Isaiah 42:1-9

Isaiah 42:1-9
Baptism of the Lord A7


1 HereA is my servant,B whom I uphold,C
    my chosen, in whom my soulD delights;E
I have put my spiritF upon him;
    he will bring forth justiceG to the nations.H

Notes on verse 1

A “here” = hen. This is lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise.
B “servant” = ebed. From abad (to work, serve compel; this is any kind of work, but it implies serving or tilling; causatively it can mean enslaving or keeping someone in bondage). This is a servant, slave, or bondservant.
C “uphold” = tamak. To grasp, support, uphold, maintain, stay up, sustain. Figuratively, to help or follow closely.
D “soul” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This refers to any creature that breathes – the vitality of each one. It can be a living person, life itself, a soul. It can also be a poetic way to refer to an individual or it can refer to emotions and appetites.
E “delights” = ratsah. This is to be pleased with, take pleasure in, delight. It can also be used specifically for satisfying a debt, to pardon, or to approve/consent.
F “spirit” = ruach. This is breath, wind, air, cool, spirit. This is wind, which resembles the breath and so this can be used figuratively for life itself or being frail/mortal/impermanent. It can refer to the air of the sky or the spirit.
G “justice” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.
H “nations” = goy. From the same as gevah (the back, body, or person); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. It can also be someone’s name. Often used in the Old Testament to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. By way of Yiddish, “goy” refers to any non-Jewish person.

2 He will not cryI or lift up his voice,J
    or make it heard in the street;K, L
3 a bruisedM reed he will not break,N
    and a dimly burningO wickP he will not quench;Q
    he will faithfullyR bring forth justice.

Notes on verses 2-3

I “cry” = tsaaq. This is to cry, cry out, or shriek. It can be used to imply calling in order to gather an assembly together.
J “voice” = qol. Root may mean to call aloud. This is generally used for human voices, but is also used for animals, thunder-claps, chariots, waters, earthquakes, war, flame, angels, and God.
K “street” = chuts. This may come from a root that means to sever. So this is to separate as with a wall. It can mean outdoors, in the street, on the highway, in a field. It can also speak to a greater separation – abroad.
L Literally “not cry out, not raise, not make it heard in the street his voice.”
M “bruised” = ratsats. 19x in OT. Properly to crack in pieces in a literal or figurative sense. Can be crush, break, or bruise. Figuratively oppress, discourage, struggle, or struggle together.
N “break” = shabar. This is to burst literally or figuratively. Can be to break, break in pieces, tear, collapse, destroy, shatter, smash, collapse, break down, or abolish.
O “dimly burning” = keheh. 9x in OT. From kahah (to darken, to be or grow faint, to become dim, fail, restrain, be weak, grow dull). This is dim, dull, faint, faded, smoking, dark, or obscure.
P “wick” = pishtah. 4x in OT. From peheth (flax linen); from the same as pash (extremity). This is flax or tow – by implication, a wick.
Q “quench” = kabah. This is to be quenched or extinguished. Can be used of fire, light, or anger.
R “faithfully” = emet. From aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This is firmness, faithfulness, or truth. Properly, it is stability and so figuratively it can mean certainty, truth, or trustworthiness.

He will not grow faintS or be crushedT
    until he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands waitU for his teaching.V

Notes on verse 4

S “grow faint” = kahah. Related to “dimly burning” in v3. 8x in OT. See note O above.
T “crushed” = ratsats. Same as “bruised” in v3
U “wait” = yachal. This is to wait, await, tarry, trust, hope. It implies patience and expectation, but can include a note of pain during the waiting.
V “teaching” = torah. From yarah (to throw or shoot; properly, flowing like water does, raining; used in a figurative sense to describe pointing something out with the finger and so to teach). This is teaching, direction, instruction, law, statute. It is also used as a proper named for the first five books of the Bible.

5 Thus says God,W the Lord,X
    who createdY the heavensZ and stretched them out,AA
    who spread outBB the earth and what comes from it,CC
who gives breathDD to the people upon it
    and spiritEE to those who walk in it:

