Isaiah 49:1-13

Isaiah 49:1-13
Easter – A Women’s Lectionary 21


ListenI to me, O coastlands,II
    pay attention,III you peoplesIV from far away!V

Notes on verse 1a

I “listen” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
II “coastlands” = i. Perhaps from avah (to desire, crave, wish for, lust after). This is coastland, island, or region. It is a desirable place to live – dry land, coast.
III “pay attention” = qashab. To listen, pay attention to, incline – used in the phrase incline the ears.
IV “peoples” = leom. Root may refer to gathering. This is people, a community, or a nation.
V “far away” = rachoq. From rachaq (to widen, become distant, cast, or remove in a literal or figurative sense). This is distant or far, whether of space or of time.

The LordVI calledVII me before I was born,VIII

Notes on verse 1b

VI “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.
VII “called” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
VIII “born” = beten. Root may mean to be hollow. This is the belly or womb. It can also refer to a body more broadly.

    while I was in my mother’sIX wombX he namedXI me.

Notes on verse 1c

IX “mother’s” = em. This is a mother as binding a family together or a breeding female animal. It could be mother in a literal or figurative sense.
X “womb” = meeh. This is inward parts, belly, heart, womb, intestines, vastness. It can also be figurative for sympathy.
XI “named” = zakar + shem. Literally, “remembered my name.” Zakar is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention. 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.

He madeXII my mouthXIII like a sharpXIV sword,XV

Notes on verse 2a

XII “made” = sum. Related to “named” in v1. See note XI above.
XIII “mouth” = peh. This is mouth in a literal or figurative sense. So, more literally, it can be beak or jaws. More figuratively, it refers to speech, commands, or promises.
XIV “sharp” = chad. 4x in OT. From achad (to go in a direction, unify, gather one’s thoughts); from the same as chadad (to be sharp, fierce). This is sharp. Each time referring to a sword.
XV “sword” = chereb. From charab (to attack, slay). This is any sharp instrument like a sword, dagger, axe, or mattock.

    in the shadowXVI of his handXVII he hidXVIII me;

Notes on verse 2b

XVI “shadow” = tsel. From tsalal (to be or become dark, shade; this is the shade as during twilight or shadow as associated with something opaque). This is shade in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be shadow, shade, protection, shelter, or defense.
XVII “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
XVIII “hid” = chaba. This is to hide, hush, harden (like water freezing), or secret.

he made me a polishedXIX arrow,XX
    in his quiverXXI he hidXXII me away.

Notes on verse 2c

XIX “polished” = barar. 18x in OT. To clarify, brighten, or polish. This can mean examine, select, choose. It can also mean purge, sharpen, or purify.
XX “arrow” = chets. From chatsats (to divide, chop, pierce, distribute, shoot an arrow, an archer). This is an arrow or archer, shaft, staff. Properly, it is someone or something that pierces, such as an arrow. It can imply a wound. Used figuratively of God’s thunder bolt.
XXI “quiver” = ashpah. 6x in OT. Perhaps from the same as ashshaph (may be from a word referring to a lisp; it is a conjurer, someone who does magic). This is a quiver as used for arrows.
XXII “hid” = sathar. This is hide, conceal, or be absent. It is hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense.

And he said to me, “You are my servant,XXIII
    Israel,XXIV in whom I will be glorified.”XXV

Notes on verse 3

XXIII “servant” = ebed. From abad (to work, serve, compel; any kind of work; used causatively, can mean to enslave or keep in bondage). This is a servant, slave, or bondservant.
XXIV “Israel” = Yisrael. From sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (God or god). This is Israel, meaning God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring. This refers to the people and to the land.
XXV “glorified” = paar. 14x in OT. This is to beautify or adorn, to gleam. Thus, it can refer to showing honor or glorifying someone. It can also mean to boast or to shake a tree for harvest.

