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Isaiah 42:1-25 | Werner Bible Commentary

Isaiah 42:1-25

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42:1. Masoretic Text: Look! My servant whom I support, my chosen one [with whom] may soul is pleased. I have put my spirit upon him. Judgment he will bring forth to the nations.

Septuagint: Jacob [is] my servant. I will support him. Israel [is] my chosen one. My soul has welcomed him. I have put my spirit upon him. Judgment he will bring forth to the nations.

According to the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the concluding part of this verse reads, “And his judgment he will bring forth to the nations.”

Commentary

The Septuagint reading appears to be an interpretive rendering that identifies the servant as the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel. Contextually, however, this is not the significance that fits, but the apparent reference is to the Messianic servant. The Targum of Isaiah makes the application to an individual servant specific. After “servant,” Lagarde’s edition of Codex Reuchlinianus and a manuscript that Dr. Landauer collated reads “Messiah” or “Anointed One.”

According to Matthew 12:15-21, Jesus proved to be the Messiah or Christ, the Messianic “servant” who fulfilled what was foretold about him in the prophecy of Isaiah. He had the full support of his Father, YHWH. Jesus did not act on his own authority, but was upheld by his Father in what he did and said. On one occasion, he told the Pharisees that his judgment would be “true,” right, or just because he would not be acting alone but that the Father who had sent him would be with him. (John 8:16)

His Father had chosen him to do his will. For Jesus, this included laying down his life in sacrifice to make it possible for humans to be forgiven of their sins and to be reconciled to his Father as approved children. (Compare Hebrews 9:11-14; 10:5-13.) At the time of Jesus’ baptism, his Father acknowledged him as his beloved with whom he was pleased. (Matthew 3:17) So, besides being the servant whom YHWH upheld or supported, Jesus is the “chosen one” in whom he himself (“his soul”) delighted.

It was also at the time of Jesus’ baptism that his Father anointed him with his spirit or put his spirit upon him. (Matthew 3:16) Thereafter Jesus began a proclamation of “judgment.” The message revealed divine justice and how to gain a right relationship with God and also made it clear that serious loss would result from failure to respond in faith. Whereas Jesus primarily directed his attention to the “lost sheep” of the house of Israel, he later did “bring forth judgment to the nations” through his disciples. These disciples made clear how non-Jews could benefit from God’s love and justice, having their sins forgiven by putting faith in Jesus as the Son of God who died for them. (Compare Matthew 15:24; Acts 13:38, 39, 46, 47; 17:29-31.)

42:2. Masoretic Text: He will not cry out and lift up [his voice] and make his voice be heard in the street.

Septuagint: He will not cry out or let loose [his voice] nor will his voice be heard outside.

Commentary

As God’s servant and chosen one, Jesus did not engage in noisy public debating. He refused to be like men who called attention to themselves, were intent on having the masses hear them, and made loud pronouncements in areas where large numbers of people would customarily gather.

42:3. Masoretic Text: A bruised reed he will not crush, and a dim [wick of] flax he will not extinguish. In truth he will bring forth judgment.

Septuagint: A bruised reed he will not crush, and a smoking [wick of] flax he will not extinguish, but in truth he will bring forth judgment.

The Targum of Isaiah identifies the meek or lowly as the ones who were like a bruised or crushed reed, and the needy as being like a dimly burning wick.

Commentary

As indicated in the Targum of Isaiah, the lowly or humble and the afflicted among the Israelites resembled bruised or bent reeds and lamp wicks about to go out. They had little from their hard toil and experienced oppression. Among them were many who suffered from diseases and infirmities. Unlike those who made the lot of the lowly more difficult, Jesus compassionately and lovingly brought relief to those who looked to his Father for help. He was not like callous men whose actions were comparable to breaking a bent reed and extinguishing a dimly burning wick. “In truth” or truly, Jesus brought forth “judgment” or justice when doing his Father’s will and coming to the aid of the oppressed and afflicted. In word and deed, he revealed what was just and right.

42:4. Masoretic Text: He will not grow faint and not be crushed until he has set judgment in the earth, and for his law the islands shall wait.

Septuagint: He will shine forth and not be broken until he has set judgment upon the earth, and upon his name nations will hope.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah starts this verse with the conjunction “and.”

