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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Isaiah 49

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 49:1 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.

Ver. 1. Listen, O isles, unto me,] i.e., Ye foreigners; for wicked Israel will not, and therefore have no true peace. [Isaiah 48:22 Psalms 119:165]

Unto me.] Understand it of Isaiah, but especially of Christ: for from hence to the end of this book, as the Jewish doctors also acknowledge, are visions and sermons set down concerning Christ’s twofold kingdom, viz., of patience and of power. See Acts 13:47, 2 Corinthians 6:1-18 : 2 Kings 7:10.

The Lord hath called me from the womb.] Called me and qualified me, appointed and anointed me to the office of a mediator. Thus those that attend not, though never so remote, are deeply guilty before God. [Deuteronomy 18:18-19 Acts 3:22-23]


Verse 2

Isaiah 49:2 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;

Ver. 2. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword.] He hath added efficacy to my doctrine, and will protect my person till I have finished the work that he gave me to do.

And made me a polished shaft.] That, being well pointed, will pierce at a distance, and either prick converts at the heart, {as Acts 2:37} or cut refractories to the heart. {as Acts 7:54} Christ will pursue his enemies both with the terrors of his words, his mouth being "made like a sharp sword," and with the plagues of his hands, being made like a polished shaft.


Verse 3

Isaiah 49:3 And said unto me, Thou [art] my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

Ver. 3. Thou art my servant, O Israel,] i.e., O Christ, who best deservest to be called by that name, who art also the head of the elect, that Israel of God. [Galatians 6:16]


Verse 4

Isaiah 49:4 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 my work with my God.

Ver. 4. Then said I: I have laboured in vain.] I have done little more than preached my hearers to hell. The Pharisees and the lawyers "rejected the counsel of God against themselves"; [Luke 7:30] they would not be forewarned to "flee from the wrath to come"; [Matthew 3:7] to "escape the damnation of hell." [Matthew 23:33] Our Saviour lost his sweet words upon them: so did the prophet Isaiah upon his untoward countrymen, who refused to be reformed, hated to be healed. Nothing was unconquerable to his pains, who had, as one saith of Jul. Scaliger, ‘a golden wit in an iron body’; but this matter was not malleable: hence he spake to them to as little purpose as Bede did when he preached to a heap of stones. Hence his complaint: [Isaiah 53:1] "Who hath believed our report?" He might haply hope at first, as holy Melanchthon did, that it was impossible for his hearers to withstand the evidence of the gospel: but after he had been a preacher a while, it is said he complained that ‘old Adam was too hard for young Melanchthon.’ Rev. Mr Greenham, besides his public pains in season and out of season, was wont to walk out into the fields, and to confer with his neighbours as they were at plough. But Dry Drayton, the place where he was minister many years, though so often watered with his tears, prayers, and pains, was little the better for all: the generality of his parish remained ignorant and obstinate, to their pastor’s great grief, and their own greater damage and disgrace. (a) Hence the verses,

“Greenham had pastures green,

But sheep full lean, &c.”

He might well cry out, as many also do at this day, Eheu, quam pingui macer est mihi taurus in arvo! Our people, alas! are like Laban’s lambs or Pharaoh’s kine; they are even ministrorum opprobria. But if ministers toil all night and take nothing, it is to be feared, saith one well, that Satan caught the fish ere they came at their net.

Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord.] He will do me right, and reward me howsoever. The physician hath his praise and pay, though his patient dies; the lawyer hath his fee, though his client’s cause miscarry. Curare exigeris, non curationem, saith Bernard to a friend of his, It is the care, not the cure of your charge that is charged upon you. Jeremiah was impatient, and would preach no more; [Jeremiah 20:9] but that might not be. Mr Greenham left Dry Drayton, upon friends’ importunity, and moved to London, but he afterwards repented it. Latimer, speaking of a certain minister who gave this answer why he left off preaching, Because he saw he did no good, ‘This,’ saith Latimer, ‘is a naughty, a very naughty answer.’


Verse 5

Isaiah 49:5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb [to be] his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.

Ver. 5. To bring Jacob again to him.] To convert and reduce him to the fold: this is the proper work of the arch-shepherd. [1 Peter 2:25; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 5:4] Men may speak persuasively, but Christ alone can persuade the heart. Meum est docere, saith Cyril, rostrum auseultare, Dei vero perficere.

Though Israel be not gathered,] viz., By God’s Word, which is his "arm"; [Isaiah 53:1] or, will not be gathered. {as Matthew 23:37}

Yet I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord.] Who will reward me κατα τον κοπον και ου κατα τον καρπον, according to my pains, and not according to my success; (a) yea, it is more than probable that such as patiently persist in the work of the ministry, though few or none be converted thereby, shall have a greater measure of glory than those that see much fruit of their labours, and so have their honeycomb here to feed on.


