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Delivery of the Exiles

49 Listen to me, you coastlands![a]
Pay attention, you people who live far away!
The Lord summoned me from birth;[b]
he commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world.[c]
He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
he hid me in the hollow of his hand;
he made me like a sharpened[d] arrow,
he hid me in his quiver.[e]
He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.”[f]
But I thought,[g] “I have worked in vain;
I have expended my energy for absolutely nothing.”[h]
But the Lord will vindicate me;
my God will reward me.[i]
So now the Lord says,
the one who formed me from birth[j] to be his servant—
he did this[k] to restore Jacob to himself,
so that Israel might be gathered to him;
and I will be honored[l] in the Lord’s sight,
for my God is my source of strength[m]
he says, “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant,
to reestablish the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the remnant[n] of Israel?[o]
I will make you a light to the nations,[p]
so you can bring[q] my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”
This is what the Lord,
the Protector[r] of Israel, their Holy One,[s] says
to the one who is despised[t] and rejected[u] by nations,[v]
a servant of rulers:
“Kings will see and rise in respect,[w]
princes will bow down,
because of the faithful Lord,
the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.”

This is what the Lord says:

“At the time I decide to show my favor, I will respond to you;
in the day of deliverance I will help you;
I will protect you[x] and make you a covenant mediator for people,[y]
to rebuild[z] the land[aa]
and to reassign the desolate property.
You will say[ab] to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
and to those who are in dark dungeons,[ac] ‘Emerge.’[ad]
They will graze beside the roads;
on all the slopes they will find pasture.
10 They will not be hungry or thirsty;
the sun’s oppressive heat will not beat down on them,[ae]
for one who has compassion on them will guide them;
he will lead them to springs of water.
11 I will make all my mountains into a road;
I will construct my roadways.”
12 Look, they come from far away!
Look, some come from the north and west,
and others from the land of Sinim.[af]
13 Shout for joy, O sky![ag]
Rejoice, O earth!
Let the mountains give a joyful shout!
For the Lord consoles his people
and shows compassion to the[ah] oppressed.

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  1. Isaiah 49:1 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. Isaiah 49:1 tn Heb “called me from the womb.”
  3. Isaiah 49:1 tn Heb “from the inner parts of my mother he mentioned my name.”
  4. Isaiah 49:2 tn Or perhaps, “polished” (so KJV, ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV); NASB “a select arrow.”
  5. Isaiah 49:2 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. Isaiah 49:3 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.
  7. Isaiah 49:4 tn Or “said” (KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “I replied.”
  8. Isaiah 49:4 tn Heb “for nothing and emptiness.” Synonyms are combined to emphasize the common idea.
  9. Isaiah 49:4 tn Heb “But my justice is with the Lord, and my reward [or “wage”] with my God.”
  10. Isaiah 49:5 tn Heb “from the womb” (so KJV, NASB).
  11. Isaiah 49:5 tn The words “he did this” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. In the Hebrew text the infinitive construct of purpose is subordinated to the previous statement.
  12. Isaiah 49:5 tn The vav (ו) + imperfect is translated here as a result clause; one might interpret it as indicating purpose, “and so I might be honored.”
  13. Isaiah 49:5 tn Heb “and my God is [perhaps, “having been”] my strength.” The disjunctive structure (vav [ו] + subject + verb) is interpreted here as indicating a causal circumstantial clause.
  14. Isaiah 49:6 tn Heb “the protected [or “preserved”] ones.”
  15. Isaiah 49:6 sn The question is purely rhetorical; it does not imply that the servant was dissatisfied with his commission or that he minimized the restoration of Israel.
  16. Isaiah 49:6 tn See the note at 42:6.
  17. Isaiah 49:6 tn Heb “be” (so KJV, ASV); CEV “you must take.”
  18. Isaiah 49:7 tn Heb “redeemer.” See the note at 41:14.
  19. Isaiah 49:7 sn See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.
  20. Isaiah 49:7 tc The Hebrew text reads literally “to [one who] despises life.” It is preferable to read with the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa לבזוי, which should be vocalized as a passive participle, לִבְזוּי (livzuy, “to the one despised with respect to life” [נֶפֶשׁ is a genitive of specification]). The consonantal sequence וי was probably misread as ה in the MT tradition. The contextual argument favors the 1QIsaa reading. As J. N. Oswalt (Isaiah [NICOT], 2:294) points out, the three terse phrases “convey a picture of lowliness, worthlessness, and helplessness.”
  21. Isaiah 49:7 tn MT’s Piel participle (“to the one who rejects”) does not fit contextually. The form should be revocalized as a Pual, “to the one rejected.”
  22. Isaiah 49:7 tn Parallelism (see “rulers,” “kings,” “princes”) suggests that the singular גּוֹי (goy) be emended to a plural or understood in a collective sense (see 55:5).
  23. Isaiah 49:7 tn For this sense of קוּם (qum), see Gen 19:1; 23:7; 33:10; Lev 19:32; 1 Sam 20:41; 25:41; 1 Kgs 2:19; Job 29:8.
  24. Isaiah 49:8 tn The translation assumes the verb is derived from the root נָצָר (natsar, “protect”). Some prefer to derive it from the root יָצָר (yatsar, “form”).
  25. Isaiah 49:8 tn Heb “a covenant of people.” A person cannot literally be a covenant; בְּרִית (berit) is probably metonymic here, indicating a covenant mediator. Here עָם (ʿam, “people”) appears to refer to Israel. See the note at 42:6.
  26. Isaiah 49:8 tn The Hiphil of קוּם (qum, “arise”) is probably used here in the sense of “rebuild.”
  27. Isaiah 49:8 tn The “land” probably stands by metonymy for the ruins within it.
  28. Isaiah 49:9 tn Heb “to say.” In the Hebrew text the infinitive construct is subordinated to what precedes.
  29. Isaiah 49:9 tn Heb “in darkness” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); NLT “the prisoners of darkness.”
  30. Isaiah 49:9 tn Heb “show yourselves” (so ASV, NAB, NASB).
  31. Isaiah 49:10 tn Heb “and the heat and the sun will not strike them.” In Isa 35:7, its only other occurrence in the OT, שָׁרָב (sharav) stands parallel to “parched ground” and in contrast to “pool.” In later Hebrew and Aramaic it refers to “dry heat, heat of the sun” (Jastrow 1627 s.v.). Here it likely has this nuance and forms a hendiadys with “sun.”
  32. Isaiah 49:12 tc The MT reads “Sinim” here; the Dead Sea Scrolls read “Syene,” a location in Egypt associated with modern Aswan. A number of recent translations adopt this reading: “Syene” (NAB, NRSV); “Aswan” (NIV); “Egypt” (NLT).sn The precise location of the land of Sinim is uncertain, but since the north and west are mentioned in the previous line, it was a probably located in the distant east or south.
  33. Isaiah 49:13 tn Or “O heavens.” The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated “heavens” or “sky” depending on the context.
  34. Isaiah 49:13 tn Heb “his” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).