Isaiah 49:1-26

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49:1. Masoretic Text: Listen to me, O islands [or, coastlands], and give attention, you peoples from afar. YHWH called me from the womb. From the inward parts of my mother he named my name.

Septuagint: Listen to me, O islands, and give attention, O nations. After much time he will stand, says the Lord. From the womb of my mother he called my name.

The Greek words here rendered “after much time, he will stand,” can also be translated in other ways (“after a long time it will stand”; “after a long time, he will appear”; “for a long time he will exist”; “for a long time it will exist”). The opening words of this verse appear to be those of the “servant, which then are seemingly followed by what God says about him. As a prophecy, the preferable meaning would appear to be that the foretold “servant” would “stand” or make his appearance after much time has passed.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not include the conjunction “and” before the Hebrew verb rendered “give attention.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH appointed his servant before he came into existence and mentioned him by name from his mother’s womb.


According to verse 5, the role of the servant is to bring Israel back into an approved relationship with YHWH. This provides a basis for concluding that the reference is to the Messianic servant, the one to come in the royal line of David. The servant is here represented as speaking, and his words are directed to the islands or coastlands and peoples in distant locations. In this context, the islands would be those in the Mediterranean Sea and the coastlands would be the coastal regions bordering this sea. This indicates that the “servant” would have a message for peoples everywhere, not just one for Israel.

Neither Isaiah nor any other Israelite prophet during that general period would have been able to express himself to the effect that the inhabitants of distant lands should listen to his words. This narrows the identity of the servant to Jesus, the promised Messiah in the royal line of David, who did make his appearance long after these words were first heard. Regarded from the standpoint of his birth on earth, he was called from the womb to fulfill a specific commission and the name he was to be given reflected this commission. His name was to be “Jesus” (Jeshua), meaning “YHWH is salvation” or “YHWH saves,” for he was to “save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

49:2. Masoretic Text: And he made my mouth like a sharp sword. In the shadow of his hand, he hid me. And he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver, he concealed me.

Septuagint: And he made my mouth like a sharp sword. And under the shelter of his hand, he hid me. And he made me like a choice arrow; and in his quiver, he sheltered me.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the word for “hand” is plural, and he expression regarding an “arrow” may be rendered, “like a polished arrow.”

According the the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH set his words like a sharp sword in the servant’s mouth, suggesting that the words would then be expressed to telling effect.


Both the Hebrew text and the reading of the Septuagint indicate that YHWH made the “servant’s” mouth, or the words that would proceed out of his mouth, effective like an expertly handled sharp sword. Everything he would say would be true and trustworthy and would expose or lay bare falsehood just like a sword can be used to cut and expose what lies under the skin. The servant would be like a “choice arrow” (LXX), one specially selected for a particular purpose. Concealed in a quiver, the arrow with its sharp pointed tip would be ready for use at the right time. The servant would make his appearance at the designated time and, like an arrow, would be directed against those who defiantly chose to disregard God’s commands.

49:3. Masoretic Text: And he said to me, “You [are] my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

Septuagint: And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, and in you I will be glorified.”


In verse 5, the “servant” is identified as having an assigned role respecting Israel. Therefore, the reference could not be to the Israelites generally but may be understood to designate the real Israel, of which the “servant” is the one in the ultimate sense. “Israel” may, in a representative sense, apply to the Messianic servant or to Jesus the promised Messiah. YHWH would be glorified, for he would be revealed in all his splendor by reason of the benefits and blessings that come to those who are reconciled to him through the foretold servant.

49:4. Masoretic Text: And I said, “I have labored without success. I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity. Indeed, my judgment [is] with YHWH, and my recompense [is] with my God.”

Septuagint: And I said, “Unsuccessfully I have toiled, and in vain and for nothing I have given my strength. Therefore, my judgment is with the Lord, and my labor is before my God.”

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll), the conjunction “and” does not appear at the beginning of this verse.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the recompense or reward is for the “works” of the servant.


That YHWH’s servant would face widespread unresponsiveness among the Israelites was so certain that his reaction is already represented as a reality. His labor among the people to motivate them to act in harmony with God’s purpose respecting him as his “servant” would appear to be unsuccessful or in vain. It would seem to the “servant” that he had spent his strength or exhausted himself for “nothing.” The Hebrew word tóhu, here rendered “nothing,” is the same expression found in Genesis 1:2, where the reference is part of the description of the earth in its chaotic, formless, or empty state before it became suitable for life to exist. Upon considering how little he had been able to accomplish despite having exerted himself to the full to carry out his commission, the servant would feel that his toil had been meaningless, worthless, or in vain.

