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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary

Isaiah 50

Verses 4-11



Isaiah 49:1-9; Isaiah 50:4-11

THE second great passage upon the Servant of the Lord is Isaiah 49:1-9, and the third is Isaiah 50:4-11. In both of these the servant himself speaks; in both he speaks as prophet; while in the second he tells us that his prophecy leads him on to martyrdom. The two passages may, therefore, be taken together.

Before we examine their contents, let us look for a moment at the way in which they are woven into the rest of the text. As we have seen, chapter 49 begins a new section of the prophecy, in so far that with it the prophet leaves Babylon and Cyrus behind him, and ceases to speak of the contrast between God and the idols. But, still, chapter 49 is linked to chapter 48. In leading up to its climax, -the summons to Israel to depart from Babylon, - chapter 48, does not forget that Israel is delivered from Babylon in order to be the Servant of Jehovah: "say ye, Jehovah hath redeemed His Servant Jacob." It is this service, which chapter 49 carries forward from the opportunity, and the call, to go forth from Babylon, with which chapter 48, closes. That opportunity, though real, does not at all mean that Israel’s redemption is complete. There were many moral reasons which prevented the whole nation from taking full advantage of the political freedom offered them by Cyrus. Although the true Israel, that part of the nation which has the conscience of service, has shaken itself free from the temptation as well as from the tyranny of Babel, and now sees the world before it as the theatre of its operations, - Isaiah 49:1, "Hearken, ye isles, unto Me; and listen, ye peoples, from far,"-it has still, before it can address itself to that universal mission, to exhort, rouse, and extricate the rest of its nation, "saying to the bounden, Go forth; and to, them that are in darkness, Show yourselves" (Isaiah 49:9). Chapter 49, therefore, is the natural development of chapter 48. There is certainly a little interval of time implied between the two-the time during which it became apparent that the opportunity to leave Babylon would not be taken advantage of by all Israel, and that the nation’s redemption must be a moral as well as a political one. But Isaiah 49:1-9 comes out of chapters 40-48, and it is impossible to believe that in it we are not still under the influence of the same author.

A similar coherence is apparent if we look to the other end of Isaiah 49:1-9. Here it is evident that Jehovah’s commission to the Servant concludes with Isaiah 49:9 a; but then its closing words, "Say to the bound, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves," start fresh thoughts about the redeemed on their way back (Isaiah 49:9-13); and these thoughts naturally lead on to a picture of Jerusalem imagining herself forsaken, and amazed by the appearance of so many of her children before her (Isaiah 49:14-21). Promises to her and to them follow in due sequence down to Isaiah 50:3, when the Servant resumes his soliloquy about himself, but abruptly, and in no apparent connection with what immediately precedes. His soliloquy ceases in Isaiah 50:9, and another voice, probably that of God Himself, urges obedience to the Servant (Isaiah 50:10), and judgment to the sinners in Israel (Isaiah 50:11); and chapter 51 is an address to the spiritual Israel, and to Jerusalem, with thoughts much the same as those uttered in Isaiah 49:14-26; Isaiah 50:1-3.

In face of these facts, and taking into consideration the dramatic form in which the whole prophecy is cast, we find ourselves unable to say that there is anything which is incompatible with a single authorship, or which makes it impossible for the two passages on the Servant to have originally sprung, each at the place at which it now stands, from the progress of the prophet’s thoughts.

Babylon is left behind, and the way of the Lord is prepared in the desert. Israel have once more the title-deeds to their own land, and Zion looms in sight. Yet with their face to home, and their heart upon freedom, the voice of this people, or at least of the better half of this people, rises first upon the conscience of their duty to the rest of mankind.

Hearken, O Isles, unto Me;

And listen, O Peoples, from far!

From the womb Jehovah hath called me,

From my mother’s midst mentioned my name.

And He set my mouth like a sharp sword,

In the shadow of His hand did He hide me;

Yea, He made me a pointed arrow.

In His quiver He laid me in store,

And said to me, My Servant art thou,

Israel, in whom I shall break into glory.

