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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 42

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-9

The True Servant of the Lord

v. 1. Behold My Servant, the designation here used in its most restricted sense, of the Messiah, whom I uphold, having established Him in His office, the Lord is now also confirming Him, standing behind Him with the fullness of His divine power; Mine Elect, chosen or selected for a special purpose, in whom My soul delighteth, whom He regards with unmixed pleasure, Matthew 3:17; Luke 9:35; 2 Peter 1:17; I have put My Spirit upon Him, Isaiah 11:2. He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles, namely, the rights and the privileges of the New Covenant, of the Gospel of mercy in Jesus Christ, for it is in this message that God declares us to be righteous in and through the merits of our Savior.

v. 2. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street, the expressions being heaped in the form of a climax, in order to emphasize the meekness and humility of Jesus of Nazareth, which He applied throughout His work.

v. 3. A bruised reed, the fragile stem of a plant which has been bent to the point of breaking off, shall He not break, and the smoking flax, a wick which is at the point of becoming extinguished, shall He not quench, not put out entirely, that is, the Savior would make use of true pastoral mildness in dealing with hearts which are broken and contrite, not only by not driving them to despair, but by seeking them and caring for them with His full Savior's love. He shall bring forth judgment unto truth, bringing it to the Gentiles, making it known to them in deed and in truth, working faith in their hearts.

v. 4. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, not give way to weakness in all the great work which lie has undertaken, till He have set judgment in the earth, till His righteous cause gains the victory; and the isles shall wait for His Law, the longing of the heathen for a deliverance from this present world, unconscious and inarticulate as it is, being satisfied only in the redemption earned and offered by Christ. That this entire paragraph was fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus is plainly stated Matthew 12:18-21.

v. 5. Thus saith God the Lord, the covenant God, He that created the heavens and stretched them out, like an immense curtain suspended on nothing; He that spread forth the earth, for man's use and delight, and that which cometh out of it, all its plants and products of the soil; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, Acts 17:25, and spirit, reason and personality, to them that walk therein, to all its inhabitants:

v. 6. I, the Lord, have called Thee, namely, the Messiah, whom He here addresses in words of encouragement, in righteousness, in His zeal for the salvation of Israel, in the merciful expression of His love for fallen mankind, by virtue of which the true righteousness is imputed to all believers, and will hold Thine hand, take a firm and reassuring grasp, transmitting His divine power, and will keep Thee and give Thee for a covenant of the people, as the Mediator of the covenant made with the patriarchs, for a Light of the Gentiles, to bring true spiritual light to the Gentiles;

v. 7. to open the blind eyes, those stricken by the blindness of the natural sinfulness and enmity against God, to bring out the prisoners, those held by the fetters of sin, from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, namely, in the darkness which fills the heart of all men by nature, Ephesians 5:8, out of the prison-house. All of this was fulfilled in Jesus, as the New Testament so abundantly testifies, this section being quoted or used by the evangelists and apostles at least fifteen times. That this work of the Servant of Jehovah will be carried out successfully is vouched for by the name and the honor of God Himself.

v. 8. I am the Lord, Jehovah, the Unchangeable One; that is My name, Exodus 3:14; and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images. The honor of His holy name, over against the false claims of the idols and their servants, demanded this solemn pledge. If He does not send the promised Mediator of the covenant to bring salvation to Jews and Gentiles alike, then He has lost the right to be called Jehovah and to be adored as the true God.

v. 9. Behold, the former things are come to pass, namely, the deliverance of Israel at the time of their passage through the Red Sea, Exodus 14, 15, and new things do I declare, the fulfillment of former promises being the guarantee that those herewith uttered will also come to pass; before they spring forth, I tell you of them. "All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. " 2 Corinthians 1:20.

Verses 10-17

The Joy Over the Judgment of Condemnation upon the Ungodly

v. 10. Sing unto the Lord a new song, Psalms 33:3; Psalms 40:3, a hymn of praise in honor of the new things promised, a psalm lauding His mercy in the Savior, and His praise from the end of the earth, so that the whole earth resounds with it, ye that go down to the sea, the seafaring inhabitants of the isles and coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, and all that is therein, all the marine animals being called upon to join in this praise of the Lord; the isles and the inhabitants thereof, that is, all the people of the earth.

v. 11. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof, the great Arabian Desert with its commercial centers, lift up their voice, the villages, the fortified camps, that Kedar doth inhabit, the second son of Ishmael, Genesis 25:13, being named as representative of the nomad tribes of the East; let the inhabitants of the rock, of mountainous Idumea, sing; let them shout from the top of the mountains, with a voice which carries far and wide.

