Isaiah 49:2
And he has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand has he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver has he hid me;
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(2) He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword.—The words indicate at once the spiritual nature of the “Servant’s” victories. It is his speech that wounds and heals, his words that go like winged arrows to their mark. The description finds an echo in Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 19:15; Ephesians 6:17. The “shaft” is “polished,” as piercing without impediment. It is “hid in the quiver,” reserved, in the drama of the world’s history, and in each crisis of the Servant’s life, till the “hour was come,” the appointed “fulness of time” (John 2:4; John 7:6; Galatians 4:4).

Isaiah 49:2-3. He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword — As he hath made me the great Teacher of his church and of the world, so he hath assisted me by his Spirit, and made my word or doctrine quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, killing men’s lusts, convincing, humbling, and converting their souls, and mighty to pull down strong holds, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me — He will protect me by his power from all mine enemies, until I have finished the work for which he sent me. And made me a polished shaft — Like an arrow, whose point is bright and polished, and therefore pierces deeper. And said, Thou art my servant, O Israel — The person who is here called Israel, cannot, in any sense, be Isaiah. But, as the name of David is sometimes given to his successors, and particularly to Christ, Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23; Hosea 3:5, and the name of Isaac is given to his posterity, Amos 7:9; so here the name of Israel may not unfitly be given to Christ, not only because he descended from his loins, but also, because he was the true and the great Israel, who, in a more eminent manner, prevailed with God, as that name signifies; of whom Jacob, who was first called Israel, was but a type. And as the name of Christ, the head, is sometimes given to his body, the church, as 1 Corinthians 12:12, so it is not strange if, on the contrary, the name of Israel, which properly belongs to the church, be given to Christ, the head of it. The words, however, may be rendered, Thou art my servant, unto, in, or for Israel, that is, to bring them back unto me, from whom they have revolted; or Israel is he in whom I will be glorified by thee.49:1-6 The great Author of redemption shows the authority for his work. The sword of his word slays the lusts of his people, and all at enmity with them. His sharp arrows wound the conscience; but all these wounds will be healed, when the sinner prays to him for mercy. But even the Redeemer, who spake as never man spake in his personal ministry, often seemed to labour in vain. And if Jacob will not be brought back to God, and Israel will not be gathered, still Christ will be glorious. This promise is in part fulfilled in the calling of the Gentiles. Men perish in darkness. But Christ enlightens men, and so makes them holy and happy.And he hath made my mouth - The idea here is, that he had qualified him for a convincing and powerful eloquence - for the utterance of words which would penetrate the heart like a sharp sword. The mouth here, by an obvious figure, stands for discourse. The comparison of words that are pungent, penetrating, powerful, to a sword, is common. Indeed the very terms that I have incidentally used, 'pungent,' 'penetrating,' are instances of the same kind of figure, and are drawn from a needle, or anything sharp and pointed, that penetrates. Instances of this occur in the following places in the Scriptures: 'The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies' Ecclesiastes 12:11. 'The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow' Hebrews 4:12. In Revelation 1:16, probably in reference to this passage, the Redeemer is represented as seen by John as having a 'sharp two-edged sword' proceeding out of his mouth. So in Isaiah 19:15 : 'And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword.' The bold and striking metaphor of the sword and arrow applied to powerful discourse, has been used also by pagan writers with great elegance and force. In the passages quoted by Lowth, it is said of Pericles by Aristophanes:

'His powerful speech

Pierced the hearer's soul, and left behind

Deep in his bosom its keen point infixt.'

So Pindar, Olym. ii.:160:

'Come on! thy brighest shafts prepare,

And bend, O Muse, thy sounding bow:

Say, through what paths of liquid air

Our arrows shall we throw?'


A similar expression occurs in a fragment of Eupolis, in Diod. Sic. xii. 40, when speaking of Pericles:

- καὶ μόνος τῶν ῥητόρων

τὸ κέντρον ἐγκατέλειπε τοἴς ἀκροωμένοις.