And I-I said, In vain have I laboured,

For waste and for wind my strength have I spent!

Surely my right’s with Jehovah,

And the meed of my work with my God!

But now, saith Jehovah-

Moulding me from the womb to be His own Servant,

To turn again Jacob towards Him,

And that Israel be not destroyed.

And I am of honour in the eyes of Jehovah,

And my God is my strength.

And He saith, ‘Tis too light for thy being My Servant,

To raise up the tribes of Jacob,

Or gather the survivors of Israel.

So I will set thee a light of the Nations,

To be My salvation to the end of the earth.

Thus saith Jehovah, Israel’s Redeemer, his Holy,

To this mockery of a life, abhorrence of a nation,

Servant of tyrants,

Kings shall behold and shall stand up,

Princes shall also do homage,

For the sake of Jehovah, who shows Himself faithful,

Holy of Israel, and thou art His chosen.

Thus saith Jehovah,

In a favourable time I have given thee answer,

In the day of salvation have helped thee,

To keep thee, to give thee for covenant of the people,

To raise up the land,

To give back the heirs to the desolate heirdoms,

Saying to the bounden,

Go forth!

To them that are in darkness,


"Who is so blind as not to perceive that the consciousness of the Servant here is only a mirror in which the history of Israel is reflected-first, in its original call and design that Jehovah should be glorified in it; second, in the long delay and apparent failure of the design, and, thirdly, as the design is now in the present juncture of circumstances and concurrence of events about to be realised?" Yes: but it is Israel’s calling, native insufficiency, and present duty, as owned by only a part of the people, which, though named by the national name (Isaiah 49:3), feels itself standing over against the bulk of the nation, whose redemption it is called to work out (Isaiah 49:8-9) before it takes up its worldwide service. We have already sufficiently discussed this distinction of the Servant from the whole nation, as well as the distinction of the moral work he has to effect in Israel’s redemption from Babylon, from the political enfranchisement of the nation, which is the work of Cyrus. Let us, then, at once address ourselves to the main features of his consciousness of his mission to mankind. We shall find these features to be three. The Servant owns for his chief end the glory of God; and he feels that he has to glorify God in two ways-by Speech, and by Suffering.


He did say to me, My servant art thou,

Israel, in whom I shall break into glory.

The Hebrew verb, which the Authorised Version translates "will be glorified," means to "burst forth, become visible," break like the dawn into splendour. This is the scriptural sense of Glory. Glory is God become visible. As we put it in Book I, glory is the expression of holiness, as beauty is the expression of health. But, in order to become visible, the Absolute and Holy God needs mortal man. We have felt something like a paradox in these prophecies. Nowhere else is God lifted up so absolute, and so able to effect all by His mere will and word; yet nowhere else are a human agency and service so strongly asserted as indispensable to the Divine purpose. But this is no more a paradox than the fact that physical light needs some material in which to become visible. Light is never revealed of itself, but always when shining from, or burning in, something else. To be seen, light requires a surface that will reflect, or a substance that will consume. And so, to "break into glory," God requires something outside Himself. A responsive portion of humanity is indispensable to Him, -a people who will reflect Him and spend itself for Him. Man is the mirror and the wick of the Divine. God is glorified in man’s character and witness, -these are His mirror; and in man’s sacrifice, -that is His wick.

