Why the Servant Spoken of in Isaiah 42 is an Individual and Not a Group of People, ישעיהו מב:יג-יח/ Isaiah 42:13-18

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Introduction to Isaiah 42:13-18

Reading through Isaiah 42:1-5 we read how the Servant of God that Isaiah is speaking about appears to be an individual in whom the Lord God will cause His Spirit to rest upon. In Isaiah 42:6 he states that the Servant will be given for a covenant to the people. 

ספר ישעיה פרק מב
ו       אֲנִ֧י יְהוָ֛ה קְרָאתִ֥יךָֽ בְצֶ֖דֶק וְאַחְזֵ֣ק בְּיָדֶ֑ךָ וְאֶצָּרְךָ֗ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ֛ לִבְרִ֥ית עָ֖ם לְא֥וֹר גּוֹיִֽם׃

Isaiah 42:6  
42:6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, And will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, And give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; (KJV)

Isaiah 49:6  
49:6 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. (KJV וַיֹּ֗אמֶר נָקֵ֨ל מִֽהְיוֹתְךָ֥ לִי֙ עֶ֔בֶד לְהָקִים֙ אֶת־שִׁבְטֵ֣י יַעֲקֹ֔ב וּנְצִירֵי יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לְהָשִׁ֑יב וּנְתַתִּ֙יךָ֙ לְא֣וֹר גּוֹיִ֔ם לִֽהְי֥וֹת יְשׁוּעָתִ֖י עַד־קְצֵ֥ה הָאָֽרֶץ׃)

The Servant that Isaiah is speaking of will be both for a covenant to Israel and as a light to the gentiles. What does it mean that the Servant will be a covenant of the people? As we had established earlier, the work of the Servant is more than what king Cyrus had accomplished, which speaks to another Messianic figure. The Servant that God will bring into this world will deliver people from the darkness of not knowing the God of Israel and His holy and righteous ways, and He will deliver them from their idolatry and bondage to sin. Paul wrote that bondage is a choice in which the world chooses to live (Romans 1:18-32). Isaiah speaks of the Lord God sending His Messiah to deliver us from these things, to reveal to us His truth, and set us free from the darkness of sin and rebellion. Whether one interprets the darkness as exile from the land or not, the concepts are the same, it is a reference to a separation from God and from His promises! The light that the Messiah provides is through the covenant of God that is first made with Israel, and later offered to the gentiles who would believe and turn from their idolatry and sinful ways. We note how the Lord God is faithful regardless of our unfaithfulness and breaking the covenant agreement. The mercy of God draws us back to repentance and seeking to turn from sin and rebellion. This is evidence for the Lord God continuing to work in our lives. In addition to this, the Servant making a covenant demonstrates the continuity of the Scriptures in how God operates and functions in our lives. Isaiah provides us with the hope of a new covenant, one in which the gentiles will also be invited to participate (Isaiah 56:3-4). We note how the Servant of the covenant according to Malachi 3:1-3 speaks to the covenant relationship and a transformation of heart and soul to offer sacrifices in righteousness before God. This is coupled to the covenant relationship that God has with His people, and the transformative power of God in the lives of His people, something we should all be looking for in our lives! 

Masoretic Text (MSS) on Isaiah 42:13-18

Isaiah continues to say the following according to Isaiah 42:13-14.

ספר ישעיה פרק מב
יג   יְהֹוָה כַּגִּבּוֹר יֵצֵא כְּאִישׁ מִלְחָמוֹת יָעִיר קִנְאָה יָרִיעַ אַף-יַצְרִיחַ עַל-אֹיְבָיו יִתְגַּבָּר: יד   הֶחֱשֵׁיתִי מֵעוֹלָם אַחֲרִישׁ אֶתְאַפָּק כַּיּוֹלֵדָה אֶפְעֶה אֶשֹּׁם וְאֶשְׁאַף יָחַד: 

Isaiah 42:13 states, “The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. (יְהֹוָה כַּגִּבּוֹר יֵצֵא כְּאִישׁ מִלְחָמוֹת יָעִיר קִנְאָה יָרִיעַ אַף-יַצְרִיחַ עַל-אֹיְבָיו יִתְגַּבָּר)” Isaiah 42:14 “I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once. (הֶחֱשֵׁיתִי מֵעוֹלָם אַחֲרִישׁ אֶתְאַפָּק כַּיּוֹלֵדָה אֶפְעֶה אֶשֹּׁם וְאֶשְׁאַף יָחַד)” 

Cross References for Isaiah 42:13-14: Ge 43:31; 45:1; Ex 14:3, 14; 15:3; Jos 6:5; Es 4:14; Ps 50:21; 78:65; Is 9:6–7; 13:8; 26:11; 31:4; 37:32; 40:10; 41:12; 44:6–12; 57:11; 59:17; 62:1; 64:12; 65:6; 66:14–16; Je 4:31; 6:24; 25:30; Ho 11:10; Joe 3:16; Am 1:2; 3:4, 8; Zep 1:14; Lk 18:7; 2 Pe 3:9

These verses speak to an ancient description of the Lord God as a mighty man fighting on behalf of His people. For example, in Shemot / Exodus 15:1-27 and Judges 5:1-31 we see the description of God as the man of war.

ספר שמות פרק טו
ב   עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ וַיְהִי-לִי לִישׁוּעָה זֶה אֵלִי וְאַנְוֵהוּ אֱלֹהֵי אָבִי וַאֲרֹמְמֶנְהוּ: ג   יְהוָֹה אִישׁ מִלְחָמָה יְהוָֹה שְׁמוֹ: 

Shemot / Exodus 15:2–3  
15:2 The LORD is my strength and song, And he is become my salvation: He is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; My father’s God, and I will exalt him. 15:3 The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name. (KJV)

Here the Lord God being our strength is a description of both the Lord strengthening us in our desire to serve Him and live for Him, and also His moving to protect us and keep us and fights on behalf of His people. The point is that the Lord God is working in the background for our good, even in the lives of others. We note that Isaiah identifies the Lord in this way elsewhere in the book of Isaiah. (Isaiah 28:21, 30:30–31, 31:4, 59:16–18, 63:3–4) We note that the Messiah will come in the power of God, and so it is not Cyrus who will deliver Israel by his mighty arm, but the God of Israel who will do this. We note that these verses from Isaiah 42:13-14 are not directly quoted in the NT but there are some possible links, for example in Isaiah 42:13 the Lord is described as a warrior who stirs up his zeal and roars over his enemies. This echos the imagery of Shemot / Exodus 15:3, where the Lord is called “a man of war” who triumphed over the Egyptians. It may also foreshadow the description of the Lord Yeshua according to Revelation 19:11-16, where he is called “the Word of God” and “King of kings and Lord of lords” who judges and makes war with a sharp sword and a rod of iron. In Isaiah 42:14 there is a description of the Lord as one who is in labor who cries out and gasps for breath. This may reflect the pain and anguish that the Lord feels for his people who are oppressed and suffering. It may also relate to the theme of the birth pangs of the Messianic age, which are mentioned in Isaiah 26:17-18, Jeremiah 30:6-7, Micah 4:9-10, Matthew 24:8, Mark 13:8, and Romans 8:22. What these things suggest is that the coming of the Lord and his kingdom will be preceded by a time of great tribulation and distress, followed then by a great hope and joy.

