Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
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.
The very same person who was introduced by Jehovah in Isaiah 42:1. here speaks for himself, commencing thus in Isaiah 49:1-3 : "Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye nations afar off: Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from my mother's lap hath He remembered my name. And He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me, and made me into a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He concealed me. And He said to me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, thou in whom I glorify myself." Although the speaker is called Israel in Isaiah 49:3, he must not be regarded as either a collective person representing all Israel, or as the collective personality of the kernel of Israel, which answered to its true idea. It is not the former, because in Isaiah 49:5 he is expressly distinguished from the nation itself, which is the immediate object of his special work as restorer and (according to Isaiah 49:8 and Isaiah 42:6) covenant-mediator also; not the latter, because the nation, whose restoration he effects, according to Isaiah 49:5, was not something distinct from the collective personality of the "servant of Jehovah" in a national sense, but rather the entire body of the "servants of Jehovah" or remnant of Israel (see, for example, Isaiah 65:8-16). Moreover, it cannot be either of these, because what he affirms of himself is expressed in such terms of individuality, that they cannot be understood as employed in a collective sense at all, more especially where he speaks of his mother's womb. In every other case in which Israel is spoken of in this way, we find only "from the womb" (mibbeten, Isaiah 44:2, Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 56:3, along with minnı̄-racham; also Isaiah 48:8), without the addition of אם (mother), which is quite unsuitable to the collective body of the nation (except in such allegorical connections as Isaiah 51:1-2, and Ezekiel 16:3). Is it then possibly the prophet, who is here speaking of himself and refers in Isaiah 49:1 to his own mother (compare אמּי in Jeremiah 15:10; Jeremiah 20:14, Jeremiah 20:17)? This is very improbable, if only because the prophet, who is the medium of the word of God in these prophecies, has never placed himself in the foreground before. In Isaiah 40:6 he merely speaks of himself indirectly; in Isaiah 44:26, even if he refer to himself at all (which we greatly doubt), it is only objectively; and in Isaiah 48:16, the other person, into whose words the words of Jehovah pass, cannot be the prophet, for the simple reason that the transition of the words of Jehovah into those of His messenger is essentially different in this instance from the otherwise frequent interchange of the words of Jehovah and those of His prophet, and also because the messenger of Jehovah speaks of himself there, after the "former things" have come to pass, as the mediator (either in word or deed) of the "new things" which were never heard of before, but are to be expected now; whereas the author of these addresses was also the prophet of the "former things," and therefore the messenger referred to rises up within the course of sacred history predicted by the author of these prophecies. Moreover, what the speaker in this case (Isaiah 49:1-2) says of himself is so unique, so glorious, that it reaches far beyond the vocation and performance of any single prophet, or, in fact, of any individual man subject to the limitations of human life and human strength.
There is nothing else left, therefore, than to suppose that the idea implied in the expression "servant of Jehovah" is condensed in this instance, as in Isaiah 42:1., into that of a single person. When it is expanded to its widest circumference, the "servant of Jehovah" is all Israel; when it only covers its smaller and inner circle, it is the true people of Jehovah contained within the entire nation, like the kernel in the shell (see the definition of this at Isaiah 51:7; Isaiah 65:10; Psalm 24:6; Psalm 73:15); but here it goes back to its very centre. The "servant of Jehovah," in this central sense, is the heart of Israel. From this heart of Israel the stream of salvation flows out, first of all through the veins of the people of God, and thence through the veins of the nations generally. Just as Cyrus is the world-power in person, as made subservient to the people of God, so the servant of Jehovah, who is speaking here, is Israel in person, as promoting the glorification of Jehovah in all Israel, and in all the world of nations: in other words, it is He in whom the true nature of Israel is concentrated like a sun, in whom the history of Israel is coiled up as into a knot for a further and final development, in whom Israel's world-wide calling to be the Saviour of mankind, including Israel itself, is fully carried out; the very same who took up the word of Jehovah in Isaiah 48:16, in the full consciousness of His fellowship with Him, declaring Himself to be His messenger who had now appeared. It must not be forgotten, moreover, that throughout these prophecies the breaking forth of salvation, not for Israel only, but for all mankind, is regarded as bound up with the termination of the captivity; and from this its basis, the restoration of the people who were then in exile, it is never separated. This fact is of great importance in relation to the question of authorship, and favours the conclusion that they emanated from a prophet who lived before the captivity, and not in the midst of it. Just as in chapter 7 Isaiah sees the son of the virgin grow up in the time of the Assyrian oppressions, and then sees his kingdom rising up on the ruins of the Assyrian; so does he here