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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

Isaiah 49


Isaiah 49-57

The second Ennead of Isaiah 40-66 has for its all-controlling, central point the personal Servant of Jehovah, in whom all the typical forms already encountered under this name in chapts. 40–48 combine as in their higher unity. Hence in 49–57 the Servant of Jehovah is no longer the people of Israel, nor the Prophet, nor the prophetic institution, but only the Messiah in His servant-form. But these chapters do not speak only of the suffering and enduring Servant, but also of Israel’s sin and of the redemption that the Servant effects by His suffering. Thus it happens that the elements of announcing the suffering, of punishment and consolation cross one another artistically as the various colored threads of a woven web. Yet this crossing occurs only in the first half. For as in the first Ennead Cyrus appears from 41 on successively growing, until in the middle (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1) he appears as the ripe fruit, so from 49 on we see the Servant of Jehovah developing in ever greater distinctness, until in the middle (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12) he meets us in the complete Ecce-homo form. But with the laying in the grave He disappears. From 54 on the Servant of Jehovah is spoken of no more. What then follows is a description of the salvation effected by the Servant in its objective and subjective aspects. This description extends to Isaiah 56:9, where it breaks off with a distant view of the final and highest fruits of salvation, the glorification of nature. With Isaiah 56:10 begins a section in strongest contrast with what precedes. For the Prophet, having finished his description of the glorious future, turns his eye to the present. In this he sees mournful things in the leaders of the people and in the nation itself. Still he cannot conclude without giving the comforting assurance, that even the present deep degradation will not hinder the fulfilment of the promises of salvation. For the Lord will heal those that let themselves be healed. Only for the wicked, that persistently oppose themselves, there will be no salvation. Thus the second Ennead concludes with the same words as the first.

As to particulars, the following plan, in my opinion, underlies these nine chapters. The first discourse comprises chapt. 49. In this the Prophet draws a parallel between the Servant of God and Zion. Both are alike in this, that they begin small and end great. The chapter divides accordingly into two halves, the first of which gives a total survey of the person and work of the Servant of God (Isaiah 49:1-13), while the second shows how Zion arises out of deepest forsakenness, rebuilds itself anew by the heathen, and finally soars aloft to the highest elevation and glory (Isaiah 49:14-26).—In the second discourse also (chapt. 50) the Prophet opposes Zion and the Servant of God, indicating the connection between the guilt of Israel and the suffering of the Servant, and the deliverance from the former by faith in the latter. He shows in the first part (Isaiah 50:1-3), namely, that just the not-receiving of the Lord when He came to His possession, had as its consequence the temporary rejection of Israel. To this guiltiness of Israel corresponds (in the second part Isaiah 50:4-9) the suffering which the Servant declares Himself willing to undertake with the consciousness that He still cannot come to disgrace.

Then in the third part (Isaiah 50:10-11), by a brief alternative, is shown to the people the possibility of their being accepted again. In the third discourse (chap. 51), we encounter a dialogue, in which the Servant, Israel, Jehovah and the Prophet appear one after another as actors, and that has for subject the final redemption of Israel. In the first part (Isaiah 51:1-8) the Servant, appearing incognito as if veiled, and just by that intimating the highness of His being, holds out to the people of Israel the conditions of its redemption. In the second part (Isaiah 51:9-11) Israel exhorts the Lord to give new proofs of His ancient power. In the third Jehovah replies to Israel’s exhortation with exhortation, and at the same time holds up to His Servant the origin, means and end of His efficiency (Isaiah 51:12-16). In the fourth part the Prophet speaks. He promises Jerusalem, drunk with the cup of wrath, that the cup of wrath shall pass from its hand to the hand of its enemies (Isaiah 51:17-23). The fourth discourse (chap. 52), treats of the restoration of Jerusalem to glory. In the first part of it (Isaiah 52:1-6) it is stated that Jehovah must restore Jerusalem for the sake of the honor of His name. In the second part (Isaiah 52:7-12) the accomplishment of the restoration is described. The fifth discourse (Isaiah 52:13 to Isaiah 53:12), which represents the culminating point of the second Ennead, can hardly have a better superscription given it than that which Delitzsch has given: Golgotha and Scheblimini [the second term is from the Hebrew of Psalms 110:1, meaning “sit at my right hand.”—Tr.]. Here the Servant’s lowliness, luminous with divine majesty, appears in its highest degree. The discourse has three parts. The first (Isaiah 52:13-15) contains the theme of the prophecy. The second (Isaiah 53:1-7) portrays the lowliness of the Servant as the Lamb that bears the sin of the people. Finally the third (Isaiah 53:8-12) treats of the exaltation of the Servant to glory. The sixth discourse (chap. 54), describes the new salvation as the glorious fruit of all that the Servant of God has done and suffered. In the first part of it (Isaiah 54:1-10) is described the wonderfully rich blessing of posterity, i.e., the incorporation of the Gentile world in Zion as the first fruit of the grace of Jehovah. In the second (Isaiah 54:11-17) the Prophet describes the new estate of salvation as an universal one. The seventh discourse (chap. 55) treats of this: that for the new salvation there must supervene an entirely new way of appropriating salvation. First (Isaiah 55:1-5) it is shown positively, wherein consists the essence of this new appropriation of salvation; then (Isaiah 55:6-13) negatively, what obstacles and scruples are to be overcome in order that this new mode of appropriating salvation may be established. The short section (Isaiah 56:1-9), the eighth discourse, describes the moral, social and physical fruits of the new way of salvation. Finally, in the ninth discourse (Isaiah 56:10 to Isaiah 57:21) we see a word of conclusion. After the Prophet’s glance had penetrated into the remotest future, he returns to the present. But it is to be noticed that by the present he understands the whole time previous to the beginning of redemption, therefore the time previous to the end of the Exile. The mournful state of this present makes him reflect whether the atrocities of the present must not make impossible the fulfilment of the glorious promises of the future. For this reason he describes first the mournful situation prevailing at present among the shepherds (Isaiah 56:10 to Isaiah 57:2) and among the people (Isaiah 57:3-14), but comes to the conclusion, that God’s love will really heal those that let themselves be healed, and that only for the wicked, who persistently oppose the divine love, there can be no peace (Isaiah 57:15-21).

Verses 1-26


Parallel between the Servant of God and Zion

Isaiah 49:0

In a sketchy way the Prophet draws a picture of the similar course of development in the case of the Servant of God and that of Israel, which, in consequence of its rejecting the Servant, is repudiated unto the extremest misery, yet shall arise again to the full glory of the church of God. The Servant of God begins His course as a little child in the body of his mother, but Israel, as a repudiated wife, must begin an entirely new course of life. Both come also to the most glorious goal. The chapter has accordingly two parts; the first comprising Isaiah 49:1-13, the second Isaiah 49:14-26.



Isaiah 49:1-13

1          Listen, O isles, unto me;

And hearken, ye people, from far;
The Lord hath called me from the womb;
From the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

2     And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword;

In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me,
And made me a polished shaft;
In his quiver hath he hid me;

3     And said unto me, Thou art my servant,

O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

4     Then I said, I have laboured in vain,

I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain:

Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord,

And 1my work with my God.

5     And now, saith the Lord

That formed me from the womb to be his servant,

To bring Jacob again to him,

2Though Israel be not gathered,

Yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord,
And my God shall be my strength.

6     And he said, 3It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant

To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the 4preserved of Israel:

5I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles,

That thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

7     Thus saith the Lord,

The Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One;

6To him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth,

To a servant of rulers,
Kings shall see and arise,
Princes also shall worship,
Because of the Lord that is faithful,

And the Holy One of Israel, and he7 shall choose thee.

8     Thus saith the Lord,

In an acceptable time have I heard thee,
And in a day of salvation have I helped thee:
And I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people,
To 8establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;

9     That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth;

To them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.

They shall feed in the ways,
And their pastures shall be in all high places.

10     They shall not hunger nor thirst;

Neither shall the 9heat nor sun smite them:

For he that hath mercy on them shall lead them,
Even by the springs of water shall he guide them.

11     And I will make all my mountains a way,

And my highways shall be exalted.

12     Behold these shall come from far:

And, lo, these from the north and from the west;
And these from the land of Sinim.

13     Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth;

And break forth into singing, O mountains:
For the Lord hath comforted his people,
And will have mercy upon his afflicted.


See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 49:1. מִבֶּטֶן. Isaiah 49:4. &הֶבֶל לחהו והבל comp. Isaiah 30:7; Job 9:29.—פעלה. Isaiah 49:5. עושׁוּב, Isaiah 12:2; Psalms 28:7. Isaiah 49:7. קְדוֹשׁוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל גֹאֵלבְּזה.

