New English Translation
The Lord Commissions His Special Servant
42 [a] “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[b] for the nations.[c]
2 He will not cry out or shout;
he will not publicize himself in the streets.[d]
3 A crushed reed he will not break,
a dim wick he will not extinguish;[e]
he will faithfully make just decrees.[f]
4 He will not grow dim or be crushed[g]
before establishing justice on the earth;
the coastlands[h] will wait in anticipation for his decrees.”[i]
5 This is what the true God,[j] 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,[k]
the one who gives breath to the people on it,
and life to those who live on it:[l]
6 “I, the Lord, officially commission you;[m]
I take hold of your hand.
I protect you[n] and make you a covenant mediator for people,[o]
and a light[p] to the nations,[q]
7 to open blind eyes,[r]
to release prisoners[s] from dungeons,
those who live in darkness from prisons.
The Lord Intervenes
8 “I am the Lord! That is my name!
I will not share my glory with anyone else,
or the praise due me with idols.
9 Look, my earlier predictive oracles have come to pass;[t]
now I announce new events.
Before they begin to occur,
I reveal them to you.”[u]
10 Sing to the Lord a brand new song!
Praise him[v] from the horizon of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and everything that lives in it,[w]
you coastlands[x] and those who live there.
11 Let the wilderness and its cities shout out,
the towns where the nomads of Kedar live.
Let the residents of Sela shout joyfully;
let them shout loudly from the mountaintops.
12 Let them give the Lord the honor he deserves;[y]
let them praise his deeds in the coastlands.[z]
13 The Lord emerges like a hero,
like a warrior he inspires himself for battle;[aa]
he shouts, yes, he yells,
he shows his enemies his power.[ab]
14 “I have been inactive[ac] for a long time;
I kept quiet and held back.
Like a woman in labor I groan;
I pant and gasp.[ad]
15 I will make the trees on the mountains and hills wither up;[ae]
I will dry up all their vegetation.
I will turn streams into islands,[af]
and dry up pools of water.[ag]
16 I will lead the blind along an unfamiliar way;[ah]
I will guide them down paths they have never traveled.[ai]
I will turn the darkness in front of them into light,
and level out the rough ground.[aj]
This is what I will do for them.
I will not abandon them.
17 Those who trust in idols
will turn back and be utterly humiliated,[ak]
those who say to metal images, ‘You are our gods.’
The Lord Reasons with His People
18 “Listen, you deaf ones!
Take notice,[al] you blind ones!
19 My servant is truly blind,
my messenger is truly deaf.
My covenant partner,[am] the servant of the Lord, is truly blind.[an]
20 You see[ao] many things, but don’t comprehend;[ap]
their ears are open, but do not hear.”
21 The Lord wanted to exhibit his justice
by magnifying his law and displaying it.[aq]
22 But these people are looted and plundered;
all of them are trapped in pits[ar]
and held captive[as] in prisons.
They were carried away as loot with no one to rescue them;
they were carried away as plunder, and no one says, “Bring that back!”[at]
23 Who among you will pay attention to this?
Who will listen attentively in the future?[au]
24 Who handed Jacob over to the robber?
Who handed Israel over to the looters?[av]
Was it not the Lord, against whom we sinned?
They refused to follow his commands;
they disobeyed his law.[aw]
25 So he poured out his fierce anger on them,[ax]
along with the devastation[ay] of war.
Its flames encircled them,[az] but they did not realize it;[ba]
it burned against them, but they did not take it to heart.[bb]
- Isaiah 42:1 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.
- Isaiah 42:1 tn Heb “he will bring out justice” (cf. ASV, NASB, NRSV).
- Isaiah 42:1 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.
- Isaiah 42:2 tn Heb “he will not cause his voice to be heard in the street.”
- Isaiah 42:3 sn The “crushed reed” and “dim wick” symbolize the weak and oppressed who are on the verge of extinction.
- Isaiah 42:3 tn Heb “faithfully he will bring out justice” (cf. NASB, NRSV).
- Isaiah 42:4 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.
- Isaiah 42:4 tn Or “islands” (NIV); NLT “distant lands beyond the sea.”
- Isaiah 42:4 tn Or “his law” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NIV) or “his instruction” (NLT).
