Isaiah 42


The prophet sets forth the meekness of Messiah's character, and

the extent and blessings of his kingdom, particularly among the

Gentiles, 1-9.

In consequence of this he calls on the whole creation to join

him in one song of praise to God, 10-12.

After which he seems again to glance at the deliverance from

the captivity; although the words may full as well apply to the

deliverance vouchsafed to the Church; to the overthrow of her

must powerful enemies; and to the prevalency of true religion

over idolatry and error, 13-17.

The prophet then reproves the Jews for their blindness and

infidelity in rejecting the Messiah, and gives intimations of

these judgments which their guilt would draw on them, 18-25.

The prophet, having opened his subject with the preparation for

the return from captivity at Babylon, and intimated that a much

greater deliverance was covered under the veil of that event,

proceeded to vindicate the power of God, as Creator and disposer

of all things; and his infinite knowledge, from his prediction of

future events, and in particular of that deliverance. He went

still farther, and pointed out the instrument by which he should

effect the redemption of his people the Jews from slavery; namely,

a great conqueror, whom he would call forth from the north and the

east to execute his orders. In this chapter he proceeds to the

greater deliverance; and at once brings forth into full view,

without throwing any veil of allegory over the subject, the

Messiah. "Behold my servant, Messiah," says the Chaldee. St.

Matthew has applied it directly to Christ; nor can it with any

justice or propriety be applied to any other person or character



Verse 1. Behold my servant, whom I uphold] ethmach bo,

on whom I lean. Alluding to the custom of kings leaning on the arm

of their most beloved and faithful servant. All, both Jews and

Christians, agree, that the seven first verses of this chapter

belong to Christ. Now, as they are evidently a continuation of the

prophecy in the preceding chapter, that prophecy cannot belong to

Cyrus, but to Christ.

He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles-"He shall publish

judgment to the nations"] Four MSS. two ancient, add the

conjunction vemishpat. See Mt 12:18.

The word mishpat, judgment, like tsedakah,

righteousness, is taken in a great latitude of signification. It

means rule, form, order, model, plan; rule of right, or of

religion; an ordinance, institution; judicial process, cause,

trial, sentence, condemnation, acquittal, deliverance, mercy, &c.

It certainly means in this place the law to be published by

Messiah, the institution of the Gospel.

Verse 4. He shall not fail nor be discouraged-"His force shall

not be abated nor broken"] Rabbi Meir ita citat locum istum, ut

post yaruts, addat cocho, robur ejus, quod hodie

non comparet in textu Hebraeo, sed addendum videtur, ut sensus

fiat planior. "Rabbi Meir cites this passage so as to add after

yarats cocho, his force, which word is not found

in the present Hebrew text, but seems necessary to be added to

make the sense more distinct." Capell. Crit. Sac. p. 382. For

which reason I had added it in the translation, before I observed

this remark of Capellus.-L.

Verse 6. A covenant of the people-"A covenant to the people"]

For am, two MSS. of Dr. Kennicott's, and of my own, read

olam, the covenant of the age to come, or the everlasting

covenant; which seems to give a clearer and better sense. But I

think the word berith, here, should not be translated

covenant, but covenant sacrifice, which meaning it often has;

and undoubtedly in this place. This gives a still stronger and

clearer sense.

Verse 7. To open the blind eyes] In this verse the prophet seems

to set forth the spiritual redemption, under images borrowed from

the temporal deliverance.

Out of the prison house-"And from the dungeon."] The Septuagint,

Syriac, and four MSS., one ancient, add the conjunction vau,

umibbeith, and from the house.

Verse 8. I am the Lord] ani Yehovah. This is the

famous tetragrammaton, or name of four letters, which we write

Jehovah, Yehovah, Yehveh, Yeveh, Jhuh, Javah, &c. The letters

are Y H U H. The Jews never pronounce it, and the true

pronunciation is utterly unknown.

That is my name] A name peculiar to myself.

Verse 10. Ye that go down to the sea] This seems not to belong

to this place; it does not well consist with what follows, "and

the fulness thereof." They that go down upon the sea means

navigators, sailors, traders, such as do business in great waters;

an idea much too confined for the prophet, who means the sea in

general, as it is used by the Hebrews, for the distant nations,

the islands, the dwellers on the sea-coasts all over the world. I

suspect that some transcriber had the 23d verse of Psalm cvii.

