Isaiah 42:18
Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see.
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(18) Hear, ye deaf . . .—The words form the beginning of a new section. The prophet feels or sees that the great argument has not carried conviction as it ought to have done. The people to whom Jehovah speaks through him are still spiritually blind and deaf, and that people is ideally the servant of the Lord (Isaiah 41:8), in whom the pattern of the personal servant ought to have been reproduced. (Comp. John 9:39-41.)

Isaiah 42:18-20. Hear, ye deaf, &c. — O you, whosoever you are, whether Jews or Gentiles, who shall resist this clear light, and obstinately continue in your former errors, attend diligently to my words, and consider these mighty works of God. Who is blind but my servant? — But no people under heaven are so blind as the Jews, who call themselves my servants and people, who will not receive their Messiah, though he be recommended to them with such evident and illustrious signs and miraculous works as force belief from the formerly unbelieving and idolatrous Gentiles. Or deaf as my messenger that I sent — Or rather, as Bishop Lowth renders it, as he to whom I have sent my messengers. Thus the Vulgate and Chaldee, “ut ad quem nuncios meos misi.” Who is blind as he that is perfect — Or, perfectly instructed, as משׁלםmay be rendered, who has all the means of knowledge and spiritual improvement. Perhaps the prophet may chiefly intend the priests and other teachers of the Jews, who, as they were appointed to instruct the people in the right way of worshipping and serving God, so they had peculiar advantages for knowing that way themselves, having the oracles of God in their hands, and much leisure for reading and considering them. Or he may be understood as speaking sarcastically, and terming them perfect, or, perfectly instructed, because they pretended to greater knowledge and piety than others, to a more perfect acquaintance with, and conformity to, the divine will, proudly calling themselves rabbis and masters, and despising the people as cursed and not knowing the law, John 7:49; and deriding Christ for calling them blind, John 9:40. And blind as the Lord’s servant? — Which title, as it was given to the Jewish people in the first clause of the verse, may be here given to the priests, because they were called and obliged to be the Lord’s servants, in a special manner. Seeing many things, but thou observest not — Thou dost not seriously consider the plain word and wonderful works of God.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.Hear, ye deaf - This is evidently an address to the Jews, and probably to the Jews of the time of the prophet. He had been predicting the coming of the Messiah, and the influence of his religion on the Gentile world. He had said that God would go forth to destroy the idolatry of the pagan nations, and to convince them of the folly of the worship of images, and to confound them for putting their trust in them. He seems here to have recollected that this was the easily-besetting sin of his own countrymen, and perhaps especially of the times when he penned this portion of the prophecy - under the reign of Manasseh; that that generation was stupid, blind, deaf to the calls of God, and sunk in the deepest debasement of idolatry. In view of this, and of the great truths which he had uttered, he calls on them to hear, to be alarmed, to return to God, and assures them that for these sins they exposed themselves to, and must experience, his sore displeasure. The statement of these truths, and the denouncing of these judgments, occupy the remainder of this chapter. A similar instance occurs in Isaiah 2, where the prophet, having foretold the coming of the Messiah, and the fact that his religion would be extended among the Gentiles, turns and reproves the Jews for their idolatry and crimes (see the notes at that chapter). The Jewish people are often described as 'deaf' to the voice of God, and 'blind' to their duty and their interests (see Isaiah 29:18; Isaiah 42:8).

And look ... that ye may see - This phrase denotes an attentive, careful, and anxious search, in order that there may be a clear view of the object. The prophet calls them to an attentive contemplation of the object, that they might have a clear and distinct view of it. They had hitherto looked at the subject of religion in a careless, inattentive, and thoughtless manner.

18. deaf—namely, to the voice of God.

blind—to your duty and interest; wilfully so (Isa 42:20). In this they differ from "the blind" (Isa 42:16). The Jews are referred to. He had said, God would destroy the heathen idolatry; here he remembers that even Israel, His "servant" (Isa 42:19), from whom better things might have been expected, is tainted with this sin.

O you, whosoever you are, whether Jews or Gentiles, which shall resist this clear light, and obstinately continue in your former errors, attend diligently to my words, and consider these mighty works of God. Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. Jarchi and Kimchi think these words are spoken to Israel, who, as Aben Ezra says, were deaf and blind in heart; but they are rather an exhortation to the Gentiles that remained impenitent and unbelieving, and who were deaf to the voice of the Gospel, and blind as to the knowledge of it; and the purport of the exhortation is, that they would make use of their external hearing and sight, which they had, that they might attain to a spiritual hearing and understanding of divine things; "for faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God", Romans 10:17 to hear the Gospel preached, and to look into the Scriptures, and read the word of God, are the means of attaining light and knowledge in spiritual things; and these are within the compass of natural men, who are internally deaf and blind. Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see.
18. look and see are distinguished as in 2 Kings 3:14; Job 35:5, &c.; the former is to direct the gaze towards, the latter to take in the significance of an object.