behold the servant of Jehovah rising up in the second half of the captivity, as if born in exile, in the midst of the punishment borne by his people, to effect the restoration of Israel. At the present time, when he begins to speak, coming forward without any further introduction, and speaking in his own name (a unique instance of dramatic style, which goes beyond even Psalm 2:1-12), he has already left behind him the commencement of his work, which was directed towards the salvation of mankind. His appeal is addressed to the "isles," which had been frequently mentioned already when the evangelization of the heathen was spoken of (Isaiah 42:4, Isaiah 42:10, Isaiah 42:12; cf., Isaiah 24:15), and to the "nations from afar," i.e., the distant nations (as in Isaiah 5:26; compare, on the other hand, Jeremiah 23:23). They are to hear what he says, not merely what he says in the words that follow, but what he says generally. What follows is rather a vindication of his right to demand a hearing and obedience, then the discourse itself, which is to be received with the obedience of faith; at the same time, the two are most intimately connected. Jehovah has called him ab utero, has thought of his name from the bowels of his mother (מעי as in Psalm 71:6), i.e., even before he was born; ever since his conception has Jehovah assigned to him his calling, viz., his saving calling. We call to mind here Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41; Galatians 1:15, but above all the name Immanuel, which is given by anticipation to the Coming One in Isaiah 7:14, and the name Jesus, which God appointed through the mouth of angels, when the human life of Him who was to bear that name was still ripening in the womb of the Virgin (Matthew 1:20-23). It is worthy of notice, however, that the great Coming One, though he is described in the Old Testament as one who is to be looked for "from the seed of David," is also spoken of as "born of a woman," whenever his entrance into the world is directly referred to. In the Protevangelium he is called, though not in an individual sense, "the seed of the woman;" Isaiah, in the time of Ahaz, mentions "the virgin" as his mother; Micah (Micah 5:2) speaks of his יולדה; even the typical psalms, as in Psalm 22:10-11, give prominence to the mother. And is not this a sign that prophecy is a work of the Spirit, who searches out the deep things of the counsel of God?
In Isaiah 49:2 the speaker says still further, that Jehovah has made his mouth kecherebh chaddâh (like a sharp sword), namely, that he may overcome everything that resists him as if with a sharp sword, and sever asunder things that are bound up together in a pernicious bond (Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 1:16; Hebrews 4:12); also that He has made him into chēts bârūr (not βέλος εκλεκτόν, lxx, but, as in Jeremiah 51:11, cleaned,
(Note: The comparison to purus is one that naturally suggests itself; but this, like putus, is derived from a root pū.)
polished, sharpened, pointed), namely, to pierce the hearts (Psalm 45:6), and inflict upon them the most wholesome wounds; and again, that Jehovah has hidden him under the shadow of His almighty hand, and kept him concealed in the quiver of His loving counsel, just girt as men keep their swords and arrows in sheaths and quivers ready for the time when they want to use them, in order that in the fulness of time He might draw out this His sword, and put this His arrow to the bow. The question whether the allusion here is to the time preceding the foreknown period of his coming, or whether it is to eternity that the words refer, does not present any great dilemma; at the same time, the prophecy in this instance only traces back the being of the person, who now appears, to the remotest point of his historical coming. Isaiah 49:3 describes, without any figure, what Jehovah has made him. He has said to him (cf., Psalm 2:7): Thou art my servant; thou art Israel, in whom (in quo, as in Isaiah 44:23) I glorify myself. Schenkel's exposition is grammatically impossible: "(It is) in Israel that I will glorify myself through thee." The servant himself is called Israel. We call to mind here the expression in Matthew 16:18, "Thou art Peter;" and the use of the name "Israel," as the individuation of a generic name, reminds us of the fact that the kings of a nation are sometimes called by the name of the nation itself (e.g., Asshur, Isaiah 10:5.). But Israel was from the very first the God-given name of an individual. Just as the name Israel was first of all given to a man, and then after that to a nation, so the name which sprang from a personal root has also a personal crown. The servant of Jehovah is Israel in person, inasmuch as the purpose of mercy, upon the basis of which and for the accomplishment of which Jehovah made Jacob the father of the twelve-tribed nation, is brought by him into full and final realization. We have already seen that Israel, as an entire nation, formed the basis of the idea contained in the term "servant of Jehovah;" Israel, regarded as a people faithful to its calling, the centre; and the personal servant of Jehovah its apex. In the present instance, where he is called distinctly "Israel," the fact is clearly expressed, that the servant of Jehovah in these prophecies is regarded as the kernel of the kernel of Israel, as Israel's inmost centre, as Israel's highest head. He it is in whom (i.e., on whom and through whom) Jehovah glorifies Himself, inasmuch as He carried out through him the counsels of His love, which are the self-glorification of His holy love, its glory and its triumph.
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; in his quiver hath he hid me;
And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
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.
