Ideal Israel Delivers the Exiles
1 Listen to me, you coastlands!tn Or “islands” (NASB, NIV); NLT “in far-off lands.”sn The Lord’s special servant, introduced in chap. 42, speaks here of his commission.
Pay attention, you people who live far away!
The Lord summoned me from birth;tn Heb “called me from the womb.”
he commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world.tn Heb “from the inner parts of my mother he mentioned my name.”
2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
he hid me in the hollow of his hand;
he made me like a sharpenedtn Or perhaps, “polished” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV); NASB “a select arrow.” arrow,
he hid me in his quiver.sn 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 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.
3 He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.”sn This verse identifies the servant as Israel. This seems to refer to the exiled nation (cf. 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 (see v. 8), leads them out of bondage (v. 9a), and carries out God’s original plan for Israel by positively impacting the pagan nations (see v. 6b). By living according to God’s law, Israel was to be a model of God’s standards of justice to the surrounding nations (Deut 4:6-8). The sinful nation failed, but the servant, the ideal “Israel,” will succeed by establishing justice throughout the earth.
4 But I thought,tn Or “said” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “I replied.” “I have worked in vain;
I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.”tn Heb “for nothing and emptiness.” Synonyms are combined to emphasize the common idea.
But the Lord will vindicate me;
my God will reward me.tn Heb “But my justice is with the Lord, and my reward [or “wage”] with my God.”
5 So now the Lord says,
the one who formed me from birthtn Heb “from the womb” (so KJV, NASB). to be his servant –
he did thistn The words “he did this” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text the infinitive construct of purpose is subordinated to the previous statement. to restore Jacob to himself,
so that Israel might be gathered to him;
and I will be honoredtn The vav (ו) + imperfect is translated here as a result clause; one might interpret it as indicating purpose, “and so I might be honored.” in the Lord’s sight,
for my God is my source of strengthtn Heb “and my God is [perhaps, “having been”] my strength.” The disjunctive structure (vav [ו] + subject + verb) is interpreted here as indicating a causal circumstantial clause.
6 he says, “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant,
to reestablish the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the remnanttn Heb “the protected [or “preserved”] ones.” of Israel?sn The question is purely rhetorical; it does not imply that the servant was dissatisfied with his commission or that he minimized the restoration of Israel.
I will make you a light to the nations,tn See the note at 42:6.
so you can bringtn Heb “be” (so KJV, ASV); CEV “you must take.” my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”
7 This is what the Lord,
the protectortn Heb “redeemer.” See the note at 41:14. of Israel, their Holy One,sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4. says
to the one who is despisedtc The Hebrew text reads literally “to [one who] despises life.” It is preferable to read with the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa לבזוי, which should be vocalized as a passive participle, לִבְזוּי (livzuy, “to the one despised with respect to life” [נֶפֶשׁ is a genitive of specification]). The consonantal sequence וי was probably misread as ה in the MT tradition. The contextual argument favors the 1QIsaa reading. As J. N. Oswalt (Isaiah [NICOT], 2:294) points out, the three terse phrases “convey a picture of lowliness, worthlessness, and helplessness.” and rejectedtn MT’s Piel participle (“to the one who rejects”) does not fit contextually. The form should be revocalized as a Pual, “to the one rejected.” by nations,tn Parallelism (see “rulers,” “kings,” “princes”) suggests that the singular גּוֹי (goy) be emended to a plural or understood in a collective sense (see 55:5).
a servant of rulers:
“Kings will see and rise in respect,tn For this sense of קוּם (qum), see Gen 19:1; 23:7; 33:10; Lev 19:32; 1 Sam 20:41; 25:41; 1 Kgs 2:19; Job 29:8.
princes will bow down,
because of the faithful Lord,
the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.”
8 This is what the Lord says:
“At the time I decide to show my favor, I will respond to you;
in the day of deliverance I will help you;
I will protect youtn The translation assumes the verb is derived from the root נָצָר (natsar, “protect”). Some prefer to derive it from the root יָצָר (yatsar, “form”). and make you a covenant mediator for people,tn Heb “a covenant of people.” A person cannot literally be a covenant; בְּרִית (bÿrit) is probably metonymic here, indicating a covenant mediator. Here עָם (’am, “people”) appears to refer to Israel. See the note at 42:6.
to rebuildtn The Hiphil of קוּם (qum, “arise”) is probably used here in the sense of “rebuild.” the landtn The “land” probably stands by metonymy for the ruins within it.
and to reassign the desolate property.
9 You will saytn Heb “to say.” In the Hebrew text the infinitive construct is subordinated to what precedes. to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
and to those who are in dark dungeons,tn Heb “in darkness” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “the prisoners of darkness.” ‘Emerge.’tn Heb “show yourselves” (so ASV, NAB, NASB).
They will graze beside the roads;
on all the slopes they will find pasture.