Commentary

As YHWH’s servant, Jesus did not “grow faint,” tire out, or become discouraged on account of the unresponsiveness of the people. He did not become crushed, weak or enfeebled when it came to doing his Father’s will. On one occasion, Jesus told his disciples that his “food” was doing his Father’s will and finishing his work. (John 4:34) He did succeed in accomplishing his mission respecting judgment or justice. By word, example, and deed, he revealed what is right or just. So Jesus did set “judgment” or justice in the earth.

The Masoretic Text refers to the “islands” or coastlands as waiting for the servant’s “law.” In this case, “law” apparently designates Jesus’ authoritative teaching. People inhabiting islands or coastlands or areas other than the land of Israel would wait for this law. This indicated that non-Israelites would want to receive his law or teaching. The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says that the islands or coastlands would “inherit” the law, suggesting that they would accept the authoritative teaching and make it their own, faithfully submitting to it.

In Matthew 12:21, the point about the hoping of the nations in the name of the servant agrees with the reading of the Septuagint but differs from the wording of the Masoretic Text and the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. Hoping in the name meant hoping in the one represented by the name. To people of the nations, Jesus (the one bearing the name as YHWH’s servant) came to be the one on whom they could set their hope and, through him, come to be approved children of God.

42:5. Masoretic Text: Thus says God, YHWH, who created the heavens and stretched them out, spreading forth the earth and its produce, giving breath to the people upon it and spirit to those walking in it.

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord God, the one making the heaven and fastening it, the one making the earth firm and the things in it and giving breath to the people upon it and spirit to those walking on it.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include the divine name (YHWH) but says “God.” This second occurrence of “God” is a plural form, that is, a plural of excellence.

Commentary

YHWH is represented as the Creator of everything that is visible to humans. The designation “heavens” or “heaven” applies to the apparent celestial dome. YHWH is referred to as stretching out the heavens, for the celestial vault resembles a tent that has been stretched out from horizon to horizon. According to the Septuagint, God “fastened” heaven, and this could be understood to mean that the celestial vault appears as if it is firmly fixed on the land. The spreading forth of the earth seemingly applies to the land that looks as though it has been spread out over vast areas. In the Septuagint, God is represented as making the earth and the things in it firm. This could be understood to indicate that the land and what is on the land appears to be solidly founded, unlike the water of the sea with its continual movement of waves. Like the Hebrew word here rendered “produce,” “things in the earth” may be understood to apply to everything that comes from the earth or consists of the elements of the earth — plants, animals, and humans.

Besides being the Creator, YHWH is the sustainer of life. He is the giver of breath to people. In this context, “breath” and “spirit” appear to be parallel expressions, designating the life breath or animating life principle. Human existence is dependent on “breath,” and without the breath or spirit, the animating life principle, humans could not walk about or carry on their daily activities on earth.

42:6. Masoretic Text: I YHWH have called you in righteousness, and I have taken hold of your hand and kept you. And I have given you as a covenant of a people, as a light of the nations,

Septuagint: I the Lord, God, have called you in righteousness, and I will take hold of your hand and strengthen you, and I have given you as a covenant to a people, as a light to the nations,

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the divine name (YHWH) does not appear in the main text. Above the line of the main text, there are small illegible letters that possibly represent the divine name.

Commentary

YHWH called his servant “in righteousness.” This may indicate that the calling was an expression of God’s righteousness or justice so that his servant might function in the cause of righteousness. Jesus, as the Messianic servant, surrendered his life, making it possible for those who accepted his sacrificial death to be forgiven of their sins and come to have a righteous, right, or approved standing before his Father. (Compare Acts 13:38, 39; Romans 8:32-34.)

YHWH’s taking hold of his servant’s hand suggests that he would support him and always be at his side. “Keeping” his servant may be indicative of his safeguarding him during all the time that was needed to accomplish his work. (Compare John 9:4; 11:9, 10; 19:10:11.) According to the Septuagint rendering, God strengthened his servant. (Compare Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43.)

