Isaiah 49 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Isaiah 49)

Verse 1

[1] Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

Listen — God turns his speech to the Gentiles, and invites them to hearken to those counsels and doctrines which the Jews would reject.

Me — Unto Christ: Isaiah speaks these words in the name of Christ.

Verse 2

[2] And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;

A sword — As he made me the great teacher of his church, so he made my word, quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.

Hath he hid — He will protect me from all mine enemies.

Made me — Like an arrow, whose point is bright and polished; which therefore pierceth deeper.

Verse 3

[3] And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

O Israel — As the name of David is sometimes given to his successors, so here the name of Israel may not unfitly be given to Christ, not only because he descended from his loins; but also because he was the true and the great Israel, who, in a more eminent manner, prevailed with God, as that name signifies, of whom Jacob, who was first called Israel, was but a type.

Verse 4

[4] Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God.

Then said I — Lord, thou sayest thou wilt be glorified by my ministry; but I find it otherwise.

In vain — Without any considerable fruit of my word and works among the Israelites.

My judgment — My right, the reward which by his promise, and my purchase, is my right.

Verse 5

[5] And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength.

To bring — To convert the apostate Israelites to God.

Not gathered — Not brought home to God by my ministry.

Yet — God will not despise me for the unsuccessfulness of my labours, but will honour and glorify me.

My strength — To support and strengthen me under this and all other discouragements.

Verse 6

[6] And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

He — The Lord.

It is — This is but a small favour.

The tribes — That remnant of them which shall survive all their calamities.

My salvation — The great instrument and author of that eternal salvation which I will give to the Gentiles.

Verse 7

[7] Thus saith the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the LORD that is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and he shall choose thee.

His Holy One — The Holy One of Israel.

To him — To Christ, to whom, in the days of his flesh, this description fully agrees: for men, both Jews and Gentiles among whom he lived, did despise him from their hearts; and the nation, of which he was a member, abhorred both his person and his doctrine; and he was so far from being a temporal monarch, that he came in the form of a servant, and was a servant of rulers, professing subjection and paying tribute unto Caesar.

Kings — Though for a time thou shalt be despised, yet after a while thou shalt be advanced to such glory, that kings shall look upon thee with reverence.

Arise — From their seats to worship thee.

Faithful — Because God shall make good his promises to thee.

Chuse thee — And although thou shalt be rejected by thine own people, yet God will manifest to the world, that thou, and thou only, art the person whom he hath chosen to be the Redeemer of mankind.

Verse 8

[8] Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages;

The Lord — God the Father unto Christ.

Heard thee — Though not so as to deliver thee from death; yet so as to crown thee with glory and honour.

For a covenant — To be the Mediator and surety of that covenant, which is made between me and them.

To establish — To establish truth and righteousness upon earth, and subdue those lusts and passions, which are the great disturbers of human society.

Desolate heritages — That desolate places may be repaired and repossessed. That Christ may possess the Heathen, who were in a spiritual sense in a most desolate condition.

Verse 9

[9] That thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Shew yourselves. They shall feed in the ways, and their pastures shall be in all high places.

Prisoners — To the Gentiles who are fast bound by the cords of their sins, and taken captive by the devil at his will.

Go forth — Come forth to the light, receive divine illumination.

In high places — They shall have abundant provision in all places, yea even in those which commonly are unfruitful, such are both common roads and high grounds.

Verse 11

[11] And I will make all my mountains a way, and my highways shall be exalted.

A way — I will remove all hindrances, and prepare the way for them, by levelling high grounds, and raising low grounds.

Verse 12

[12] Behold, these shall come from far: and, lo, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim.

These — My people shall be gathered from the most remote parts of the earth. He speaks here, and in many other places, of the conversion of the Gentiles, with allusion to that work of gathering, and bringing back the Jews from all parts where they were dispersed, into their own land.

Sinim — Either of the Sinites as they are called, Genesis 10:17, who dwelt about the wilderness. Or of Sin, a famous city of Egypt, which may be put for all Egypt, and that for all southern parts.

Verse 14

[14] But Zion said, The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me.

But — This is an objection. How can these things be true, when the condition of God's church is now so desperate?

Verse 16

[16] Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.

Graven — He alludes to the common practice of men who put signs upon their hands or fingers of such things as they would remember.

Verse 18

[18] Lift up thine eyes round about, and behold: all these gather themselves together, and come to thee. As I live, saith the LORD, thou shalt surely clothe thee with them all, as with an ornament, and bind them on thee, as a bride doeth.

These — Gentiles. Thy church shall not only be restored, but vastly enlarged and adorned by the accession of the Gentiles.

Verse 19

[19] For thy waste and thy desolate places, and the land of thy destruction, shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants, and they that swallowed thee up shall be far away.

Thy waste places — Thy own land, whereof divers parts lie waste for want of people to possess them.

Land of destruction — Which before was desolate and destroyed.

Verse 20

[20] The children which thou shalt have, after thou hast lost the other, shall say again in thine ears, The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell.

The children — Those Gentiles which shall be begotten by thee, when thou shalt be deprived of thine own natural children, when the generality of the Jews cut themselves off from God.

Verse 21

[21] Then shalt thou say in thine heart, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I have lost my children, and am desolate, a captive, and removing to and fro? and who hath brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where had they been?

Who — Whence have I this numberless issue? Seeing - Seeing I was in a manner left childless.

Desolate — Without an husband, being forsaken by God, who formerly owned himself for my husband.

Verse 22

[22] Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders.

Behold — I will call them to me.

Set my standard — As generals do to gather their forces together.

Thy sons — Those who shall be thine by adoption, that shall own God for their father, and Jerusalem for their mother.

Carried — With great care and tenderness, as nurses carry young infants.

Carried — As sick or infirm persons used to be carried.

Verse 23

[23] And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD: for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me.

Lick the dust — They shall highly reverence and honour thee. These expressions are borrowed from the practice of the eastern people, who bowed so low as to touch the ground.

Ashamed — Their expectations shall not be disappointed.

Verse 24

[24] Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?

Shall the prey — Here is a double impediment to their deliverance, the power of the enemy who kept them in bondage, and the justice of God which pleads against their deliverance.

Verse 25

[25] But thus saith 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 contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children.

For I — I the almighty God will undertake this work.