In the next v. the speaker meets the words of divine calling and promise with a complaint, which immediately silences itself, however. "And I, I said, I have wearied myself in vain, and thrown away my strength for nothing and to no purpose; yet my right is with Jehovah, and my reward with my God." The Vav with which the v. opens introduces the apparent discrepancy between the calling he had received, and the apparent failure of his work. אכן, however, denotes the conclusion which might be drawn from this, that there was neither reality nor truth in his call. The relation between the clauses is exactly the same as that in Psalm 31:23 and Jonah 2:5 (where we find אך, which is more rarely used in this adversative sense); compare also Psalm 30:7 (but I said), and the psalm of Hezekiah in Isaiah 38:10 with the antithesis in Psalm 38:15. In the midst of his activity no fruit was to be seen, and the thought came upon him, that it was a failure; but this disturbance of his rejoicing in his calling was soon quieted in the confident assurance that his mishpât (i.e., his good right in opposition to all contradiction and resistance) and his "work" (i.e., the result and fruit of the work, which is apparently in vain) are with Jehovah, and laid up with Him until the time when He will vindicate His servant's right, and crown his labour with success. We must not allow ourselves to be led astray by such parallels as Isaiah 40:10; Isaiah 62:11. The words are not spoken in a collective capacity any more than in the former part of the verse; the lamentation of Israel as a people, in Isaiah 40:27, is expressed very differently.
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.
The expression "and now" (ועתּה), which follows, evidently indicates a fresh turn in the official life of the person speaking here. At the same time, it is evident that it is the failure of his labours within his own people, which has forced out the lamentation in Isaiah 49:4. For his reason for addressing his summons in Isaiah 49:1 to the world of nations, is that Jehovah has not guaranteed to him, the undaunted one, success to his labours among his own people, but has assigned him a mission extending far beyond and reaching to all mankind. "And now, saith Jehovah, that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring back Jacob to Him, and that Israel may be gathered together to Him; and I am honoured in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God has become my strength. He saith, It is only a small thing that thou becomest my servant, to set up the tribes of Jacob, and to bring back the preserved of Israel. I have set thee for the light of the Gentiles, to become my salvation to the end of the earth." Both shōbhēbh and hâshı̄bh unite within themselves the meanings reducere (Jeremiah 50:19) and restituere. On לא equals לו generally, see at Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 63:9. Jerome is wrong in his rendering, et Israel qui non congregabitur (what could a prophecy of the rejection of the Jews do here?); so also is Hitzig's rendering, "since Israel is not swept away;" and Hofmann's, "Israel, which is not swept away." In the present instance, where the restoration of Israel is the event referred to, אצף must signify "the gathering together of Israel," as in Isaiah 11:12. לו (parallel אליו) points to Jehovah as the author of the gathering, and as the object of it also. The transition from the infinitive of design to the finite verb of desire, is the same as in Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 14:25. The attributive clause, added to the name Jehovah, expresses the lofty mission of the servant of God with regard to Israel. The parenthesis, "I have honour in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God has become my strength, i.e., has become mighty in me, the apparently weak one," looks beyond to the still loftier mission, by which the former lofty one is far surpassed. On account of this parenthetically inserted praise of Jehovah, the אמר is resumed in ויּאמר. Instead of נקל היותך (compare 1 Kings 16:31), i.e., it is a small thing that thou shouldst be, we have it here, as in Ezekiel 8:17, with a comparative min, which must not, however, be logically pressed: "It is smaller than that," i.e., it is too small a thing that thou shouldst be. The netsı̄rē (Keri, netsūrē) of Israel are those who have been preserved in exile (Ezekiel 6:12); in other cases, we find שׁאר, שׁארית, or פּלטה. Not only is the restoration of the remnant of Israel the work of the servant of Jehovah; but Jehovah has appointed him for something higher than this. He has given or set him for the light of the heathen ("a light to lighten the Gentiles," Luke 2:32), to become His salvation to the end of the earth (lxx: τοῦ εἶναι σε εἰς σωτηρίαν ἕως ἐσχάτου τῆς γῆς). Those who regard Israel as a nation as speaking here (e.g., Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, etc.) go right away from this, which is the most natural sense of the words, and explain them as meaning, "that my salvation may be, reach, or penetrate to the end of the earth." But inasmuch as the servant of Jehovah is the light of the world, he is through that very fact the salvation of the world; and he is both of these through Jehovah, whose counsels of ישׁוּעה are brought by him into historical realization and visible manifestation.
And he said, It is a light thing 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.
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.
