Isaiah 42:6
I the LORD have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;
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(6) Have called thee in righteousness . . .—The words apply to the personal servant. His call was in accordance with the absolute righteousness of God, manifesting itself in love.

A covenant of the people.—The context limits the “people” to Israel. The “servant of the Lord” is to be in Himself not only the mediator of the covenant, but the covenant, the meeting-point between God and man, just as He is the “peace” as well as the peacemaker (Micah 5:5; Ephesians 2:14). The words may well have furnished a starting-point for the “new covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31, and the whole series of thoughts that have grown out of it.

A light of the Gentiles.—Re-echoed in Luke 2:32.

42:5-12 The work of redemption brings back man to the obedience he owes to God as his Maker. Christ is the light of the world. And by his grace he opens the understandings Satan has blinded, and sets at liberty from the bondage of sin. The Lord has supported his church. And now he makes new promises, which shall as certainly be fulfilled as the old ones were. When the Gentiles are brought into the church, he is glorified in them and by them. Let us give to God those things which are his, taking heed that we do not serve the creature more than the Creator.I the Lord have called thee in righteousness - The phrase 'in righteousness' has been very differently understood by different expositors (see the note at Isaiah 41:10). The most probable meaning may be, 'I have done it as a righteous and just God, or in the accomplishment of my righteous purposes. I am the just moral governor of the universe, and to accomplish my purposes of justice and fidelity, I have designated thee to this work.' Lowth has well rendered it, 'For a righteous purpose.' In this work all was righteousness. God was righteous, who appointed him; it was because he was righteous, and could not save without a mediator and an atonement, that he sent him into the world; he selected one who was eminently righteous to accomplish his purpose; and he came that he might establish righteousness on the earth, and confirm the just government of God (see Isaiah 42:21).

And will hold thine hand - I will take thee by the hand, as one does who guides and leads another. The phrase denotes the same as to guard, or keep - as we protect a child by taking him by the hand.

And give thee for a covenant - This is evidently an abbreviated form of expression, and the meaning is, 'I will give or appoint thee as the medium, or means by which a covenant shall be made with the people; or a mediator of the new covenant which God is about to establish with men' (see Isaiah 49:8). A similar expression occurs in Micah 5:5, where it is said of the Messiah, 'and this man shall be the peace;' that is, he shall be the source of peace, or peace shall be established and maintained by him. So in Ephesians 2:14, it is said of him, 'he is our peace.'

Of the people - It has been doubted whether this means the Jewish people, or the Gentiles. Grotius, Hengstenberg, Vitringa, and others understand it of the Jews; Rosenmuller and others, of the Gentiles. It is not easy to determine which is the correct interpretation. But the meaning, as I apprehend, is, not that he would confirm the ancient covenant with the descendants of Abraham, as Hengstenberg and Vitringa suppose, but that his covenant would be established with all, with both Jews and Gentiles. According to this, it will refer to the Jews, not as Jews, or as already interested in the covenant, but as constituting one portion of the world; and the whole expression will mean, that his religion will be extended to Jews and Gentiles: that is, to the whole world.

For a light of the Gentiles - (See Luke 2:32). 'Light' is the emblem of knowledge, instruction, and of the true religion. The Messiah is often called 'light,' and the 'light of the world' (see Matthew 4:16; compare the note at Isaiah 9:2; John 1:4, John 1:7, John 1:9; John 3:19; John 8:12; John 9:5; John 12:35, John 12:46; Revelation 21:23). This is one of the numerous declarations which occur in Isaiah, that the religion of the Messiah would be extended to the pagan world; and that they, as well as the Jews, would be brought to partake of its privileges.

6. in righteousness—rather, "for a righteous purpose" [Lowth]. (See Isa 42:21). God "set forth" His Son "to be a propitiation (so as) to declare His (God's) righteousness, that God might be just, and (yet) the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Ro 3:25, 26; compare see on [784]Isa 41:2; Isa 45:13; 50:8, 9).

hold … hand—compare as to Israel, the type of Messiah, Ho 11:3.

covenant—the medium of the covenant, originally made between God and Abraham (Isa 49:8). "The mediator of a better covenant" (Heb 8:6) than the law (see Isa 49:8; Jer 31:33; 50:5). So the abstract "peace," for peace-maker (Mic 5:5; Eph 2:14).

the people—Israel; as Isa 49:8, compared with Isa 42:6, proves (Lu 2:32).

Have called thee in righteousness; to declare my righteousness, as is said, Romans 3:26, or my faithfulness, which is frequently called righteousness in Scripture; according to my promise long since made, and oft-renewed. As the former verse asserted God’s power, so this clause declares his will and firm purpose and obligation to effect this work, and both together evince the certainty and necessity of it.

Will hold thine hand; will give thee counsel and strength for thy high and hard work.

Will keep thee, that thou shalt not fail in, nor be hindered by, thine enemies from the accomplishment of thy work.

Give thee for a covenant; to be the Angel of the covenant, as Christ is called, Malachi 3:1; or the Mediator, in and by whom my covenant of grace is made and confirmed with mankind.

Of the people; either of my people, the Jews; or, indefinitely or universally, of all people, not only Jews, but Gentiles also, as it follows.

