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The hēn (behold) in Isaiah 41:29 is now followed by a second hēn . With the former, Jehovah pronounced sentence upon the idolaters and their idols; with the latter, He introduces His “servant.” In Isaiah 41:8 this epithet was applied to the nation, which had been chosen as the servant and for the service of Jehovah. But the servant of Jehovah who is presented to us here is distinct from Israel, and has so strong an individuality and such marked personal features, that the expression cannot possibly be merely a personified collective. Nor can the prophet himself be intended; for what is here affirmed of this servant of Jehovah goes infinitely beyond anything to which a prophet was ever called, or of which a man was ever capable. It must therefore be the future Christ; and this is the view taken in the Targum, where the translation of our prophecy commences thus: “ Hâ' ‛abhdı̄ M e shı̄châ .” Still there must be a connection between the national sense, in which the expression “servant of Jehovah” was used in Isaiah 41:8, and the personal sense in which it is used here. The coming Saviour is not depicted as the Son of David, as in chapters 7-12, and elsewhere, but appears as the embodied idea of Israel, i.e., as its truth and reality embodied in one person. The idea of “the servant of Jehovah” assumed, to speak figuratively, the from of a pyramid. The base was Israel as a whole; the central section was that Israel, which was not merely Israel according to the flesh, but according to the spirit also; the apex is the person of the Mediator of salvation springing out of Israel. And the last of the three is regarded (1.) as the centre of the circle of the promised kingdom - the second David; (2.) the centre of the circle of the people of salvation - the second Israel; (3.) the centre of the circle of the human race - the second Adam. Throughout the whole of these prophecies in chapters 40-66 the knowledge of salvation is still in its second stage, and about to pass into the third. Israel's true nature as a servant of God, which had its roots in the election and calling of Jehovah, and manifested itself in conduct and action in harmony with this calling, is all concentrated in Him, the One, as its ripest fruit. The gracious purposes of God towards the whole human race, which were manifested even in the election of Israel, are brought by Him to their full completion. Whilst judgments are inflicted upon the heathen by the oppressor of the nations, and display the nothingness of idolatry, the servant of Jehovah brings to them in a peaceful way the greatest of all blessings. “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, whom my soul loveth: I have laid my Spirit upon Him; He will bring out right to the Gentiles.” We must not render the first clause “by whom I hold.” Tâmakh b' means to lay firm hold of and keep upright ( sustinere). נפשׁי רצתה (supply בו or אתו , Job 33:26) is an attributive clause. The amplified subject extends as far as naphshii; then follows the predicate: I have endowed Him with my Spirit, and by virtue of this Spirit He will carry out m ishpât , i.e., absolute and therefore divine right, beyond the circle in which He Himself is to be found, even far away to the Gentiles. Mishpât is the term employed here to denote true religion regarded on its practical side, as the rule and authority for life in all its relations, i.e., religion as the law of life, νομός .
The prophet then proceeds to describe how the servant of Jehovah will manifest Himself in the world outside Israel by the promulgation of this right. “He will not cry, nor lift up, nor cause to be heard in the street, His voice.” “His voice” is the object of “lift up,” as well as “cause to be heard.” With our existing division of the verse, it must at least be supplied in thought. Although he is certain of His divine call, and brings to the nations the highest and best, His manner of appearing is nevertheless quiet, gentle, and humble; the very opposite of those lying teachers, who endeavoured to exalt themselves by noisy demonstrations. He does not seek His own, and therefore denies Himself; He brings what commends itself, and therefore requires no forced trumpeting.