This sad portrayal does match the experience of Jesus, the Messianic servant. Although the people saw miracles taking place through him and heard his teaching, only a few put faith in him as the Messiah who had been destined to come.

Whereas the majority rejected him, he remained steadfast in trusting God. As the prophetic word indicated, his judgment or case was with YHWH, and he would acknowledge him and his deeds with approval, bestowing on him the recompense or reward for faithfully discharging the commission that had been entrusted to him. According to the Septuagint, the servant’s labor, which included the trouble or affliction that he experienced, was before God and, by implication, would be rewarded.

49:5. Masoretic Text: And now YHWH says (the one having formed me from the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him; for I am glorified in the eyes of YHWH, and my God has become my strength),

Septuagint: And now thus says the Lord (the one having formed me from the womb as a servant for himself to gather Jacob and Israel to him; I will be gathered and glorified before the Lord, and my God will be my strength),

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the object of “formed” is “you,” not “he.” Instead of “strength,” this scroll reads “help.”

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the “servant” was to bring those of the “house of Jacob” back to YHWH’s service and to bring Israel “near to the fear of him.”


This verse does not include the words that are attributed to YHWH. The parenthetical expression relates to the commission of the servant and what YHWH would do for him.

In view of his human descent through the royal line of David of the tribe of Judah, he could be spoken of as being formed by YHWH as his servant to fulfill a commission respecting “Jacob,” the Israelites who were the descendants of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel after he wrestled with an angel. (Genesis 32:24-28) The commission was to restore Jacob, or Israelites who were descended from this patriarch, to an approved standing before YHWH and to have them (“Israel”) gathered to him as his people. Whereas the servant would be confronted with unfavorable response among the people, YHWH would glorify or honor him, acknowledging him as having been pleased with him and his faithful labors. For the accomplishment of the commission that he had been given, the servant is represented as relying on God as the one who would strengthen him or, according to the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, would come to his aid.

The Septuagint rendering portrays the servant as the one who is “gathered.” This would mean that he is brought near to God as the servant in whom he takes delight.

49:6. Masoretic Text: and he says, “[It is] a light thing that you should be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel. I will give you as a light of the nations that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Septuagint: and he said to me, “It is [something] great for you to be called my servant, to establish the tribes of Jacob and to restore the dispersion of Israel. Look! I have set you for a covenant of the peoples, for a light of nations, for you to be for salvation to the end of the earth.”

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, Israel is mentioned first and then Jacob. Additionally, the scroll says “ends,” not “end.”

A recent critical edition of the Greek text of Isaiah does not include the reference to a “covenant.” Therefore, it is missing in certain modern translations of the Septuagint. When the words are included, God’s setting 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 the “peoples,” both Jews and non-Jews.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the thought is expressed as a question, “Do you regard it a small thing that you are called my servants, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to bring back the exiles of Israel?”


The Hebrew text appears to imply that it would be something light or not enough for the one here designated to function solely in the role of YHWH’s servant for Israel. The greater role is that he would also serve as a light to the nations. A number of translations convey this basic sense in their renderings. “It is too slight a task for you, as my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the survivors of Israel: I shall appoint you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach earth’s farthest bounds.” (REB) “It isn’t enough for you to be merely my servant. You must do more than lead back survivors from the tribes of Israel. I have placed you here as a light for other nations; you must take my saving power to everyone on earth.” (CEV)

When regarded as being prophetic of the labors of the Messianic servant, the Lord Jesus Christ, the raising up of Israel meant lifting the people up from a state of humiliation and elevating them to a position of dignity and honor as God’s approved people. By reason of their being sinners, they were in the state of servitude, but those who accepted Jesus Christ as having been sent by God and put faith in him as the promised Messiah were forgiven of their sins and, accordingly, were no longer in slavery to sin. (John 8:23-36) The “preserved ones” of Israel would be the repentant remnant among the people. They did return from Babylonian exile to their own land. This was an essential feature of the prophecy relating to the promised Messiah. To be identifiable he needed to come to the Israelites and to a location where they could be found in significant numbers. This required that they would again be settled in their own land. With his coming to them, the people had the opportunity to be restored to a right relationship with God as persons forgiven of their sins on the basis of Jesus’ sacrificial death for them.

The benefits that would become available through the servant were not to be exclusively for the Israelites. The servant was to be a light to the nations, making it possible for non-Jews who had been in darkness because of being without the knowledge of God and his promises to be forgiven of their sins and to cease being in a state of alienation from him.