In addition to these things, the Hebrew bible on Isaiah 42:13-14 provides us with some interesting features, such as the use of parallelism, repetition, and contrast that can be interpreted in the following way. In verse 13, the Lord is called “a mighty one” (גִּבּוֹר) and “a man of war” (אִישׁ מִלְחָמוֹת), which are synonyms that emphasize his strength and power. He also “stirs up” (יָעִיר) his zeal and “raises” (יַצְרִיחַ) a war cry, which are verbs that imply his readiness and eagerness to fight. Isaiah says that He “shouts” (יָרִיעַ) and “roars” (אַף-יַצְרִיחַ), which are words that convey his loud and fierce voice. So comparing verses 13 and 14, the Lord contrasts his previous silence and restraint with his current outcry and fury. He uses the words “I have kept silent” (הֶחֱשֵׁיתִי) and “I have remained quiet” (אַחֲרִישׁ), to indicate his patience and forbearance. He also uses the words “I will cry” (אֶפְעֶה) and “I will gasp” (אֶשֹּׁם), which express his pain and breathlessness. He also uses the words “I will destroy” (אֶשְׁאַף) and “I will devour” (אֶשְׁאַף), which are synonyms that denote his wrath and judgment. All of these things provide a picture of the Lord God of Israel who loves His people, and as a warrior preparing for battle against the enemies of His people. The major theme here is to continue to trust in the Lord God Almighty, and that it is Him alone who can save us (Isaiah 30:15-18, 40:27-31). Note also the idea of birthpains is not meant that the Creator will give birth, but that He is in anguish over His people, as a Father and Mother are so over their own children when they are in distress. The crying out is a reference to the Lord God not being silent any longer but that He is going to decisively move on behalf of His people. This again demonstrates for us that we should be expectant of what God is going to do next in our lives. We should always be actively looking to see how the Lord God is moving, and to have faith that He is moving on our behalf whether we can see it or not.

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 42:15-16.

ספר ישעיה פרק מב
טו   אַחֲרִיב הָרִים וּגְבָעוֹת וְכָל-עֶשְֹבָּם אוֹבִישׁ וְשַֹמְתִּי נְהָרוֹת לָאִיִּים וַאֲגַמִּים אוֹבִישׁ: טז   וְהוֹלַכְתִּי עִוְרִים בְּדֶרֶךְ לֹא יָדָעוּ בִּנְתִיבוֹת לֹא-יָדְעוּ אַדְרִיכֵם אָשִֹים מַחְשָׁךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם לָאוֹר וּמַעֲקַשִּׁים לְמִישׁוֹר אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים עֲשִֹיתִם וְלֹא עֲזַבְתִּים: 

Isaiah 42:15 states, “I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. (אַחֲרִיב הָרִים וּגְבָעוֹת וְכָל-עֶשְֹבָּם אוֹבִישׁ וְשַֹמְתִּי נְהָרוֹת לָאִיִּים וַאֲגַמִּים אוֹבִישׁ)” Isaiah 42:16 “And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. (וְהוֹלַכְתִּי עִוְרִים בְּדֶרֶךְ לֹא יָדָעוּ בִּנְתִיבוֹת לֹא-יָדְעוּ אַדְרִיכֵם אָשִֹים מַחְשָׁךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם לָאוֹר וּמַעֲקַשִּׁים לְמִישׁוֹר אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים עֲשִֹיתִם וְלֹא עֲזַבְתִּים)”

Cross References for Isaiah 42:15-16: Ex 9:25; 10:15; 13:21; 14:21; Dt 4:31; Jos 1:5; Ps 18:28; 72:10; 94:14; 105:33–35; 107:33; Is 2:12–16; 11:15; 26:7; 29:18, 24; 30:21; 32:3; 35:5, 8; 40:4, 11; 41:1, 17; 42:4, 12, 15; 44:6–12, 27; 50:2; 57:18; 58:8, 10–11; Je 31:8–9; Eze 38:19–20; Na 1:4–6; Lk 1:78–79; 3:5; Ac 26:18; Eph 5:8; Heb 13:5

The description here is one that the Lord God makes the natural processes to disappear, those things which appear to be continual, ongoing, business as usual, such as rivers and pools, and the herbs which grow naturally. The Lord God bringing these things to an end (i.e. drying them up) is synonymous to the Lord God working to bring one to the end of his or her means, so that He can reach a person’s heart and call him or her into the paths of righteousness. Notice in Isaiah 42:16 how the Lord will lead the blind along a path they have not known, and this is because the blind do not know God or His holy and righteous ways. The Hebrew text of Isaiah 42:15-16 interestingly supports our interpretation using parallelism, repetition, and contrast. For example, in verse 15, the Lord uses four verbs to describe his destructive action: “I will lay waste” (אַחֲרִיב), “I will dry up” (אוֹבִישׁ), “I will turn” (וְשַֹמְתִּי), and “I will dry up” (אוֹבִישׁ). The first and the last verbs are the same, creating a chiastic structure that emphasizes the completeness of the Lord’s judgment. The second and the third verbs are contrasted, showing the opposite effects of the Lord’s power, He can dry up the vegetation and turn the rivers into islands. Notice how this is coupled to the judgment of God for the purpose of drawing one to the light. In verse 16, the Lord uses three verbs to describe his gracious action of God, “I will lead” (וְהוֹלַכְתִּי), “I will make” (אָשִֹים), and “I will turn” (וְהַפְכֹּתִי). The first and the last verbs are contrasted, showing the different outcomes of the Lord’s guidance. He can lead the blind in unknown ways and turn their darkness into light. The second verb is repeated, showing the certainty of the Lord’s promise, that He will make the darkness light and the rough places smooth. In addition to these things, there is a promise that the Lord God will not leave or forsake those whom He is calling and loves. This is a promise that we can trust in! These verses specifically (Isaiah 42:15-16) are not directly quoted in the New Testament, but they may have some connections with other passages in the Scriptures. Isaiah 42:15 provides us with a description on how the Lord God will destroy or remove the obstacles and barriers that stand in the way of his justice and salvation. This may echo the imagery of Tehillim / Psalm 46:6, where the Lord makes the nations tremble and the mountains quake. It may also foreshadow the description of Yeshua according to Revelation 6:14, where the sky recedes like a scroll and every mountain and island is moved from its place. Isaiah 42:16 depicts the Lord’s promise to guide the blind and lead them in paths they do not know which may reflect the Lord’s compassion and care for his people who are in darkness and ignorance. It may also relate to the theme of the light of the world, which is mentioned in Isaiah 9:2, John 8:12, and John 9:5. These passages suggest that the Lord and his Servant will bring light and sight to those who walk in darkness and blindness. The application of these verses for our lives is that these words remind us of God’s sovereignty and mercy. He is able to remove any obstacle that hinders his purpose and plan. He is also able to restore any person who trusts in him and follows his direction. He can turn our chaos into order, our confusion into clarity, and our despair into hope. 

