Isaiah 49 - Outline of Isaiah (Book Notes menu page)
III. Salvation (poetry), ch. 40-66
A. Peace assured through knowing the LORD God... (The God of Peace), ch. 40-48
B. Salvation procured by the Suffering Servant (The Prince of Peace), ch. 49-57
     1. The Holy One, Israel's Redeemer, is also the Salvation of the gentiles, 49:1-26
This section, focusing on the Suffering Servant (ch. 49-57), opens with a gracious invitation
to the Gentiles (v.1), whereas the previous section was addressed to Israel (Isa 40:1,2). Both sections close with a solemn warning (Isa 48:22; Isa 57:21). The two warnings are nearly identical, except that in the section addressed to the Gentiles, the warning is stated as coming from 'God' (Elohim), and in the section addressed to Israel, it comes from 'the LORD' (Jehovah, the God of Israel's covenant).
Between the invitation and the warning, the present section describes...
"the period during which Israel is Lo-Ammi [Hos 1:9], and its Divine action is set out in Romans 9 to 11, and in 2Cor 6:2. Its theme is Israel's rejection and crucifixion of the promised Messiah, their consequent temporary dis-ownment by God, and the offering of the Kingdom of Heaven to the Gentiles. Out of these (ie., the Gentiles), an election is predicted during the time of Israel's blindness; and when that blindness is healed, all the Gentiles, including that election, will be given to Israel as sons and daughters. This will fill Zion with amazement. The Church does not, of course, appear" in this section, since it was a mystery hidden in Old Testament times (Eph 3:1-10). [in quotes, GWms]
1. Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far;
The LORD hath called me from the womb;
from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.
2 And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me,
and made me a polished shaft
{ie., a 'select,' or, 'proven' arrow};
in his quiver hath he hid me;
3 And said unto me, Thou [art] my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
Listen, O isles, unto me... hearken ye people from far...
He addresses the 'isles' {ie., coastlands, people from afar, gentiles} because He is the Savior of the world, not only of the Jewish nation. Joh 4:42; 1Joh 4:14; Rom 3:29,30; Eph 2:11-13
The LORD hath called me from the womb...-
The speaker is Israel's Messiah, who was named before His conception (Luk 1:31; Mat 1:21-23).
     Similar wording is applied elsewhere to the nation of Israel, with the sense that the LORD 'created' and 'brought forth' His chosen people, figuratively from 'the womb' (eg., Isa 44:2,24; 46:3; 48:8).
     But notice that none of those passages mention a mother. The Savior entered the world through the womb of a human mother (v.1; Isa 7:14). Also note that the Savior, born as a man 'to regather Israel' (v.5), must be distinct from those He came to save.
and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword... (v.2)- The Savior, by His words...
and [the LORD] said unto me, Thou [art] my servant, O Israel... (v.3)-
The name 'Israel' is applied, here, to the Messiah.
  • The nation of Israel had failed to glorify the LORD, because they were sinful by nature.
    They fell short of the position that He desired for them, because they could not obey His voice (cp. Ex 19:5,6). The Messiah, as the only truly holy man and perfect prophet, priest and king, would fulfill the role of Israel {'a prince toward God'} for the glory of the Father (cp. Isa 42:1-4; Mat 17:5; Joh 13:31,32; 17:1,4).
  • The dual application of the name 'Israel' to the nation and also to the Messiah
    is not unique to this passage. For example, Hos 11:1 applies to the Exodus of the nation (Ex 4:22) and also to Christ's sojourn in Egypt as a child (Mat 2:15).
  • As the true Israel...
    • the Messiah would bear witness to the LORD and His purposes (fulfilling a role which the nation failed to do).
      Israel was to be His witness, but they were blind to His truth (Isa 43:8-13). Yet, God would make Himself known through the way He dealt with His rebellious people. Someday, they will understand and make Him known (44:1-8).
         But, meanwhile, the Messiah would faithfully declare and do the LORD's will (eg., Psa 40:7-10; Joh 1:14,18; 18:37; Rev 1:5; 3:14).
    • the Messiah would do for Israel what they could not do for themselves,
      in order to redeem His people from their fallen state and fit them for the LORD's glorious presence (Isa 44:21-23; 45:21-25; 46:13; cp. Rom 8:3,4; 1Pet 2:7-10).
