BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 139 (554) (April 1982): 129-45.
[Copyright © 1982 Dallas Theological Seminary; cited with permission;
prepared for use at
Isaiah’s Songs of the Servant
The Commission of the
Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13
F. Duane Lindsey
In the first Servant song (Isa. 42:1-9) Yahweh conveyed a
distant prophecy of His Servant who will bring salvation and
establish a proper order on the entire earth.1 The passage in-
troduced the Servant and predicted His faithfulness in accom-
plishing the mission to which He was divinely called. Scarcely a
hint was given of the pathway of suffering to be trodden by
the Servant on the way to His completed mission. The task
itself involved mediating a
New Covenant with
ing a just order to prevail on the whole Gentile world.
The second Servant song (Isa. 49: 1-13) brings out the
same basic concepts as the first poem, though the establish-
ment of a worldwide righteous order is not stressed. Instead
greater emphasis is placed on the physical and spiritual res-
toration of the nation
second song is the apparent initial failure of the Servant in His
from Yahweh to bring salvation to the Gentiles.
The second Servant song begins a new division (49:1-
57:21) in Isaiah’s Book of Comfort (chaps. 40-66). It is note-
worthy that this division also contains the remaining Servant
songs (50:4-11; 52:13; 53:12). Contrary to much critical
opinion,2 the Servant songs seem to form the backbone of the
structure of this division. Each song begins a cycle that cul-
minates in a powerful message of salvation.3 For example, the
130 Bibliotheca Sacra—April-June 1982
second song culminates in the proclamation of salvation to
The message of the second song is that the rejected Ser-
vant will bring salvation to the Gentiles and ultimately
sizes not only the Servant’s expanded commission to the Gen-
tiles but also His ultimate success in fulfilling His initial mis-
first song (42:1-9), the initial strophe of the second song
(49:1-6) is a prophetic report by the Servant, followed by two
proclamations of salvation (v. 7; vv. 8-12) in which Yahweh
addresses the Servant, climaxed by an eschatological hymn by
the prophet (v. 13). The second Servant poem includes these
facts: (1) The Servant reports to the nations that Yahweh has
expanded His ministry to the Gentiles in view of his rejection
bring to completion both the Gentile and Jewish aspects of the
Servant’s mission (49:7-12). (3) The prophet calls on all cre-
ation to praise Yahweh who thus comforts His people (49:13).
The Servant Reports His Expanded
to the Gentiles (49:1-6)
1Listen to me, you islands;
here this you distant nations:
Before I was born the LORD called me;
from my birth he has made mention of my name.
2He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.
3He said to me, “You are my servant,
4But I said, “I have labored to no purpose;
I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.
Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand,
and my reward is with my God.”
5And now the LORD says—
he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
to bring Jacob back to him
for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD
and my God has been my strength—
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13 131
and bring back those of
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the
The Servant reports to the nations His expanded commis-
sion by Yahweh to minister to them in view of His rejection by
belongs to the “general category of the prophetic call narrative
…in which the prophet seeks to authenticate his claim to
speak on God’s behalf”5 (cf. Amos -15). Muilenburg lists
several points of similarity between the prophetic call of Jere-
miah and this call of the Servant6 (cf. Jer. 1:5). Melugin, how-
ever, holds that “the poem does not make it clear whether it is
the commissioning of a prophet or of a king or of some other
kind of official.”7 Even if it can be demonstrated that the
genre of the passage is the report of a prophet, Whybray is
incorrect in maintaining that the Servant is “Deutero-Isaiah”
himself.8 Rather, it must be contended with Blocher that:
...apart from the third Servant Song [Isa. 50:4-11], and the
kindred prophecy of Isaiah 61, this kind of I-discourse is found
nowhere else in the entire book of Isaiah. When the prophet tells
us about events in his own life…the style, mood, and situation
are altogether different. The kind of I-discourse which we have in
the second Song is found only when God is the speaker. God—
and the Servant.9
The development of the paragraph (49: 1-6) indicates that:
(1) the Servant directs attention to His call, preparation, pres-
ervation, and commission by Yahweh (49:1-3); (2) the Servant
makes reference to His past confession of apparent failure and
to His past (or present?) affirmation of trust in God (49:4); and
(3) the Servant relates the enlargement of His call to bring
salvation to the Gentiles (49:5-6).
