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Go to Bible: Isaiah 49
“Yahweh called me.” Isaiah contains four sections that the scholars refer to as “Servant Songs,” in which Isaiah portrays the Messiah as the Servant of Yahweh. The Songs are Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-7; 50:4-11, and 52:13-53:12. The start of the first Servant Song, Isaiah 42:1, is quoted in Matthew 12:18 and positively identifies the “servant” as the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 49, the Servant is mentioned in Isaiah 49:3, 5, and 7. [For more information on the Servant Songs, see commentary on Isa. 52:13].(top)
|Isa 49:2||- (top)|
|Isa 49:3||- (top)|
|Isa 49:4||- (top)|
|Isa 49:5||- (top)|
“my salvation to the end of the earth.” The salvation and everlasting life given by the Messiah was not just for the Jews, even though many of them thought that it was. The Old Testament has a number of verses that spoke of Gentiles being included in the Messianic Kingdom, which meant they were granted everlasting life (Ps. 102:15; Isa. 2:2-4; 19:23-25; 42:6; 49:6; 51:4-5; 56:3-7; 60:3; 66:18-21; Ezek. 39:21, 27; Micah 4:2; Hag. 2:7; Zech. 8:22). [For more information on the Messiah being a blessing to the Gentiles, the nations, see commentary on Isa. 42:6].(top)
“Yahweh, the Redeemer of Israel, its Holy One.” Yahweh has many different names, and two of them are placed together in this verse: “the Redeemer of Israel” and “Holy One.” A few English versions (the KJV included) put an “and” between “the Redeemer of Israel” and “its Holy One,” but that is not necessary and causes confusion because then it could seem that there are two beings talking, the Redeemer and also the “Holy One.” But only Yahweh is speaking.
The Holy One of Israel is another name for Yahweh, as we see here in Isaiah 49:7 and in many other verses (cp. 2 Kings 19:22; Job 6:10; Ps. 71:22; 78:41; 89:18; Prov. 9:10, 30:3; Isa. 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6). Some English versions read “his Holy One,” and that is okay if we understand that Israel being referred to as a male (sometimes Israel is referred to as a female). However, since Hebrew does not have a neuter gender, and thus things are either male or female, it seems to make better sense to translate the nation of Israel as an “it” and not a “him.”
“to one whose soul is despised.” This translation closely agrees with K. Baltzer (Hermeneia: A Critical Commentary). The one being spoken to is the Messiah, as the context and history make clear. The English translations differ, in part because the Hebrew word nephesh can be “soul” or “life,” or it can refer to the self and thus be “him” or an equivalent. Although the English versions differ as to exactly how to translate the Hebrew text, they all catch the main idea: this person is despised, and we learn from the scope of Scripture that he is despised by worldly and ungodly people.
“the nation.” The use of the singular here indicates that this is not “the nations,” that is, the Gentiles, but the nation of Israel itself, and indeed, the majority of the Jews rejected Christ. At Jesus’ trial before Pilate, the people and their leaders shouted, “Crucify him” (Matt. 27:20-23).
“a servant of rulers.” Although he was the Son of God and therefore higher than any earthly ruler, the Messiah came to serve, not be served, and by his life and death made everlasting life available to everyone (cp. Matt. 28:20; Phil. 2:7).
“bowed down.” The common biblical way of bowing down before people or God was to fall to one’s knees and bow the upper body and face to the earth. The word translated “bowed down,” shachah (#07812 שָׁחָה), is the same Hebrew word as “worship,” and it is translated “worship” in some English versions. [For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].(top)
“I will answer...I will help.” The Hebrew is written in the past tense (“I have answered...I have helped”) and is the prophetic perfect idiom, referring to something in the future as if it was in the past to show that the event will happen. In this context there are several indications that the prophetic perfect idiom is being used. One is that the subject of the sentence, who is the Messiah, has not even been born yet, so to say that God has answered and has helped him has to be idiomatic. Another is that part of the sentence “and I will preserve you” is in the imperfect tense, here referring to the future. This is a verse where translating the Hebrew literally as a past tense action only confuses the reader because English does not have a clear prophetic perfect idiom.
