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Commentaries For Isaiah 49

  • Chapter 49

    The unbelief and rejection of the Jews. (1-6) Gracious promise to the Gentiles. (7-12) God's love to the church. (13-17) Its increase. (18-23) And deliverance. (24-26)

    Verses 1-6 The great Author of redemption shows the authority for his work. The sword of his word slays the lusts of his people, and all at enmity with them. His sharp arrows wound the conscience; but all these wounds will be healed, when the sinner prays to him for mercy. But even the Redeemer, who spake as never man spake in his personal ministry, often seemed to labour in vain. And if Jacob will not be brought back to God, and Israel will not be gathered, still Christ will be glorious. This promise is in part fulfilled in the calling of the Gentiles. Men perish in darkness. But Christ enlightens men, and so makes them holy and happy.

    Verses 7-12 The Father is the Lord, the Redeemer, and Holy One of Israel, as sending the Son to be the Redeemer. Man, whom he came to save, put contempt upon him. To this he submitted for our salvation. He is a pledge for all the blessings of the covenant; in him God was reconciling the world to himself. Pardoning mercy is a release from the curse of the law; renewing grace is a release from the dominion of sin: both are from Christ. He saith to those in darkness, Show yourselves. Not only see, but be seen, to the glory of God, and your own comforts. Though there are difficulties in the way to heaven, yet the grace of God will carry us over them, and make even the mountains a way. This denotes the free invitations and the encouraging promises of the gospel, and the outpouring of the Spirit.

    Verses 13-17 Let there be universal joy, for God will have mercy upon the afflicted, because of his compassion; upon his afflicted, because of his covenant. We have no more reason to question his promise and grace, than we have to question his providence and justice. Be assured that God has a tender affection for his church and people; he would not have them to be discouraged. Some mothers do neglect their children; but God's compassions to his people, infinitely exceed those of the tenderest parents toward their children. His setting them as a mark on his hand, or a seal upon his arm, denotes his being ever mindful of them. As far as we have scriptural evidence that we belong to his ransomed flock, we may be sure that he will never forsake us. Let us then give diligence to make our calling and election sure, and rejoice in the hope and glory of God.

    Verses 18-23 Zion is addressed as an afflicted widow, bereaved of her children. Numbers flock to her, and she is assured that they come to be a comfort to her. There are times when the church is desolate and few in number; yet its desolations shall not last for ever, and God will repair them. God can raise up friends for returning Israelites, even among Gentiles. They shall bring their children, and make them thy children. Let all deal tenderly and carefully with young converts and beginners in religion. Princes shall protect the church. It shall appear that God is the sovereign Lord of all. And those who in the exercise of faith, hope, and patience, wait on God for the fulfilment of his promises, shall never be confounded.

    Verses 24-26 We were lawful captives to the justice of God, yet delivered by a price of unspeakable value. Here is an express promise: Even the prey of the terrible shall be delivered. We may here view Satan deprived of his prey, bound and cast into the pit; and all the powers that have combined to enslave, persecute, or corrupt the church, are destroyed; that all the earth may know that our Saviour and Redeemer is Jehovah, the mighty One of Jacob. And every effort we make to rescue our fellow-sinners from the bondage of Satan, is, in some degree, helping forward that great change.

  • CHAPTER 49

    Isaiah 49:1-26 . SIMILAR TO CHAPTER 42:1-7 ( Isaiah 49:1-9 ).

    Messiah, as the ideal Israel ( Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 49:4 Isaiah 49:5 ), 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--( Isaiah 44:2 , Luke 1:31 , John 10:36 ).
    from . . . bowels . . . mention of my name--His name "Jesus" (that is, God-Saviour) was designated by God before His birth ( Matthew 1:21 ).

    2. my mouth . . . sword--( Isaiah 11:4 , Revelation 19:15 ). The double office of the Word of God, saving and damnatory, is implied ( Isaiah 50:4 , John 12:48 , Hebrews 4:12 ).
    shaft--( Psalms 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 ( Isaiah 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 ( Genesis 32:28 , Hosea 12:3 Hosea 12:4 ). He is also the ideal Israel, the representative man of the nation (compare Matthew 2:15 with Hosea 11:1 ).
    in whom . . . glorified--( John 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" ( Isaiah 53:1-3 , Luke 19:14 , John 1:11 , 7:5 ). Only a hundred twenty disciples met after His personal ministry was ended ( Acts 1:15 ).
    yet . . . my judgment . . . with the Lord--Ultimately, God will do justice to My cause, and reward (Margin for "work," compare Isaiah 40:10 , 62:11 ) My labors and sufferings. He was never "discouraged" ( Isaiah 42:4 , Isaiah 50:7 Isaiah 50:10 ). He calmly, in spite of seeming ill success for the time, left the result with God, confident of final triumph ( Isaiah 53:10-12 1 Peter 2:23 ). So the ministers of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 1 Peter 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--( Matthew 15:24 , Acts 3:26 ).
    Though Israel be not gathered--metaphor from a scattered flock which the shepherd gathers together again; or a hen and her chickens ( Matthew 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 ( Isaiah 49:6 ) resuming the words from the beginning of Isaiah 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 ( Isaiah 42:6 Isaiah 42:7 , 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 despiseth--Hebrew, "the despised of soul," that is, by every soul, by all men ( Isaiah 52:14 Isaiah 52:15 , 53:3 , 50:6-9 , Psalms 22:6 ). LOWTH translates, "whose person is despised."
    abhorreth--literally, "who is an abomination to the nation" ( Luke 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 ( Hosea 1:9 ; so the Greek terms respectively also Laos and Ethne, Romans 9:25 ), to take "nation" here collectively for the Gentile world, which also spurned Him ( Psalms 2:1-3 Acts 4:25-27 ).
    servant of rulers--( Matthew 17:27 ). He who would not exert His power against the rulers ( Matthew 26:52 Matthew 26:53 ).
    shall see--namely the fulfilment of God's promises ( Isaiah 49:3 Isaiah 49:6 ), "when He (shall be) a light to the Gentiles."
    arise--to reverence Thee ( Psalms 72:10 Psalms 72:11 , Philippians 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 ( Isaiah 42:1 ).

