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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 42

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-4



There are four distinct servant-prophecies in the second part of Isaiah that must be understood of the divine-human Messianic Servant - Son of God and Son of David, (Isaiah 42:1-7; Isaiah 49:1-7; Isaiah 50:4-11; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 52:12). The New Testament always applies these passages to Jesus, the Christ, (Matthew 12:17-20). Prophet, Priest, Teacher, Guide and Deliver; the Servant is as closely associated with Israel as the Christ with His church, (Mark 8:34). And the call of Israel was as clearly to a missionary-task as that of the church. Only through identification with Him, in suffering and service, could she really be His people!


1. Attention is immediately focused upon "Christ" - the anointed Servant of Jehovah: "Behold my servant!" (Matthew 12:18-21; Isaiah 49:5-6; Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:11).

a. He is divinely chosen, called, sustained, anointed and equipped for His servant-task, (1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 2:6); His servant-character has been assumed for the fulfillment of His Father’s will on earth, (Philippians 2:7; Psalms 40:7-10).

b. His perfect obedience is such as delights the heart of His Father-God, (Matthew 3:16; Matthew 17:5; John 3:34-35; Philippians 2:8-11).

1) Vine suggests that the Father’s delight was demonstrated through the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Him at the time of His baptism, in fulfillment of this prophecy, (Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32-33).

2) Isaiah makes three great declarations concerning the Holy Spirit in connection with the Christ: one concerning His incarnation (Isaiah 11:2), this one with reference to the divine approval of His baptismal purpose (Isaiah 42:1); the third concerning the anointing for His public ministry (Isaiah 61:1).

c. He will bring forth judgment (justice) to the Gentiles (nations), who will bow before His excellent majesty, honor Him, and serve Him with gladness, (Isaiah 2:3-4; etc.).

Though Isaiah dearly loves His own nation, and rejoices in her high calling, he does not (like the nationalistic Jonah) despise the Gentiles. With the yearning of a missionary-heart, he reaches out to them in love. He knows that the love of God’ is not limited to the Jews and that He purposes to provide salvation for the Gentiles also. Though it was hidden from his eyes, he would surely have rejoiced in the mystery, later revealed to Paul, of God’s purpose to make of Jew and Gentile ONE "in Christ Jesus" - reconciling the two and uniting them in one body which is His church, (Ephesians 2:11-22; Ephesians 3:1-10; Ephesians 1:23).

2. Instead of noisy demonstrations, designed to call attention to Himself, the Messianic method toward His people will be one of gentle and loving tenderness, (vs. 2; Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalms 147:3).

3. Israel is likened to "a bruised reed", which He will not break, and to dimly burning flax, which He will not quench, (vs. 3; Isaiah 57:15).

4. Gentle, merciful, patient and persevering: the Servant will not fail (burn dimly), or be discouraged (bruised, broken, or turned aside from His task), 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

a. He will establish righteous judgment on the earth, (Psalms 72:2; Psalms 72:4; Psalms 96:13); "the isles (far off nations) wait for His law", (vs. 4, 10, 12; Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 60:9; Isaiah 66:19).

b. "Judgment" (vs. 4) suggests "the governing power of Christ", Psalms 76:9; Psalms 94:16; thus, the King nudge) of Israel shall "rule" in righteousness, (Isaiah 32:1; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:4-5; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15-16; Luke 1:30-33).

Verses 5-9


1. By this time it is surely evident, to every serious student of the word, that "the LORD" (Jehovah) is a designation of the covenant­ God of Israel, and is a term used of both the Father and the Son; (vs. 6; John 12:41).

a. God the LORD applies to Himself titles of eternal omnipotence.

b. He is the Creator (Arranger) of the heavens, the earth and all things therein, (vs. 5a; Isaiah 45:18; Psalms 102:25-27; Isaiah 40:22; Psalms 104:2; Psalms 24:1-2; Psalms 136:6).

c. He is the Giver and Sustainer of all life, (vs. 5b; Isaiah 57:16; Da 5 23: John 1:4; Acts 17:25).

d. The very nature of His being is set forth as a basis of assurance that His promises, and the revelation of His purposes will never fail!

2. Beginning with verse 6, the Lord (Father) addresses and assures the Servant (His Son) Whom He has called in righteousness, (comp. Isaiah 41:2; Jeremiah 23:5-6):

a. He will "hold His hand" (suggesting nearness and companionship, Isaiah 41:13; Isaiah 45:1), and "Keep" Him - justifying His perfect trust, (Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 27:3).

b. A two-fold task is set before Him, (vs. 7).

1) He will be the means of restoring His people (Israel) to covenant fellowship with God - a position which they forfeited through the disobedience of their wretched unbelief, (Isaiah 49:6-8).

2) He will also be a source of "light to the Gentiles" - the very "Light of the World"! (Isaiah 51:4; Isaiah 60:1-3; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:46-47; Acts 26:22-23; comp. Matthew 5:14-16).

c. To both He will bring liberation and life.

1) From the darkness of spiritual blindness, unto the light of truth.

2) From bondage to self, sin and the world, unto the glorious liberty of divine sonship.

3) But, primarily, the passage depicts deliverance from death and the grave through resurrection.

3. He Whose name is "Jehovah" (the LORD) will not give His glory to another, (vs. 8; Isaiah 48:11; Exodus 20:3-5).

a. In the Servant-Son dwells "the fullness of the Godhead bodily", (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9).

b. He comes as the "express image" of the Father’s person to scatter His glory abroad, (Hebrews 1:3).

