Isaiah 49:2
And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath 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. Isaiah 49:2The very same person who was introduced by Jehovah in Isaiah 42:1. here speaks for himself, commencing thus in Isaiah 49:1-3 : "Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye nations afar off: Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from my mother's lap hath He remembered my name. And He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me, and made me into a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He concealed me. And He said to me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, thou in whom I glorify myself." Although the speaker is called Israel in Isaiah 49:3, he must not be regarded as either a collective person representing all Israel, or as the collective personality of the kernel of Israel, which answered to its true idea. It is not the former, because in Isaiah 49:5 he is expressly distinguished from the nation itself, which is the immediate object of his special work as restorer and (according to Isaiah 49:8 and Isaiah 42:6) covenant-mediator also; not the latter, because the nation, whose restoration he effects, according to Isaiah 49:5, was not something distinct from the collective personality of the "servant of Jehovah" in a national sense, but rather the entire body of the "servants of Jehovah" or remnant of Israel (see, for example, Isaiah 65:8-16). Moreover, it cannot be either of these, because what he affirms of himself is expressed in such terms of individuality, that they cannot be understood as employed in a collective sense at all, more especially where he speaks of his mother's womb. In every other case in which Israel is spoken of in this way, we find only "from the womb" (mibbeten, Isaiah 44:2, Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 56:3, along with minnı̄-racham; also Isaiah 48:8), without the addition of אם (mother), which is quite unsuitable to the collective body of the nation (except in such allegorical connections as Isaiah 51:1-2, and Ezekiel 16:3). Is it then possibly the prophet, who is here speaking of himself and refers in Isaiah 49:1 to his own mother (compare אמּי in Jeremiah 15:10; Jeremiah 20:14, Jeremiah 20:17)? This is very improbable, if only because the prophet, who is the medium of the word of God in these prophecies, has never placed himself in the foreground before. In Isaiah 40:6 he merely speaks of himself indirectly; in Isaiah 44:26, even if he refer to himself at all (which we greatly doubt), it is only objectively; and in Isaiah 48:16, the other person, into whose words the words of Jehovah pass, cannot be the prophet, for the simple reason that the transition of the words of Jehovah into those of His messenger is essentially different in this instance from the otherwise frequent interchange of the words of Jehovah and those of His prophet, and also because the messenger of Jehovah speaks of himself there, after the "former things" have come to pass, as the mediator (either in word or deed) of the "new things" which were never heard of before, but are to be expected now; whereas the author of these addresses was also the prophet of the "former things," and therefore the messenger referred to rises up within the course of sacred history predicted by the author of these prophecies. Moreover, what the speaker in this case (Isaiah 49:1-2) says of himself is so unique, so glorious, that it reaches far beyond the vocation and performance of any single prophet, or, in fact, of any individual man subject to the limitations of human life and human strength.