THE SERVANT SPEAKS OF HIS DIVINE CALL AND COMMISSION (49:1-3)
The Servant announces to the nations His prenatal call
by Yahweh (49:1). The Servant introduces the announcement
to His prenatal call by Yahweh with a summons to the nations
—“Listen to me, you islands; hear this you distant nations” (v.
1a) —for “the servant speaks with absolute authority, com-
manding the world to listen.”10 The speaker (“me”) is the “Ser-
vant” of verse 6, identical with the Servant of 42:1-9. The
132 Bibliotheca Sacra -April-June 1982
worldwide Gentile audience is addressed as “islands”11 and
“distant nations.” The Servant then refers to His prenatal call:
“Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has
made mention of my name” (v. 1b). The Hebrew employs vivid
imagery in speaking of the process of birth. The phrases could
be translated literally “from the womb” and “from the belly of
my mother.” Young over-optimistically suggests, “It is the refer-
ence to ‘my mother’ that makes it clear that the speaker is the
Messiah.”l2 Yet it is significant that there is no mention of Mes-
siah’s human father in the Old Testament (cf. Gen. 3:15; Ps.
22:9). The idea of calling before birth clearly indicates sovereign
choice, but to say that such calling is equivalent with predes-
tination (i.e., pretemporal, rather than just prenatal choice) is a
theological rather than an exegetical conclusion which may or
may not be implied in this text. “He has made mention of my
name” is literally “He caused my name to be remembered.” It is
not so much a naming process as a designating event, pointing
to the Servant’s office and vocation.l3
The Servant affirms His preparation and preservation by
Yahweh (49:2). The first and third lines of this verse employ
synonymous parallelism to indicate the preparation of the Ser-
vant—“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword” (simile)
and “he made me into a polished arrow” (metaphor). The con-
notation of preparation is seen in that Yahweh “made” the
Servant these things. Sharpening and polishing also imply a
process of preparation. Similarly, it is possible to speak of the
Servant’s gifts in terms of His speaking ability. The Servant’s
“mouth” is probably a metonymy for his “words” which are
described under the figure of a sharpened sword as cutting or
effective. The Servant functions as “the mouthpiece of
Yahweh,”l4 the sword being a figure for the revelation of God
(cf. Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12; Rev. 1:16). North thus maintains
that “the ‘sharp’ word [sic] of the Servant is the word of a
prophet rather than the edict of a king.”15 Thus “the word of
the LORD is a formidable weapon, and it is because the Ser-
vant’s task is arduous and dangerous that Yahweh does not
send him to it until he has been properly equipped to face it.”l6
The “polished arrow” is a less common figure (cf. Jer. ),
but it seems to indicate either the piercing or the far-ranging
effect of the Servant’s prophetic word: “God has endowed the
Servant’s word with the power to penetrate (a ‘sharp sword’)
and to range far and wide (‘a polished arrow’).”l7
The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13 133
The second and fourth lines of verse 2 —“in the shadow of
his hand he hid me;…and concealed me in his quiver”—further
indicate the Servant’s relationship to Yahweh who prepared Him
in terms of preservation by Yahweh. But a question arises as to
the purpose of the preservation. Is it a concealment until the
proper time? Or does it simply indicate God’s care and pro-
tection? If the former, it might refer to the period of over thirty
years in Jesus’ preparation for public ministry,18 or to His pres-
ent session in heaven during the interadvent period as He
awaits the Second Advent (cf. Rev. 1:16, where He is described
as having a sharp sword coming out of His mouth). On the
other hand “to be hidden by the Lord means to be under his
care and protection (cf. Psalms 17:8; 27:5; 31:20; 64:2; Jer.
