Miracles have no value if they achieve only temporal change (healing). The goal of a true miracle is an eternal one: to reconcile humanity to God through Messiah. Any miracle that doesn’t bear the fruit of eternal redemption is not of God. There are times when sickness is a greater miracle than healing.
In this short chapter the Holy Name YHVH (Mercy) is used nine times. The Servant (Yeshua) of Mercy is introduced in the first seven verses of this section of Isaiah, preceding the disobedient servant (Israel) from whom He comes.
Isaiah introduces us to the servant Israel (Isa. 41:8) as a people chosen to represent God’s redemptive purpose for all peoples, however, the Servant of Hashem who is presented in the beginning of this chapter is clearly distinct from Israel the people, while also being born of her. In fact, the Servant described in 42:1-7 has such a strong individuality and distinct personal features, that the title “Servant” cannot be understood of the collective entity Israel (ethnic, religious, empirical).
From verse 19 onwards we see a different servant, one who is blind, disobedient and in need of the deliverance offered through the first Servant (v.1-7).
We further note that Hashem has previously alluded to the Servant Who will bring good news to Israel:
“Rishon The first Le’Tziyon to Zion, Hineih Behold, now, hineih behold, now, them: and I will give to Yerushalayim Jerusalem one that brings good news.” – Isaiah 41:27
With these things in mind we are able to better understand the transition that takes place over the next 25 verses, where the Servant Messiah, born of the servant nation, is sent to redeem the disobedient nation and establish justice in the land.
Isa 42:1 Hein Behold av’di My Servant, etmoch-bo whom I uphold (hold fast); be’chiyriy My chosen one (elect), in Whom ratzetah delights nafshiy My soul (core being); natatiy I have put (given, bestowed, extended, yielded produce) ruachiy My Spirit alav upon (together with) Him: He will bring mishpat judgment la-goyim to the Gentiles (nations).
“Behold my servant the Messiah…I have put My Holy Spirit upon him…” -Targum Yonatan
In spite of the scholarship debate over the application of the title “Servant” in the opening verses of Isaiah 42, the majority of ancient Jewish commentators have interpreted Isaiah 42:1-4 to refer to the King Messiah.
In the second part of scroll of Isaiah there are four distinct Messianic servant prophecies (Isaiah 42:1-7; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12).
It’s important to understand and distinguish between the two types of servant prophecies. The Brit Ha-Chadashah (NT) applies the Messianic Servant passages of Isaiah to Yeshua (Jesus) the King Messiah (Matt. 12:17-20, Luke 2:32; 4:16-18, Acts 8:30-35).
In Isaiah 42:1-4 it is clear that the servant is an individual who has been given the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holy Spirit) and called to establish justice in the land (earth).
Isa 42:2 He will not cry out, lo-yisa nor exalt Himself (endure, resist, lift up), nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
“He will not strive, nor cry; neither will any man hear his voice in the streets.” -Matthew 12:19
“He will not lift up his voice…” - Yarchi, Kimchi, & Ben Melech
To put it concisely, He will not seek glory for Himself or cry out in defence of Himself.
Isa 42:3 Kaneh A reed ratzutz crushed, (bruised, oppressed) lo He will not break, and the smoking flax (a dying flame) He will not quench: le-emet for truth He will bring forth judgment.
“A bruised reed He will not break, and dying flame He will not put out, until He sends forth judgment to victory.” -Matthew 12:20
Notice that the Septuagint (Greek OT) version quoted by Matthew (Levi) further illuminates the form that the judgement Messiah brings will take. His judgement will bring about the immutable truth of all things and victory over judgement that condemns, for those who receive Him.
"The meek, who are like a bruised reed, shall not be broken; and the poor, who are as obscure as flax (or a lamp ready to go out), shall not be extinct:'' -Targum Yonatan
“Ratzutz” describes something cracked, that is, half broken. Thus, it is inferred that not only will He not break it, He will also restore it.
Isa 42:4 He will not yichheh grow weak (fail, be faint, be restrained) nor be yarutz discouraged (crushed, oppressed), until He has yasiym set (appointed) mishpat judgment ba-aretz in the land (earth): u’torato and His Torah will be awaited by the iyiym islands (coastlands, Mediterranean).