Whereas Jesus directed his attention to the people of Israel during the course of his ministry, his disciples proclaimed the message about him among the nations. They called attention to Jesus Christ as the light of the world. It was God’s purpose for his salvation to reach as far as the “end of the earth” or to its distant areas. Through the disciples of Jesus Christ, the message of salvation was made known far and wide. They proclaimed God’s means of salvation (deliverance from sin and the condemnation to which it leads) to be faith or trust in the risen Lord Jesus Christ and what his sacrificial death accomplished. (Compare Acts 13:47, 48, where the words of Isaiah 49:6 are applied to the commission Paul and Barnabas had been given to proclaim the message about Jesus Christ.)

49:7. Masoretic Text: Thus says YHWH, the one redeeming Israel, his Holy One, to the one for a soul to despise, to the one for a nation to abhor, to a servant of rulers, “Kings will see and princes will rise, and they will bow down because of YHWH who, being faithful, the Holy One of Israel, also has chosen you.”

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord, the one having rescued you, the God of Israel, “Sanctify the one despising his soul, the one being abhorred by the nations of the servants of rulers. Kings will see him and rise. Rulers also will prostrate themselves to him for the sake of the Lord, for faithful is the Holy One of Israel, and I have chosen you.”

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah begins with the words, “Thus says my Lord YHWH, your Redeemer, O Israel.” In this scroll, the participle for “abhor” is plural. The scroll represents YHWH as saying, “Kings see and rise, and princes also will bow down.” In the concluding reference to the choosing, the Hebrew word here rendered “also” (“also has chosen you”) does not appear in this scroll.

The Targum of Isaiah interprets this to apply to Israel. “Thus says YHWH, the Savior of Israel, his Holy One, to them that are despised among the nations, and to them that are cast forth among the kingdoms, to them that were servants to rulers: Kings will see them and rise.”


Throughout the history of Israel, YHWH repeatedly revealed himself to be the one who redeemed or rescued his people from those who were intent on oppressing or conquering them. As their God, he was also their Holy One, being the ultimate standard of purity, dependability, and trustworthiness.

YHWH is represented as speaking about his “servant,” revealing that this “servant” would be one whom a “soul” or a person would despise or treat as of no account. Especially the prominent ones of the nation of Israel did view Jesus, the promised Messiah, with contempt. (John 7:45-52; 9:29) According to the Septuagint, the “servant” is the one who despises his “soul” or himself. This could be said of Jesus, for he willingly chose to do God’s will even though he knew that this would mean being subjected to humiliation, suffering, and a shameful death. The Septuagint rendering represents God as commanding that people “sanctify” his servant, treating him as holy and thus honoring him.

The reading of the Masoretic Text indicates that the “servant” would be abhorred or viewed with disgust by a “nation.” This nation may denote Israel. Although laboring among the Israelites for their benefit, Jesus, as the “servant,” came to be the object of their disgust. The leading members of the nation and the majority of the people rejected him as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, whom his Father had sent. In the Septuagint, however, “nation” is plural, and this indicates that the majority of the people everywhere would regard the servant with contempt.

The “servant” is called the “servant of rulers,” which suggests that he would have a lowly standing in their estimation. Nothing about him would impress them. As far as they would be concerned, he was just their insignificant subject. The Septuagint rendering could be understood to mean that the servant would be despised by people of nations that were subservient to rulers with greater authority than those of their particular nation.

The prophetic message pointed to a dramatic reversal for the “servant.” Upon seeing him in a highly exalted state, kings would rise or respectfully stand up, acknowledging him as their superior to whom they were subject. Princes or rulers would prostrate themselves before him in humble submission. This would be because “YHWH, the Holy One of Israel,” had chosen him to occupy the highly exalted royal position. The fact that YHWH is faithful or trustworthy assured that everything he had declared regarding the servant would be fulfilled.

As the servant, Jesus, upon his resurrection, was granted all authority in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18) When he is revealed as “King of kings and Lord of lords,” all will have to make the kind of acknowledgment that is here portrayed prophetically. (Philippians 2:6-11; Revelation 19:16)

49:8. Masoretic Text: Thus says YHWH, “In a time of acceptance, I have answered you; and in a day of deliverance, I have helped you. And I will safeguard you and give you as a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause [people] to inherit desolate inheritances,

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord, “In an acceptable time, I heard you; and in a day of deliverance, I helped you, and I gave you as a covenant to the nations, to establish the earth and to cause [people] to inherit a desolate inheritance,

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the verbs rendered “have answered” and “have helped” may be translated “will answer” and “will help.”