36:26).”19 Perhaps both elements—concealment as well as
protection—are included in Yahweh’s preservation of the
The Servant reports His divine commission as the true
divine call, preparation, and preservation, the Servant con-
tinues His report to the Gentiles with a rehearsal of the words
of divine commission. “He said to me, ‘You are my servant,
genre appears to move at this point from the call of the prophet
to the designation of a king (cf. Isa. 42:1-4; Ps. 2:7). This in-
volves no inconsistency since the promises concerning the
Davidic Messiah (beginning in 2 Sam. 7) and the prophet like
Moses (cf. Deut. ), which ultimately merge in the person
of Jesus Christ, already began to intertwine in Isaiah’s Servant
the surface, the statement “You are my servant,
explicitly identifies Yahweh’s Servant as the
Isa. 41:8-16; 42:18-25; 43:1-13; 44:1-4; 48:20-21). However,
an apparent contradiction then arises in verses 5-6 in which
the Servant’s task is to bring
land. This apparent contradiction leads Kelley to exclaim: “The
elusiveness of the Servant’s identity is nowhere more apparent
than in this second Servant Song.”20
Some scholars remove the problem by removing the term
ness to the collective interpretation of the Servant, one gloss
among the many that seek to interpret the text.”21 But this
134 Bibliotheca Sacra -April-June 1982
view is contradicted by the manuscript evidence which clearly
supports inclusion of the term “
who retain “
two interpretive paths: (1) “
this passage is pictured corporately under the figure of an indi-
vidual servant, or (2) an individual servant is here designated by
the generic name “
says that “
very much as we say that the first mission of the Church is to
the Church.”23 But, as Leupold responds, “this seems too much
like exhorting a nation to draw itself up by its own
bootstraps.”24 Furthermore, the vivid detail in the description
of the Servant as an individual “goes beyond possibilities of
metaphor”25 (e.g., the expression, “from the bowels of my
mother,” v. 1, AV).
view of Young that “
true people of God, the whole body of the redeemed as mem-
bers under the Head, the Messiah,”26 is just as deficient as the
similar view of Alexander.27 Birks refuted that view over a cen-
tury ago as a view “opposed to the plain words of the text….
For the Church is no single person, has no mother, was not
named by prophecy before
birth, does not restore
receiver, not the giver of salvation.”28 Thus the view that
harmonizes most satisfactorily with the passage and context.
The glorification of Yahweh is indicated as the ultimate
purpose in the commission of the Servant—“in whom I will
display my splendor.” While the Servant speaks in verse 5 of
His honor and success in the eyes of Yahweh, in verse 3
Yahweh directs attention to the Servant’s glorification. Wester-
mann avers that it is expected of a servant to glorify his mas-
ter, not of the master to glorify the servant, and views the glor-
ification as “a hidden and paradoxical one; partly because the
lord’s [sic] purpose is to glorify himself at the hands of the
Servant, and partly because only the opposite of glory can be
discerned in the Servant.”30 The ultimate resolution of this
paradox is discerned in the distinction between the Servant’s
distinct accomplishments at His two advents, the First Advent
culminating in “the sufferings of Christ” and the Second Advent
manifesting “the glories that would follow” (1 Pet. ). This
glorification is manifested in part by the Servant’s ultimate
acceptance by Gentile kings and princes (Isa. 49:7).
The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13 135
THE SERVANT CONFESSES HIS APPARENT FAILURE BUT AFFIRMS
HIS FAITH IN GOD (49:4)
This present acknowledgment by the Servant of His past
confession of apparent failure and of His past (or present?)
affirmation of trust in God possibly reflects several motifs of
the thanksgiving or declarative praise psalm.31 Westermann
calls it a “lament of a mediator.”32 It is not clear whether the
confession of trust (v. 4b) is a part of the past lament (the NIV
includes it within the quotation that follows “I said”) or a pres-
ent statement in contrast with the past lament. In either case
the context implies a continuing confidence in God on the part
of the Servant.
The Servant reports His apparent past failure (49:4a).
The Servant’s affirmation of confidence in God (v. 4b) comes in
the wake of His reference to apparent failure regarding the
fruitfulness of His mission to
have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain
and for nothing’” (v. 4a). Though these words may reflect dis-
couragement or despondency on the part of the Servant, they
do not reflect doubt or defeat, for the Servant retains His confi-
dence in Yahweh despite difficulties (cf. 42:4; Ps. 22). The
adversative “but” contrasts the high calling and remarkable
abilities of the Servant (vv. 1-3) with His seemingly disappoint-
ing results in carrying out His task (v. 4a). The passage is remi-
niscent of the situation of Jeremiah, the weeping prophet (cf.
Jer., ,18; -18), and was fulfilled in the death of
Christ on the cross.