And so we meet again the central truth of our prophecy, that in order to serve men it is necessary first to be used of God. We must place ourselves at the disposal of the Divine, we must let God shine on us and kindle us, and break into glory through us, before we can hope either to comfort mankind or to set them on fire. It is true that ideas very different from this prevail among the ranks of the servants of humanity in our day. A large part of our most serious literature professes for its main bearing this conclusion, that the fellowship between man and man, which has been the principle of development, social and moral, is not dependent upon conceptions of what is not man, and that the idea of God, so far as it has been a high spiritual influence, is the ideal of a goodness entirely human." But such theories are possible only so long as the still unexhausted influence of religion upon society continues to supply human nature, directly or indirectly, with a virtue which may be plausibly claimed for human nature’s own original product. Let religion be entirely withdrawn, and the question, Whence comes virtue? will be answered by virtue ceasing to come at all. The savage imagines that it is the burning-glass which sets the bush on fire, and as long as the sun is shining it may be impossible to convince him that he is wrong; but a dull day will teach even his mind that the glass can do nothing without the sun upon it. And so, though men may talk glibly against God, while society still shines in the light of His countenance, yet, if they and society resolutely withdraw themselves from that light, they shall certainly lose every heat and lustre of the spirit which is indispensable for social service. On this the ancient Greek was at one with the ancient Hebrew. "Enthusiasm" is just "God breaking into glory" through a human life. Here lies the secret of the buoyancy and "freshness of the earlier world," whether pagan or Hebrew, and by this may be understood the depression and pessimism which infect modern society. They had God in their blood, and we are anemic. "But I, I said, I have laboured in vain; for waste and for wind have I spent my strength." We must all say that, if our last word is "our strength." But let this not be our last word. Let us remember the sufficient answer: "Surely my right is with the Lord, and the meed of my work with my God. We are set, not in our own strength or for our own advantage, but with the hand of God upon us, and that the Divine life may "break into glory though our life. Carlyle said, and it was almost his last testimony," The older I grow, and I am now on the brink of eternity, the more comes back to me the first sentence of the catechism, which I learned when a child, and the fuller does its meaning grow "What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

It was said above, that, as light breaks to visibleness either from a mirror or a wick, so God "breaks to glory" either from the witness of men, -that is His mirror, -or from their sacrifice-that is His wick. Of both of these ways of glorifying God is the Servant conscious. His service is Speech and Sacrifice, Prophecy and Martyrdom.


Concerning his service of Speech, the Servant speaks in these two passages - Isaiah 49:2 and Isaiah 50:4-5:

He set my mouth like a sharp sword,

In the shadow of His hand did He hide me,

And made me a pointed arrow;

In his quiver He laid me in store.

My Lord Jehovah hath given me

The tongue of the learners,

To know how to succour the weary with words.

He wakeneth morning by morning,

He wakeneth mine ear

To hear as the learners.

My Lord Jehovah hath opened mine ear.

I was not rebellious,

Nor turned away backward.

At the bidding of our latest prophet we have become suspicious of the power of speech, and the goddess of eloquence walks, as it were, under surveillance among us. Carlyle reiterated, "All speech and rumour is short-lived, foolish, untrue. Genuine work alone is eternal. The talent of silence is our fundamental one. The dumb nations are the builders of the world." Under such doctrine some have grown intolerant of words, and the ideal of today tends to become the practical man rather than the prophet. Yet, as somebody has said, Carlyle makes us dissatisfied with preaching only by preaching himself; and you have but to read him with attention to discover that his disgust with human speech is consistent with an immense reverence for the voice as an instrument of service to humanity. "The tongue of man," he says, "is a sacred organ. Man himself is definable in philosophy as an ‘Incarnate Word’; the Word not there, you have no man there either, but a Phantasm instead."

Let us examine our own experience upon the merits of this debate between Silence and Speech in the service of man. Though beginning low, it will help us quickly to the height of the experience of the Prophet Nation, who, with naught else for the world but the voice that was in them, accomplished the greatest service that the world has ever received from her children.

One thing is certain, -that Speech has not the monopoly of falsehood or of any other presumptuous sin. Silence does not only mean ignorance, -by some supposed to be the heaviest sin of which Silence can be guilty, -but many things far worse than ignorance, like unreadiness, and cowardice, and falsehood, and treason, and base consent to what is evil. No man can look back on his past life, however lowly or limited his sphere may have been, and fail to see that not once or twice his supreme duty was a word, and his guilt was not to have spoken it. We all have known the shame of being straitened in prayer or praise; the shame of being, through our cowardice to bear witness, traitors to the truth; the shame of being too timid to say No to the tempter, and speak out the brave reasons of which the heart was full; the shame of finding ourselves incapable of uttering the word that would have kept a soul from taking the wrong turning in life; the shame, when truth, clearness, and authority were required from us, of being able only to stammer or to mince or to rant. To have been dumb before the ignorant or the dying, before a questioning child or before the tempter, -this, the frequent experience of our common life, is enough to justify Carlyle when he said, "If the Word is not there, you have no man there either, but a Phantasm instead."

