Isaiah 49


In this chapter the Messiah is introduced, declaring the full

extent of his commission, which is not only to be Saviour to

the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. The power and efficacy of

his word is reprehended by apt images; the ill success of his

ministry among the Jews is intimated, and the great success of

the Gospel among the Gentiles, 1-12.

But the prophet, then casting his eye on the happy, though

distant, period of Israel's restoration, makes a beautiful

apostrophe to the whole creation to shout forth the praises of

God on the prospect of this remarkable favour, 13.

The tender mercies of God to his people, with the prosperity of

the Church in general, and the final overthrow of all its

enemies, make the subject of the remaining verses, 14-26.


Verse 1. Listen, O isles, unto me-"Hearken unto me, O ye distant

lands"] Hitherto the subject of the prophecy has been chiefly

confined to the redemption from the captivity of Babylon; with

strong intimations of a more important deliverance sometimes

thrown in, to the refutation of idolatry, and the demonstration of

the infinite power, wisdom, and foreknowledge of God. The

character and office of the Messiah was exhibited in general terms

at the beginning of Isa 42:1 &c.; but here he is introduced in

person, declaring the full extent of his commission, which is not

only to restore the Israelites, and reconcile them to their Lord

and Father, from whom they had so often revolted, but to be a

light to lighten the Gentiles, to call them to the knowledge and

obedience of the true God, and to bring them to be one Church

together with the Israelites, and to partake with them of the same

common salvation procured for all by the great Redeemer and

Reconciler of man to God.

Verse 2. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword-"And he

hath made my mouth a sharp sword"] The servant of God, who speaks

in the former part of this chapter, must be the Messiah. If any

part of this character can in any sense belong to the prophet, yet

in some parts it must belong exclusively to Christ; and in all

parts to him in a much fuller and more proper sense. Isaiah's

mission was to the Jews, not to the distant nations, to whom the

speaker in this place addresses himself. "He hath made my mouth a

sharp sword;" "to reprove the wicked, and to denounce unto them

punishment," says Jarchi, understanding it of Isaiah. But how much

better does it suit him who is represented as having "a sharp

two-edged sword going out of his mouth," Re 1:16; who is himself

the Word of God; which word 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, and is a discerner

of the thoughts and intents of the heart;" Heb 4:12. This mighty

Agent and Instrument of God, "long laid up in store with him, and

sealed up among his treasures," is at last revealed and produced

by his power, and under his protection, to execute his great and

holy purposes. He is compared to a polished shaft stored in his

quiver for use in his due time. The polished shaft denotes the

same efficacious word which is before represented by the sharp

sword. The doctrine of the Gospel pierced the hearts of its

hearers, "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience

of Christ." The metaphor of the sword and the arrow, applied to

powerful speech, is bold, yet just. It has been employed by the

most ingenious heathen writers, if with equal elegance, not with

equal force. It is said of Pericles by Aristophanes, (see Cicero,

Epist. ad Atticum, xii. 6:)-



Apud. Diod. lib. xii.

His powerful speech

Pierced the hearer's soul, and left behind

Deep in his bosom its keen point infixed.

Pindar is particularly fond of this metaphor, and frequently

applies it to his own poetry:-






Olymp. ii. 160.

"Come on! thy brightest shafts prepare,

And bend, O Muse, thy sounding bow;

Say, through what paths of liquid air

Our arrows shall we throw?"


See also ver. 149 of the same ode, and Olymp. ix. 17, on the

former of which places the Scholiast says, τροπικοςολογοςβελη

δετουςλογουςεορηκεδιατοοξυκαικαιριοντωνεγκωμιων. "He

calls his verses shafts, by a metaphor, signifying the acuteness

and the apposite application of his panegyric."

This person, who is (Isa 49:3) called

Israel, cannot in any sense be Isaiah. That name, in its

original design and full import, can only belong to him who

contended powerfully with God in behalf of mankind, and prevailed,

Ge 32:28. After all that

Vitringa, Bp. Lowth, and others have said in proof of this

chapter speaking of the Messiah, and of him alone, I have my

doubts whether sometimes Isaiah, sometimes Cyrus, and sometimes

the Messiah, be not intended; the former shadowing out the latter,

of whom, in certain respects, they may be considered the types.

The literal sense should be sought out first; this is of the

utmost importance both in reading and interpreting the oracles of


Verse 5. And now, saith the Lord-"And now, thus saith JEHOVAH"]

The word coh, before amar, is dropped out of the

text: it is supplied by eight MSS. (two ancient) of Dr.

Kennicott's, two of De Rossi's, and the Septuagint, Syriac, and


Though Israel be not gathered-"And that Israel unto him might be

gathered"] Five MSS. (two ancient) confirm the Keri, or marginal

correction of the Masoretes, lo, unto him, instead of lo,

not, in the text; and so read Aquila; and the Chaldee, Septuagint,

and Arabic omit the negative. But the Septuagint, MSS. Pachom,

and I. D. II. express also the Keri lo by προςαυτον, to


Verse 6. And to restore the preserved of Israel-"And to restore

the branches of Israel"] netsirey, or netsurey,

as the Masoretes correct it in the marginal reading. This word has

been matter of great doubt with interpreters: the Syriac renders

it the branch, taking it for the same with netser,

Isa 11:1.