According to the interpretation in the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH would accept the prayer of his people upon their doing what pleased him, would effect deliverance for them in the “day of distress,” and would help them. As for the righteous, “who lie in the dust,” he would “make them inherit the desolate heritages.”


YHWH is the one who assures his “servant” that his petitions would be answered and that he would be helped. The “time of acceptance” or the time for extending favor is the time when people would have the opportunity to have an approved standing with God. The one through whom this would be effected is the “servant.” When Jesus, the foretold Messianic servant, began his ministry, the “time of acceptance” or the “acceptable time” had its beginning and then continued as those who put faith in him as their Lord made known how people everywhere could become reconciled to God by faith in Jesus as the “servant” who surrendered his life for the world of mankind, providing the basis for forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

In view of the largely negative response to the “servant,” he would make his appeals to God for strength to carry out his commission. His God and Father did answer his prayers for aid. (Hebrews 5:7) The “time of acceptance” is also a “day” or “time of deliverance” or salvation. The divinely provided salvation through the servant is a deliverance from sin and the condemnation to which sin leads. During this “day of salvation,” Jesus was fully aware of the help and support of his Father. (John 8:16)

Until the time came for Jesus to surrender his life as the Messianic servant, he was safeguarded. Although wanting to seize him and to kill him, his enemies were unable to do so. (John 7:45-47; 11:7-10)

The servant’s being given as a “covenant of a people” may be understood to apply to his role as the means for bringing a new covenant into being, which covenant made forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God possible (first for the Israelites and then for people of all the nations). In this case, the singular “people” may refer to Israel. (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

In the prophecies, the return of the exiled Israelites to their land is often linked to the coming of the promised Messiah, with no indication of a significant passage of time between the two events. From this standpoint, the reference about establishing the earth or the land and making it possible for the people to inherit desolated places could relate to the return of the Israelite exiles. With their return, the land would again be established as their possession, and they would come to have the desolated areas there as their inheritance.

The prophetic words, however, could also be understood to apply to developments after the Messianic servant appeared on the scene, including his future role as the highly exalted one whom even kings would have to acknowledge as their Lord. God has a purpose for this earth, a purpose that includes humans and the freeing of the whole creation from the baneful consequences that have resulted from human sinfulness. (Romans 8:20-22) Through the “servant,” the earth or land would be established as a stable and secure place for humans to live, a place where God’s will is going to be done as it is in heaven. (Compare Matthew 6:10.) Desolated areas or those that have been ruined on account of the transgressions of humans will be restored to habitable locations.

49:9. Masoretic Text: saying to the prisoners, “Go forth”; to those in darkness, “Reveal yourselves.” Along the ways, they will feed; and on all heights [will be] their pasture.

Septuagint: saying to those in bonds, “Go forth,” and to those in darkness to be revealed. And in all their ways, they will feed; and in all the roads [will be] their pasture.

After the Hebrew verb here rendered “go forth,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah includes the conjunction “and.” Instead of “the ways,” this scroll reads “all [the] mountains.”


The language is based on the circumstance of a people in exile who are being set free. This is the interpretation found in the Targum of Isaiah. Those “bound among the nations” are told, “Go forth.” “To them that are imprisoned among the kingdoms as it were in darkness [say], ‘Show yourselves in the light.’” When people are in exile, their circumstances are like those of prisoners or persons confined in bonds, unable to return to their own land. The situation would have been similar to one’s being in a dark dungeon, whereas release from confinement would have made it possible to show oneself in the light. As a liberated people, the exiles could begin the return to their land, with God providing for them along the way with what they needed. The ample provision is portrayed as their being able to feed along the way and to find pasture on the heights, where crops usually would not be growing.

In this verse, the words are a continuation of the prophecy relating to the “servant” and what God would accomplish through him. Jesus, as the Messianic servant, surrendered his life, opening up the way for humans to be released from the bondage of sin and a state of darkness on account of being alienated from God. As persons forgiven of their sins on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ and their acceptance of his sacrificial death for them, they would be able to go forth as freed from the shackles of sin and to reveal themselves in the light as approved children of God, which would become evident from the uprightness of their words and actions. Then, under the guidance and care of God and Jesus Christ, the divinely appointed shepherd, they would be supplied with what they needed and in ways and places that would be unexpected, as if they were sheep that would find pasturage along the way by which they were being led and on what commonly would have been bare heights.

49:10. Masoretic Text: They will not hunger and will not thirst, and parching heat and the sun will not smite them, for the one having compassion for them will lead them and will guide them along springs of water.

Septuagint: They will not hunger nor thirst, nor will the scorching heat nor the sun strike them, but the one having compassion for them will comfort [them], and he will lead them along springs of water.