Now, when we look within ourselves we see the reason of this. We perceive that the one fact, which amid the mystery and chaos of our inner life gives certainty and light, is a fact which is a Voice. Our nature may be wrecked and dissipated, but conscience is always left; or in ignorance and gloom, but conscience is always audible: or with all the faculties strong and assertive, yet conscience is still unquestionably queen, -and conscience is a Voice. It is a still, small voice, which is the surest thing in man, and the noblest; which makes all the difference in his life; which lies at the back and beginning of all his character and conduct. And the most indispensable, and the grandest service, therefore, which a man can do his fellow-men, is to get back to this voice, and make himself its mouthpiece and its prophet. What work is possible till the word be spoken? Did ever order come to social life before there was first uttered the command, in which men felt the articulation and enforcement of the ultimate voice within themselves? Discipline and instruction and energy have not appeared without speech going before them. Knowledge and faith and hope do not dawn of themselves; they travel, as light issued forth in the beginning, upon the pulses of the speaking breath.

It was the greatness of Israel to be conscious of their call as a nation to this fundamental service of humanity. Believing in the Word of God as the original source of all things, -"In the beginning God said, Let there be light; and there was light,"-they had the conscience that, as it had been in the physical world, so must it always be in the moral. Men were to be served and their lives to be moulded by the Word. God was to be glorified by letting His Word break through the life and the lips of men. There was in the Old Testament, it is true, a triple ideal of manhood: "prophet, priest, and king." But the greatest of these was the prophet, for king and priest had to be prophets too. Eloquence was a royal virtue, -with persuasion, the power of command, and swift judgment. Among the seven spirits of the Lord which Isaiah sees descending in the King-to-Come is the spirit of counsel, and he afterwards adds of the King: "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked." Similarly, the priests had originally been the ministers, not so much of sacrifice, as of the revealed Word of God. And now the new and high ideal of priesthood, the laying down of one’s life a sacrifice for God and for the people, was not the mere imitation of the animal victim required by the priestly law, but was the natural development of the prophetic experience. It was (as we shall presently see) the prophet, who, in his inevitable sufferings on behalf of the truth he uttered, developed that consciousness of sacrifice for others, in which the loftiest priesthood consists. Prophecy, therefore, the Service of Men by the Word of God, was for Israel the highest and most essential of all service. It was the individual’s and it was the nation’s ideal. As there was no true king and no true priest, so there was no true man, without the Word. "Would to God," said Moses, "that all the Lord’s people were prophets." And in our prophecy Israel exclaims: "Listen, O Isles, unto me; and hearken, ye peoples from far. He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me."

At first it seems a forlorn hope thus to challenge the attention of the world in a dialect of one of its most obscure provinces, -a dialect, too, that was already ceasing to be spoken even there. But the fact only serves more forcibly to emphasise the belief of these prophets, that the word committed to what they must have known to be a dying language was the Word of God Himself, -bound to render immortal the tongue in which it was spoken, bound to re-echo to the ends of the earth, bound to touch the conscience and commend itself to the reason of universal humanity. We have already seen, and will again see, how our prophet insists upon the creative and omnipotent power of God’s Word; so we need not dwell longer on this instance of his faith. Let us look rather at what he expresses as Israel’s preparation for the teaching of it.

To him the discipline and qualification of the prophet nation-and that means of every Servant of God-in the high office of the Word, are threefold.

