שִׁמְעוּ אִיִּים אֵלַי וְהַקְשִׁיבוּ לְאֻמִּים מֵרָחֹוק יְהוָה מִבֶּטֶן קְרָאָנִי מִמְּעֵי אִמִּי הִזְכִּיר שְׁמִי׃ 49:1
Isai. 49:1 Islands, listen to me,
and peoples from afar, attend!
From the womb the Lord has called me;
from the bowels of my mother
He mentioned my name.
I have a sneaking suspicion that much of this chapter may display Isaiah’s genius more than most others. Follow my remarks to see why I suspect this.
וַיָּשֶׂם פִּי כְּחֶרֶב חַדָּה בְּצֵל יָדֹו הֶחְבִּיאָנִי וַיְשִׂימֵנִי לְחֵץ בָּרוּר בְּאַשְׁפָּתֹו הִסְתִּירָנִי׃ 49:2
Isai. 49:2 And He made my mouth like a sharp sword.
In the shadow of His “hand” He hid me,
and He made me to be a polished arrow;
in His quiver He concealed me.
וַיֹּאמֶר לִי עַבְדִּי־אָתָּה יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר־בְּךָ אֶתְפָּאָר׃ 49:3
Isai. 49:3 And He said to me,
“You, Israel, are My servant,
in whom I will be glorified.”
Reading verses 49:1 and 49:2, one might immediately suppose that Isaiah is saying these words about himself. But here we are confronted suddenly with the probability that he is speaking for Israel or (as we shall see later) Zion. Of course it’s possible, but highly unlikely, he could also be calling himself Israel. But Isaiah has already said the Lord will be glorified in or by Israel (Isai. 44:23). So we’re left with an intriguing uncertainty at this time.
וַאֲנִי אָמַרְתִּי לְרִיק יָגַעְתִּי לְתֹהוּ וְהֶבֶל כֹּחִי כִלֵּיתִי אָכֵן מִשְׁפָּטִי אֶת־יְהוָה וּפְעֻלָּתִי אֶת־אֱלֹהָי׃ 49:4
Isai. 49:4 And I said, “For nothing have I labored.
For nothing but vanity I have spent my strength.
Surely my judgment is with the Lord,
and my payment is with my God!”
In this verse too, we are unable to say with absolute certainty whether Isaiah is speaking for himself or Israel. But has Isaiah told us before (or will he after this) that he labored for nothing or he spent his strength for vanity? No, this is Israel he is speaking for. So as I see it, in v 49:3, Isaiah is speaking the words of the Lord, but they are not addressed to him, but to Israel. Then in this verse, he responds as Israel.
וְעַתָּה אָמַר יְהוָה יֹצְרִי מִבֶּטֶן לְעֶבֶד לֹו לְשֹׁובֵב יַעֲקֹב אֵלָיו וְיִשְׂרָאֵל [לֹא] [לֹו] יֵאָסֵף וְאֶכָּבֵד בְּעֵינֵי 49:5 יְהוָה וֵאלֹהַי הָיָה עֻזִּי׃
Isai. 49:5 And now says the Lord,
forming me from the womb to be His servant
to bring Jacob back again to Him, and Israel,
“He will not be consumed.”
And I will be honorable in the eyes of the Lord,
as my God is my strength.
In this verse, more confusion is introduced. Can Isaiah be speaking of or for Israel here? Shouldn’t it be expected that Isaiah would himself be bringing back Jacob? And of whom is the Lord saying, “He will not be consumed?” Isaiah or Israel? Here’s what I believe: Isaiah is speaking for himself in the first three lines. In the fourth line he is quoting the Lord Who is speaking of Israel. Finally, in the last two lines Isaiah is speaking for himself again.
