Isaiah 42:20
Seeing many things, but you observe not; opening the ears, but he hears not.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Seeing many things . . .—With a clear vision into the future, the prophet sees that the future Israel will be as far from the ideal as his contemporaries had been. In the actual work of the Servant we find the fulfilment of his vision. Scribes and Pharisees are as those who “learn nothing and forget nothing,” on whom all the lessons of experience are cast away, reproducing the state from which Isaiah started (Isaiah 6:10; Matthew 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:26). The transfer of the words to the sufferings of the Christ, who bore them as though He neither heard nor saw, is scarcely tenable.

42:18-25 Observe the call given to this people, and the character given of them. Multitudes are ruined for want of observing that which they cannot but see; they perish, not through ignorance, but carelessness. The Lord is well-pleased in the making known his own righteousness. For their sins they were spoiled of all their possessions. This fully came to pass in the destruction of the Jewish nation. There is no resisting, nor escaping God's anger. See the mischief sin makes; it provokes God to anger. And those not humbled by lesser judgments, must expect greater. Alas! how many professed Christians are blind as the benighted heathen! While the Lord is well-pleased in saving sinners through the righteousness of Christ he will also glorify his justice, by punishing all proud despisers. Seeing God has poured out his wrath on his once-favoured people, because of their sins, let us fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of us should be found to come short of it.Seeing many things - That is, the people, the Jews, spoken of here as the servants of God. They had had an opportunity of observing many things pertaining to the law, the government, and the dealing of Yahweh. They had often witnessed his interposition in the days of calamity, and he often rescued them from peril. These things they could not but have observed, much as they had chosen to disregard the lessons which they were calculated to convey.

But thou observest not - Thou dost not keep them (תשׁמר tı̂shmor); thou dost not regard them.

Opening the ears - Thou hast thine ears open. They heard the words of the law, and the instructions conveyed by tradition from their fathers, but they did not lay them to heart, or give heed to them (see the note at Isaiah 6:10).

20. observest—Thou dost not keep them. The "many things" are the many proofs which all along from the first God had given Israel of His goodness and His power (De 4:32-38; 29:2-4; Ps 78:1-72; 105:1-45).

he—transition from the second to the third person. "Opening … ears," that is, though he (Israel) hath his ears open (see on [785]Isa 6:10). This language, too (see on [786]Isa 42:19), applies to Messiah as Jehovah's servant (Isa 50:5; Ps 40:6).

Thou dost not seriously and impartially consider the plain word and the wonderful works of God, of which thine ears and eyes have been witnesses, which are abundantly sufficient for the conviction of any considering man. Seeing many things, but thou observest not,.... The Scribes and Pharisees, saw Christ in the flesh; they saw the miracles he did; they saw the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers cleansed, the deaf hear, and the dead raised; yet they did not give note to these things, and keep them in their minds, and regard them as clear proofs of his being the Messiah:

opening the ears, but he heareth not; they heard John Baptist preach, the forerunner of Christ, and the testimony he bore of him; they heard Christ himself and his apostles; they sometimes opened their ears, and seemed to listen and hear with attention, and wonder at what they heard; and some would own, that never man spake like Jesus; and yet understood not his speech, and hardened their hearts against him; they saw many things with their bodily eyes, but perceived them not with the eyes of their understandings; they heard with their ears, but understood not in their hearts; for their eyes were shut and their ears heavy, Isaiah 6:9.

Seeing many things, but thou observest not; opening the ears, but he heareth not.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. seeing many things] Render with R.V. in accordance with the consonantal text, Thou hast seen many things; the form has been quite needlessly changed by the punctuators. The idea of the verse is that the great historical facts of revelation have been within the cognisance of Israel, but it has failed to apprehend their true import. Cf. ch. Isaiah 6:9 ff.Verse 20. - Seeing many things, but, etc. Israel had "seen many things;" i.e. passed through a long experience, but not profited by it - not been "observant," as they should have been. They had had their ears open in a certain sense, and heard the words that the prophets addressed to them, but had not taken in their true import. (The mixture of persons is like that in Isaiah 1:29 and Isaiah 14:30.) The period of punishment has now lasted sufficiently long; it is time for Jehovah to bring forth the salvation of His people. "I have been silent eternally long, was still, restrained myself; like a travailing woman, I now breathe again, snort and snuff together." The standpoint of these prophecies has the larger half of the captivity behind it. It has already lasted a long time, though only for several decades; but in the estimation of Jehovah, with His love to His people, this time of long-suffering towards their oppressors is already an "eternity" (see Isaiah 57:11; Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 61:4; Isaiah 63:18-19; Isaiah 64:4, cf., Isaiah 64:10, Isaiah 64:11). He has kept silence, has still forcibly restrained Himself, just as Joseph is said to have done to prevent himself from breaking out into tears (Genesis 43:31). Love impelled Him to redeem His people; but justice was still obliged to proceed with punishment.

Three real futures now take the place of imperfects regulated by החשׁיתי. They are not to be understood as denoting the violent breathing and snorting of a hero, burning with rage and thirsting for battle (Knobel); nor is אשּׁם to be derived from שׁמם, as Hitzig supposes, through a mistaken comparison of Ezekiel 36:3, though the latter does not mean to lay waste, but to be waste (see Hitzig on Ezekiel 36:3). The true derivation is from נשׁם, related to נשׁף, נפשׁ, נשׁב. To the figure of a hero there is now added that of a travailing woman; פּעה is short breathing (with the glottis closed); נשׁם the snorting of violent inspiration and expiration; שׁאף the earnest longing for deliverance pressing upon the burden in the womb; and יחד expresses the combination of all these several strainings of the breath, which are associated with the so-called labour-pains. Some great thing, with which Jehovah has, as it were, long been pregnant, is now about to be born.

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