But I said, “I have laboredXXVI in vain,XXVII
    I have spentXXVIII my strengthXXIX for nothingXXX and vanity;XXXI

Notes on verse 4a

XXVI “labored” = yaga. This is to work, become weary, to gasp or be exhausted, to toil.
XXVII “vain” = riq. 12x in OT. From ruq (to pour out in a literal or figurative sense, hence, to be or make empty). This is to be empty or to make empty; also vanity, emptiness, something worthless, in vain.
XXVIII “spent” = kalah. This is to end, be finished, complete, prepare, consume, spent, or completely destroyed.
XXIX “strength” = koach. Root may mean to be firm. This is power, strength, force. It can be literal or figurative, positive or negative. It can also mean capacity or means – what something produces. Additionally, it could refer to some kind of small reptile.
XXX “nothing” = tohu. Root may mean a wasteland or desert. This is desolation or waste. Figuratively, it refers to emptiness, chaos, confusion, futility, something worthless or meaningless, or unreality. Used as an adverb, it can mean in vain. This describes the earth as a “formless void” in Gen 1:2.
XXXI “vanity” = hebel. This is emptiness, vapor, breath. It can refer to something that is fleeting or futile, worthless or a delusion. Something that is passing and so does not satisfy. This is related to the root for the name “Abel.”

yet surelyXXXII my causeXXXIII is with the Lord,
    and my rewardXXXIV with my God.”XXXV

Notes on verse 4b

XXXII “surely” = aken. 18x in OT. From kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is surely, truly, nevertheless.
XXXIII “cause” = 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.
XXXIV “reward” = peullah. 14x in OT. From paal (to do, make, work, or accomplish; generally refers to regularly repeated or systematic action – to practice). This is work, deed, reward, or wages.
XXXV “God” = Elohim. Related to “Israel” in v3. See note XXIV above.

And now the LordXXXVI says,
    who formedXXXVII me in the wombXXXVIII to be his servant,
to bring JacobXXXIX backXL to him,

Notes on verse 5a

XXXVI “Lord” = YHVH. Related to “Lord” in v1. From the same as YHVH (see note VI above). It has the same meaning as “Lord,” but with a different vowel pointing.
XXXVII “formed” = yatsar. Perhaps related to yatsar (to be narrow, distressed, or vexed); perhaps related to tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is to fashion or form, perhaps by squeezing something into a shape or form. Particularly, it is to create as a potter does. Figuratively, it is to determine.
XXXVIII “womb” = beten. Same as “born” in v1. See note VIII above.
XXXIX “Jacob” = Yaaqob. From the same as aqeb (heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, usurper). This is Isaac’s son and his descendants. The name means heel-catcher or supplanter.
XL “bring…back” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”

    and that Israel might be gatheredXLI to him,
for I am honoredXLII in the sightXLIII of the Lord,XLIV
    and my God has becomeXLV my strengthXLVI

Notes on verse 5b

XLI “gathered” = asaph. This is to gather, assemble, or bring. It can also mean to take away, destroy, or remove.
XLII “honored” = kabad. To be heavy, weighty, or severe. It can also be positive abounding in, rich, or honorable. The Hebrew word for “glory,” kabod, is taken from this root.
XLIII “sight” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
XLIV “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v5. See note XXXVI above.
XLV “become” = hayah. Related to “Lord” in v1 & “Lord” in v5. See note VI above.
XLVI “strength” = oz. From azaz (to be strong, become fixed, be bold, prevail, be impudent; it means to be stout literally or figuratively. A Late Hebrew word). This is strength in the sense of force, majesty, praise, material and physical strength, the abstract notion of security. It can also speak of social or political power.

he says,
“It is too light a thingXLVII that you should be my servant
    to raise upXLVIII the tribesXLIX of Jacob
    and to restoreL the survivorsLI of Israel;

Notes on verse 6a

XLVII “too light a thing” = qalal. This is to be little, insignificant, swift. It can also mean to bring down in esteem, create contempt, curse.
XLVIII “raise up” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
XLIX “tribes” = shebet. This is a rod, staff, club, scepter, dart, or tribe. Literally a stick that can be used for punishing, writing, fighting, walking, ruling; thus, used figuratively for a clan.
L “restore” = shub. Same as “bring…back” in v5. See note XL above.
LI “survivors” = natsir. 1x in OT. From natsar (to watch, guard, protect). This is to preserve, survive, or deliver.