Ps 107:23 running in his head,

yoredey haiyam booniyoth, and wrote in this place

yoredey haiyam instead of yiram haiyam, or

yari, or yaran; "let the sea roar, or shout, or exult." But

as this is so different in appearance from the present reading, I

do not take the liberty of introducing it into the translation.

Conjeceram legendum yegidu, ut Isa 42:12; sed non favent

Versiones. "I would propose to read yegidu, as in

Isa 42:12; but this is not supported by the Versions."


Verse 11. Let the wilderness] The most uncultivated countries,

and the most rude and uncivilized people, shall confess and

celebrate with thanksgiving the blessing of the knowledge of God

graciously imparted to them. By the desert is meant Arabia

Deserta; by the rocky country, Arabia Petraea; by the mountains,

probably those celebrated ones, Paran, Horeb, Sinai, in the same

country; to which also belonged Kedar, a clan of Arabians,

dwelling for the most part in tents; but there were others of them

who inhabited or frequented cities and villages, as may be

collected from this place of the prophet. Pietro della Valle,

speaking of the people of Arabia Deserta, says: "There is a sort

of Arabs of that country called Maedi, who with their herds, of

buffaloes for the most part, sometimes live in the deserts, and

sometimes in cities; from whence they have their name, which

signifies wandering, going from place to place. They have no

professed houses; nor are they properly Bedaui, or Beduui, that

is, Deserticoli, who are the most noble among them, and never

abide within walls, but always go wandering through the open

country with their black tents; nor are they properly called

Hhadesi, as they call those who dwell in cities, and lands with

fixed houses. These by the latter are esteemed ignoble and base;

but both are considered as of low condition." Viaggi, Parte III.

lett. ii.

The villages that Kedar doth inhabit] The Arabs, according to

the Targum.

The inhabitants of the rock] They who dwell on fortified places.

The Vulgate has habitatores Petraeae, "the inhabitants of Arabia

Petraea." Those who make the rock Jesus Christ, the inhabitants of

the rock, true believers in him; the singing, rejoicing for the

salvation they have received; abuse and disgrace the passage and

the pulpit. I have heard a clergyman, a magistrate, a justice of

the quorum, spend an hour in showing from these words, 1. That

they meant Jesus Christ, and none other. 2. That he might be fully

compared to a rock, as the foundation on which his Church was

built, and on which all true believers rested for their salvation.

3. A rock, because of his strength and might in destroying his

enemies, and supporting his friends. 4. A refreshing rock, like

that in the wilderness; and that rock was Christ. 5. A perspective

rock, from which true believers could discover their heavenly

inheritance: "When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock

that is higher than I," &c. Now all this is true in itself; but

false in respect to the words on which it was professedly built,

for they have no such meaning.

Verse 14. I have been still-"Shall I keep silence for ever"]

After meolam, in the copy which the Septuagint had before

them, followed the word , heleolam, εσιωπησααπαιωνοςμη

καιαεισιωπησομαι according to MSS. Pachom. and I. D. II. and

Edit. Complut., which word, haleolam, has been omitted in

the text by an easy mistake of a transcriber, because of the

similitude of the word preceding. Shall I always keep silence?

like that of Juvenal: Semper ego auditor tantum? Shall I always be

a hearer only?

Verse 15. I will make the rivers islands-"I will make the rivers

dry deserts"] Instead of iyim, islands, read tsiim;

a very probable conjecture of Houbigant.

Verse 16. In paths] The Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and nine

MSS., (two ancient,) read ubenotiboth.