With this unassuming appearance there is associated a tender pastoral care. “A bruised reed He does not break, and a glimmering wick He does not put out: according to truth He brings out right.” “ Bruised: ” râtsūts signifies here, as in Isaiah 36:6, what is cracked, and therefore half-broken already. Glimmering: kēheh (a form indicative of defects, like עוּר ), that which is burning feebly, and very nearly extinguished. Tertullian understands by the “bruised reed” ( arundinem contusam ) the faith of Israel, and by the “glimmering wick” ( linum ardens ) the momentary zeal of the Gentiles. But the words hardly admit of this distinction; the reference is rather a general one, to those whose inner and outer life is only hanging by a slender thread. In the statement that in such a case as this He does not completely break or extinguish, there is more implied than is really expressed. Not only will He not destroy the life that is dying out, but He will actually save it; His course is not to destroy, but to save. If we explain the words that follow as meaning, “He will carry out right to truth,” i.e., to its fullest efficacy and permanence (lxx εἰς ἀλήθειαν ; instead of which we find εἰς νῖκος , “unto victory,” in Matthew 12:20,
(Note: “ Ad victoriam enim kri'sin perducit qui ad veritatem perducit .” - Anger.)
as if the reading were לנצח , as in Habakkuk 1:4), the connection between the first and last clauses of Isaiah 42:3 is a very loose one. It becomes much closer if we take the ל as indicating the standard, as in Isaiah 11:3 and Isaiah 32:1, and adopt the rendering “according to truth” (Hitzig and Knobel). It is on its subjective and practical side that truth is referred to here, viz., as denoting such a knowledge, and acknowledgement of the true facts in the complicated affairs of men, as will promote both equity and kindness.
The figures in Isaiah 42:3 now lead to the thought that the servant of God will never be extinguished or become broken Himself. “He will not become faint or broken, till He establish right upon earth, and the islands wait for His instruction.” As יכהה (become faint) points back to כהה פשׁתה (the finat or glimmering wick), so ירּו ץ must point back to רצוּ ץ קנה (the bruised or broken reed); it cannot therefore be derived from רוּ ץ (to run) in the sense of “He will not be rash or impetuous, but execute His calling with wise moderation,” as Hengstenberg supposes, but as in Ecclesiastes 12:6, from רצ ץ יר ץ (Ges. §67, Anm. 9), in the neuter sense of infringetur (will break). His zeal will not be extinguished, nor will anything break His strength, till He shall have secured for right a firm standing on the earth ( ישׂים is a fut. ex. so far as the meaning is concerned, like יבצּע in Isaiah 10:12). The question arises now, whether what follows is also governed by עד , in the sense of “and until the islands shall have believed his instruction,” as Hitzig supposes; or whether it is an independent sentence, as rendered by the lxx and in Matthew 12:21. We prefer the latter, both because of Isaiah 51:5, and also because, although לדבר ה יחל may certainly mean to exercise a believing confidence in the word of God (Psalms 119:74, Psalms 119:81), לתורתו יחל can only mean “to wait with longing for a person's instruction” (Job 29:23), and especially in this case, where no thought is more naturally suggested, than that the messenger to the Gentile world will be welcomed by a consciousness of need already existing in the heathen world itself. There is a gratia praeparans at work in the Gentile world, as these prophecies all presuppose, in perfect harmony with the Gospel of John, with which they have so much affinity; and it is an actual fact, that the cry for redemption runs through the whole human race, i.e., an earnest longing, the ultimate object of which, however unconsciously, is the servant of Jehovah and his instruction from Zion (Isaiah 2:3) - in other words, the gospel.
