Isaiah 49:5
And now, said the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.
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(5) Though Israel be not gathered.—Better, and that Israel be gathered to Him. The negative, as in Isaiah 9:3, comes from an error of transcription; for “yet” read and. The Servant falls back upon the greatness of the work committed to him, that of restoring Israel, and is certain that sooner or later it will be accomplished. Comp. the argument of Romans 9-11

Isaiah 49:5-6. And now, saith the Lord — These are the words of the Father, addressing his Son, now become incarnate for the redemption of mankind; that formed me from the womb — This refers to the human nature of Christ formed in the womb of the Virgin by the Holy Ghost; to bring Jacob again to him — To convert the wicked and apostate Israelites. Though Israel be not gathered — Be not brought to God by my ministry: or, according to the reading of the margin, that Israel may be gathered to him, and I may be glorious, &c. The word יאסŠ, be gathered, implies that the Israelites were scattered from God, and divided among themselves, as they were, in a high degree, when Christ came into the world, having, as is said Isaiah 53:6, turned every one to his own way, and therefore they needed to be gathered. It seems to be a metaphor taken from wandering sheep, which the good shepherd diligently seeks and brings home to the fold. Yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord — According to this reading, preferred by our translators, the sense is, Though Israel, God’s own, and, at present, his only people, reject me, which will be a cause of great wonder and scandal, yet God will not despise me for the unsuccessfulness of my labours among them, but will honour and glorify me, both with himself and in the face of the world, in crowning my endeavours with glorious success among other people. And my God shall be my strength — To support me under this and all other discouragements and difficulties in the discharge of my office. And he — The Lord; said, It is a light thing — A small matter in comparison of what follows; that thou shouldest raise up the tribes of Jacob — That remnant of them which shall survive all their calamities and desolations. I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles — I will make thy labour effectual for the illumination, conversion, and salvation of the Gentiles in all parts of the world. This could not be said of Isaiah with any colour of truth, and therefore must be understood of Christ, by whom it was literally and fully accomplished. The words, That thou mayest be my salvation, mean, that the Messiah should be the revealer, procurer, and giver of eternal salvation to the believing Gentiles.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 now, saith the Lord that formed me - This verse contains the reason why he cherished the hope that his work would not be unaccepted. The reason is, that Yahweh had said to him that he should be glorious in his eyes, and that he would be his strength. He stood so high in his favor, and he had such assurances of that favor, that he could confidently commit himself to his care.

That formed thee from the womb - Who appointed me before I was born to the office of a servant to accomplish important purposes (see the notes at Isaiah 49:1).

To bring Jacob again to him - To recover the Jewish people again to the pure worship of Yahweh. To them the Messiah was first to be sent, and when they rejected him, he was to proffer the same salvation to the Gentiles (see Isaiah 49:6; compare Matthew 21:33-43). Accordingly the Saviour spent his life in preaching to the Jews, and in endeavoring to bring them back to God, and for this purpose he regarded himself as sent (Matthew 15:24; see Acts 3:26).

Though Israel be not gathered - This metaphor is taken from a scattered flock which a shepherd endeavors to gather, or collect to himself. There is great variety in the interpretation of this expression. The margin reads it, 'That Israel may be gathered to him, and I may' be glorious. So Lowth, 'That Israel unto him may be gathered.' So Noyes, 'To gather Israel to him.' Jerome renders it, 'Israel shall not be gathered.' The Septuagint renders it, 'To gather Jacob unto him, and Israel.' The Syriac, 'That I may gather Jacob unto him, and assemble Israel.' This variety has arisen front the different readings in the Hebrew text. The reading in the text is לא lo' ("not"); but instead of this the marginal reading, or the Qere' of the Masoretes is, לו lô, "to him." 'Five manuscripts (two ancient),' says Lowth, 'confirm the Qere', or marginal construction of the Masoretes; and so read Aquila, and the Chaldee, Septuagint, and Arabic.' Gesenius and Rosenmuller adopt this, and suppose that לא lo' is only a different form of writing לו lô. Grotius and Hengstenberg render it as it is in our version. It is impossible to determine the true reading; and the only guide is the context, and the views which shall be entertained of the design of the passage. To me it seems that the parallelism demands that we should adopt the reading of the Keri, the Septuagint, the Chaldee, and the Syriac, and which has been adopted by Lowth. According to this, it means that he had been appointed to gather in the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and gave his life to it. Other parts of this statement Isaiah 49:4-6 show, that by them he was rejected, and that then salvation was sent to other parts of the world. Luther renders it, 'That Israel be not carried away.'

Yet shall I be - Or, "and" (ו ve) I shall be glorious. The sense is, that as the result of this appointment he would be in some way glorious in the sight of Yahweh. Though he would be rejected by the nation, yet he would be honored by God. He would not only approve his character and work, but would secure his being honored among people by making him the light of the Gentiles (compare Isaiah 43:4).