- kai monos tōn rētorōn


2. my mouth … sword—(Isa 11:4; Re 19:15). The double office of the Word of God, saving and damnatory, is implied (Isa 50:4; Joh 12:48; Heb 4:12).

shaft—(Ps 45:5). "Polished," that is, free from all rust, implies His unsullied purity.

in … quiver … hid me—Like a sword in its scabbard, or a shaft in the quiver, Messiah, before His appearing, was hid with God, ready to be drawn forth at the moment God saw fit [Hengstenberg]; also always protected by God, as the arrow by the quiver (Isa 51:16).

He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; as he made me the great Teacher of his church and of the world, so he assisted me by his Spirit, and made my word or doctrine quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, &c., as it is said to be, Hebrews 4:12, killing men’s lusts, convincing, humbling, and converting their souls; and mighty to the pulling down of strong holds, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, as we read, 2 Corinthians 10:4,5.

In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me; he will protect me by his power from all mine enemies, until I have finished the work for which he sent me.

Made me a polished shaft; like an arrow, whose point is bright and polished; which therefore pierceth deeper. This metaphor signifies the same thing with the former, Christ’s piercing of men’s hearts by his word and Spirit.

Quiver; where arrows are hid and kept. The quiver signifies the same thing with the shadow in the foregoing clause, even God’s powerful and gracious protection of him from dangers and mischiefs. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword,.... Or,

"he hath put his words in my mouth as a sharp sword,''

as the Targum; namely, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and is sharper than a twoedged sword, and is said to come out of the mouth of Christ, Ephesians 6:17, with which he pierces into and cuts the hearts of men, and lays open all their sin and unrighteousness, and cuts down the worst and best in men, and slays all his enemies; so his mouth was as a sharp sword in the days of his flesh, to inveigh against the sins and to refute the errors of the Scribes and Pharisees; as it will be, in the latter day, to smite the nations of the earth, Revelation 19:15, "in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me"; in his counsels and purposes of old, and in his providence;

"in the shadow of his power hath he protected me,''

as the Targum; thus he hid, and protected him from Herod's cruelty in his infancy; and from the rage and malice of the Scribes and Pharisees, who sought often to lay hands on him, and take away his life before his time. The Jews talk very much of the Messiah's being hid under the throne of glory. Aben Ezra's remark, that the phrase, "he hath hid me", answers to the scabbard of a sword, before mentioned, is not amiss:

and made me a polished shaft; or, "choice arrow" (s); which being polished at the point, or well oiled, and shining, pierces the deeper, So the doctrines of Christ, the words of his mouth, are compared to bright and sharp arrows, which make cutting work, and give great pain where they come; as they sometimes do like arrows, swiftly, suddenly, and with great force and power, Psalm 45:5. Kimchi observes, that he speaks of a sharp sword with respect to the Jews that were near, where a sword could reach them; and of a polished shaft or arrow with respect to the Gentiles afar off, which must be cast after them:

in his quiver hath he hid me, meaning his secret purposes, and his powerful protection, as before; which he compares to a quiver, a case in which arrows are put, because mention had been made of a polished shaft or arrow before.

(s) Sept. "sagittam electam", V. L. "telum electum", Cocceius; "sagittam nitidam vel electam", Vitringa.

And he hath made my mouth like a sharp {c} sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he {d} hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;

(c) By the sword and shaft, he signifies the virtue and efficacy of Christ's doctrine.

(d) God has taken me to his protection and defence: this chiefly is meant of Christ, and may also be applied to the ministers of his word.

2. The Servant is described as one prepared in secret for his great work. He compares himself to a weapon fashioned by Jehovah for His own use, but kept in reserve till the fulness of time. As the ideal prophet, he speaks of his mouth, the organ of prophetic utterance (see Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 6:7), as made like a sharp sword in virtue of the “word” which Jehovah puts in it (ch. Isaiah 51:16; cf. Hebrews 4:12).

in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me] (ch. Isaiah 51:16). The metaphor perhaps denotes protection rather than secrecy.

a polished arrow] see Jeremiah 51:16.