Notes on verse 5

W “God” = el.
X “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
Y “created” = bara. This is to choose, shape, create, or do. It is the second word of the Bible (i.e. “God created the heavens and the earth”).
Z “heavens” = shamayim. Root may mean to be lofty. This is the sky, the air, or an astrologer. It is in a dual form, which may be a reference to two distinct “heavens” – the place where the clouds move and the higher plane where the sun, moon, and stars are. This is also used for heaven as God’s abode.
AA “stretched…out” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, extend, incline, or bend. Can be used to imply bending away as when one acts in morally flexible/questionable ways.
BB “spread out” = raqa. 11x in OT. This is to beat, stamp, stretch, spread out, or hammer. It can mean pounding the earth as an expression of strong emotion. By extension, it can refer to hammering something. Following this, it can be used to describe overlaying something with metal beaten into thin sheets.
CC “what comes from it” = tseetsa. Related to “bring forth” in v1 & 3 as well as “bring out” in v7. 11x in OT. From yatsa (to go or come out in a literal or figurative sense). This is offspring, produce, crops, or descendants.
DD “breath” = neshamah. From nasham (to pant, gasp, or blow away). This is a puff as wind or breath. It can also be used for divine inspiration, intellect, or the life breath of an animal. It can be life, spirit, soul, inspiration, breath, blast. This is the word used in Genesis 2:7 when life was breathed into humanity.
EE “spirit” = ruach. Same as “spirit” in v1.

I am the Lord, I have calledFF you in righteousness,GG
    I have takenHH you by the hand and keptII you;
I have given you as a covenantJJ to the people,
    a lightKK to the nations,
    to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisonersLL from the dungeon,MM
    from the prisonNN those who sitOO in darkness.PP

Notes on verses 6-7

FF “called” = qara. Properly, to call someone by name. Used more broadly for calling, calling out, reading, etc.
GG “righteousness” = tsedeq. This is rightness, righteousness, vindication. It is everything that is just or ethical. That which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense. It also includes just weights (i.e. true weights). Figuratively, this is justice, righteousness, equity – even prosperity.
HH “taken” = chazaq. This is to fasten upon, to seize. To be or become firm or strengthen, to repair, fortify, help.
II “kept” = natsar. This is to watch, guard, keep, observe, preserve. Can be guard in a positive sense as protect, maintain, or obey. It can also be used in the negative sense of concealing.
JJ “covenant” = berith. May be from barah (to choose, eat, render clear); from barar (to select, cleanse, purify, purge, sharpen, brighten, polish). This is a covenant, treaty, alliance, or league.
KK “light” = or. From or (to be or become light). This is light, sun, sunshine, dawn, or daylight. Figuratively, it can refer to light from instruction, light of a face (that is to say one that is cheerful or finds favor). It can refer to prosperity or salvation; a light that guides, a light eternal from Zion.
LL “prisoners” = assir. 4x in OT. From asar (to tie, bind, capture, imprison; to bind, yoke, or hitch – so any kind of fastenting; can also mean joining a battle or put in bonds). This is prisoner or captive.
MM “dungeon” = masger. 7x in OT. From sagar (to shut, close, confine, imprison, quarantine; to deliver, hand over, or surrender). This is a locksmith or prison. It is a fastener so used of the person or the place.
NN “prison” = bayit + kele. Literally “house of imprisonment.” Kele is 10x in OT. From kala (to shut up, restrain, refuse, stop; to restrict in action or word, to prohibit). This is confinement, restraint, imprisonment, or prison.
OO “sit” = yashab. This is sit, remain, dwell, continue, endure, establish. Literally, sitting down for many reasons – as a judge, sit in ambush, sit quietly. It implies dwelling or remaining. Causatively, it can mean to settle somewhere or to marry.
PP “darkness” = chosek. From chashak (to be or become dark). This is darkness in contrast to light, hiding places, distress, dread, misery, destruction, night, sorrow, wickedness, or death. Can be used symbolically for judgment, mourning, perplexity, ignorance, evil, or sin.

8 I am the Lord, that is my name;QQ
    my gloryRR I give to no other,
    nor my praiseSS to idols.TT
See,UU the former thingsVV have come to pass,
    and new thingsWW I now declare;
before they spring forth,XX
    I tell you of them.

Notes on verses 8-9

QQ “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
RR “glory” = kabod. From kabad (to be heavy, weighty, burdensome). This is weighty. Figuratively, glorious, abundant, riches, honor, splendor – a reference to one’s reputation or character. This word is often used to describe God and God’s presence.
SS “praise” = tehillah. From halal (to be boastful, to praise). This is praise or a song of praise. Can also mean boasting about God or a deep place.
TT “idols” = pasil. From pasal (to carve, cut, hew into shape; can be used for wood or stone). This is an idol or image as being carved out.
UU “see” = hinneh. Related to “here” in v1. From hen (see note A). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!
VV “former things” = rishon. From rosh (head, captain, company). This is former, first, chief, ancestor, eldest, beginning. It is first as in first place, happening earliest, or most highly ranked.
WW “new things” = chadash. From chadash (to renew, repair, restore, or rebuild). This is a fresh or new thing.
XX “spring forth” = tsamach. This is to sprout, bring forth, grow a bud, grow once more. It is sprout in a literal or figurative sense.

Image Credit: “Misty Sea” by P.A. Bailey York Photos.

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