    8. Messiah is represented as having asked for the grace of God in behalf of sinners; this verse contains God the Father's favorable answer.
    an acceptable time--"In a time of grace" [HENGSTENBERG]. A limited time ( Isaiah 61:2 , 2 Corinthians 6:2 ). The time judged by God to be the best fitted for effecting the purposes of His grace by Messiah.
    heard thee--( Psalms 2:8 , Hebrews 5:7 ).
    day of salvation--when "the fulness of time" ( Galatians 4:4 ) shall have come. The day of salvation is "to-day" ( Hebrews 4:7 ).
    helped--given Thee the help needed to enable Thee, as man, to accomplish man's salvation.
    preserve--from the assaults and efforts of Satan, to divert Thee from Thy voluntary death to save man. in the singular, is always applied exclusively to Israel.
    establish the earth--rather, "to restore the land," namely, Canaan to Israel. Spiritually, the restoration of the Church (the spiritual Israel) to the heavenly land forfeited by man's sin is also included.
    cause to inherit . . . desolate heritages--image from the desolate state of Judea during the Babylonish captivity. Spiritually, the Gentile world, a moral waste, shall become a garden of the Lord. Literally, Judea lying desolate for ages shall be possessed again by Israel (compare Isaiah 61:7 , "in their land"). Jesus, the antitype of, and bearing the same name as Joshua ( Hebrews 4:8 ), shall, like him, divide the land among its true heirs ( Isaiah 54:3 , 61:4 ).

    9. ( Isaiah 42:7 , Zechariah 9:12 ).
    prisoners--the Jews bound in legal bondage.
    them . . . in darkness--the Gentiles having no light as to the one true God [VITRINGA].
    Show yourselves--not only see but be seen ( Matthew 5:16 , 5:19 ). Come forth from the darkness of your prison into the light of the Sun of righteousness.
    in the ways, &c.--In a desert there are no "ways," nor "high places," with "pastures"; thus the sense is: "They shall have their pastures, not in deserts, but in cultivated and inhabited places." Laying aside the figure, the churches of Christ at the first shall be gathered, not in obscure and unknown regions, but in the most populous parts of the Roman empire, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, &c. [VITRINGA]. Another sense probably is the right one. Israel, on its way back to the Holy Land, shall not have to turn aside to devious paths in search of necessaries, but shall find them in all places wherever their route lies; so ROSENMULLER. God will supply them as if He should make the grass grow in the trodden ways and on the barren high places.

    10. Messiah will abundantly satisfy all the wants, both of literal Israel on their way to Palestine, and of the spiritual on their way to heaven, as their Shepherd ( Isaiah 65:13 , Matthew 5:6 ), also in heaven ( Revelation 7:16 Revelation 7:17 ).

    11. my--All things are God's.
    mountains a way--I will remove all obstructions out of the way ( Isaiah 40:4 ).
    exalted--that is, cast up ( Isaiah 57:14 , 62:10 ); for instance, over valleys. VITRINGA explains "mountains" as great kingdoms, Egypt, Syria, &c., subjected to Rome, to facilitate the spreading of the Gospel; "highways," the Christian doctrine wherein those who join the Church walk, and which, at the time of Constantine, was to be raised into prominence before all, and publicly protected ( Isaiah 35:8 Isaiah 35:9 ).

    12. Sinim--The Arabians and other Asiatics called China Sin, or Tchin; the Chinese had no special name for themselves, but either adopted that of the reigning dynasty or some high-sounding titles. This view of "Sinim" suits the context which requires a people to be meant "from far," and distinct from those "from the north and from the west" [GESENIUS].

    13. So Revelation 12:12 . God will have mercy on the afflicted, because of His compassion; on His afflicted, because of His covenant.

    14. Zion--the literal Israel's complaint, as if God had forsaken her in the Babylonian captivity; also in their dispersion previous to their future restoration; thereby God's mercy shall be called forth ( Isaiah 63:15-19 , Psalms 77:9 Psalms 77:10 , 102:17 ).