There is nothing else left, therefore, than to suppose that the idea implied in the expression "servant of Jehovah" is condensed in this instance, as in Isaiah 42:1., into that of a single person. When it is expanded to its widest circumference, the "servant of Jehovah" is all Israel; when it only covers its smaller and inner circle, it is the true people of Jehovah contained within the entire nation, like the kernel in the shell (see the definition of this at Isaiah 51:7; Isaiah 65:10; Psalm 24:6; Psalm 73:15); but here it goes back to its very centre. The "servant of Jehovah," in this central sense, is the heart of Israel. From this heart of Israel the stream of salvation flows out, first of all through the veins of the people of God, and thence through the veins of the nations generally. Just as Cyrus is the world-power in person, as made subservient to the people of God, so the servant of Jehovah, who is speaking here, is Israel in person, as promoting the glorification of Jehovah in all Israel, and in all the world of nations: in other words, it is He in whom the true nature of Israel is concentrated like a sun, in whom the history of Israel is coiled up as into a knot for a further and final development, in whom Israel's world-wide calling to be the Saviour of mankind, including Israel itself, is fully carried out; the very same who took up the word of Jehovah in Isaiah 48:16, in the full consciousness of His fellowship with Him, declaring Himself to be His messenger who had now appeared. It must not be forgotten, moreover, that throughout these prophecies the breaking forth of salvation, not for Israel only, but for all mankind, is regarded as bound up with the termination of the captivity; and from this its basis, the restoration of the people who were then in exile, it is never separated. This fact is of great importance in relation to the question of authorship, and favours the conclusion that they emanated from a prophet who lived before the captivity, and not in the midst of it. Just as in chapter 7 Isaiah sees the son of the virgin grow up in the time of the Assyrian oppressions, and then sees his kingdom rising up on the ruins of the Assyrian; so does he here behold the servant of Jehovah rising up in the second half of the captivity, as if born in exile, in the midst of the punishment borne by his people, to effect the restoration of Israel. At the present time, when he begins to speak, coming forward without any further introduction, and speaking in his own name (a unique instance of dramatic style, which goes beyond even Psalm 2:1-12), he has already left behind him the commencement of his work, which was directed towards the salvation of mankind. His appeal is addressed to the "isles," which had been frequently mentioned already when the evangelization of the heathen was spoken of (Isaiah 42:4, Isaiah 42:10, Isaiah 42:12; cf., Isaiah 24:15), and to the "nations from afar," i.e., the distant nations (as in Isaiah 5:26; compare, on the other hand, Jeremiah 23:23). They are to hear what he says, not merely what he says in the words that follow, but what he says generally. What follows is rather a vindication of his right to demand a hearing and obedience, then the discourse itself, which is to be received with the obedience of faith; at the same time, the two are most intimately connected. Jehovah has called him ab utero, has thought of his name from the bowels of his mother (מעי as in Psalm 71:6), i.e., even before he was born; ever since his conception has Jehovah assigned to him his calling, viz., his saving calling. We call to mind here Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41; Galatians 1:15, but above all the name Immanuel, which is given by anticipation to the Coming One in Isaiah 7:14, and the name Jesus, which God appointed through the mouth of angels, when the human life of Him who was to bear that name was still ripening in the womb of the Virgin (Matthew 1:20-23). It is worthy of notice, however, that the great Coming One, though he is described in the Old Testament as one who is to be looked for "from the seed of David," is also spoken of as "born of a woman," whenever his entrance into the world is directly referred to. In the Protevangelium he is called, though not in an individual sense, "the seed of the woman;" Isaiah, in the time of Ahaz, mentions "the virgin" as his mother; Micah (Micah 5:2) speaks of his יולדה; even the typical psalms, as in Psalm 22:10-11, give prominence to the mother. And is not this a sign that prophecy is a work of the Spirit, who searches out the deep things of the counsel of God?

In Isaiah 49:2 the speaker says still further, that Jehovah has made his mouth kecherebh chaddâh (like a sharp sword), namely, that he may overcome everything that resists him as if with a sharp sword, and sever asunder things that are bound up together in a pernicious bond (Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 1:16; Hebrews 4:12); also that He has made him into chēts bârūr (not βέλος εκλεκτόν, lxx, but, as in Jeremiah 51:11, cleaned,

(Note: The comparison to purus is one that naturally suggests itself; but this, like putus, is derived from a root pū.)

polished, sharpened, pointed), namely, to pierce the hearts (Psalm 45:6), and inflict upon them the most wholesome wounds; and again, that Jehovah has hidden him under the shadow of His almighty hand, and kept him concealed in the quiver of His loving counsel, just girt as men keep their swords and arrows in sheaths and quivers ready for the time when they want to use them, in order that in the fulness of time He might draw out this His sword, and put this His arrow to the bow. The question whether the allusion here is to the time preceding the foreknown period of his coming, or whether it is to eternity that the words refer, does not present any great dilemma; at the same time, the prophecy in this instance only traces back the being of the person, who now appears, to the remotest point of his historical coming. Isaiah 49:3 describes, without any figure, what Jehovah has made him. He has said to him (cf., Psalm 2:7): Thou art my servant; thou art Israel, in whom (in quo, as in Isaiah 44:23) I glorify myself. Schenkel's exposition is grammatically impossible: "(It is) in Israel that I will glorify myself through thee." The servant himself is called Israel. We call to mind here the expression in Matthew 16:18, "Thou art Peter;" and the use of the name "Israel," as the individuation of a generic name, reminds us of the fact that the kings of a nation are sometimes called by the name of the nation itself (e.g., Asshur, Isaiah 10:5.). But Israel was from the very first the God-given name of an individual. Just as the name Israel was first of all given to a man, and then after that to a nation, so the name which sprang from a personal root has also a personal crown. The servant of Jehovah is Israel in person, inasmuch as the purpose of mercy, upon the basis of which and for the accomplishment of which Jehovah made Jacob the father of the twelve-tribed nation, is brought by him into full and final realization. We have already seen that Israel, as an entire nation, formed the basis of the idea contained in the term "servant of Jehovah;" Israel, regarded as a people faithful to its calling, the centre; and the personal servant of Jehovah its apex. In the present instance, where he is called distinctly "Israel," the fact is clearly expressed, that the servant of Jehovah in these prophecies is regarded as the kernel of the kernel of Israel, as Israel's inmost centre, as Israel's highest head. He it is in whom (i.e., on whom and through whom) Jehovah glorifies Himself, inasmuch as He carried out through him the counsels of His love, which are the self-glorification of His holy love, its glory and its triumph.

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