4. Nor will the Lord permit graven images to share the praise that is due His matchless name; yet, He will share all His glorious fullness with those who, through identification with His dear Son, lose their lives in the joy of His service, (John 1:14; John 1:16; Ephesians 1:5-6; Ephesians 1:17-23; 1 Corinthians 1:9; Romans 8:14-18; Zephaniah 3:19-20).

5. The Lord’s purpose will not fail, (vs. 9).

a. The things He promised in former times have been fulfilled, (Joshua 21:45; Joshua 23:14; 1 Kings 8:56).

b. There need be no surprises for the trusting Servant - though He is totally dependent on the Father, (John 5:19; John 5:30); He is given assurance that "before they spring forth I tell you of them."

c. It must be understood that the trials of the Messianic Servant were very real; He (temporarily, and voluntarily) laid aside many of His divine prerogatives, that He might take our place and purchase our redemption! (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 5:7-9; Hebrews 4:15-16).

Verses 10-17


1. In verses 10-12 the whole earth is called upon to sing forth the worthy praise of Jehovah, the true and living God!

a. Surely this is a song of millennial blessedness!

b. There must be a special reason for specific reference to Kedar, Petra and the desert of Arabia, (vs. 11; see notes on Isaiah 63:1-6); Revelation 12:14-15.

2. The background for this outburst of praise is the Lord’s arising for a battle wherein He will subdue proud and lofty kingdoms to His own sovereign rule.

a. Like a mighty man of war - His jealousy stirred up, and His hand outstretched - He will cry, roar and prevail against His enemies, (vs. 13; Jeremiah 25:31-33; Zephaniah 3:8; Zechariah 14:3; Joel 3:9-21; Revelation 19:11-21; comp. Exodus 14:13-14; Exodus 14:23-31).

b. For a long time His judgment has been suspended.

1) In patient stillness and silence He has refrained from striking out at sinners - holding His peace, (2 Peter 3:9).

2) But a righteous God cannot forever permit sin to run its course; He must act; sin must be judged; rebellion must be ended!

3) Thus, Isaiah focuses attention on the hour of judgment.

c. In startling language, God is pictured as crying out, as a woman in travail - impatient to perfect the new thing He has purposed in the earth!

1) Judgment is necessary, and it will be executed faithfully, (ch. 34; Isaiah 66:24; Isaiah 63:1-6; etc.).

2) But, beyond that, is a new creation - the rejuvenation of the natural world, (Isaiah 35:1-2; Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:13; Isaiah 60:13).

3) Characterized by long life and peace (Isaiah 65:20-23), the end of warfare in nature (65:25), and the restoration of fellowship with God (Isaiah 65:24), the divine rule will be re-established.

4) In this ultimate triumph (divinely purposed from the beginning, and toward which human history has ever progressed) the people of God will realize the fullness of redemption!

3. Verses 16-17 describe the Lord’s redemption of His own people (Israel) - not for anything they have done, but for His own name’s sake, (Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 48:9-11; Ezekiel 20:44).

a. They have been so blind that they knew now where they were going, (Isaiah 30:18-21; Jeremiah 31:9; Luke 1:78-79; comp. Matthew 15:14).

b. But He does not utterly forsake them, (vs. 16; 41:17; Joshua 1:5; Psalms 94:14; Hebrews 13:5).

c. When He has brought them back, they will be ashamed of the graven images to which they have said: "Ye are our gods", (vs. 17; Isaiah 1:29; Isaiah 44:9-11).

Verses 18-25


1. The deaf are commanded to "hear"; the blind to "look" that they may see what God is doing, (vs. 18).

2. The "servant" now in view (vs. 19-22) is Israel - the nation that refused the mission to which they were appointed, because they were too preoccupied with their own narrow interests.

a. Considering the high privileges Israel has enjoyed, in covenant-fellowship with her Maker, the blindness of the heathen is nothing compared to hers.

b. Israel was called to be God’s messenger to the nations, and was divinely equipped for that high and holy mission.

c. But, she was not alert to her opportunities, and refused to heed the commandment of her God, (vs. 20).

d. Thus, it pleased the Lord to magnify His word (upholding its honor) in delivering up His rebellious people to disciplinary judgment; they became captives, exiles and prisoners - with no one to plead for their restoration, (vs. 21-22).

e. Though verse 22 may have immediate reference to the Babylonian captivity, the ultimate imprisonment, from which deliverance must come before the fullness of . life may be experienced, is that of death; deliverance means resurrection and restoration, (Isaiah 49:24; Psalms 79:1-5; Psalms 79:9-11; Psalms 102:12-13; Psalms 102:16-22; Psalms 69:33-36).

3. Is there anyone in Israel who will pay attention to this prophetic warning, so as to conform his heart his will and his way to God’s order? (vs. 23). Let it be remembered that this was written BEFORE the Babylonian captivity!

4. Israel must understand that Jehovah Himself has turned them over to robbers, for a spoil; it is because of their SIN - the disobedience of their faithless hearts!

5. But Israel is stubborn; the visitation of divine judgment has taught her nothing!

a. She refused to admit the reality of her transgressions.

b. Though burned by the fire of divine vengeance, she "laid it not to heart"!

c. No wonder her desolation has been so prolonged! and that she still has not been restored to the bond of fellowship from which she fell through her willful rebellion!

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Isaiah 42". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/isaiah-42.html. 1985.
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