    15. ( Isaiah 44:21 , Psalms 103:13 , Matthew 7:11 ).

    16. Alluding to the Jews' custom (perhaps drawn from Exodus 13:9 ) of puncturing on their hands a representation of their city and temple, in token of zeal for them [LOWTH], ( Solomon 8:6 ).

    17. Thy children--Israel ( Isaiah 49:20 Isaiah 49:21 , Isaiah 43:6 ). JEROME reads, for "Thy children," "Thy builders"; they that destroyed thee shall hasten to build thee.
    haste--to rebuild thy desolate capital.
    shall go forth--Thy destroyers shall leave Judea to Israel in undisturbed possession.

    18. As Zion is often compared to a bride ( Isaiah 54:5 ), so the accession of converts is like bridal ornaments ("jewels," Isaiah 62:3 , Malachi 3:17 ). Her literal children are, however, more immediately meant, as the context refers to their restoration; and only secondarily to her spiritual children by conversion to Christ. Israel shall be the means of the final complete conversion of the nations ( Micah 5:7 , Romans 11:12 Romans 11:15 ).
    as a bride--namely, binds on her ornaments.

    19. land of thy destruction--thy land once the scene of destruction.
    too narrow--( Isaiah 54:1 Isaiah 54:2 , Zechariah 10:10 ).

    20. children . . . after . . . other--rather, "the children of thy widowhood," that is, the children of whom thou hast been bereft during their dispersion in other lands [MAURER].
    again--rather, "yet."
    give place--rather, "stand close to me," namely, in order that we may be the more able to dwell in in the narrow place [HORSLEY]. Compare as to Israel's spiritual children, and the extension of the gospel sphere, Romans 15:19 Romans 15:24 , 2 Corinthians 10:14-16 . But Isaiah 49:22 (compare Isaiah 66:20 ) shows that her literal children are primarily meant. GESENIUS translates, "Make room."

    21. Who, &c.--Zion's joyful wonder at the unexpected restoration of the ten tribes. Secondarily, the accession of spiritual Israelites to the mother church of Jerusalem from the Gentiles is meant. This created surprise at first ( Acts 10:45 , 14:27 , Acts 15:3 Acts 15:4 ).
    lost . . . am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro--rather, "bereaved of . . . have been barren, an exile and outcast" [HORSLEY]. She had been "put away" by Jehovah, her husband ( Isaiah 50:1 ); hence her wonder at the children begotten to her.

    22. lift . . . hand--that is, beckon to
    standard--( Isaiah 11:12 ).
    bring . . . sons in . . . arms--The Gentiles shall aid in restoring Israel to its own land ( Isaiah 60:4 , 66:20 ). Children able to support themselves are carried on the shoulders in the East; but infants, in the arms, or astride on one haunch ( Isaiah 60:12 ). "Thy sons" must be distinct from "the Gentiles," who carry them; and therefore cannot primarily refer to converts among the Gentiles.

    23. lick . . . dust--that is, kiss thy feet in token of humble submission.
    for they . . . not . . . ashamed . . . wait for me--The restoration of Israel shall be in answer to their prayerful waiting on the Lord ( Isaiah 30:18 Isaiah 30:19 , Psalms 102:16 Psalms 102:17 , Zechariah 12:10 , 14:3 ).

    24. the prey--Israel, long a prey to mighty Gentile nations, whose oppression of her shall reach its highest point under Antichrist ( Daniel 11:36 Daniel 11:37 Daniel 11:41 Daniel 11:45 ).
    lawful captive--the Jews justly consigned for their sins ( Isaiah 50:1 ) as captives to the foe. Secondarily, Satan and Death are "the mighty" conquerors of man, upon whom his sin give them their "lawful" claim. Christ answers that claim for the sinners, and so the captive is set free ( Job 19:25 , 14:14 , Matthew 12:29 , Hosea 6:2 , where Isaiah 49:4 shows the primary reference is to Israel's restoration, to which the resurrection corresponds; Isaiah 26:19 , Ephesians 4:8 , Hebrews 2:14 Hebrews 2:15 ). Others not so well translate, "the captives taken from among the just Israelites."

    25. ( Isaiah 53:12 , Psalms 68:18 , Colossians 2:15 ).
    contend with him, &c.--( Isaiah 54:17 ).

    26. feed . . . own flesh--a phrase for internal strifes ( Isaiah 9:20 ).
    own blood--a just retribution for their having shed the blood of God's servants ( Revelation 16:6 ).
    sweet wine--that is must, or new wine, the pure juice which flows from the heap of grapes before they are pressed; the ancients could preserve it for a long time, so as to retain its flavor. It was so mild that it required a large quantity to intoxicate; thus the idea here is that very much blood would be shed ( Revelation 14:10 Revelation 14:20 ).
    all flesh shall, &c.--the effect on the world of God's judgments ( Isaiah 66:15 Isaiah 66:16 Isaiah 66:18 Isaiah 66:19 , Revelation 15:3 Revelation 15:4 ).

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