1. First, he lays down the supreme condition of Prophecy, that behind the Voice there must be the Life. Before he speaks of his gifts of Speech, the Servant emphasises his peculiar and consecrated life. "From the womb Jehovah called me, from my mother’s midst mentioned my name." Now, as we all know, Israel’s message to the world was largely Israel’s life. The Old Testament is not a set of dogmas, nor a philosophy, nor a vision; but a history, the record of a providence, the testimony of experience, the utterances called forth by historical occasions from a life conscious of the purpose for which God has called it and set it apart through the ages. But these words, which the prophet nation uses, were first used of an individual prophet. Like so much else in "Second Isaiah," we find a suggestion of them in the call of Jeremiah. "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth from the womb I consecrated thee: I have appointed thee a prophet unto the nations." {Jeremiah 1:5} A prophet is not a voice only. A prophet is a life behind a voice. He who would speak for God must have lived for God. According to the profound insight of the Old Testament, speech is not the expression of a few thoughts of a man, but the utterance of his whole life. A man blossoms through his lips; and no man is a prophet, whose word is not the virtue and the flower of a gracious and a consecrated life.

2. The second discipline of the prophet is the Art of Speech. "He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me: He hath made me a polished shaft, in His quiver hath He laid me in store." It is very evident that in these words the Servant does not only recount technical qualifications, but a moral discipline as well. The edge and brilliance of his speech are stated as the effect of solitude, but of a solitude that was at the same time a nearness to God. Now solitude is a great school of eloquence. In speaking of the Semitic race, of which Israel was part, we pointed out that, prophet-race of the world as it has proved, it sprang from the desert, and nearly all its branches have inherited the desert’s clear and august style of speech; for, in the leisure and serene air of the desert, men speak as they speak nowhere else. But Israel speaks of a solitude that was the shadow of God’s hand and the fastness of God’s quiver; a seclusion which, to the desert’s art of eloquence, added a special inspiration by God, and a special concentration upon His main purpose in the world. The desert sword felt the grasp of God; He laid the Semitic shaft in store for a unique end.

3. But in Isaiah 50:4-5, the Servant unfolds the most beautiful and true understanding of the Secret of Prophecy that ever was unfolded in any literature, -worth quoting again by us, if so we may get it by heart.

My Lord Jehovah hath given me

The tongue of the learners,

To know how to succour the weary with words.

He wakeneth, morning by morning

He wakeneth mine ear

To hear as the learners.

My Lord Jehovah hath opened mine ear,

I was not rebellious,

Nor turned away backward.

The prophet, say these beautiful lines, learns his speech, as the little child does, by listening. Grace is poured upon the lips through the open ear. It is the lesson of our Lord’s Ephphatha. When He took the deaf man with the impediment in his speech aside from the multitude privately, He said unto him, not Be loosed, but, "Be opened; and" first "his ears were opened, and" then the "bond of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain." To speak, then, the prophet must listen; but mark to what he must listen! The secret of his eloquence lies not in the hearing of thunder, nor in the knowledge of mysteries, but in a daily ‘wakefulness to the lessons and experience of common life. "Morning by morning He openeth mine ear." This is very characteristic of Hebrew prophecy and Hebrew wisdom, which listened for the truth of God in the voices of each day, drew their parables from things the rising sun lights up to every wakeful eye, and were, in the bulk of their doctrine, the virtues, needed day by day, of justice, temperance, and mercy, and in the bulk of their judgments the results of everyday observation and experience. The strength of the Old Testament lies in this its realism, its daily vigilance and experience of life. It is its contact with life-the life, not of the yesterday of its speakers, but of their today-that makes its voice so fresh and helpful to the weary. He whose ear is daily open to the music of his current life will always find himself in possession of words that refresh and stimulate.

But serviceable speech needs more than attentiveness and experience. Having gained the truth, the prophet must be obedient and loyal to it. Yet obedience and loyalty to the truth are the beginnings of martyrdom, of which the Servant now goes on to speak as the natural and immediate consequence of his prophecy.