Verse 6

Isaiah 49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

Ver. 6. I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles.] De vocatione gentium illustre testimonium; and to this purpose it is cited by Paul and Barnabas. [Acts 13:47 John 12:46 Luke 1:78-79]

That thou mayest be my salvation.] Vide quam Deo cordi et curae sit salus nostra, cum eam vocat suam. (a) See how God mindeth and fancieth our salvation, when he calleth it here "his salvation."


Verse 7

Isaiah 49:7 Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, [and] his Holy One, to 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 he shall choose thee.

Ver. 7. To him whom man despiseth.] Christ was extremely despised in the state of his humiliation; [Isaiah 53:2-3] his soul was filled with scorn and contempt; {as Psalms 123:3-4} he was heartily hated.

To him whom the nation abhorreth.] Jerome saith that, to this day, that execrable nation curseth Christ three times a day in their synagogues, and professeth that if their Messiah should come, rather than the Gentries should share with them in his benefits, they would crucify him over and over.

To a servant of rulers.] Christ was basely used by the rulers of the Jews, who never left till they had nailed him to the tree, which was a slave’s death among the Romans.

Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship.] As did Constantine, Theodosius, Valentinian, Charles the Great, &c., who called themselves vasallos Christi, the vassals of Christ.

And he shall choose thee,] i.e., He shall declare that he hath chosen thee to be the Saviour of his people.


Verse 8

Isaiah 49:8 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 establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;

Ver. 8. In an acceptable time.] Heb., In a time of my good pleasure, or good will - i.e., when of free grace I am pleased to send thee into the world, and to cause the gospel to be preached all abroad, thereby declaring myself fully appeased with the "men of my good will," as the elect are called. [Luke 2:14 2 Corinthians 6:2]

Have I heard thee?] Or, Will I hear thee - sc., interceding; and will I help thee - sc., conflicting.

And give thee for a covenant,] i.e., For a mediator of the new covenant, which is ratified by thy blood: as was signified by the book sprinkled with the blood of the slain sacrifice.

To establish the earth.] Had not Christ undertook the shattered condition of the world to uphold it, it had fallen about Adam’s ears.

To cause to inherit the desolate heritages,] i.e., Heaven, forfeited by us in our first parents; or, as others, the countries of the nations now converted.


Verse 9

Isaiah 49:9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that [are] in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures [shall be] in all high places.

Ver. 9. That thou mayest say to the prisoners,] i.e., To such as lie hampered and enthralled in the invisible chains of the kingdom of darkness. To these Christ saith, Be refreshed with the light of saving knowledge, and with the liberty of the sons of God.

They shall feed in the ways.] As cattle do, that are removed from place to place; they shall have a subsistence till they get home to their Father’s house, where is "bread enough."


Verse 10

Isaiah 49:10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.

Ver. 10. They shall not hunger nor thirst.] A sufficiency the saints have, even of outward comforts, if not a superfluity; and for inward, sunt nobis pascua, pocula, et panis coelestis, they "shall not want"; [Psalms 23:1] yea, they shall "over exceedingly abound." [2 Corinthians 7:4] So little cause is there for the Jew to jeer us as poor and forlorn; spiritual alimony we are sure of, and bread and water with the gospel are good cheer. See Revelation 7:16.

Neither shall the heat nor sun smite them.] As Psalms 121:6. {See Trapp on "Psalms 121:6"}

For he that hath mercy on them.] He saith not, Pastor, but Miserator, a sweeter title.

Even by the springs.] See Psalms 23:3. {See Trapp on "Psalms 23:3"}


Verse 11

Isaiah 49:11 And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.

Ver. 11. And I will make all my mountains.] I will remove all rubs, and lay all level: pacifica erunt omnia, faecunda et suavia; who would not then take up Christ’s so easy a yoke? &c.


Verse 12

Isaiah 49:12 Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.

Ver. 12. Behold, these shall come from far.] The Jews from all parts, whither they have been dispersed, the elect from all quarters of the earth. [Matthew 8:11] {See Trapp on "Matthew 8:11"}

And these from the land of Sinim.] Or, Of the Sinites - that is, of the Chinese, saith Junius and others, whom the Greek geographers call Sinois, a very populous nation. Botterus saith that there are reckoned seventy millions of men, which are more than are to be found in all Europe; and who knows but many of those of the ten tribes of Israel are there? (a)


Verse 13

Isaiah 49:13 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.

Ver. 13. Sing, O heavens.] (a) The prophet having thus foretold the saints’ happiness in and by Christ, cannot hold, but breaketh forth into God’s praises, calling into concert all creatures which since the fall have lain bedridden, as it were, looking with outstretched neck for their full deliverance. [Romans 8:23]

For the Lord hath comforted his people.] This is just matter of general joy.