The words of Jehovah are now addressed to His servant himself. He has not only an exalted vocation, answering to the infinite exaltation of Him from whom he has received his call; but by virtue of the infinite might of the caller, he may be well assured that he will never be wanting in power to execute his calling. “Thus saith God, Jehovah, who created the heavens, and stretched them out; who spread the earth, and its productions; who gave the spirit of life to the people upon it, and the breath of life to them that walk upon it: I, Jehovah, I have called thee in righteousness, and grasped thy hand; and I keep thee, and make thee the covenant of the people, the light of the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners out of the prison, them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.” The perfect ' âmar is to be explained on the ground that the words of God, as compared with the prophecy which announces them, are always the earlier of the two. האל (the absolutely Mighty) is an anticipatory apposition to Jehovah (Ges. §113**). The attributive participles we have resolved into perfects, because the three first at least declare facts of creation, which have occurred once for all. נוטיהם is not to be regarded as a plural, after Isaiah 54:5 and Job 35:10; but as בּורא precedes it, we may take it as a singular with an original quiescent Yod , after Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 26:12. On רקע (construct of רקע ), see Isaiah 40:19. The ו of וצאצאיה (a word found both in Job and Isaiah, used here in its most direct sense, to signify the vegetable world) must be taken in accordance with the sense, as the Vav of appurtenance; since רקע may be affirmed of the globe itself, but not of the vegetable productions upon it (cf., Genesis 4:20; Judges 6:5; 2 Chronicles 2:3). N e shâmâh and rūăch are epithets applied to the divine principle of life in all created corporeal beings, or, what is the same thing, in all beings with living souls. At the same time, n e shâmâh is an epithet restricted to the self-conscious spirit of man, which gives him his personality ( Psychol. p. 76, etc.); whereas rūăch is applied not only to the human spirit, but to the spirit of the beast as well. Accordingly, עם signifies the human race, as in Isaiah 40:7. What is it, then, that Jehovah, the Author of all being and all life, the Creator of the heaven and the earth, says to His servant here? “I Jehovah have called thee 'in righteousness'” ( b e tsedeq : cf., Isaiah 45:13, where Jehovah also says of Cyrus, “I have raised him up in righteousness”). צדק , derived from צדק , to be rigid, straight, denotes the observance of a fixed rule. The righteousness of God is the stringency with which He acts, in accordance with the will of His holiness. This will of holiness is, so far as the human race is concerned, and apart from the counsels of salvation, a will of wrath; but from the standpoint of these counsels it is a will of love, which is only changed into a will of wrath towards those who despise the grace thus offered to them. Accordingly, tsedeq denotes the action of God in accordance with His purposes of love and the plan of salvation. It signifies just the same as what we should call in New Testament phraseology the holy love of God, which, because it is a holy love, has wrath against its despisers as its obverse side, but which acts towards men not according to the law of works, but according to the law of grace. The word has this evangelical sense here, where Jehovah says of the Mediator of His counsels of love, that He has called Him in strict adherence to the will of His love, which will show mercy as right, but at the same time will manifest a right of double severity towards those who scornfully repel the offered mercy. That He had been called in righteousness, is attested to the servant of Jehovah by the fact that Jehovah has taken Him by the hand ( ואחזד contracted after the manner of a future of sequence), and guards Him, and appoints Him גּוים לאור עם לברית . These words are a decisive proof that the idea of the expression “servant of Jehovah” has been elevated in Isaiah 42:1., as compared with Isaiah 41:8, from the national base to the personal apex. Adherence to the national sense necessarily compels a resort to artifices which carry their own condemnation, such as that עם ברית signifies the “covenant nation,”as Hitzig supposes, or “the mediating nation,” as Ewald maintains, whereas either of these would require ברית עם ; or “national covenant” (Knobel), in support of which we are referred, though quite inconclusively, to Daniel 11:28, where קדשׁ בּרית does not mean the covenant of the patriots among themselves, but the covenant religion, with its distinctive sign, circumcision; or even that עם is collective, and equivalent to עמים (Rosenmüller), whereas עם and גוים , when standing side by side, as they do here, can only mean Israel and the Gentiles; and so far as the passage before us is concerned, this is put beyond all doubt by Isaiah 49:8 (cf., Isaiah 42:6).
An unprejudiced commentator must admit that the “servant of Jehovah” is pointed out here, as He in whom and through whom Jehovah concludes a new covenant with His people, in the place of the old covenant that was broken - namely, the covenant promised in Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 16:60. The mediator of this covenant with Israel cannot be Israel itself, not even the true Israel, as distinguished from the mass (where do we read anything of this kind?); on the contrary, the remnant left after the sweeping away of the mass is the object of this covenant.
(Note: This is equally applicable to V. F. Oehler ( Der Knecht Jehova's im Deuterojesaia, 2 Theile, 1865), who takes the “servant of Jehovah” as far as Isaiah 52:14 in a national sense, and supposes “the transition from the 'servant' as a collective noun, to the 'servant' as an individual,” to be effected there; whereas two younger theologians, E. Schmutz ( Le Serviteur de Jéhova, 1858) and Ferd. Philippi ( Die bibl. Lehre vom Knechte Gottes, 1864), admit that the individualizing commences as early as Isaiah 42:1.)