The words of the servant of God, in which he enforces his claim upon the nations, are now lost in words of Jehovah to him, which are no longer reported by him, but are appended as an independent address. His present condition is one of the deepest humiliation. "Thus saith Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel, His Holy One, to him of contemptible soul, to the abhorrence of the people, to the servant of tyrants: kings shall see and arise; princes, and prostrate themselves for the sake of Jehovah, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, that He hath chosen thee." As bâzōh with a changeable kamtez (cf., châmōts, Isaiah 1:17) has, if not exactly a passive force, yet something very like a passive circumstantial meaning, בּזה־נפשׁ must mean the man who is contemptible as regards his soul, i.e., held in contempt, or, as Hofmann explains it, whom men do not think worthy to live (though he follows Ewald, and takes bezōh as an infinitive treated as a substantive). Accordingly מתעב is also to be taken personally. The meaning abhorring is unsuitable; but תּעב is also used in a causative sense, to cause to abhor, i.e., to make a thing an abomination (Ezekiel 16:25), or to excite abhorrence: hence, "to him who excites the people's abhorrence," which is the same, so far as the sense is concerned, as "to the object of their abhorrence." But even as a participial substantive מתעב would literally mean the thing exciting abhorrence, i.e., the abhorrence, just as mekhasseh in Isaiah 23:18 signifies the thing covering, i.e., the covering. All these participial substantives of the piel indicate the thing, place, or instrument accomplishing that which the piel affirms. We need not raise the question whether gōi refers to Israel or to the heathen. It signifies the mass of men, the people, like ‛âm in Psalm 62:9, and in those passages in which it is used by our prophet for the human race generally. The mōsheilim, of whom the person here addressed is the servant or enslaved one, are obviously heathen tyrants. What is here affirmed of the "one servant of Jehovah" was no doubt also applicable to the nation generally, and more especially to that portion of the nation which was true to its calling and confession. He in whom Israel's relation of servant to Jehovah was fully realized, did indeed spring out of His own nation, when it was under the oppression of the powers of this world; and all the shame and persecution which those who remained faithful among His people had to endure from the heathen oppressors, and also from the ungodly among their own countrymen (see, for example, Isaiah 66:5), discharge their force like a violent storm upon Him as an individual. When, therefore, we find the sufferings of the people and the glory of which they became partakers described in other passages in just the same terms, we must not infer from this that "servant of Jehovah" is a collective epithet in the passage before us. The person addressed here is the Restorer of Israel, the Light of the Gentiles, the Salvation of Jehovah for all mankind. When kings and princes shall behold Him who was once brought so low, delivered from His humiliation, and exalted to the glorious height of the work to which He has been called, they will rise up with reverence from their thrones, and prostrate themselves upon the ground in worship for the sake of Jehovah, as before Him who (אשׁר emphatic, utpote qui) is faithful, showing Himself sincere in His promises, and for the sake of the Holy One of Israel, in that, as is now made manifest, "He hath chosen thee." The fut. consec. particularizes the general motive assigned, and carries it still further.
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;
The next two vv. describe (though only with reference to Israel, the immediate circle) what is the glory of the vocation to which Jehovah, in accordance with His promise, exalts His chosen One. "Thus saith Jehovah, In a time of favour have I heard thee, and in the day of salvation have I helped thee: and I form thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to apportion again desolate inheritances, saying to prisoners, Go ye out: to those who are in darkness, Come ye to the light." Jehovah heard His servant, and came to his help when he prayed to Him out of the condition of bondage to the world, which he shared with his people. He did it at the time for the active display of His good pleasure, and for the realizing of salvation, which had been foreseen by Him, and had now arrived. The futures which follow are to be taken as such. The fact that Jehovah makes His servant "a covenant of the people," i.e., the personal bond which unites Israel and its God in a new fellowship (see Isaiah 42:6), is the fruit of his being heard and helped. The infinitives with Lamed affirm in what way the new covenant relation will be made manifest. The land that has fallen into decay rises into prosperity again, and the desolate possessions return to their former owners. This manifestation of the covenant grace, that has been restored to the nation again, is effected through the medium of the servant of Jehovah. The rendering of the lxx is quite correct: τοῦ καταστῆσαι τὴν γῆν καὶ κληρονομῆσαι κληρονομίας ἐρήμους λέγοντα לאמר is a dicendo governed by both infinitives. The prisoners in the darkness of the prison and of affliction are the exiles (Isaiah 42:22). The mighty word of the servant of Jehovah brings to them the light of liberty, in connection with which (as has been already more than once observed) the fact should be noticed, that the redemption is viewed in connection with the termination of the captivity, and, in accordance with the peculiar character of the Old Testament, is regarded as possessing a national character, and therefore is purely external.