- Isaiah 42:5 tn Heb “the God.” The definite article here indicates distinctiveness or uniqueness.
- Isaiah 42:5 tn Heb “and its offspring” (so NASB); NIV “all that comes out of it.”
- Isaiah 42:5 tn Heb “and spirit [i.e., “breath”] to the ones walking in it” (NAB, NASB, and NRSV all similar).
- Isaiah 42:6 tn Heb “call you in righteousness.” The pronoun “you” is masculine singular, referring to the servant. See the note at 41:2.
- Isaiah 42:6 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”).
- Isaiah 42:6 tn Heb “a covenant of people.” A person cannot literally be a covenant; בְּרִית (berit) is probably metonymic here, indicating a covenant mediator. The precise identity of עָם (ʿam, “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.
- Isaiah 42:6 sn Light here symbolizes deliverance from bondage and oppression; note the parallelism in 49:6b and in 51:4-6.
- Isaiah 42:6 tn Or “the Gentiles” (so KJV, ASV, NIV); the same Hebrew word can be translated “nations” or “Gentiles” depending on the context.
- Isaiah 42:7 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.
- Isaiah 42:7 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.
- Isaiah 42:9 tn Heb “the former things, look, they have come.”
- Isaiah 42:9 tn Heb “before they sprout up, I cause you to hear.” The pronoun “you” is plural, referring to the people of Israel. In this verse “the former things” are the Lord’s earlier predictive oracles which have come to pass, while “the new things” are predicted events that have not yet begun to take place. “The former things” are earlier events in Israel’s history which God announced beforehand, such as the Exodus (see 43:16-18). “The new things” are the predictions about the servant (42:1-7). and may also include Cyrus’ conquests (41:25-27).
- Isaiah 42:10 tn Heb “his praise.” The phrase stands parallel to “new song” in the previous line.
- Isaiah 42:10 tn Heb “and its fullness”; NASB, NIV “and all that is in it.”
- Isaiah 42:10 tn Or “islands” (NASB, NIV); NLT “distant coastlands.”
- Isaiah 42:12 tn Heb “Let them ascribe to the Lord glory.”
- Isaiah 42:12 tn Heb “and his praise in the coastlands [or “islands”] let them declare.”
- Isaiah 42:13 tn Heb “like a man of war he stirs up zeal” (NIV similar).
- Isaiah 42:13 tn Or perhaps, “he triumphs over his enemies” (cf. NIV); NLT “will crush all his enemies.”
- Isaiah 42:14 tn Heb “silent” (so NASB, NIV, TEV, NLT); CEV “have held my temper.”
- Isaiah 42:14 sn The imagery depicts the Lord as a warrior who is eager to fight and can no longer hold himself back from the attack.
- Isaiah 42:15 tn Heb “I will dry up the mountains and hills.” The “mountains and hills” stand by synecdoche for the trees that grow on them. Some prefer to derive the verb from a homonymic root and translate, “I will lay waste.”
- Isaiah 42:15 tc The Hebrew text reads, “I will turn streams into coastlands [or “islands”].” Scholars who believe that this reading makes little sense have proposed an emendation of אִיִּים (ʾiyyim, “islands”) to צִיּוֹת (tsiyyot, “dry places”; cf. NCV, NLT, TEV). However, since all the versions support the MT reading, there is insufficient grounds for an emendation here. Although the imagery of changing rivers into islands is somewhat strange, J. N. Oswalt describes this imagery against the backdrop of rivers of the Near East. The receding of these rivers at times occasioned the appearance of previously submerged islands (Isaiah [NICOT], 2:126).
- Isaiah 42:15 sn The imagery of this verse, which depicts the Lord bringing a curse of infertility to the earth, metaphorically describes how the Lord will destroy his enemies.
- Isaiah 42:16 tn Heb “a way they do not know” (so NASB); NRSV “a road they do not know.”
- Isaiah 42:16 tn Heb “in paths they do not know I will make them walk.”
- Isaiah 42:16 tn Heb “and the rough ground into a level place.”
- Isaiah 42:17 tn Heb “be ashamed with shame”; ASV, NASB “be utterly put to shame.”