Nor can the expression refer to the prophets as a body, or, in fact, have any collective meaning at all: the form of the word, which is so strongly personal, is in itself opposed to this. It cannot, in fact, denote any other than that Prophet who is more than a prophet, namely, Malachi's “Messenger of the covenant” (Isaiah 3:1). Amongst those who suppose that the “servant of Jehovah” is either Israel, regarded in the light of its prophetic calling, or the prophets as a body, Umbreit at any rate is obliged to admit that this collective body is looked at here in the ideal unity of one single Messianic personality; and he adds, that “in the holy countenance of this prophet, which shines forth as the idea of future realization, we discern exactly the loved features of Him to whom all prophecy points, and who saw Himself therein.” This is very beautiful; but why this roundabout course? Let us bear in mind, that the servant of Jehovah appears here not only as one who is the medium of a covenant to the nation, and of light to the Gentiles, but as being himself the people's covenant and heathen's light, inasmuch as in his own person he is the band of a new fellowship between Israel and Jehovah, and becomes in his own person the light which illumines the dark heathen world. This is surely more than could be affirmed of any prophet, even of Isaiah or Jeremiah. Hence the “servant of Jehovah” must be that one Person who was the goal and culminating point to which, from the very first, the history of Israel was ever pressing on; that One who throws into the shade not only all that prophets did before, but all that had been ever done by Israel's priests of kings; that One who arose out of Israel, for Israel and the whole human race, and who stood in the same relation not only to the wider circle of the whole nation, but also to the inner circle of the best and noblest within it, as the heart to the body which it animates, or the head to the body over which it rules. All that Cyrus did, was simply to throw the idolatrous nations into a state of alarm, and set the exiles free. But the Servant of Jehovah opens blind eyes; and therefore the deliverance which He brings is not only redemption from bodily captivity, but from spiritual bondage also. He leads His people (cf., Isaiah 49:8-9), and the Gentiles also, out of night into light; He is the Redeemer of all that need redemption and desire salvation.
Jehovah pledges His name and honour that this work of the Servant of Jehovah will be carried into effect. “I am Jehovah; that is my name, and my glory I give not to another, nor my renown to idols.” That is His name, which affirms how truly He stands alone in His nature, and recals to mind the manifestations of His life, His power, and His grace from the very earliest times (cf., Exodus 3:15). He to whom this name belongs cannot permit the honour due to Him to be permanently transferred to sham gods. He has therefore made preparations for putting an end to idolatry. Cyrus does this provisionally by the tempestuous force of arms; and the Servant of Jehovah completes it by the spiritual force of His simple word, and of His gentle, unselfish love.
First the overthrow of idolatry, then the restoration of Israel and conversion of the Gentiles: this is the double work of Jehovah's zeal which is already in progress. “The first, behold, is come to pass, and new things am I proclaiming; before it springs up, I let you hear it.” The “first” is the rise of Cyrus, and the agitation of the nations which it occasioned - events which not only formed the starting-point of the prophecy in these addresses, whether the captivity was the prophet's historical or ideal standpoint, but which had no less force in themselves, as the connection between the first and second halves of the v. before us imply, as events both foreknown and distinctly foretold by Jehovah. The “new things” which Jehovah now foretells before their visible development (Isaiah 43:19), are the restoration of Israel, for which the defeat of their oppressors prepares the say, and the conversion of the heathen, to which an impulse is given by the fact that God thus glorifies Himself in His people.