The person of the servant of Jehovah now falls into the background again, and the prophecy proceeds with a description of the return of the redeemed. "They shall feed by the ways, and there is pasture for them upon all field-hills. They shall not hunger nor thirst, and the mirage and sun shall not blind them: for He that hath mercy on them shall lead them, and guide them by bubbling water-springs. And I make all my mountains ways, and my roads are exalted. Behold these, they come from afar; and, behold, these from the north and from the sea; and these from the land of the Sinese." The people returning home are represented as a flock. By the roads that they take to their homes, they are able to obtain sufficient pasture, without being obliged to go a long way round in order to find a sufficient supply; and even upon bare sandy hills (Isaiah 41:18) there is pasture found for them. Nothing is wanting; even the shârâb (see Isaiah 35:7) and the sun do not hurt them, the former by deceiving and leading astray, the latter by wearying them with its oppressive heat: for He whose compassion has been excited by their long pining misery (Isaiah 41:17-20) is leading them, and bringing them along in comfort by bubbling springs of real and refreshing water (ינחל, as Petrarch once says of shepherds, Move la schira sua soavemente). Jehovah also makes all the mountains into roads for those who are returning home, and the paths of the desert are lifted up, as it were, into well-made roads (yerumūn, Ges. 47, Anm. 4). They are called my mountains and my highways (differently from Isaiah 14:25), because they are His creation; and therefore He is also able to change them, and now really does change them for the good of His people, who are returning to the land of their forefathers out of every quarter of the globe. Although in Psalm 107:3 yâm (the sea) appears to stand for the south, as referring to the southern part of the Mediterranean, which washes the coast of Egypt, there is no ground at all in the present instance for regarding it as employed in any other than its usual sense, namely the west; mērâchōq (from far) is therefore either the south (cf., Isaiah 43:6) or the east, according to the interpretation that we give to 'erets Sı̄nı̄m, as signifying a land to the east or to the south.
The Phoenician Sinim (Ges. Isaiah 10:17), the inhabitants of a fortified town in the neighbourhood of Area, which has now disappeared, but which was seen not only by Jerome, but also by Mariono Sanuto (de castro Arachas ad dimidiam leucam est oppidum Sin), cannot be thought of, for the simple reason that this Sin was too near, and was situated to the west of Babylon and to the north of Jerusalem; whilst Sin ( equals Pelusium) in Egypt, to which Ewald refers, did not give its name to either a tribe or a land. Arias Montanus was among the first to suggest that the Sinim are the Sinese (Chinese); and since the question has been so thoroughly discussed by Gesenius (in his Commentary and Thesaursu), most of the commentators, and also such Orientalists as Langles (in his Recherches asiatiques), Movers (in his Phoenicians), Lassen (in his Indische Alterthumskunde, i.-856-7), have decided in favour of this opinion. The objection brought against the supposition, that the name of the Chinese was known to the nations of the west at so early a period as this, viz., that this could not have been the case till after the reign of the emperor Shi-hoang-ti, of the dynasty of Thsin, who restored the empire that had been broken up into seven smaller kingdoms (in the year 247 b.c.), and through whose celebrated reign the name of his dynasty came to be employed in the western nations as the name of China generally, is met by Lassen with the simple fact that the name occurs at a much earlier period than this, and in many different forms, as the name of smaller states into which the empire was broken up after the reign of Wu-wang (1122-1115 b.c.). "The name Θῖναι (Strabo), Σῖναι (Ptol.), Τζίνιτζα (Kosmas), says the Sinologist Neumann, did not obtain currency for the first time from the founder of the great dynasty of Tsin; but long before this, Tsin was the name of a feudal kingdom of some importance in Shen-si, one of the western provinces of the Sinese land, and Fei-tse, the first feudal king of Tsin, began to reign as early as 897 b.c." It is quite possible, therefore, that the prophet, whether he were Isaiah or any other, may have heard of the land of the Sinese in the far east, and this is all that we need assume; not that Sinese merchants visited the market of the world on the Euphrates (Movers and Lassen), but only that information concerning the strange people who were so wealthy in rare productions, had reached the remote parts of the East through the medium of commerce, possibly from Ophir, and through the Phoenicians. But Egli replies: "The seer on the streams of Babel certainly could not have described any exiles as returning home from China, if he had not known that some of his countrymen were pining there in misery, and I most positively affirm that this was not the case." What is here assumed - namely, that there must have been a Chinese diaspora in the prophet's own time - is overthrown by what has been already observed in Isaiah 11:11; and we may also see that it is to purely by accident that the land of the Sinese is given as the farthest point to the east, from my communications concerning the Jews of China in the History of the Post-biblical Poetry of the Jews (1836, pp. 58-62, cf., p. 21). I have not yet seen Sionnet's work, which has appeared since, viz., Essai sur les Juifs de la Chine et sur l'influence, qu'ils ont eue sur la litrature de ce vaste empire, avant l're chrtienne; but I have read the Mission of Enquiry to the Jews in China in the Jewish Intelligence, May 1851, where a facsimile of their thorah is given. The immigration took place from Persia (cf., ‛Elâm, Isaiah 11:11), at the latest, under the Han dynasty (205 b.c.-220 a.d.), and certainly before the Christian era.
