my chosen one in whom I take pleasure.
I have placed my spirit on him;
49:2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
he hid me in the hollow of his hand;
he made me like a sharpened 4 arrow,
he hid me in his quiver. 5
I cover you with the palm of my hand, 8
to establish 9 the sky and to found the earth,
to say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” 10
1 sn Verses 1-7 contain the first of Isaiah’s “servant songs,” which describe the ministry of a special, ideal servant who accomplishes God’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 49:1-13; 50:4-11; and 52:13-53:12.
2 tn Heb “he will bring out justice” (cf. ASV, NASB, NRSV).
4 tn Or perhaps, “polished” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV); NASB “a select arrow.”
5 sn The figurative language emphasizes the servant’s importance as the Lord’s effective instrument. The servant’s mouth, which stands metonymically for his words, is compared to a sharp sword because he will be an effective spokesman on God’s behalf (see 50:4). The Lord holds his hand on the servant, ready to draw and use him at the appropriate time. The servant is like a sharpened arrow reserved in a quiver for just the right moment.
6 tn The addressee (second masculine singular, as in vv. 13, 15) in this verse is unclear. The exiles are addressed in the immediately preceding verses (note the critical tone of vv. 12-13 and the reference to the exiles in v. 14). However, it seems unlikely that they are addressed in v. 16, for the addressee appears to be commissioned to tell Zion, who here represents the restored exiles, “you are my people.” The addressee is distinct from the exiles. The language of v. 16a is reminiscent of 49:2 and 50:4, where the Lord’s special servant says he is God’s spokesman and effective instrument. Perhaps the Lord, having spoken to the exiles in vv. 1-15, now responds to this servant, who spoke just prior to this in 50:4-11.
7 tn Heb “I place my words in your mouth.”
8 tn Heb “with the shadow of my hand.”
9 tc The Hebrew text has לִנְטֹעַ (lintoa’, “to plant”). Several scholars prefer to emend this form to לִנְטֹת (lintot) from נָטָה (natah, “to stretch out”); see v. 13, as well as 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; cf. NAB, NCV, NRSV. However, since the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa, LXX (and Aquila and Symmachus), and Vulgate support the MT reading, there is no need to emend the form. The interpretation is clear enough: Yahweh fixed the sky in its place.
10 tn The infinitives in v. 16b are most naturally understood as indicating the purpose of the divine actions described in v. 16a. The relationship of the third infinitive to the commission is clear enough – the Lord has made the addressee (his special servant?) his spokesman so that the latter might speak encouraging words to those in Zion. But how do the first two infinitives relate? The text seems to indicate that the Lord has commissioned the addressee so that the latter might create the universe! Perhaps creation imagery is employed metaphorically here to refer to the transformation that Jerusalem will experience (see 65:17-18).