The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 49

Isa 49:1

Isa 49:1-7: Messiah's "failure" and success.

Similarities with Isa 42: my servant (Isa 42:1 with Isa 49:3); isles (Isa 42:4 with Isa 49:1); keep thee (Isa 42:6 with Isa 49:8); covenant of people (Isa 42:6 with Isa 49:8); light of Gentiles (Isa 42:6 with Isa 49:8); prisoners (Isa 42:7 with Isa 49:9); sit in darkness (Isa 42:7 with Isa 49:9); and a song (Isa 42:10 with Isa 49:13).

Cp with Peter in temple: "My servant, in whom I will be glorified" (Isa 49:1 / Act 3:13); "my God shall be my strength" (Isa 49:5 / Act 3:16); "to raise up tribes of Jacob" (Isa 49:6 / Act 3:6); a covenant of people (Isa 49:8 / Act 3:25); salvation to ends of earth (Isa 49:6 / Act 3:25); pastures, springs (Isa 49:9,10,13 / Act 3:19); all gather together, and come to thee (Isa 49:1 8/ Act 3:11).

DISTANT NATIONS: Gentiles (vv 5,6).

BEFORE I WAS BORN...: Virgin birth (Isa 7:14). Other Isa prophecies of the virgin birth: Isa 41:9; 43:1; 44:2,24; 45:4; 46:3.

MY NAME: Immanuel (Isa 7:14; 8:8).

Isa 49:2

A preaching mission which ends in suffering!

POLISHED ARROW: Or "cleansed", ie of his grievous illness.

AND CONCEALED ME IN HIS QUIVER: The figurative language emphasizes the servant's importance as the LORD's effective instrument. The servant's mouth, which stands metonymically for his words, is compared to a sharp sword because he will be an effective spokesman on God's behalf (see Isa 50:4). The LORD holds his hand on the servant, ready to draw and use him at the appropriate time. The servant is like a sharpened arrow reserved in a quiver for just the right moment.

Isa 49:3

"This v identifies the servant as Israel. This seems to refer to the exiled nation (cf Isa 41:8,9; 44:1-2,21;45:4; 48:20), but in vv 5,6 this servant says he has been commissioned to reconcile Israel to God, so he must be distinct from the exiled nation. This servant is an ideal 'Israel' who, like Moses of old, mediates a covenant for the nation (v 8), leads them out of bondage (v 9), and carries out God's original plan for Israel by positively impacting the pagan nations (v 6). By living according to God's law, Israel was to be a model of God's standards of justice to the surrounding nations (Deu 4:6-8). The sinful nation failed, but the servant, the ideal 'Israel', will succeed by establishing justice throughout the earth" (NET notes).

IN WHOM I WILL DISPLAY MY SPLENDOR: Even after death, a yet greater glorification.

Isa 49:4

I HAVE LABORED TO NO PURPOSE: The discouragement of disease and apostasy (2Ch 30:3,6,9,10; 32:6-8). The Egyptian alliance (Isa 30:1-5; 19:11-15).

WHAT IS DUE ME IS IN THE LORD'S HAND: He committed righteous judgment to God (Christ's prayer in Gethsemane).

Isa 49:5

HONORED: "Glorious" (AV). Cp Isa 60:21; 61:3.

Isa 49:6

A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES: The overthrow of Assyrians caused many to bring gifts... all nations to glorify God of Israel (2Ch 32:23). Salvation to Gentiles: appropriated to himself by Paul (Act 13:46-48). Cp Gal 1:15 with v 1 here; Phi 2:16 with v 4 here; and 2Co 6:2 with v 8a here.

Isa 49:7

DESPISED AND ABHORRED: Hezekiah, the one despised and abhorred by the nation of Israel because of his dread affliction (Isa 53:3-5).

Isa 49:8

Isa 49:8-26: Return of captives; Zion's new family.

A TIME OF MY FAVOR: "An acceptable time" (AV); ref some special or feast day. Perhaps Passover: Isa 30:29; 31:5; 33:20; 26:20).

A COVENANT FOR THE PEOPLE: Hezekiah's recovery marked the renewal of God's covenant with Judah. For Christ, a paradox: a covenant-victim must die, or there is no covenant!

Isa 49:9

Cp Zec 9:9-11: Peace to Gentiles, inheritance for Israel, the blood of covenant bringing forth prisoners. Cp Heb 13:20: God of peace, shepherd of sheep (v 9 here).

Isa 49:12

ASWAN: "Sinim" = the wilderness of Sin (Exo 16:1; Num 33:11,15).

Isa 49:14

A flashback to the grim days of despair.

THE LORD HAS FORGOTTEN ME: "Hath God cast away His people?" (Rom 11:1,2).

Isa 49:15

Figure of mother and children in Isaiah: Isa 8:3,4; 11:8; 26:17,18; 28:9; 45:10,11; 46:3,4; 49:15,20-23; 54:1; 60:16; 66:11-13.

Isa 49:16

PALMS OF MY HANDS: A slave is tattooed on his hand with his master's mark (cp Rev 13:16; Exo 13:9; Isa 44:5). Thus, in this figure, God makes himself the "slave" of Israel. By contrast, the ten commandments were engraved in stone -- 2Co 3:7 -- which could be smashed -- and it was. But God's hands can never come to any harm, and on them our names are written... forever!

And then there are the hands of God's SON! "Then he said to Thomas... 'See my hands' " (John 20:27).

An orphaned boy was living with his grandmother when their house caught fire. The grandmother, trying to get upstairs to rescue the boy, perished in the flames. The boy's cries for help were finally answered by a man who climbed an iron drainpipe and came back down with the boy hanging tightly to his neck.

Several weeks later, a public hearing was held to determine who would receive custody of the child. A farmer, a teacher, and the town's wealthiest citizen all gave the reasons they felt they should be chosen to give the boy a home. But as they talked, the lad's eyes remained focused on the floor. Then a stranger walked to the front and slowly took his hands from his pockets, revealing severe scars on them. As the crowd gasped, the boy cried out in recognition. This was the man who had saved his life. His hands had been burned when he climbed the hot pipe. With a leap the boy threw his arms around the man's neck and held on for dear life. The other men silently walked away, leaving the boy and his rescuer alone. Those marred hands had settled the issue.

Many voices are calling for our attention. Among them is the One whose nail-pierced hands remind us that He has rescued us from sin and its deadly consequences. To him belongs our love and devotion.

Isa 49:17

YOUR SONS HASTEN BACK: "Thy children shall make haste" (AV), fleeing from captivity.

Isa 49:23

Gentile rulers assist in the Jews' return from captivity -- which resembles a new "birth" (hence nursing parents).

Isa 49:25

God reclaims the "plunder" taken by the Assyrian army: the vast numbers of slaves carried out of Israel into Babylon. "How can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man?" (Mat 12:29).

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