וַיֹּאמֶר נָקֵל מִהְיֹותְךָ לִי עֶבֶד לְהָקִים אֶת־שִׁבְטֵי יַעֲקֹב [וּנְצִירֵי] [וּנְצוּרֵי] יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהָשִׁיב וּנְתַתִּיךָ 49:6 לְאֹור גֹּויִם לִהְיֹות יְשׁוּעָתִי עַד־קְצֵה הָאָרֶץ׃
Isai. 49:6 And He says, “It is too trifling,
your being My servant to rouse up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the preserved of Israel.
So I will give you to be the light of the nations,
to be My salvation until the end of the earth.
Interesting! In this verse we are confronted with the idea that Isaiah will be the Lord’s instrument of salvation until the end of the physical universe. This can only mean that the bible, or at least the book of Isaiah, is eternal. However, there are some translations that make this part of the verse less interesting. They say something like “... that My salvation shall be until the end of the earth.” This translation departs from the literal, in that there is no word for that in the Hebrew and the word they translate as shall be is not an imperfect verb but an infinitive. Beyond this, I ask myself, does this alternative translation of the verse portion even make sense? What does it mean that the Lord’s salvation will be until the end of time? Isn’t it anyway? Why might it hinge on Isaiah being the light of the nations? For these reasons, I prefer my translation (and other bible translations similar to mine as well).
כֹּה אָמַר־יְהוָה גֹּאֵל יִשְׂרָאֵל קְדֹושֹׁו לִבְזֹה־נֶפֶשׁ לִמְתָעֵב גֹּוי לְעֶבֶד מֹשְׁלִים מְלָכִים יִרְאוּ וָקָמוּ שָׂרִים 49:7 וְיִשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ לְמַעַן יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר נֶאֱמָן קְדֹשׁ יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּבְחָרֶךָּ׃
Isai. 49:7 Thus says the Lord,
Redeemer of Israel, His holy one,
to the despised of soul,
to who is loathed of a nation,
to the servant of rulers:
“Kings shall see and rise, princes,
and they shall bow down to the Lord Who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel,
that He has chosen you.”
כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה בְּעֵת רָצֹון עֲנִיתִיךָ וּבְיֹום יְשׁוּעָה עֲזַרְתִּיךָ וְאֶצָּרְךָ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם לְהָקִים אֶרֶץ 49:8 לְהַנְחִיל נְחָלֹות שֹׁמֵמֹות׃
Isai. 49:8 Thus says the Lord:
“At a time of favor I have answered you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you,
and I will preserve you,
and I will give you to be a covenant of the people,
to raise up the earth,
to cause to inherit the desolate possessions,
לֵאמֹר לַאֲסוּרִים צֵאוּ לַאֲשֶׁר בַּחֹשֶׁךְ הִגָּלוּ עַל־דְּרָכִים יִרְעוּ וּבְכָל־שְׁפָיִים מַרְעִיתָם׃ 49:9
Isai. 49:9 to say to the prisoners, ‘Go out!’
To who are in darkness, ‘Be revealed!’
Along the ways they shall feed,
and their flocks shall be on all the high hills.”
לֹא יִרְעָבוּ וְלֹא יִצְמָאוּ וְלֹא־יַכֵּם שָׁרָב וָשָׁמֶשׁ כִּי־מְרַחֲםָם יְנַהֲגֵם וְעַל־מַבּוּעֵי מַיִם יְנַהֲלֵם׃ 49:10
Isai. 49:10 “They shall not be hungry
and they shall not be thirsty.
And the heat or the sun shall not smite them,
for He Who has compassion on them will guide them,
and by the springs of water will lead them.”
וְשַׂמְתִּי כָל־הָרַי לַדָּרֶךְ וּמְסִלֹּתַי יְרֻמוּן׃ 49:11
Isai. 49:11 “And I will set all My mountains for a way,
that My highways, they shall raise them up.”
הִנֵּה־אֵלֶּה מֵרָחֹוק יָבֹאוּ וְהִנֵּה־אֵלֶּה מִצָּפֹון וּמִיָּם וְאֵלֶּה מֵאֶרֶץ סִינִים׃ 49:12
Isai. 49:12 Behold, these from afar shall come,
and behold these from the north and from the sea,
and these from the land of Sinim.