The Servant (Yeshua) is now identified alongside the figures of the previous verse. He will both ensure the restoration of the broken (v.3) and remain in strength to bring about justice in the land of Israel (v.4). Thus, the Torah (Instruction) He imparts will bear fruit among the nations. Notice that the Torah is His. Both the literal Torah of Moses and the living Torah (Instruction) of the Messiah are born of His authorship. Messiah is the author and goal of the Torah (Romans 10:4).
“Looking to Yeshua the author and perfecter of our trust; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, thinking the shame small, and is seated down at the right hand of the throne of Elohim (God: Judge).” -Hebrews 12:2
Isa 42:5 Thus, says Elohim (God: Judge) Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), Who borei (from bara) created ha-shamayim the heavens, and stretched them out; He that roka beat out (stamped, spread forth) ha-aretz the land (earth), and that which comes out of it; He that notein gives neshamah life breath (convergence of soul and spirit directly issuing from God) la’am to the people (singular: Israel) on it, and ruach spirit la-holechiym to them that walk there:
“Created the heavens and stretched them out” connects the present chapter to Isaiah 40:22.
“To the people” is singular and refers to the ethnic people of Israel whom the Lord is addressing through the prophet. In principal it may be applied to all people but the p’shat (plain meaning) denotes the people of Israel (ethnic, religious).
There is an important distinction made here between the neshamah (life breath) of humanity and the ruach (spirit, breath, wind) of both humanity and the various species of creatures that inhabit the land. The neshamah is distinct in that it is not merely spirit but is rather the convergence of spirit and soul (nefesh), which is imparted to human beings from the Creator from the beginning. Animals on the other hand are devoid of neshamah (conscious-convergence) but are endowed with ruach (spirit, breath). This is why it is said that He created human beings in His own image, the image being the nature of soul and spirit made echad (one), inseparable.
Isa 42:6 Ani I Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) have called you be’tzedek in righteousness, and will hold your hand, ve’etzarecha and will keep (guard) you, and give you livriyt for a covenant (cutting) of (for) am the (a) people, le’or for a light to the goyim Gentiles (nations);
Notice that the Servant will be a “cutting” or a “covenant” for “a people”. The servant of verses 1 to 7 cannot possibly be Israel because He will be a covenant for “am” a single people (Israel). This is why the singular “am” people, is used first and the plural “goyim” nations, follows. “The Gospel is first and always for the Jews and also always for the nations” (Romans 1:16).
The “Or” (original light) spoken of here pre-existed the created lights. God said, “There has been light (Or), and there was light (Or)” [Genesis 1:3]. This correlates to John’s Gospel which says, “In the beginning was the Word-essence and the Word-essence was with God and the Word-essence was God, He was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1).
Notice also, that the Servant of Hashem is given by Hashem as a covenant. The Servant does not make a covenant (cutting), He is the covenant. This clearly refers to the King Messiah Yeshua Who says, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20). Yeshua is the covenant that is both of and for the people of Israel and because of this He is also the light to the nations. When we fail to understand this order of redemptive purpose we do harm to the Gospel message, which is perpetuated in truth only according to the order outlined in Scripture.
The covenant mentioned here, referring to the Servant Himself (Yeshua) is also alluded to in Isaiah 54:10 following the essential Messianic passage of Isaiah 53. It is also the “Eternal covenant” of Isaiah 61:8, and the promised “New covenant” of Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 16:60.
Isa 42:7 To open the eiynyim eyes of the ivrot blind ones, to bring out from prison the prisoners, and mi’beiyt from the house of bondage those who sit in choshekh darkness.
The Servant will open the eyes of the blind both physically and spiritually. This correlates to the smouldering flame that He will not allow to go out (v.3). He will also set captives free both physically and spiritually. This correlates to the bruised reed that He will not break or allow to be broken (v.3). In each case the physical manifestation of a miraculous event is intended to illuminate the spiritual and eternal truth of salvation through the Servant (Yeshua). Miracles have no value if they achieve only temporal change (healing). The goal of a true miracle is an eternal one: to reconcile humanity to God through Messiah. Any miracle that doesn’t bear the fruit of eternal redemption is not of God. There are times when sickness is a greater miracle than healing.