Isaiah 49:1. מֵרָחוֹק can be dependent on הקשׁיבו, but just as well on לאמים (comp. Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 22:3; Isaiah 23:7; Isaiah 57:9) according to familiar usage.

Isaiah 49:5. Instead of ‎‎‎‎לא before יאסף, the K’ri reads לוֹ. The same is the case in ten other passages: Exodus 21:8; Leviticus 11:21; Leviticus 25:30; 2 Samuel 16:8; 2 Samuel 19:7; Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 63:9; Job 6:21; Job 13:15; Job 41:4. In only one passage. K’ri reads לֹא, while K’thibh has לוֹ: 1 Samuel 20:2. In two passages K’thibh reads לֹא, but K’ri וְלֹא: Lamentations 2:2; Lamentations 5:5. As regards our text, the LXX. translates, and after it the Vetus Latinus, “congregabor et glorificabor coram Domino,” from which one sees that they read אֵאָסֵף וְאֶבָּבֵד; thus, probably, they drew the first letter of the word לא to the foregoing ישׂואל, and the second to the following יאסף, or substituted it for the י. Jerome is very much discontented with this translation, which Symmachus and Theodotion also have, because it surrenders a fortissimum contra judaeorum perfidiam testimonium. Aquila translates: “et Israel ei congregabitur.” Therefore he read לוֹ. It seems therefore that party stand-point had an influence on the reading. Among moderns Hitzig translates “in that he leads Jacob back to himself, and Israel will not be carried off.” Hofmann: “Israel that will not be carried away.” B. Fr. Oehler: “And that Israel be not carried away.” All these take אסף in the sense of “to carry away.” Though I will not deny that it may be taken so, yet this negative thought partly disturbs the sense, partly it is flat and superfluous. It suits the parallelism much better to construe the clause as a positive statement. Then the finite verb stands instead of the infinitive with לְ according to the grammatical usage that demands the speedy return from the subordinate forms to the chief forms. לְ for אֶל or עַל is not suspicious, as Hitzig supposes. For beside לו יאסף being quite as admissible as בָּאוּ לָךְ Isaiah 49:18, it is quite common for a preposition to be superseded by a kindred one in the second clause (comp. Jeremiah 3:17; Psalms 33:18).—The clause ואכבד as far as עזי is a parenthesis. The latter part of it is in the perfect וְהָיָה, because, according to Hebrew grammar, two future things are not as such made to follow one another in like verbal form, but only the first stands in the future, while the second is expressed by the perfect as being directly present viewed from the standpoint of the future. Therefore here: I will be honored and then is (as immediate consequence) my God my strength.

Isaiah 49:6. מִן before היותך is properly superfluous, or rather it ought to stand before the member that utters the intenser notion: considered from this, that I will make thee a light to the heathen, it is a small thing that thou art my servant to raise up the tribes of Israel. But מִן stands here to intimate generally a comparative relation, and, as Delitzsch also observes, one may not press the matter of its position. In Ezekiel 8:17 also, the only other place where נָקֵל occurs impersonally with מִן (comp. 2 Samuel 6:22), this preposition does not stand in the logically correct place. Probably there hovered before the Prophet the thought נָקֵל מִמְּךָ הֱיוֹתְךָ לִי וגו׳ i.e., it is from thee, from thy standpoint or in comparison with thy claims, a small thing that thou art my servant to raise up Israel, I will make thee a light to the heathen. That מִמְּךָ הֱיוֹתְךָ would accordingly be contracted into מִהְיוֹתְךָ.—In placing the infin. לְהָשִׁיב after, there is a certain poetic effect: the two infinitive clauses form a whole with corresponding beginning and end. Comp. Isaiah 44:10; Psalms 6:10.

Isaiah 49:7. In בְּזה־נֶפֶשׁ the בזה is simple infinitive, which is however to be construed here as abstractum pro concrete. נפשׁ is not to be conceived of as in the accusative (of nearer definition), but as standing in the genitive. For it is not the soul of the Servant that is meant, but the soul of the despiser. For not merely outwardly, with words, but truly, inwardly, with their whole soul. He is to them an object of contempt (comp. שְׂחֹק Job 12:4; מְשֹׁל Job 17:6.—In regard to the order יראו וקמו comp. the remarks on the parenthesis in Isaiah 49:5. It is to be noted that it does not read וְהִשְׁתַּחֲווּ שָׂרִים. For the ו after שׂרים does not stand parallel with the וְ before קָמוּ, and moreover יראו is not to be supplied before it, but the וְ after שׂרים has demonstrative force=princes, they shall worship him (comp. Ewald, § 344, b; Genesis 22:4; Genesis 22:24; Exodus 16:6-7, etc.).—The וְ before יבחרך is to be taken in the same way. It stands demonstratively, corresponding to the אשׁר before נאמן, and rhetorically substituted for it for the sake of variety. We could say not more correctly, yet more intelligibly and by a really more common construction: for Jehovah’s sake who is faithful, for the sake of the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen thee.

Isaiah 49:9. To take לֵאמֹר gerundively (Delitzsch) is not impossible, but it is also not necessary. For what follows is the specification of what precedes, as now there is said after, what all must previously happen to make possible that הקים ארץ and הנחיל. Yet לאמר is here more than a mere sign of quotation. It denotes an actual, audible speaking, without which the captives would not be able to hear the summons.—יַכֵּם zeugma, comp. Psalms 121:6.


1. The one who forms the chief person of the second Ennead, the personal Servant of Jehovah, is also the first that enters here as speaker. What He says and hears affords us a panoramic image of His life and labor from their first mysterious beginning to the remotest glorious end. As the Servant of God begins by summoning all lands of the earth to give heed, He lets it be understood that what is now to be heard concerns all (Isaiah 49:1 a). Then He designates Himself as one called from His mother’s womb (Isaiah 49:1 b), and as an instrument equipped for a successful contest (Isaiah 49:2), to whom Jehovah has given the honorable name “Servant of God” and “Israel,” and by whom He has determined to glorify Himself (Isaiah 49:3). The present out of which the Servant of God speaks does not correspond to these gracious declarations. For He is constrained to say: I have labored and suffered in vain (Isaiah 49:4 a). But He instantly consoles Himself again with the thought that His right and His reward are in the hands of God, thus in good hands (Isaiah 49:4 b). And then Jehovah Himself confirms this ground of comfort by a threefold declaration: 1) that the work of His chosen Servant, so far from being unsuccessful, will attain a much higher end than what was originally determined. That is, He shall not only bring back the people of Israel to its God, but also bring light and salvation to all nations (Isaiah 49:5-6). 2) The Servant of God, become an object of contempt and aversion, shall become an object of the highest veneration even for kings (Isaiah 49:7). 3) The Servant of God, to a certain time seemingly repudiated, shall yet, when the time for it arrives, be raised aloft and made the mediator of a new Covenant, in consequence of which the Holy Land shall be restored and newly divided, the people redeemed and brought home under divine protection and support from all nations and regions of the world (Isaiah 49:8-12). On account of this glorious redemption, heaven and earth are summoned to praise God (Isaiah 49:13).

2. Listen, O isles——with my God.

Isaiah 49:1-4. Islands and nations are here in parallelism, as in Isaiah 41:1. As what follows concerns all, we have here a discourse of universal importance (comp. Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 34:1). This introduction quite corresponds to the statement of Isaiah 49:6, that the Servant of God shall be the light of the heathen and salvation of God to the end of the earth. But who is here the Servant of God? At first sight the Prophet himself seems to speak in Isaiah 49:1-2, declaring his call from his mother’s womb (comp. Jeremiah 1:5), his equipment for the prophetic calling and the protection experienced in its exercise. But instantly Isaiah 49:3 contradicts this. For it is incomprehensible how the Prophet alone can be called Israel. Added to this the Prophet certainly cannot say that the Lord has made him a light to the Gentiles, etc. (Isaiah 49:6). As little can it be said of him that kings shall worship him (Isaiah 49:7), or that he is set for a covenant of the people (Isaiah 49:8).—The designation of the one addressed as “Israel” in Isaiah 49:3 suggests the thought that Israel is meant, either as a nation or as the nucleus of the nation (the spiritual Israel). But Isaiah 49:5-6, Conflict with this, where both Israel in general and also the nucleus of Israel are expressly distinguished from the Servant of God (see below). But how can one say with Oehler (D. Knecht Jehovah’s, p. 87): “the nation as an ideal Israel leads back the people in their empirical manifestion?” Where is it ever said in any sense whatever that the nation led itself back? And was then the ideal Israel, that would yet be the one to lead back, only among the returned? And did not those that remained in the Exile also belong to empirical Israel?—By the Servant of Jehovah in our text I can only understand the personal Servant. He constitutes in the whole second Ennead the principal person. What was said of Him in the first Ennead by way of prelude now comes to its full development. The Servant of Jehovah is also a man who lay in the womb of his mother. The Prophet portrays his life ab ovo. It is perhaps not superfluous to remark that while the Prophet says of the people of Israel, God chose, formed, brought on, kept, bore them from the womb on (מִבֶּטֶן, Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 46:3; Isaiah 41:8-10), of the personal Servant, he formed and called him from the womb (Isaiah 49:1; Isaiah 49:5), he says of Cyrus, only, he called him by his name and brought him on (Isaiah 45:1; Isaiah 45:3-4). From this it is seen that the Servant of Jehovah in both senses stands nearer Jehovah than does Cyrus. For in the two first named the Lord claims a certain paternity. But Israel gives him most care. It must also be kept, borne and supported. The personal Servant does not need this help. He is merely formed, then called. Cyrus, however, appears as originating from a region that lies more remote from the Lord. From that he is called up by his name (and in fact by שֵׁם and כֻּנְיָה, Isaiah 45:4).