See Michaelis Epim. in Praelect. xix.

Verse 7. The Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One-"The Redeemer

of Israel, his Holy One"] "Perhaps we should read

likdosho," SECKER: that is, to his Holy One. The preceding

word ends with a lamed, which might occasion that letter's being

lost here. The Talmud of Babylon has ukedosho, and his Holy


To him whom man despiseth-"To him whose person is despised"]

"Perhaps we should read nibzeh," SECKER; or bazui,

Le Clerc; that is, instead of the active, the passive form, which

seems here to be required.

Verse 9. To them that are in darkness-"And to those that are in

darkness"] Fifteen MSS. (five ancient) of Dr. Kennicott's, eleven

of De Rossi's, and one ancient of my own, and the two old editions

of 1486 and 1488, and three others, add the conjunction vau at

the beginning of this member. Another MS. had it so at first, and

two others have a rasure at the place: and it is expressed by the

Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, and Vulgate.

Verse 12. Behold, these shall come from far] "Babylon was far

and east, mimmizrach, (non sic Vett.,) Sinim, Pelusians,

to the south."-SECKER.

The land of Sinim.] Prof. Doederlein thought of Syene, the

southern limit of Egypt, but does not abide by it. Michaelis

thinks it is right, and promises to give his reasons for so

thinking in the second part of his Spicilegium Geographiae

Hebraeorum Exterae. See Biblioth. Oriental. Part xi. p. 176.

sin signifies a bush, and sinim, bushes,

woods, &c. Probably this means that the land where several of

the lost Jews dwell is a woodland. The ten tribes are gone, no one

knows whither. On the slave coast in Africa, some Jewish rites

appear among the people, and all the males are circumcised. The

whole of this land, as it appears from the coast, may be

emphatically called erets sinim, the land of bushes, as

it is all covered with woods as far as the eye can reach. Many of

the Indians in North America, which is also a woodland, have a

great profusion of rites, apparently in their basis Jewish. Is it

not possible that the descendants of the ten lost tribes are among

those in America, or among those in Africa, whom European nations

think they have a right to enslave? It is of those lost tribes

that the twenty-first verse speaks: "And these, where had they


Verse 13. Break forth into singing, O mountains-"Ye mountains,

burst forth into song"] Three ancient MSS. are without the yod

or the conjunction vau before the verb: and so the Septuagint,

Syriac, and Vulgate.

Verse 14. The Lord ( Yehovah) hath forsaken me, and my

Lord ( Adonai) hath forgotten me.] But a multitude of

MSS. and several ancient editions read Yehovah in both places.

Verse 16. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my

hands-"Behold, on the palms of my hands have I delineated

thee"] This is certainly an allusion to some practice, common

among the Jews at that time, of making marks on their hands or

arms by punctures on the skin, with some sort of sign or

representation of the city or temple, to show their affection and

zeal for it. They had a method of making such punctures indelible

by fire, or by staining. See Clarke on Isa 44:6. It is well

known, that the pilgrims at the holy sepulchre get themselves marked

in this manner with what are called the ensigns of Jerusalem. See

Maundrell, p. 75, where he tells us how it is performed: and

this art is practiced by travelling Jews all over the world at

this day.

Verse 17. Thy children shall make haste-"They that destroyed

thee shall soon become thy builders"] Auctor Vulgatae pro

banayich, videtur legisse bonayich, unde vertit,

structores tui; cui et Septuaginta fere consentiunt, qui

verterunt ωκοδομηθης, aedificata es, prout in Plantiniana editione

habetur; in Vaticana sive Romana legitur, οικοδομηθηση,

aedificaberis. Hisce etiam Targum Jonathanis aliquatenus

consentit, ubi, et aedificabunt. Confer infra Esai. liv. 13, ad

quem locum rabbini quoque notarunt en tractatu Talmudico Berachot,

c. ix., quod non legendum sit banayich, id est, filii tui;

sed bonayich, aedificatores tui. Confer not. ad librum Prec.

Jud. part ii., p. 226, ut et D Wagenseil Sot. p. 253, n. 9. "The

author of the Vulgate appears to have read bonayich for

banayich, as he translates it by structures tui, 'thy

builders.' The Septuagint is almost the same with the Vulgate,

having ωκοδομηθης, art built, as in the Plantin edition: but the

Vatican or Roman copy reads οικοδομηθηση, thou shalt be built.

To these readings the Targum of Jonathan has some sort of

correspondence, translating et aedificabunt, 'and they shall

build.' See chap. liv. 13; on which place the rabbins also remark,

in the Talmudic tract Berachoth, c. 9, that we should not read

banayich, thy sons, but bonayich, thy builders.

