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Isaiah 49


Salvation Reaches to the End of the Earth The Servant, The Light to the Gentiles The Second Servant Song Israel, A Light to the Nations Second Song of the Servant
49:1-4  (1-4) 49:1-2  (1-2) 49:1-4  (1-4) 49:1-3  (1-3) 49:1-7  (1-7)
  49:3-4  (3-4)      
      49:4-5  (4-5)  
49:5-7  (5-7) 49:5-6  (5-6) 49:5-6  (5-6)    
    Return and Restoration 49:6  (6)  
  49:7  (7) 49:7  (7) 49:7a  (7a)  
      49:7b  (7b)  
      The Restoration of Jerusalem The Joyful Homecoming
49:8-13  (8-13) 49:8-9a  (8-9a) 49:8-12  (8-12) 49:8-10  (8-10) 49:8-12  (8-12)
  49:9b-12  (9b-12)      
      49:11-16  (11-16)  
  49:13  (13) 49:13  (13)   49:13-17  (13-17)
Promises to Zion God Will Remember Zion      
49:14-21  (14-21) 49:14-18  (14-18) 49:14-18  (14-18)    
      49:17-18  (17-18)  
        49:18-22  (18-22)
  49:19-21  (19-21) 49:19-21  (19-21) 49:19-21  (19-21)  
49:22-23  (22-23) 49:22-23  (22-23) 49:22-23  (22-23) 49:22-23  (22-23)  
        49:23-26  (23-26)
49:24-26  (24-26) 49:24  (24) 49:24-26  (24-26) 49:24  (24)  
  49:25-26  (25-26)   49:25-26  (25-26)  



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. The literary unit of Isaiah 40-66 focuses on God's restoration of His people through the work of "His Servant" (cf. chapters 49-57).


B. This passage is known as the second Servant Song. See full list of the Songs/Poems at the Introduction to chapter 42, A.


C. This chapter has several important truths.

1. God has prepared a special Savior/Servant

2. This special Servant will bring all people to God

3. God has not forgotten His Servant nation, Israel


D. Note the parallel themes and imagery between chapters 40 and 49.



1 "Listen to Me, O islands,
And pay attention, you peoples from afar.
The Lord called Me from the womb;
From the body of My mother He named Me.
2He has made My mouth like a sharp sword,
In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me;
And He has also made Me a select arrow,
He has hidden Me in His quiver.
3He said to Me, "You are My Servant, Israel,
In Whom I will show My glory."
4But I said, "I have toiled in vain,
I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity;
Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the Lord,
And My reward with My God."

49:1 "Listen" See full note on the introductory imperative at 48:1.

There are two imperatives that introduce this new literary unit.

1. listen - Qal imperative (BDB 1033, KB 1570)

2. pay attention - Hiphil imperative (BDB 904, KB 1151)

God's revelation of Himself and His purposes was meant to be heard, understood, and acted on!

▣ "O islands. . .peoples from afar" These parallel phrases show the universal implications of the "servant's" task (cf. 42:7). The love of God

1. remembers its covenant with Abraham's descendants (cf. vv. 5-6b)

2. remembers the promise to all humans, Gen. 3:15; 12:3 (cf. v. 6c)

There is a dual aspect to YHWH's message

1. to the returning Jewish exiles under Cyrus

2. to the returning nations under the Servant/Messiah

There is always in Isaiah an eye on the present (Assyria); the near Future (Babylon, Persia), and the distant future (gospel age). YHWH's desires for Israel's

1. righteousness

2. revelation to the nations

was never fulfilled. The evangelistic mandate (see Special Topic at 40:15) was transferred to the NT people of God (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8).

▣ "The Lord called Me from the womb" The NASB has the pronouns capitalized to show that they refer to the Messiah, the individualized Servant. God's special call is expressed in the Servant's prenatal call (as was Jeremiah, cf. Jer. 1:5). There is an obvious tension in these "Servant" passages between the individual and corporate aspects of the Servant. It is clear from 41:8-9; 42:19; 43:10; 49:3 that the title is corporate Israel. However, the individual focus of the singular pronouns of chapter 49 and the work of the individual in 52:13-53:12 show that these passages have a dual focus. This dual focus can also be seen in chapter 42. Verses 1-4 relate to the Messiah, while vv. 19-21 are obviously corporate Israel. Israel was called to be a kingdom of priests to bring the world to God, Gen. 12:1-3; Exod. 19:4-6. She failed because she did not and could not keep the covenant. God fulfilled His universal redemptive task through one faithful Israelite-Jesus! This same tension between the individual and corporate can be seen in that 49:6 is quoted in Luke 2:32 to refer to Jesus' ministry and in Acts 13:46-49 referring to the ministry of Paul and Barnabas.