It is even self-evident that מבטן קראני does not mean: he has called me out of my mother’s womb (Hahn). For thus understood the expression suggests absurd ideas. But it were quite in place to say, that the personal Servant of Jehovah was also an instrument formed ad hoc, and led as it were by the voice of God from birth on. The parallel expression הִזְכִּיר שְׁמִי means “to make memory, remembrance of the name.” It is used of places of worship intended for calling on the divine name (Exodus 20:21); of a monument intended to perpetuate a name (2 Samuel 18:18); of a tribute of praise meant to keep the memory of a name for all times (Ps. 45:18; Isaiah 26:13). On הַזְכִּיר בְּשֵׁם, comp. Isaiah 48:1. Here, where the expression is parallel with קָרָא, which, however, can happen only by means of the name, it seems to designate a more enduring keeping of the name in mind: the Lord has not only called me once, He has also afterwards continually thought of my name; He has never lost sight of me from the bowels of my mother (comp. מֵרָֽחַם, Isaiah 46:3).

Next the life of the Servant of Jehovah is sketched with only two, yet two double strokes. On the one hand it is said that the Lordhas made His mouth like a sharp sword, and that He has made Him (the Servant) like a polished shaft. The prominent mention of the mouth of the Servant shows that His task consisted eminently in speaking. It is clear that here only a speaking of divine things according to his calling is meant. Thus the Servant of God is characterized as a prophet. God called and equipped him that he might give sharp, incisive testimony to the divine truth. The expression: “he made my mouth a sharp sword,” is really a metonymy. For what produces the effect of a sharp sword is not the mouth in itself, but the word that proceeds from it (comp. Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 1:16; Hebrews 4:12). In the words: “he made me a polished (בָּרוּר, “smooth, polished to gleaming,” hence easily penetrating, comp. Job 33:3; Zephaniah 3:9) shaft,” the metonymy is pushed still further, as, not only the mouth, but (for the sake of brevity and manifoldness) the whole person stands for the word that proceeds from it. Thus is ascribed to the Servant a penetrating effectiveness that seizes and arouses men to their inmost souls. The experience of such inward operation is not agreeable to such as are not born from that Spirit whose sword and shaft by the Servant penetrate their hearts. These, according to the spirit that rules them, react against it with murderous wrath. For, incapable of meeting the thrusts of the Servant of God with like spiritual weapons, they seek with fleshly ones to silence the mouth that molests them. And they would soon succeed were not that mouth under a higher protection. Hence the Prophet here represents the sword and shaft as at once sharp-cutting and well protected. It is not otherwise usual to describe the cutting sword as one well concealed, and the pointed shaft as one safely hid in the quiver. For sword and shaft are in nowise there in order to be hid under the hand or in the quiver. But the Prophet does not carry out his figure consistently. Having Isaiah 49:2; Isaiah 49:1 a, compared the mouth to a sharp sword, the sword designates in 1b the whole person. For when he says: in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me, he, of course, means primarily the sword, which, as the shaft in the quiver, is hid in the sheath under the hand held over it. But here the concealed sword is no longer image of the word, but of the person from which the sword-like, effective word proceeds. But in Isaiah 49:2; Isaiah 49:2 a, it is not said, as according to 1a, one might expect, “He made my mouth a shaft.” That is said under the influence of 1b, and, as remarked, presses the metonymy further. Still, by the polished shaft the word is meant, whereas הסתירני in 2b again refers to the person. Evidently the Prophet would say, that the one whose word will work on men as sword and shaft, shall at the same time be protected against the hostile opposition of those that are struck, as a sword over whose hands its mighty Lord holds His sheltering hand (comp. Isaiah 51:16), as a shaft that is hid in the quiver (comp. Psalms 127:5). I cannot believe that the “hiding” refers to the “time preceding the period of appearing, or eternity.” Why then would the clauses בצל ידו החביאני and באשׁפתו הסתירני stand after? And did the thought require prominence, that the Servant before His appearance was protected? Certainly not. But it did need to be made prominent that the Servant, whilst He roused the world to bitter wrath, was at the same time hid safely.

In Isaiah 49:3 the motive of this protection is given. The Lord cannot leave unprotected the Servant by whom He will glorify Himself. Thus ויאמר is to be construed as explanatory. The Lord not only actually affords His protection: He says to him also why. He protects him because he is His servant, His instrument, and in fact one that in strife and victory shall reveal and glorify the power of God. Israel is, of course, not in apposition with the subject, but a second predicate, parallel with my servant. But here one may by no means take “Israel” as a designation of the nation. For the expression is to be explained as an allusion to Genesis 32:28 : “Thy name shall be called no more of Jacob, but Israel: for thou hast striven with God and men and hast prevailed.” As there is a second Adam, a second David, and Solomon, so there is a second Israel. Jacob, at the time he received the name Israel, had sustained not only many perilous conflicts with men, but also the conflict with the mysterious appearance of the angel. We may not doubt that this his contending with God was also typical. Also He, whose type he was, must pass through conflict to victory, through pains and labor to rest, through shame to glory. Isaiah 49:2 designates the conflicts that the Servant of God had to sustain with men. That He had also to contend with God, who was at the same time His protector, we see from Matthew 26:36 sqq. Conflict and strife is the task of His earthly existence, but in the contender with God and by Him Jehovah glorifies Himself. For His decree of salvation realizes itself in the whole fullness of its love, wisdom and glory only in and through the second Israel. Of course not at once. For the Servant of God, during the period of His conflict, has dark hours, in which it appears as if He had labored in vain (Isaiah 49:4; comp. Isaiah 30:7; Isaiah 65:23; Job 39:16), consumed His strength for emptiness and a breath (see Text, and Gramm.).

When, spite of all mighty operations of the Spirit, only inferior success, or even decided miscarriage, evidenced by the hatred of the majority of the people, is His reward, such despondency might well come over Him. But He consoles himself that His right is still with (אֵת=penes, kept preserved by) Jehovah, and His reward (comp. Isaiah 40:10) with His God. With this the course of life of the Servant of Jehovah is briefly sketched, and the outwardly observable fruit of it designated. In both respects the result is, indeed, unfavorable, but the faith and hope of the Servant of God is not shaken.

3. And now saith—end of the earth.

Isaiah 49:5-6. In Isaiah 49:4 the Servant of Jehovah expresses the assured hope that, spite of past miscarriage, His cause will yet have a good issue. That this hope is well founded is declared by all that follows to Isaiah 49:13. For in these verses the Lord gives His Servant, in threefold gradation, the consoling promise that from lowliness He shall be raised to great glory. Therefore ועתה here is not contrastive, but is to be construed as confirmatory: “and now also really” (comp. Isaiah 5:3; Isaiah 5:5). With joyful emotion the Servant repeats Isaiah 49:5 first of all the facts that had served as the basis of His hope, and now after a momentary shaking prove to be actually steadfast. First He refers to the Lord’s having prepared Him for His Servant even from His mother’s womb (comp. on Isaiah 49:1 b). And, indeed, He was prepared as a Servant for the sake of a work, whose accomplishment the Lord must very pressingly desire in His own interest. For how often has not the Lord given assurance that for His own sake He will accomplish the redemption of Israel (comp., e.g., Isaiah 48:9; Isaiah 48:11)! This work is the restoration of Israel to its God. We encounter here therefore the so important notion of שׁוּב, concerning which see above Text. and Gram. Yet shall I—my strength. These words form a parenthesis. What the Servant of God hoped for, according to Isaiah 49:4 a, which in Isaiah 49:5 a the Lord holds out to Him indirectly, He here describes as a second possession: He shall be honored, if not in the eyes of men, yet in God’s eyes (בעיני different from לעיני, comp. Isaiah 5:21). Who does not recall here John 5:41-44; John 8:50)? His calling the Lord His strength forms the antithesis to the previously expressed (Isaiah 49:4 a) sense of His own weakness (comp. Isaiah 12:2; Psalms 28:7).