- Isaiah 42:18 tn Heb “look to see”; NAB, NCV “look and see”; NRSV “look up and see.”
- Isaiah 42:19 tc The precise meaning of מְשֻׁלָּם (meshullam) in this context is uncertain. In later biblical Hebrew the form (which appears to be a Pual participle from the root שָׁלַם, shalam) occurs as a proper name, Meshullam. The Pual of שָׁלַם (“be complete”) is attested with the meaning “repaid, requited,” but that makes little sense here. BDB 1023 s.v. שָׁלַם relates the form to the denominative verb שָׁלַם (“be at peace”) and paraphrases “one in a covenant of peace” (J. N. Oswalt suggests “the covenanted one”; Isaiah [NICOT], 2:128, n. 59) Some emend the form to מֹשְׁלָם (moshelam, “their ruler”) or to מְשֻׁלָּחִי (meshullakhi, “my sent [or “commissioned”] one”), which fits nicely in the parallelism (note “my messenger” in the previous line). The translation above assumes an emendation to כְּמוֹ שֹׁלְמִי (kemo sholemi, “like my ally”). Isaiah uses כְּמוֹ in 30:22 and perhaps 51:5; for שֹׁלְמי (“my ally”) see Ps 7:5 HT (7:4 ET).
- Isaiah 42:19 tn Heb “Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like my messenger I send? Who is blind like my commissioned one, blind like the servant of the Lord?” The point of the rhetorical questions is that no one is as blind/deaf as this servant. In this context the Lord’s “servant” is exiled Israel (cf. 41:8-9), which is spiritually blind and deaf and has failed to fulfill God’s purpose for it. This servant stands in contrast to the ideal “Israel” of the servant songs.
- Isaiah 42:20 tn The consonantal text (Kethib) has a perfect, second person masculine singular; the marginal reading (Qere) has an infinitive absolute, which functions here as a finite verb.
- Isaiah 42:20 tn Heb “but you do not guard [i.e., retain in your memory]”; NIV “but have paid no attention.”
- Isaiah 42:21 tn Heb “The Lord was pleased for the sake of his righteousness [or “justice”], he was magnifying [the] law and was making [it] glorious.” The Lord contrasts his good intentions for the people with their present crisis (v. 22). To demonstrate his just character and attract the nations, the Lord wanted to showcase his law among and through Israel (Deut 4:5-8). But Israel disobeyed (v. 24) and failed to carry out their commission.
- Isaiah 42:22 tc The Hebrew text has בַּחוּרִים (bakhurim, “young men”), but the text should be emended to בְּהוֹרִים (behorim, “in holes”).
- Isaiah 42:22 tn Heb “and made to be hidden”; NAB, NASB, NIV, TEV “hidden away in prisons.”
- Isaiah 42:22 tn Heb “they became loot, and there was no one rescuing, plunder, and there was no one saying, ‘Bring back’.”
- Isaiah 42:23 tn The interrogative particle is understood in the second line by ellipsis (note the preceding line).
- Isaiah 42:24 tn Heb “Who gave to the robber Jacob, and Israel to the looters?” In the first line the consonantal text (Kethib) has מְשׁוֹסֶה (meshoseh), a Polel participle from שָׁסָה (shasah, “plunder”). The marginal reading (Qere) is מְשִׁיסָּה (meshissah), a noun meaning “plunder.” In this case one could translate “Who handed Jacob over as plunder?”
- Isaiah 42:24 tn Heb “they were not willing in his ways to walk, and they did not listen to his law.”
- Isaiah 42:25 tn The Hebrew third masculine singular pronoun, representing the nation, has been rendered as the third plural throughout this verse.
- Isaiah 42:25 tn Heb “strength” (so KJV, NASB); NAB “fury”; NASB “fierceness”; NIV “violence.”
- Isaiah 42:25 tn Heb “and it blazed against him all around.” The subject of the third feminine singular verb “blazed” is the divine חֵמָה (khemah, “anger”) mentioned in the previous line.
- Isaiah 42:25 sn It is not that he did not know about the war, but he did not attribute this to God’s wrath.
- Isaiah 42:25 tn Heb “but he did not set [it] upon [his] heart.” The Hebrew word “heart” also refers to the mind.