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The Servant’s Mission


Listen to me, O coastlands,

pay attention, you peoples from far away!

The L ord called me before I was born,

while I was in my mother’s womb he named me.


He made my mouth like a sharp sword,

in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow,

in his quiver he hid me away.


And he said to me, “You are my servant,

Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”


But I said, “I have labored in vain,

I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;

yet surely my cause is with the L ord,

and my reward with my God.”



And now the L ord says,

who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

and that Israel might be gathered to him,

for I am honored in the sight of the L ord,

and my God has become my strength—


he says,

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”



Thus says the L ord,

the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,

to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,

the slave of rulers,

“Kings shall see and stand up,

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,

because of the L ord, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”


Zion’s Children to Be Brought Home


Thus says the L ord:

In a time of favor I have answered you,

on a day of salvation I have helped you;

I have kept you and given you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages;


saying to the prisoners, “Come out,”

to those who are in darkness, “Show yourselves.”

They shall feed along the ways,

on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;


they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.


And I will turn all my mountains into a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.


Lo, these shall come from far away,

and lo, these from the north and from the west,

and these from the land of Syene.



Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the L ord has comforted his people,

and will have compassion on his suffering ones.



But Zion said, “The L ord has forsaken me,

my Lord has forgotten me.”


Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.


See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;

your walls are continually before me.


Your builders outdo your destroyers,

and those who laid you waste go away from you.


Lift up your eyes all around and see;

they all gather, they come to you.

As I live, says the L ord,

you shall put all of them on like an ornament,

and like a bride you shall bind them on.



Surely your waste and your desolate places

and your devastated land—

surely now you will be too crowded for your inhabitants,

and those who swallowed you up will be far away.


The children born in the time of your bereavement

will yet say in your hearing:

“The place is too crowded for me;

make room for me to settle.”


Then you will say in your heart,

“Who has borne me these?

I was bereaved and barren,

exiled and put away—

so who has reared these?

I was left all alone—

where then have these come from?”



Thus says the Lord G od:

I will soon lift up my hand to the nations,

and raise my signal to the peoples;

and they shall bring your sons in their bosom,

and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.


Kings shall be your foster fathers,

and their queens your nursing mothers.

With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,

and lick the dust of your feet.

Then you will know that I am the L ord;

those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.



Can the prey be taken from the mighty,

or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?


But thus says the L ord:

Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,

and the prey of the tyrant be rescued;

for I will contend with those who contend with you,

and I will save your children.


I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,

and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.

Then all flesh shall know

that I am the L ord your Savior,

and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.


1. Hear me, O islands! After having treated of the future deliverance of the people, he comes down to Christ, under whose guidance the people were brought out of Babylon, as they had formerly been brought out of Egypt. The former prophecy must have been confirmed by this doctrine; because they would scarcely have hoped that the Lord would deliver them, if they had not placed Christ before their eyes, by whom alone desponding souls can be comforted and strengthened; for from him they ought not only to expect eternal salvation, but ought equally to expect temporal deliverance. Besides, it is customary with the prophets, when they discourse concerning the restoration of the Church, to bring Christ into view, not only because he would be the minister of the Church, but because on him was founded the adoption of the people. The Jews also, or, at least, such of them as have any soundness of understanding, admit that this passage cannot be understood as relating to any other person than Christ. But still the train of thought which we have pointed out has not been perceived by every interpreter; for the Prophet does not, by a sudden transition, mention Christ, but interweaves this with the former subject, because in no other manner could the people entertain the hope of deliverance, since on him depended their reconciliation with God. And in order that the style might be more energetic, he introduces Christ as speaking, and addresses not only the Jews but nations that were beyond the sea, and foreign nations who were at a great distance from Judea, to whom, as we have formerly remarked, 11     Commentary on Isaiah, Vol. 3, p. 244. he gives the name of “Islands.”