We note the effect of sin in our lives, that it has the effect of creating a hollow and dry place, similar to the drying up and making one thirsty for something that will produce life. The way that these things are described provide an illustration that is difficult to misinterpret, The Lord God will work powerfully to move the thing that appears to be immovable and unstoppable. This is the power of God that we seek every day to help us to overcome sin in our lives! As the people of God, we seek the Lord God to lead us out of the darkness and into the light, into His truth and life! This is the kind of blindness that is being described here, which is symbolic of the helplessness of people to walk in God’s ways. We need His help and empowerment to overcome this world just as Yeshua overcame this world. Unless the Lord God Almighty helps us and acts on our behalf to deliver us from the consequences of sin, we are utterly helpless. Note also how according to Isaiah 42:7, the Servant Messiah will help to deliver the blind. We note that the Servant operates in the power of God, and our Father in heaven is the one who delivers God’s people, and therefore the major conclusion here is that this Servant that is being described here is not the people, as the antimissionaries claim. Note also how the Lord God is leading His people from darkness to the light, and so this means that His people will be light bearers for the nations to see the work and power of God in their lives. This again is the testimony that we have in the Lord that we bear each day for the glory of God! We should daily seek to turn from the blindness that we once had and seek the life that is found in God’s Messiah Yeshua, and in His Holy Word!

ISaiah goes on saying the following according to Isaiah 42:17-18.

ספר ישעיה פרק מב
יז   נָסֹגוּ אָחוֹר יֵבֹשׁוּ בֹשֶׁת הַבֹּטְחִים בַּפָּסֶל הָאֹמְרִים לְמַסֵּכָה אַתֶּם אֱלֹהֵינוּ: יח   הַחֵרְשִׁים שְׁמָעוּ וְהַעִוְרִים הַבִּיטוּ לִרְאוֹת: 

Isaiah 42:17 states, “They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods. (נָסֹגוּ אָחוֹר יֵבֹשׁוּ בֹשֶׁת הַבֹּטְחִים בַּפָּסֶל הָאֹמְרִים לְמַסֵּכָה אַתֶּם אֱלֹהֵינוּ)” Isaiah 42:18 “Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see. (הַחֵרְשִׁים שְׁמָעוּ וְהַעִוְרִים הַבִּיטוּ לִרְאוֹת)”

Cross References for Isaiah 42:17-18: Ex 32:4; Dt 28:1–68; Ps 35:4; 97:7; Is 1:29; 29:18; 35:5; 43:8; 44:6–12, 18–22; 45:16; 50:5; 59:13–14; Da 9:1–8; Tob 3:1–6; Bar 1:15–19; Mt 15:10–20; Jn 8:43; 9:39

Here we see what happens to those who continue to trust in idolatry. Isaiah states that they will be made ashamed because these idols are deaf, blind, cannot walk or talk or do anything since they are only wood and stone. These verses from Isaiah 42:17-18 are not directly quoted in the New Testament, but they may have some implications for our faith and life. For example, Isaiah 42:17 warns those who trust in idols and images that they will be turned back in utter shame. This verse reminds us of the first and second commandments, according to the Ten commandments, which forbid us to worship any other gods or make any graven images (see Shemot / Exodus 20:3-6). This also warns us of the futility and folly of idolatry, which is anything that we love, trust, or serve more than God. Idolatry can take many forms, such as money, power, pleasure, fame, or even ourselves (selfishness). The point is that we should examine our hearts and ask ourselves what are we really living for, and whether we are giving God the glory and honor that he deserves. We should also repent of any idols that we have in our lives, and turn to the living and true God, who alone can satisfy our deepest needs and desires. Isaiah 42:18 calls the deaf and the blind to hear and see the wonders of God. This means that we should be able to see and understand how the Lord God of Israel is working in our lives each day! This verse reminds us of the spiritual condition of humanity apart from God’s grace. We are all born spiritually deaf and blind, unable to hear God’s voice or see his glory (Tehillim / Psalm 58:3, Romans 3:10-18). We need the Lord God to open our ears and eyes, and to give us a new heart and a new spirit, so that we can hear and see the truth concerning His Mashiach Yeshua whom Paul calls the image of the invisible God and the light of the world (Colossians 1:15, John 8:12). We also need the Lord God to help us grow in our spiritual hearing and sight, so that we can listen to his word and follow his will, and so that we can be transformed for His glory so that we can reflect his image. We should seek the Lord God in prayer for these things in both our live and in the lives of others and we are told with a promise that God will grant us the gift of spiritual hearing and sight, and that he will reveal to us more of his mercy and glory. 

In addition to these things, we note how the blind require a miracle in their lives in order to see. If we think about this for a moment, a power source is required to make light, and so those who are in darkness require something to help them to see through the darkness. This is why the blind will never overcome their blindness without a miracle. This is paralleled to those who serve idols, they will remain in the darkness. This is not the case for those who trust in the One true God (Tehillim / Psalms 25:2-3) The NT text describes those who trust in the Lord in the following way: 

Revelation 7:14–17  
7:14 And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 7:15 Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 7:16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 7:17 For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (KJV καὶ εἴρηκα αὐτῷ· κύριέ μου, σὺ οἶδας. καὶ εἶπέν μοι· οὗτοί εἰσιν οἱ ἐρχόμενοι ἐκ τῆς θλίψεως τῆς μεγάλης καὶ ἔπλυναν τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν καὶ ἐλεύκαναν αὐτὰς ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ ἀρνίου. διὰ τοῦτό εἰσιν ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ λατρεύουσιν αὐτῷ ἡμέρας καὶ νυκτὸς ἐν τῷ ναῷ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ὁ καθήμενος ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου σκηνώσει ἐπʼ αὐτούς. οὐ πεινάσουσιν ἔτι οὐδὲ διψήσουσιν ἔτι οὐδὲ μὴ πέσῃ ἐπʼ αὐτοὺς ὁ ἥλιος οὐδὲ πᾶν καῦμα, ὅτι τὸ ἀρνίον τὸ ἀνὰ μέσον τοῦ θρόνου ποιμανεῖ αὐτοὺς καὶ ὁδηγήσει αὐτοὺς ἐπὶ ζωῆς πηγὰς ὑδάτων, καὶ ἐξαλείψει ὁ θεὸς πᾶν δάκρυον ἐκ τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν αὐτῶν.)

