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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Isaiah 42



Verse 1

Isaiah 42:1-25. Messiah the antitype of Cyrus.

God‘s description of His character (Isaiah 42:1-4). God addresses Him directly (Isaiah 42:5-7). Address to the people to attend to the subject (Isaiah 42:8, Isaiah 42:9). Call to all, and especially the exile Jews to rejoice in the coming deliverance (Isaiah 42:10-25).

my servant — The law of prophetic suggestion leads Isaiah from Cyrus to the far greater Deliverer, behind whom the former is lost sight of. The express quotation in Matthew 12:18-20, and the description can apply to Messiah alone (Psalm 40:6; with which compare Exodus 21:6; John 6:38; Philemon 2:7). Israel, also, in its highest ideal, is called the “servant” of God (Isaiah 49:3). But this ideal is realized only in the antitypical Israel, its representative-man and Head, Messiah (compare Matthew 2:15, with Hosea 11:1). “Servant” was the position assumed by the Son of God throughout His humiliation.

elect — chosen by God before the foundation of the world for an atonement (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). Redemption was no afterthought to remedy an unforeseen evil (Romans 16:25, Romans 16:26; Ephesians 3:9, Ephesians 3:11; 2 Timothy 1:9, 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:2, Titus 1:3). In Matthew 12:18 it is rendered “My beloved”; the only beloved Son, beloved in a sense distinct from all others. Election and the love of God are inseparably joined.

soul — a human phrase applied to God, because of the intended union of humanity with the Divinity: “I Myself.”

delighteth — is well pleased with, and accepts, as a propitiation. God could have “delighted” in no created being as a mediator (compare Isaiah 42:21; Isaiah 63:5; Matthew 3:17).

spirit upon him — (Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18; John 3:34).

judgment — the gospel dispensation, founded on justice, the canon of the divine rule and principle of judgment called “the law” (Isaiah 2:3; compare Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 51:4; Isaiah 49:6). The Gospel has a discriminating judicial effect: saving to penitents; condemnatory to Satan, the enemy (John 12:31; John 16:11), and the willfully impenitent (John 9:39). Matthew 12:18 has, “He shall show,” for “He shall bring forth,” or “cause to go forth.” Christ both produced and announced His “judgment.” The Hebrew dwells most on His producing it; Matthew on His announcement of it: the two are joined in Him.

Verse 2

Matthew [Matthew 12:19 ] marks the kind of “cry” as that of altercation by quoting it, “He shall not strive” (Isaiah 53:7).

street — the Septuagint translates “outside.” An image from an altercation in a house, loud enough to be heard in the street outside: appropriate of Him who “withdrew Himself” from the public fame created by His miracles to privacy (Matthew 12:15; Matthew 12:34, there, shows another and sterner aspect of His character, which is also implied in the term “judgment”).

Verse 3

bruised — “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him” (Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 53:10; Genesis 3:15); so He can feel for the bruised. As Isaiah 42:2 described His unturbulent spirit towards His violent enemies (Matthew 12:14-16), and His utter freedom from love of notoriety, so Isaiah 42:3, His tenderness in cherishing the first spark of grace in the penitent (Isaiah 40:11).

reed — fragile: easily “shaken with the wind” (Matthew 11:7). Those who are at best feeble, and who besides are oppressed by calamity or by the sense of sin.

break — entirely crush or condemn. Compare “bind up the broken-hearted” (Isaiah 50:4; Isaiah 61:1; Matthew 11:28).

flax — put for the lamp-wick, formed of flax. The believer is the lamp (so the Greek, Matthew 5:15; John 5:35): his conscience enlightened by the Holy Ghost is the wick. “Smoking” means “dimly burning,” “smoldering,” the flame not quite extinct. This expresses the positive side of the penitent‘s religion; as “bruised reed,” the negative. Broken-hearted in himself, but not without some spark of flame: literally, “from above.” Christ will supply such a one with grace as with oil. Also, the light of nature smoldering in the Gentiles amidst the hurtful fumes of error. He not only did not quench, but cleared away the mists and superadded the light of revelation. See Jerome, To Algasia, Question 2.