And my God shall be my strength - He might be rejected by the people, but in God he would find an unfailing source of support and consolation. It is not needful to say, that this applies most accurately to the cbaracter of the Redeemer as exhibited in the New Testament.

5. The reason why He was confident that His work would be accepted and rewarded, namely, because He is "glorious in the eyes of Jehovah," &c.

to bring Jacob again to him—(Mt 15:24; Ac 3:26).

Though Israel be not gathered—metaphor from a scattered flock which the shepherd gathers together again; or a hen and her chickens (Mt 23:37). Instead of the text "not," the Keri has the similar Hebrew word, "to Him," which the parallelism favors: "And that Israel may be gathered to Him."

yet—rather, parenthetically. "For I am glorious, &c., and My God is My strength." Then (Isa 49:6) resuming the words from the beginning of Isa 49:5, "He saith" (I repeat), &c. Horsley explains, "Notwithstanding the incredulity of the Jews, Messiah shall be glorified in the conversion of the Gentiles," reading as English Version: but if the Keri be read, "Israel shall at one time or other be gathered, notwithstanding their incredulity during Messiah's sojourn on earth."

To bring Jacob again to him; to convert the wicked and apostate Israelites unto God.

Though Israel be not gathered; not brought home to God by my ministry. This word implies that the Israelites were divided and scattered from God, and divided among themselves, as they were in a high degree when Christ came into the world, and turned every one to his own way, as is said, Isaiah 53:6, and therefore needed to be gathered. Either it is a metaphor from wandering sheep, Which the good shepherd diligently seeketh, and bringeth home to the fold; or it is an allusion to the state of the Israelites, who either now were, or shortly were to be, dispersed into several parts of the world, from whence God had promised to gather them, and bring them into their own land, and unto his temple, Isaiah 43:5,6, and elsewhere. The sense is, Though Israel, God’s own and only people, reject me, which will be an occasion of great wonder and scandal.

Yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord; God will not despise me for the unsuccessfulness of my labours, but will honour and glorify me, both with himself and in the face of the world, in crowning my endeavours with glorious success among other people.

My God shall be my strength, to support and strengthen me under this and all other discouragements and difficulties in the discharge of mine office. And now, saith the Lord,.... Jehovah the Father, in confirmation of the call, office, and work of Christ, which he hath declared, Isaiah 49:1,

that formed me from the womb to be his servant; who preordained him to this service before the world began, and prepared him for it from the womb of his mother Mary, by filling him with grace and wisdom and with the Spirit without measure; anointing him with the oil of gladness above his fellows, and so fitting him as man and Mediator for the preaching of the Gospel, and every other service he called him:

to bring Jacob again, to him; the lost sheep of the house of Israel, God's elect among the Jews, which were as straying sheep; or all his chosen people, whether Jews or Gentiles, which were scattered abroad, and were afar off from God, whom Christ was to bring back again, and bring nigh unto God, and did:

though Israel be not gathered: in general, only a remnant, according to the election of grace, the greater part refusing to be gathered ministerially by him; and the rulers not suffering the common people to attend on his ministry. Matthew 23:37. It may be observed that there is a marginal reading of the Hebrew, different from the written text; instead of "not" it is "to him"; and may be rendered thus, "and Israel shall be gathered unto him"; and then the sense entirely agrees with the preceding clause, with which the words are connected, and not with the following, as the accent "athnach" shows, thus; the Lord appointed and formed me to be his servant to bring back Jacob, and that Israel might be gathered to him; as all the Israel of God, all the elect of God were by the sufferings and death of Christ; see Ephesians 1:10. The marginal reading, and the writing, may be both retained, as in some other places, thus, "and shall not Israel be gathered to him?" since he has formed me to bring back Jacob to him? verily he shall. The marginal reading is followed by the Targum, and the passage paraphrased thus,

"to return the house of Jacob to his service, and Israel shall be brought nigh, to his fear.''

And so it is by Jarchi, Aben Ezra, and Kimchi, and by the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, and by Aquila: "yet shall I be glorious" in the eyes of the Lord; or "I shall be glorious", &c.; as he was at his baptism and transfiguration on the mount; by the wonderful things done in heaven and on earth at the time of his death, at his resurrection from the dead, his ascension to heaven, and exaltation at the right hand of God, far above all principalities and powers, angels, authorities, and powers, being subject to him; and by the ministration of the Gospel in the Gentile world, and particularly when he shall reign gloriously in the latter day, and in the New Jerusalem church state:

and my God shall be my strength; to keep up his spirits under all discouragements; to protect him from his enemies; to support him in his work as man; to carry him through it, and enable him completely to perform it, as he promised he would, and as he did, Isaiah 49:8.

And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, {g} yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.