There appears to be little agreement as to what or where the land of Sinim is. Some believe it is a far off land, perhaps in eastern Asia, maybe China.
רָנּוּ שָׁמַיִם וְגִילִי אָרֶץ יִפְצְחוּ הָרִים רִנָּה כִּי־נִחַם יְהוָה עַמֹּו וַעֲנִיָּו יְרַחֵם׃ 49:13
Isai. 49:13 Sing, heaven, and rejoice, earth!
The mountains shall make a loud noise of singing.
For the Lord comforts His people,
and His afflicted He shall show compassion.
וַתֹּאמֶר צִיֹּון עֲזָבַנִי יְהוָה וַאדֹנָי שְׁכֵחָנִי׃ 49:14
Isai. 49:14 But Zion says, “The Lord has forsaken me,
and the Master has forgotten me.”
הֲתִשְׁכַּח אִשָּׁה עוּלָהּ מֵרַחֵם בֶּן־בִּטְנָהּ גַּם־אֵלֶּה תִשְׁכַּחְנָה וְאָנֹכִי לֹא אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ׃ 49:15
Isai. 49:15 “Can a woman be made to forget her nursing infant,
about pitying the child of her womb?
Though these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.”
הֵן עַל־כַּפַּיִם חַקֹּתִיךְ חֹומֹתַיִךְ נֶגְדִּי תָּמִיד׃ 49:16
Isai. 49:16 “Behold, I have engraved you on the ‘palms;’
your walls are always before Me.”
I’m fairly convinced that the Lord is here speaking to Zion as if it was a person, addressing her complaint in v. 49:14. His (and Isaiah’s) answer to her and His reassurances continues through the rest of the chapter. So in this chapter, Isaiah has portrayed the Lord addressing someone and something, the someone being either himself or Israel, and the something, Zion, the personification of the city of Jerusalem (note the reference to walls). His unique ability to do this is, I believe, unmatched by any of the other prophets.
מִהֲרוּ בָּנָיִךְ מְהָרְסַיִךְ וּמַחֲרִבַיִךְ מִמֵּךְ יֵצֵאוּ׃ 49:17
Isai. 49:17 Your children make haste;
your ruiners and your destroyers
shall go forth from you.
שְׂאִי־סָבִיב עֵינַיִךְ וּרְאִי כֻּלָּם נִקְבְּצוּ בָאוּ־לָךְ חַי־אָנִי נְאֻם־יְהוָה כִּי כֻלָּם כָּעֲדִי תִלְבָּשִׁי וּתְקַשְּׁרִים 49:18 כַּכַּלָּה׃
Isai. 49:18 Lift your eyes all around and see!
All of them are gathered together,
are come to you.
“As I live,” declares the Lord,
“surely you shall wear all of them like ornaments,
and bind them to yourself like a bride,
כִּי חָרְבֹתַיִךְ וְשֹׁמְמֹתַיִךְ וְאֶרֶץ הֲרִסֻתֵיךְ כִּי עַתָּה תֵּצְרִי מִיֹּושֵׁב וְרָחֲקוּ מְבַלְּעָיִךְ׃ 49:19
Isai. 49:19 because of your waste places
and your desolate places
and the land of your destruction,
because now you will be cramped from the inhabitants,
but your devourers shall be far away.”