10 They will not be hungry or thirsty;
the sun’s oppressive heat will not beat down on them,tn Heb “and the heat and the sun will not strike them.” In Isa 35:7, its only other occurrence in the OT, שָׁרָב (sharav) stands parallel to “parched ground” and in contrast to “pool.” In later Hebrew and Aramaic it refers to “dry heat, heat of the sun” (Jastrow 1627 s.v.). Here it likely has this nuance and forms a hendiadys with “sun.”
for one who has compassion on them will guide them;
he will lead them to springs of water.
11 I will make all my mountains into a road;
I will construct my roadways.”
12 Look, they come from far away!
Look, some come from the north and west,
and others from the land of Sinim!tc The MT reads “Sinim” here; the Dead Sea Scrolls read “Syene,” a location in Egypt associated with modern Aswan. A number of recent translations adopt this reading: “Syene” (NAB, NRSV); “Aswan” (NIV); “Egypt” (NLT).sn The precise location of the land of Sinim is uncertain, but since the north and west are mentioned in the previous line, it was a probably located in the distant east or south.
13 Shout for joy, O sky!tn Or “O heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.
Rejoice, O earth!
Let the mountains give a joyful shout!
For the Lord consoles his people
and shows compassion to thetn Heb “his” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV). oppressed.
The Lord Remembers Zion
14 “Zion said, ‘The Lord has abandoned me,
the sovereign mastertn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay). has forgotten me.’
15 Can a woman forget her baby who nurses at her breast?tn Heb “her suckling”; NASB “her nursing child.”
Can she withhold compassion from the child she has borne?tn Heb “so as not to have compassion on the son of her womb?”
Even if motherstn Heb “these” (so ASV, NASB). were to forget,
I could never forget you!sn The argument of v. 15 seems to develop as follows: The Lord has an innate attachment to Zion, just like a mother does for her infant child. But even if mothers were to suddenly abandon their children, the Lord would never forsake Zion. In other words, the Lord’s attachment to Zion is like a mother’s attachment to her infant child, but even stronger.
16 Look, I have inscribed your nametn Heb “you.” Here the pronoun is put by metonymy for the person’s name. on my palms;
your walls are constantly before me.
17 Your children hurry back,
while those who destroyed and devastated you depart.
18 Look all around you!tn Heb “Lift up around your eyes and see.”
All of them gather to you.
As surely as I live,” says the Lord,
“you will certainly wear all of them like jewelry;
you will put them on as if you were a bride.
19 Yes, your land lies in ruins;
it is desolate and devastated.tn Heb “Indeed your ruins and your desolate places, and the land of your destruction.” This statement is abruptly terminated in the Hebrew text and left incomplete.
But now you will be too small to hold your residents,
and those who devoured you will be far away.
20 Yet the children born during your time of bereavement
will say within your hearing,
‘This place is too cramped for us,tn Heb “me.” The singular is collective.
make room for us so we can live here.’tn Heb “draw near to me so I can dwell.”
21 Then you will think to yourself,tn Heb “and you will say in your heart.”
‘Who bore these children for me?
I was bereaved and barren,
dismissed and divorced.tn Or “exiled and thrust away”; NIV “exiled and rejected.”
Who raised these children?
Look, I was left all alone;
where did these children come from?’”
22 This is what the sovereign Lord says:
“Look I will raise my hand to the nations;
I will raise my signal flag to the peoples.
They will bring your sons in their arms
and carry your daughters on their shoulders.
23 Kings will be your children’stn Heb “your,” but Zion here stands by metonymy for her children (see v. 22b). guardians;
their princesses will nurse your children.tn Heb “you.” See the preceding note.
With their faces to the ground they will bow down to you
and they will lick the dirt ontn Or “at your feet” (NAB, NIV); NLT “from your feet.” your feet.
Then you will recognize that I am the Lord;
those who wait patiently for me are not put to shame.
24 Can spoils be taken from a warrior,
or captives be rescued from a conqueror?tc The Hebrew text has צָדִיק (tsadiq, “a righteous [one]”), but this makes no sense in the parallelism. The Qumran scroll 1QIsaa reads correctly עריץ (“violent [one], tyrant”; see v. 25).
25 Indeed,” says the Lord,
“captives will be taken from a warrior;
spoils will be rescued from a conqueror.
I will oppose your adversary
and I will rescue your children.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh;
they will get drunk on their own blood, as if it were wine.sn Verse 26a depicts siege warfare and bloody defeat. The besieged enemy will be so starved they will their own flesh. The bloodstained bodies lying on the blood-soaked battle site will look as if they collapsed in drunkenness.
Then all humankindtn Heb “flesh” (so KJV, NASB). will recognize that
I am the Lord, your deliverer,
your protector,tn Heb “your redeemer.” See the note at 41:14. the powerful ruler of Jacob.”tn Heb “the powerful [one] of Jacob.” See 1:24.