Isaiah 42:19
Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is perfect, and blind as the LORD's servant?
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(19) Deaf, as my messenger . . .—The work of the messenger of God had been the ideal of Isaiah, as it was of the servant in whom the ideal was realised (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 42:1). But how could a blind and deaf messenger, like the actual Israel, do his work effectually? (Psalm 123:2).

As he that is perfect.—Strictly speaking, the devoted, or surrendered one. The Hebrew meshullam is interesting, as connected with the modern Moslem and Islam, the man resigned to the will of God. The frequent use of this, or a cognate form, as a proper name after the exile (1Chronicles 9:21; Ezra 8:6; Ezra 10:15; Nehemiah 3:4) may (on either assumption as to the date of 2 Isaiah) be connected with it by some link of causation. Other meanings given to it have been “perfect” as in the Authorised Version, “confident,” recompensed,” “meritorious.”

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.Who is blind, but my servant? - Some of the Jewish expositors suppose that by 'servant' here, the prophet himself is intended, who, they suppose is here called blind and deaf by the impious Jews who rejected his message. But it is evident, that by 'servant' here, the Jewish people themselves are intended, the singular being used for the plural, in a sense similar to that where they are so often called 'Jacob' and 'Israel.' The phrase 'servants of God' is often given to his people, and is used to denote true worshippers. The word is used here to denote those who professed to be the true worshippers of Yahweh. The prophet had, in the previous verses, spoken of the blindness and stupidity of the Gentile world. He here turns to his own countrymen, and addresses them as more blind, and deaf, and stupid than they. 'Who,' he asks, 'is as blind as they are?' Where are any of the pagan nations so insensible to the appeals of God, and so hard-hearted? The idea of the prophet is, that the Jews had had far greater advantages, and yet they were so sunk in sin that it might be said that comparatively none were blind but they. Even the degradation of the pagan nations, under the circumstances of the case, could not be compared with theirs.

As my messenger that I sent - Lowth renders this, 'And deaf, as he to whom I have sent my messengers.' The Septuagint renders it, 'And deaf but those that rule over them;' by a slight change in the Hebrew text. The Vulgate reads it as Lowth has rendered it. The Chaldee renders it,' If the wicked are converted, shall they not be called my servants? And the sinners to whom I sent my prophets?' But the sense seems to be this: The Jewish people were regarded as a people selected and preserved by God for the purpose of preserving and extending the true religion. They might be spoken of as sent for the great purpose of enlightening the world, as God's messengers in the midst of the deep darkness of benighted nations, and as appointed to be the agents by which the true religion was to be perpetuated and propagated on earth. Or perhaps, the word 'messenger' here may denote collectively the Jewish leaders, teachers, and priests, who had been sent as the messengers of God to that people, and who were, with the people, sunk in deep debasement and sin.

As he that is perfect - (כמשׁלם kı̂meshullâm). A great variety of interpretations has been offered on this word - arising from the difficulty of giving the appellation 'perfect' to a people so corrupt as were the Jews in the time of Isaiah. Jerome renders it, Qui venundatus est - 'He that is sold.' The Syriac renders it, 'Who is blind as the prince?' Symmachus renders it, Ὡς ὁ τέλειος hōs ho teleios; and Kimchi in a similar manner by תמים tâmı̂ym - 'perfect.' The verb שׁלם shālam means properly "to be whole, sound, safe"; to be completed, finished, ended: and then, to be at peace or friendship with anyone. And it may he applied to the Jews, to whom it undoubtedly refers here, in one of the following senses; either

(1) ironically, as claiming to be perfect; or

(2) as those who professed to be perfect; or

(3) as being favored with rites and laws, and a civil and sacred constitution that were complete (Vitringa); or

(4) as being in friendship with God, as Grotius and Gesenius suppose.

It most probably refers to the fact that they were richly endowed by Yahweh with complete and happy institutions adapted to their entire welfare, and such as, in comparison with other nations, were suited to make them perfect.

As the Lord's servant - The Jewish people, professing to serve and obey God.

19. my servant—namely, Israel. Who of the heathen is so blind? Considering Israel's high privileges, the heathen's blindness was as nothing compared with that of Israelite idolaters.

my messenger … sent—Israel was designed by God to be the herald of His truth to other nations.

perfect—furnished with institutions, civil and religious, suited to their perfect well-being. Compare the title, "Jeshurun," the perfect one, applied to Israel (compare Isa 44:2), as the type of Messiah [Vitringa]. Or translate, the friend of God, which Israel was by virtue of descent from Abraham, who was so called (Isa 41:8), [Gesenius]. The language, "my servant" (compare Isa 42:1), "messenger" (Mal 3:1), "perfect" (Ro 10:4; Heb 2:10; 1Pe 2:22), can, in the full antitypical sense, only apply to Christ. So Isa 42:21 plainly refers to Him. "Blind" and "deaf" in His case refer to His endurance of suffering and reproach, as though He neither saw nor heard (Ps 38:13, 14). Thus there is a transition by contrast from the moral blindness of Israel (Isa 42:18) to the patient blindness and deafness of Messiah [Horsley].