truthMatthew 12:20 quotes it, “send forth judgment unto victory.” Matthew, under the Spirit, gives the virtual sense, but varies the word, in order to bring out a fresh aspect of the same thing. Truth has in itself the elements of victory over all opposing forces. Truth is the victory of Him who is “the truth” (John 14:6). The gospel judicial sifting (“judgment”) of believers and unbelievers, begun already in part (John 3:18, John 3:19; John 9:39), will be consummated victoriously in truth only at His second coming; Isaiah 42:13, Isaiah 42:14, here, and Matthew 12:32, Matthew 12:36, Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42, show that there is reference to the judicial aspect of the Gospel, especially finally: besides the mild triumph of Jesus coming in mercy to the penitent now (Isaiah 42:2), there shall be finally the judgment on His enemies, when the “truth” shall be perfectly developed. Compare Isaiah 61:1-3, where the two comings are similarly joined (Psalm 2:4-6, Psalm 2:8; Revelation 15:2, Revelation 15:4; Revelation 19:11-16). On “judgment,” see on Isaiah 42:1.

Verse 4

fail — faint; man in religion may become as the almost expiring flax-wick (Isaiah 42:3), but not so He in His purposes of grace.

discouraged — literally, “broken,” that is, checked in zeal by discouragements (compare Isaiah 49:4, Isaiah 49:5). Rosenmuller not so well translates, “He shall not be too slow on the one hand, nor run too hastily on the other.”

judgment — His true religion, the canon of His judgments and righteous reign.

isles … wait, etc. — The distant lands beyond sea shall put their trust in His gospel way of salvation. Matthew 12:21 virtually gives the sense, with the inspired addition of another aspect of the same thing, “In his name shall the Gentiles trust” (as “wait for” here means, Isaiah 30:18). “His law” is not something distinct from Himself, but is indeed Himself, the manifestation of God‘s character (“name”) in Christ, who is the embodiment of the law (Isaiah 42:21; Jeremiah 23:6; Romans 10:4). “Isles” here, and in Isaiah 42:12, may refer to the fact that the populations of which the Church was primarily formed were Gentiles of the countries bordering on the Mediterranean.

Verse 5

Previously God had spoken of Messiah; now (Isaiah 42:5-7) He speaks to Him. To show to all that He is able to sustain the Messiah in His appointed work, and that all might accept Messiah as commissioned by such a mighty God, He commences by announcing Himself as the Almighty Creator and Preserver of all things.

spread … earth — (Psalm 136:6).

Verse 6

in righteousness — rather, “for a righteous purpose” [Lowth]. (See Isaiah 42:21). God “set forth” His Son “to be a propitiation (so as) to declare His (God‘s) righteousness, that God might be just, and (yet) the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26; compare see on Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 45:13; Isaiah 50:8, Isaiah 50:9).

hold … hand — compare as to Israel, the type of Messiah, Hosea 11:3.

covenant — the medium of the covenant, originally made between God and Abraham (Isaiah 49:8). “The mediator of a better covenant” (Hebrews 8:6) than the law (see Isaiah 49:8; Jeremiah 31:33; Jeremiah 50:5). So the abstract “peace,” for peace-maker (Micah 5:5; Ephesians 2:14).

the people — Israel; as Isaiah 49:8, compared with Isaiah 42:6, proves (Luke 2:32).

Verse 7

blind — spiritually (Isaiah 42:16, Isaiah 42:18, Isaiah 42:19; Isaiah 35:5; John 9:39).

prison — (Isaiah 61:1, Isaiah 61:2).

darkness — opposed to “light” (Isaiah 42:6; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Peter 2:9).

Verse 8

God turns from addressing Messiah to the people.

