on Isaiah 42 :1
Behold my servant, whom I uphold - אתמך בו ethmach bo, on whom I lean. Alluding to the custom of kings leaning on the arm of their most beloved and faithful servant. All, both Jews and Christians, agree, that the seven first verses of this chapter belong to Christ. Now, as they are evidently a continuation of the prophecy in the preceding chapter, that prophecy cannot belong to Cyrus, but to Christ.
He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles "He shall publish judgment to the nations" - Four MSS. two ancient, add the conjunction ומשפט vemishpat. See Matthew 12:18.
The word משפט mishpat, judgment, like צדקה tsedakah, righteousness, is taken in a great latitude of signification. It means rule, form, order, model, plan; rule of right, or of religion; an ordinance, institution; judicial process, cause, trial, sentence, condemnation, acquittal, deliverance, mercy, etc. It certainly means in this place the law to be published by Messiah, the institution of the Gospel.
on Isaiah 42 :1
Behold - This word is designed to call attention to the person that is immediately referred to. It is an intimation that the subject is of importance, and should command their regard.
My servant - This phrase denotes properly anyone who acknowledges or worships God; anyone who is regarded as serving or obeying him. It is a term which may be applied to anyone who is esteemed to be a pious man, or who is obedient to the commands of God, and is often applied to the people of God Genesis 50:17; 1 Chronicles 6:49; 2 Chronicles 24:9; Daniel 6:20; Daniel 9:2; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 1 Peter 2:16; Revelation 7:3; Revelation 15:3. The word 'servant' may be applied either to Isaiah, Cyrus, or the Messiah; and the question to whom it refers here is to be decided, not by the mere use of the term, but by the connection, and by the characteristics which are ascribed to him who is here designated as the 'servant' of Yahweh. There have been no less than five different views in regard to the personage here referred to; and as in the interpretation of the whole prophecy in this chapter, everything depends on this question, it is of importance briefly to examine the opinions which have been entertained.
I. One has been that it refers to the Jewish people. The translators of the Septuagint evidently so regarded it. They render it, Ἰακώβ ὁ παῖς μοῦ, κ.τ.λ. Iakōb ho pais mou, etc. - 'Jacob is my servant, I will uphold him; Israel is my chosen one, my soul hath embraced him.' Jarchi also so interprets the passage, but so modifies it as to understand by it 'the righteous in Israel;' and among the moderns, Rosenmuller, Paulus, and some others adopt this interpretation. The principal reason alleged for this interpretation is, that the phrase 'servant of Yahweh,' is used elsewhere in a collective sense, and applied to the Jewish people. Rosenmuller appeals particularly to Isaiah 41:8-9; to Isaiah 42:19, and to Isaiah 44:21; Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 48:20; and argues that it is to be presumed that the prophet used the phrase in a uniform manner, and must therefore be supposed here also to refer to the Jewish people. But the objections are insuperable.
1. In Isaiah 42:6, the servant of Yahweh here referred to, is plainly distinguished from the people, where God says, 'I will give thee for a covenant of (with) the people.'
2. The description which the prophet gives here of the character of the 'servant' of Yahweh, as meek, mild, gentle, quiet, and humble Isaiah 42:2-3, is remarkably unlike the character which the prophet elsewhere gives of the people, and is as remarkably like the character which is everywhere given of the Messiah.
3. It was not true of the Jewish people that they were appointed, as is here said of the 'servant' of God Isaiah 42:7, to 'open the blind eyes, and to bring the prisoners out of prison.' This is evidently applicable only to a teacher, a deliverer, or a guide; and in no sense can it be applied to the collected Jewish people.
II. A second opinion has been, that by the 'servant of Yahweh' Cyrus was intended. Many of the Jewish interpreters have adopted this view, and not a few of the German critics. The principal argument for this opinion is, that what precedes, and what follows, relates particularly to Cyrus; and an appeal is made particularly to Isaiah 45:1, where he is called the Anointed, and to Isaiah 44:28, where he is called the Shepherd. But to this view also, the objections are obvious.
1. The name 'servant of Yahweh,' is, it is believed, nowhere given to Cyrus.
2. The description here by no means agrees with Cyrus. That he was distinguished for justice and equity is admitted (see the note at Isaiah 41:2), but the expressions used here, that God would 'put his Spirit upon him, that he should not cry, nor lift up his voice, so that it should be heard in the streets,' is one that is by no means applicable to a man whose life was spent mainly in the tumults of war, and in the pomp and carnage of battle and conquest. How can this description be applied to a man who trod down nations, and subdued kings, and who shed rivers of blood?
III. Others suppose that the prophet refers to himself. Among the Jews, Aben Ezra, and among others, Grottoes and Doderlin held this opinion. The only reason for this is, that in Isaiah 20:3, the name 'servant' of Yahweh is given to Isaiah. But the objections to this are plain, and insuperable.
1. Nothing can be urged, as we have seen, from the mere use of the word 'servant.'
2. It is inconceivable that a humble prophet like Isaiah should have applied to himself a description expressive of so much importance as is here attributed to the servant of God. How could the establishment of a new covenant with the people of God, and the conversion of the pagan nations Isaiah 42:6-7, be ascribed to Isaiah? And in what sense is it true that he was appointed to open the eyes of the blind, and to lead the prisoners from the prison?
IV. A fourth opinion, which it may be proper just to notice, is that which is advocated by Gesenius, that the phrase here refers to the prophets taken collectively. But this opinion is one that scarce deserves a serious refutation. For,
1. The name 'servant of Yahweh,' is never given to any collection of the prophets.
on Isaiah 42 :1