Note here how those who trust in the Lord and commit themselves to Him no matter what happened, they are vindicated before God from the sense that they trusted in Him, and they are rewarded for their faithfulness. We also note that the Lord God Almighty in His grace and mercy gave His Torah to the people so that they could obey God’s word. It can be difficult to be obedient due to the rebellion of the flesh, and this is why we seek the Lord for help with this. Again, this is on an individual basis, that we are not to be idol worshipers living in sin, and so this provides more evidence that the Servant being spoken of here is not the nation as a whole. The point is that there will be one who comes who will lead the blind and deliver God’s people and the people of the world. This is what it means to deliver those who are imprisoned, and this is also evidence of God’s Lordship. This is the point of all of these things, God is calling you and I, all of His people, and the world, to pay attention to the facts of His Revelation according to His Word!

Rabbinic Commentary on Isaiah 42:13-18

The Targum Jonathan is an Aramaic and Rabbinic translation of the book of Isaiah and therefore is a valuable resource for continuing to study the book of Isaiah!

תרגום יונתן בן עוזיאל אל ישעיה פרק מב:יג-יח
יג      יוי לְמַעְבַד גְבוּרָן מִתגְלֵי לְמַעְבַד גְבוּרָן מִתגְלֵי בִרגַז בְמִילוּל אַף בִזיָע עַל בַעְלֵי דְבָבֹוהִי מִתגְלֵי בִגבוּרְתֵיה׃ יד      יְהַבִית לְהֹון אַרכָא מֵעָלְמָא דְאִם יְתוּבוּן לְאֹורָיתָא וְלָא תָבוּ כְחִבלִין עַל יָלְדָא יִתגְלֵי דִינִי עְלֵיהֹון יִצדֹון וִיסוּפוּן כַחדָא׃ טו      אַחְרִיב טוּרִין וְרָמַן וְכָל עִסבְהֹון אְיַבֵיש וַאְשַוֵי נַהרִין לִנגָוָון וַאְגַמִין אְיַבֵיש׃ טז      וַאְדַבַר דְכִסמַן בְאֹורַח דְלָא יְדַעוּ בִשבִילִין דְלָא אֵילַפוּ אַדרֵיכִינוּן אְשַוֵי קְבַל קֳדָמֵיהֹון לְנֵיהֹור וְכָפְלָא לְמֵישְרָא אִלֵין פִתגָמַיָא אַעבֵידִינוּן וְלָא אְרַחֵיקִינוּן׃ יז      יִסתַחרוּן לְאַחרָא יִבַהתוּן בַהתָא פָלְחֵי צַלמַיָא דְאָמְרִין לִצְלֵים מַתְכָא אַתוּן טָעְוָתַנָא׃ יח      רַשִיעַיָא דְאִנוּן כְחַרשִין הְלָא אוּדנִין לְכֹון שְמַעוּ וְחַיָיבַיָא דְאִנוּן כִסמַן הְלָא עַינִין לְכֹון אִסתַכַלוּ וַחְזֹו׃

Targum Jonathan son of Uziel Isaiah 42:13-18
42:13 The Lord shall be seen to do mighty things: He shall reveal Himself in anger to do a mighty work by the word of His wrath; He shall reveal Himself to His enemies by His might in an earthquake. 14 I have given them prolongation for a long time, if they would but return to my law; but they did not return. My judgment shall be revealed upon them, as pains on a woman in travail; they shall be destroyed, and come to an end together. 15 I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. 16 And I will lead the house of Israel, who are like the blind, in a way which they knew not, in paths they have not learned I will lead them; I will make darkness light before them, and the rugged place a plain. These things will I do for them, and will not forsake them. 17 They shall be turned back, they shall be ashamed, that worship images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods. 18 Ye wicked, (who are like the deaf,) have ye no ears? hear ye! and ye sinners, (who are like the blind,) have ye no eyes? (TgJ)

Isaiah continues saying the following according to the TgJ, יג      יוי לְמַעְבַד גְבוּרָן מִתגְלֵי לְמַעְבַד גְבוּרָן מִתגְלֵי בִרגַז בְמִילוּל אַף בִזיָע עַל בַעְלֵי דְבָבֹוהִי מִתגְלֵי בִגבוּרְתֵיה׃ 42:13 The Lord shall be seen to do mighty things: He shall reveal Himself in anger to do a mighty work by the word of His wrath; He shall reveal Himself to His enemies by His might in an earthquake. יד      יְהַבִית לְהֹון אַרכָא מֵעָלְמָא דְאִם יְתוּבוּן לְאֹורָיתָא וְלָא תָבוּ כְחִבלִין עַל יָלְדָא יִתגְלֵי דִינִי עְלֵיהֹון יִצדֹון וִיסוּפוּן כַחדָא׃ 42:14 I have given them prolongation for a long time, if they would but return to my law; but they did not return. My judgment shall be revealed upon them, as pains on a woman in travail; they shall be destroyed, and come to an end together. (TgJ) The Targum translation of Isaiah 42:13-14 differs from the Hebrew Bible in several ways. Here are some of the differences and their possible implications. We note again how the TgJ translates saying, הָא עַבְדִי מְשִׁיחָא אֶקְרְבִינֵהּ בְּחִירִי דְאִתְרְעֵי בֵּיהּ מֵימְרִי אֶתֵּן רוּחָא דְקוּדְשִׁי עֲלוֹהִי דִינִין לְעַמְמִין יְגַלֵי: Behold, my servant, the Messiah, whom I bring, my chosen in whom one delights: as for my Word, I will put my Holy Spirit upon him; he shall reveal my judgment unto the nations. (TgJ) using the word מְשִׁיחָא and so identifying the Messiah as the Servant of God. This implies that the TgJ interprets this as a messianic prophecy. The Targum adds the phrase “by the word of His wrath” (בִמִילוּל אַף) in verse 13, which is not found in the Hebrew Bible. This implies that the Targum emphasizes the role of God’s word in executing His judgment, while the Hebrew Bible focuses more on His might and anger. The Targum changes the phrase “like a woman in labor” (כְּיוֹלֵדָה) in verse 14 to “like a woman in travail” (כְחִבלִין). This implies that the Targum uses a stronger term to describe the pain and suffering that God’s enemies will experience, while the Hebrew Bible uses a more common term that also implies birth and renewal. And, the Targum adds the phrase “if they would but return to my law” (דְאִם יְתוּבוּן לְאֹורָיתָא) in verse 14, which is not found in the Hebrew Bible. This implies that the Targum views the judgment as conditional on the repentance of the people, while the Hebrew Bible views it as inevitable and final. These differences may affect the interpretation of the verses and the application for our lives in various ways. For example, one may ask:

Questions that Draw Out the Meaning of these Verses

  • How does the identification of the servant as the Messiah affect our understanding of his role and mission?
  • How does the emphasis on God’s word affect our view of His power and authority?
  • How does the change of the term for labor affect our view of God’s justice and mercy?
  • How does the addition of the condition for repentance affect our view of God’s grace and sovereignty?