And he said,” (Isaiah 49:6), resumes the discourse interrupted by the parenthesis, in order to add something stronger to what is said, Isaiah 49:5. For the Servant having stated (Isaiah 49:5) that His task was the restoration of Israel to Jehovah, He now announces that, in the moment of His despondency, Jehovah has promised that that original task shall be small compared with (see Text. and Gram.) what henceforth is to be the aim of His activity: the Servant shall become the light of the Gentiles, and bear the salvation to the end of the earth. The expression, “raise upthe tribes of Jacob, says more than one at first sight supposes. For it implies that the nation shall be restored according to its original distribution into twelve tribes. But after the deportation of the Ten tribes into the Assyrian captivity this never happened. For the great mass of the Ten tribes disappeared in the exile. The two tribes of Judah and Benjamin did indeed in greater number return; but after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus all knowledge of tribal belongings ceased. First in Revelation 7:4 sqq. do we encounter again the sharp distinction of the Twelve tribes, and in Matthew 19:29 it is said that the Twelve Apostles shall sit on twelve thrones to judge the Twelve tribes of Israel. Therefore the restoration of the Twelve tribes can be ascribed neither to the people of Israel as a whole, nor to the ideal Israel, nor to the Prophet, nor to the prophetic institution. Only He shall also restore again the Twelve tribes who restores Israel generally, therefore the one who performs the work of הָשִׁיב (comp. on שׁוֹבֵב, Isaiah 49:5) in relation to the נְצוּרֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, i.e., to the שְׁאָר, the שְׁאֵרִית or בְּלֵיטָה (comp. Isaiah 4:2-3; Isaiah 6:13; Isaiah 10:20 sqq.) in its full comprehensiveness. For a light to the Gentiles, therefore for all nations, shall the Servant of God be made, as is also said Isaiah 42:6. Comp. Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47. He that is the light of the nations shall also be their salvation (by metonymy for Saviour, bringer of salvation). In fact, by being their light, He becomes their salvation. The Prophet likely has in mind passages like Exodus 15:2; 2 Samuel 10:11.

4. Thus saith——chose thee.

Isaiah 49:7. The Prophet confirms the hope expressed with growing certainty by the Servant of Jehovah (Isaiah 49:4-6Isaiah 49:4-6Isaiah 49:4-6), by introducing (Isaiah 49:7-8) the Lord Himself as speaker, to repeat to the Servant the promise of his deliverance and exaltation. The Lord designates Himself as the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, because the things spoken of in the words that follow shall reveal, not only the redemption of the Servant, but also of Israel, and not only God’s gracious will, but also His holiness. But the Lord names His Servant by three predicates descriptive of His humiliation. This particular finds a stronger expression here than before or after. We hear sounds that, evidently serve as a prelude to what we hear in chap. 53, especially Isaiah 49:3. The נֶבֶּשׁ is here conceived of as the seat of pleasure and displeasure, longing and contempt (comp. Delitzsch, Psychology, IV. § 6, p. 160; Proverbs 23:2; Psalms 27:12; Psalms 35:25; Numbers 21:5; Job 6:7, etc.) בְּזֹה (see Text. and Gram.) is only used as here this once. The fact that the word occurs again only in Isaiah 53:3 (bis) is perhaps a not unimportant sign of the relation of our text to that. מתעב־גוי is qualitatively the same as בזה־נפשׁ, only quantitatively different. For the expression means: “he who makes the nation feel disgust, aversion.” It is easily seen how here, too, the allusion is to the “sensation” of the soul. But while בזה־נפשׁ designates an aversion felt in the inmost soul, גוי (meaning here neither the Israelite nor a heathen nation) expresses that the aversion is general, felt in the entire nation, in the entire natural community. For גוי is a people as a natural, worldly tribal communion (confluxus hominum). Hence the word designates the heathen nations, but also Israel, where it is spoken of in the sense just referred to (comp. Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 9:2). A servant of rulers the Servant of Jehovah is called because by men in power generally, and thus not kings only, He is regarded as a slave, as an individual with no rights. Every one of any command or consideration, deals with Him arbitrarily. But this relation shall undergo a mighty change. The Servant shall be raised to such a height and consideration, that even those possessed of the greatest power, the kings, shall rise up at the sight of Him (Isaiah 14:9) and worship Him. Because of the Lord, etc., assigns a reason, and does not express the aim. The words recognize the connection between Jehovah and His Servant. Therefore for Jehovah’s sake, i.e., inwardly determined by Him who stands true to His word, and hence helps His Servant, for the sake of the Holy One in Israel, who does not suffer him who is once chosen to fall, they do that expressed in the words “kings shall see—worship:

5. Thus saith——upon His afflicted.

Isaiah 49:8-13. In this section, too, the Lord confirms with His own words the hope of His Servant. The particular of the humiliation, made so prominent in Isaiah 49:7, is here only alluded to. For I have heard thee and I have helped thee imply that the Servant was in a situation, out of which He must implore help. On the other hand the particular of mediation and effecting salvation is unfolded most gloriously. Everything must have its time. Also the Lord’s display of grace. It belongs only to the wisdom of God to know the right time for everything. Thus He did not let the Saviour of the world come before the time was fulfilled (Galatians 4:4). So Paul understood our text (2 Corinthians 6:2). And Christ Himself (Luke 4:4), by taking Isaiah 61:1 sq., for a text, in general explains the time of His appearing as “the acceptable year,” which must be identical with the “acceptable time” of our text. The prophetic gaze, however, in the “year of salvation” sees comprehensively all those points of time that belong, by way of preparation and development, to this central point of the redemption of Israel. It begins with the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity and only ends in the completion of salvation in the world beyond. But it must be noted in our text, that the Prophet by no means has in mind the period of the redeeming appearance of the Servant of Jehovah in relation to the precedent suffering of Israel. But the time when He may appear to save is for the Servant Himself a time of salvation, in contrast with a precedent time of suffering, wherein He could not save because He Himself needed salvation in the highest degree. This appears from the antithesis of our ver. to Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 49:4 a, and from the suffix [“thee”] in עניתין and עזרתין, which can refer to no one but the Servant of Jehovah. Therefore this Servant must also, in the deep sufferings He must undergo, await the time that the wisdom of God has determined for His own deliverance. Beside an “acceptable time” and I an “acceptable year” the Prophet also mentions an “acceptable day” Isaiah 58:5, where see. The acceptable day will be for the Servant, naturally a day of salvation, of deliverance. On ׳שׁועה see immediately below. עזרתיך comp. Isaiah 41:14. With ואצרדI will preserve thee” the discourse receives a direction toward the future. The rescued shall at once become a rescuer. To this end He must Himself, first of all, be preserved from all further assaults. Then the Lordwill make Him a covenant of the people. The words: And I will preserve thee—people are repeated verbatim from Isaiah 42:6, where also see the explanation of the expression “covenant of the people.” This identity of language makes it evident that He who is made the covenant of the people is in both passages the same. Were the people of Israel meant by the mediator of the new covenant, then it would need to read גוֹיִם instead of עָם. For Israel cannot be at the same time the one covenanted and the mediator, of the covenant. Nor can Israel be the one to distribute the land, for the land is to be distributed among the Israelites. Nor does Israel raise up the land. For this raising up happens only by the raising up of the people, i.e, Israel itself. Nor can one say that this restorer and divider is the ideal Israel. For precisely this latter is the one which, as possessor of the new covenant is put in possession of the renovated inheritance, and which thereby raised up, will be made a glorious and mighty nation. To this there is something additional. Who does not, with “raise up the land,” and “cause to inherit the inheritances” recall Joshua, who raised up the land of Canaan to the honor of being the dwelling-place of the holy people and distributed it among the tribes of Israel (comp. Joshua 1:6, תנחיל את־העם את־הארץ)? This makes it natural for us to regard the one that is helped in a day of salvation and who is to be a second restorer and divider of the land as a second Joshua, as in Isaiah 49:3, we learned to know him as a second Israel. The first Joshua had to divide the land as one already inhabited and cultivated. The second will distribute it to the returning exiles as one hitherto lying waste. From this it appears that the Prophet has in mind primarily those returning from the Babylonish exile. These, too, came back under the conduct of a יֵשׁוּעַ to Palestine (Ezra 2:2; Ezra 3:2; Ezra 3:8-9, etc.). But this was not the right fulfilment of this promise (comp. the remarks on הקים את־שׁבטי י׳ Isaiah 49:6). Here, again, the Prophet contemplates together beginning and end, and correctly describes what must happen as a preliminary meager fulfilment before the historical appearance of the personal Servant of Jehovah, as also His work.