The reference to YHWH’s giving his servant as a covenant may signify that he constituted him as the means for putting a covenant in force and making him the one through whom all the benefits of this covenant or agreement would be made available to a “people.” When regarded as paralleling “nations,” a “people” would include both Jews and non-Jews. The covenant may be the new covenant that made forgiveness of sins possible. As later indicated in the prophecy of Jeremiah, this covenant would be made with the “house of Israel” and the “house of Judah,” and, initially, the opportunity to benefit from the new covenant was extended to members of all the tribes of Israel. (Jeremiah 31:31-34) Therefore, it is also possible to understand the reference to a “people” to be to the people of Israel.

The Messianic servant, however, would not just benefit Israelites. He would function as a “light to the nations,” to peoples everywhere who found themselves in a state of ignorance of and alienation from God on account of their sinful state. As the “light,” Jesus liberated all those who responded to him in faith. Forgiven of their sins, they ceased to be in a condition of darkness. (Compare Acts 26:16-18.)

42:7. Masoretic Text: to open blind eyes, to bring out the prisoner from the dungeon, those sitting in darkness from a house of imprisonment.

Septuagint: to open the eyes of the blind, to bring the bound ones out of bonds and those sitting in darkness out of the prison house.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about bringing out of a house of imprisonment those sitting in darkness.

The Targum of Isaiah applies this figuratively to the Israelites. They, as persons blind to the law, would have their eyes opened. The exiles who had been like prisoners would be brought forth from among the nations. They would be delivered from “bondage of the kingdoms,” where they found themselves imprisoned like those who were bound in darkness. This interpretation of the Targum indicates that the “servant” would not be Israel, but that the Israelites would benefit from what the servant would do for them.

Commentary

As the Messianic servant, Jesus literally did open the eyes of the blind. (Matthew 9:27-30; 11:5; 12:22; 15:30, 31; 20:30-34; 21:14; Mark 8:22-25; Luke 7:21, 22; John 9:1-7) More importantly, as the “light of the world” (John 9:5), he freed individuals from the blindness that has its source in sin. Unforgiven of their sins, people do not have a clear vision of God and are in a condition of alienation from him. Their circumstances are comparable to being prisoners in a dungeon or a dark cell, sitting in darkness, with no light to dispel the gloom. By effecting their liberation through his sacrificial death, Jesus brought out of “prison” persons thus held by the confining chains of sin.

42:8. Masoretic Text: I [am] YHWH; that [is] my name, and my glory I will not give to another nor my praise to images.

Septuagint: I [am] the Lord, God. This is my name. My glory I will not give to another nor my excellencies to the carved things.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” precedes “my name” (“I YHWH [am] the one, and my name and my glory I will not give to another”).

The Targum of Isaiah interprets the words to apply to people. YHWH would not give his glory (which he revealed to the Israelites) to another people nor his praise to those who served images.

Commentary

The four Hebrew consonants (YHWH) that represent the divine name evidently incorporate the verb “to be” (Exodus 3:14; compare the Septuagint reading, egó eimi ho ón [I am the one who is], and the words of Revelation 1:4, ho ón kaí ho en kaí ho erchómenos [the one who is and who was and who is coming]). In view of the Septuagint reading of Exodus 3:14 and the words of Revelation 1:4, the name apparently identifies the Supreme Sovereign as the One who is and continues to be and as the ultimate Source of everything that exists and that will come to be in fulfillment of his word and purpose. The name stands as an absolute guarantee that the Supreme Sovereign would never deviate from what he has declared or revealed he would prove himself to be. He and his word, therefore, are deserving of the utmost confidence. Whereas the Greek eimi (am) is in the present tense, the Hebrew expression ’ehyéh is in the imperfect state. Accordingly, the words of Exodus 3:14, ’ehyéh ’ashér ’ehyéh, may be rendered “I will be who I will be.” This suggests that the Almighty would prove to be exactly who he has revealed himself to be.

The Isaiah passage represents God as declaring his name to be YHWH. In relation to the Israelites as a people, this name uniquely identifies him as the One who dealt with them in a special way from the time that he delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The Targum of Isaiah specifically refers to the glory with which he revealed himself to the Israelites. His actions toward them were in full harmony with what he revealed about himself when declaring his name to Moses at Mount Sinai. “Yahweh-Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, maintaining faithful love to a thousand [generations], forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave [the guilty] unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” (Exodus 34:6, 7, HCSB)

As the Creator of everything and the God who has made known what will occur in the future, YHWH will not share his glory or honor with any nonexistent deities, and he does not tolerate the sharing of the praise that is rightfully and exclusively his with images fashioned by human artisans, images that supposedly represent these deities. The Septuagint rendering “excellencies” may be understood to include his marvelous attributes and all the praiseworthy things that he has done.

