Isaiah 42:6
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee 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). Isaiah 42:6The words of Jehovah are now addressed to His servant himself. He has not only an exalted vocation, answering to the infinite exaltation of Him from whom he has received his call; but by virtue of the infinite might of the caller, he may be well assured that he will never be wanting in power to execute his calling. "Thus saith God, Jehovah, who created the heavens, and stretched them out; who spread the earth, and its productions; who gave the spirit of life to the people upon it, and the breath of life to them that walk upon it: I, Jehovah, I have called thee in righteousness, and grasped thy hand; and I keep thee, and make thee the covenant of the people, the light of the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners out of the prison, them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house." The perfect 'âmar is to be explained on the ground that the words of God, as compared with the prophecy which announces them, are always the earlier of the two. האל (the absolutely Mighty) is an anticipatory apposition to Jehovah (Ges. 113**). The attributive participles we have resolved into perfects, because the three first at least declare facts of creation, which have occurred once for all. נוטיהם is not to be regarded as a plural, after Isaiah 54:5 and Job 35:10; but as בּורא precedes it, we may take it as a singular with an original quiescent Yod, after Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 26:12. On רקע (construct of רקע), see Isaiah 40:19. The ו of וצאצאיה (a word found both in Job and Isaiah, used here in its most direct sense, to signify the vegetable world) must be taken in accordance with the sense, as the Vav of appurtenance; since רקע may be affirmed of the globe itself, but not of the vegetable productions upon it (cf., Genesis 4:20; Judges 6:5; 2 Chronicles 2:3). Neshâmâh and rūăch are epithets applied to the divine principle of life in all created corporeal beings, or, what is the same thing, in all beings with living souls. At the same time, neshâmâh is an epithet restricted to the self-conscious spirit of man, which gives him his personality (Psychol. p. 76, etc.); whereas rūăch is applied not only to the human spirit, but to the spirit of the beast as well. Accordingly, עם signifies the human race, as in Isaiah 40:7. What is it, then, that Jehovah, the Author of all being and all life, the Creator of the heaven and the earth, says to His servant here? "I Jehovah have called thee 'in righteousness'" (betsedeq: cf., Isaiah 45:13, where Jehovah also says of Cyrus, "I have raised him up in righteousness"). צדק, derived from צדק, to be rigid, straight, denotes the observance of a fixed rule. The righteousness of God is the stringency with which He acts, in accordance with the will of His holiness. This will of holiness is, so far as the human race is concerned, and apart from the counsels of salvation, a will of wrath; but from the standpoint of these counsels it is a will of love, which is only changed into a will of wrath towards those who despise the grace thus offered to them. Accordingly, tsedeq denotes the action of God in accordance with His purposes of love and the plan of salvation. It signifies just the same as what we should call in New Testament phraseology the holy love of God, which, because it is a holy love, has wrath against its despisers as its obverse side, but which acts towards men not according to the law of works, but according to the law of grace. The word has this evangelical sense here, where Jehovah says of the Mediator of His counsels of love, that He has called Him in strict adherence to the will of His love, which will show mercy as right, but at the same time will manifest a right of double severity towards those who scornfully repel the offered mercy. That He had been called in righteousness, is attested to the servant of Jehovah by the fact that Jehovah has taken Him by the hand (ואחזד contracted after the manner of a future of sequence), and guards Him, and appoints Him גּוים לאור עם לברית. These words are a decisive proof that the idea of the expression "servant of Jehovah" has been elevated in Isaiah 42:1., as compared with Isaiah 41:8, from the national base to the personal apex. Adherence to the national sense necessarily compels a resort to artifices which carry their own condemnation, such as that עם ברית signifies the "covenant nation,"as Hitzig supposes, or "the mediating nation," as Ewald maintains, whereas either of these would require ברית עם; or "national covenant" (Knobel), in support of which we are referred, though quite inconclusively, to Daniel 11:28, where קדשׁ בּרית does not mean the covenant of the patriots among themselves, but the covenant religion, with its distinctive sign, circumcision; or even that עם is collective, and equivalent to עמים (Rosenmller), whereas עם and גוים, when standing side by side, as they do here, can only mean Israel and the Gentiles; and so far as the passage before us is concerned, this is put beyond all doubt by Isaiah 49:8 (cf., Isaiah 42:6).

An unprejudiced commentator must admit that the "servant of Jehovah" is pointed out here, as He in whom and through whom Jehovah concludes a new covenant with His people, in the place of the old covenant that was broken - namely, the covenant promised in Isaiah 54:10; Isaiah 61:8; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 16:60. The mediator of this covenant with Israel cannot be Israel itself, not even the true Israel, as distinguished from the mass (where do we read anything of this kind?); on the contrary, the remnant left after the sweeping away of the mass is the object of this covenant.

(Note: This is equally applicable to V. F. Oehler (Der Knecht Jehova's im Deuterojesaia, 2 Theile, 1865), who takes the "servant of Jehovah" as far as Isaiah 52:14 in a national sense, and supposes "the transition from the 'servant' as a collective noun, to the 'servant' as an individual," to be effected there; whereas two younger theologians, E. Schmutz (Le Serviteur de Jhova, 1858) and Ferd. Philippi (Die bibl. Lehre vom Knechte Gottes, 1864), admit that the individualizing commences as early as Isaiah 42:1.)

Nor can the expression refer to the prophets as a body, or, in fact, have any collective meaning at all: the form of the word, which is so strongly personal, is in itself opposed to this. It cannot, in fact, denote any other than that Prophet who is more than a prophet, namely, Malachi's "Messenger of the covenant" (Isaiah 3:1). Amongst those who suppose that the "servant of Jehovah" is either Israel, regarded in the light of its prophetic calling, or the prophets as a body, Umbreit at any rate is obliged to admit that this collective body is looked at here in the ideal unity of one single Messianic personality; and he adds, that "in the holy countenance of this prophet, which shines forth as the idea of future realization, we discern exactly the loved features of Him to whom all prophecy points, and who saw Himself therein." This is very beautiful; but why this roundabout course? Let us bear in mind, that the servant of Jehovah appears here not only as one who is the medium of a covenant to the nation, and of light to the Gentiles, but as being himself the people's covenant and heathen's light, inasmuch as in his own person he is the band of a new fellowship between Israel and Jehovah, and becomes in his own person the light which illumines the dark heathen world. This is surely more than could be affirmed of any prophet, even of Isaiah or Jeremiah. Hence the "servant of Jehovah" must be that one Person who was the goal and culminating point to which, from the very first, the history of Israel was ever pressing on; that One who throws into the shade not only all that prophets did before, but all that had been ever done by Israel's priests of kings; that One who arose out of Israel, for Israel and the whole human race, and who stood in the same relation not only to the wider circle of the whole nation, but also to the inner circle of the best and noblest within it, as the heart to the body which it animates, or the head to the body over which it rules. All that Cyrus did, was simply to throw the idolatrous nations into a state of alarm, and set the exiles free. But the Servant of Jehovah opens blind eyes; and therefore the deliverance which He brings is not only redemption from bodily captivity, but from spiritual bondage also. He leads His people (cf., Isaiah 49:8-9), and the Gentiles also, out of night into light; He is the Redeemer of all that need redemption and desire salvation.

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