I will giveLII you as a lightLIII to the nations,LIV

Notes on verse 6b

LII “give” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
LIII “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.
LIV “nations” = goy. From the same root as gevah (the back, person, or body); related to gev (among); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. Often used to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. It can also be used figuratively for a group of animals. This is where the Yiddish “goy” comes from.

    that my salvationLV may reachLVI to the endLVII of the earth.”LVIII

Notes on verse 6c

LV “salvation” = yeshuah. From yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free). This is salvation, deliverance, health, victory, prosperity.
LVI “reach” = hayah. Same as “become” in v5. See note XLV above.
LVII “ends” = qatseh. From qatsah (to cut off, cut short; figuratively, to destroy). This is end, brink, border, edge, frontier. It can refer to that which is within set boundaries.
LVIII “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.

Thus says the Lord,LIX
    the RedeemerLX of Israel and his Holy One,LXI

Notes on verse 7a

LIX “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note VI above.
LX “Redeemer” = gaal. This is to redeem someone or something according to kinship laws. So, it could be acting on a relative’s behalf to buy back their property, to marry one’s brother’s widow, etc. This could be more briefly translated as to redeem, acts as kinsman, or purchase. As a noun, it could be deliverer or avenger.
LXI “Holy One” = qadosh. From qodesh (set apart and so sacred; God is different from us and so God is holy/set apart; things we dedicate to God’s service are set apart for God and so they, too, are holy); related to qadash (set apart, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified; something or someone set apart for a holy purpose or use – ceremonially or morally clean). This is sacred or holy in a ritual or moral sense. As a noun, it refers to a holy one (like a saint or angel), a holy place (the sanctuary), or God (the Holy One).

to one deeply despised,LXII abhorredLXIII by the nations,
    the slaveLXIV of rulers,LXV

Notes on verse 7b

LXII “one deeply despised” = bazoh. 1x in OT. From bazah (to despise, hold in contempt, disesteem, or a person who is vile). This is to despise or scorn.
LXIII “abhorred” = taab. Perhaps from toebah (abomination, loathsome, something morally disgusting or abhorrent). This is to abhor, despise, to reject, to act abominably.
LXIV “slave” = ebed. Same as “servant” in v3. See note XXIII above.
LXV “rulers” = mashal. This is to rule, reign, govern, have authority, wield.

“KingsLXVI shall seeLXVII and stand up,LXVIII
    princes,LXIX and they shall prostrateLXX themselves,
because of the Lord,LXXI who is faithful,LXXII
    the Holy One of Israel, who has chosenLXXIII you.”

Notes on verse 7c

LXVI “kings” = melek. From malak (to be or become king or queen, to rise to the throne, to be crowned; by implication, to take counsel). This is king or royal.
LXVII “see” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
LXVIII “stand up” = qum. Same as “raise up” in v6. See note XLVIII above.
LXIX “princes” = sar. This is chief, leader, ruler, lord, official, governor, prince, military leader. It refers to someone at the top of a rank or class.
LXX “prostrate” = shachah. This is to bow down, make a humble entreaty, to do homage to royalty or to God.
LXXI “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note VI above.
LXXII “is faithful” = aman. This is to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful. It is to put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid. This is where the word “amen” comes from.
LXXIII “chosen” = bachar. This is to choose, appoint, try, excellent.

8 Thus says the Lord:LXXIV
In a timeLXXV of favorLXXVI I have answeredLXXVII you,
    on a dayLXXVIII of salvation I have helpedLXXIX you;

Notes on verse 8a

LXXIV “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note VI above.
LXXV “time” = et. Probably from anah (to answer, sing, announce); from ad (forever, all, old); from adah (to pass on, advance, decorate oneself). This is a period or season. It can also mean whenever or continually.
LXXVI “favor” = ratson. From ratsah (to be pleased with, delight, take pleasure in, or accept with favor; to approve or consent regarding something; can be used specifically of satisfying debts or being pardoned). This is delight shown in favor, good will, something that is accepted or acceptable.
LXXVII “answered” = anah. Related to “time” in v8. See note LXXV above.
LXXVIII “day” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.
LXXIX “helped” = azar. This is to surround, which implies encircling to protect someone or help them out. It can also be help, ally, or support.