The prediction of these “new things,” which now follows, looks away from all human mediation. They are manifestly the work of Jehovah Himself, and consist primarily in the subjugation of His enemies, who are holding His people in captivity. “Sing ye to Jehovah a new song, His praise from the end of the earth, ye navigators of the sea, and its fulness; ye islands, and their inhabitants. Let the desert and the cities thereof strike up, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit; the inhabitants of the rock-city may rejoice, shout from the summits of the mountains. Let them give glory to Jehovah, and proclaim His praise in the islands. Jehovah, like a hero will He go forth, kindle jealousy like a man of war; He will breath forth into a war-cry, a yelling war-cry, prove Himself a hero upon His enemies.” The “new things” furnish the impulse and materials of “a new song,” such as had never been heard in the heathen world before. This whole group of vv. is like a variation of Isaiah 24:14-15. The standing-place, whence the summons is uttered, is apparently Ezion-geber, at the head of the Elanitic Gulf, that seaport town from which in the time of the kings the news of the nations reached the Holy Land through the extensive commerce of Israel. From this point the eye stretches to the utmost circle of the earth, and then returns from the point where it meets with those who “go down to the sea,” i.e., who navigate the ocean which lies lower than the solid ground. These are to sing, and everything that lives and moves in the sea is to join in the sailors' song. The islands and coast lands, that are washed by the sea, are likewise to sing together with their inhabitants. After the summons has drawn these into the net of the song of praise, it moves into the heart of the land. The desert and its cities are to lift up (viz., “their voice”), the villages which Kedar inhabits. The reference to Sela', the rock-city of Edomitish Nabataea, which is also mentioned in Isaiah 16:1 (the Wadi Musa, which is still celebrated for its splendid ruins), shows by way of example what cities are intended. Their inhabitants are to ascend the steep mountains by which the city is surrounded, and to raise a joyful cry ( yitsvâchū , to cry out with a loud noise; cf., Isaiah 24:11). Along with the inhabitants of cities, the stationary Arabs, who are still called Hadariye in distinction from Wabariye, the Arabs of the tents, are also summoned; hadar ( c hâtsēr ) is a fixed abode, in contrast to bedû , the steppe, where the tents are pitched for a short time, now in one place and now in another. In Isaiah 42:12 the summons becomes more general. The subject is the heathen universally and in every place; they are to give Jehovah the glory (Psalms 56:2), and declare His praise upon the islands, i.e., to the remotest ends of the whole world of nations. In Isaiah 42:13 there follows the reason for this summons, and the theme of the new song in honour of the God of Israel, viz., His victory over His enemies, the enemies of His people. The description is anthropomorphically dazzling and bold, such as the self-assurance and vividness of the Israelitish idea of God permitted, without any danger of misunderstanding. Jehovah goes out into the conflict like a hero; and like a “man of war,” i.e., like one who has already fought many battles, and is therefore ready for war, and well versed in warfare, He stirs up jealousy (see at Isaiah 9:6). His jealousy has slumbered as it were for a long time, as if smouldering under the ashes; but now He stirs it up, i.e., makes it burn up into a bright flame. Going forward to the attack, יריע , “He breaks out into a cry,” אף־יצריח , “yea, a yelling cry” ( kal Zephaniah 1:14, to cry with a yell; hiphil, to utter a yelling cry). In the words, “He will show Himself as a hero upon His enemies,” we see Him already engaged in the battle itself, in which He proves Himself to possess the strength and boldness of a hero ( hithgabbar only occurs again in the book of Job). The overthrow which heathenism here suffers at the hand of Jehovah is, according to our prophet's view, the final and decisive one. The redemption of Israel, which is thus about to appear, is redemption from the punishment of captivity, and at the same time from all the troubles that arise from sin. The period following the captivity and the New Testament times here flow into one.
The period of punishment has now lasted sufficiently long; it is time for Jehovah to bring forth the salvation of His people. “I have been silent eternally long, was still, restrained myself; like a travailing woman, I now breathe again, snort and snuff together.” The standpoint of these prophecies has the larger half of the captivity behind it. It has already lasted a long time, though only for several decades; but in the estimation of Jehovah, with His love to His people, this time of long-suffering towards their oppressors is already an “eternity” (see Isaiah 57:11; Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 61:4; Isaiah 63:18-19; Isaiah 64:4, cf., Isaiah 64:10, Isaiah 64:11). He has kept silence, has still forcibly restrained Himself, just as Joseph is said to have done to prevent himself from breaking out into tears (Genesis 43:31). Love impelled Him to redeem His people; but justice was still obliged to proceed with punishment.
