In chapters 40-48 the prophet has been concerned to show the supremacy of the God of Israel over the nations and their gods, and that God’s purpose is to be accomplished through Cyrus. These two themes now disappear, and attention is turned to Israel’s glorious future. Much of the section 49-55 consists of words of encouragement, spoken to overcome the doubts, hesitations and difficulties that the message of the preceding chapters had aroused in many minds. It contains also three of the ‘Servants’ passages in which the mission, the sufferings, and the atoning death to the Lord’s Servant are set forth. (See Analysis)
- Verses 1-6. The ‘Servant’ speaks to the nations. What does he say concerning:
(a) his call;
(b) his equipment;
(c) his initial non-success, and his attitude in face of this;
(d) the new task that God gave him to do?
Although the passage applies to the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul uses part of it of himself and Barnabas. See Acts 13:47. How is this? Have we then a share in the Servant’s task? Cf. John 20:21.
- How does the Lord answer Zion’s doubts, first that the Lord has forsaken her (49:14); second, that her children are taken from her and lost to her (49:21); third, that Babylon was too strong to give up its prey (49:24); and fourth, that her covenant relation with Jehovah is broken (50:1)?
- Try to put yourself in the position of Israel in exile, as described in 49:7a (cf. 41:14, ‘worm’); and then contemplate the faith that could see and declare the transformation announced in 49:7b-13. On what is the prophet’s faith founded? With verse 7 cf. Ps. 22:6 and 27-29a.
- 49:12. See mg. Some scholars connect ‘Aswan’ or ‘Sinim’ with China, but it seems unlikely that Jewish exiles would have traveled so far East by this period. The ‘Syene’ refers to the more southerly country mentioned in Ezek. 29:10; 30:6.
- 50:1, 2. ‘What writ of divorce did I ever hand to your mother?’ (Moffatt). The meaning is that the breach between God and Zion and her children is not irreparable.