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The Servant’s Mission


Listen to me, O coastlands,

pay attention, you peoples from far away!

The Lord 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 Lord,

and my reward with my God.”



And now the Lord 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 Lord,

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 Lord,

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 Lord, who is faithful,

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


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Isa 49:1-26. Similar to Chapter 42:1-7 (Isa 49:1-9).

Messiah, as the ideal Israel (Isa 49:3), states the object of His mission, His want of success for a time, yet His certainty of ultimate success.

1. O isles—Messiah is here regarded as having been rejected by the Jews (Isa 49:4, 5), and as now turning to the Gentiles, to whom the Father hath given Him "for a light and salvation." "Isles" mean all regions beyond sea.

from the womb—(Isa 44:2; Lu 1:31; Joh 10:36).

from … bowels … mention of my name—His name "Jesus" (that is, God-Saviour) was designated by God before His birth (Mt 1:21).

2. my mouth … sword—(Isa 11:4; Re 19:15). The double office of the Word of God, saving and damnatory, is implied (Isa 50:4; Joh 12:48; Heb 4:12).

shaft—(Ps 45:5). "Polished," that is, free from all rust, implies His unsullied purity.

in … quiver … hid me—Like a sword in its scabbard, or a shaft in the quiver, Messiah, before His appearing, was hid with God, ready to be drawn forth at the moment God saw fit [Hengstenberg]; also always protected by God, as the arrow by the quiver (Isa 51:16).

3. Israel—applied to Messiah, according to the true import of the name, the Prince who had power with God in wrestling in behalf of man, and who prevails (Ge 32:28; Ho 12:3, 4). He is also the ideal Israel, the representative man of the nation (compare Mt 2:15 with Ho 11:1).

in whom … glorified—(Joh 14:13; 17:1-5).

4. I—Messiah.

in vain—comparatively in the case of the greater number of His own countrymen. "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (Isa 53:1-3; Lu 19:14; Joh 1:11; 7:5). Only a hundred twenty disciples met after His personal ministry was ended (Ac 1:15).

yet … my judgment … with the Lord—Ultimately, God will do justice to My cause, and reward (Margin for "work," compare Isa 40:10; 62:11) My labors and sufferings. He was never "discouraged" (Isa 42:4; 50:7, 10). He calmly, in spite of seeming ill success for the time, left the result with God, confident of final triumph (Isa 53:10-12; 1Pe 2:23). So the ministers of Christ (1Co 4:1-5; 1Pe 4:19).

5. The reason why He was confident that His work would be accepted and rewarded, namely, because He is "glorious in the eyes of Jehovah," &c.

to bring Jacob again to him—(Mt 15:24; Ac 3:26).

Though Israel be not gathered—metaphor from a scattered flock which the shepherd gathers together again; or a hen and her chickens (Mt 23:37). Instead of the text "not," the Keri has the similar Hebrew word, "to Him," which the parallelism favors: "And that Israel may be gathered to Him."

yet—rather, parenthetically. "For I am glorious, &c., and My God is My strength." Then (Isa 49:6) resuming the words from the beginning of Isa 49:5, "He saith" (I repeat), &c. Horsley explains, "Notwithstanding the incredulity of the Jews, Messiah shall be glorified in the conversion of the Gentiles," reading as English Version: but if the Keri be read, "Israel shall at one time or other be gathered, notwithstanding their incredulity during Messiah's sojourn on earth."

6. It is a light thing—"It is too little that Thou shouldest," [Hengstenberg], that is, It is not enough honor to Thee to raise up Jacob and Israel, but I design for Thee more, namely, that Thou shouldest be the means of enlightening the Gentiles (Isa 42:6, 7; 60:3).

the preserved—namely, those remaining after the judgments of God on the nation—the elect remnant of Israel reserved for mercy. Lowth, with a slight but needless change of the Hebrew, translates for "tribes" and "preserved," the "scions"—the "branches."

7. whom man despisethHebrew, "the despised of soul," that is, by every soul, by all men (Isa 52:14, 15; 53:3; 50:6-9; Ps 22:6). Lowth translates, "whose person is despised."

abhorreth—literally, "who is an abomination to the nation" (Lu 23:18-23). The Jews contemptuously call Him always Tolvi, "the crucified." I prefer, on account of Goi, the Hebrew term for nation being usually applied to the Gentiles, and that for people to the Jews (Ho 1:9; so the Greek terms respectively also Laos and Ethne, Ro 9:25), to take "nation" here collectively for the Gentile world, which also spurned Him (Ps 2:1-3; Ac 4:25-27).

servant of rulers—(Mt 17:27). He who would not exert His power against the rulers (Mt 26:52, 53).

shall see—namely the fulfilment of God's promises (Isa 49:3, 6), "when He (shall be) a light to the Gentiles."

arise—to reverence Thee (Ps 72:10, 11; Php 2:10).

princes also—rather, for the parallelism, supply the ellipsis, thus, "Princes shall see and shall worship."

faithful—namely, to His promises.

choose thee—as God's elect (Isa 42:1).