Again the identification of the servant as the Messiah affects our understanding from the sense of directing us to look for the King Messiah of God. This identification implies that the servant is a unique and anointed individual who has a special relationship with God and a divine mandate to fulfill. His role and mission are to be the leader and redeemer of Israel and the light and judge of the nations. He will accomplish this by the power of God’s Word and as we read on in the book of Isaiah, by his suffering and exaltation. The emphasis on the Word of God implies that God’s word is the primary instrument of His power and authority. We also know according to the Torah that God’s word is the source of creation, revelation, and salvation. God’s word is also the expression of His wrath and justice. God’s word is effective and accomplishes what it is sent to do according to Isaiah it accomplishes His purposes in history and in the lives of His people. (Isaiah 55:11) We are told that God’s justice is like the pains of a woman in travail, which are unbearable and inevitable. God’s mercy is conditional on the repentance of the people, which is not explicitly stated in the Hebrew Bible. God’s justice and mercy are also intertwined, as the suffering of the servant will bring about the redemption of the people. This addition implies that God’s grace and sovereignty are not absolute or unconditional, but rather depend on the response of the people. God’s grace is not irresistible or universal, but rather requires the cooperation and obedience of the people. God’s sovereignty is not arbitrary or deterministic, but rather respects the free will and accountability of the people. These things reveal how there is a cooperative work that is necessary according to the Scriptures. The Commentaries also interpret these scriptures in the following way.

Shenei Luchot HaBerit, Torah Shebikhtav, Shemot, Introduction 14
ובמדרש תהלים (שוח”ט ב) יתיצבו מלכי ארץ ורוזנים נוסדו יחד על ה’ ועל משיחו וגומר. יושב בשמים ישחק וגומר (תהלים ב, ב-ד). במדרש תהלים, א”ר ברכיה בשם רבי לוי, ארורים הם הרשעים שהם מקיימין עצה על ישראל, וכל אחד ואחד אומר עצתי יפה מעצתך. עשו אמר, שוטה היה קין שהרג את הבל בחיי אביו, ולא היה יודע שאביו פרה ורבה. אני איני עושה כן, אלא (בראשית כז, מא) יקרבו ימי אבל אבי. פרעה אמר, שוטה היה עשו שאמר כן, ולא היה יודע שאחיו פרה ורבה בחיי אביו. אני איני עושה כן, אלא עד דיהון דקיקין תחות כורסייא דאמהון אנא מחינא להון, הדא הוא דכתיב (שמות א, כב) כל הבן הילוד היאורה תשליכוהו. המן הרשע אמר, פרעה היה שוטה שאמר כן, ולא היה יודע שהבנות נשאות לאנשים והם פרות ורבות. אני איני עושה כן, אלא (אסתר ג, יג) להשמיד להרוג ולאבד כו’. גוג מגוג עתיד לומר, שוטים היו הראשונים שמעקיפין עצה על ישראל, ולא היו יודעים שיש להם פטרון בשמים. אני איני עושה כן, אלא בתחילה אני מזווג לפטרון, ואח”כ אני חוזר על ישראל, הדא הוא דכתיב (תהלים ב, ב) על ה’ ועל משיחו. והקב”ה אומר להם, גוג מגוג לי אתם באים להזדווג, כמה נדודים יש לי לפני, וכמה רשפים וברקים ולפידים, ואני יוצא עמך במלחמה שנאמר (ישעיה מב, יג) ה’ כגבור יצא כאיש מלחמות יעיר קנאה, מה כתיב שם (זכריה יד, ט) והיה ה’ למלך על כל הארץ, עד כאן לשונו:
There is an interesting Midrash on Psalms 2,2, יתיצבו מלכי ארץ, “The kings of the earth will take their stand, and regents will intrigue together against G–d and His anointed.” Rabbi Berechyah quotes Rabbi Levi as saying that the wicked are cursed, since they conspire against Israel. Each one claims to outdo the other in his devious plot. Esau describes Cain as having been foolish, since he killed Abel during Adam’s lifetime, enabling Adam to replace Abel with other children. He, Esau was going to wait to kill Jacob until after his father had died and Jacob could no longer be replaced by Isaac siring any other children (Genesis 27,41). Pharaoh considered Esau as having been foolish, since he had overlooked the fact that while he waited, Jacob himself had a chance to sire many children, thus ensuring survival of the Jewish nation. He, Pharaoh, would not go about in in this way, but he would kill the Jewish males as soon as they emerged from their mother’s womb (Exodus 1,22). Haman, on the other hand, considered that even Pharaoh had been foolish, since the latter had not realized that when the Jewish girls would marry they would multiply, the children being considered Jewish in Jewish law. Hence he decreed death for all Jews (Esther 3,13). In the future Gog and Magog will consider all former enemies of the Jews as having been fools for having ignored the fact that the Jews have a Patron in Heaven who may come to their rescue. Hence Gog and Magog plan to first contend with said Patron of the Jews, i.e. G–d, and only afterwards to attack Israel itself. This is why the verse in Psalms we quoted, reads “against G–d and His Messiah.” G–d is reported as smiling, saying to Gog and Magog that their undertaking is both foolish and arrogant, since they have no idea how heavily outnumbered they will be when G–d employs His lightning, etc. After all, it is written (Isaiah 42,13): “G–d will go forth like a warrior, like a fighter. He will awaken His jealousy like a man of war.” It also says (Zachariah 14,9) that “G–d will be king over the entire universe” (after having battled Gog and Magog).

The commentary opens with a quote from Tehillim / Psalms 2 in regard to how the world conspires against God and His Messiah. This is a significant observation because this is what is going on even to this day! We note that when one conspires against God’s Word, against God, and against His Messiah, one is also conspiring against Israel, all of these things result in one being cursed because of these things. The Torah states this is true, for example in Bereshit / Genesis 12 and Devarim / Deuteronomy 28 to name just two locations. Examples are provided of those in the Scriptures who conspired to kill someone, Cain and Abel, Esau and his brother Jacob, Pharaoh killing the Jewish male children, in the book of Esther, Haman calling for the destruction of all the Jewish people, the war of Gog and Magog, and finally the desire to kill the King Messiah. The final conclusion is that the nations who rage against God, His Messiah, and His people, have no idea how outnumbered they are when God they are coming against God and His people. Note the connection of the God of Israel and the Messiah as being coupled together as a mighty warrior. This is how the Midrash Tehillim 2:4 interprets these things.