I have keptLXXX you and given you
    as a covenantLXXXI to the people,LXXXII

Notes on verse 8b

LXXX “kept” = natsar. Related to “survivors” in v6. See note LI above.
LXXXI “covenant” = berit. Perhaps from barah (to eat, choose, make clear); perhaps from bar (grain, wheat); from bara (to select, purify, cleanse, test, brighten, polish). This is a compact, covenant, alliance, treaty, or league.
LXXXII “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.

to establishLXXXIII the land,LXXXIV
    to apportionLXXXV the desolateLXXXVI heritages;LXXXVII

Notes on verse 8c

LXXXIII “establish” = qum. Same as “raise up” in v6. See note XLVIII above.
LXXXIV “land” = erets. Same as “earth” in v6. See note LVIII above.
LXXXV “apportion” = nachal. From nachalah (properly something that was inherited; can mean occupancy generally or, more particularly, an heirloom or an estate; can be an inheritance, gift, possession, or portion). This is to gain as a possession, divide for inheritance. Also, to occupy for any reason.
LXXXVI “desolate” = shamem. This is to stun or become numb. It can also mean to devastate or be appalled. Can also mean to be amazed or astonished.
LXXXVII “heritages” = nachalah. Related to “apportion” in v8. See note LXXXV above.

9 saying to the prisoners,LXXXVIII “Come out,”LXXXIX
    to those who are in darkness,XC “ShowXCI yourselves.”

Notes on verse 9a

LXXXVIII “prisoners” = asar. This is to tie, yoke, bind, or fasten. It can mean to harness an animal, to join in fighting a battle, or to imprison someone.
LXXXIX “come out” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
XC “darkness” = choshek. From chashak (to be or become dark). This is literal darkness is contrast to light. Figuratively, it can be obscurity, sorrow, misery, blindness, wickedness, destruction, death. It can also be hiding places. Additionally, it can mean judgment, mourning, ignorance, evil, or sin.
XCI “show” = galah. This is to remove, bring, carry, lead, appear, advertise. It can mean to strip someone or something bare in a negative sense. Captives were typically stripped before they were sent into exile. Used figuratively, in a positive sense, this word means reveal, disclose, discover.

They shall feedXCII along the ways,XCIII
    on allXCIV the bare heightsXCV shall be their pasture;XCVI

Notes on verse 9b

XCII “feed” = ra’ah. This is to tend a flock, pasture, or graze. It can mean to rule or to associate with someone. Figuratively, it can be ruler or teacher.
XCIII “ways” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
XCIV “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
XCV “bare heights” = shephi. 10x in OT. From shaphah (to sweep bare, stick out). This is smoothness, a high place, stick out, a bare height.
XCVI “pasture” = marith. Related to “feed” in v9. 10x in OT. From ra’ah (see note XCII above). This is shepherding, pasturage, a flock.

10 they shall not hungerXCVII or thirst,XCVIII
    neither scorching windXCIX nor sunC shall strikeCI them down,

Notes on verse 10a

XCVII “hunger” = raeb. 17x in OT. This is to be hungry or famished.
XCVIII “thirst” = tsame. 10x in OT. This is to thirst in a literal or figurative sense.
XCIX “scorching wind” = sharab. 2x in OT. This may come from a word that means to glare. It is burning heat, scorched land, or the mirage of wavy air.
C “sun” = shemesh. This is sun or toward the east. Its root may mean being brilliant. Figuratively, this could be a ray or an arch.
CI “strike” = nakah. This is to hit whether lightly or severely. It can be used in a literal or figurative sense. So, this could be beat, punish, give wounds, kill, or slaughter.

for he who has pityCII on them will leadCIII them,
    and by springsCIV of waterCV will guideCVI them.