v. 12. Let them give glory unto the Lord and declare His praise in the islands, the entire exhortation being summarized here.

v. 13. The Lord, in carrying out His counsel of salvation, shall go forth as a mighty man, like a hero; He shall stir up jealousy, the indignation and fury in His own heart, like a man of war, an invincible warrior; He shall cry, yea, roar, with a fearful battle-cry; He shall prevail against His enemies, boasting of His victory over all His enemies. The entire section is built up so that there can he no question of Jehovah's final triumph. The Lord now takes up His proclamation in person once more.

v. 14. I have long time holden My peace, not interfering with the ways of men; I have been still and refrained Myself, purposely holding Himself back; now, when patience and forbearance could no longer be practiced, will I cry like a travailing woman, I will destroy and devour at once, groan, pant, and gasp.

v. 15. I will make waste mountains and hills, thereby destroying the enemies, and dry up all their herbs, as a preliminary act of the final annihilation; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools, thereby making their land uninhabitable. The final Judgment of the world is always included in prophecies like that here given, where one act of the preliminary punishment is sketched. But while the enemies feel the wrath of the Lord, the believers feel the riches of His blessing.

v. 16. And I will bring the blind, those who realize the condition of blindness with which they are suffering, by a way that they knew not, which they never would and could find on account of the natural perverseness of their hearts, John 9:39-41; I will lead them in paths that they have not known, Psalms 32:8; I will make darkness light before them, so that they will not stumble and fall, and crooked things straight, removing all obstructions and making level paths everywhere, all this proclaiming the sure deliverance of the children of God. These things will I do unto them and not forsake them, for the Lord is ever by the side of those who believe in Him. By way of contrast He now refers to the unhappy condition of the idolaters, of the ungodly.

v. 17. They shall be turned back, reeling in a stupor of disappointment, they shall be greatly ashamed, heaped with disgrace, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods. That is ever the lot of the idolaters, no matter whether their idolatry is openly practiced or held in secret only. The religion of Jesus Christ is the only true, the absolute religion.

Verses 18-25

The Wrath of God upon Israel

v. 18. Hear, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see, so the prophet now addresses the people of Israel in general, on account of their spiritual callousness, which is rapidly turning into hardness of heart.

v. 19. Who is blind but My servant? the reference here being to Israel itself, or deaf, as My messenger that I sent? not hearing a word of the message which the Lord entrusted to him to be given to the Gentiles. Who is blind as he that is perfect, one whom the Lord had regarded as His friend, and blind as the Lord's servant, this very fact making the blindness almost unexplainable and causing the Lord to refer to it so continually. Cf John 9:41.

v. 20. Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not. Israel has reached a point where most of its members are unable to understand although they have both eyes and ears open; the many miracles of God's grace are overlooked or speedily forgotten. All this in spite of the wonderful exhibitions of grace which the Lord gave them time and again.

v. 21. The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness' sake; He will magnify the Law and make it honorable, literally, "It pleased Jehovah for the sake of His righteousness; great lie made His instruction and glorious," revealing Himself in His Word for the sake of His covenant faithfulness; yet they did not understand.

v. 22. But this is a people robbed and spoiled, Israel, in spite of all the Lord's efforts, lying on the ground helpless; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison-houses, the very ones who were called to the liberty of the children of God; they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore. The very people who, as the friend and messenger of Jehovah, should enjoy the most perfect freedom is being held in the most disgraceful captivity. This unnatural condition should surely open their eyes.

v. 23. Who among you will give ear to this? Who will hearken and hear for the time to come? realizing the gravity of the situation properly and being guided by it.

v. 24. Who gave Jacob for a spoil and Israel to the robbers? Was it merely the work of chance? Did not the Lord, He against whom we have sinned? the prophet here identifying himself with the disobedient people of his nation. For they would not walk in His ways, neither were they obedient unto His Law, they were very emphatic in their refusal to be guided by his Word and will.

v. 25. Therefore He hath poured upon him the fury of His anger and the strength of battle, the fury of warfare; and it hath set him, Israel, the Lord's people, on fire round about; yet he knew not, did not realize even then what the Lord intended them to feel; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to heart, even the Lord's punishment did not make them wise. The prophet's complaint is the same as that which was made by Jesus when He looked upon the city of Jerusalem and wept over it with the exclamation that the matters conducive to her welfare were hidden from her eyes. Luke 19:42.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Isaiah 42". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/isaiah-42.html. 1921-23.
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