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Isaiah 49:1-3

Context
Ideal Israel Delivers the Exiles

49:1 Listen to me, you coastlands! 1 

Pay attention, you people who live far away!

The Lord summoned me from birth; 2 

he commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world. 3 

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 

49:3 He said to me, “You are my servant,

Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.” 6 

1 tn Or “islands” (NASB, NIV); NLT “in far-off lands.”

sn The Lord’s special servant, introduced in chap. 42, speaks here of his commission.

2 tn Heb “called me from the womb.”

3 tn Heb “from the inner parts of my mother he mentioned my name.”

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 sn This verse identifies the servant as Israel. This seems to refer to the exiled nation (cf. 41:8-9; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4; 48:20), but in vv. 5-6 this servant says he has been commissioned to reconcile Israel to God, so he must be distinct from the exiled nation. This servant is an ideal “Israel” who, like Moses of old, mediates a covenant for the nation (see v. 8), leads them out of bondage (v. 9a), and carries out God’s original plan for Israel by positively impacting the pagan nations (see v. 6b). By living according to God’s law, Israel was to be a model of God’s standards of justice to the surrounding nations (Deut 4:6-8). The sinful nation failed, but the servant, the ideal “Israel,” will succeed by establishing justice throughout the earth.



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