The Servant affirms His confidence in God (49:4b). The
Servant’s apparent failure does not abort His expression of
confidence in God. “Yet what is due me is in the LORD’s hand
[lit., “my right is with Yahweh”], and my regard is with my
God” (v. 4b). The word translated “what is due me” (NIV) or “my
judgment” (AV) is yFiPAw;mi the word so significant in the first
Servant song.33 It is tempting to translate and interpret FPAw;mi
here in a sense identical with its usage in 42:1,3,4 (referring
to the Servant’s activity in establishing a just order on the
whole earth).34 Yet it is probably “best to preserve the judicial
sense of Fpwm that the verdict of Yahweh on the service of the
Servant will be a favorable one.”35 Thus “vindication” (or “just
reward”) would be an appropriate translation. The parallel with
Ytil.AfuP;, meaning “reward” or “recompense” (i.e., the fruit or re-
136 Bibliotheca Sacra -April-June 1982
sult of His labor; cf. Lev. 19:13; Prov. ; ; Isa. 61:8),
supports this meaning. In further support of this view, Pieper
points out that “the suffix [the pronoun “my” in English]
shows that this right is a personal prerogative of the
Servant.”36 In contrast with the apparent failure of His mis-
sion, the Servant voices His deepest trust that Yahweh will
confirm and vindicate His work by granting His Servant ulti-
mate success (cf. Isa. 50:8; 53:11-12). Although the dark sha-
dow of the Cross apparently blacks out the accomplishment of
God’s purpose, the brilliant splendor of the crown reflects the
ultimate success of the Servant.
THE SERVANT RELATES HIS ENLARGED CALL TO BRING
SALVATION TO THE GENTILES (49:5-6)
Rather than resulting in the discontinuation of His mis-
sion, the apparent failure of the Servant leads on to an enlarge-
ment of His mission to include all nations. While the Gentile
mission of the Servant is an advancement in the task of the
Servant to glorify God and follows on His rejection by the Jews
(cf. Acts ), the enlarged task neither annuls nor changes
God’s purpose for
The Servant affirms Yahweh’s purpose to
spiritually through Him (49:5). Before rehearsing the enlarged
call (“And now the LORD says…”) concerning the Gentile mis-
sion, the Servant recapitulates and evidently reaffirms
Yahweh’s initial calling and purpose to bring salvation to
bring Jacob back to him and gather
I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my
strength” (v. 5). Westermann justifiably calls verse 5 “a longish
introduction” to the new commission in verse 6.37 This em-
phasis on the originally revealed purpose of God through the
Servant is not to introduce its nonfulfillment but rather to reaf-
firm its ultimate fulfillment. The Servant was born to accom-
plish a certain divine purpose and the power of God through
the Servant will not fail in the accomplishment of that pur-
pose. MacRae’s suggestion that the phrase “formed me in the
womb” possibly refers to the virgin birth38 must be evaluated
in the light of one’s conclusion regarding the birth process in
The purpose of the Servant’s mission as stated in this
verse is spiritual —to bring
The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13 137
55:7; Jer. 4:1), not to bring them back from Babylon.39 The
Hebrew text (i.e., Kethiv) has the negative xlo, “not” (AV), which
has the same sound as the Ol, “to himself” (NIV and other
modern translations). Ol is probably to be preferred, having the
support of IQIsa and some other manuscripts and versions.