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.
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.
And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.
Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.
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 this return of the exiles from every quarter of the globe to their fatherland, and for this mighty work of God on behalf of His church, which has been scattered in all directions, the whole creation is to praise Him. "Sing, O heavens; and shout, O earth; and break out into singing, O mountains! for Jehovah hath comforted His people, and He hath compassion upon His afflicted ones." The phrase רנּה פּצח, like ורנּן פּצח (which occurs in Psalm 98:4 as well as in Isaiah), is peculiarly Isaiah's (Isaiah 14:7, and several times in chapters 40-66). "The afflicted ones" (‛ăniyyı̄m) is the usual Old Testament name for the ecclesia militans. The future alternates with the perfect: the act of consolation takes place once for all, but the compassion lasts for ever. Here again the glorious liberty of the children of God appears as the focus from which the whole world is glorified. The joy of the Israel of God becomes the joy of heaven and earth. With the summons to this joy the first half of the prophecy closes; for the word תאמר, which follows, shows clearly enough that the prophecy has merely reached a resting-point here, since this word is unsuitable for commencing a fresh prophecy.
But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.
The prophet, looking back at the period of suffering from the standpoint of the deliverance, exclaims from the midst of this train of thought: Isaiah 49:14 "Zion said, Jehovah hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me." The period of suffering which forces out this lamentation still continues. What follows, therefore, applies to the church of the present, i.e., of the captivity. Isaiah 49:15, Isaiah 49:16 "Does a woman forget her sucking child, so as not to have compassion upon the child of her womb? Even though mothers should forget, I will not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls stand continually before me." In reply to the complaining church, which knows that her home is in Zion-Jerusalem, and which has been kept so long away from her home, Jehovah sets forth His love, which is as inalienable as a mother's love, yea, far greater than even maternal love. On עוּל, the min in mērachēm is equivalent to ὥστε μή, as in Isaiah 23:1; Isaiah 24:10; Isaiah 33:15, etc. גּם, so far as the actual sense is concerned, is equivalent to גּם־כּי (Ewald, 362, b): "granted that such (mothers) should forget, i.e., disown, their love." The picture of Zion (not merely the name, as Isaiah 49:16 clearly shows) is drawn in the inside of Jehovah's hands, just as men are accustomed to burn or puncture ornamental figures and mementoes upon the hand, the arm, and the forehead, and to colour the punctures with alhenna or indigo (see Tafel, xii., in vol. ii. pp. 33-35 of Lane's Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians). There is the figure of Zion, unapproachable to every creature, as close to Him as He is to Himself, and facing Him amidst all the emotions of His divine life. There has He the walls of Zion constantly before Him (on neged, see at Isaiah 1:15; Isaiah 24:23); and even if for a time they are broken down here below, with Him they have an eternal ideal existence, which must be realized again and again in an increasingly glorious form.
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.
Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.
Thy children shall make haste; thy destroyers and they that made thee waste shall go forth of thee.
It is this fact of a renewed glorification which presents itself afresh to the prophet's mind. "Thy children make haste, thy destroyers and masters draw out from thee. Lift up thine eyes round about, and see: all these assemble themselves together, and come to thee. As truly as I live, saith Jehovah, thou wilt put them all on like jewellery, and gird them round thee like a bride." The pointing adopted by the lxx, Targ., Jer. and Saad., is בּניך. The antithesis favours this reading; but בּניך suits Isaiah 49:18, Isaiah 49:19 better; and the thought that Zion's children come and restore her fallen walls, follows of itself from the very antithesis: her children come; and those who destroyed their maternal home, and made it a desolate ruin, have to depart from both city and land. Zion is to lift up her eyes, that have been cast down till now, yea, to lift them up round about; for on all sides those whom she thought she had lost are coming in dense crowds לך (cf., לא equals לו with אליו, Isaiah 49:5), to her, i.e., henceforth to belong to her again. Jehovah pledges His life (chai 'ănı̄, ζῶν ἐγώ, Ewald, 329, a) that a time of glory is coming for Zion and her children. כּי in the affirmative sense, springing out of the confirmative after an affirming oath, equivalent to אם־לא elsewhere (e.g., Isaiah 5:9). The population which Zion recovers once more, will be to her like the ornaments which a woman puts on, like the ornamental girdle (Isaiah 3:20) which a bride fastens round her wedding dress.
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.
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.
