Isaiah 49:3 Commentaries: He said to Me, "You are My Servant, Israel, In Whom I will show My glory."
Isaiah 49:3
And said to me, You are my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) Thou art my servant, O Israel.—Not that the “Servant” is merely the nation, but that he fulfils its ideal. “Israel” had begun with being an individual name. It should be so once more in the person of Him who would be truly “a prince with God.”

In whom I will be glorified.—Better, in whom I will glorify myself. The words find a conscious echo in John 13:31-32; John 17:1-5.

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 said unto me - That is, as I suppose, to the Messiah. God said to him that he was his servant; he by whom he would be particularly glorified and honored.

Thou art my servant, O Israel - There has been great variety, as was intimated in the analysis of the chapter, in the interpretation of this verse. The question of difficulty is, to whom does the word 'Israel' refer? And if it refer to the Messiah, why is this name given to him? There is no variety in the ancient versions, or in the MSS. The opinions which have been maintained have been referred to in the analysis, and are briefly these:

1. The most obvious interpretation of the verse, if it stood alone, would be to refer it to the Jews as 'the servant of Jehovah,' in accordance with Isaiah 41:8, by whom he would be glorified in accordance with the declaration in Isaiah 44:23. This is the opinion of Rosenmuller and of some others. But the objection to this is, that the things which are affirmed of this 'servant,' by no means apply to the Jews. It is evidently an individual that is addressed; and in no conceivable sense can that be true of the Jews at large which is affirmed of this person in Isaiah 49:4 ff.

2. It has been referred to Isaiah. This was the opinion of Grotius, Dathe, Saadias, Doderlin, and others. Grotius supposes it means, 'thou art my servant for the good of Israel.' So Dathe renders it: 'It is for Israel's benefit that I will glorify myself in thee.' Saadias renders it, 'Thou art my ambassador to Israel.' Aben Ezra says of the passage, 'Thou art my servant, descended from Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Or, the sense is this: Thou who in my eyes art reputed as equal to all Israel.' But, as has been remarked in the analysis, this interpretation is attended with all the difficulty of the interpretation which refers it to the Messiah, and is inconsistent with the known character of Isaiah, and with the declarations made of the person referred to in the following verses. There is certainly no more reason why the name 'Israel' should be given to Isaiah, than there is why it should be given to the Messiah; and it is certain that Isaiah never arrogated to himself such high honor as that of being a light to the Gentiles, and a covenant of the people, and as being one before whom kings would rise up, and to whom princes would do homage.

3. Gesenius supposes that the word 'Israel' is not genuine, but has come by error into the text. But for this there is no authority except one manuscript, to which he himself attaches no weight.

4. The only other interpretation, therefore, is that which refers it to the Messiah. This, which has been the common exposition of commentators, most manifestly agrees with the verses which follow, and with the account which occurs in the New Testament.

The account in Isaiah 49:4-8, is such as can be applied to no other one than he, and is as accurate and beautiful a description of him as if it had been made by one who had witnessed his labors, and heard from him the statement of his own plans. But still, a material question arises, why is this name 'Israel' applied to the Messiah? It is applied to him nowhere else, and it is certainly remarkable that a name should be applied to an individual which is usually applied to an entire people. To this question the following answers, which are, indeed, little more than conjectures, may be returned:

1. Lowth and Vitringa suppose that it is because the name, in its full import and signification, can be given only to him; and that there is a reference here to the fact recorded in Genesis 32:28, where Jacob is said to have wrestled with God, and prevailed, and was, in consequence of that, called Israel. The full import of that name, says Lowth, pertains only to the Messiah, 'who contended powerfully with God in behalf of mankind.'

2. It is common in the Scriptures to use the names which occurred in the history of the Jews as descriptive of things which were to occur under the times of the Messiah, or as representing in general events that might occur at any time. Thus the names, Moab, Edom, Ashur, were used to denote the foes of God in general; the name of Elijah was given to John the Baptist (Hengstenberg).

3. In accordance with this, the name David is not unfrequently given to the Messiah, and he is spoken of under this name, as he was to be his descendant and successor.

4. For the same reason, the name Israel may be given to him - nor as the name of the Jewish people - but the name of the illustrious ancestor of the Jewish race, because he would possess his spirit, and would, like him, wrestle with God. He was to be a prince having power with God (compare Genesis 32:28), and would prevail. In many respects there would be a resemblance between him and this pious and illustrious ancestor of the Jewish people.