In Isaiah 49:9 a (comp. Isaiah 42:7) the captives are addressed as persons; but in what follows they appear as a flock. The Prophet describes here, as often repeatedly in what has preceded, the all-important way home (Isaiah 40:11; Isaiah 41:17 sqq.; Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 43:15 sqq.; Isaiah 44:27; Isaiah 48:20 sq.). As in Isaiah 40:11, he represents Israel as a flock that finds pasture, both in the way, and on the high places (46:18) that are more arid than the valleys, so that they shall neither hunger nor thirst, nor suffer from the treacherous Fata Morgana (see on Isaiah 35:7). For Israel shall be under the best of leadership: “he that hath mercy on them shall lead them,” (that is of course, indirectly, by the Servant according to Isaiah 49:8 b), even by springs of water shall He guide them.

Isaiah 49:11 is to be explained according to Isaiah 40:4. Jehovah will lead His people the next and directest way. To this end the mountains, exempt from human power, but subject to the Lord as His mountains, i.e., as His creatures, must submit to be a way, i.e., doubtless where necessary lower themselves, while the valleys must fill up, and become elevated causeways (מסלות). To the particular that the return shall be happily accomplished by God’s help, the Prophet adds, as in Isaiah 43:5 sq., that the return shall take place from every quarter. Having begun with the general מרחוק, and added afterwards the more exact designations of the quarters of the heavens, he prompts the conjecture that only after the word of general contents was written, did the thought of the plagae coeli come to him. Hence we will not press מרחוק, nor venture to give it the meaning “south” in antithesis to צפון. For it never has it elsewhere. The passage Psalms 107:3, may not be cited as proof that יָם in antithesis to צפון means the south. For the latter passage appears just to rest on ours, and only proves that the author of that Psalm thought he must make מים in our text denote “from the south.” Therefore I believe that מים here as everywhere else means “from the west.” To this is put in antithesis the land of Sinim, as the remotest eastern land. This name must any way represent an entire quarter of the heavens and probably the east. Neither the people סִינִי mentioned Genesis 10:17, who belonged to the Phoenicians and dwelt in the north of Lebanon (comp. Knobel on Genesis 10:17), nor Sin-Pelusium (Saad. Bochart, Ewald), and still less the Kurd clan Sin (Egli, Zeitschr. für wissensch. Theol. vi. p. 400 sqq.), meets these demands. Hence the majority of opinion inclines to understand the Chinese to be meant by the Sinim. [See a very copious note of J. A. Alex., in loc., who holds the same view.—Tr.]. It has been abundantly shown that already in very remote times wares from India and China were received by the Phoenicians in the emporiums of the Euphrates and Arabia, and brought by them to the west (comp. beside Gesenius in his Thes., and Comm., and Lassen, Ind. Alterthumsk. especially MoversPhoen. II. 3, p. 240 sq.). But if one ask how the Prophet came to call the Chinese by the name סִינִים, it is much questioned whether already in Isaiah’s time they could be named Sinim as inhabitants of a land Thsin or Tsin (comp. Wuttke, Die Entstehung der Schrift., p. 241). Victor 5. Strauss (in an excursus in Delitzsch, p. 712) consequently takes the view that the name סין is to be derived from the Chinese sjin, i.e., man. The extraordinarily frequent use that the Chinese made of this word, not only to designate all possible qualities, conditions, sorts of business, but also the relations of descent, moved foreigners to call the nation itself by this name. A decision on this point must be waited for. In conclusion the Prophet summons heaven and earth to rejoice at the important fact, so interesting also to them, that the Lord has again had mercy on His chosen people (comp. Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 55:12). The Prophet closes here in an artistic way as with a. forte allegro, while the following strophe begins with a piano maestoso.


[1]1 Or, my reward.

[2]2 Or, That Israel may be gathered to him, and I may, etc.

[3]3 Or, Art thou lighter than that thou shouldest, etc.

[4]4 Or, desolations.

[5]a I have made thee.

[6]5 Or, To him that is despised in soul.

[7]b hath chosen.

[8]6 Or, raise up.

[9]c the mirage.


Isaiah 49:14-26

14          But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me,

And 10my Lord hath forgotten me.

15     11Can a woman forget her sucking child,

12That she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?

Yea, they may forget,
Yet will I not forget thee.

16     Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands;

Thy walls are continually before me.

17     Thy children 13shall make haste;

Thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.

18     Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold:

All these gather themselves together, and come to thee.

As I live, saith the Lord,

Thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament,
And bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.

19     For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction,

14Shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants,

And they that swallowed thee up shall be far away.

20     The children 15which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other,

Shall say again in thine ears, The place is too straight for me:

16Give place to me that I may dwell.

21     Then shalt thou say in thine heart,

Who hath 17begotten me these,

Seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate,

18A captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these?

Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?

22     Thus saith the Lord 19God,

Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles,
And set up my standard to the 20people:

And they shall bring thy sons in their 21arms,

And thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

23     And kings shall be thy 22nursing fathers,

And their 23queens thy nursing mothers:

They shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth,

And lick up the dust of thy feet;
And thou shalt know that I am the Lord:

24For they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

24     Shall the prey be taken from the mighty,

Or 25the 26lawful captive delivered?

25     But thus saith the Lord,

Even the 27captives of the mighty shall be taken away,

And the prey of the terrible shall be delivered:
For I will contend with him that contendeth with thee,
And I will save thy children.

26     And I will 28feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh;

And they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with 29sweet wine:

And all flesh shall know
That I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer,

The mighty One of Jacob.


See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 49:15. עוּל. Isaiah 49:16. חָקַק. Isaiah 49:17. מָהַר. Isaiah 49:20. שִׁכֻּלִים. Isaiah 49:21. גֹּלהָ part fem. from &#מוּסָרָה סוּרָהגָּלָה again only Jeremiah 17:13.Isaiah 49:22. חֹצֶן. Isaiah 49:23, generally.

Isaiah 49:15. מִן before רַחֵם has the sense of a negative conjunction=so that not.—In the clause גם אלה וגו׳, as is often the case, the conditional particle is omitted.

Isaiah 49:19. I construe the first כִּי as causal, but the second as the pleonastic כִּי that is wont to stand after a verbum dicendi (here to be supplied, comp. Isaiah 7:9).—תצרי מיושׁב is: thou wilt be strait from the viewpoint of the dweller, i.e., thou wilt be too strait for dwelling. תֵּצְרִי from צָרַר; comp. Olsh., § 243, b. [Fuerst, Lex. derives it from יָצַר.—Tr.].

Isaiah 49:20. The imperat. גְּשָׁה relates necessarily to the same person as the suffixes in אָזְנַיִךְ and שׁכִּלַיִךְ.—לִי is not dat. loci, but dat. commodi.

Isaiah 49:22. The expression נשׂא יר occurs in Isaiah only here. It plainly means “with uplifted hand to give a sign.” For similar expressions comp. Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 11:15; Isaiah 13:2; Isaiah 19:16. On the other hand חרים נם occurs again Isaiah 62:10; yet more frequently נשִׂא נם. (Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 13:2; Isaiah 18:3).

Isaiah 49:24. Great difficulty is presented by שׁבי צריק, which seems to correspond to שׁבי גבור of Isaiah 49:25. Is שׁבי צריק the captivitas, i.e., captive of the righteous, or is it the troop of captives taken from the righteous, i.e., the righteous nation, Israel (comp. גְּזֵלַת הֶעָנִי the plunder taken from the poor, Isaiah 3:14), or is it the captive righteous, or, finally, is שׁבי עריץ to be read instead of שׁבי צריק, which the Syr. rendering “captivitas herois.” the Vulg. “captum a robusto,” the LXX., ἐὰν αἰχμαλωτεύστις seem to justify? First, in regard to the change of reading, I do not think we can rely here on the ancient versions, for they were evidently uncertain about the sense, and guessed at it. The Syr. without more ado, felt justified in making the corresponding members of the parallel conform, since it translates. num auferetur praeda gigantis aut captivitas herois eripietur? Immo sic ait Dominus: praeda gigantis auferetur et captivitas herois eripietur.” We would, therefore, be only continuing the arbitrariness of the ancients did we read עָרִיץ for צַרִּיק.—If we translate “the captives of the righteous one,” then it must either be admitted that he is called a righteous one who still holds captive the people of God (at the very time when, according to Isaiah 49:23 sq., other heathen powers have begun to bring them back with great honor), and is fearfully punished for it (Isaiah 49:25 sq.), or all sorts of far-fetched meanings must be given to צריק (as e.g., J. D. Mich. makes it mean “victor,” or Paulus, after Schultens, = one who is right, what he ought to be, viz., a brave soldier).—But if we take שׁבי צריק as genitive of the object according to Isaiah 3:14, then we must either take it in the sense of “plunder” (Gesenius), which however is poorly supported by appeal to 2 Chronicles 21:17, or else it is forgotten that when I say “to pillage the poor,” what is pillaged is not the poor man himself but his goods. But if I say “to lead the righteous man captive,” then the object of capture is the righteous man himself. Hence שׁבי צריק were then nothing else than a troop of captives consisting of righteous persons. But then one would expect שׁבי צַרִּיקִים, since, indeed, the notion שְׁבִי, quite differently from גִּזֵלָה, refers to a plurality. But since it reads simply שׁבי צריק, I think it is to be translated simply “captivitas justa” (compare גּוֹי צריק Isaiah 26:2) i.e., “righteous prisoner.” The qualification צריק is prompted by Israel being the predominant thought in mind.