Notes on verse 10b

CII “has pity” = racham. From racham (compassion, tender love, womb, compassion; the womb as that which cherishes the fetus); from the same as rechem (womb). This is to love, fondle, have mercy, have or show compassion.
CIII “lead” = nahag. This is to drive as in driving flocks, but also driving in animal or vehicle like a chariot. It can mean to carry away, lead, drive away, proceed, or guide. It can also relate to behavior and what one is accustomed to.
CIV “springs” = mabbua. 3x in OT. From naba (to spring up, flow, gush, or spout; to belch as in emitting a bad smell; figuratively, to speak, whether positively or negatively). This is a spring or well.
CV “water” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
CVI “guide” = nahal. 10x in OT. This is leading or guiding – specifically to a resting place or somewhere where there is water. So, it can mean to refresh or feed, protect or sustain. The word itself carries a sense of flowing, sparkling water. This is the word used in Psalm 23 “he leads me beside still waters.”

11 And I will turnCVII all my mountainsCVIII into a road,CIX
    and my highways shall be raised up.CX

Notes on verse 11

CVII “turn” = sum. Same as “made” in v2. See note XII above.
CVIII “mountains” = har. From harar (hill or mountain). This is mountain, hill, hilly region.
CIX “road” = derek. Same as “ways” in v9. See note XCIII above.
CX “raised up” = rum. This is to rise or raise, to be high literally or figuratively. So it can also mean to exalt or extol.

12 Lo,CXI these shall comeCXII from far away,
    and lo, these from the northCXIII and from the west,CXIV
    and these from the land of Syene.

Notes on verse 12

CXI “lo” = hinneh. From hen (lo! Behold! If, though; an expression of surprise). This is to draw attention, show suddenness or surprise, or to emphasize the importance of the coming statement. See! Lo! Behold!
CXII “come” = bo. This is to enter, come in, advance, fulfill, bring offerings, enter to worship, attack. It can also have a sexual connotation.
CXIII “north” = tsaphon. From tsaphan (to hide, hoard, reserve; to cover over or figuratively to deny; also to lurk). This is properly hidden, dark, or gloomy. It can also be used to refer to the north.
CXIV “west” = yam. Root may mean to roar. This is the sea, often referring to the Mediterranean. It comes from the root in the sense of the roar of crashing surf. This word is sometimes used for rivers or other sources of water. It can mean to the west or to the south.

13 Sing for joy,CXV O heavens,CXVI and exult,CXVII O earth;
    break forth,CXVIII O mountains, into singing!CXIX

Notes on verse 13a

CXV “sing for joy” = ranan. This is a cry of joy or a joyful song. Properly, it is emitting a shrill sound, especially one of joy.
CXVI “heavens” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.
CXVII “exult” = gil. Properly, this is twirling around because of a strong feeling whether of rejoicing or from fear. This can be rejoice, be glad or joyful, or to cry.
CXVIII “break forth” = patsach. 8x in OT. This is to burst forth with in joy or with a loud sound.
CXIX “singing” = rinnah. Related to “sing for joy” in v13. From ranan (see note CXV above). This is a song, shout, cry of joy, or proclamation. It could also be a shout of grief.

For the LordCXX has comfortedCXXI his people,
    and will have compassionCXXII on his suffering ones.CXXIII

Notes on verse 13b

CXX “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note VI above.
CXXI “comforted” = nacham. Properly, this is a strong breath or a sigh. This can be to be sorry, to pity, console. Comfort, or repent. But, one can also comfort oneself with less righteous thoughts, so this can also mean to avenge oneself.
CXXII “have compassion” = racham. Same as “has pity” in v10. See note CII above.
CXXIII “suffering ones” = ani. From anah (to be bowed down; humility or being browbeaten, oppressed, afflicted, or depressed; literal or figurative – depressed in mood or circumstance). This is humble, lowly, poor, or afflicted.

Image credit: “Helgoland in Moonlight” by Christian Morgenstern, 1851.

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