Lord — Jehovah: God‘s distinguishing and incommunicable name, indicating essential being and immutable faithfulness (compare Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Psalm 96:5; Hosea 12:5).

my — that is due to Me, and to Me alone.

Verse 9

former things — Former predictions of God, which were now fulfilled, are here adduced as proof that they ought to trust in Him alone as God; namely, the predictions as to Israel‘s restoration from Babylon.

new — namely, predictions as to Messiah, who is to bring all nations to the worship of Jehovah (Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 42:4, Isaiah 42:6).

spring forth — The same image from plants just beginning to germinate occurs in Isaiah 43:19; Isaiah 58:8. Before there is the slightest indication to enable a sagacious observer to infer the coming event, God foretells it.

Verse 10

new song — such as has never before been sung, called for by a new manifestation of God‘s grace, to express which no hymn for former mercies would be appropriate. The new song shall be sung when the Lord shall reign in Jerusalem, and all “nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 26:1; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3).

ye that go down to the sea — whose conversion will be the means of diffusing the Gospel to distant lands.

all … therein — all the living creatures that fill the sea (Psalm 96:11) [Maurer]. Or, all sailors and voyagers [Gesenius]. But these were already mentioned in the previous clause: there he called on all who go upon the sea; in this clause all animals in the sea; so in Isaiah 42:11, he calls on the inanimate wilderness to lift up its voice. External nature shall be so renovated as to be in unison with the moral renovation.

Verse 11

cities — in a region not wholly waste, but mainly so, with an oasis here and there.

Kedar — in Arabia-Deserta (Isaiah 21:16; Genesis 25:13). The Kedarenians led a nomadic, wandering life. So Kedar is here put in general for that class of men.

rockSela, that is, Petra, the metropolis of Idumea and the Nabathoean Ishmaelites. Or it may refer in general to those in Arabia-Petraea, who had their dwellings cut out of the rock.

the mountains — namely, of Paran, south of Sinai, in Arabia-Petraea [Vitringa].

Verse 12
islands — (Isaiah 24:15).

Verses 13-16

Jehovah will no longer restrain His wrath: He will go forth as a mighty warrior (Exodus 15:3) to destroy His people‘s and His enemies, and to deliver Israel (compare Psalm 45:3).

stir up jealousy — rouse His indignation.

roar — image from the battle cry of a warrior.

Verse 14

long time — namely, during the desolation of Israel (Isaiah 32:14).

holden my peace — (Compare Psalm 50:21; Habakkuk 1:2).

cry like a travailing woman, etc. — Like a woman in parturition, who, after having restrained her breathing for a time, at last, overcome with labor pain, lets out her voice with a panting sigh; so Jehovah will give full vent to His long pent-up wrath. Translate, instead of “destroy … devour”; I will at once breathe hard and pant, namely, giving loose to My wrath.

Verse 15

I will destroy all My foes.

mountains — in Palestine usually planted with vines and olives in terraces, up to their tops.

islands — rather, “dry lands.” God will destroy His foes, the heathen, and their idols, and “dry up” the fountains of their oracles, their doctrines and institutions, the symbol of which is water, and their schools which promoted idolatry [Vitringa].

Verse 16
they knew not,” refers to the various means ployed by Providence for the establishment of the Church in the world, such as would never have occurred to the mind of mere man. “Blind,” they are called, as not having heretofore seen God‘s ways in ordering His Church.

make darkness light, etc. — implies that the glorious issue would only be known by the event itself [Vitringa]. The same holds good of the individual believer (Isaiah 30:21; Psalm 107:7; compare Hosea 2:6, Hosea 2:14; Ephesians 5:8; Hebrews 13:5).

Verse 17
ashamed — disappointed in their trust; the same phrase occurs in Psalm 35:4.