▣ "From the body of My mother" The word "body" is literally "inward parts" (BDB 588). This speaks of the creation and development of a baby (cf. Ps. 139:13). This same word is used in 48:19 for "offspring" (also note Gen. 15:4).

▣ "He named Me" The Servant is called and named before birth by YHWH. He is His special representative.

This parallels what YHWH did for national Israel in 43:1. There is a real and continuing fluidity between the corporate and individual imagery related to the Servant!

49:2 "He has made My mouth like a sharp sword" This is a metaphor describing a powerful speaker, and here and in Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12 it speaks of revelation. It is used to describe the glorified Christ as Judge in Isa. 11:4; Rev. 1:16; 2:12-16; 19:15,21.

▣ "In the shadow of His hand" This verse has two metaphors of protection and concealment (cf. 51:16) until the right time. The Servant's task is specialized and specific. This thought is captured by the recurrent NT phrase "in the fullness of time" (cf. Mark 1:15; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 1:10; I Tim. 2:6; Titus 1:3).

49:3-4 The focus of these verses is that the Servant is corporate Israel, but the corporate Servant has failed its assigned task! Israel was to be God's chosen instrument of world redemption, v. 6c,d, but now she herself must be redeemed (cf. vv. 5-6a,b; 53:8d).

49:4 There is a contextual question if these verses relate to the failure of Israel or the suffering of the Messiah. All the verbs are perfect. The ambiguity may be purposeful!

The closing two lines of v. 4 express an ultimate trust in God's justice and reward (cf. v. 5c).

▣ "My reward with My God" I think this links up with 53:10-11. The reward will be redemption on a global scale!

5And now says the Lord, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him
(For I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
And My God is My strength),
6He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
7Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One,
To the despised One,
To the One abhorred by the nation,
To the Servant of rulers,
"Kings will see and arise,
Princes will also bow down,
Because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You."

49:5 "To bring Jacob back to Him" This verse and v. 6b show that the Servant must restore Israel, therefore, the Servant cannot be Israel.

▣ "(For I am honored in the sight of the Lord,

And My God is My strength)

This is a comment from the Servant. It may be a way of encouraging the Servant amidst the disappointments and opposition He will encounter during His ministry (cf. 53:1-12).

49:6 "to restore the preserved ones of Israel" This phrase refers to the faithful remnant (see Special Topic at 46:3) of the Chosen People, the chosen instrument of revelation. The hope of a restored, believing Israel is seen in Zech. 12:10 and Romans 9-11 (see the free commentaries on these books at ).

▣ "I will also make You a light of the nations

So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth"

Notice the Servant/Messiah had two purposes. If v. 5 reflects the Israel-focused ministry of the Gospels, then v. 6 represents the worldwide expansion of the early church. This universal spread of the gospel is an oft-repeated theme in Isaiah (cf. 2:2-4; 42:6-12; 45:22-23; 51:4-5; 60:1,3; 66:23; Acts 13:46-49).

49:7 "the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and its Holy One" This series of titles (see note at 48:17) shows us the tension between

1. the transcendent and immanent God

2. God as Savior and God as Judge

3. God as friend and God as boss

We must hold together justification and sanctification. They form one purpose! YHWH wants a people who display His character.

▣ "To the despised One,

 To the One abhorred by the nation,

 To the Servant of rulers"

This implies the lowliness of the Servant, even the rejection of the Servant (cf. 50:4-11; 52:14-53:6; Psalm 22). But ultimately all earthly authority will acknowledge Him (cf. Phil. 2:6-11, which alludes to Isa. 45:22-23).

Is it not ironical that the one despised and abhorred by the nations (cf. Psalm 2) is the very one that will bring salvation to the nations!

▣ "Because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You" Here is the key to our hope, YHWH's faithfulness. Our hope is in the character of the One who calls, promises, and redeems!


8Thus says the Lord,
"In a favorable time I have answered You,
And in a day of salvation I have helped You;
And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people,
To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages;
9Saying to those who are bound, 'Go forth,'
To those who are in darkness, 'Show yourselves.'
Along the roads they will feed,
And their pasture will be on all bare heights.
10They will not hunger or thirst,
Nor will the scorching heat or sun strike them down;
For He who has compassion on them will lead them
And will guide them to springs of water.
11I will make all My mountains a road,
And My highways will be raised up.
12Behold, these will come from afar;
And lo, these will come from the north and from the west,
And these from the land of Sinim."
13Shout for joy, O heavens! And rejoice, O earth!
Break forth into joyful shouting, O mountains!
For the Lord has comforted His people
And will have compassion on His afflicted.

49:8 Notice that "in a favorable time" and "in a day of salvation" are parallel. This text is quoted in

II Cor. 6:2. It is used in Ps. 69:13-15 for a day of deliverance. It can denote physical or spiritual deliverance/salvation. The Year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:10) symbolized this radical forgiveness of debts. In this context they are talking about the return to Palestine, which began with Cyrus' decree in 538 b.c. and was accomplished in several waves.