These words continue the portrayal of divine protection and care. The liberated ones would experience neither hunger nor thirst, for their needs would be abundantly supplied. Assured of being shielded from the intense heat of the sun, they would be able to pass through arid regions, which would otherwise have been fraught with great hardships. In the case of those reconciled to God through the Messianic servant, divine aid would enable them to endure in faithfulness during their time in the world, a world that would often prove to be like an inhospitable desert. The one represented as having compassion for them in their time of need is YHWH who would be leading them and guiding them along springs of water, refreshing them like persons who are able to quench their thirst.

49:11. Masoretic Text: And I will make all my mountains a way and my highways will be elevated.

Septuagint: And I will make every mountain into a way and every road into a pasture for them.


This represents how YHWH would make it easier for the liberated ones to travel the path before them, with all obstacles being cleared out of their way. Mountains would be leveled. The raising or elevation of highways could mean that the roads passing over uneven terrain would come to be level, with the valleys being raised to the same elevation as the higher ground.

49:12. Masoretic Text: Look! These from afar will come; and look! These from the north and from the sea, and these from the land of Sinim [Syene].

Septuagint: Look! These from afar will come, these from the north and these from the sea, but others from the land of the Persians.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah does not contain the spelling “Sinim,” and the designation that does appear has been rendered “Syene.” Whereas Syene can be linked to a site in Egypt, no region has been definitely identified as being the “land of Sinim.”


From the most distant places and from north, west, and south, the liberated ones are portrayed as coming. The “sea” denotes the Mediterranean bordering on the west coast of the land of Israel and here designates the west. Syene is commonly identified with Aswan, a city in southern Egypt, near the island of Elephantine. Accordingly, Syene appears to be used representatively of the south.

Initially, this could relate to the return of the exiles from all the areas to which they had been scattered. In relation to the Messianic servant, the reference could be to the people from far and wide who would be forgiven of their sins and become reconciled to God.

49:13. Masoretic Text: Shout [joyfully], O heavens, and exult, O earth. Let the mountains break forth into a [joyful] shout, for YHWH has comforted his people, and he will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Septuagint: Rejoice, O heavens, and jubilate, O earth. Let the mountains break forth with joy and the hills with righteousness, for God has had compassion on his people, and he has comforted the afflicted ones of his people.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the words linked to “mountains” are, “Break forth, O mountains, into a [joyful] shout.” In this scroll, the verb for “comfort” may be rendered “is comforting.”


The whole creation (the heavens, the earth, and the mountains [the most prominent features of the land]) is invited to rejoice. According to the Septuagint, the hills are to break forth with “righteousness,” which suggests that from elevated places the beneficent effects from “righteousness,” uprightness, or justice would be perceived as coming. This is on account of what YHWH would do for his people, those whom his Messianic “servant” would have liberated.

As for the Israelites, they would be freed from exile and thus able to return to their own land. This land would again be inhabited and cultivated, ending the period of devastation and providing occasion for rejoicing. YHWH comforted his people by bringing about their liberation. Their being granted freedom would be because he had compassion on his afflicted ones who had been in exile.

The words may also be understood as applying to the liberation that Jesus, the Messianic servant, made possible. By forgiving their sins on the basis of the atoning benefits of Jesus’ sacrifice, YHWH comforted his people, reassuring them that they had been restored to his favor. Under the burden of guilt and the distress associated with human sinfulness, the people were afflicted ones for whom YHWH showed compassion, forgiving their sins and treating them as his beloved children. According to the Septuagint, he comforted the afflicted ones or those in distress.

49:14. Masoretic Text: And Zion said, “YHWH has abandoned me, and my Lord has forgotten me.”

Septuagint: But Zion said, “The Lord has abandoned me, and the Lord has forgotten me.”

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, above “my Lord” appears “my God,” which reading the scribe may have intended as a correction.


“Zion” or Jerusalem, the capital of the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, here represents God’s people. At the time Jerusalem was destroyed and many survivors were exiled, they would have felt that YHWH had abandoned them and forgotten them, not doing anything to come to their aid. They may well have continued to feel this way when experiencing mistreatment and oppression wherever they ended up living in exile.

When Jesus, the Messianic servant, appeared on the scene, the Israelites were subject to Rome, and the godly ones among them were painfully aware of their own sins. They, too, must have felt that YHWH had abandoned and forgotten them, and they longed for relief from their distress.

49:15. Masoretic Text: Can a woman forget her suckling, that she should have no compassion for the son of her womb? Even these [nursing women] may forget, and I will not forget you.