The classes of men who suffer physical ill-usage at the hands of their fellow-men may roughly be described as three, -the Military Enemy, the Criminal, and the Prophet; and of these three we have only to read history to know that the Prophet fares by far the worst. However fatal men’s treatment of their enemies in war or of their criminals may be, it is, nevertheless, subject to a certain order, code of honour, or principle of justice. But in all ages the Prophet has been the target for the most licentious spite and cruelty; for torture, indecency, and filth past belief. Although our own civilisation has outlived the system of physical punishment for speech, we even yet see philosophers and statesmen, who have used no weapons but exposition and persuasion, treated by their opponents who would speak of a foreign enemy with respect-with execration, gross epithets, vile abuse, and insults, that the offenders would not pour upon a criminal. If we have this under our own eyes, let us think how the Prophet must have fared before humanity learned to meet speech by speech. Because men attacked it, not with the sword of the invader or with the knife of the assassin, but with words, therefore (till not very long ago) society let loose upon them the foulest indignities and most horrible torments. Socrates’ valour as a soldier did not save him from the malicious slander, the false witness, the unjust trial, and the poison, with which the Athenians answered his speech against themselves. Even Hypatia’s womanhood did not awe the mob from tearing her to pieces for her teaching. This unique and invariable experience of the Prophet is summed up and clenched in the name Martyr. Martyr originally meant a witness or witness-bearer, but now it is the synonym for every shame and suffering which the cruel ingenuity of men’s black hearts can devise for those they hate. A Book of Battles is horrible enough, but at least valour and honour have kept down in it the baser passions. A Newgate Chronicle is ugly enough, but there at least are discipline and a hospital You have got to go to a Book of Martyrs to see to what sourness, wickedness, malignity, pitilessness, and ferocity men’s hearts can lend themselves. There is something in the mere utterance of truth, that rouses the very devil in the hearts of many men.

Thus it had always been in Israel, nation not only of prophets, but of the slayers of prophets. According to Christ, prophet-slaying was the ineradicable habit of Israel. "Ye are the sons of them that slew the prophets O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killer of prophets and stoner of them that are sent unto her!" To them who bare it the word of Jehovah had always been "a reproach": cause of estrangement, indignities, torments, and sometimes of death. Up to the time of our prophet there had been the following notable sufferers for the Word: Elijah, Micaiah the son of Imlah; Isaiah, if the story be true that he was slain by Manasseh; but nearer, more lonely, and more heroic than all, Jeremiah, a "laughing-stock" and "mockery," "reviled," "smitten," fettered, and condemned to death. In words which recall the experience of so many individual Israelites, and most of which were used by Jeremiah of himself, the Servant of Jehovah describes his martyrdom in immediate consequence from his prophecy.

And I-I was not rebellious,

Nor turned away backward.

My back I have given to the smiters,

And my cheek to tormentors;

My face I hid not from insults and spitting.

These are not national sufferings. They are no reflection of the hard usage which the captive Israel suffered from Babylon. They are the reflection of the reproach and pains, which, for the sake of God’s word, individual Israelites more than once experienced from their own nation. But if individual experience, and not national, formed the original of this picture of the Servant as Martyr, then surely we have in this another strong reason against the objection to recognise in the Servant at last an individual. It may be, of course, that for the moment our prophet feels that this frequent experience of individuals in Israel is to be realised by the faithful Israel, as a whole, in their treatment by the rest of their cruel and unspiritual countrymen. But the very fact that individuals have previously fulfilled this martyrdom in the history of Israel, surely makes it possible for our prophet to foresee that the Servant, who is to fulfil it again, shall also be an individual.