1. Sheshbazzar - Ezra 1

2. Zerubbabel and Joshua - Ezra 2

3. Nehemiah - Nehemiah 1

4. Ezra - Nehemiah 8

Notice the verbs in v. 8 that describe YHWH's actions.

1. I have answered You - Qal perfect (BDB 772, KB 851)

2. I have helped You - Qal perfect (BDB 740, KB 810)

3. I will keep You - Qal imperfect (BDB 665, KB 718)

4. I will give You - Qal imperfect (BDB 678, KB 733)

a. to restore the land - Hiphil infinitive construct (BDB 877, KB 1086)

b. to make them inherit - Hiphil infinitive construct (BDB635, KB 686)


▣ ". . .give You for a covenant of the people" This phrase was used earlier in 42:6 in which the themes of 49:6,8 coincide. YHWH's covenant with Abraham and his seed had a wider orientation than just Israel (cf. Gen. 12:3; see Special Topic at 40:15). This was also for the whole world (i.e., the nations). This is the logical and theological implication of monotheism-only one God (see Special Topic at 40:14), all humans created in God's image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), and a promise to redeem all humans in Gen. 3:15, long before there was a nation of Israel.

49:8d-12 These verses are metaphors of sheep feeding in abundant pastures. They reflect the covenant blessing of Deuteronomy 27-28. God's people have been restored to the Promised Land! Paul uses this text for the New Age in II Cor. 6:2. Verse 10 is also used in Rev. 7:16, which shows Gentiles are included.

49:9 The Israelites are described as being in prison (i.e., prisoners, BDB 63, cf. 42:7; 61:1).

1. to those who are bound

2. to those who are in darkness

They are told to

1. go forth - Qal imperative (BDB 422, KB 425)

2. show yourselves - Niphal imperative (lit. "uncover yourself," BDB162, KB 191)


49:10 "He who has compassion on them will lead them" These are descriptive titles for YHWH.

1. the one who has compassion - Piel participle (BDB 933, KB 1216)

2. the one who leads them - Piel imperfect (BDB 624, KB 675)

3. the one who will guide them - Piel imperfect (BDB 624, KB 675)


The agricultural metaphors of provision from v. 9 continue.

1. no hunger

2. no thirst

3. no heat stroke

The return home will be easy, protected and with abundant provisions. This same imagery is used in Rev. 7:16 of the Messianic period. YHWH's Messiah is their shepherd (cf. Ps. 121:5-6).

49:11 Access to Jerusalem is metaphorically assured by the removal of all obstacles and the provision of a repaired, even raised, roadway (cf. 11:16; 19:23; 62:10).

There will be a free-flowing movement between nations for the purpose of worshiping YHWH. The nations have come!

It is interesting how many times Isaiah uses the imagery of a highway.

1. a highway for the exiled Jews to return, 11:16; 57:14

2. a highway for Gentile worshipers to come, 19:23

3. a highway of holiness, 26:7; 35:8; 43:19; 49:11; 51:10

4. a Messianic highway, 40:3; 42:16


49:12 ". . .And these from the land of Sinim" The exact location is uncertain. The thrust of the text is that God will bring all His people home, even from the farthest land.

1. NASB, NKJV, Peshitta - "Sinim"

2. NRSV, REB - "Syene"

3. TEV, NIV, NJB - "Aswan"

4. DSS - "Syenians"

All of these are various spellings of the ancient and modern city in southern Egypt which had a large Jewish population (cf. Ezek. 30:6).

49:13 "O heaven. . .O earth. . .O mountains" These have served as witnesses to God's judgment against His people (i.e. 48:1ff). Now they serve as joyful witnesses of God's faithfulness (cf. 44:23)!

Notice the series of imperatives.

1. shout - Qal imperative (BDB 943, KB 1247)

2. rejoice - Qal imperative (BDB 162, KB 189)

3. break forth - Qal imperative (BDB 822, KB 953)


14 But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me."
15"Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
16Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.
17Your builders hurry;
Your destroyers and devastators
Will depart from you.
18Lift up your eyes and look around;
All of them gather together, they come to you.
As I live," declares the Lord,
"You will surely put on all of them as jewels and bind them on as a bride.
19For your waste and desolate places and your destroyed land-
Surely now you will be too cramped for the inhabitants,
And those who swallowed you will be far away.
20The children of whom you were bereaved will yet say in your ears,
'The place is too cramped for me;
Make room for me that I may live here.'
21Then you will say in your heart,
'Who has begotten these for me,
Since I have been bereaved of my children
And am barren, an exile and a wanderer?
And who has reared these?
Behold, I was left alone;
From where did these come?'"