Will I do unto them] asitem. This word, so written as it

is in the text, means "thou wilt do," in the second person. The

Masoretes have indeed pointed it for the first person; but the

yod in the last syllable is absolutely necessary to distinguish

the first person; and so it is written in forty MSS.,


Jarchi, Kimchi, Sal. ben Melec, &c., agree that the past time is

here put for the future, asithi for ; and indeed the

context necessarily requires that interpretation. Farther it is to

be observed that asithim is put for asithi

lahem, "I have done them," for "I have done for them;" as

asitheni is for asiti li, "I have made myself," for "I

have made for myself," Eze 29:2; and in the celebrated passage of

Jephthah's vow, Jud 11:31,

veheelitihu olah for heelithi lo olah, "I will

offer him a burnt-offering," for "I will offer unto him (that is,

unto JEHOVAH) a burnt-offering;" by an ellipsis of the preposition

of which Buxtorf gives many other examples, Thes. Grammat. lib.

ii. 17. See also Clarke's note on "Isa 65:5". A late happy

application of this grammatical remark to that much disputed passage has

perfectly cleared up a difficulty which for two thousand years had

puzzled all the translators and expositors, had given occasion to

dissertations without number, and caused endless disputes among

the learned on the question, whether Jephthah sacrificed his

daughter or not; in which both parties have been equally ignorant

of the meaning of the place, of the state of the fact, and of the

very terms of the vow; which now at last has been cleared up

beyond all doubt by my learned friend Dr. Randolph, Margaret

Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford, in his Sermon

on Jephthah's Vow, Oxford, 1766.-L.

Verse 19. As my messenger that I sent-"As he to whom I have sent

my messengers"] kemalachey eshlach, ut ad quem nuncios

meos misi. The Vulgate and Chaldee are almost the only

interpreters who render it rightly, in consistence with the rest

of the sentence, and in perfect agreement with the Hebrew idiom;

according to which the ellipsis is to be thus supplied:

kelaasher malachey eshlach; "As he to

whom I have sent my messengers."

As he that is perfect-"As he who is perfectly instructed"]

See Clarke on Isa 44:2.

And blind as the Lord's servant-"And deaf, as the servant of

JEHOVAH"] For veivver, and blind, we must read

vecheresh, and deaf: κωφος, Symmachus, and so a MS. The mistake

is palpable, and the correction self-evident, and admissible

though there had been no authority for it.

Verse 20. Seeing many things-"Thou hast seen indeed"] The text

has raith rabith, which the Masoretes in the marginal

Keri have corrected to reoth rabboth; as indeed one

hundred and seven MSS., and five editions, now have it in the

text. This was probably the reading of most of the MSS. of their

time; which, though they approved of it, out of some superstition

they would not admit into their standard text. But these wretched

critics, though they perceived there was some fault, yet did not

know where the fault lay, nor consequently how to amend it; and

yet it was open enough to a judicious eye: rabboth, sic

veteres; et tamen forte legendum, reoth, vide cap.

Isa 6:9."

-Secker. That is, raith, reoth, seeing, thou shalt see.

I believe no one will doubt of admitting this as the true reading.

But he heareth not-"Yet thou wilt not hear"] For yishma,

read tishma, in the second person; so all the ancient

Versions and forty MSS. of Kennicott's, (four of them ancient,)

and seventeen of De Rossi's, and perhaps five more. Two

others have tishmeu, second person plural.

Verse 21. He will magnify the law-"He hath exalted his own

praise"] For torah, the law, the Septuagint read

todah, praise.

Verse 22. They are all of them snared in holes-"All their chosen

youths are taken in the toils"] For hapheach read

huphachu, in the plural number, hophal; as hochbau, which

answers to it in the following member of the sentence. Le Clerc,

Houbigant. huppach, Secker.

Verse 24. We have sinned-"They have sinned"] For chatanu,

"we have sinned," first person; the Septuagint and Chaldee read

chateu, "they have sinned," in the third person.

Verse 25. The fury of his anger-"The heat of his wrath"] For

chammah, the Bodl. MS. has chammath, in regimine, more


It hath set him on fire round about] So thoroughly hardened are

the Jewish people, that they are represented as being in a house

on fire, and even scorched with the flames, without perceiving

their danger, or feeling that they are hurt! What a picture of

mental induration! and this is their state to the present day. But

by whom shall Jacob arise? for in this sense he is small indeed.

Many efforts have been made to Christianize them, but without

effect; and is this to be wondered at, while we tell them how

great they are, how learned, how wise, how much we owe to them,

that they are still the peculiar people of God, &c., &c.? If all

this be true, what can they gain by becoming Christians? Whereas a

more stupid, proud, hardened, ignorant people can scarcely be

found in the civilized world, and they are most grossly ignorant

of their own Scriptures.

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