42:9. Masoretic Text: The former things — look, they have occurred, and new things I am announcing. Before they spring up, I let you hear.

Septuagint: The things from the beginning — look, they have occurred; and [as for] new things that I will announce: Even before the springing up, it was disclosed to you.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the definite article (“the”) precedes the expression rendered “new things.”

Commentary

The “former things” or the “things from the beginning” apply to what YHWH had revealed beforehand through his prophets. All these foretold developments had taken place already, providing undeniable proof that he is the only true God. At this point, YHWH purposed to announce “new things,” things to happen in the future. Before these things would “spring up” or come to pass, YHWH, through his prophets, would let his people hear about them in advance.

42:10. Masoretic Text: Sing to YHWH a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, O those going down to the sea and what is filling it, [you] islands and those inhabiting them.

Septuagint: Sing to the Lord a new song, O his dominion. Glorify his name from the end of the earth, O those going down to the sea and sailing it, [you] islands and those inhabiting them.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” precedes “his praise.”

Commentary

Seemingly, the fulfillment of the new things that had been foretold are the basis for the exhortation to sing a “new song,” a song that praises YHWH for what has come to pass according to his previously revealed purpose. The reference to the “end of the earth” suggests that the developments that provide the basis for the “new song” would have become widely known, giving rise to praise to YHWH in distant parts of the earth. In view of the mention of the “end of the earth,” the Septuagint rendering “dominion” could include all the inhabited areas, with people everywhere being directed to sing a new song and to “praise” him. According to the Septuagint, those from the “end of the earth” are to glorify God’s name, that is, God himself, the one represented by the name. To glorify him would mean to praise him.

That the expressions of praise should be made everywhere is indicated by the fact that even those who go down to the sea to sail forth are told to join in. While the Hebrew text may be understood to include all the creatures in the sea, the Septuagint rendering limits the reference to the people who would be navigating the sea. Islands or coastlands and all their inhabitants are likewise urged to share in giving praise.

42:11. Masoretic Text: Let the wilderness lift up [the voice], and its cities, [also] the villages Kedar is inhabiting. Let those inhabiting Sela cry out. From the top of the mountains let them shout.

Septuagint: Rejoice, O wilderness and its towns, O dwellings and those inhabiting Kedar. Those inhabiting Petra will rejoice. From the tops of the mountains, they will cry out.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” does not precede “its cities,” but this conjunction follows cities. This scroll also has the conjunction “and” before the phrase about Sela, and has a synonym for the Hebrew word here rendered “shout.”

Commentary

The people in the wilderness, or in the less densely populated desert regions, were to share in praising YHWH, lifting up their voices for this purpose. In the wilderness, a number of permanent settlements, cities or towns, existed. The “villages,” however, may have been temporary tent encampments.

Kedar, situated in the northwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, was a region inhabited by the descendants of Ishmael through his son Kedar. (Genesis 25:13) The Kedarites appear to have been largely a nomadic tent-dwelling people, with camels, asses, and flocks of sheep and goats. (Psalm 120:5; Song of Solomon 1:5, 6; Jeremiah 49:28, 29)

Sela, an Edomite city, has been linked to “Petra” (which is the Septuagint rendering), a later Nabatean city. Another suggested site is es-Sela‘, near modern Buzera (commonly identified with ancient Bozrah). For pictures and comments about ancient Petra, see Petra.

Apparently so that the expressions of praise could be heard over a wide area, the people are to shout from the top of the mountains.

The reference in the Septuagint to rejoicing may be understood to apply to joyous expressions of praise.

42:12. Masoretic Text: Let them give glory to YHWH and declare his praise in the islands.

Septuagint: They will give glory to God; they will proclaim his excellencies in the islands.

Commentary

To give glory to YHWH means to honor him, acknowledging him as the only true God who has revealed his purpose in advance and has unfailingly carried out his word. The inhabitants of islands or coastlands are directed to declare YHWH’s praise, making known his laudable deeds. According to the Septuagint rendering, they are to announce his “excellencies,” making known his marvelous attributes and all the praiseworthy things that he has done.