Three real futures now take the place of imperfects regulated by החשׁיתי . They are not to be understood as denoting the violent breathing and snorting of a hero, burning with rage and thirsting for battle (Knobel); nor is אשּׁם to be derived from שׁמם , as Hitzig supposes, through a mistaken comparison of Ezekiel 36:3, though the latter does not mean to lay waste, but to be waste (see Hitzig on Ezekiel 36:3). The true derivation is from נשׁם , related to נשׁף נפשׁ נשׁב . To the figure of a hero there is now added that of a travailing woman; פּעה is short breathing (with the glottis closed); נשׁם the snorting of violent inspiration and expiration; שׁאף the earnest longing for deliverance pressing upon the burden in the womb; and יחד expresses the combination of all these several strainings of the breath, which are associated with the so-called labour-pains. Some great thing, with which Jehovah has, as it were, long been pregnant, is now about to be born.
The delivery takes place, and the whole world of nature undergoes a metamorphosis, which is subservient to the great work of the future. “I make waste mountains and hills, and all their herbage I dry up, and change streams into islands, and lakes I dry up.” Here is another example of Isaiah's favourite palindromy, as Nitzsch calls this return to a word that has been used before, or linking on the close of a period of its commencement. Jehovah's panting in labour is His almighty fiery breath, which turns mountains and hills into heaps of ruins, scorches up the vegetation, condenses streams into islands, and dries up the lakes; that is to say, turns the strange land, in which Israel has been held captive, into a desert, and at the same time removes all the hindrances to His people's return, thus changing the present condition of the world into one of the very opposite kind, which displays His righteousness in wrath and love.
The great thing which is brought to pass by means of this catastrophe is the redemption of His people. “And I lead the blind by a way that they know not; by steps that they know not, I make them walk: I turn dark space before them into light, and rugged places into a plain. These are the things that I carry out, and do not leave.” The “blind” are those who have been deprived of sight by their sin, and the consequent punishment. The unknown ways in which Jehovah leads them, are the ways of deliverance, which are known to Him alone, but which have now been made manifest in the fulness of time. The “dark space” ( m achshâk ) is their existing state of hopeless misery; the “rugged places” ( ma‛ăqasshı̄m ) the hindrances that met them, and dangers that threatened them on all sides in the foreign land. The mercy of Jehovah adopts the blind, lights up the darkness, and clears every obstacle away. “ These are the things ” ( hadd e bhârı̄m ): this refers to the particulars already sketched out of the double manifestation of Jehovah in judgment and in mercy. The perfects of the attributive clause are perfects of certainty.
In connection with this, the following v. declares what effect this double manifestation will produce among the heathen. “They fall back, are put deeply to shame, that trust in molten images, that say to the molten image, Thou art our God.” Bōsheth takes the place of an inf. intens.; cf., Habakkuk 3:9. Jehovah's glorious acts of judgment and salvation unmask the false gods, to the utter confusion of their worshippers. And whilst in this way the false religions fall, the redemption of Israel becomes at the same time the redemption of the heathen. The first half of this third prophecy is here brought to a close.
The thought which connects the second half with the first is to be found in the expression in Isaiah 42:16, “I will bring the blind by a way.” It is the blind whom Jehovah will lead into the light of liberty, the blind who bring upon themselves not only His compassion, but also His displeasure; for it is their own fault that they do not see. And to them is addressed the summons, to free themselves from the ban which is resting upon them. “Ye deaf, hear; and ye blind, look up, that ye may see.” הסהרשׁהים and העורים (this is the proper pointing, according to the codd. and the Masora)
(Note: The Masora observes expressly פותחין רפוין סמיין כל , omnes caeci raphati et pathachati ; but our editions have both here and in 2 Samuel 5:6, 2 Samuel 5:8, העורים .))
are vocatives. The relation in which הבּיט and ראה stand to one another is that of design and accomplishment (Isaiah 63:15; Job 35:5; 2 Kings 3:14, etc.); and they are used interchangeably with עיניו פּקח and ראה (e.g., 2 Kings 19:16), which also stand in the same relation of design and result.