Thus will Zion shine forth once more with the multitude of her children as with a festal adorning. "For thy ruins and thy waste places and thy land full of ruin - yea, now thou wilt be too narrow for the inhabitants, and thy devourers are far away. Thy children, that were formerly taken from thee, shall say in thine ears, The space is too narrow for me; give way for me, that I may have room." The word "for" (kı̄) introduces the explanatory reason for the figures just employed of jewellery and a bridal girdle. Instead of the three subjects, "thy ruins," etc., the comprehensive "thou" is employed permutatively, and the sentence commenced afresh. כּי is repeated emphatically in עתּה כּי (for now, or yea now); this has essentially the same meaning as in the apodosis of hypothetical protasis (e.g., Genesis 31:42; Genesis 43:10), except that the sense is more decidedly affirmative than in the present instance, where one sees it spring out of the confirmative. Zion, that has been hitherto desolate, now becomes too small to hold her inhabitants; and her devourers are far away, i.e., those who took forcible possession of the land and cities, and made them untenable. עוד is to be understood in accordance with Psalm 42:6, and בעזניך in accordance with Psalm 54:2 (see at Isaiah 5:9). It will even come to this, that the children of which Zion was formerly robbed will call to one another, so that she becomes a witness with her ears to that which they have so clearly seen: the space is too narrow, give way (geshâh, from nâgash, to advance, then to move generally, also to move in an opposite direction, i.e., to fall back, as in Genesis 19:9) for me, that I may be able to settle down.
The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.
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 words that sound in the ears of Zion are now followed by the thought of astonishment and surprise, that rises up in her heart. "And thou wilt say in thy heart, Who hath borne me these, seeing I was robbed of children, and barren, banished, and thrust away; and these, who hath brought them up? Behold, I was left alone; these, where were they?" She sees herself suddenly surrounded by a great multitude of children, and yet she was robbed of children, and galmūdâh (lit. hard, stony, Arab. 'galmad, 'gulmūd, e.g., es-sachr el'gulmūd, the hardest stone, mostly as a sugstantive, stone or rock, from gâlam, from which comes the Syriac gelomo, stony ground, related to châlam, whence challâmı̄sh, gravel, root gal, gam, to press together, or heap up in a lump or mass), i.e., one who seemed utterly incapacitated for bearing children any more. She therefore asks, Who hath borne me these (not, who hath begotten, and which is an absurd question)? She cannot believe that they are the children of her body, and her children's children. As a tree, whose foliage is all faded away, is called nōbheleth itself in Isaiah 1:30, so she calls herself gōlâh vesūrâh, extorris et remota (sūr equals mūsâr, like sūg in Proverbs 14:14 equals nâsōg or mussâg), because her children have been carried away into exile. In the second question, the thought has dawned upon her mind, that those by whom she finds herself surrounded are her own children; but as she was left alone, whilst they went forth, as she thought to die in a foreign land, she cannot comprehend where they have been hitherto concealed, or where they have grown up into so numerous a people.
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.
The prophecy now takes a step backward in the domain of the future, and describes the manner in which the children of Zion get back to their home. "Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I lift up my hand to nations, and set up my standard to peoples: and they bring thy sons in their bosom; and thy daughters, upon shoulders are they carried." The setting up of a standard (Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 18:3, cf., Isaiah 62:10) is a favourite figure with Isaiah, as well as swaying the hand. Jehovah gives a sign to the heathen nations with His hand, and points out to them the mark that they are to keep in view, with a signal pole which is set up. They understand it, and carry out His instructions, and bring Zion's sons and daughters thither, and that as a foster-father ('ōmēn) carries an infant in the bosom of his dress (chōtsen, as in Nehemiah 5:13; Arabic as in Psalm 129:7, hidn, from hadana, to embrace, to press tenderly to one's self; vid., Numbers 11:12), or upon his arms, so that it reclines upon his shoulder (‛al-kâthēph; cf., ‛al-tsad, Isaiah 60:4; Isaiah 66:12).
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.
Such affectionate treatment does the church receive, which is assembling once more upon its native soil, whilst kings and their consorts hasten to serve the re-assembled community. "And kings become thy foster-fathers, and their princesses they nurses: they bow down their face to thee to the earth, and they lick the dust of thy feet; and thou learnest that I am Jehovah, He whose hoping ones are not put to shame." As foster-fathers devote all their strength and care to those entrusted to them, and nurses nourish children from the very marrow of their own life, so will kings become the shelterers of Zion, and princesses the sustainers of her growth. All that is true in the regal headship of the church will be realized, and all that is false in regal territorialism will condemn itself: "vultu in terram demisso adorabunt te et pulverem pedum tuorum lingent" (Jerome). They do homage to the church, and kiss the ground upon which she stands and walks. According to Isaiah 45:14, this adoration belongs to the God who is present in the church, and points the church itself away from all thought of her own merits to Jehovah, the God of salvation, cui qui confidunt non pudefient (וידעתּ with an auxiliary pathach, like יגעתּ in Isaiah 47:15; Ges. 65, 2: אשׁר with the first person made into a relative as in Isaiah 41:8; Ges. 123, 1, Anm. 1). Observe, however, that the state will not be swallowed up by the church - a thing which never will occur, and is never meant to occur; but by the state becoming serviceable to the church, there is realized a prelude of the perfected kingdom of God, in which the dualism of the state and the church is entirely abolished.
Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?
There follows now a sceptical question prompted by weakness of faith; and the divine reply. The question, Isaiah 49:24 : "Can the booty indeed be wrested from a giant, or will the captive host of the righteous escape?" The question is logically one, and only divided rhetorically into two (Ges. 153, 2). The giant, or gigantically strong one, is the Chaldean. Knobel, in opposition to Hitzig, who supposes the Persian to be referred to, points very properly to Isaiah 51:12-13, and Isaiah 52:5. He is mistaken, however, in thinking that we must read עריץ שׁבי in Isaiah 49:24, as Ewald does after the Syriac and Jerome, on account of the parallelism. The exiles are called shebhı̄ tsaddı̄q, not, however, as captives wrested from the righteous (the congregation of the righteous), as Meier thinks, taking tsaddı̄q as the gen. obj.; still less as captives carried off by the righteous one, i.e., the Chaldean, for the Chaldean, even regarded as the accomplisher of the righteous judgment of God, is not tsaddı̄q, but "wicked" (Habakkuk 1:13); but merely as a host of captives consisting of righteous men (Hitzig). The divine answer, Isaiah 49:25, Isaiah 49:26 : "Yea, thus saith Jehovah, Even the captive hosts of a giant are wrested from him, and the booty of a tyrant escapes: and I will make war upon him that warreth with thee, and I will bring salvation to thy children. And I feed them that pain thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as if with new wine; and all flesh sees that I Jehovah am thy Saviour, and that thy Redeemer is the Mighty One of Jacob." We might take the kı̄ in Isaiah 49:25 as a simple affirmative, but it is really to be taken as preceded by a tacit intermediate thought. Rosenmller's explanation is the correct one: "that which is hardly credible shall take place, for thus hath Jehovah said." He has also given the true interpretation of gam: "although this really seems incredible, yet I will give it effect." Ewald, on the contrary, has quite missed the sense of Isaiah 49:24, Isaiah 49:25, which he gives as follows: "The booty in men which a hero has taken in war, may indeed be taken from him again; but Jehovah will never let the booty that He takes from the Chaldean (viz., Israel) be wrested from Him again." This is inadmissible, for the simple reason that it presupposes the emendation עריץ שׁבי עריץ noita; and this 'ârı̄ts is quite unsuitable, partly because it would be Jehovah to whom the case supposed referred, and still more, because the correspondence in character between Isaiah 49:24 and Isaiah 49:14 is thereby destroyed. The gibbōr and 'ârı̄ts is called יריבך in Isaiah 49:25, with direct reference to Zion. This is a noun formed from the future, like Jareb in Hosea 5:13 and Hosea 10:6 - a name chosen as the distinctive epithet of the Asiatic emperor (probably a name signifying "king Fighting-cock"). The self-laceration threatened against the Chaldean empire recals to mind Isaiah 9:19-20, and Zechariah 11:9, and has as revolting a sound as Numbers 23:24 and Zechariah 9:15 -passages which Daumer and Ghillany understand in the cannibal sense which they appear to have, whereas what they understand literally is merely a hyperbolical figure. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that the Old Testament church was a nation, and that the spirit of revelation in the Old Testament assumed the national form, which it afterwards shattered to pieces. Knobel points to the revolt of the Hyrcanians and several satraps, who fought on the side of Cyrus against their former rulers (Cyrop. iv 2, 6, v. 1-3). All this will be subservient to that salvation and redemption, which form the historical aim of Jehovah and the irresistible work of the Mighty One of Jacob. The name of God which we meet with here, viz., the Mighty One of Jacob, only occurs again in Isaiah 1:24, and shows who is the author of the prophecy which is concluded here. The first half set forth, in the servant of Jehovah, the mediator of Israel's restoration and of the conversion of the heathen, and closed with an appeal to the heaven and the earth to rejoice with the ransomed church. The second half (Isaiah 49:14-26) rebukes the despondency of Zion, which fancies itself forgotten of Jehovah, by pointing to Jehovah's more than maternal love, and the superabundant blessing to be expected from Him. It also rebukes the doubts of Zion as to the possibility of such a redemption, by pointing to the faithfulness and omnipotence of the God of Israel, who will cause the exiles to be wrested from the Chaldean, and their tormentors to devour one another. The following chapter commences a fresh train of ideas.
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.
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.