The Servant of the Lord
1Here is my servant#Servant: three other passages have been popularly called “servant of the Lord” poems: 49:1–7; 50:4–11; 52:13–53:12. Whether the servant is an individual or a collectivity is not clear (e.g., contrast 49:3 with 49:5). More important is the description of the mission of the servant. In the early Church and throughout Christian tradition, these poems have been applied to Christ; cf. Mt 12:18–21. whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased.
Upon him I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations.#a. [42:1] Is 45:6; 49:6.
2He will not cry out, nor shout,
nor make his voice heard in the street.
3A bruised reed#Bruised reed…: images to express the gentle manner of the servant’s mission. he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
4He will not grow dim or be bruised
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands#Coastlands: for Israel, the world to the west: the islands and coastal nations of the Mediterranean. will wait for his teaching.
5Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and its produce,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
6I, the Lord, have called you for justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,#b. [42:6] Is 45:13.
7To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
8I am the Lord, Lord is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
9See, the earlier things have come to pass,
new ones I now declare;
Before they spring forth
I announce them to you.
The Lord’s Purpose for Israel
10Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the ends of the earth:
Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the coastlands, and those who dwell in them.
11Let the wilderness and its cities cry out,
the villages where Kedar#Kedar: cf. note on 21:16. Sela: Petra, the capital of Edom. dwells;
Let the inhabitants of Sela exult,
and shout from the top of the mountains.
12Let them give glory to the Lord,
and utter his praise in the coastlands.
13The Lord goes forth like a warrior,
like a man of war he stirs up his fury;
He shouts out his battle cry,
against his enemies he shows his might:#c. [42:13] Ex 14:3.
14For a long time I have kept silent,
I have said nothing, holding myself back;
Now I cry out like a woman in labor,
gasping and panting.
15#Active once more, God will remove the obstacles that hinder the exiles’ return, and will lead them by new roads to Jerusalem; cf. 40:3–4. I will lay waste mountains and hills,
all their undergrowth I will dry up;
I will turn the rivers into marshes,
and the marshes I will dry up.#d. [42:15] Ex 9:25; 10:15; 14:21; Ps 105:33–35.
16I will lead the blind on a way they do not know;
by paths they do not know I will guide them.
I will turn darkness into light before them,
and make crooked ways straight.
These are my promises:
I made them, I will not forsake them.#e. [42:16] Ex 13:21.
17They shall be turned back in utter shame
who trust in idols;
Who say to molten images,
“You are our gods.”
18You deaf ones, listen,#The Lord rebukes his people for their failures, but their role and their mission endure: they remain his servant, his messenger to the nations.
you blind ones, look and see!
19Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf like the messenger I send?
Who is blind like the one I restore,
blind like the servant of the Lord?
20You see many things but do not observe;
ears open, but do not hear.
21It was the Lord’s will for the sake of his justice
to make his teaching great and glorious.
22This is a people#A people: Israel in exile. plundered and despoiled,
all of them trapped in holes,
hidden away in prisons.
They are taken as plunder, with no one to rescue them,
as spoil, with no one to say, “Give back!”
23Who among you will give ear to this,
listen and pay attention from now on?
24Who was it that gave Jacob to be despoiled,
Israel to the plunderers?#Plunderers: the Assyrians and Babylonians. We…they: the switch from first- to third-person speech, though puzzling, does not obscure the fact that “the people” is meant.
Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned?
In his ways they refused to walk,
his teaching they would not heed.
25So he poured out wrath upon them,
his anger, and the fury of battle;
It blazed all around them, yet they did not realize,
it burned them, but they did not take it to heart.