Isaiah 49:6
And he said, It is a light thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the Gentiles, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.
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(6) And he said.—The words are repeated from “saith the Lord” of the preceding verse, where they had been followed by a long parenthesis. The Servant becomes conscious of a higher mission. All national barriers are broken down. He is to be the bearer of a message of peace to the whole race of mankind, and has “other sheep not of this fold” (John 10:16).

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 said - That is, Yahweh said in his promise to the Messiah.

It is a light thing - Margin, 'Art thou lighter than that thou,' etc. Lowth renders it, 'It is a small thing.' Hengstenberg, 'It is too little that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob.' The sense is, that God designed to glorify him in an eminent degree, and that it would not be as much honor as be designed to confer on him, to appoint him merely to produce a reformation among the Jews, and to recover them to the spiritual worship of God. He designed him for a far more important work - for the recovery of the Gentile world, and for the spread of the true religion among all nations. The Septuagint renders this, It is a great thing for thee to be called my servant.' The Chaldee proposes it as a question, 'Is it a small thing for you that you are called my servant?'

My servant - (See Isaiah 49:3).

To raise up the tribes of Jacob - Hebrew, (להקים lehâqiym) - 'To establish,' or confirm the tribes of Jacob; that is, to establish them in the worship of God, and in prosperity. This is to be understood in a spiritual sense, since it is to be synonymous with the blessings which he would bestow on the pagan. His work in regard to both, was to be substantially the same. In regard to the Jews, it was to confirm them in the worship of the true God; and in regard to the pagan, it was to bring them to the knowledge of the same God.

And to restore - To bring back (להשׁיב lehâshiyb) that is, to recover them from their sin and hypocrisy, and bring them back to the worship of the true and only God. The Chaldee, however, renders this, 'To bring back the captivity of Israel.' But it means, doubtless, to recover the alienated Jewish people to the pure and spiritual worship of God.

The preserved of Israel - Lowth renders this, 'To restore the branches of Israel;' as if it were נצרי netsârēy in the text, instead of נצוּרי netsûrēy. The word נצר nêtser means "branch" (see the notes at Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 14:9), and Lowth supposes that it means the branches of Israel; that is, the descendants of Israel or Jacob, by a similitude drawn from the branches of a tree which are all derived from the same stem, or root. The Syriac here renders it, 'The branch of Israel.' But the word properly means those who are kept, or preserved (from נצר nâtsar, "to keep, preserve"), and may be applied either literally to those who were kept alive, or who survived any battle, captivity, or calamity - as a remnant; or spiritually, to those who are preserved for purposes of mercy and grace out of the common mass that is corrupt and unbelieving. It refers here, I suppose, to the latter, and means those whom it was the purpose of God to preserve out of the common mass of the Jews that were sunk in hypocrisy and sin. These, it was the design of God to restore to himself, and to do this, was the primary object in the appointment of the Messiah.

I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles - I will appoint thee to the higher office of extending the knowledge of the true religion to the darkened pagan world. The same expression and the same promise occur in Isaiah 42:6 (see the notes at that verse).

That thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth - (See the note at Isaiah 42:10). The true religion shall be extended to the pagan nations, and all parts of the world shall see the salvation of God. This great work was to be entrusted to the Redeemer, and it was regarded as a high honor that he should thus be made the means of diffusing light and truth among all nations. We may learn hence, first, that God will raise up the tribes of Jacob; that is, that large numbers of the Jews shall yet be 'preserved,' or recovered to himself; secondly, that the gospel shall certainly be extended to the ends of the earth; thirdly, that it is an honor to be made instrumental in extending the true religion. So great is this honor, that it is mentioned as the highest which could be conferred even on the Redeemer in this world. And if he deemed it an honor, shall we not also regard it as a privilege to engage in the work of Christian missions, and to endeavor to save the world from ruin? There is no higher glory for man than to tread in the footsteps of the Son of God; and he who, by self-denial and charity, and personal toil and prayer, does most for the conversion of this whole world to God, is most like the Redeemer, and will have the most elevated seat in the glories of the heavenly world.