4 Then I said, I have laboured in vain,
I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain:
[yet] surely my judgment [is] with the LORD,
and my work with my God.
{1Pet 2:22,23}
5 And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb
[to be] his servant, to bring Jacob again to him,
Though Israel be not gathered,
yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD,
and my God shall be my strength.
God sent the Messiah to bring Jacob {ie., the wayward tribes of Israel} back to Him (Mat 15:24; Acts 10:36; Rom 15:8). Yet, Israel (the nation) did not receive Him or His message (eg., Joh 1:11).
To the eyes of men, it appeared that Christ's work had been fruitless (cp. Isa 65:1,2; Rom 10:20,21; Mat 23:37; Joh 5:43).
     Yet, in the eyes of God, and by His strength, the Messiah's work would prosper. Rather than being derailed by Israel's unbelief, the LORD's purpose would be advanced further. In the end, Israel (the nation) will be regathered, to the glory of God through the true Israel, the Messiah (cp. Rom 11:25-36; Joh 17:4,5; Isa 53:12).
6 And he said, It is a light thing {ie., an insignificant thing, cp. 2Kin 20:10}
that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and to restore the preserved of Israel:
I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles,
that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
a light to the Gentiles... my salvation {HB= yeshuah} unto the end of the earth.-
cp. Luk 2:30-32; Joh 1:4,5; Acts 13:45-48

7. Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, [and] his Holy One,
to him whom man despiseth,
to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers,
Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship,
because of the LORD that is faithful, [and] the Holy One of Israel,
and he shall choose thee.
In v.1-6, the Messiah speaks first to the gentile nations of the LORD's purpose in sending Him (v.1-3),
and secondly to the LORD, confessing His apparent failure to accomplish that purpose (v.4). Then, He tells us that the LORD answered, encouraging Him, that an even greater purpose would be accomplished through His suffering and rejection (v.5,6).
In v.7-12, we are allowed to listen in, as the LORD reminds His beloved Son
of the future glories of that extended purpose. cp. Isa 53:11
to him whom the nation abhorreth... a servant of rulers.-
At His first coming, the Messiah was rejected by His own people (Joh 1:10-12; Rom 11:11,12). He was also mocked and scourged by the Gentile authorities (ie., Pilate, Herod; eg., Luk 23:11,12).
kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship...
At His second coming, the people of every nation will bow before Him in worship (Isa 45:23; Php 2:8-11; Isa 52:13-15).
8 Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee,
and in a day of salvation have I helped thee:
and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people,
to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;
9 That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth;
to them that [are] in darkness, Shew yourselves.
They shall feed in the ways,
and their pastures [shall be] in all high places.
{cp. Deu 33:26-29}
10 They shall not hunger nor thirst;
neither shall the heat nor sun smite them:
for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them,
even by the springs of water shall he guide them.
11 And I will make all my mountains a way,
and my highways shall be exalted.
12 Behold, these
{ie., Israel's scattered remnant} shall come from far:
and, lo, these from the north and from the west;
and these from the land of Sinim
{ie., China}.
13. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth;
and break forth into singing, O mountains:
for the LORD hath comforted his people,
and will have mercy upon his afflicted.
in an acceptable time have I heard thee... a day of salvation...-
The present 'day of salvation' (2Cor 6:2), came in answer to the Savior's prayer.
cp. Mat 26:39; Psa 69:13 (see the Book Notes on Psalm 69, which speaks of Christ's suffering); 2Cor 5:14- 6:2; Heb 5:7-9
I will give thee for a covenant...- cp. Isa 42:6; Mat 26:28; Rom 11:27; Heb 8:6; 12:24
...of the people... to establish the earth {HB='erets, land}...-
The nation of Israel and their land, laid waste due to the consequences of sin, will be restored as a consequence of the covenant in Christ's blood.
that thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth... to them that are in darkness...- v.9; cp. Isa 61:1
The Messiah will release Israel from physical captivity, and from spiritual bondage and blindness.
they shall feed in the ways, and their pastures... in all high places {lit., bare heights, cp. 41:18}...
by the springs of water shall he guide them... these shall come from far...-
The great and good Shepherd will bring His sheep safely home, from wherever they have been scattered. He will fully provide for their needs all along the way, even in barren areas where provision would not be expected. Psa 23; Isa 11:10,11; 35:8-10; 43:5-7
14 But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me,
and my Lord hath forgotten me.