42:13. Masoretic Text: YHWH will go forth like a mighty man. Like a man of battles he will arouse zeal. He will cry out; yes, he will shout. He will show himself mighty against his foes.

Septuagint: The Lord, the God of forces, will go forth and pulverize war. He will arouse zeal and cry out with strength against his foes.

Commentary

YHWH is depicted as going forth like a mighty warrior to engage in battle with his enemies. In this capacity, he would rouse up his “zeal” or ardor in the cause of what is just or right. His crying out or shouting would mean letting a loud war cry resound prior to the assault on the enemies. According to the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, YHWH’s shouting reveals his anger. As the foes would suffer humiliating defeat, he would demonstrate himself as mighty.

In the Septuagint, he is identified as the “God of forces,” or the God with hosts or armies at his command. His “pulverizing war” could denote that he would be rendering powerless those who set themselves in opposition to him, pulverizing or shattering their capacity to fight.

42:14. Masoretic Text: I have been silent for a long time. I have been still and restrained myself. Like a woman in labor, I will cry out, pant, and gasp at once.

Septuagint: I have been silent. Shall I also always be silent and restrained? I have persevered like a woman in labor. I will amaze and dry up at once.

After the initial expression, the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah includes a particle that means “surely,” “indeed,” or “certainly” (“I have indeed been silent”).

The Targum of Isaiah indicates that the reason for YHWH’s silence, or his not acting, was to provide an opportunity for the people to change, to return to the law. It then adds that they did not return. As a consequence, YHWH would reveal his judgment to them just as when it becomes evident that a woman is experiencing the pangs of childbirth. They would be made desolate and perish.

Commentary

YHWH had been silent or had chosen not to take action against those who deserved to have his judgment expressed against them. According to the Hebrew text, this silence had continued long enough, implying that the people who refused to submit to him as Sovereign had been granted ample opportunity and time to change their ways. For a woman in labor, the silence prior to the start of the labor pains ends. In her pain, she will cry out, pant, and gasp. Likewise, YHWH’s silence would be followed by forceful action, comparable to crying out, panting, and gasping.

The rhetorical question in the Septuagint suggests that the period of silence or inaction and restraint would not continue indefinitely. A woman in labor would “persevere” until such time as the baby is born. Similarly, God’s perseverance continued until he executed judgment. Those who observe or experience the judgment would be amazed or astounded. This judgment would “dry up” those against whom it would be directed, causing them to perish or to wither like vegetation.

42:15. Masoretic Text: I will desolate mountains and hills, and dry up all their greenery. And I will turn rivers into islands, and I will dry up pools.

Septuagint: And I will make rivers into islands and dry up marshes.

Commentary

In going forth as a warrior, YHWH is portrayed as devastating everything. He makes mountains and hills barren, causing all the vegetation to wither. As rivers dry up, elevated rocky areas in riverbeds come to appear like islands above the surface of the dropping water level. Thus rivers would be turned into islands. Pools or marshy areas would dry up, and vegetation that once flourished because of the presence of water would wither and die.

42:16. Masoretic Text: And I will lead the blind in a way they did not know. I will cause them to tread in paths they did not know. I will turn the darkness before their faces into light and the uneven places into level ground. These things I will do for them, and I will not abandon them.

Septuagint: And I will lead the blind in a way that they have not known, and I will make them tread on roads that they had not recognized. I will make darkness into light for them and the crooked [places] into the straight. These things I will do, and I will not abandon them.

Commentary

The subject changes to what YHWH will do for those who would be granted his favorable attention. Blind persons would have serious difficulty in traveling to an unknown destination on paths completely unknown to them. For those who would have groped about as persons unable to see, YHWH would provide the needed guidance. He would turn darkness into light and straighten and level crooked and uneven places. As persons needing his aid, he would not forsake them but would care for them.

For the Hebrew text, the concluding sentence could also be understood to mean that YHWH would not leave undone the things he has promised to do. A number of translations render the Hebrew text to convey this significance. “These are the promises — I will keep them without fail.” (Tanakh) “These things I shall do without fail.” (REB) “This I shall do — without fail.” (NJB)

When the fulfillment of these words is linked to the Messianic servant, the application would be to those who respond in faith to him. They would have been like blind persons in an environment of darkness but would come to be in the light. With God’s help made available through his spirit, they would be able to conduct themselves in a way that he approved, resulting in a blessed way of life and the assurance of an eternal future.