Midrash Tehillim 2:4
על ה’ ועל משיחו. משל לגבור שהיה במדינה וכשהיו הגייסות באות לאותה מדינה היו יראים מאותו גבור ואומרים מה נעשה בואו ונהרג אותו גבור ואחר כך נזדווג למדינה. כך אלו. א”ר ברכיה בשם ר’ לוי ארורים הם הרשעים שהם מקיימים עצה על ישראל וכל אחד ואחד אומר עצתי יפה מעצתך. עשו אמר שוטה היה קין שהרג הבל בחיי אביו ולא היה יודע שאביו פרה ורבה. אני איני עושה כן אלא (בראשית כז מא) יקרבו ימי אבל אבי. פרעה אמר שוטה היה עשו שאמר כן ולא היה יודע שאחיו פרה ורבה בחיי אביו. אני איני עושה כן אלא עד דיהון דקיקין תחות כורסייא דאימהון אנא מחינא להון. הדא הוא דכתיב (שמות א כב) כל הבן הילוד היאורה תשליכוהו. המן הרשע אמר פרעה היה שוטה שאמר כן ולא היה יודע שהבנות נישאות לאנשים והן פרות ורבות. אני איני עושה כן אלא (אסתר ג יג) להשמיד להרוג ולאבד וגו’. גוג ומגוג עתידין לומר כן שוטים היו הראשונים שמעקיפין עצה על ישראל ולא היו יודעים שיש להם פטרון בשמים. אני איני עושה כן אלא בתחלה אני מזדווג לפטרונן ואחר כך אני חוזר על ישראל. הדא הוא דכתיב (תהלים ב ב) על ה’ ועל משיחו. והקב”ה אומר להם גוג ומגוג לי אתם באים להזדווג כמה גדודים יש לפני וכמה רשפים וברקים ולפידים ואני יוצא עמך במלחמה. שנאמר (ישעיה מב יג) ה’ כגבור יצא כאיש מלחמות יעיר קנאה. מה כתיב שם (זכריה יד ט) והיה ה’ למלך על כל הארץ:
“On Hashem and His Messiah. It is compared to a mighty warrior who was in a country, and when conscripts came to that country, they were afraid of that warrior and said, ‘What shall we do? Let us kill that warrior, and then we will unite with the country.’ So it is with them. Rabbi Berachiah said in the name of Rabbi Levi, ‘Cursed are the wicked who maintain a council against Israel, and each one says, “My counsel is better than yours.” Esau was foolish; Cain killed Abel while their father was still alive, not knowing that his father would procreate and increase. I do not do that, but rather as it is written, “Let my father’s days be prolonged.” Pharaoh was foolish; Esau said so, not knowing that his brothers married women and those women multiplied. I do not do that, but rather until the verdict of Kikin under the pillows of their mothers I plead for them, as it is written, “Every male who is born, you shall cast into the river.” Haman the wicked said, ‘Pharaoh was foolish who said so, not knowing that the girls marry men and those men procreate and increase.’ I do not do that, but rather as it is written, “To destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish.” Gog and Magog are destined to say the same, that the fools were the first to plot against Israel and did not know that they had a patron in heaven. I do not do that, but first I unite with my patron, and then I return to Israel. This is what is written, “On Hashem and His Messiah.” And the Holy One, blessed be He, says to them, ‘Gog and Magog, how many troops do I have before me, and how many lightning bolts, thunders, and flames? I will go with you to war,’ as it is said, ‘Hashem will go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies’ (Isaiah 42:13). What is written there? “And Hashem shall be king over all the earth.”‘ (Zechariah 14:9)”

We note how the nations conspire against Israel, they do so to annihilate or destroy the Jewish people. The response is how God delivers Israel, and causes Israel to grow in population and so preserve the promise that He had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The point is that we can trust the Lord God in all that He does! 

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to the TgJ, טו      אַחְרִיב טוּרִין וְרָמַן וְכָל עִסבְהֹון אְיַבֵיש וַאְשַוֵי נַהרִין לִנגָוָון וַאְגַמִין אְיַבֵיש׃ 15 I will make waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their herbs; and I will make the rivers islands, and I will dry up the pools. טז      וַאְדַבַר דְכִסמַן בְאֹורַח דְלָא יְדַעוּ בִשבִילִין דְלָא אֵילַפוּ אַדרֵיכִינוּן אְשַוֵי קְבַל קֳדָמֵיהֹון לְנֵיהֹור וְכָפְלָא לְמֵישְרָא אִלֵין פִתגָמַיָא אַעבֵידִינוּן וְלָא אְרַחֵיקִינוּן׃ 16 And I will lead the house of Israel, who are like the blind, in a way which they knew not, in paths they have not learned I will lead them; I will make darkness light before them, and the rugged place a plain. These things will I do for them, and will not forsake them. (TgJ) Note how the midrash connect the Isaiah text to the giving of the Torah… important connection. The Targum Jonathan adds the phrase “the house of Israel” (דְכִסמַן) in verse 16, which is not in the Hebrew text. This specifies that the blind who are led by the Lord are the people of Israel, who are in exile and need God’s guidance and restoration. The Hebrew text does not identify the blind, but it may imply that they are the nations who do not know God and need his light and salvation. The Targum uses the words “way” (בְאֹורַח) and “paths” (בִשבִילִין) in verse 16, which are different from the Hebrew words “way” (בְּדֶרֶךְ) and “paths” (בִּנְתִיבוֹת). The Aramaic words may suggest a more specific and narrow direction that the Lord will lead his people, while the Hebrew words may suggest a more general and broad direction that the Lord will show his people. The TעJ uses the words “darkness” (קְבַל) and “rugged place” (כָפְלָא) in verse 16, which are different from the Hebrew words “darkness” (מַחְשָׁךְ) and “crooked things” (מַעֲקַשִּׁים). The Aramaic words may emphasize the contrast between the darkness and the light, and the rugged place and the plain, that the Lord will make for his people. The Hebrew words may imply that the darkness and the crooked things are not only physical, but also moral and spiritual, that the Lord will turn into light and straightness for his people. These differences may affect the interpretation and application of these scriptures by highlighting the role of the Lord as the redeemer and restorer of Israel, who will lead them out of exile and back to their land. The Hebrew text on the other hand highlights the role of the Lord as the creator and ruler of the world, who will reveal himself to the nations and invite them to his salvation. The Targum Jonathan stresses the importance of following the specific and narrow way and paths that the Lord has prepared for his people, which may be related to the Torah and the commandments. The Hebrew text also stresses the importance of trusting and obeying the narrow paths that the Lord has shown to his people, which may be related to his justice and righteousness. The TgJ encourages the people of Israel to hope for the physical and material transformation that the Lord will bring to their situation, such as the removal of their enemies and the restoration of their land. The Hebrew text encourages all peoples through these scriptures to hope for the moral and spiritual transformation that the Lord will bring to our condition, such as the forgiveness of sins and the renewal of hearts.