“Choshekh” darkness, the opposite of Or light in the Genesis account. Therefore, the light of verse 6 delivers from the darkness of verse 7.
Isa 42:8 I am Hashem (YHVH: Mercy): that is shemiy My name: u’chevodiy and My glory I will not give to another, u’tehilatiy nor My praise la’pesiyliym to idols.
“I Mercy, that is My Name, and My glory I will not give to anyone or anything nor the praise due Me to worthless idols!” He is the very essence of Mercy, none the less, in mercy He is fierce for His people and will not allow evil to steal their attention away from Him.
Isa 42:9 Ha-rishonot the first things, hineih now are come to pass, va-chadashot and new things I make known: before they spring forth I tell you of them.
All this is being said to Israel through the prophet in advance. God is making the Gospel known first and always to Israel (ethnic, religious), and “Salvation (Yeshua) comes from the Jews”.
Isa 42:10 Sing to Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) shiyr chadash a new song, and His praise from the extremity of ha-aretz the land (earth), you who go down to ha-yam the sea (body of water, lake etc.), and all that are there; iyiym the islands (coastlands, Mediterranean), and the inhabitants there.
This is an instruction to Israel (ethnic, religious) to proclaim the new things of God in song to the ends of the known world, including the islands of the Mediterranean. This is in keeping with God’s promise that both Israel and the Servant Messiah (A Jew) will be a light to the goyim (nations) [42:1; 49:6; 60:3; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47, 26:23].
Isa 42:11 Let the midbar wilderness (from the Word) and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages Kedar (dark, dusty skinned ones) inhabited: let the inhabitants of sela the rock (Petra?) sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains. Isa 42:12 Let them give glory to Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), and make known His praise in the iyiym the islands (coastlands, Mediterranean).
In short, let all people, both obscure and renowned lift up their voices and shout praise to Hashem because of the good news of the Servant King Messiah.
Isa 42:13 Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) will go forth as a mighty ce’iysh man, He will go to war, awakening jealousy with a shout: He will cry, He will certainly, roar; He will prevail against His enemies.
This fierce poetic language describes Hashem going to war against His enemies. His enemies are the forces of darkness that oppose His glory and His purposed redemption of humanity. His enemies are those who oppose His chosen ethnic people Israel and His purposes for her. His enemies are those that oppose His children who share the good news of His Servant, regardless of their ethnicity. His enemies are those who deny the deity of His Son Who is literally a “iysh” man, Who has come to go to war against idolatry, sin and death, defeating the darkness in the light of His death and resurrection. Are you an enemy or a friend of God?
Isa 42:14 I have kept silent for a long time; I have been still, and restrained Myself: now I will scream like a woman in labour, gasping; and devour at once.
In poetic language God describes His long suffering, limitless patience. In doing so He also explains the need for that patience to come to a conclusion so that mercy might be made known through discipline. Such is His passionate love for Israel that He screams like a woman in labour, gasping in hopeful expectation.
Isa 42:15 I will lay waste hariym mountains and gevaot hills, and cause all their herbs to wither; and I will turn the rivers into islands, and the pools I will dry up.
In poetic language Hashem’s gasping screams for the redemption of His chosen people Israel result in the laying waste of idolatry (mountains) and pride (hills), and the decimation of the sinful fruit of the highly positioned gods of hubris. Consequently, in spiritual discipline, God also affects the land in a literal way in counter distinction to the fruiting of the land in conjunction with spiritual freedom.
Isa 42:16 And I will lead the blind be-derekh in the way they didn’t know; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make ma-cheshakh the darkness before them la’or into light, and crooked things straight. These things I will do, and not forsake them.
Hashem now links Himself to the actions of the Servant of verse 7 saying, “I will lead the blind in the way”, that way being the way of the Messiah, a way that Israel was yet to learn. This is a promise of redemption and freedom from blindness (darkness), bringing the blind, seeing, into the light. God affirms His promise not to forsake blind Israel in spite of her wandering, He will “do these things… and not forsake them (Israel).”
Isa 42:17 They will be turned back, they will be greatly ashamed, that trust in idols (images), that say to the molten images, “You are our eloheiynu gods (judges).”