42:17. Masoretic Text: They will be turned back, shamed, [yes], shamed, those trusting in images, the ones saying to molten things, You [are] our gods.

Septuagint: But they were turned to the rear. Be ashamed [with] shame, O you who rely on carved things; O you who say to molten things, You are our gods.

Commentary

Those who cling to idolatrous practices, refusing to turn to YHWH, would be “turned back,” backwards, or “to the rear” (LXX), as would persons who suffer humiliating defeat. Their idols would not save them from experiencing YHWH’s severe judgment. The expression “ashamed [with] shame” indicates that these individuals would be greatly shamed for having put their trust in images or idols, mere carved or molten things. Having looked to lifeless man-made images that represented nonexistent deities as their gods, they would be condemned for their refusal to abandon their corrupt ways and to become servants of the only true God.

42:18. Masoretic Text: You deaf ones, hear; and you blind ones, for you to see, look.

Septuagint: O deaf ones, hear; and, O blind ones, look up to see.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the “wicked” are identified as the deaf and the “ungodly” as the blind, and the deaf are admonished to hear and the blind to see.

Commentary

The deaf and the blind apparently are those who were deaf to God’s commands and his appeal for them to return to him and who were blind to the way he wanted them to conduct themselves. For them to see and to hear would have required them to change their ways. Accordingly, these words serve as an exhortation for the deaf and blind ones to choose to listen to YHWH and to look, or to open their eyes, to see what he required of them.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the words of the next verse indicate that the wicked or the ungodly have the opportunity to repent and to gain God’s approval. After mentioning that the wicked would be punished for their transgressions, the Targum adds that they will be called “servants of YHWH” if they return to him.

42:19. Masoretic Text: Who is blind but my servant, and deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as the one in a covenant of peace and blind as the servant of YHWH?

Septuagint: And who is blind but my servants, and deaf but those dominating them? And the slaves of God have become blind.

Commentary

The plural “servants” in the Septuagint provides a basis for considering the “servant” to be Israel. As YHWH’s people, the Israelites should have been devoted to him as his “servant” and functioned as his messenger in bringing praise and honor to him. This, however, did not prove to be the case, for they conducted themselves as persons who were blind to his will for them and deaf to the message they should have been making known to the peoples of other nations. Because they would have been greatly blessed on account of obedience to his commands, the Israelites would have conveyed the right message to the peoples of other nations, revealing YHWH to be the God without equal. (Compare Deuteronomy 28:7-14.)

There is uncertainty about the significance of the participial form of the Hebrew word shalám, here rendered “covenant of peace.” Possibly the thought is that, as YHWH’s servant, Israel had enjoyed a relationship of peace or friendship with him. The Septuagint does not include a corresponding expression, but does indicate that a change in relationship had taken place. God’s slaves had become blind to what they should have been as his servants.

42:20. Masoretic Text: Seeing many things, and you are not watchful; opening [his] ears, and he does not hear.

Septuagint: You have often seen but have not been watchful. Opened were the ears, and you did not hear.

Commentary

Israel, as the servant, did have eyes to see and ears to hear. As a people, they had often seen the evidence of YHWH’s care, aid, and protection. Yet, despite the many things they had seen, they remained blind to their responsibilities toward him. They had the capacity to hear; their ears were open. They heard the words of God’s law and the messages he had his prophets proclaim to them, but they did not listen. They did not act in harmony with what they heard, and so they did not hear.

42:21. Masoretic Text: YHWH was delighted for the sake of his righteousness to magnify his law and to make it glorious.

Septuagint: The Lord God has purposed to be justified and to magnify praise. And I saw,

Nothing in the Hebrew text corresponds to the Septuagint reading “and I saw.” These words appear to be those of the prophet, as the reference to God is in the third person singular.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH is delighted to justify Israel, and he will magnify those who observe his law and take hold of them or support them.