Midrash Tanchuma Buber, Devarim 1:1
אלה הדברים (דברים א א). יתברך שמו ויתעלה זכרו, שכל הנסים שעשה לישראל במדבר, כך עתיד לעשות בציון, במדבר כתיב אלה הדברים, ובציון כתיב אשים מחשך לפניהם לאור ומעקשים למישור אלה הדברים [עשיתים ולא עזבתים] (ישעיה מב טז), במדבר כתיב וכל העם רואים את הקולות (שמות כ יח), ובציון כתיב קול ששון וקול שמחה קול חתן וגו’ (ירמיה ז לד), במדבר כתיב ארץ רעשה (תהלים סח ט), ובציון [כתיב] ואני מרעיש את השמים ואת הארץ (חגי ב ו), במדבר כתיב וה’ הולך לפניהם יומם (שמות יג כא), ובציון כתיב כי הולך לפניהם ה’ (ישעיה נב יב), במדבר [כתיב] כי ישוב ה’ לשוש עליך (דברים ל ט), ובציון [כתיב] וגלתי בירושלים וששתי בעמי (ישעיה סה יט), [יששום מדבר וציה (שם לה א)]. מה ראה ישעיה לומר כך, אלא כשעברו ישראל את התורה עמד הושע ואמר ושמתיה כמדבר [ושתיה כארץ ציה] (הושע ב ה), לפיכך אמר ישעיה יששום מדבר, וכל הנחמות שאמר ישעיה כפלים הם, לפי שלקחה מיד ה’ כפלים בכל חטאתיה (ישעיה מ ב), ולפיכך ניחמה ישעיה כפלים, נחמו נחמו (שם מ א), אנכי אנכי (שם נא יב), עורי עורי (שםשם ט), התעוררי התעוררי (שם שם יז), שוש אשיש (שם סא י), פרוח תפרח (שם לה ב).
(Deut. 1:1:) THESE ARE THE WORDS (elleh hadevarim). May the name <of the Holy One> be blessed and may his memory be exalted. All the miracles that he did for Israel in the wilderness, he is likewise going to do in Zion. It is written concerning the wilderness (ibid.): THESE ARE THE WORDS; and it is written concerning Zion (in Is. 42:16): I WILL TURN DARKNESS BEFORE THEM INTO LIGHT AND ROUGH PLACES INTO LEVEL GROUND. THESE THINGS (elleh hadevarim) [I WILL DO, AND I WILL NOT FORSAKE THEM]. It is written concerning the wilderness (in Exod. 20:15 [18]): NOW ALL THE PEOPLE SAW THE THUNDERINGS (qol in the plural); and it is written concerning Zion (in Jer. 7:34): <AND I WILL PUT AN END … > TO THE SOUND (qol) OF JOY AND THE SOUND (qol) OF GLADNESS, THE VOICE (qol) OF THE BRIDEGROOM <AND THE VOICE (qol) OF THE BRIDE>. It is written concerning the wilderness (in Ps. 68:9 [8]): THE EARTH QUAKED; and it is written concerning Zion (in Hag. 2:6): I WILL CAUSE THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH TO QUAKE. It is written concerning the wilderness (in Exod. 13:21): AND THE LORD WENT BEFORE THEM BY DAY; and it is written concerning Zion (in Is. 52:12): FOR THE LORD SHALL GO BEFORE YOU. It is written concerning the wilderness (in Deut. 30:9): FOR THE LORD SHALL BE GLAD OVER YOU AGAIN; and it is written concerning Zion (in Is. 65:19): I WILL ALSO REJOICE IN JERUSALEM AND BE GLAD IN MY PEOPLE. [<Also> (according to Is. 35:1): THE WILDERNESS AND THE ARID LAND SHALL BE GLAD.] What did Isaiah see to say this? It is simply that, when Israel transgressed the Torah, Hosea arose and said (in Hos. 2:5 [3]): I WILL MAKE HER LIKE A WILDERNESS [AND RENDER HER LIKE AN ARID LAND]. For that reason Isaiah has said (in Is. 35:1): THE WILDERNESS <AND THE ARID LAND> SHALL BE GLAD. Now all the consolations of which Isaiah spoke are double, because (according to Is. 40:2:) SHE (i.e., Jerusalem) HAS RECEIVED FROM THE HAND OF THE LORD DOUBLE FOR ALL HER SINS. So for that reason Isaiah has comforted her doubly (in vs. 1) COMFORT, O COMFORT <MY PEOPLE, SAYS YOUR GOD>. <Similarly> (in Is. 51:12): I, I <AM THE ONE WHO COMFORTS YOU>. <Also> (in Is. 51:9): AWAKE, AWAKE, <PUT ON STRENGTH, O ARM OF THE LORD>! <Also> (in Is. 51:17): ROUSE YOURSELF, ROUSE YOURSELF! <ARISE, O JERUSALEM … !> <Also> (in Is. 61:10): I WILL BE GLAD WITH REJOICING <IN THE LORD>. <Also> (in Is. 35:1–2) <THE WILDERNESS AND THE ARID LAND SHALL BE GLAD …;> IT SHALL BLOSSOM WITH BLOSSOMS.