But, returning from this slight digression on the person of the Servant to his fate, let us emphasise again, that his sufferings came to him as the result of his prophesying. The Servant’s sufferings are not penal, they are not yet felt to be vicarious. They are simply the reward with which obdurate Israel met all her prophets, the inevitable martyrdom which followed on the uttering of God’s Word. And in this the Servant’s experience forms an exact counterpart to that of our Lord. For to Christ also reproach and agony and death-whatever higher meaning they evolved-came as the result of His Word. The fact that Jesus suffered as our great High Priest must not make us forget that His sufferings fell upon Him because He was a Prophet. He argued explicitly He must suffer, because so suffered the prophets before Him. He put Himself in the line of the martyrs: as they had killed the servants, He said, so would they kill the Son. Thus it happened. His enemies sought "to entangle Him in His talk": it was for His talk they brought Him to trial. Each torment and indignity which the Prophet-Servant relates, Jesus suffered to the letter. They put Him to shame and insulted Him; His helpless hands were bound; they spat in His face and smote Him with their palms; they mocked and they reviled Him; scourged Him again; teased and tormented Him; hung Him between thieves; and to the last the ribald jests went up, not only from the soldiers and the rabble, but from the learned and the religious authorities as well, to whom His fault had been that He preached another word than their own. The literal fulfillments of our prophecy are striking, but the main fulfilment, of which they are only incidents, is, that like the Servant, our Lord suffered directly as a Prophet. He enforced and He submitted to the essential obligation, which lies upon the true Prophet, of suffering for the Word’s sake. Let us remember to carry this over with us to our final study of the Suffering Servant as the expiation for sin.

In the meantime, we have to conclude the Servant’s appearance as Martyr in chapter 1. He has accepted his martyrdom; but he feels it is not the end with him. God will bring him through, and vindicate him in the eyes of the world, For the world, in their usual way, will say that because he gives them a new truth he must be wrong, and because he suffers he is surely guilty and cursed before God. But he will not let himself be confounded, for God is his help and advocate.

But My Lord Jehovah shall help me;

Therefore, I let not myself be rebuffed:

Therefore, I set my face like a flint,

And know that I shall not be shamed.

Near is my Justifier; who will dispute with

Let us stand up together!

Who is mine adversary?

Let him draw near me.

Lo! my Lord Jehovah shall help me;

Who is he that condemns me?

Lo! like a garment all of them rot,

The moth doth devour them.

These lines, in which the Holy Servant, the Martyr of the Word, defies the world and asserts that God shall vindicate his innocence, are taken by Paul and used to assert the justification, which every believer enjoys through faith in the sufferings of Him who was indeed the Holy Servant of God.

The last two verses of chapter 50 (Isaiah 50:10-11) are somewhat difficult. The first of them still speaks of the Servant, and distinguishes him-a distinction we must note and emphasise-from the God-fearing in Israel.

Who is among you that feareth Jehovah,

That hearkens the voice of His Servant,

That walks in dark places,

And light he has none?

Let him trust in the name of Jehovah,

And lean on his God.

That is, every pious believer in Israel is to take the Servant for an example; for the Servant in distress "leans upon his God." And so Paul’s application of the Servant’s words to the individual believer is a correct one. But if our prophet is able to think of the Servant as an example to the individual Israelite, that surely is a thought not very far from the conception of the Servant himself as an individual.

If Isaiah 50:10 is addressed to the pious in Israel, Isaiah 50:11 would seem to turn with a last word-as the last words of the discourses in Second Isaiah so often turn-to the wicked in Israel.

Lo! all you, players with fire,

That gird you with firebrands!

Walk in the light of your fire,

In the firebrands ye kindled.

This from my hand shall be yours;

Ye shall lie down in sorrow.

It is very difficult to know who are meant by this warning. An old and almost forgotten interpretation is that the prophet meant those exiles who played with the fires of political revolution, instead of abiding the deliverance of the Lord. But there is now current among exegetes the more general interpretation that these incendiaries are the revilers and abusers of the Servant within Israel: for so the Psalms speak of the slingers of burning words at the righteous. We must notice, however, that the metaphor stands over against those in Israel who "walk in dark places and have no light." In contrast to that kind of life, this may be the kind that coruscates with vanity, flashes with pride, or burns and scorches with its evil passions. We have a similar name for such a life. We call it a display of fireworks. The prophet tells them, who depend on nothing but their own false fires, how transient these are, how quickly quenched.

But is it not weird, that on our prophet’s stage, however brilliantly its centre shines with figures of heroes and deeds of salvation, there should always be this dark, lurid background of evil and accursed men?

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 50". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".