Isaiah 49:25. אֵת before יריבך can be a preposition as in Isaiah 1:8; Jeremiah 2:9; comp. Hosea 4:1; Hosea 12:3; but also sign of the accusative, as in Isaiah 27:8; Deuteronomy 33:8; Job 10:2. The accusative expresses more, and better suits the context.

Isaiah 49:26. מוֹנֶה part. Hiph. from יָנָה (oppressit, comp. Leviticus 19:33; Leviticus 25:14; Deuteronomy 23:17) occurs only here.—אָבִיר אַבִּיר, occurs only in the connection יעקב אֲבִיר Genesis 49:24; Isaiah 60:16; Psalms 132:2; Psalms 132:5, and אביר ישׂראל Isaiah 1:24.


1. In the second half of the chapter, in antithesis to the Servant of Jehovah, the Restorer, appears Zion, that, according to Isaiah 49:8 sqq., was to be restored by Him, and is restored. Accordingly, from Isaiah 49:14 on nothing more is said of the Servant of the Lord, but the discourse is only of Zion as the married wife that is apparently forsaken, yet is still tenderly beloved by the Lord, of her new upbuilding by countless children that are born to her, she knows not where or how, and (in contrast with this), of the judgments of God that shall come on the nations hostile to Israel.

2. But Zion said——continually before me.

Isaiah 49:14-16. Zion can only say “the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me,” when the Theocracy seems broken and irrevocably destroyed. The time after the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar was such. But with as much justice the time after the destruction by Titus may be regarded as such. The Prophet sees both together, as previously (Isaiah 49:8 sqq.) he had seen together the return out of the Babylonian and the Roman exile. Therefore these words of Zion also fall, and that very particularly, in the time when the Servant of Jehovah must lament that He has labored in vain (Isaiah 49:3). Is it an accident that the lament of Zion, Isaiah 49:14, follows immediately after the lament of the Servant of Jehovah? Did the Servant not need to lament that He labored in vain, then Zion would not have had to lament that it was forsaken. Both stand in the closest causal connection. To Zion’s complaint Jehovah returns a wonderfully consoling reply. Here, too, as in Isaiah 42:14; Isaiah 46:3 sq.: Isaiah 66:13, there is ascribed to Jehovah a feminine sensibility, a more than maternal love. How could the Lord forget Zion, seeing that her image was not merely in His heart, but also inscribed upon His hands, as a continual souvenir always before His eyes! In general these words call to mind Deuteronomy 6:8 sq.; Deuteronomy 11:18, comp. Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 7:3. Others refer to the custom of branding or tattooing on the forehead, arm, or wrist of a slave the name of his master, of a soldier the name of his general, of an idolater the name of his divinity (comp. Gesen. on Isaiah 44:5). Also Revelation 13:16 alludes to this custom. From “thy walls are continually before me,” it is seen that the Lord would say He has the image of the city, not its name, always before His eyes. For the walls represent the outlines of the figure.

3. Thy children——where had they been. Isaiah 49:17-21. Zion, forsaken and repudiated by her husband, and thus supposing herself debarred from bearing children, is in a wonderful way suddenly surrounded by the most numerous fresh growth, the richest blessing of children and ornament of children. Thy children hasten hither, says Isaiah 49:17. Manifestly there is in בָּנַיִךְ an allusion to בֹּנַיִךְ, as also the LXX., Vulg.Targ. Ar. actually seem to have read. Luther, too, translates “thy builders will hasten”. Though this reading is neither justifiable nor a necessity, still the contrast with the second half of the verse demands that we press the radical notion in בניך, viz.בָּנָה, and recognize in it an allusion to the fact that it is the children which, so to speak, as the living stones build the house, the family, the generation (comp. Genesis 16:2; Exodus 1:21; Deuteronomy 25:9; 1Sa 2:35; 1 Samuel 25:28; 2 Samuel 7:27; Ruth 4:11). Therefore, those who join stone to stone, that the house of Israel may grow endlessly, shall come on in haste, but those that destroy and desolate it shall make off. Israel, however, the mother, shall look around. She sees a great crowd. It has one goal: Zion. Thither all hasten. At first Zion cannot credit it, that all these press on to her as their maternal centre. But the Lord assures her of the important fact with an oath (חי אני, first, Numbers 14:21; Numbers 14:28; Deuteronomy 32:40; only here in Isa.; Jeremiah 22:24; Jeremiah 46:18; most frequent in Ezekiel 5:11; Ezekiel 14:16; Ezekiel 16:48, etc. Comp. Isaiah 45:23). Zion may regard all this as her own; she may put on the glorious crown of children as an ornament; she may gird herself with them as with the splendid girdle of the bride (קִשֻׁרִים, Isaiah 3:20). But Zion makes objection. She points to the ruins of her cities, her wasted land. And, in fact, is there no contradiction in this double act of God? On the one hand He destroys the land and decimates the people, and then He brings on a countless multitude as children. And then what is a great multitude to do in a desert? In reply, the Lord persists in His assertion that Zion is to regard this crowd as her blessing of children. For, He says: as regards thy ruins and desolations and thy devastated land, I say to thee, that now thou shalt be too contracted to dwell in (see Text. and Gram.). Therefore, far from being frightened off by ruins and desolations, the new people even press on. Here is a straitened distress of a new sort! Formerly it was the Philistines, Ammonites, Syrians, Assyrians, etc., that took away the bread from the Israelites in their own land (comp. 33:30). Now it is her own children! On the other hand, the ancient מְבַלְּעִים, the ancient devourers have disappeared! That תצרי מיושׁב is more exactly explained Isaiah 49:20. The בני שׁכלים appear as speakers, and beg the mother to make room for them. It is especially to be noted that the mother is addressed as the representative of the family (see Text. and Gram.). The individual crowded inhabitants, one might think, ought to apply to their individual neighbors. But such a moving act can only be possible as the act of the totality. Hence the Prophet lets the demand be addressed to the ideal representative of the totality. So that it is to be remarked respecting נשׁה, that the word evidently means, not a moving to the speaker, but to the one dwelling in the opposite direction, thus not a moving to but away (comp. Genesis 19:9).

Zion, destroyed by Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans (for the Prophet contemplates all these together), stands at last solitary, robbed of all her children. The ideal Zion has become essentially an abstraction, devoid of being. For when all single individuals have disappeared, as was the case after the final destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, then, indeed, the representative of the totality has nothing more to represent, she no more has anything real on which to lean. If now a numerous Israel comes on, then the question of Isaiah 49:21 is quite natural: who hath borne me these?יָלַר may not be rendered “begotten.” For then Zion would know who had borne these children, but not who had begotten them. She rather says: I have not borne them; who then has borne them for me?—ואני וגו׳ is a causal clause: for I was childless (שׁכולה only here in Isa.), unfruitful (גלמורה, sterilis, again only Job 3:7; Job 15:34; Job 30:3), banished, driven away. Since the children stand before her, not as new born, but as grown up, she asks further: Who hath brought them up for me?