Septuagint: Will a woman forget her boy and have no compassion for the offspring of her womb? But [even] if a woman were to forget these, I, however, will not forget you, said the Lord.


The answer to the rhetorical question is, No. The natural love and concern a mother has for her nursing baby boy would not permit her to forget about him and his needs. She would continue to be compassionate in caring for him. YHWH’s compassion for his people (represented by Zion) is greater than is that of a mother for her infant.

49:16. Masoretic Text: Look! On my palms, I have inscribed you. Your walls [are] always before me.

Septuagint: Look! On my hands, I have portrayed your walls, and you are always before me.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes “your walls.”


That YHWH could not possibly forget Zion is represented by his having inscribed the city on both of his palms and always having the city “walls” in full view before him. As the location of the temple, Zion or Jerusalem was YHWH’s representative place of dwelling, and the city represented his people. Accordingly, his attentiveness to Zion served to reveal his deep concern for his people. It was not the architectural features of Zion nor the impressive fortified walls that were the object of YHWH’s care, as if they had been depicted on his palms. It is those whom he recognized as his people who are precious to him.

49:17. Masoretic Text: Your sons hasten. Those destroying you and those desolating you will go out from you.

Septuagint: And you will be rebuilt quickly [by those] by whom you were razed, and those desolating you will go out from you.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the reference to “sons” is applied to “builders.” “They will quickly rebuild [Zion’s] waste places.” This has the support of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, which says “builders,” not “sons.”


“Sons” of Zion could refer to the Israelites who would be returning from exile to rebuild the city, and they would be going back to their land in haste. This is the thought conveyed in a number of translations that render the words according to the reading of the Masoretic Text. “Swiftly your children are coming.” (Tanakh) “Your sons hasten back.” (NIV)

Other translators follow the reading of the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah. “Your builders outdo your destroyers.” (NRSV) “Your builders make haste.” (ESV) “Those who rebuild you make better speed than those who pulled you down.” (REB)

According to the Septuagint, those who had formerly destroyed Zion would be involved in quickly rebuilding it. This does not fit the context, for those who had desolated Zion are then referred to as departing.

If a link is to be made with developments in connection with the Messianic servant, the return to and the rebuilding of Zion indicate that there would be an increase among those who are God’s people, whereas any contributors to ruin would not be allowed to interfere. “Those desolating” are represented as leaving, with only God’s true people coming to and advancing the interests of “Zion,” which would relate to the reign of the Messianic servant as King of kings and Lord of lords.

49:18. Masoretic Text: Raise your eyes round about and see. They all gather; they come to you. “As I live,” says YHWH, you will put on all of them as an ornament, and you will bind them [upon yourself] like a bride.”

Septuagint: Raise your eyes round about and see all [of them]. Look! They were gathered, and they have come to you. “[As] I live,” says the Lord, “you will clothe yourself with all of them and put them on like the ornamentation of a bride.”

The Targum of Isaiah specifically calls upon Jerusalem to raise her eyes round about to see “all the sons of the people of [her] exiles” gathering themselves together and coming into her midst. These exiles would come to be to Jerusalem “like a splendid garment, and their works within [her] like the ornament of a bride.


Zion or Jerusalem is here personified as a woman who is invited to look around herself to see her children all having come together and approaching her. YHWH is portrayed as solemnly declaring that these children would be like a beautiful ornament for Zion, like the jewelry with which a bride would adorn herself. Instead of being a desolated city lying in ruins, Zion would again be a prosperous, inhabited site.

In case of an application associated with Jesus as the Messianic servant, the reference would be to the children of the heavenly city Zion or Jerusalem to which all who put faith in him and his sacrifice for them would be making their approach as a gathered community of believers. (Compare Hebrews 12:22-24.) These believers would be like a precious ornament for this Zion, an object befitting a bride.

49:19. Masoretic Text: Indeed, your waste places and your desolated places and your devastated land — indeed now you will be too cramped for the inhabitants, and those who swallowed [you] will be far away.

Septuagint: For your waste places and the desolated ones and those [that are] fallen down will now be cramped because of the inhabitants, and the ones swallowing you will be far away from you.


Zion’s former waste and desolated places and the devastated land round about would cease to exist. The ever-increasing population in the city would come to find the city too cramped even though they were the only inhabitants. Anyone who had harmed (“swallowed”) or posed a threat to Jerusalem would be far away, banished from the city.

In relation to the Messianic servant, this would indicate that an increasing number of individuals would repent, put faith in Jesus and his sacrificial death for them, and become citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. (Compare Galatians 4:26.) God and his Son would safeguard them so that those who had been guilty of “swallowing” or doing harm would be far away, no longer posing any threat.