In whom I will be glorified - This means that the result of the Redeemer's work would be such as eminently to honor God. He would be glorified by the gift of such a Saviour; by his instructions, his example, the effect of his ministry while on earth, and by his death. The effect of the work of the Messiah as adapted to glorify God, is often referred to in the New Testament (see John 12:28; John 13:31-32; John 14:13; John 16:14; John 17:1-5).

3. Israel—applied to Messiah, according to the true import of the name, the Prince who had power with God in wrestling in behalf of man, and who prevails (Ge 32:28; Ho 12:3, 4). He is also the ideal Israel, the representative man of the nation (compare Mt 2:15 with Ho 11:1).

in whom … glorified—(Joh 14:13; 17:1-5).

As the name of David is sometimes given to his successors, 1 Kings 12:16, and particularly to Christ, Jeremiah 30:9 Ezekiel 34:23 Hosea 3:5, and Jacob is called, as many think, by the name of his grandfather, Abraham, Acts 7:16, 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, 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 the 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. But this word may be otherwise rendered, being joined either,

1. With the foregoing words,

Thou art my servant unto, or in, or

for Israel, i.e. to bring them back unto me, from whom they have revolted; or,

2. With the following words; it is Israel,

in whom I will glorify myself by thee. And said unto me,.... Both in the everlasting council, and when he made a covenant with him in eternity; when he found him and anointed him, and laid help on him; and also when he brought him, his first begotten, into the world, at his incarnation:

thou art my servant; of his choosing, appointing, calling, sending, bringing forth, and supporting; so he was as Mediator, especially in his estate of humiliation, when he appeared in the form of a servant, and came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and give his life a ransom for many; thereby to obtain redemption, which was the great work and service he was appointed to; which he readily undertook, and willingly and cheerfully engaged in, and diligently and faithfully performed; to whom justly belong the characters of an obedient, diligent, prudent, and faithful servant; in answering which he showed his regard to his Father's will, his love to his people, and his great humility and condescension:

O Israel; a name of Christ, and which properly belongs to him, being the antitype of Jacob or Israel; the Head and representative of the whole Israel of God; who was of Israel according to the flesh, and an Israelite indeed in a spiritual sense, and was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Israel is a name of the church, often given to it in this prophecy; Christ and his church, by virtue of the union between them, have the same names; as she is sometimes called by his names, Christ, and the Lord our righteousness, so he is here called by her name Israel, 1 Corinthians 12:12,

in whom I will be glorified; this is Jehovah's end in all he does in nature or grace; and is what Christ had in view in working out our salvation; and all the divine perfections are glorified in it by him, the wisdom, power, faithfulness, holiness, justice, love, grace, and mercy of God. Some render the words actively, "in thee" or "in whom I will glory" (t); as his own Son, in whom he is well pleased, being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person; and in whom also all the seed of Israel glory, as well as are justified. Or, as others, Israel is he, of "whom by thee I will glory", or "glorify" (u); meaning, that it was the spiritual and mystical Israel, the church, whom he would save by his Son and servant, the Messiah, and bring to glory.

(t) "in quo gloriabor", Munster, Tigurine version, De Dieu; "quia in te gloriabor", V. L. (u) "Israel est is de quo, per te gloriaturus sum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "vel glorificaturus", Gal.

And said to me, Thou art my servant, O {e} Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

(e) By Israel is meant Christ, and all the body of the faithful, as the members and their head.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. The word Israel may be read either as a vocative or as a continuation of the predicate: “(Thou art) Israel &c.” (see R.V.). On either view it presents insuperable difficulties to those who hold that the Servant is an individual. To say that as the supreme personage of Israel’s history he receives the name “Israel” is an arbitrary explanation, which is not to be justified by the observation that the name originally belonged to an individual. Since, however, the most important idea of the verse is contained in the words my servant, to which the clause in whom I will be glorified (better: glorify myself) naturally attaches itself, it is possible that Israel may be a gloss, and for that reason no great stress can be laid on the word as an argument for the national interpretation of the passage.Verse 3. - Thou art my Servant, O Israel. That the literal "Israel," is not intended appears plainly from ver. 5. The Servant himself is addressed as "Israel," because he "would stand as a new federal head to the nation" (Kay), which would be summed up in him, and also because he would be, in a truer sense than any other, an "Israel," or "Prince with God." In whom I will be glorified (comp. John 13:31, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him"). He who is "the Brightness of the Father's glory" sets forth that glory before men, and causes them to glorify him, both with their tongues and in their lives. 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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