Jehovah hath called me from the womb. A question arises, What is the nature of this calling? For, seeing that we were

“chosen in Christ before the creation of the world,”
(Ephesians 1:4,)

it follows that election goes before this calling; for it is the commencement and foundation of our election. Accordingly, it might be thought that Isaiah says far less than the occasion demands, when he says that he was “called from the womb;” for he had been called long before. But the answer is easy; for the subject here treated of is not eternal election, by which we are adopted to be his sons, but only the appointment or consecration by which Christ is set apart to that office, that no man may think that he intruded into it without being duly authorized. “For no man,” as the Apostle says,

“taketh this honor upon himself, but he who is called by God, as Aaron was. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made a high priest, but he who spake to him, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Hebrews 5:4, 5.)

Moreover, the Prophet does not describe the commencement of the period, as if it were only from the womb that God began to call him; but it is as if he had said, “Before I came out of the womb, God had determined that I should hold this office.” In like manner Paul also says that he was “set apart from the womb,” (Galatians 1:15,) though he had been “elected before the creation of the world.” (Ephesians 1:4.) To Jeremiah also it is said, “Before thou camest out of the womb, I knew thee.” (Jeremiah 1:5.) In short, the meaning is, that Christ was clothed with our flesh by the appointment of the Father, in order that he might fulfill the office of Redeemer, to which he had been appointed.

From my mother’s belly he hath had my name in remembrance. This has the same import as the former clause; for by “the remembrance of the name” is meant familiar acquaintance. He therefore distinguishes himself from the ordinary rank of men, because he was elected to an uncommon and remarkable office.

2. And he hath placed my mouth as a sharp sword, he employs a twofold comparison, that of “a sword” and of “a quiver,” in order to denote the power and energy of the doctrine; and he shews why he was called, and why he was honored by a name so excellent and illustrious, namely, that he may teach; for this is what he means by the word “mouth.” Christ hath therefore been appointed by the Father, not to rule, after the manner of princes, by the force of arms, and by surrounding himself with other external defences, to make himself an object of terror to his people; but his whole authority consists in doctrine, in the preaching of which he wishes to be sought and acknowledged; for nowhere else will he be found. He asserts the power of his “mouth,” that is, of the doctrine which proceeds from his mouth, by comparing it to “a sword;” for

“the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of the soul and the spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12.)

And hath made me as a polished arrow. He now compares his mouth to “an arrow,” because it strikes not only close at hand, but likewise at a distance, and reaches even those who appear to be far off.

In his quiver hath he hid me. After having spoken of the efficacy of doctrine, Isaiah adds, that God, by his power, protects Christ and his doctrine, so that nothing can stop his course. And this was very necessary to be added; for, as soon as the mouth of Christ is opened, that is, as soon as his Gospel is preached, adversaries rise up on all sides, and innumerable enemies league together in order to crush it; so that the efficacy which he ascribes to doctrine would not be sufficient, if there were not added his protection, in order to drive away adversaries.

Besides, the present question is not about the person of Christ, but about the whole body of the Church. We must indeed begin with the Head, but we must next come down to the members; and to all the ministers of the Word must be applied what is here affirmed concerning Christ; for to them is given such efficacy of the Word, that they may not idly beat the air with their voices, but may reach the hearts and touch them to the quick. The Lord also causes the voice of the Gospel to resound not; only in one place, but far and wide throughout the whole world. In short, because he faithfully keeps them under his protection, though they are exposed to many attacks, and are assaulted on every side by Satan and the world, yet they do not swerve from their course. We ought to have abundant knowledge of this from experience; for they would all to a man have been long ago ruined by the conspiracies and snares of adversaries, if the Lord had not defended them by his protection. And indeed, amidst so many dangers, it is almost miraculous that a single preacher of the Gospel is permitted to remain. The reason of this is, that the Lord guards them by his shadow, and “hides them as arrows in his quiver,” that they may not be laid open to the assaults of enemies and be destroyed.

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