The resulting synonymous parallelism between “bring back to
him” and “gather to himself” also gives a smoother under-
standing of the passage. However, if xlo is correct, then the verb
probably has the sense of “sweep away”—“that
not be swept away.”40
The verse concludes with an assurance of the Servant’s
vindication before Yahweh, probably anticipating His ultimate
success in His mission to
The Servant affirms Yahweh’s enlarged call (49:6). The
Servant affirms Yahweh’s enlarged call not only for the Servant
tion to the Gentiles spiritually. The Servant first quotes
Yahweh’s commission to Him regarding an enlarged mission to
the Gentiles. Yahweh answers the Servant’s “discouragement”
(v. 4a) with a call to greater responsibility (cf., Jer. 12:5; -
21; 1 Kings 19:9-18). The enlarged task is related to the initial
servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of
The phrase “tribes of Jacob” implies political organization
and so a political task, that is, restoring the tribes of Jacob
back to the position of dignity they do not now enjoy.41 As verse
5 identified the spiritual aspect of the Servant’s task toward
the physical/political aspect
of the mission—to bring
back to the land. Yet even this is “too small a thing,” that is, it is
insignificant in comparison with the greater task of bringing
salvation to the whole world. This neither belittles nor annuls
the Servant’s mission to
task…does not exclude the lesser.”42 Yahweh promises the
Servant success in both His Jewish and Gentile missions
Young sees this work of restoration as first alluding to the
return from exile and finally referring to “the spiritual restora-
tion of [spiritual]
Christ.”43 His conclusion that “nowhere does the Bible teach
that the entire physical
138 Bibliotheca Sacra -April-June 1982
nized with a proper understanding of Romans 11:26-27. At the
Second-Advent judgment on living Israelites (described in Matt.
25:1-30; Ezek. 20:37-38; Mal. 3:2-3, 5), the unbelievers will be
purged out of
beginning of the millennial kingdom.45
The enlarged mission to the Gentiles climaxes the Ser-
vant’s commission from Yahweh—“I will also make you a light
for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of
the earth” (v. 6b). “Light” is here parallel with “salvation” (cf.
Isa. 42:6). Yahweh’s initiative is clearly indicated in the verb (“I
will also make you”), as seen by Young, “God has appointed the
servant to this work and determined that he should carry it
Promises a Completely Fulfilled
to the Servant (49:7-12)
7This is what the LORD says—
the Redeemer and Holy One of
to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,
to the servant of rulers:
“Kings will see you and arise,
princes will see and bow down,
because of the LORD, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”
8This is what the LORD says:
“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
and to assign its desolate inheritances,
9to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
They will feed beside the roads
and find pasture on every barren hill.
10They will neither hunger nor thirst.
nor will the desert heat or the sun beat upon them.
He who has compassion on them will guide them
and lead them beside springs of water.
11I will turn all my mountains into roads,
and my highways will be raised up.
12See, they will come from afar—
some from the north, some from the west,
some from the region of Sinim.”
The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13 139
The speaker in this unit is Yahweh (cf. v. 7a), the person
addressed is the Servant (cf. v. 7b),47 and the subject is the
ultimate success of the Servant with respect to
the Gentiles. Yahweh promises to His Servant that He will ful-
fill both the Gentile and Jewish aspects of the Servant’s mis-
sion—that the Gentiles will
worship Him (v. 7) and that
will be restored by Him (vv. 8-12). This twofold fulfillment of
the Servant’s mission (Gentile and Jewish aspects) corres-
ponds with the literary genre of the passage which consists of
two oracles or announcements of salvation—one concerning
the worship of the Gentiles (v. 7) and the other regarding the
unit is twofold: (1) Yahweh promises His despised Servant that
the Gentiles will worship Him (v. 7) and (2) Yahweh promises
His Servant that at the appointed time He will
safety from all over the earth (vv. 8-12).
YAHWEH PROMISES HIS DESPISED SERVANT THAT THE
GENTILES WILL WORSHIP HIM (49:7)
The messenger formula that introduces this announce-
ment of salvation is expanded (cf. 42:5) with two divine titles:
“This is what the LORD says—the Redeemer and Holy One of
41:14; 43:14; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5). The term lxeGo (“Redeem-
er”) customarily referred to a “near kinsman” who protected a
distressed relative in various circumstances (e.g., Lev. 25:47-
49; Num. 35:19; Ruth 3:11-13). Isaiah often uses it figuratively
of Yahweh’s intimate and binding relationship to
title “Holy One of Israel” indicates that the God who judges
Yahweh addresses the Servant in words which show the
spised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers” (v.
7b). The NIV translation incorporates the term wp,n, into the
verb. “Despised of soul” could mean “despised in regard to his
soul,” that is, deemed unworthy to live, or “despised from the
soul,” that is, heartily despised.48 If wp,n, is taken to mean “peo-
ple” (cf. Gen. 17:14), then the translation “despised of men”
would parallel both Isaiah 53:3 and the parallel phrases here in
49:7 (“abhorred by the nation” and “servant of rulers”). The
word yOG probably does not refer to “the human race
rather to the nation
140 Bibliotheca Sacra -April-June 1982
refer to both Jewish and Gentile leaders who reject Him before
the ultimate Success of His mission.
