5-6), in whom are concentrated all the attributes of the ideal nation, and who shall realise all that Israel was intended to be. His character and office are thus delineated: (a) He is prepared by Jehovah from the womb for His lifework (Isaiah 49:1-2); (b) He is endowed with the Divine Spirit (Isaiah 42:1); (c) He is not ostentatious or unduly severe (Isaiah 42:2-3); (d) He is to be the embodiment of a New Covenant between Jehovah and His people (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:8); (e) and to teach all nations true religion (Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6); (f) but most remarkable of all, and especially characteristic of this division of the book, are the passages which intimate that this great work is only to be accomplished through humiliation, suffering, and death, issuing in a new and glorious life. The first hint that the Servant's work is to be carried on in face of difficulty and discouragement is found in Isaiah 42:4. His exposure to insult and contumely in the exercise of His mission is expressly indicated in Isaiah 50:6 then follows (Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53) a section entirely devoted to the subject, in which the prominent features are the Servant's gentleness and patience under affliction, the vicarious nature of His sufferings, which are not endured on His own account, but for the sins of His people, and the intimation that after pain and death there awaits Him new life full of joy in the contemplation of the success of His work. The correspondence, even in detail, with the Passion of Jesus Christ cannot fail to arrest attention. The way in which the Servant is despised and misunderstood by His contemporaries (Isaiah 53:3), His patience and silence before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7), and His association with malefactors in His death (Isaiah 53:9): these read like a description of what happened in the case of our Lord. How far the prophet understood the meaning of his own words it is difficult to say. No doubt he was thinking at the outset of the faithful core of Israel as being Jehovah's Servant with a great mission to accomplish, and the experience of the exile showed him that this great work for the whole world was only to be wrought through contumely and suffering; yet Jehovah sometimes spake 'with a strong hand' (Ezekiel 3:14), and we can scarcely doubt that the Divine Spirit in these wonderful passages through the prophet foreshadowed the things that should be suffered and accomplished by the perfect Servant of God, the embodiment of Israel's splendid ideal, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 1-26

1. The speaker is the Servant of Jehovah.

From the womb] The thought is that of pre-destined creation, as in Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:15; Galatians 1:15

2. He is trained and protected by Jehovah.

3. Though here identified with Israel as fulfilling its ideal, the Servant is yet a Person distinct from the nation, or perhaps a personification of the pious core of the nation, who is to be the means of its restoration (Isaiah 49:6).

4. Though for a moment discouraged, the thought that God will vindicate the right and reward him reassures him. Work] RV 'recompense.'

5. Though.. glorious] RV 'and that Israel be gathered unto Him; for I am honourable.'

6. Cp. Isaiah 42:6. The Servant's mission is not limited to Israel. He is to proclaim a world-wide salvation.

7. A promise to the nation now despised and in bondage that the highest honour is yet in store for it. And he shall choose] RV 'who hath chosen.'

8. To establish, etc.] RV 'to raise up the land, to make them inherit,' fulfilled in the first place in the work of Zerubbabel. Give thee for a covenant, etc.] see Isaiah 42:6.

9. Cp. Isaiah 42:7. High places] RV 'bare heights.' The prisoners] i.e. in Babylon.

10, 11. The journey homeward shall be made easy for them. The language of Isaiah 49:10 is borrowed in Revelation 7:16, Revelation 7:17.

10. Heat] properly, 'mirage' (Isaiah 35:7)

12. From all quarters the returning exiles will come. Sinim stands for distant lands generally; in the opinion of most scholars it strictly signifies China.

16. Graven] refers to the custom of tattooing, by which devotees often indicated their consecration to a deity. According to the prophet's bold figure, Jehovah is devoted to Jerusalem, and cannot use His hands without being reminded of her.

17. Children] LXX and Vulgate read, 'builders.'

19. The land of thy destruction] RV 'thy land that hath been destroyed.'

20. The children.. other] RV 'the children of thy bereavement,' i.e. the children born in the days (of the exile) when Zion thought herself bereft of all her children.

22. Arms] RV 'bosom.' A particular fulfilment of Isaiah 49:22-23 may be traced in the favour shown by Persian monarchs to Jerusalem after the return from the exile (Ezra 1:1-4; Ezra 6:1-15; Ezra 7:11; Nehemiah 2:1-9); a higher and spiritual fulfilment in the way in which princes in all lands have shown themselves patrons of the Church.

24. An incredulous question on the part of despondent Israelites. Lawful (lit. 'righteous') captive] i.e. captive taken from the righteous, or, adopting a slight emendation, 'captive of the terrible one' (Vulg., Syr., RM).

26. Feed, etc.] a figure expressing the destruction of Zion's enemies by mutual hostility (Isaiah 9:20).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 49". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.