See the note in Prae. Jud. part ii., p. 226, and also D.

Wagenseil, Sot. p. 253, n. 9." See also Breithaupt. not. ad Jarchi

in loc.; and the note on this place in De Sac. Poes. Hebr.

Praelect. xxxi. Instead of or bonayich, thy builders,

several MSS. read baneycha, thy sons. So also the Syriac:

see the above note.

Shall go forth of thee-"Shall become thine offspring."]

mimmech yetseu, shall proceed, spring, issue, from thee, as thy

children. The phrase is frequently used in this sense: see

Isa 11:1; Mic 5:2; Na 1:11. The accession of the Gentiles to

the Church of God is considered as an addition made to the number

of the family and children of Sion: see Isa 49:21, 22, and

Isa 60:4. The common rendering, "shall go forth of thee, or

depart from thee," is very flat, after their zeal had been

expressed by "shall become thy builders:" and as the opposition is

kept up in one part of the sentence, one has reason to expect it

in the other, which should be parallel to it.

Verse 18. Bind them on thee, as a bride doeth-"Bind them about

thee, as a bride her jewels."] The end of the sentence is

manifestly imperfect. Does a bride bind her children, or her new

subjects, about her? Sion clothes herself with her children, as a

bride clothes herself,-with what? some other thing certainly. The

Septuagint help us out in this difficulty, and supply the lost

word: ωςκοσμοννυμφη as a bride her ornaments.

kichleyha callah, or kecallah keleyha. The great

similitude of the two words has occasioned the omission of one of

them. See Isa 61:10.

Verse 21. These, where had they been-"These then, where were

they?"] The conjunction is added before elleh, that is,

veelleh. in thirty-two MSS. (nine ancient) of Kennicott's, and

fifty-four of De Rossi's, and so the Septuagint, Chaldee, and

Vulgate. See on Isa 49:12.

Verse 22. Thus saith the Lord God- Adonai Yehovah.

Adonai is wanting in one MS., in the Alexandrine copy of the

Septuagint, and in the Arabic.

Verse 23. With their face toward the earth-"With their faces to

the earth"] It is well known that expressions of submission,

homage, and reverence always have been and are still carried to a

great degree of extravagance in the eastern countries. When

Joseph's brethren were introduced to him, "they bowed down

themselves before him with their faces to the earth," Ge 42:6.

The kings of Persia never admitted any one to their presence

without exacting this act of adoration; for that was the proper

term for it. Necesse est, says the Persian courtier to Conon, si

in conspectum veneris, venerari te regem; quod προσκυνειν illi

vocant. "It is necessary, if thou shouldest come in sight, to

venerate thee as king; which they call worshipping."-NEPOS in

Conone. Alexander, intoxicated with success, affected this piece

of oriental pride: Itaque more Persarum Macedonas venerabundos

ipsum salutare, prosternentes humi corpora. "The Macedonians after

the manner of the Persians, saluted their monarch with the

ceremony of prostration."-CURTIUS, lib. viii. The insolence of

eastern monarchs to conquered princes, and the submission of the

latter, is astonishing. Mr. Harmer, Observ. ii. 43, gives the

following instance of it from D'Herbelot: "This prince threw

himself one day on the ground, and kissed the prints that his

victorious enemy's horse had made there; reciting some verses in

Persian, which he had composed, to this effect:-

"'The mark that the foot of your horse has left upon the dust,

serves me now for a crown.

"'The ring which I wear as the badge of my slavery, is become my

richest ornament.

"'While I shall have the happiness to kiss the dust of your

feet, I shall think that fortune favours me with its tenderest

caresses, and its sweetest kisses.'"

These expressions therefore of the prophet are only general

poetical images, taken from the manners of the country, to denote

great respect and reverence: and such splendid poetical images,

which frequently occur in the prophetical writings, were intended

only as general amplifications of the subject, not as predictions

to be understood and fulfilled precisely according to the letter.

For the different kinds of adoration in the east, see the note on

Isa 44:17.

Verse 24. Shall the prey be taken from the mighty-"Shall the

prey seized by the terrible be rescued"] For tsaddik, read

arits. A palpable mistake, like that in Isa 42:19. The

correction is self-evident from the very terms of the sentence;

from the necessity of the strict correspondence in the expressions

between the question and the answer made to it,-and it is

apparent to the blindest and most prejudiced eye. However, if

authority is also necessary, there is that of the Syriac and

Vulgate for it; who plainly read arits, in Isa 49:24

as well as in Isa 49:25, rendering it in the former place by the

same word as in the latter.-L.

These two last verses contain a glorious promise of deliverance

to the persecuted Church of Christ from the terrible one-Satan,

and all his representatives and vicegerents, persecuting

antichristian rulers. They shall at last cease from destroying the

Church of God, and destroy one another.

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