49:20. Masoretic Text: Sons of your bereavement will yet say in your ears, “The place [is] cramped for me; make room for me to dwell in.”

Septuagint: For your sons whom you have lost will say in your ears, “The place [is] cramped for me; make a place for me to dwell.”

The Targum of Isaiah identifies the “sons” as being “sons of the people of [Jerusalem’s] exiles.”


When Zion or Jerusalem was desolated and survivors of the conquest were taken into exile, the city was like a bereaved woman, a woman who had lost all her children. The “sons” of her bereavement may be understood as including those borne in exile. With the return of those who had lived in exile, the population would continue to increase. The inhabitants are then represented as telling Zion that the place was just too cramped. They needed more space for comfortable habitation.

When linked to developments involving Jesus, the Messianic servant, the portrayal would fit heavenly Jerusalem. Initially, this heavenly Jerusalem appeared to have little hope of coming to have a large population drawn from earthly sons or children. For the most part, the Israelites, who were like lost sheep, were unresponsive to the prophets YHWH had sent to them and later also to his Son, Jesus. In time, however, the number of Israelites and persons from other nations would come to be so great that Jerusalem or Zion could be represented as a city being told to expand the borders so as to accommodate the growing number of inhabitants.

49:21. Masoretic Text: And you will say in your heart, “Who has borne me these? And I [was] bereaved and barren, exiled and having been put away, and who has brought up these? Look! I was left alone. These — from where [are] they?”

Septuagint: And you will say in your heart, “Who generated these for me? But I was childless and a widow, but who brought up these for me? But I was abandoned all alone. But these — where were they for me?”

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” follows the Hebrew adjective translated “barren,” but the conjunction “and” is not included after the participle here rendered “having been put away.”


The woman Zion is represented as speaking in her “heart” or within herself in amazement about the developments she had witnessed. The first rhetorical question (“Who has borne me these?”) expresses astonishment as how there could possibly be so many sons or children. Zion had been like a bereaved, barren, exiled, and cast-out woman, without anything. She was in no position to rear any children, giving rise to the question as to who could possibly have brought them up. Zion had been completely forsaken and was all alone, prompting her to ask in amazement, From where are these children?

If the words are applied to the heavenly Jerusalem, there, too, is reason to be astounded. Throughout the history of Israel, only a comparatively small remnant proved to be devoted to God. There was little indication of any sizable populace for the heavenly Jerusalem from the Israelites. That there would be many “sons” (Israelites and non-Israelites) could not have been imagined.

49:22. Masoretic Text: Thus says my Lord YHWH, “Look! I will raise my hand to the nations and lift up my signal to the peoples, and they will bring your sons in [their] bosom and your daughters will be carried on the shoulder.

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord, “Look! I am raising my hand to the nations, and I will raise my signal to the islands, and they will bring your sons in [their] bosom, but your daughters they will lift upon the shoulders.

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah starts this verse with the Hebrew word for “for” and does not include the expression that can be rendered “my Lord.” In the Masoretic Text, the definite article before “peoples” is implied, but it does appear in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah.

In the Targum of Isaiah, the raising or lifting up of YHWH’s hand is interpreted to mean that he would be revealing his might among the nations.


In this context, YHWH’s raising his hand and lifting up his signal are parallel expressions. With the raised hand, he would be beckoning the people of the nations, and the lifting up of the signal would make it visible far and wide, indicating that it was time for the peoples to act in the interests of his own people. The Septuagint rendering “islands” suggests that even peoples in distant places would be called upon to respond to the raised signal. Then God’s people who had been dispersed would return to their own land. This would take place with the assistance of peoples of the nations, and their support would be comparable to their carrying sons in the bosom (either in the upper fold of the garment or in their arms close to the breasts) and picking up daughters to carry them on the shoulders. At the time the Israelites returned after the Babylonian exile and also thereafter, non-Jews did lend support. (Ezra 1:5-10; 6:6-10; Nehemiah 2:7, 8)

When these words are related to developments linked to Jesus, the Messianic servant, this could indicate that non-Jewish peoples would come to be associated with Jewish believers. Non-Jews would labor together with Jews in advancing the interests of true worship and would provide aid to their Jewish brothers who were in need. (Compare Romans 15:25-27; 2 Corinthians 9:1-14; Galatians 2:10.)

49:23. Masoretic Text: And kings will be supporting you and princesses [will be] those nursing you. With their faces to the ground [literally, “earth”], they will bow down to you and lick the dust of your feet. And you will know that I [am] YHWH. Those waiting for me will not be shamed.

