Notes for Isa 42:1LEB

Verses 1–7 contain the first of Isaiah’s "servant songs," which describe the ministry of a special, ideal servant who accomplishes Yahweh’s purposes for Israel and the nations. This song depicts the servant as a just king who brings justice to the earth and relief for the oppressed. The other songs appear in Isa 49:1–13LEB; Isa 50:4–11LEB; and Isa 52:13–53LEB; Isa 12:LEB.


"he will bring out justice" (cf. ASV, NASB, NRSV).


Like the ideal king portrayed in Isa 11:1–9LEB, the servant is energized by the divine spirit and establishes justice on the earth.


Notes for Isa 42:2LEB

"he will not cause his voice to be heard in the street."


Notes for Isa 42:3LEB

The "crushed reed" and "dim wick" symbolize the weak and oppressed who are on the verge of extinction.


"faithfully he will bring out justice" (cf. NASB, NRSV).


Notes for Isa 42:4LEB

For rhetorical effect the terms used to describe the "crushed (רָצַץ, ratsats) reed" and "dim (כָּהָה, kahah) wick" in v. 3 are repeated here.


Or "islands" (NIV); NLT "distant lands beyond the sea."


Or "his law" (KJV, ASV, NASB, NIV) or "his instruction" (NLT).


Notes for Isa 42:5LEB

"the God." The definite article here indicates distinctiveness or uniqueness.


"and its offspring" (so NASB); NIV "all that comes out of it."


"and spirit [i.e., "breath"] to the ones walking in it" (NAB, NASB, and NRSV all similar).


Notes for 42:6LEB

"call you in righteousness." The pronoun "you" is masculine singular, referring to the servant. See the note at Isa 41:2LEB.


The translation assumes the verb is derived from the root נָצַר (natsar, "protect"). Some prefer to derive it from the root יָצַר (yatsar, "form").


"a covenant of people." A person cannot literally be a covenant; בְּרִית (bérit) is probably metonymic here, indicating a covenant mediator. The precise identity of עָם (’am, "people") is uncertain. In v. 5 עָם refers to mankind, and the following reference to "nations" also favors this. But in Isa 49:8LEB, where the phrase בְּרִית עָם occurs again, Israel seems to be in view.


Light here symbolizes deliverance from bondage and oppression; note the parallelism in Isa 49:6LEB and in Isa 51:4–6LEB.


Or "the Gentiles" (so KJV, ASV, NIV); the same Hebrew word can be translated "nations" or "Gentiles" depending on the context.


Notes for Isa 42:7LEB

This does not refer to literal physical healing of the blind. As the next two lines suggest, this refers metonymically to freeing captives from their dark prisons where their eyes have grown unaccustomed to light.


This does not refer to hardened, dangerous criminals, who would have been executed for their crimes in ancient Near Eastern society. This verse refers to political prisoners or victims of social injustice.


Notes for Isa 42:9LEB

"the former things, look, they have come."


"before they sprout up, I cause you to hear." The pronoun "you" is plural, referring to the people of Israel. In this verse "the former things" are Yahweh’s earlier predictive oracles which have come to pass, while "the new things" are predicted events that have not yet begun to take place. "The former things" are earlier events in Israel’s history which Yahweh announced beforehand, such as the Exodus (see Isa 43:16–18LEB). "The new things" are the predictions about the servant (Isa 42:1–7LEB). and may also include Cyrus’ conquests (Isa 41:25–27LEB).


Notes for Isa 42:10LEB

"his praise." The phrase stands parallel to "new song" in the previous line.


"and its fullness"; NASB, NIV "and all that is in it."


Or "islands" (NASB, NIV); NLT "distant coastlands."


Notes for Isa 42:12LEB

"Let them ascribe to Yahweh glory."


"and his praise in the coastlands [or "islands"] let them declare."


Notes for Isa 42:13LEB

"like a man of war he stirs up zeal" (NIV similar).


Or perhaps, "he triumphs over his enemies" (cf. NIV); NLT "will crush all his enemies."


Notes for Isa 42:14LEB

"silent" (so NASB, NIV, TEV, NLT); CEV "have held my temper."


The imagery depicts Yahweh as a warrior who is eager to fight and can no longer hold himself back from the attack.


Notes for Isa 42:15LEB

"I will dry up the mountains and hills." The "mountains and hills" stand by synecdoche for the trees that grow on them. Some prefer to derive the verb from a homonymic root and translate, "I will lay waste."