18–25. An expostulation with Israel for its insensibility to the privileges it has enjoyed. The passage is of considerable interest for the light which it throws on the sense in which the title “Servant of the Lord” is to be understood. The discrepancy between the description in Isaiah 42:1-4 and that here given is at first sight perplexing. There the Servant is spoken of as the perfect and successful worker for God, here he is addressed as blind and deaf and altogether unfit for Jehovah’s purpose. Yet it is extremely unnatural to suppose that the writer applies the term to two entirely different subjects. To suggest, as the prophet’s meaning, that the inefficient Servant is to be replaced by another, who shall accomplish the work in which the former has failed is perhaps the least satisfactory of all explanations, and misrepresents the teaching of the prophecy. That the subject here addressed is Israel in its actual present condition is beyond dispute; hence Isaiah 42:1-4 must also be regarded as in some sense a description of Israel. The contrast, in short, is not between the false servant and the true,—the one a nation and the other an individual,—but between Israel as it really is and Israel according to its idea. Indeed it would seem that what the prophet wishes his people to lay to heart is just this contrast between its ideal calling and its actual accomplishments; and this is more intelligible if the ideal has been already depicted, and is still present to the writer’s mind.Verses 18-25. - ADDRESS TO CAPTIVE ISRAEL, CALLING UPON THEM TO TURN TO GOD, AND REMINDING THEM THAT THEY HAVE DESERVED THEIR AFFLICTIONS. By some critics the earlier verses of this passage (vers. 19-21) are regarded as having reference to the "Servant of the Lord" depicted in vers. 1-7, and as calling on the captive Jews to consider his voluntary humiliation, and the object of it. But this view seems to be strained. It requires "deaf" and "blind' to be taken in completely different senses in the two consecutive verses, 18 and 19. Probably Delitzsch and Mr. Cheyne are right in taking the whole passage of captive Israel, and especially of that "outer circle" which was least deserving of God's favour and most open to rebuke and reproach. These "blind" and "deaf" ones are warned that it is high time for them to unclose their eyes and open their ears, and are reminded that all their recent and present sufferings arise from their former "blindness" and disobedience. Verse 18. - Hear, ye deaf. The "deaf" are not absolutely without hearing, nor the "blind" absolutely without sight. They can "hear" and "see," if they choose to do so. When they do not see, it is because they "wink with their eyes" (Matthew 13:15); when they do not hear, it is because, like the deaf adder, they "stop their ears" (Psalm 58:4). This, at any rate, is the case with the majority. There may be some who have deadened their moral vision altogether, and have no longer any "ears to hear." God, however, addresses the mass of Israel as still possessed of moral discernment, if they will but use it, and calls upon them to wake up out of sleep - to "hear" and "see." The prediction of these "new things," which now follows, looks away from all human mediation. They are manifestly the work of Jehovah Himself, and consist primarily in the subjugation of His enemies, who are holding His people in captivity. "Sing ye to Jehovah a new song, His praise from the end of the earth, ye navigators of the sea, and its fulness; ye islands, and their inhabitants. Let the desert and the cities thereof strike up, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit; the inhabitants of the rock-city may rejoice, shout from the summits of the mountains. Let them give glory to Jehovah, and proclaim His praise in the islands. Jehovah, like a hero will He go forth, kindle jealousy like a man of war; He will breath forth into a war-cry, a yelling war-cry, prove Himself a hero upon His enemies." The "new things" furnish the impulse and materials of "a new song," such as had never been heard in the heathen world before. This whole group of vv. is like a variation of Isaiah 24:14-15. The standing-place, whence the summons is uttered, is apparently Ezion-geber, at the head of the Elanitic Gulf, that seaport town from which in the time of the kings the news of the nations reached the Holy Land through the extensive commerce of Israel. From this point the eye stretches to the utmost circle of the earth, and then returns from the point where it meets with those who "go down to the sea," i.e., who navigate the ocean which lies lower than the solid ground. These are to sing, and everything that lives and moves in the sea is to join in the sailors' song. The islands and coast lands, that are washed by the sea, are likewise to sing together with their inhabitants. After the summons has drawn these into the net of the song of praise, it moves into the heart of the land. The desert and its cities are to lift up (viz., "their voice"), the villages which Kedar inhabits. The reference to Sela', the rock-city of Edomitish Nabataea, which is also mentioned in Isaiah 16:1 (the Wadi Musa, which is still celebrated for its splendid ruins), shows by way of example what cities are intended. Their inhabitants are to ascend the steep mountains by which the city is surrounded, and to raise a joyful cry (yitsvâchū, to cry out with a loud noise; cf., Isaiah 24:11). Along with the inhabitants of cities, the stationary Arabs, who are still called Hadariye in distinction from Wabariye, the Arabs of the tents, are also summoned; hadar (châtsēr) is a fixed abode, in contrast to bedû, the steppe, where the tents are pitched for a short time, now in one place and now in another. In Isaiah 42:12 the summons becomes more general. The subject is the heathen universally and in every place; they are to give Jehovah the glory (Psalm 56:2), and declare His praise upon the islands, i.e., to the remotest ends of the whole world of nations. In Isaiah 42:13 there follows the reason for this summons, and the theme of the new song in honour of the God of Israel, viz., His victory over His enemies, the enemies of His people. The description is anthropomorphically dazzling and bold, such as the self-assurance and vividness of the Israelitish idea of God permitted, without any danger of misunderstanding. Jehovah goes out into the conflict like a hero; and like a "man of war," i.e., like one who has already fought many battles, and is therefore ready for war, and well versed in warfare, He stirs up jealousy (see at Isaiah 9:6). His jealousy has slumbered as it were for a long time, as if smouldering under the ashes; but now He stirs it up, i.e., makes it burn up into a bright flame. Going forward to the attack, יריע, "He breaks out into a cry," אף־יצריח, "yea, a yelling cry" (kal Zephaniah 1:14, to cry with a yell; hiphil, to utter a yelling cry). In the words, "He will show Himself as a hero upon His enemies," we see Him already engaged in the battle itself, in which He proves Himself to possess the strength and boldness of a hero (hithgabbar only occurs again in the book of Job). The overthrow which heathenism here suffers at the hand of Jehovah is, according to our prophet's view, the final and decisive one. The redemption of Israel, which is thus about to appear, is redemption from the punishment of captivity, and at the same time from all the troubles that arise from sin. The period following the captivity and the New Testament times here flow into one.
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