4. Thus saith——that wait for me. Isaiah 49:22-23. Now the Lord solves the riddle. The countless children are those converted to Jehovah from the Gentiles, and thus primarily become members of the spiritual Israel. But the spiritual Israel is the inward, everlasting core of the fleshly Israel. As the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος is the everlasting, abiding core of men in general; as therefore after the new birth, after death and the resurrection, the core of the personality remains ever the same, spite of all the changes of the outward manifestation, so is the “spiritual Israel” ever the same ideal personality that had already formed the centre of the “fleshly Israel.” Hence, with our Prophet, it is the same subject that complains of the ruin of the outward Theocracy and the loss of motherhood ascribed to that, and then still is required to regard the converts from the Gentile world as its children. Hence I do not believe that by the children coming out of the Gentiles we are to understand the returning Israelites. For Israel could not ask, with reference to these: Who hath borne me these? Though for a time they might have been lost to the sight of the ideal mother, still must she have known them again and recognized them as children of her own body. Whence so many children, whom I have yet not borne myself? is Israel’s inquiry. The Lord replies: at my sign the Gentiles bring thy children hither. Two things are new here: first, that the streaming hither of the children of Zion happens at the command (see Text. and Gram.) of Jehovah; second, that the Gentiles bring them hither with the greatest care and reverence. The first, already, shows that Jehovah and Zion have a common interest in the matter. They are in fact children of Jehovah and of Zion, viz. spiritual children that have received the spiritual Zion from its Lord, and are now come on to build again Zion corporally, in a certain sense (Isaiah 49:17). This construction is confirmed by what follows: And they shall bring thy sons in their bosom, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. Therefore these children born in the heathen nations are called Zion’s, the children of the spiritual Israel. Or, as Paul says, Galatians 4:26 : “But Jerusalem which is from above is free, which is the mother of us all.” Whether he himself understood that correctly or not, still the Prophet sees in the spirit that the outward, corporeal Zion (“the Jerusalem that now is”) must be repudiated, (Galatians 4:30; Genesis 21:10; Genesis 21:12), destroyed; but that in place of it shall come out of the spirit of Zion (now truly made free and far extended) a countless posterity, that shall build itself up a new, greater and more glorious Zion even in the corporeal sense (comp. Isaiah 54:1 sqq.). הֹצֶן is the sinus formed by the wide upper garment, in which one may even carry small children. For this expression, as also the one following: they shall be carried on the shoulder, denotes such children as demand careful watch and culture. Such care the new Zion shall receive even on the part of princes, i.e., states (comp. Isaiah 60:16; Isaiah 66:12). We need not here explain how this prophecy has been realized in a good as well as an evil sense. But fact it is, that the Zion here meant by the Prophet has received from the rich of this world not only nurture, but also reverence, that partly went the length even of idolatry (אפים ארץ; comp. Genesis 19:1; Gen 42:6; 1 Samuel 24:9, etc.). The Prophet distinguishes here as little the individual princes as he does the gradations of the fulfilment. He does not know that he portrays the mutual relation of the Christian church and the Christian state, and comprehends in one expression blessing and curse, the earthly beginnings and the heavenly completion of this relation. The mention of princesses along with the kings has likely only a rhetorical significance. In a picture of well-nurtured little children, the nurses must not be wanting. Thus Zion will experience that its God is the true God, the eternally existent One, whose divinity evidences itself to men in this, that those who, even in the deepest distress, do not lose their trust in Him, will not be brought to shame (comp. Isaiah 40:3; Psalms 25:3).

5. Shall the prey——mighty One of Jacob, Isaiah 49:24-26. The verses 22, 23, testify to a surprising turn in the sentiment of the world-powers toward Israel. The inquiry is suggested: Will all Gentile powers be converted to such a recognition of the high significance of Israel? And if not, what is the prospect for those Israelites that are held fast by such nations as persist in their hostility. To this the Prophet replies in these verses, 24–26. He says, to begin with: a strong man will not allow his plunder or captives to be taken from him. In Luke 11:21 the Lord evidently has in mind our passage when He speaks of “the strong man armed keeping his palace.” (On שׁבי צריק, see Text. and Gram.). Israel, ready for the return home, is, any way צדיק, however it may have been with respect to the guilt or innocence of those that were led away into exile. With reference to Israel it is therefore asked, whether perhaps righteous prisoners are easier to free than others. Of course one would think that, with a strong man, it mattered little whether his captives came into his power justly or unjustly, that thus under any circumstances it were impossible to take his captives from him. But the Prophet, notwithstanding, answers the question whether this be possible, with yes. For the Lord has said so, in case Israel is this captivitas, this spoil. In that case the Lord Himself will be the champion for Israel against those contending against it (יָרִיב, comp. Psalms 35:1; Jeremiah 18:19 and יָרֵב, Hosea 5:13; Hosea 10:6), and will redeem his children (see Text. and Gram.) In Isaiah 49:26 a, by a strong figure, it is described how the Lord will contend with the contenders; He will reduce them to a condition where they will eat their own flesh and make themselves drunk with their own blood as with new wine. It seems absurd to point to an historical realization of this as e.g.Knobel does by referring our passage to “dissensions among the enemies of Cyrus,” and especially to the desertion of the Hyrcanians and of the Babylonian subject-kings Gobryas and Gadatas from the Babylonian cause (Cyrop.Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 4:6; Isaiah 5:1-3). Our entire prophecy has an eschatological character. It presupposes the final judgment of the “fleshly Israel,” and describes how, like a phœnix, the new spiritual Israel will arise out of its ashes. The strong figure of eating one’s own flesh, etc., recalls such texts as Isaiah 9:19 sq.; Zechariah 11:9; Zechariah 9:15. Thus shall the whole world know that the alone true, eternally existent God, Jehovah, and the Deliverer and Redeemer of Israel, the Mighty One of Jacob, is one and the same. For Israel’s deliverance is also only a means to attain the highest end, viz. that all the world may be blessed, and God’s holy name may be known and praised. There occurs a repetition of Isaiah 49:26 b in Isaiah 60:16.


[10]the Lord.


[12]Heb. From having compassion.

[13]omit shall.

[14]I say thou shalt be too narrow for the.

[15]childlessness, or bereavement

[16]Move for me.


[18]An exile, and banished.



[21]Heb. bosom,

[22]Heb. nourishers.

[23]Heb. princesses.

[24]whose expectants shall not be ashamed.

[25]Heb. the captivity of the just.


[27]Heb. captivity.

[28]matte them eat

[29]Or, new wine.


1. On Isaiah 49:1. “Jactat vocationem suam ad confirmdos gentium animos, ne offendantur stulta et infirma Christi specie, qui praedicatur crucifixus. Nolite me ideo contemnere, inquit. Venio divina auctoritate.”—Luther.

2. On Isaiah 49:1-2. “When Jesus says here, God has called Him by name from His mother’s womb on, it may be seen that no one should press into an office without regular commission (Hebrews 5:4), and how no man can receive any thing unless it be given him from heaven (John 3:27). The power of the divine word is this, that it cuts as a sharp sword and pierces as an arrow and wounds the hearts of men, on the one hand so that they know their sin, accept the offered pardon in Christ, are inflamed with love towards God, and receive everlasting life, on the other hand, however, so that they wilfully oppose the word, and are thus wounded to everlasting death. For this sword of the word can do both, can kill and make alive, as also Paul says, it is to some a savor of death unto death, but to some a savor of life unto life (2 Corinthians 2:16).”—Renner.

3. On Isaiah 49:3. “Jesus is the true, perfect Servant of God, by whom the Father perfectly carries out all His gracious purpose. He is the true Israel, hero of God, and contender with God in one person, and only in and through Him do other men belong to the true Israel. Through Him God performed His highest work; for He conquered sin and death, and won peace with God by His soul-struggle and His bitter suffering. So God is now rightly known in Him, and praised as love.” Diedrich.

4. On Isaiah 49:4. “Christ Himself does not suppose. But we, when we see the beginning of Christ, must think and suppose, Christ labors in vain. For if one looks to His birth, to His preaching, to His suffering, to His death, to His poor twelve fisher servants by whom He would reform and take possession of the whole world, one must suppose, for the life of him it will never do. Yet the Lord’s purpose will still prosper in His hand (Isaiah 53:11), and His counsel is wonderful and gloriously accomplishes itself (Isaiah 28:29). But if a preacher happens to think that his labor is in vain, let him consider, first, that the affair is not his, but God’s, who will carry it out (Psalms 74:22), for it would be a reproach to him to let it fail. Second, let him consider, that God has called him. He that has put him into the regular office, will doubtless also make him prosper.” Cramer.

5. [On Isaiah 49:6. “We may learn hence, (1) that God will raise up the tribes of Jacob; that is, that large numbers of the Jews shall yet be ‘preserved’ or recovered to Himself; (2) that the gospel shall certainly be extended to the ends of the earth; (3) that it is an honor to be made instrumental in extending the true religion. So great is this honor, that it is mentioned as the highest which could be conferred even on the Redeemer in this world. And if He deemed it an honor, shall we not also regard it as a privilege to engage in the work of Christian Missions, and endeavor to save the world from ruin? There is no higher glory for man than to tread in the footsteps of the Son of God; and he who, by self-denial and charity, and personal toil and prayer, does most for the conversion of this whole world to God, is most like the Redeemer, and will have the most elevated seat in the glories of the heavenly world.” Barnes.].

6. On Isaiah 49:7. He who among all beings unites the greatest contrasts in Himself is that one Mediator between God and man. For He alone belongs to two worlds, and He alone stands on the lowest and the highest step. Many have been born in a stall, and have hung on a cross, but in no one case was contempt so contemptible as in His, and no one felt it so keenly as He. To none however but to Him, is given a name that is above every name (Philippians 2:9 sqq.). “Eo ipso vocabulo, quo se commendat, significat faciem ecclesiae … . Coram mundo enim nihil ecclesia est calamitosius, nihil improbius, nihil magis profanum. Quare vocat eam animam contemptibilem, gentem abominabilem et servum tyrranorum. Hi sunt magni tituli Christianorum, quorum si quos pudet, illi cogitent, se frustra Christum quaerere.”Luther.