The Servant will ultimately be recognized and worshiped
by Gentile kings—“Kings will see you and arise, princes will
see and bow down” (v. 7c). This recognition of the Servant for
what He actually is anticipates 52:15. The reversal of the Ser-
vant’s circumstances (from rejection to recognition in worship)
depends on the faithfulness of Yahweh—“because of the
LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen
you” (v. 7d).
YAHWEH PROMISES TO RESTORE
promise to restore
perplexing to some scholars such as North, who says, “This
looks very like the political task which Yahweh had said he no
longer requires of the Servant.”50 The solution does not lie in
the deletion or transposition of certain lines of the text, as
done by North,51 but rather in the recognition that God is not
in the initial rejection of the Servant.
Yahweh promises His Servant help in
(49:8). The keynote of the paragraph is struck as Yahweh
(“This is what the LORD says”) promises His Servant help in
I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I
will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances” (v.
8). The verbs (“answer” and “help”) probably imply a previous
lament by the Servant (as alluded to in v. 4a; cf. Ps. -21).
The temporal nouns (“time” and “day”) indicate not the time
limits but the certainty of the events to be accomplished.
Whybray regards the clause, “I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people,” as a later addition from 42:6
(where he thinks it refers to Cyrus). He suggests as evidence for
this view that since the context (49:8-12) is “wholly con-
cerned with the restoration of
for the people” is unfitting in this context. 52 But this argument
presupposes the conclusion that “the people” (MfA) are Gentiles
this series that the phrase “a covenant for the people” refers to
Yahweh’s New Covenant with His people
The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13 141
establish through His Servant-Messiah.53 The same truth is re-
peated here in the context of
land, thus combining the spiritual blessings of the New Cove-
Leupold approaches the promise of restoration differently
by limiting the fulfillment of this promise to the period of Jew-
ish restoration from
tion from Captivity in particular will be brought about by the
Messiah. Strangely, before his Incarnation he brings blessings
to his people.”54 It is better, similar to the view of Delitzsch,55 to
view the Incarnation of the coming messianic Servant as immi-
nent (but unfulfilled) during the period of the return from
“The picture refers primarily not to the return from exile, but
to the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom under the Mes-
siah, when all the true seed of Abraham will receive their prom-
ised inheritance.”56 Unfortunately, Young intended the phrase
“all the true seed of Abraham” to identify believers during the
present age of the church. If the phrase is taken to identify
those regenerate Jews at the Second Advent to whom the New
Covenant will be fulfilled (cf. Rom. -27), it is an excellent
statement of the meaning of this passage. The “desolate inheri-
tances” relate to the physical
54: 1; 61 :4; 62:4;
64:9). Thus the promise of
permanent restoration to the land (cf. Amos -15) awaits
fulfillment following the return of the Servant-Messiah.
Yahweh promises that the Servant will regather His cap-
tive people (49:9a). Yahweh’s promise to help His Servant re-
that the Servant will regather Yahweh’s captive people—“to
say to the captives, ‘Come out,’ and to those in darkness, ‘Be
free!’” (v. 9a). While the language of this promise may be taken
from the Exile, the ultimate fulfillment in the context relates to
the future day when the messianic Servant will establish the
New Covenant with
Yahweh promises that the Servant will shepherd His
needy flock (49 :9b-10). The imagery of the promise indicates
that the Servant will shepherd Yahweh’s needy flock. “They will
feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.
They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or
the sun beat upon them. He who has compassion on them will
142 Bibliotheca Sacra -April-June 1982
guide them and lead them beside springs of water” (vv. 9b-10).
The language is reminiscent of the Exodus and was appropri-
ate and potentially could have been fulfilled if the Servant had
come at the time of the return from the Babylonian Captivity.
When the Messiah did come, it could have been fulfilled in the
Herodian period of the
rejection of the Servant has delayed its fulfillment (from the hu-
man perspective) until the Second Advent.
Yahweh promises to regather His people from all over the
earth (49:11-12). The promise concludes that Yahweh’s people
will be marshalled from great distances and all directions on
the earth. The figure appears to be changed from that of a
shepherd and his sheep to that of a great people on the march.