49:14-21 These verses are words of encouragement by God to a discouraged and barren Jerusalem (i.e., Zion). Notice the number of times the word "forget' (BDB 1013, KB 1489) is used.

1. "the Lord has forgotten me" - Qal perfect

2. "can a woman forget her nursing child" - Qal imperfect

3. "even these may forget" - Qal imperfect

4. "I will not forget you" - Qal imperfect

God uses anthropomorphic language to describe His love and faithful protection to the returnees by means of a feminine metaphor (hear sermon online at under "Difficult and Controversial Texts," number 111, "The Femininity of God."

49:15 This is a powerful metaphor of God's covenant love (cf. 66:9-13). YHWH is described in terms of a nursing mother. See Special Topic at 41:2.

49:16-17 This is another powerful metaphor of God's constant remembrance of His covenant with Abraham's descendants. Even when Jerusalem is in ruins, God's people envision the new day of restoration!


NASB"your builders hurry"
NKJV"your sons make haste"
NJB"your rebuilders are hurrying"
JPSOA"swiftly your children are coming"

The UBS Text Project (p. 134-135) shows the two options.

1. your son, בניך - MT, DSS

2. your builders, בוניך - which the UBS calls "Babylonian vocalization"

The UBS Text Project gives option #2 a C rating (considerable doubt).

The second line is also in question.

1. REV - "Your builders outstrip your destroyers"

2. NEB - "Those who are to rebuild you make better speed than those who pulled you down"

This difference involves only a revocalization of the Hebrew consonants (UBS Text Project, p. 135).

49:18 Jerusalem was destroyed! She is pictured as a mother without children (cf. vv. 20-21). Her husband, YHWH, has now restored her and provided numerous children as the crown of her old age!

YHWH challenges the returnees to

1. lift up your eyes - Qal imperative (BDB 669, KB 724)

2. look around - Qal imperative (BDB 906, KB 1157)


49:21-22 Those who return to Jerusalem, which symbolizes the worship of YHWH (i.e., the temple), will be so many that the city cannot physically contain them all!

22Thus says the Lord God,
"Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations
And set up My standard to the peoples;
And they will bring your sons in their bosom,
And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.
23Kings will be your guardians,
And their princesses your nurses.
They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth
And lick the dust of your feet;
And you will know that I am the Lord;
Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame."

49:22-23 In v. 7 the leaders of the Gentile nations rejected and rebelled against God's Messiah (cf. Psalm 2). Now they come repentantly to Jerusalem bringing God's covenant people, the Jews, with them. This verse is not meant to magnify the Old Covenant, but the covenant-making God! The Gentiles' reverence for YHWH will be seen in their respect for His people (cf. 45:14).

49:22 "set up My standard to the peoples" This is parallel to "lift up My hand to the nations." The Servant will be a signal/flag for the nations (i.e., Gentiles) to rally (cf. 11:10,12). The ultimate goal of the covenant peoples' restoration is the restoration of all humanity! See Special Topic at 45:23.

49:23 "And you will know that I am the Lord" Israel was meant to be a witness to the nations. Now the nations will be a witness to Israel. As Gentiles trust in YHWH and are converted in large numbers, this is a sign to Israel that God is with them but that they must also have faith (cf. Romans 9-11).

▣ "Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame" The concept of "wait" is found often in Isaiah: 25:9; 26:8; 40:31 (Ps. 37:9). This is analogous to those who "trust in" the Servant!

The phrase "put to shame" is another theme of the OT (cf. 45:17; Ps. 25:3; Joel 2:27). Those who wait/trust will not be shamed/disappointed!

24"Can the prey be taken from the mighty man,
Or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?"
25Surely, thus says the Lord,
"Even the captives of the mighty man will be taken away,
And the prey of the tyrant will be rescued;
For I will contend with the one who contends with you,
And I will save your sons.
26I will feed your oppressors with their own flesh,
And they will become drunk with their own blood as with sweet wine;
And all flesh will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior
And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

49:24-26 These verses are metaphorical of a second exodus experience. God is delivering His people again from powerful world empires. It is significant that God's purpose in this deliverance, like His first deliverance, is not only that His covenant people might go free but that all nations will know Him (cf. v. 26c; 45:6; Mal. 1:11).


NJB"a tyrant"
NKJV"the righteous"
REB"the ruthless"

The translation followed by NKJV is found in the MT, but the others from the DSS, Syriac, and Vulgate.

1. righteous - צדיק

2. tyrant - עריץ


49:25 "For I will contend" This is "court scene" imagery. Possibly its use in Jer. 50:34 sheds light on this verse.

YHWH/Servant has changed from Prosecutor to Advocate!

49:26d Notice again the powerful titles for the Deity of Israel (cf. 41:14; 43:14; 44:6,24; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7,26; 54:5,8; 59:20; 60:16; 63:16).


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