After Babylon Look for the Messiah

Isaiah 49

Chapter 49: The emphasis of prophecy now leaves the Babylonian period behind. The impending visit of the Messiah is spoken of in greater detail in verses 1-13 and the paradoxes to accompany his visit are very apparent in this chapter. He is called by YHWH from his mother's womb and is to be greatly rewarded by Him. But in spite of his life appearing fruitless (vs. 4) he is to restore Israel-Jacob to God. The "Nazarene" word is used 2 times in this chapter (there are 4 occurrences in the section beginning with chapter 42:9, 48:6, 49:6 and 49:8) and all of them are connected with the Messiah and his mission. In this chapter the word is connected with restoration of Israel and the call of the Gentiles into Zion and "Salvation" which in Hebrew is the name "Jesus." The chapter divides into two sections: (1.) 1-13 describes the main characteristics and goals of the Messiah. His mission to restore the tribes of Israel extends to the call of the Gentiles. (2.) The second section describes the call of the Gentiles into the restored Zion after many hard trials. The nation is exhorted to faithfulness because their faith will not be in vain. But because of the many events to transpire it will appear that their faith is in vain. Even the Messiah will have moments of depression. These hard trials were unnecessary for the nation but the hardness of their hearts meant that the "furnace of affliction" would bring them to the place of usefulness. See notes under 48:10 and 48:18-19 above. The last part of the chapter describes the future age of the restored Zion and the admonition that the glory of Zion, although deferred, will make its appearance and that looking forward to that time will be justified while the ultimate end of the wicked will be no peace for them.

1. Listen, O isles, to me; and listen you people, from afar; The LORD called me from the womb; from my mother's belly he named me. 2 And he has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand has he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver has he hid me; 3 And said to me, You are my servant Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

Verse 3: My servant Israel: The divine mission of the whole nation of Israel was delivered to Abraham, that is: "In your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." The mission of the nation is epitomized in the Messiah. This mission was partially fulfilled by the nation in the course of its development and trials. This was particularly true in the days of David and Solomon when the message about the one true God was going out from Jerusalem to all the nations. The Messiah is called "Israel" here because he completes the task to the uttermost which has been assigned to the children of Jacob. According to the rest of the chapter he is to restore Jacob, that is, the tribes of Israel, to faithfulness which is a light thing when compared to being a covenant of the Gentiles and bringing them, the Gentiles, into a restored Zion. Since he is to restore Israel-Jacob as per verse 6, he is called Israel here because both Israel and Messiah have the same mission and Messiah is said here to finish the mission.

 4 Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. 5 And now, says the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to return Jacob to him and that Israel be gathered to him, I will be glorified in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.

Verse 5: Restore Jacob and Israel to YHWH: This verse introduces a thought that is finished in verse 6. The Messiah was formed from the womb to be the one to restore Jacob and Israel to faithfulness. The contrast noted in the KJV (Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious) is a rare mistake in simple translation by the KJV scholars that is corrected in all other versions. The text does not imply the possibility that Israel may not be gathered. On the contrary the gathering of Jacob-Israel into Zion is the assured purpose of the Messiah's visit and the next verse makes a contrast between this predetermined design of the Messiah's ministry and what is a greater accomplishment. The next verse shows that returning Jacob-Israel is a "light thing" when compared to bringing the multitudes of the Nations into Zion as well.

 6 And he said, Is it a light thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the Gentiles, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.

Verse 6: This remarkable passage is obviously messianic. Especially since the one spoken of is to be the "light of the Gentiles" and "salvation to the ends of the earth." What is not obvious is the Hebrew use of Nazarene words in this verse. The return of the "preserved" of Israel is another of Isaiah's use of the Nazarene words in messianic contexts of which this is one. Preserved of Israel is "notsrey yisrael"  This could be rendered Nazarenes of Israel or as the more common modern Jewish usage, "Christians of Israel."
See in the Qumran Isaiah Scroll the order of the words Israel and Jacob are reversed.

 Verse 6: Jesus name: The Hebrew here literally says : "I give you as a light to the Gentiles to be my (yeshua')  to the end of the earth." The form is the name of Jesus in Hebrew. The coincidence is startling when this verse is read in Hebrew. "Is your being my servant to establish the tribes of Jacob and restore the Israeli Nazarenes a light thing, when I have also given you as a light of the Gentiles to be my Jesus to the ends of the earth." Make what you will of this verse but that is what it says.

 7. Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despises, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, shall choose you. 8 Thus says the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you: and I will preserve you, and I will give you for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;

Verse 8: Nazar: This continues the use of the word Nazar, , introduced in verse 6. The passage is so obviously Messianic. The use of the word  which Matthew 2:23 says is spoken by the prophets in reference to Jesus growing up in Nazareth, is Isaiah's use of "play" on this word to reveal prophetic truth. It is extraordinary to say the least. If one were to write in English, "In the day of Jesus I've helped you and I will make you a Nazarene and I will give you for a covenant of the people," and then translate that English sentence into Modern Hebrew it would read in Hebrew exactly as this much of the text does here in verse 8.

 Verse 8: Salvation The name Jesus appears here without any additional suffixes. It is  (yeshuah).

 9 That you may say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places. 10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun strike them: for he that has mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them. 11 And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted. 12 Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.