Those among Israel who have worshipped the false gods of their neighbours will shuva repent, turn back to Hashem through the Servant (Yeshua) of verses 1 - 7, and be ashamed in the sense of godly sorrow for sinful practices because they had foolishly called idols “Our gods.” This is a promise of the latter redemption of Israel: it comes before the sobering conclusion of this chapter in order to remind the reader that Mercy precedes Judgement.
Isa 42:18 Hear, you deaf; and look, you blind, that you may see.
God admonishes Israel in her sinful state to hear, receive, understand, and to open her spiritual eyes to see the truth of her sin and return to God through His Servant King Messiah.
Yeshua says, “Let the one who has ears to hear, listen, perceive, receive, understand…” (Luke 8:8).
Isa 42:19 Who is blind, but My servant? or deaf, as My messenger that I sent? who is blind ki’m’shulam in order to bring a covenant of peace (wholeness), and a blind servant of Hashem (YHVH: Mercy)?
The Servant of verses 1 through 7 is clearly not blind. In fact, He ministers to the blind. Therefore, the servant of verses 19-20 is clearly Israel (ethnic, religious), who, in spite of her calling has been blind, why? For the sake of the “covenant of peace” that will be instigated by the Servant (Messiah) described in verses 1 - 7.
Isa 42:20 Seeing many things, but not observing; opening the ears, but not yishma hearing.
Speaking again of Israel His servant Hashem describes their spiritual state using the words that Isaiah has already spoken (Isa. 6:9) and Yeshua will later repeat during His ministry in the land of Israel.
“Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.’ For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” -Matthew 13:14-17
Isa 42:21 Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) is delighted for the sake of His righteousness'; He will yagdiyl magnify (make great) the Torah (Instruction), and reveal (make) its yadir majesty, honour.
The righteousness of Hashem and His Torah are revealed, therefore, Israel is without excuse, we have beheld His majesty and the Torah that proceeds from Him. The same Torah that the Servant of Isaiah 1-7 sends from Israel to the nations, has been among us the Jewish people from its entry into time and space through the Patriarchs and Moses at Sinai.
Isa 42:22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled; snared in holes (caves), all of them are hidden in prison houses: they have become a prey, and none delivers them; for a spoil, and none says, “Ha-shav Return, restore.”
This is both figurative and literal. At the time these words were spoken to Israel we were being robbed, imprisoned by enemies and had become prey for the nations. It seemed as though there was no one to deliver us. We also allowed ourselves to be robbed of our sacred religious texts and our calling and identity as the chosen of God. We were in prisons of our own making, bound by the idols of the nations that surrounded us. We had become prey to every false idea, and yet we did not return to Hashem in order to be restored in Him.
Isa 42:23 Who among you will give ear to this? who will hearken and hear for the time to come?
The desperate plea of a birthing mother, the longing cry of a loving father, and the clarion call of the prophet of salvation and the Servant King Messiah.
Isa 42:24 Who gave Yaakov (follower, Jacob) for a spoil, and Yisrael (Yisra – overcome in El – God: Israel) to the robbers? Wasn’t it Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), He against Whom we have sinned? for they would not walk in His ways, neither were they obedient unto His Torah (Instruction).
God makes it clear to Israel His servant that her imprisonment and suffering are not the result of chance but are part of God’s intentional work for the sake of her redemption. The giving over of Israel as spoil is an act of discipline intended to bring her to repentance. The prophet himself interjects to say, “Wasn’t it Hashem, He against Whom we have sinned?” We had come to this point through sin and wilfully disobeying His loving Instruction (Torah).
Isa 42:25 Therefore, He has poured upon him the fury of His anger, and the strength of battle: and it has set him on fire round about, yet he knew not; and it burned him, yet he laid it not to leiv heart (core being).
This chapter comes to a sobering conclusion. In spite of the pleas of Adonai and the remarks of His prophet, Israel will not listen, hear, understand (yet). The fire of His discipline will burn her and the hardness of her heart will (temporarily) deceive her until, in exile, she learns to be obedient once more and return to her loving Father, her faithful Husband, Her unchanging God of Mercy.
Copyright Yaakov Brown 2018