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 most unbelieving and obstinate Gentiles.

My messenger; my messengers, the singular number being put for the plural, as it is commonly in Scripture.

That I sent; the priests and other teachers whom I appointed to instruct my people in the right way.

As he that is perfect; as the most eminent teachers and rulers of the Jews, whom he calleth perfect, either because it was their duty to know and teach the way and truth of God perfectly; or rather sarcastically, because they pretended to greater perfection, and proudly called themselves rabbies and masters, as our Saviour observed, and despised the people as cursed, and not knowing the law, John 7:49, and derided Christ for calling them blind, John 9:40.

As the Lord’s servant; which rifle, as it was given to the Jewish people in the first clause of the verse, so here it scents to be given to the priests, because they were called and obliged to be the Lord’s servants in a special and eminent manner. Who is blind, but my servant?.... Kimchi, taking the former words to be spoken to the Jews, thinks this is their reply; who will say in answer to it, why do ye call us blind and deaf? who so blind and deaf as Isaiah the prophet, the servant of the Lord, his messenger, and a perfect one as he is called? but as the preceding words are spoken to the Gentiles, here the Lord does as it were correct himself, as if he should say, why do I call the Gentiles blind and deaf, when the people of the Jews, who call themselves my servants, and pretend to serve and worship me, yet there are none so blind as they in spiritual things? though they have so many opportunities and advantages of light and knowledge, yet shut their eyes wilfully against the light; hence the people and their guides, the Scribes and Pharisees, are often called "blind" by our Lord, to whose times this passage refers, Matthew 15:14; "or deaf, as my messenger that I sent?" not the Prophet Isaiah, but some other, who did not attend to what he was charged with, and did not perform his office aright; it may design in general the priests and Levites, who were the messengers of the Lord of hosts to instruct the people; and yet these were deaf to the messages that God gave them, and they were to deliver to the people: or it may be rendered, "or deaf, but, or as, to whom I send my messenger" (z); or messengers, as the Vulgate Latin version; and so the Targum,

"and sinners to whom I send my prophets;''

and so it may respect the body of the people as before, who were deaf to John the Baptist, the messenger sent before the Lord; to Christ himself, and his ministry, and to his apostles, who were first sent to them:

who is blind, as he that is perfect? who pretended to be so, as the young man who thought he had kept all the commandments, and as Saul before conversion, and all the Pharisees, those self-righteous persons who needed no repentance, and yet who so blind as they? and indeed, had they not been blind to themselves, they could never have thought themselves perfect; and yet when they were told they were so, could not bear it, Matthew 19:20, and blind, as the Lord's servant? which is repeated for the further confirmation of it, and more clearly to show whose servant is meant.

(z) "et surdus, sicut (sub. ad quem, vel ad quos) angelum sive nucium meum missurus sum", Forerius, ex V. L. and to this sense, Grotius.

Who is blind, but my {u} servant? or deaf, as my {x} messenger that I sent? who is blind as he that is {y} perfect, and blind as the LORD'S servant?

(u) That is, Israel, which would have most light because of my Law.

(x) The priest to whom my word is committed, who would not only hear it himself but cause others to hear it.

(y) As the priests and prophets that would be lights to others?

19. Israel is the blind and deaf nation par excellence, because no other nation has been so tested by the opportunity of seeing and hearing (see on Isaiah 42:21). my messenger that I send (R.V.)] Cf. ch. Isaiah 44:26, where “messengers” is parallel to “servant.”

as he that is perfect] R.V. has, “as he that is at peace with me.” The meaning of the Heb. měshullâm (a proper name in 2 Kings 22:3; Ezra 8:16, and often) is uncertain. Many take it as the equivalent of the Arabic “Moslim,” = “the surrendered one” (Cheyne, Comm.). It is no objection to this that it is based on an Aramaic use of the verb; but the idea seems hardly suitable, inasmuch as it implies a state of character which the actual Israel does not possess. Probably a better rendering is the befriended one (sc. by Jehovah), after the analogy of Job 5:23. Another possible translation would be “the requited one” (see R.V. marg.), but it is difficult to attach any definite meaning to the expression in this context.

blind in the last clause should no doubt be deaf, as is read in some MSS.Verse 19. - Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger? God's original "servant" and "messenger" to the nations was his people Israel. It was only through their default that he needed to send another and truer messenger. He now asks, having regard to their opportunities, who are so blind and deaf as they are? The object of the question is to wake a feeling of shame in the hearts of those who are not shameless among the Israelites. That I sent; rather, whom I will send. Israel's mediatorial office was not yet over. They were still, for above five hundred years, to be God's messenger to the nations. As he that is perfect; rather, as he that receives reward from me (see Proverbs 11:31; Proverbs 13:13). The word used is connected etymologically with the Arabic muslim (our "Moslem"); but it does not appear to have had the sense of "surrender" or "submission" in Hebrew. 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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