Verse 12: Sinim: The Chinese: according to Gesenius, Strong, Davidson and others. The name appears no where else in the Bible. The context is of the peoples who will enter Zion from the earth's extremities. North and west are mentioned. it is only reasonable that Isaiah would use the nation fartherest east as a synonym for the east. China was then in the beginning stages of its first dynasty when Isaiah wrote. As remote as it was and as protected from the west as it was by the Himalayan Mountains its existence was still heard about. Alexander the Great was turned back by the remoteness and the Himalayas and the discontent of his troops. But not because he had not heard of the civilization beyond the Himalayas. A great ingathering into Messiah's kingdom of Zion is prophesied in this text. Such an acceptance of Zion, in the biblical sense, began in China shortly before the First World War and the ingathering began to accelerate after the rise of Communism and has accelerated again in the 90's to proportions that were not anticipated even by the Christians. It is interesting to note that historical interpreters of the Apocalypse, including this one, have said for years that the 21st century belongs to Asia not only in technology but in the shift of Christian influence.

Siniym: The Qumran Isaiah scroll has a peculiarity in spelling of this word. For a discussion of the spelling peculiarities of the Q scribes which shows that the textual critics, who have chosen "Seveynim" (Aswan) as a possible reading for this word in the Q text, are most probably wrong see the scroll page 41 where this is discussed. Press the back button to return to this page

 13. Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD has comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. 14 But Zion said, The LORD has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me.

YHWH has forsaken the nation: Isaiah says here: The deferred fruition of the hope of Zion which is to be extended over a long period of time will be accompanied by hardship which will test the endurance of the faithful resulting in near despair. Chapters 46 to 48 just preceding this have shown that the Babylonian captivity and the restoration of the nation from that captivity into a second commonwealth are in a small way, a mirror of the future appearance of the restored messianic Zion. Thus there has been a need to urge the nation to abandon the comforts of Babylon and return to build a desolate Zion which will ultimately grow to immense proportions. See under verse 19 below. Also see Zechariah 10:10 which speaks of the growth of the returned remnant to Zion after the Babylonian captivity that had already begun in the days of Zechariah. He says there that Galilee in particular would eventually overflow with population so that "I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them."

15 Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yes, even they may forget, but I will not forget you. 16 Behold, I have graven you upon the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me. 17 Your children shall make haste; your destroyers and they that made you waste shall go away from you. 18. Lift up your eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to you. As I live, says the LORD, you shall surely clothe you with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on you, as a bride. 19 For your waste and your desolate places, and the land of your destruction, shall even now be too small by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed you up shall be far away.

 Verse 19: Too Small: The need to urge the recalcitrant captives to leave the comforts of Babylon are here emphasized by foreshadowing the results of the return. That is that the return would be to a "desolate" land but that the initial settlement would grow to immense proportions Then there would be a land teeming with inhabitants and that would set the stage for the entrance of the messianic Zion. The next verse and the rest of the chapter indicates that the messianic Zion would experience the same growth process. A small obscure remnant would endure hardship and ultimately extend to all nations including China, mentioned in the last verse of the first section of this chapter. see verse 12.

 20 The children which you shall have, after you have lost the other, shall say again in your ears, The place is too narrow for me: give me room that I may dwell.

Verse 20: Messianic Zion needs more room that Palestine can provide: This show that the growth of messianic Zion will mirror the events of the return of the Babylonian captives to the second commonwealth. It is the first return that has been spoken of thus far but now Isaiah turns to the restored Zion of the Messiah when the same sequence of events will be experienced. That is: from a small remnant a teeming population will at last be realized. Most of them will come from among the Gentiles as the next few verses make clear. They also make it clear that this growth is in messianic Zion after the first return. These prophecies in this section are truly wonderful. Isaiah has outlined from chapter 40 that the nation's obsession with idolatry will be purged and suffering is necessary to make the purging possible. That God is to raise up the Babylonians who will oppress the nation and take it captive. Cyrus will then be called as a messianic figure who will restore the nation and its temple and bring Babylon down to destruction and it will eventually disappear. The return to the land will result ultimately in a large expanding population after which the paradoxical Messiah will appear who will restore the true purpose of Israel and Jacob and will call out of the Gentiles a people to inhabit Zion. From this point on in the book the nature of the Messiah and his kingdom with all the paradoxes involved in his appearance, some of which have already been introduced, will be the main subject of the rest of the chapters to the end of the book. This outline of Isaiah of the coming events for the nations of Judah and Israel is extensive, covering over 500 years and is accurate in every detail and the sequence of events accurately following the revelations granted to Isaiah. What a great man he must have been.

 21 Then shall you say in your heart, Who has begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and moving to and fro? and who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where were they? 22 Thus says the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up my hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring your sons in their arms, and your daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. 23 And kings shall be your nursing fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers: they shall bow down to you with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of your feet; and you shall know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

 Verses 21-23: Who has begotten these:... the Gentiles: In the 2,700 years since Isaiah penned these words one might seek, but in vain, for anyone who has restored large numbers of people from all nations, from all classes of society, from kings to the lowest nanny and manservant, male and female alike, to the worship of the God of Israel and to the acceptance of the heritage of Jacob, in place of their own history. You would search in vain for such a one if you omit the name of Jesus of Nazareth from the search. When his name is added it can be seen that no one has yet appeared nor is there any hope that anyone in the future will appear who will do more than Jesus the Nazarene, nor remotely approach the success he has had in bringing multitudes to the heritage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 24. Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? 25 But thus says the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contends with you, and I will save your children. 26 And I will feed them that oppress you with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am your Savior and your Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.

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