Commentary

These words appear in the context of YHWH’s judgment. Therefore, his magnifying and glorifying the law may refer to his carrying out the penalties of the law in expression of his righteousness or justice. (Compare Deuteronomy 28:15-68.) This action on his part would reveal that his law could not be treated with contempt and that disregard for it would have serious consequences. At the same time, it would make evident that adherence to the law resulted in benefits to those who lived in harmony with it. Thus YHWH would magnify and glorify his law as being without equal, a law which he as the only true God could enforce.

The Septuagint rendering includes no reference to the law but indicates that God purposed to be justified. In keeping with his purpose, he would execute judgment according to the highest standard of justice. He would magnify praise when revealing himself to be the God of justice who does not tolerate wrongdoing indefinitely. Upon seeing divine justice carried out, rightly disposed observers would praise him.

42:22. Masoretic Text: And this [is] a people despoiled and plundered, all of them trapped in holes, and they are hidden in houses of confinement. They have become spoil and none does rescuing; plunder and none is saying, “Restore.”

Septuagint: and it came to be [that] the people were being despoiled and plundered. For the trap [was] in the chambers everywhere and together in the houses, where they hid them. They came to be for plunder, and [there] was no one to rescue the booty, and none was saying, “Restore.”

Commentary

As a consequence of their refusal to live in harmony with his will, YHWH withdrew his protection and blessing from the Israelites. Foreign invaders desolated their land and plundered their possessions. With war being waged against them, the people went into hiding wherever they could. Having lost their freedom of movement as a result, they were trapped in holes and concealed in places of confinement. (Compare 1 Samuel 13:6.)

The Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean that there was no safety anywhere, as if traps or snares could be found in all the chambers and houses, where the people sought to hide.

As spoil when taken captive, the Israelites had no one to rescue them. There was no one to intervene for them, demanding that the plundered possessions be returned.

42:23. Masoretic Text: Who among you will give ear to this? [Who] will pay attention and listen in time to come?

Septuagint: Who [is] among you who will give ear to these things? [Who] will listen for the things to come?

Commentary

The suffering the Israelites experienced on account of enemy invasions should have caused them to give serious consideration to the reason for it. Yet none among them gave heed to YHWH’s commands and his words proclaimed through the prophets, calling upon them to abandon their wayward course in order to have his aid and protection. As the rhetorical question implied, the people, even from that time onward, refused to listen and failed to conduct themselves in a manner that pleased YHWH.

The Septuagint reading about listening “for the things to come” may relate to giving heed to the announcement of future calamities that could be avoided by listening and ceasing to continue their corrupt practices.

42:24. Who has given Jacob for plunder and Israel to the despoilers? [Was it] not YHWH, the One against whom we have sinned and in whose ways they would not walk and whose law they would not heed?

Septuagint: Who gave Jacob for despoiling and Israel to those plundering him? [Was it] not the God against whom they sinned, and they did not want to walk in his ways nor heed his law?

Commentary

“Jacob” and “Israel” are parallel designations that apply to the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with an angel. (Genesis 32:25-29) The Israelites had refused to live in a way that God approved, and they disregarded his laws. This resulted in their losing his protection and blessing. Enemy forces invaded the land, devastating it and plundering the possessions of the people. Since YHWH, the God against whom they had sinned, permitted this to happen, he is the one represented as handing the people over for plundering and despoiling.

42:25. Masoretic Text: And he poured upon him the heat of his anger and the might of battle. And it set him on fire round about, and he did not discern; and it burned him, and he did not take it to heart.

Septuagint: And he brought upon them the anger of his wrath, and war overpowered them and [so] did those burning them round about. And they (each of them) did not discern, nor take it upon the soul.

Commentary

By what he allowed other nations to do to them, YHWH poured out upon Israel or Jacob (the Israelites) the “heat” or intensity of his anger and the “might” or full force of war. The ravages of enemy invasions were such as to burn the people, as if everything around them had been set on fire. Still, Jacob or Israel (the Israelites) did not discern that calamity had come upon them because of their wayward conduct. They did not recognize that YHWH was severely disciplining them through this means to bring them to repentance. Despite suffering as if they had been severely burned and seeing their cities and towns destroyed and set on fire, the Israelites did not take the discipline to heart and abandon their God-dishonoring conduct.

The expression “take it upon the soul” has the same basic significance as “take it to heart.”