The next v. states who these self-willed deaf and blind are, and how necessary this arousing was. “Who is blind, but my servant? and deaf, as my messenger whom I send? who blind as the confidant of God, and blind as the servant of Jehovah?” The first double question implies that Jehovah's servant and messenger is blind and deaf in a singular and unparalleled way. The words are repeated, the questioner dwelling upon the one predicate ‛ı̄vvēr , “blind,” in which everything is affirmed, and, according to Isaiah's favourite custom, returning palindromically to the opening expression “servant of Jehovah” (cf., Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 42:15, and many other passages). משׁלּם does not mean “the perfect one,” as Vitringa renders it, nor “the paid, i.e., purchased one,” as Rosenmüller supposes, but one allied in peace and friendship, the confidant of God. It is the passive of the Arabic muslim, one who trusts in God (compare the hophal in Job 5:23). It is impossible to read the expression, “My messenger whom I send,” without thinking of Isaiah 42:1., where the “servant of Jehovah” is represented as a messenger to the heathen. (Jerome is wrong in following the Jewish commentators, and adopting the rendering, ad quem nuntios meos misi .) With this similarity both of name and calling, there must be a connection between the “servant” mentioned here, and the “servant” referred to there. Now the “servant of Jehovah” is always Israel. But since Israel might be regarded either according to the character of the overwhelming majority of its members (the mass), who had forgotten their calling, or according to the character of those living members who had remained true to their calling, and constituted the kernel, or as concentrated in that one Person who is the essence of Israel in the fullest truth and highest potency, statements of the most opposite kind could be made with respect to this one homonymous subject. In Isaiah 41:8. the “servant of Jehovah” is caressed and comforted, inasmuch as there the true Israel, which deserved and needed consolation, is addressed, without regard to the mass who had forgotten their calling. In Isaiah 42:1. that One person is referred to, who is, as it were, the centre of this inner circle of Israel, and the head upon the body of Israel. And in the passage before us, the idea is carried from this its highest point back again to its lowest basis; and the servant of Jehovah is blamed and reproved for the harsh contrast between its actual conduct and its divine calling, between the reality and the idea. As we proceed, we shall meet again with the “servant of Jehovah” in the same systole and diastole. The expression covers two concentric circles, and their one centre. The inner circle of the “Israel according to the Spirit” forms the connecting link between Israel in its widest sense, and Israel in a personal sense. Here indeed Israel is severely blamed as incapable, and unworthy of fulfilling its sacred calling; but the expression “whom I send” nevertheless affirms that it will fulfil it - namely, in the person of the servant of Jehovah, and in all those members of the “servant of Jehovah” in a national sense, who long for deliverance from the ban and bonds of the present state of punishment (see Isaiah 29:18). For it is really the mission of Israel to be the medium of salvation and blessing to the nations; and this is fulfilled by the servant of Jehovah, who proceeds from Israel, and takes his place at the head of Israel. And as the history of the fulfilment shows, when the foundation for the accomplishment of this mission had been laid by the servant of Jehovah in person, it was carried on by the servant of Jehovah in a national sense; for the Lord became “a covenant of the people” through His own preaching and that of His apostles. But “a light of the Gentiles” He became purely and simply through the apostles, who represented the true and believing Israel.