Verse 18

deaf — namely, to the voice of God.

blind — to your duty and interest; willfully so (Isaiah 42:20). In this they differ from “the blind” (Isaiah 42:16). The Jews are referred to. He had said, God would destroy the heathen idolatry; here he remembers that even Israel, His “servant” (Isaiah 42:19), from whom better things might have been expected, is tainted with this sin.

Verse 19

my servant — namely, Israel. Who of the heathen is so blind? Considering Israel‘s high privileges, the heathen‘s blindness was as nothing compared with that of Israelite idolaters.

my messenger … sent — Israel was designed by God to be the herald of His truth to other nations.

perfect — furnished with institutions, civil and religious, suited to their perfect well-being. Compare the title, “Jeshurun,” the perfect one, applied to Israel (compare Isaiah 44:2), as the type of Messiah [Vitringa]. Or translate, the friend of God, which Israel was by virtue of descent from Abraham, who was so called (Isaiah 41:8), [Gesenius]. The language, “my servant” (compare Isaiah 42:1), “messenger” (Malachi 3:1), “perfect” (Romans 10:4; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Peter 2:22), can, in the full antitypical sense, only apply to Christ. So Isaiah 42:21 plainly refers to Him. “Blind” and “deaf” in His case refer to His endurance of suffering and reproach, as though He neither saw nor heard (Psalm 38:13, Psalm 38:14). Thus there is a transition by contrast from the moral blindness of Israel (Isaiah 42:18) to the patient blindness and deafness of Messiah [Horsley].

Verse 20

observest — Thou dost not keep them. The “many things” are the many proofs which all along from the first God had given Israel of His goodness and His power (Deuteronomy 4:32-38; Deuteronomy 29:2-4; Psalm 78:1-72; Psalm 105:1-45).

he — transition from the second to the third person. “Opening … ears,” that is, though he (Israel) hath his ears open (see on Isaiah 6:10). This language, too (see on Isaiah 42:19), applies to Messiah as Jehovah‘s servant (Isaiah 50:5; Psalm 40:6).

Verse 21

his righteousness — not His people‘s, but His own; Isaiah 42:24 shows that they had no righteousness (Isaiah 45:24; Isaiah 59:16). God is well pleased with His Son (“in whom My soul delighteth,Isaiah 42:1), “who fulfils all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) for them, and with them for His sake (compare Isaiah 42:6; Psalm 71:16, Psalm 71:19; Matthew 5:17; Romans 10:3, Romans 10:4; Philemon 3:9). Perhaps in God‘s “righteousness” here is included His faithfulness to His promises given to Israel‘s forefathers [Rosenmuller]; because of this He is well pleased with Israel, even though displeased with their sin, which He here reproves; but that promise could only be based on the righteousness of Messiah, the promised seed, which is God‘s righteousness.

Verse 22

holes — caught by their foes in the caverns where they had sought refuge [Barnes]. Or bound in subterranean dungeons [Maurer].

prison-houses — either literal prisons, or their own houses, whence they dare not go forth for fear of the enemy. The connection is: Notwithstanding God‘s favor to His people for His righteousness‘ sake (Isaiah 42:21), they have fallen into misery (the Babylonish and Romish captivities and their present dispersion), owing to their disregard of the divine law: spiritual imprisonment is included (Isaiah 42:7).

none saith, Restore — There is no deliverer (Isaiah 63:5).

Verse 23

A call that they should be warned by the past judgments of God to obey Him for the time to come.

Verse 24

Who — Their calamity was not the work of chance, but God‘s immediate act for their sins.

Jacob … Israel … we — change from the third to the first person; Isaiah first speaking to them as a prophet, distinct from them; then identifying himself with them, and acknowledging His share in the nation‘s sins (compare Joshua 5:1).

Verse 25

him — Israel (Isaiah 42:24).

strength of battle — violence of war.

it — the battle or war (compare Isaiah 10:16).

knew not — knew not the lesson of repentance which the judgment was intended to teach (Isaiah 5:13; Isaiah 9:13; Jeremiah 5:3).


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 42:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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