For a light of the Gentiles; to enlighten them with true and saving knowledge, and to direct them in the right way to true happiness, from which they had miserably wandered. He alludes to God’s fiery pillar, which enlightened and directed the Israelites in the wilderness. I the Lord have called thee in righteousness,.... Not the Prophet Isaiah, as Jarchi and Aben Ezra interpret it; nor the people of Israel, as Kimchi; but the Messiah, whom Jehovah called to the office of Mediator, in a righteous way and manner, consistent with his own perfections; and not against the will of Christ, but with his full consent: or, "unto righteousness", as some (n); so the Arabic version; to fulfil his righteous purposes, concerning the welfare and salvation of his people; to perform his righteous promises of his coming, and of good things by him; to show his strict vindictive justice against sin, in the punishment of it; and to bring in an everlasting righteousness for his people: or it may be rendered, "I have called thee with righteousness (o)"; Christ came a righteous Person, holy in his nature, harmless in his life, and truly deserved the character of Jesus Christ the righteous:

and will hold thine hand: denoting his presence with him, and nearness unto him; his favour and affection for him; his counsel and direction of him; the support and assistance he gave him; and the strength he received from him as man, to go through his work:

and will keep thee; as the apple of his eye, being dear unto him; from being hurt by his enemies till the time came to be delivered into their hands; and from miscarrying in his work; and from the power of the grave, so as to be long detained in it:

and give thee for a covenant of the people; Christ is a covenantee, a party concerned in the covenant of grace; the representative of his people in it; the surety, Mediator, messenger, and ratifier of it; the great blessing in it; the sum and substance of it; all the blessings and promises of it are in him, and as such he is "given"; it is of God's free grace that he was appointed and intrusted with all this in eternity, and was sent in time to confirm and secure it for "the people"; given him of his Father, redeemed by him and to whom the Spirit applies the blessings and promises of the covenant; even the elect of God, both among Jews and Gentiles, especially the latter, as follows:

for a light of the Gentiles; who were in the dark as to the true knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, and the way of righteousness and salvation by him, and of all divine and spiritual things; now Christ, through the ministry of the word by his Spirit, was a light unto them; by which they were enlightened into their own state and condition by nature, and into the knowledge of himself, and the mysteries of grace.

(n) "Ad, sive in justitiam", Sanctius. (o) "cum justitia", Piscator, Forerius, Cocceius.

I the LORD have called thee in {l} righteousness, and will hold {m} thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a {n} covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;

(l) Meaning, to a lawful and just calling.

(m) To assist and guide you.

(n) As him, by whom the promise made to all nations in Abraham will be fulfilled.

6. called thee in righteousness] i.e. in accordance with a stedfast and consistent purpose. See Appendix, Note II, and cf. ch. Isaiah 45:13.

and will keep thee] R.V. marg. (“form thee”) derives the verb from a different root; if this sense be taken, it is necessary to read the words in close connexion with what follows: “I will form and appoint thee for a covenant &c.”

for a covenant of the people] The expression occurs again in ch. Isaiah 49:8, and is one of the most difficult in this prophecy. The idea is necessarily a pregnant one, and it is nowhere developed in such a way that we can be sure of the exact meaning. The notion of a “national league” must be dismissed, because the Heb. běrîth, unlike the German “Bund,” nowhere means “confederation.” To take “people” in the sense of “humanity” is also unsuitable because of Isaiah 49:8, which clearly limits the reference to Israel. Looking at the phrase by itself two constructions are grammatically possible: (a) We may render it, “a covenant of a people,” or “a covenant people,” after the analogy of Genesis 16:12, where Ishmael is called “a wild ass of a man” (cf. “Wonder of a Counsellor” in ch. Isaiah 9:6). This, however, is somewhat strained. (b) The most natural, and on the whole probably the most satisfactory rendering is, “a nation’s covenant,” i.e. the covenant upon which a nation is constituted, the conception implied being that Israel’s future national existence must be based on a new covenant between it and Jehovah (ch. Isaiah 55:3; Jeremiah 31:30-32). The difficulty is thus reduced to the pregnancy of the statement that the Servant is or shall be this covenant. It is probably to be explained in accordance with such expressions as “thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). As “blessing” there means “cause of blessing,” so here “covenant” may be equivalent to the ground or (as most commentators explain) the mediator of a national covenant. The idea at all events must be something like this: the Divine ideal represented by the Servant of the Lord becomes the basis of a new national life, inasmuch as it expresses that for the sake of which Jehovah enters into a new covenant relation with His people.

for a light of the nations] The ultimate destiny of the Servant; see on Isaiah 42:1.Verse 6. - I the Lord have called thee in righteousness. The "Servant of Jehovah" is addressed. God has "called" him; i.e. appointed him to his mediatorial office "in righteousness," in accordance with the righteous purpose which he has entertained towards his fallen creatures from the beginning of the world. And will give thee for a Covenant of the people (comp. Isaiah 49:8). The covenant between God and his people being in Christ, it is quite consistent with Hebrew usage to transfer the term to Christ himself, in whom the covenant was, as it were, embodied. So Christ is called "our Salvation" and "our Peace," and again, "our Redemption" and "our Life." This is the ordinary tone of Hebrew poetry, which rejoices in personification and embodiment. A prose writer would have said that the Servant of the Lord would be given as the Mediator of a covenant between Jehovah and his people. For a light of the Gentiles (comp. Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 51:4). This closing declaration of Jehovah terminates with similar words of wrath and contempt to those with which the judicial process ended in Isaiah 41:24. "See them all, vanity; nothingness are their productions, wind and desolation their molten images." מעשׂיהם are not the works of the idols, but, as the parallel shows, the productions (plural, as in Ezekiel 6:6; Jeremiah 1:16) of the idolaters - in other words, the idols themselves - a parallel expression to נסכּיהם (from נסך, as in Isaiah 48:5 equals massēkhâh, Isaiah 42:17). אפס און is an emotional asyndeton (Ges. 155, 1, a). The address is thus rounded off by returning to the idolaters, with whom it first started. The first part, vv. 1-24, contains the judicial pleadings; the second part, Isaiah 41:25., recapitulates the evidence and the verdict.
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