The reproof, which affects Israel a potiori , now proceeds still further, as follows. “Thou hast seen much, and yet keepest not; opening the ears, he yet doth not hear. Jehovah was pleased for His righteousness' sake: He gave a thorah great and glorious. And yet it is a people robbed and plundered; fastened in holes all of them, and they are hidden in prison-houses: they have become booty, without deliverers; a spoil, without any one saying, Give it up again!” In Isaiah 42:20 “thou” and “he” alternate, like “they” and “ye” in Isaiah 1:29, and “I” and “he” in Isaiah 14:30. ראית , which points back to the past, is to be preserved. The reading of the keri is ראות (inf. abs. like שׁתות , Isaiah 22:13, and ערות , Habakkuk 3:13), which makes the two half-verses uniform. Israel has had many and great things to see, but without keeping the admonitions they contained; opening its ears, namely to the earnestness of the preaching, it hears, and yet does not hear, i.e., it only hears outwardly, but without taking it into itself. Isaiah 42:21 shows us to what Isaiah 42:20 chiefly refers. חפ ץ is followed here by the future instead of by Lamed with an infinitive, just as in Isaiah 53:10 it is followed by the perfect (Ges. §142, 3, b). Jehovah was pleased for His righteousness' sake (which is mentioned here, not as that which recompenses for works of the law, but as that which bestows mercy according to His purpose, His promise, and the plan of salvation) to make thorâh , i.e., the direction, instruction, revelation which He gave to His people, great and glorious. The reference is primarily and chiefly to the Sinaitic law, and the verbs relate not to the solemnity of the promulgation, but to the riches and exalted character of the contents. But what a glaring contrast did the existing condition of Israel present to these manifestations and purposes of mercy on the part of its God! The intervening thought expressed by Hosea ( Hosea 8:12), viz., that this condition was the punishment of unfaithfulness, may easily be supplied. The inf. abs. הפח is introduced to give life to the picture, as in Isaiah 22:13. Hahn renders it, “They pant ( hiphil of puuach) in the holes all of them,” but kullâm (all of them) must be the accusative of the object; so that the true meaning is, “They have fastened ( hiphil of pâchach ) all of them,” etc. (Ges. §131, 4, b). Schegg adopts the rendering, “All his youths fall into traps,” which is wrong in two respects; for bachūrı̄m is the plural of c hūr (Isaiah 11:8), and it is parallel to the double plural כלאים בּתּי , houses of custodies. The whole nation in all its members is, as it were, put into bonds, and confined in prisons of all kinds (an allegorizing picture of the homelessness and servitude of exile), without any one thinking of demanding it back ( השׁב השׁב , as in Ezekiel 21:32; a pausal form here: vid., Ges. §29, 4 Anm.).
When they ceased to be deaf to this crying contradiction, they would recognise with penitence that it was but the merited punishment of God. “Who among you will give ear to this, attend, and hear afar off? Who has give up Jacob to plundering, and Israel to the spoilers? Is it not Jehovah, against whom we have sinned? and they would not walk in His ways, and hearkened not to His law. Then He poured upon it in burning heat His wrath, and the strength of the fury of war: and this set it in flames round about, and it did not come to be recognised; it set it on fire, and it did not lay it to heart.” The question in Isaiah 42:23 has not the force of a negative sentence, “No one does this,” but of a wish, “O that one would” (as in 2 Samuel 23:15; 2 Samuel 15:4; Ges. §136, 1). If they had but an inward ear for the contradiction which the state of Israel presented to its true calling, and the earlier manifestations of divine mercy, and would but give up their previous deafness for the time to come: this must lead to the knowledge and confession expressed in Isaiah 42:24. The names Jacob and Israel here follow one another in the same order as in Isaiah 29:23; Isaiah 40:27 (compare Isaiah 41:8, where this would have been impracticable). זוּ belongs to לו in the sense of c ui . The punctuation does not acknowledge this relative use of זו (on which, see at Isaiah 43:21), and therefore puts the athnach in the wrong place (see Rashi). In the words “we have sinned” the prophet identifies himself with the exiles, in whose sin he knew and felt that he was really involved (cf., Isaiah 6:5). The objective affirmation which follows applies to the former generations, who had sinned on till the measure became full. הלו ך takes the place of the object to אבוּ (see Isaiah 1:17); the more usual expression would be ללכת ; the inverted order of the words makes the assertion all the more energetic. In Isaiah 42:25 the genitive relation אפּו חמת is avoided, probably in favour of the similar ring of חמה and מלחמה חמה is either the accusative of the object, and אפּו a subordinate statement of what constituted the burning heat (cf., Ewald, §287, k), or else an accusative, of more precise definition = בּחמה in Isaiah 66:15 (Ges. §118, 3). The outpouring is also connected by zeugma with the “violence of war.” The m ilchâmâh then becomes the subject. The war-fury raged without result. Israel was not brought to reflection.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 42". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter