Pay attention, you people who live far away!
The Lord summoned me from birth; 2
he commissioned me when my mother brought me into the world. 3
49:2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword,
he hid me in the hollow of his hand;
he made me like a sharpened 4 arrow,
he hid me in his quiver. 5
49:3 He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, through whom I will reveal my splendor.” 6
49:5 So now the Lord says,
the one who formed me from birth 7 to be his servant –
he did this 8 to restore Jacob to himself,
so that Israel might be gathered to him;
and I will be honored 9 in the Lord’s sight,
for my God is my source of strength 10 –
49:6 he says, “Is it too insignificant a task for you to be my servant,
to reestablish the tribes of Jacob,
I will make you a light to the nations, 13
so you can bring 14 my deliverance to the remote regions of the earth.”
[49:2] 5 sn The figurative language emphasizes the servant’s importance as the Lord’s effective instrument. The servant’s mouth, which stands metonymically for his words, is compared to a sharp sword because he will be an effective spokesman on God’s behalf (see 50:4). The Lord holds his hand on the servant, ready to draw and use him at the appropriate time. The servant is like a sharpened arrow reserved in a quiver for just the right moment.
[49:3] 6 sn This verse identifies the servant as Israel. This seems to refer to the exiled nation (cf. 41:8-9; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4; 48:20), but in vv. 5-6 this servant says he has been commissioned to reconcile Israel to God, so he must be distinct from the exiled nation. This servant is an ideal “Israel” who, like Moses of old, mediates a covenant for the nation (see v. 8), leads them out of bondage (v. 9a), and carries out God’s original plan for Israel by positively impacting the pagan nations (see v. 6b). By living according to God’s law, Israel was to be a model of God’s standards of justice to the surrounding nations (Deut 4:6-8). The sinful nation failed, but the servant, the ideal “Israel,” will succeed by establishing justice throughout the earth.