6. It is a light thing—"It is too little that Thou shouldest," [Hengstenberg], that is, It is not enough honor to Thee to raise up Jacob and Israel, but I design for Thee more, namely, that Thou shouldest be the means of enlightening the Gentiles (Isa 42:6, 7; 60:3).

the preserved—namely, those remaining after the judgments of God on the nation—the elect remnant of Israel reserved for mercy. Lowth, with a slight but needless change of the Hebrew, translates for "tribes" and "preserved," the "scions"—the "branches."

He; the Lord, expressed both in the foregoing and following verses.

It is a light thing; this is but a small favour in comparison of what follows.

To 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, that thou mayest be my salvation; I will make thy labour effectual for the illumination, and conversion, and salvation of the Gentiles in all the parts of the world; which cannot be said of Isaiah with any truth or colour, and therefore must be understood of Christ, by whom this was literally and fully accomplished. By my salvation he means the great instrument and author of that eternal salvation which I will give to the Gentiles. And he said,.... Or "even he said"; namely, the Lord his God, that called, appointed, and strengthened him for his service:

it is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel; the tribes of Jacob and the preserved of Israel are the elect of God among the Jews; though the characters agree with all the chosen of God of other nations, who, are distinguished from the rest of the world, and are "preserved in Christ", Jde 1:1, where they are preserved before they are redeemed and called; not from falling in Adam with the rest of mankind, nor from the general corruption of nature, nor from actual sins and transgressions; yet from the condemnation of the law, the damning power of sin, and the second death; the ground of which is, their being in the love of God, in the covenant of grace, and in the hands of Christ: and yet, notwithstanding this, they are in a most miserable condition as the descendants of Adam, and, in a state of nature; they are "fallen" creatures, which is supposed by the "raising them up" by Christ, whose work it is; they fell in Adam, and are fallen from a state of honour, friendship, and communion with God; from the glorious image stamped on man in his creation; from righteousness and holiness into sin and misery, poverty and beggary; into a very low estate indeed, and are not able to raise up themselves, being feeble and without strength, yea, dead in trespasses and sins; they are gone back from God, and out of the good way, and are gone astray like lost sheep, which is supposed by the "restoring" of them: now it is Christ's work to "raise up", "restore", or "return" these; he raises them to a state of justification and acceptance with God, to a better righteousness than they fell from, and to greater riches, honour, and glory; in consequence of redemption by Christ they are raised to a state of grace here, and to glory hereafter; they are brought nigh to God, from whom they were departed, sons to have access unto him and fellowship with him now, and to be with him for evermore. Now to do all this is said to be a "light thing"; it was not so in itself, it was a "great thing", famous and excellent, to be a servant of the Lord, and to be employed in such work as this; and so the Septuagint and Arabic versions render it; but this is to be understood either by way of interrogation, as by the Targum, Kimchi, Ben Melech, and so the Syriac version, "is it a matter of small moment that thou shouldest be my servant?" &c.; surely it is not; or, if it is, I will find thee other work to do: or else it is to be understood comparatively, the elect of God among the Jews being few, in comparison of those among the Gentiles; wherefore it was not work enough, nor honour enough, only to be employed in the redemption of them: and therefore it follows,