“I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will
be raised up. See, they will come from afar—some from the
north, some from the west, some from the region of Sinim” (vv.
11-12). An ancient
interpretation links “Sinim” to
view which still has many adherents.57 Whybray represents
many modern scholars who identify it as modern
trict on the southern frontier of ancient Egypt.58
Regardless of the exact location of this area, the thrust of
the promise is that Yahweh will remove all obstacles that hin-
der the return of His
Isaiah Calls on All Creation to Praise Yahweh (49:13)
13Shout for joy, 0 heavens;
rejoice, 0 earth;
burst into song, 0 mountains!
For the LORD comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
The Prophet Isaiah has communicated the Servant’s report
of His expanded mission to the Gentiles (vv. 1-6) and Yahweh’s
promise to the Servant that the Servant will completely fulfill
His mission, not only in the expanded Gentile aspect (v. 7) but
also in the originally stated purpose of the spiritual and
physical restoration of the nation
Isaiah now calls on all creation to praise Yahweh who thus de-
livers His people, because when the nation
related to Yahweh, then all creation will rejoice (cf. Isa.. 42: 10-
12; 52:9; 55:12-13).
The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13 143
THE CALL TO PRAISE (49:13a)
Isaiah follows the normal structure of the hymnic genre
(cf. Ps. 117) by introducing the cause for praise (v. 13b) with a
preceding call to praise (v. 13a) —“Shout for joy, 0 heavens;
rejoice, 0 earth; burst into song, 0 mountains!” The verbs are
characteristic of the vocabulary of praise found in the Psalter.59
Isaiah’s synonymous parallelism characteristically draws the
whole universe into singing Yahweh’s praise.
THE CAUSE FOR PRAISE (49:13b)
Yahweh is worthy of all praise because of His infinite great-
ness and grace. In this case the cause for praise is His grace
toward His people
them to the land. “For the LORD comforts his people and will
have compassion on his afflicted ones” (v. 13b). The context
suggests that the verbs relate to the future when Yahweh will
“have compassion on his afflicted ones” as manifested in His
redeeming acts, and thus He will comfort His
Yahweh’s called and gifted Servant is rejected at first by
His own people
mately succeed not only in fulfilling an expanded mission to
bring salvation to the Gentiles, but also in
to the land (physically and politically) and to Yahweh (spiritual-
ly), thus eliciting universal praise to Yahweh, the Redeemer
and Holy One of
1 Cf. the preceding article in this series, “The Call of the Servant in Isaiah
42:1-9, Part 1 of Isaiah’s Songs of the Servant,” Bibliotheca Sacra 139 (January-
March 1982):12-31. In this article it was concluded that the anonymous Ser-
vant of Isaiah 42: 1-9 can be none other than the royal Davidic Messiah, the
Lord Jesus Christ, who will cause a right order to prevail on the earth following
His second advent at the time of the fulfillment of the promised New Covenant
spiritual and physical blessings will extend not only to
2 Cf. Claus Westermann. Isaiah 40—66: A Commentary (
minster Press, 1975), pp. 20-21, 29.
3 Robert B. Chisholm, “Toward a Form Critical/Structural Analysis of Isaiah,”
144 Bibliotheca Sacra -April-June 1982
paper submitted for course 158 Old Testament Theology III, Dallas Theological
Seminary, Fall 1980, pp. 62-63.
4 All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version (NIV) un-
less designated otherwise.
5 R. N. Whybray, Isaiah 40—66, New Century Bible Commentary (Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1981), p. 137.
6 James Muilenburg, “The Book of Isaiah: Chapters 40-66,” in The Interpreter’s
Bible, 12 vols, ed. George R. Buttrick (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1956), 5:566.
7 Roy F. Melugin, The Formation of Isaiah 40-55 (
ter, 1976), p. 143.
8 Whybray, Isaiah 40—66, p. 135.
9 Henri Blocher, Songs of the Servant (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1975), pp.
10 Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah: The English Text, with Introduc-
Exposition, and Notes,
3 vols. (
mote areas of the then-known world” (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Isaiah
12 Young, Isaiah, 3:268.
14 Whybray, Isaiah 40—66, p. 137.
15 Christopher R. North, The Second Isaiah: Introduction, Translation, and
Commentary to Chapters XL-LV (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), p. 187.