Isaiah goes on saying the following according to the TgJ, יז      יִסתַחרוּן לְאַחרָא יִבַהתוּן בַהתָא פָלְחֵי צַלמַיָא דְאָמְרִין לִצְלֵים מַתְכָא אַתוּן טָעְוָתַנָא׃ 17 They shall be turned back, they shall be ashamed, that worship images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods. יח      רַשִיעַיָא דְאִנוּן כְחַרשִין הְלָא אוּדנִין לְכֹון שְמַעוּ וְחַיָיבַיָא דְאִנוּן כִסמַן הְלָא עַינִין לְכֹון אִסתַכַלוּ וַחְזֹו׃ 18 Ye wicked, (who are like the deaf,) have ye no ears? hear ye! and ye sinners, (who are like the blind,) have ye no eyes? (TgJ) The Targum translation of Isaiah 42:15-16 differs from the Hebrew Bible in the following ways. The Targum adds the phrase “the house of Israel, who are like the blind” (בְדְכִסמַן בְאֹורַח דְלָא יְדַעוּ בִשבִילִין דְלָא אֵילַפוּ אַדרֵיכִינוּן) in verse 16, which is not found in the Hebrew Bible. This implies that the Targum interprets this verse as a promise of restoration for Israel, who are spiritually blind of God’s ways, while the Hebrew Bible leaves the identity of the blind more generalized. The Targum changes the phrase “I will make darkness light before them (אְשַוֵי קְבַל קֳדָמֵיהֹון לְנֵיהֹור) to “I will make darkness light before him (אְשַוֵי קְבַל קֳדָמֵיהּ לְנֵיהֹור) in verse 16, using a singular pronoun instead of a plural one. This implies that the Targum views the (singular) servant as the one who will receive God’s guidance and illumination, while the Hebrew Bible views the blind as the recipients of God’s light. The Targum adds the phrase “These things will I do for them, and will not forsake them” (אִלֵין פִתגָמַיָא אַעבֵידִינוּן וְלָא אְרַחֵיקִינוּן) in verse 16, which is not found in the Hebrew Bible. This implies that the Targum emphasizes God’s faithfulness and commitment to His people, while the Hebrew Bible ends the verse with a reference to God’s power and sovereignty. These differences affect the interpretation of these verses from the sense of how the addition of the house of Israel affects our understanding of God’s plan and purpose for His chosen people? How does the change of the pronoun affect our understanding of the relationship between the servant and the blind? And, how does the addition of the assurance affect our understanding of God’s love and compassion for His people? The plan and purpose is for God to send His Mashiach to save His people. These verses in Isaiah 42 are not meant to refer to all of Israel as the antimissionaries claim. The Hebrew language itself, along with the context, and the Targum translation, show how these Scriptures are referring to the One Messiah who will come to save all of Israel including providing a great blessing to the nations through faith that they can be empowered to turn from their idolatry and seek the God of Israel and walk in His holy ways! In addition to these things, the commentary Aggadat Bereshit 70:2 has the following to say concerning these verses.

Aggadat Bereshit 70:2
[ב] ד”א אוזן שומעת ועין רואה. א”ר אשיין בשם ר’ חלקיה לפי שבעולם הזה גרמו עונות ונעשו ישראל חרשים מן התורה, ועורים מלראות השכינה, שנאמר הנה ערלה אזנם ולא יוכלו להקשיב וגומר (ירמי’ ו י), לפיכך נתחרשו מללמוד תורה, ונסתמו עיניהם מלראות השכינה. וכן ישעיה צווח החרשים שמעו והעורים הביטו לראות (ישעי’ מב יח). והן אומרים לו אין אנו רואין, שנאמר נגששה כעורים קיר (שם נט י). ולא שומעים, שנאמר ואני כחרש לא אשמע וגו’ (תהלים לח יד). ומה הקדוש ברוך הוא עושה, לעתיד לבוא הוא מחיה אותן תחילה, ואח”כ הוא פותח עיניהם ואזניהם, שנאמר אז תפקחנה עיני עורים ואזני חרשים תפתחנה (ישעי’ לה ה). והן שומעין דבריו של הקב”ה, שנאמר ואזניך תשמענה דבר וגומר (ישעי’ ל כא), ורואין אותו האיך מלמדין, שנאמר ולא יכנף עוד מוריך וגו’ (שם שם כ). אותה שעה יתקיים הפסוק אוזן שומעת ועין רואה, גם לא מלאך גם לא שרף עושה כך, אלא ה’ עשה גם שניהם (משלי שם כ יב).
[2] Alternative explanation: “An ear that hears and an eye that sees.” Rabbi Ashi said in the name of Rabbi Chelkiah: “Because in this world, Israel sinned and became deaf to the Torah and blind to the Divine Presence, as it says, ‘Their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot listen; behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it’ (Jeremiah 6:10). Therefore, they were prevented from learning Torah, and their eyes were sealed from seeing the Divine Presence. Similarly, Isaiah cries out, ‘Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see!’ (Isaiah 42:18). And they say to Him, ‘We grope, like blind men along a wall; Like those without eyes we grope. We stumble at noon, as if in darkness; Among the sturdy, we are like the dead.’ (Isaiah 59:10). And they do not hear, as it says, “And I [(Israel)] was like a deaf man, not hearing [their taunts]; and as a mute, not opening his mouth.” (Psalm 38:14). What does the Holy One, blessed be He, do? In the future, He will first revive them and then open their eyes and ears, as it says, ‘Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped’ (Isaiah 35:5). And they will hear the words of God, as it says, ‘And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left’ (Isaiah 30:21), and they will see how He teaches, as it says, ‘And your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher’ (Isaiah 30:20). At that time, the verse will be fulfilled, ‘An ear that hears and an eye that sees’ (Proverbs 20:12). Neither an angel nor a seraph does this, but the Lord does both.” [edit. How LORD guides you? The Ruach haKodesh guides you (Megillah 14a:13)]

According to the commentary in Aggadah Bereshit 70:2, sin causes one to become deaf and blind to both God and the Torah. Notice how the commentary explains how even the word of God itself becomes an object of scorn and they do not take pleasure in it. How many people today do not take pleasure in the Torah of God, but instead claim that it is a burden or bondage? Note the distinct difference between those who believe these things! The concept here is that when one loves sin, one’s eyes are sealed from seeing the truth and from seeing God (the Divine Presence) who is at work. Note also Paul writes in Romans 1 that the Lord God will give such people over to their deception! In the mercy of God, the Lord will continue to work to open the eyes of His people to see and understand the truth. The prophecy of this book and chapter (Isaiah 42) is applied to such people, that their eyes will be opened and in their newfound understanding they will seek the Lord God of Israel and walk in His ways. The commentary states that it is God our Father Himself who does these things, who enables, and it is the Holy Spirit of God who guides us. The commentary cites various sources, such as the Talmud, the Midrashim, the medieval commentators, and the New Testament, that support different interpretations of the Servant. The commentary argues that the context, the language, and the role of the Servant in these verses point to an individual Messiah, rather than a collective entity (all of Israel). In addition to this, there is a certain blindness that is present in discerning who this Servant is that Isaiah 42 is speaking about. This challenge affects our lives in how we should live, because it relates to our understanding of God’s plan of salvation and justice for the world. If the Servant is Yeshua the Messiah, as the New Testament claims, then we should recognize Him as the One whom God has chosen, delighted in, and anointed with His Holy Spirit. We should also follow His example of service, humility, and obedience, as well as trust in His power to heal, deliver, and restore us. We should share His message of hope and grace to the nations, as He has commanded us to do. (see Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:8, John 20:21, and Matthew 5:14-16) It is for these reasons that it is important to study the Scriptures carefully and prayerfully, and to seek God’s guidance and revelation, as we try to understand who the Servant of the Lord is. Based upon the NT text which preserves the first century interpretation of these Scriptures, the One whom Isaiah is speaking of is Yeshua the Messiah! Therefore, we can be confident when we speak of Him in relation to these verses, and we can be confident in following His lead and guidance in living our lives according to God’s Torah!