7. On Isaiah 49:8. The time of Christ’s sufferings is here called the time of the gracious hearing of the Messiah; the great day of salvation, in which the salvation of men was acquired by Christ; the time of help and deliverance of the Saviour calling for help in deep waters of suffering (Psalms 69:2-3), the time of mighty preservation and protection of the Redeemer pressed down to the ground by the burden of sin, the time when God set Him for a covenant among the people.” Starke.

8. On Isaiah 49:12. Although even in the Old Testament, some of the heathen were scatteringly added on, as is seen in the case of Jethro, Ruth, Rahab, the Gibeonites, Ittai the Gittite (2 Samuel 15:19) and others beside; yet this was first to take place in full measure in the time of the coming of the Messiah, who is especially the consolation of all Gentiles (Haggai 2:8).” Cramer.

9. On Isaiah 49:14. “If thou thinkest, God has wholly forsaken thee, then He has thee in His arms and fondles thee.”—Luther.——“We are not forgotten of God, for there is a memorandum written before Him of those that love the Lord (Malachi 3:16). Yea, He has a fatherly and motherly love for us, seeing we are borne by Him in His body (Isaiah 46:3). We ought, for this reason, not to judge by outward fortune and looks, how God is minded toward us, but hold exclusively to the word and promises.”—Cramer.

10. On Isaiah 49:15. “God compares Himself to a father (Psalms 103:13; Malachi 3:17), and if that were not enough, also to a mother. Now as to how a father’s and mother’s heart is affected, a father and mother can easily measure with respect to their children. Examples: Hagar cannot bear to see her son Ishmael die (Genesis 21:16); the real mother before Solomon’s judgment seat cannot suffer her son to be divided (1 Kings 3:26). Therefore, now God breaks His heart over us, so that He must have mercy on us (Jeremiah 31:20). Yea, God’s love far excels the fatherly and motherly στοργή. For there are cases where pitiful women have even boiled their children (Lamentations 4:10). Examples: In the siege of Samaria (2 Kings 6:20), and in the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans (Josephus). But God is very differently affected toward us, for He is love itself, grace itself, compassion itself.”—Cramer.

11. On Isaiah 49:22-23. It was known to the Gentiles that the Jews called themselves the chosen people of God. How they made sport of it may, among other instances, be seen from Cicero’s oration pro Flacco, chap. 28. This Flaccus, while administering the province of Asia, had prohibited the Jews from sending the annual temple tax to Jerusalem. This constituted one of the points of complaint against him. For the Jews must even at that time have had not inconsiderable influence in Rome. This appears from Cicero giving it to be understood that the matter was dealt with “non longe a gradibus Aureliis” (probably the Jews’ quarter for dwelling or business at that time). He adds: “Scis quanta sit manus, quanta concordia, quantum valeat in concionibus”. Then he continues to speak summissa voce, in order to be understood only by the judges, and not by such as would set the Jews on him. He justifies the procedure of his client as quite legal. Finally he concludes with the words: Sua cuique civitati religio est, nostra nobis. Stantibus Hierosolymis, pacatisque Judaeis, tamen istorum religio sacrorum a splendore hujus imperii, gravitate nominis nostri, majorum institutis abhorrebat; nunc vero hoc magis, quod illa gens, quid de imperio nostro sentiret, ostendit armis. Quam cara Diis immortalibus esset, docuit, quod est victa, quod elocata, quod servata. This last clause evidently contains mockery. Cicero starts with saying that the Jews were described as especially dear to the gods. But how much there is in this special favor of the gods may be seen from the gens judaica being victa, elocata servata. This language seems to be a play on words. For the words can mean: “conquered, hired out, saved,”—but also: “conquered, transplanted (from their home to some other place), made slaves.” Then servare would be formed ad hoc from servus, as, e.g., sociare from socius, filiare from filius, etc. Pompeius brought many thousands of the Jews to Rome, who being found useless as slaves, laid the foundation of the Jewish congregation of after times. Comp. Pressel in Herz., R.-Enc., XVII., p. 253.

12. On Isaiah 49:23. “Worldly dominion should tend to this, viz., to seek the best advantage of the Church of God, and maintain its protection. Otherwise, if God were not concerned about His Church, kings and princes would be of no use on earth. And just that they ought even to know.” Cramer.

13. On Isaiah 49:24 sqq. Whether we understand by the “strong one” the devil, or the power of carnal Judaism, or political powers hostile to Christianity, it is in any case certain that the Lord will conquer the strong one in all these forms, and wrest his plunder from him. In reference to the oppressors eating their own flesh and intoxicating themselves with their own blood, it is to be remembered how all enemies of the truth must finally fall out with one another and tear each other’s flesh, and even devour one another (Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20; Psalms 83:0). Recall the many judgments of God: Christ and unbelieving Israel (especially the contests of the zealots in the siege of Jerusalem); Nero, who was by the senate declared to be an enemy of the state; the heroes of the French Revolution, etc.


1. On Isaiah 49:1-6. In times of the Church’s distress and conflict, when it seems as if the Church of the Lord must be destroyed by its enemies, this passage can be held up to the congregation as a glorious word of consolation. For what is here said primarily of the Servant of God may be so applied to the Church of the Lord to show: The grounds of comfort that assure us that the Church of Christ can never perish. 1) The Church in its beginnings was willed and prepared by the Lord (Isaiah 49:1); 2) It is equipped with weapons that are effective for all times (sharp sword, clean arrow=word of God, Hebrews 4:12); 3) It always enjoys the divine protection (shadow of the hand, quiver Isaiah 49:2); 4) God’s honor and the salvation of the world is its task (Isaiah 49:3; Isaiah 49:6), which, a. amid many conflicts and infirmities (Isaiah 49:4), yet b. in the power of God (Isaiah 49:5), it will at last gloriously execute (Isaiah 49:5-6).

2. On Isaiah 49:6. “The Lord Jesus in the halo of the world-mission. 1) It is a small thing for the Lord to be the consolation of Israel, He is also a light to the Gentiles; 2) It is also a small thing for the Lord to be the light to the Gentiles, He is also their salvation to the end of the earth. 3) It is a small thing for the Lord to be light and salvation to the world, He is also thy light and thy salvation.” E. Quandt.

3. On Isaiah 49:7. Even if the Church of Christ be often quite despised, and an object of aversion and trodden under the feet of tyrants like a slave, yet it must never forget that it is where it is for the Lord’s sake. The Lord can as little give Himself up as forsake His Church. He must be faithful to it, and so the time shall at last come when kings shall see and shall rise up, princes shall worship for the Lord’s sake.

4. On Isaiah 49:7-13. The salvation of God. 1) It is well founded, for it rests on the Mediator of the Covenant, Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Isaiah 49:8). 2) It is universal, for it consists a. in salvation from all distress (Isaiah 49:8-11); b. it is destined and prepared for all (Isaiah 49:12). 3) It is exceeding glorious (Isaiah 49:13). 4) But it has its appointed day, the day of salvation (Isaiah 49:8), and that must be waited for with patience and hope.

5. On Isaiah 49:14-16. The motherly love of God. 1) It hides itself at times (Isaiah 49:14); 2) it is founded on our being children of His body (Isaiah 49:15); 3) it leads all to a glorious end (Isaiah 49:15-16).

6. On Isaiah 49:17-23. This passage must be regarded in the light of Galatians 4:22-31. According to that, we know that the ruined and shattered city, the desolate land, is the earthly Jerusalem, that is judged by God, whose children are given up to death and destruction. But in this Jerusalem is concealed, as the abiding kernel, that Jerusalem that is above, the free. This is the mother of us all, viz. us Christians. All out of all nations that come to Christ become children of this heavenly Jerusalem. Dead as the earthly Jerusalem is, conscious of having lost her husband and her children, Zion arises again as the heavenly Jerusalem, and is now visibly surprised to see innumerable hosts of children hasting to her, and herself the recipient of every sign of honor from the rich of this world.

7. On Isaiah 49:24-26. The redemption that comes by Christ is also a victory over Satan. Hence we also praise Christ as the one who has redeemed us from the power of the devil. 1) By what has He redeemed us? (He quarreled with the quarreler, and on the cross conquered the strong one, Hebrews 2:14-15; Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 2:14-15). 2) How far did He redeem us? (He freed us, a. from the guilt and punishment of sin; b. from the dominion of sin.) 3) To what purpose did He redeem us? (That we should experience and taste the grace of our God, Isaiah 49:26.)

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 49". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.