15 Can a woman forget her sucking child,
that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?
yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.
16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of [my] hands;
thy walls [are] continually before me.
But Zion saith, the LORD hath forsaken me... forgotten me.
Despite the LORD's prophetic Word concerning their restoration through the Messiah (v.7-13), the people of Israel fail to see His hand in all of their struggles. Discouraged by centuries of dispersion and oppression, they despair of faith.
Therefore, the LORD assures them that He has not abandoned them.
I have graven thee upon... my hands...- The LORD's hand, powerfully prepared for war (v.2),
is deeply marked with love (deeper than a mother's love) for His people. cp. Zech 13:6; Joh 20:27
thy walls are continually before me.- cp. Deu 11:12; 2Chr 7:15,16; Mat 23:37-39
As the walls of a city secured the well-being of those within, the LORD is perpetually watching over the well-being of His people.
Therefore, He assures them, yet more.
17 Thy children shall make haste;
thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.
18. Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold:
all these gather themselves together, [and] come to thee.
[As] I live, saith the LORD,
thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament,
and bind them [on thee], as a bride [doeth].
19 For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction,
shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants,
and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away.
20 The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other,
shall say again in thine ears, The place [is] too strait
{ie., narrow} for me:
give place to me that I may dwell.
21 Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these,
seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate,
a captive, and removing to and fro?
and who hath brought up these?
Behold, I was left alone; these, where [had] they [been]?
The oppressive powers will be banished. Israel's exiles will return to their land. The number of Israel's 'children,' far exceeding her expectations, will require expanded habitable area. cp. Isa 2:2,3
     Israel's questions, in v.21, are answered in v.22,23.
22 Thus saith the Lord GOD,
Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles,
and set up my standard to the people:
and they shall bring thy sons in [their] arms,
and thy daughters shall be carried upon [their] shoulders.
23 And kings shall be thy nursing fathers,
and their queens thy nursing mothers:
they shall bow down to thee with [their] face toward the earth,
and lick up the dust of thy feet;
and thou shalt know that I [am] the LORD:
for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.
The nations and their peoples {plural} will respond, when the LORD lifts up His hand, and sets up His standard {ie., ensign} before them. This ensign is Christ at His second coming, when He will depose the Antichrist and his system, and establish His Kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth (eg., Isa 11:10-12; 18:3). In glad submission to Israel's King, Gentile kings and queens will consider it a great honor to perform menial service to the least of the children of Israel, for the LORD's sake. Isa 60:4-13; also see Psa 72:9; Mic 7:17
     In that day, the people of Israel shall "know that I am the LORD." Those that wait for the LORD's coming will not be put to shame. (cp. Isa 40:31: We wait 'on' the LORD, trusting Him to hear and answer prayer. We wait 'for' the LORD, trusting Him to fulfill His promises.)
24. Shall the prey be taken from the mighty,
or the lawful captive delivered?
25 But thus saith the LORD,
Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away,
and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered:
for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee,
and I will save thy children.
26 And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh;
and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine:
and all flesh shall know that I the LORD [am] thy Saviour and thy Redeemer,
the mighty One of Jacob.
shall the prey be taken from the mighty...? -
the mighty [one]... and... terrible [one] (v.25) - ie., the Antichrist
shall... the lawful captive be delivered... (v.24)-
This phrase can be read in two ways (due to the nuances of 'lawful'):
  • 'lawful' {HB=tsaddiq, rightfully, deservedly} captives -
    ie., Israel, which will enter willfully into a covenant with the Antichrist,
    only to find themselves betrayed into a captivity from which there is no escaping. Isa 42:22; Joh 5:43; Dan 9:27
  • 'lawful' {HB=tsaddiq, just, righteous} captives -
    ie., the believing remnant of Israel, which will receive righteousness, when they receive their Messiah, at His second coming (Zech 12:10; 13:1).
I will contend with him... I will save thy children...-
"The answer to the question of v.24 is: 'It is impossible.'
But what is impossible with man is possible with God (v.25)." [in quotes, GWms]
Luk 11:21,22; Psa 124:6-8; Rom 11:26
I will feed them that oppress thee, with their own flesh... (cp. Rev 14:19,20)
and all flesh {ie., all of mankind} shall know that
I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob. Rev 15:3,4

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