The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 42

Isa 42:1

Vv 1-9: "Mine elect"; many similarities with Isa 41; 49. "Vv 1-7 contain the first of Isaiah's 'servant songs,' which describe the ministry of a special, ideal servant who accomplishes God's purposes for Israel and the nations. This song depicts the servant as a just king who brings justice to the earth and relief for the oppressed. The other songs appear in Isa 49:1-13; 50:4-11; and Isa 52:13--53:12" (NET notes).

I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT ON HIM: Cp Isa 59:21; 61:1,2. True of Hezekiah also (Isa 38:9-20).

HE WILL BRING JUSTICE TO THE NATIONS: "Mishpat": in one sense (ie right religion): Isa 56:1; 58:2; 59:6-15; true also of Hezekiah (2Ch 32:22).

Isa 42:3

A BRUISED REED... NOT BREAK: The lampstand figure: Reeds = tubes for oil. Ct Isa 41:15,25.

A SMOLDERING WICK... NOT SNUFF OUT: The patience of Hezekiah: as in the "little Passover" of 2Ch 30. Or, the preservation of a "light", ie a dynasty (Psa 132:17; Isa 62:17).

A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT SNUFF OUT: Middle Easterners used a simple oil lamp to light their homes. It was a small clay vessel with the front end pinched together to form an opening. A piece of flax, serving as the wick, was inserted through the small hole until part of it was submerged in the oil. When the flax was saturated, it could be lighted. It would then burn with a soft, warm glow. But when the oil in the lamp was consumed, the flax would dry out. If it was ignited again, it would give off an acrid, dirty smoke, making the vessel offensive and useless. Now, one might think that the only thing to do would be to crush and discard the wick. But that would be too drastic, and it would accomplish nothing. If one simply refilled the lamp, the wick could burn brightly again.

Occasionally God's people temporarily "run out of oil". They become like the smoking flax -- they are ill-tempered and offensive, and of no particular use to anyone. But fellow believers should not abandon them or become angry and impatient with them. Rather, they should seek to restore them by being merciful and understanding. By supporting them with prayer and expressions of concern and practical help and support, they can help them to be filled again with the oil of God's spirit, His word of hope, and to burn once more with the soft, warm glow of Christian love.

Isa 42:7

TO OPEN EYES THAT ARE BLIND: "This does not refer to literal physical healing of the blind. As the next two lines suggest, this refers metonymically to freeing captives from their dark prisons where their eyes have grown unaccustomed to light" (NET notes).

TO FREE CAPTIVES FROM PRISON: "This does not refer to hardened, dangerous criminals, who would have been executed for their crimes in ancient Near Eastern society. This v refers to political prisoners or victims of social injustice" (NET notes).

Isa 42:9

SPRING INTO BEING: Heb "tsamach": cp the "Branch" prophecies: Isa 4:2; 61:11; Psa 132:17; Jer 33:15; Zec 3:8; 6:12.

Isa 42:10

Vv 10-25: Tribulation and deliverance: a new "Exodus".

Vv 10-13: The new song of praise.

Isa 42:11

LET THE PEOPLE OF SELA SING FOR JOY: "Sela" = the "rock"! For the rock is our foundation (Luk 6:48), our source of supply (Num 20:8), and our safe hiding place (Exo 33:21,22).

Isa 42:14

Vv 14-16: Deliverance.

Isa 42:15

RIVERS... POOLS: Euphrates = Assyria (Isa 8:7,8). Or, slaves escaping from Egypt via Red Sea.

Isa 42:16

DARKNESS INTO LIGHT: The pillar of fire in the wilderness.

Isa 42:17

Vv 17-25: The tribulation which precedes deliverance.

YOU ARE OUR GODS: The golden calf.

Isa 42:22

Words that apply well to Hezekiah's day (when Sennacherib devastated all of Israel and most of Judah), but not at all to Cyrus'. At the time of Cyrus the Jews of Babylon were settled and prosperous (WIsa 377).

Isa 42:24

WHO HANDED JACOB OVER...?: Answer: God did this. Their trials were brought on them by their God. Will this happen again? -- Zec 14:1,2; Joe 3:1-6; Deu 28:68.

Isa 42:25

YET THEY DID NOT UNDERSTAND: Israel is compared to people in a burning house, who do not even know their danger!

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