42:1 1 “Here is my servant whom I support,
my chosen one in whom I take pleasure.
I have placed my spirit on him;
he will make just decrees 2 for the nations. 3
42:2 He will not cry out or shout;
he will not publicize himself in the streets. 4
42:3 A crushed reed he will not break,
a dim wick he will not extinguish; 5
he will faithfully make just decrees. 6
42:4 He will not grow dim or be crushed 7
before establishing justice on the earth;
the coastlands 8 will wait in anticipation for his decrees.” 9
42:5 This is what the true God, 10 the Lord, says –
the one who created the sky and stretched it out,
the one who fashioned the earth and everything that lives on it, 11
the one who gives breath to the people on it,
and life to those who live on it: 12
42:6 “I, the Lord, officially commission you; 13
I take hold of your hand.
I protect you 14 and make you a covenant mediator for people, 15
and a light 16 to the nations, 17
to release prisoners 19 from dungeons,
those who live in darkness from prisons.
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).
3 sn Like the ideal king portrayed in Isa 11:1-9, the servant is energized by the divine spirit and establishes justice on the earth.
4 tn Heb “he will not cause his voice to be heard in the street.”
5 sn The “crushed reed” and “dim wick” symbolize the weak and oppressed who are on the verge of extinction.
6 tn Heb “faithfully he will bring out justice” (cf. NASB, NRSV).
7 tn For rhetorical effect the terms used to describe the “crushed (רָצַץ, ratsats) reed” and “dim (כָּהָה, kahah) wick” in v. 3 are repeated here.
8 tn Or “islands” (NIV); NLT “distant lands beyond the sea.”
9 tn Or “his law” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NIV) or “his instruction” (NLT).
10 tn Heb “the God.” The definite article here indicates distinctiveness or uniqueness.
11 tn Heb “and its offspring” (so NASB); NIV “all that comes out of it.”
12 tn Heb “and spirit [i.e., “breath”] to the ones walking in it” (NAB, NASB, and NRSV all similar).
13 tn Heb “call you in righteousness.” The pronoun “you” is masculine singular, referring to the servant. See the note at 41:2.
14 tn The translation assumes the verb is derived from the root נָצַר (natsar, “protect”). Some prefer to derive it from the root יָצַר (yatsar, “form”).
15 tn Heb “a covenant of people.” A person cannot literally be a covenant; בְּרִית (bÿrit) 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 49:8, where the phrase בְּרִית עָם occurs again, Israel seems to be in view.
16 sn Light here symbolizes deliverance from bondage and oppression; note the parallelism in 49:6b and in 51:4-6.
17 tn Or “the Gentiles” (so KJV, ASV, NIV); the same Hebrew word can be translated “nations” or “Gentiles” depending on the context.
18 sn 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.
19 sn 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.