Septuagint: And kings will be your caretakers, but female rulers nurses. On the face of the ground [literally, “earth”], they will prostrate themselves to you, and they will lick the dust of your feet. And you will know that I [am] the Lord, and you will not be shamed.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, the righteous who wait for YHWH’s deliverance will not be ashamed.


In the past, God’s people had been subjected to the oppression and tyranny of foreign rulers, but this would end. The aid from kings and princesses would be comparable to taking care of children and the nursing of infants. God’s people would be highly exalted, as evident from the fact that kings and princesses are portrayed as bowing down to them. In the prostrate position, their faces would be so close to the ground that they are here represented as licking the dust of the feet. Upon experiencing this reversal, God’s people would know that their God is YHWH from the standpoint that he would have revealed himself in an unparalleled manner as their deliverer. Having patiently waited for him to come to their aid, they would not be ashamed. Their trust in him would be manifested as not having been misplaced.

49:24. Masoretic Text: Can booty be seized from the mighty one, and can the captivity [the body of captives] of someone righteous be rescued?

Septuagint: Will someone seize booty from a giant; and if anyone should capture someone unjustly, will he be delivered?

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the first verb is active, not passive (“Can they seize booty …?”). In stead of “righteous one,” this scroll has a word that may be rendered “tyrant” or “potentate,” which may be the original reading, especially since this is the word that appears in the next verse.

The Targum of Isaiah supports the reading “righteous one” (“Shall that which the righteous have captured be delivered?”).


The implied answer to the compound rhetorical question is, No. A mighty man or warrior would safeguard his booty, resisting anyone who might attempt to seize it. A tyrant would not permit the body of captives under his control to be rescued. Similarly, the righteous one, when carrying out just judgment would not permit a forced rescue of captives who had not been judged.

A “giant” (LXX) would be an extraordinarily strong man. Particularly if one is seized unjustly, the intent would be to prevent that one’s rescue at all costs.

49:25. Masoretic Text: For thus says YHWH, “Even the captivity [the body of captives] of the mighty one will be seized, and the booty of the tyrant will be rescued. I will contend with those who contend with you, and I will save your sons.”

Septuagint: Thus says the Lord, “If someone should capture a giant, he will seize booty. But one seizing from a mighty one, he will be delivered. But I will judge your judgment, and I will rescue your sons.”

Instead of “captivity” or “body of captives,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says “booty,” and where “booty” is found in the Masoretic Text, the word in the scroll may be rendered “captivity” or “body of captives.” This scroll also contains a different form of the word here rendered “those contending.”


YHWH is represented as giving the assurance that he would most certainly do that which usually would not be possible. The body of captives under the control of the mighty one would be ripped away from him and, hence, liberated. Whatever booty the tyrant may have taken would be restored to those from whom it had been seized. YHWH would come to the defense of Zion (his people), setting himself in opposition to anyone who contended with his people or opposed them. He would save or deliver the “sons” of Zion or those whom he recognized as his people.

The Septuagint rendering conveys the same basic message but expresses it differently. If one has captured a giant or an extraordinarily mighty man, that one would be able to seize booty, as the “giant” could then not prevent it. The warrior who succeeded in seizing spoils from a mighty man would be saved and not himself be seized. God would take up the case of Zion or Jerusalem, carrying out the deserved judgment against the adversaries, and he would rescue the “sons” of Zion.

49:26. Masoretic Text: And I will make those afflicting you eat their [own] flesh. And as with wine, they will be drunk with their [own] blood. And all flesh will know that I, YHWH, [am] the one saving you and the one redeeming you, the Mighty One of Jacob.

Septuagint: And those afflicting you will eat their [own] flesh and drink their [own] blood like new wine and become drunk. And all flesh will perceive that I the Lord [am] the one rescuing you and bolstering the strength of Jacob.

According to the Targum of Isaiah, YHWH would give the flesh of Jerusalem’s oppressors to all the birds. As men are drunk with wine, so will the beasts of the field be drunk with the blood of these oppressors.


YHWH would execute his judgment against those who oppressed or afflicted his people. The oppressors would experience calamity, comparable to being forced to eat their own flesh and to drink their own blood. Upon witnessing the divine judgment, “all flesh,” or people everywhere, would come to know that YHWH is the one who saves and redeems Zion, that is, the people whom he recognizes as his own. By effecting the deliverance of his people from those intent on harming them, he would manifest himself as the “Mighty One of Jacob,” the one possessing matchless power for use in delivering all who belong to him.