Reading Isaiah 49:8-23 as a unit shows that it is referring to the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus Christ rules over the earth from his throne in Jerusalem. The majority of the statements in Isaiah 49:8-23 describe things that will occur in the Millennial Kingdom when Jesus Christ rules the earth, although some of the things mentioned in the verses, such as we read in Isaiah 49:14, occur before Christ rules on earth. The key to understanding prophecies such as this one in Isaiah 49:8-23 (cp. Isa. 19:18-25) is realizing that the prophecy is not in chronological order, and so the reader must understand from many other places in the Bible what the Millennial Kingdom will be like, as well as understand the times the prophet is living in and also what the Tribulation and Armageddon, which precede the Millennial Kingdom, will be like. Then the reader can use that information to sort out what pieces of the prophecy refer to events before the Millennial Kingdom and which events have never occurred but will occur in the Millennial Kingdom.
[For more verses in Isaiah that speak of the Millennial Kingdom, see commentary on Isaiah 2:2. For more on Christ’s future kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on the prophetic perfect idiom, see commentary on Ephesians 2:6].
“as a covenant.” The phrase “as a covenant” (or, “for a covenant”) is general and thus has a number of meanings relating to the death of Christ and the covenants. Just as a covenant binds parties together, so also Jesus Christ would bind people to God. Also, the fact that Jesus Christ was given “as a covenant” indicates that in him the Old Covenant was fulfilled and the New Covenant ratified. Jesus was both the sacrifice that was required because the Old Covenant was broken (as per Matt. 26:28) and the blood sacrifice that ratified the New Covenant (as per Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25. Cp. Exod. 24:8). Thus the word “covenant” is a metonymy for a “covenant sacrifice;” both the sacrifice that had to be offered when a covenant was broken, and the blood sacrifice that ratified and began a covenant.
“the people.” Israel was God’s chosen people, so they are often referred to as “the people,” as they are here. We can see that from the scope of Scripture and especially the parallel verse in Isaiah 42:6 where “the people” (Israel) are contrasted with “the nations,” i.e., the Gentiles, the other nations besides Israel. Paul also contrasted “the People” with the Gentiles (Acts 26:23).
The Gentiles were blessed in Christ (Ps. 102:15; Isa. 2:2-4; 19:23-25; 42:6; 49:6; 51:4-5; 56:3-7; 60:3; 66:18-21; Ezek. 39:21, 27; Micah 4:2; Hag. 2:7; Zech. 8:22), but God made His covenant with Israel, the “Old Covenant” (Exod. 24), and He also promised to make a new covenant with them, and Jesus Christ was the covenant sacrifice, as he openly stated at the Last Supper when he said the blood of the covenant was his blood.(top)
“on all bare heights will be their pasture.” In the future, the bare heights will become rich pastureland.(top)
“They will not hunger or thirst, nor will the heat or sun strike them.” The Millennial Kingdom, when Christ rules the earth, will be a wonderful place. There will be no starvation or even hunger and the water will be abundant and safe to drink. The word “heat” may refer to the dry heat of the sun, or some scholars think it refers to the scorching dry desert wind. In any case, the picture Isaiah is painting of the Millennial Kingdom is that it will be an amazingly wonderful place. Unlike the conditions that Isaiah’s audience was used to, which was very hot summer days and a hot dry wind that annually came off the eastern desert, Israel would have a wonderfully mild climate.
[For more on the wonderful Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
“I will make all my mountains a road,[hp]and my highways will be raised up.” In the Millennial Kingdom when Christ rules the earth the mountains and valleys will be much more level, and travel will be easier. [For more on the Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.”(top)
|Isa 49:12||- (top)|
|Isa 49:13||- (top)|
|Isa 49:14||- (top)|
|Isa 49:15||- (top)|
|Isa 49:16||- (top)|
|Isa 49:17||- (top)|
|Isa 49:18||- (top)|
|Isa 49:19||- (top)|
|Isa 49:20||- (top)|
|Isa 49:21||- (top)|
|Isa 49:22||- (top)|
“bow down.” The word translated “bow down,” shachah (#07812 שָׁחָה), is the same Hebrew word as “worship.” [For more on bowing down, see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20].(top)
“tyrant.” This is the reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Syriac, and Vulgate. Although the accepted Masoretic Hebrew text has “righteous man,” that does not fit the context (cp. Isa. 49:25).(top)
|Isa 49:25||- (top)|
|Isa 49:26||- (top)|