17 Westermann, Isaiah 40—66, p. 208.
18 T. R. Birks,
Commentary on the Book of Isaiah (
1871), p. 250.
19 Page H. Kelley, “Isaiah,” in The Broadman Bible Commentary, 12 vols.
(Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), 5:330; cf. Westermann, Isaiah 40-66, p.
20 Kelley, “Isaiah,” p. 329.
21 Westermann, Isaiah 40—66, p. 209.
22 Cf. North, Second Isaiah, pp. 187-88.
23 Ibid., p. 189.
24 Leupold, Isaiah, 2:175.
25 Whybray, Isaiah 40—66, p. 136.
26 Young, Isaiah, 3:270.
27 Alexander interpreted “
and his people,” i.e., the Christian church (Joseph Addison Alexander, Com-
mentary on the
Prophecies of Isaiah
House, 1953], 2:226).
28 Birks, Isaiah, p. 250.
29 The words of Delitzsch are significant at
this point: “
first the God-given name of an individual. Just as the name
of all given to a man, and then after that to a nation, so the name which
sprang from a personal root has also a personal crown” (Franz Delitzsch,
Isaiah, Commentary on the Old Testament
Publishing Co., 1973], 2:260). Payne concludes, “Verse 3 entitles this coming
D. Howley, F. F. Bruce, and H. L. Ellison [
lishing House, 19791, p.805).
30 Westermann, Isaiah 40—66, pp. 209-10.
The Commission of the Servant in Isaiah 49:1-13 145
31 For example, the declarative praise psalm reports a past lament before de-
claring God’s delivering actions. See Claus Westermann, The Praise of God in
the Psalms (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1965). pp. 102-16.
32 Westermann, Isaiah 40—66, p. 210.
33 Isaiah 42:1, 2, 4; cf. Lindsey, “The Call of the Servant,” pp. 12-31.
34 Cf. Allan A. MacRae, The Gospel of Isaiah (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977),
35 Scott Rae, “An Exegetical and Theological Study of Isaiah 49:1-13,” Th.M.
thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1981, p. 37; cf. North, Second Isaiah, pp.
36 August Pieper, Isaiah II: An Exposition of Isaiah 40—66 (
Northwestern Publishing House, 1979), p. 355.
37 Westermann, Isaiah 40—66, p. 211.
38 MacRae, The Gospel of Isaiah, p. 106.
39 Young, Isaiah, 3:273-74; Young correctly notes that the Servant rather
than Yahweh is the subject of the infinitive (ibid., p. 273, n. 10).
40 Whybray, Isaiah 40—66, p. 139; North, Second Isaiah, pp. 185-86.
41 But contrast Young, Isaiah, 3:275.
45 Cf. John F. Walvoord,
The Millennial Kingdom (
Publishing House, 1973), pp. 186-93.
46 Young, Isaiah, 3:276.
47 The “Servant” in 49:7-12 is not
p. 214; Whybray, Isaiah 40—66, p. 140), although North asserts that this pas-
sage has been claimed as a Servant song less often than 42:5-9 (Second
Isaiah, p. 191). The view taken in this series of articles is that both 42:5-9 and
49:7-12 are developments within their respective Servant songs.
48 So Whybray, Isaiah 40—66, p. 141; Young, Isaiah, 3:276-77.
49 Delitzsch, Isaiah, 2:264.
50 North, Second Isaiah, p. 191.
52 Whybray, Isaiah 40—66. p. 141.
53 Lindsey, “The Call of the Servant,” pp. 23-25.
54 Leupold, Isaiah, 2:181.
55 Delitzsch views the Prophet Isaiah as foreseeing Yahweh’s Servant in the
time of the Assyrian oppressions, “rising up in the second half of the captivity,
as if born in exile, in the midst of the punishment borne by his people, to effect
56 Young, Isaiah, 3:279.
57 MacRae, The Gospel of Isaiah, pp. 110-11.
58 Whybray, Isaiah 40—66. p. 142.
59 Ronald Barclay Allen, Praise! A Matter of Life and Breath (
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1980), pp. 64-69.
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