(g) Though the Jews refuse my doctrine, yet God will approve my ministry.

5, 6. The Servant’s faith is rewarded by the revelation of a loftier mission than he had heretofore been conscious of.

though Israel be not gathered] R.V. “and that Israel be gathered unto him.” We have here the same confusion between lô’ (not) and (to him) as in ch. Isaiah 9:3. The verb for “gather,” however, is used in two senses, either “to gather in” or “to take away,” “gather off” (e.g. Ezekiel 34:29, R.V. marg.); by adopting the latter we might retain the negative particle as in the consonantal text: and that Israel be not swept away. The clause, at all events, being parallel to the preceding, must express a similar idea; the rendering of A.V. proceeds on a wrong view of the construction.

yet shall I be glorious] Rather: and I shall be (or am) honourable (a different root from that used in Isaiah 49:3). This second half of the verse seems somewhat out of place in its present context (hence it is marked by R.V. as a parenthesis). Its original position may have been (as Duhm thinks) at the end of Isaiah 49:3, reading: “and so I was honourable in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God was my strength.”Verse 5. - And now, saith the Lord, etc.; rather, and now the Lord hath said - he that formed me from the womb to be a Servant to him, that I might bring back Jacob to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him; for I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God is become my Strength - he hath said - It is a light thing, etc. The whole of ver. 5, after the words, "and now the Lord hath said," is parenthetic. (On the service which our Lord continually rendered, while on earth, to the Father, see Luke 2:49; Luke 4:43; John 4:34; John 6:38; John 17:4.) The Revelation of St. John shows that in heaven he is still engaged in carrying out his Father's behests. Though Israel be not gathered. This reading, as Mr. Cheyne remarks, "entirely spoils the symmetry of the verse." The practice of writing fresh copies of the Scripture from dictation is answerable for the double reading of לֹא and לו both here and in other places. Yet shall I be glorious. The "Servant" would receive glory even by such a partial conversion of the Jews as took place through his ministry. It is never to be forgotten that all the original twelve apostles were Jews, that Matthias was a Jew, that Paul and Barnabas were Jews, and that the original Church was a Church of Jews (Acts 2:41-47). All that was truly spiritual in Judaism flowed into the Church of Christ, as into its natural home, and the Jewish element in the Church, if not numerically great, was yet the predominant and formative element. So far the address is hortatory. In the face of the approaching redemption, it demands fidelity and faith. But in the certainty that such a faithful and believing people will not be wanting within the outer Israel, the prophecy of redemption clothes itself in the form of a summons. "Go out of Babel, flee from Chaldaea with voice of shouting: declare ye, preach ye this, carry it out to the end of the earth! Say ye, Jehovah hath redeemed Jacob His servant. And they thirsted not: He led them through dry places; He caused water to trickle out of rocks for them; He split rocks, and waters gushed out. There is no peace, saith Jehovah, for the wicked." They are to go out of Babylon, and with speed and joy to leave the land of slavery and idolatry far behind. Bârach does not mean literally to flee in this instance, but to depart with all the rapidity of flight (compare Exodus 14:5). And what Jehovah has done to them, is to be published by them over the whole earth; the redemption experienced by Israel is to become a gospel to all mankind. The tidings which are to be sent forth (הוצי) as in Isaiah 42:1), extend from גאל to the second מים, which is repeated palindromically. Jehovah has redeemed the nation that He chose to be the bearer of His salvation, amidst displays of love, in which the miracles of the Egyptian redemption have been renewed. This is what Israel has to experience, and to preach, so far as it has remained true to its God. But there is no peace, saith Jehovah, to the reshâ‛ı̄m: this is the name given to loose men (for the primary meaning of the verbal root is laxity and looseness), i.e., to those whose inward moral nature is loosened, without firm hold, and therefore in a state of chaotic confusion, because they are without God. The reference is to the godless in Israel. The words express the same thought negatively which is expressed positively in Galatians 6:16, "Peace upon the Israel of God." "Shâlōm is the significant and comprehensive name given to the coming salvation. From this the godless exclude themselves; they have no part in the future inheritance; the sabbatical rest reserved for the people of God does not belong to them. With this divine utterance, which pierces the conscience like the point of an arrow, this ninth prophecy is brought to a close; and not that only, but also the trilogy concerning "Babel" in chapters 46-49, and the whole of the first third of these 3 x 9 addresses to the exiles. From this time forth the name Kōresh (Cyrus), and also the name Babel, never occur again; the relation of the people of Jehovah to heathenism, and the redemption from Babylon, so far as it was foretold and accomplished by Jehovah, not only proving His sole deity, but leading to the overthrow of the idols and the destruction of their worshippers. This theme is now exhausted, and comes into the foreground no more. The expression איּים שׁמעוּ, in its connection with עמּי נחמוּ, points at once to the diversity in character of the second section, which commences here.
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