עֹוד יֹאמְרוּ בְאָזְנַיִךְ בְּנֵי שִׁכֻּלָיִךְ צַר־לִי הַמָּקֹום גְּשָׁה־לִּי וְאֵשֵׁבָה׃ 49:20
Isai. 49:20 “When the children of your bereavement shall say in your ear,
‘The place is too narrow for me;
make room for me that I may dwell,’
In this verse the word I translate as make room in the third English line is an imperative form of the root meaning to come close, to approach, to draw near, even sometimes implying for the purpose of sexual contact. This form of the root is found in four other places in the bible, Gene. 19:9, Gene. 27:21, Gene. 27:26, and 2Sam. 1:15. In the first of these instances, the translation is Go away. In the next two instances the translation is Come near. In the last, it is Approach. The word also appears a number of times in its imperfect and perfect forms, and always is translated as either to come near or a synonym. So here and in Gene. 19:9 are the only two examples of an antonym being preferred, but it fits well in these two verses. It makes one wonder, though. There are other Hebrew words that could have been used in both places. Why this one?
וְאָמַרְתְּ בִּלְבָבֵךְ מִי יָלַד־לִי אֶת־אֵלֶּה וַאֲנִי שְׁכוּלָה וְגַלְמוּדָה גֹּלָה וְסוּרָה וְאֵלֶּה מִי גִדֵּל הֵן אֲנִי 49:21 נִשְׁאַרְתִּי לְבַדִּי אֵלֶּה אֵיפֹה הֵם׃
Isai. 49:21 then you shall say in your heart,
‘Who has begotten these to me,
as I am bereaved and desolate,
an exile and removed?
And these who raised?
Behold, I was left alone.
These, where were they?’”
כֹּה־אָמַר אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה הִנֵּה אֶשָּׂא אֶל־גֹּויִם יָדִי וְאֶל־עַמִּים אָרִים נִסִּי וְהֵבִיאוּ בָנַיִךְ בְּחֹצֶן וּבְנֹתַיִךְ 49:22 עַל־כָּתֵף תִּנָּשֶׂאנָה׃
Isai. 49:22 Thus says my Master, the Lord:
“Behold, I will raise My ‘hand’ to the nations,
and I will lift up My ensign to the peoples,
and they will bring your sons on the lap,
and your daughters shall be carried on the shoulder.”
וְהָיוּ מְלָכִים אֹמְנַיִךְ וְשָׂרֹותֵיהֶם מֵינִיקֹתַיִךְ אַפַּיִם אֶרֶץ יִשְׁתַּחֲווּ לָךְ וַעֲפַר רַגְלַיִךְ יְלַחֵכוּ וְיָדַעַתְּ 49:23
כִּי־אֲנִי יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יֵבֹשׁוּ קֹוָי׃
Isai. 49:23 “And kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
Noses to the ground,
they shall bow down to you,
and the dust of your feet they shall lick.
Then you may know that I am the Lord,
because those waiting for Me will not be ashamed.”
הֲיֻקַּח מִגִּבֹּור מַלְקֹוחַ וְאִם־שְׁבִי צַדִּיק יִמָּלֵט׃ 49:24
Isai. 49:24 Can the prey be taken from a mighty one,
or the captive of a righteous one be delivered?
כִּי־כֹה אָמַר יְהוָה גַּם־שְׁבִי גִבֹּור יֻקָּח וּמַלְקֹוחַ עָרִיץ יִמָּלֵט וְאֶת־יְרִיבֵךְ אָנֹכִי אָרִיב וְאֶת־בָּנַיִךְ אָנֹכִי 49:25 אֹושִׁיעַ׃
Isai. 49:25 But thus says the Lord:
“Even the captive of a mighty one shall be taken away,
and the prey of a powerful one shall be delivered,
and I will contend with your oppressors,
and I will rescue your children.”
וְהַאֲכַלְתִּי אֶת־מֹונַיִךְ אֶת־בְּשָׂרָם וְכֶעָסִיס דָּםָם יִשְׁכָּרוּן וְיָדְעוּ כָל־בָּשָׂר כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה מֹושִׁיעֵךְ 49:26
וְגֹאֲלֵךְ אֲבִיר יַעֲקֹב׃
Isai. 49:26 “And I shall feed your oppressors their own flesh,
and like sweet wine they shall drink their own blood.
Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord,
your Savior and your Redeemer,
the Mighty One of Jacob.”
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