Verse 14

Isaiah 49:14 But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.

Ver. 14. But Zion said.] The Church hath her vicissitudes of joy and sorrow; mercies and crosses are interwoven; God checkereth his providences white and black; he speckleth his work. {as Zechariah 1:8}

The Lord hath forsaken me.] No, never: Non deserit Deus, etiamsi deserere videatur; non deserit etiamsi deserat, (a) God may withdraw, but not utterly desert his; he may change his dispensation, not his disposition toward them.

My Lord hath forgotten me.] My Lord still, though little enjoyed at present. So Psalms 22:1. Plato could say that a man might believe, and yet not believe. "I believe," saith he in the gospel, "help mine unbelief" - that is, my weak and wavering faith.


Verse 15

Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.

Ver. 15. Can a woman forget her sucking child?] It were a wonder she should grow out of kind as to be so unkind. The mother fasteth that her child may eat, waketh that he may sleep, is poor to make him rich, slighted to make him glorious. Occidar mode imperet, said she in story. God’s love to his is more than maternal. All the mercies of all the mothers in the world being put together would not make the tithe of his mercy. David saith much, [Psalms 103:13] "as a father pitieth his children," &c. Great was Jacob’s love to Benjamin, David’s to Absalom, so that Joab upbraideth him with it. [2 Samuel 19:6] But God here saith more, "Can a woman forget," &c. The harlot could not yield to have her child divided. Arsinoe interposed her own body between the sword of the murderer and her dear children. Melanchthon telleth of a countess of Thuringia, who being compelled by her husband’s cruelty to go into banishment from her children, when she took leave of her eldest son she bit a piece of his cheek out, amoris notam cruento morsu imprimens, and so marked him for her own. (a) This is somewhat; but what is all this to the infinite? Was there ever love like God’s love in sending his Son to die for sinners? Christ himself wondereth at it; [John 3:16] this was a sic so, without a sicut, just as, there being nothing in nature wherewith to parallel it. See Romans 8:32.

Yea, they may forget.] They may put off natural affection, as some did in times of Popish persecution; Julius Palmer’s mother for instance. King Edward the martyr was basely murdered by his own mother. Egelred succeeded him, and much mourned for his brother, being but ten years old, which so enraged his mother, that taking wax candles, which were readiest at hand, she therewith scourged him so sore, that he could never after endure wax candles to be burnt before him.


Verse 16

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of [my] hands; thy walls [are] continually before me.

Ver. 16. Behold, I have graven thee.] (a) So that as oft as I look upon mine own hands I cannot but think on thee. We read of one who had written the whole history of Christ’s Passion upon the nails of his hands in small letters. The "signet on his finger" a man cannot lightly look beside. See Song of Solomon 8:6, Jeremiah 22:24. Some think here is alluded to that precept given by God, of binding the Commandments to their right hand. [Deuteronomy 6:8]

Thy walls are continually before me.] The Lord doth so delight in his servants, that their "walls are ever in his sight," and he loveth to look upon the houses where they dwell. See on Psalms 87:6.


Verse 17

Isaiah 49:17 Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.

Ver. 17. Thy children shall make haste.] People shall come in amain to the Church. Nescit tarda molimina Spiritus Sancti gratia. God can make a nation to conceive and bring forth in a day. [Isaiah 66:8] How quickly was the gospel divulged and darted all the world over, as the beams of the sun! so in the late blessed Reformation begun by Luther.

And they that made thee waste.] Tyrants and heretics shall be cashiered. {as Zechariah 13:2} Fiat, fiat. Let it happen, let it happen.


Verse 18

Isaiah 49:18 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].

Ver. 18. Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold.] As those use to do which look upon ought with wonder and delight.

Thou shalt surely clothe thee with them, as with an ornament.] The good sons of Zion are a great honour to their mother, as the two Scipios were to Cornelia; and as that elect lady’s children were to her. [2 John 1:2] A godly man is a gallant man, but the wicked are botches and blots to a Church.


Verse 19

Isaiah 49:19 For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away.

Ver. 19. For thy waste and thy desolate places.] Heb., Thy wastenesses and thy desolations. The true Church then may lie waste and desolate and not be so gloriously visible, as the Papists falsely say it always is.

Shall even now be too narrow.] A metaphor from cities that being overcrowded send out colonies into other countries.

And they that swallowed thee up.] See Isaiah 49:17.


Verse 20

Isaiah 49:20 The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place [is] too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.

Ver. 20. The children.] Heb., The children of thine orbity; such as are not yet received into the Church.