I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles; which supposes the Gentiles to be in a state of darkness, as they were before the coming of Christ, and the ministration of the Gospel to them; they were in the dark about the divine Being, the unity of God, and the persons in the Godhead; about the worship of God; about a future state, and about their own state and condition; and about revelation, the truths, doctrines, and ordinances of it: and this expresses, that Christ should be a "light" to them, as he has been, not only in a way of nature, as he is to every man, but in a way of special grace through the ministry of the word; not in his own person, for he only preached in Judea, but by his apostles, by whom he went and preached peace to them afar off; and particularly he was so to them by his Spirit, as a spirit of illumination; and so they came to have light in divine things, and which is a "gift" of the free grace of God. Simeon has respect to this passage, Luke 2:32 and the Apostle Paul cites it, and applies it to Gospel times, Acts 13:47, it follows,

that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth; Christ was given, that he might be the author of that salvation, which God had chosen and appointed his people to, and provided for them in covenant; and that being the salvation of his own people, he calls it his own salvation; and which should reach to them all everywhere, in the several parts of the world, and the corners and ends of it, east, west, north, and south, wherever they were. Kimchi refers this to the saving of the Gentiles, after the war of Gog and Magog, yet to come; and with it compares Isaiah 60:3.

And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give {h} thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation to the end of the earth.

(h) To declare my gospel to the Gentiles, as in Isa 42:6, Ac 13:47, Lu 2:32.

6. And he said] resuming the sentence begun in Isaiah 49:5. R.V. “Yea, he saith.”

It is a light thing &c.] Better as R.V. It is too light a thing &c. But the literal translation probably is, “It is too light for thy being a servant to me that thou shouldst raise up” &c., i.e. “To restore Israel is the least part of thy vocation as my servant.” The sense is not affected, and the rendering of R.V. might be defended by the analogy of Ezekiel 8:17. raise up here means “re-establish,” just as “build” frequently means “rebuild” (Psalm 122:3 &c.).

the preserved of Israel] those who survive the destruction of the state (Ezekiel 6:12, R.V. marg.).

I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles] ch. Isaiah 42:6.

that thou mayest be my salvation &c.] Rather: that my salvation may be &c. Comp. the N.T. application in Acts 13:47. The verse evidently describes an enlargement of the Servant’s conception of his vocation. Previously, he had been conscious only of a mission to Israel, and in that mission the significance of the title “Servant of Jehovah” had seemed to be exhausted (Isaiah 49:5). Now it is revealed to him that the name includes a higher function, that, namely, of being the mediator of salvation to all mankind. And since the greater destiny contains the less, the acceptance of this new commission delivers him from the sense of failure by which he had been oppressed (Isaiah 49:4). Whatever view be taken of the Servant’s personality, he speaks as the exponent of the religion of revelation; and the fact here represented is the expansion of that religion from being a national to be a universal religion. The ideal was realised only in the New Testament dispensation, so that in this as in many other respects the portrait of the Servant is an indirect prophecy of Christ. Cf. Luke 2:32.Verse 6. - It is a light thing. God rewards his servants according to their works. He is supremely just. He was not content that even Nebuchadnezzar should be insufficiently rewarded for the service that he rendered against Tyre (Ezekiel 29:18), and he therefore gave him Egypt in addition as his recompense (Ezekiel 29:20). It would have been "a light thing" - "too light a thing" (Kay, Cheyne) - to have rewarded the labours of Jesus with the conversion of the Jews only. God therefore gave him as his recompense the gathering in of the Gentiles also, and made him a means of salvation even to the uttermost ends of the earth. The preserved of Israel; i.e. the "remnant" that had not perished through previous judgments. I will also give thee for a Light to the Gentiles (comp. Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 34:1; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 55:5, etc.). Greeks Ἕλληνες were brought into contact with our Lord himself shortly before his crucifixion (John 12:20). He wrought a miracle for a Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:25-30). His apostles, after a little time, understood that the gospel was for the world at large, and declared that in Christ there was no difference between Jew and Greek, nay! between Jew and barbarian. Christ had died for all - had come to be a Light to all, would have all come into his Church and obtain salvation through union with him. That thou mayest be my Salvation. Christ is called "Salvation," as the Bearer of salvation - he through whom alone can any man be saved (Acts 4:12). So he is called "Peace" (Micah 5:5), as the Giver of peace. 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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