There is nothing in the verse inconsistent with the idea that the speaker is Israel personified. The fundamental thought, translated into modern language, would be that prophecy is the highest expression of the genius of Israel; and the idealised nation is naturally identified with what is best and most characteristic in its history, and invested with the character of the ideal prophet. And again, Jehovah’s hiding of His Servant may express the truth that Israel had been providentially preserved through long ages for the sake of the spiritual endowments which made it the mouthpiece of revelation. The further idea that the real mission of Israel was concealed both from the world and from the nation itself is no doubt true, but is perhaps hardly contained in the figure.Verse 2. - He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says that "the Word of God" generally "is... sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow" (Hebrews 4:12). Christian experience testifies that tiffs keen, searching, cutting power attaches in an especial way to the sayings of Jesus, which pierce the heart as no other words can do, and rankle in the soul, which is quite unable to forget them. The imagery recurs in the Revelation of St. John (John 1:16; John 2:12, 16; John 19:15, 21). In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me. Either keeping him safe from the malice of his enemies, or reserving him until, "in the fulness of time," it would be fitting to reveal him to the world. And made me a polished shaft, A weapon even keener than a sword, smoothed and polished, so as to make it pierce the deeper, and kept hid in God's quiver until the time came when it could be launched with most effect against the hearts of ungodly men. The exhortation is now continued. Israel is to learn the incomparable nature of Jehovah from the work of redemption thus prepared in word and deed. The whole future depends upon the attitude which it henceforth assumes to His commandments. "Thus saith Jehovah, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I, Jehovah thy God, am He that teacheth thee to do that which profiteth, and leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldst go. O that thou hearkenedst to my commandments! then thy peace becomes like the river, and thy righteousness like waves of the sea; and thy seed becomes like the sand, and the children of thy body like the grains thereof: its name will not be cut off nor destroyed away from my countenance." Jehovah is Israel's rightful and right teacher and leader. להועיל is used in the same sense as in Isaiah 30:5 and Isaiah 44:10, to furnish what is useful, to produce what is beneficial or profitable. The optative לוּא is followed, as in Isaiah 63:19, by the preterite utinam attenderis, the idea of reality being mixed up with the wish. Instead of ויהי in the apodosis, we should expect ויהי (so would), as in Deuteronomy 32:29. The former points out the consequence of the wish regarded as already realized. Shâlōm, prosperity or health, will thereby come upon Israel in such abundance, that it will, as it were, bathe therein; and tsedâqâh, rectitude acceptable to God, so abundantly, that it, the sinful one, will be covered by it over and over again. Both of these, shâlōm and tsedâqâh, are introduced here as a divine gift, not merited by Israel, but only conditional upon that faith which gives heed to the word of God, especially to the word which promises redemption, and appropriates it to itself. Another consequence of the obedience of faith is, that Israel thereby becomes a numerous and eternally enduring nation. The play upon the words in כמעותיו מעיך is very conspicuous. Many expositors (e.g., Rashi, Gesenius, Hitzig, and Knobel) regard מעות as synonymous with מעים, and therefore as signifying the viscera, i.e., the beings that fill the heart of the sea; but it is much more natural to suppose that the suffix points back to chōl. Moreover, no such metaphorical use of viscera can be pointed out; and since in other instances the feminine plural (such as kenâphōth, qerânōth) denotes that which is artificial as distinguished from what is natural, it is impossible to see why the interior of the sea, which is elsewhere called lēbh (lebhabh, the heart), and indirectly also beten, should be called מעות instead of מעים. To all appearance מעותיו signifies the grains of sand (lxx, Jerome, Targ.); and this is confirmed by the fact that מעא (Neo-Heb. מעה numulus) is the Targum word for גּרה, and the Semitic root מע, related to מג; מק, melted, dissolved, signifies to be soft or tender. The conditional character of the concluding promise has its truth in the word מלּפני. Israel remains a nation even in its apostasy, but fallen under the punishment of kareth (of cutting off), under which individuals perish when they wickedly transgress the commandment of circumcision, and others of a similar kind. It is still a people, but rooted out and swept away from the gracious countenance of God, who no more acknowledges it as His own people.
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