The Hebrew text reads, "I will turn streams into coastlands [or "islands"]." Scholars who believe that this reading makes little sense have proposed an emendation of אִיִּים (’iyyim, "islands") to צִיּוֹת (tsiyyot, "dry places"; cf. NCV, NLT, TEV). However, since all the versions support the MT reading, there is insufficient grounds for an emendation here. Although the imagery of changing rivers into islands is somewhat strange, J. N. Oswalt describes this imagery against the backdrop of rivers of the Near East. The receding of these rivers at times occasioned the appearance of previously submerged islands (Isaiah [NICOT], 2:126).


The imagery of this verse, which depicts Yahweh bringing a curse of infertility to the earth, metaphorically describes how Yahweh will destroy his enemies.


Notes for Isa 42:16LEB

"a way they do not know" (so NASB); NRSV "a road they do not know."


"in paths they do not know I will make them walk."


"and the rough ground into a level place."


Notes for Isa 42:17LEB

"be ashamed with shame"; ASV, NASB "be utterly put to shame."


Notes for Isa 42:18LEB

"look to see"; NAB, NCV "look and see"; NRSV "look up and see."


Notes for Isa 42:19

The precise meaning of מְשֻׁלָּם (méshullam) in this context is uncertain. In later biblical Hebrew the form (which appears to be a Pual participle from the root שָׁלַם, shalam) occurs as a proper name, Meshullam. The Pual of שָׁלַם ("be complete") is attested with the meaning "repaid, requited," but that makes little sense here. BDB 1023 s.v. שָׁלַם relates the form to the denominative verb שָׁלַם ("be at peace") and paraphrases "one in a covenant of peace" (J. N. Oswalt suggests "the covenanted one"; Isaiah [NICOT], 2:128, n. 59) Some emend the form to מֹשְׁלָם (moshélam, "their ruler") or to מְשֻׁלָּחִי (méshullakhi, "my sent [or "commissioned"] one"), which fits nicely in the parallelism (note "my messenger" in the previous line). The translation above assumes an emendation to כְּמוֹ שֹׁלְמִי (kémo sholémi, "like my ally"). Isaiah uses כְּמוֹ in Isa 30:22LEB and perhaps Isa 51:5LEB; for שֹׁלְמי ("my ally") see Ps 7:5LEB HT (7:4 ET).


"Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like my messenger I send? Who is blind like my commissioned one, blind like the servant of Yahweh?" The point of the rhetorical questions is that no one is as blind/deaf as this servant. In this context Yahweh’s "servant" is exiled Israel (cf. Isa 41:8–9LEB), which is spiritually blind and deaf and has failed to fulfill Yahweh’s purpose for it. This servant stands in contrast to the ideal "Israel" of the servant songs.


Notes for Isa 42:20LEB

The consonantal text (Kethib) has a perfect, 2nd person masculine singular; the marginal reading (Qere) has an infinitive absolute, which functions here as a finite verb.


"but you do not guard [i.e., retain in your memory]"; NIV "but have paid no attention."


Notes for Isa 42:21LEB

"Yahweh was pleased for the sake of his righteousness [or "justice"], he was magnifying [the] law and was making [it] glorious." Yahweh contrasts his good intentions for the people with their present crisis (v. 22). To demonstrate his just character and attract the nations, Yahweh wanted to showcase his law among and through Israel (Deut 4:5–8LEB). But Israel disobeyed (v. 24) and failed to carry out their commission.


Notes for Isa 42:22LEB

The Hebrew text has בַּחוּרִים (bakhurim, "young men"), but the text should be emended to בְּהוֹרִים (béhorim, "in holes").


"and made to be hidden"; NAB, NASB, NIV, TEV "hidden away in prisons."


"they became loot and there was no one rescuing, plunder and there was no one saying, ‘Bring back’."


Notes for Isa 42:23LEB

The interrogative particle is understood in the second line by ellipsis (note the preceding line).


Notes for Isa 42:24LEB

"Who gave to the robber Jacob, and Israel to the looters?" In the first line the consonantal text (Kethib) has מְשׁוֹסֶה (méshoseh), a Polel participle from שָׁסָה (shasah, "plunder"). The marginal reading (Qere) is מְשִׁיסָּה (méshissah), a noun meaning "plunder." In this case one could translate "Who handed Jacob over as plunder?"


"they were not willing in his ways to walk, and they did not listen to his law."


Notes for Isa 42:25LEB

"strength" (so KJV, NASB); NAB "fury"; NASB "fierceness"; NIV "violence."


"and it blazed against him all around, but he did not know." The subject of the third feminine singular verb "blazed" is the divine חֵמָה (khemah, "anger") mentioned in the previous line.


"and it burned against him, but he did not set [it] upon [the] heart."