Give place to me that I may.] People shall offer violence to heaven, and the "violent shall take it by force": valde avide et quasi ambitiose accessuri sunt. Ezekiel describeth the Church of the New Testament to be very large and spacious, and yet she shall be so crowded as is a bee hive, out of the mouth whereof the bees oft hang in heaps for want of room within.


Verse 21

Isaiah 49:21 Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where [had] they [been]?

Ver. 21. Then shalt thou say in thine heart.] Est artificiosa fictio, et color rhetoricus.

A captive, and removing to and fro.] The condition of God’s Church on earth - to be afflicted and tossed from post to pillar, having no settled abode; as neither had the ark, but was transportative, till settled at length in Solomon’s temple.


Verse 22

Isaiah 49:22 Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in [their] arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon [their] shoulders.

Ver. 22. Behold, I will lift up my hand, &c., ] i.e., I will call them by the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation to all believers. [Romans 1:16]

And they shall bring thy sons in their arms,] sc., When they bring them to be baptized. Respicit ad puerilem conditionem: yet some expound it metaphorically, as Deuteronomy 32:10, Hosea 11:3.


Verse 23

Isaiah 49:23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens 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: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

Ver. 23. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers.] Such were David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Josiah, Constantine, Theodosius, Placilla, Queen Elizabeth, &c.

They shall bow down to thee.] They shall give thee civil worship, and low obeisance, and that for Christ’s sake, who is thine head and husband, and dwelleth in thee.

They shall bow down to thee, &c.] Such honour hath every saint through Christ. The Pope’s parasites would hence ground his holding out his feet to be kissed; yea, his treading upon kings and emperors. But Peter would none of this; [Acts 10:25-26] so little cause had that Pope to cry out, Et mihi et Petro. Interpreters do rightly note that in these and the like texts, the prophet alludes to the manner of the Persians, among whom those that would speak unto the king, did first kiss the pavement that the king had trodden upon. (a) Hence Martial,

Pietorum sola basiare regum.

The ancient Christians also, to honour and hearten their confessors, and such as suffered imprisonment for the truth’s sake, did use to kiss their hands, yea, to cast themselves down at their feet. Tertullian, writing to some of the martyrs, saith, Non tantus sum ut vos alloquar, I am not good enough to speak unto you. He telleth also of some in his time, that they did reptare ad vincula martyrum, creep to the bands of the martyrs in way of honour to them.


Verse 24

Isaiah 49:24 Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?

Ver. 24. Shall the prey be taken from the mighty?] Not unless he be out matched and over mastered. The heathens were wont to ask, Who can wring a club out of Hercules’s hand, or a lightening bolt out of Jove’s? The captive Jews here seem to ask, Who can deliver us from the Babylonians, who have both might and right for them? for we are their lawful captives, and we see not how we can be set at liberty. Thus they thought at least, if they spoke not as much, not looking at all to the power and faithfulness of God, sed ad praesentium rerum spectra, ac hostium potentiam. Those that look downward on the rushing and roaring streams of miseries and troubles which run so swiftly under them, shall be sure to be taken with a giddiness, &c., but such as steadfastly fasten on the power and promise of God all-sufficient, shall be established.


Verse 25

Isaiah 49:25 But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives 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.

Ver. 25. But thus saith the Lord.] Here is a full answer to the former objection, as God doth usually in the Scripture frame answers to men’s thoughts; the law is spiritual and heart reaching.

And I will contend with him that contendeth with thee.] I will overpower the devil and thy most headstrong lusts, bringing thee out of his slavery, so that thou shalt be able to do all things through Christ who strengtheneth thee. [Philippians 4:13] Thy temporal enemies also, thy persecutors, shall feel my power, as did Pharaoh, Nero, Diocletian, Julian, &c. See on Genesis 12:2.


Verse 26

Isaiah 49:26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD [am] thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

Ver. 26. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh.] Which yet "no man ever hated, but nourisheth and cherisheth it." [Ephesians 5:29] But Zion’s enemies should one destroy another, and be put to such straits as the Jews were in the siege of their city by Titus, that they fed upon their own flesh, and the flesh of their children. (a) So hard a thing it is "to kick against the pricks"; quae in coelum expuunt, in faciem ipsorum recidunt.

And they shall be drunk with their own blood.] Yea, drowned in it, as was Attila king of Huns, (b) Felix, Count of Wartenburg, a great warrior and bloody persecutor of the Lutherans, who was choked in his own blood, and Charles IX of France, to whom a certain poet thus rightly speaketh,

Naribus, ore, oculis, atque auribus undique, et ano,

Et pene, erumpit qui tibi, Carle, cruor,

Non tuus iste cruor, sanctorum at caede cruorem

Quem ferns hausisti, concoquere haud poteras. ”

{a} Alterum ut alterius mactatum sanguine cernas.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 49:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-49.html. 1865-1868.

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