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Isaiah 49:7-9 NASB 1995

7 Thus says the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel and its Holy One, To the despised One, To the One abhorred by the nation, To the Servant of rulers, “Kings will see and arise, Princes will also bow down, Because of the Lord who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen You.”

8 Thus says the Lord, “In a favorable time I have answered You, And in a day of salvation I have helped You; And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people, To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages; 9 Saying to those who are bound, ‘Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ Along the roads they will feed, And their pasture will be on all bare heights.

49:7-9 The Westminster Leningrad Codex

7 כֹּ֣ה אָֽמַר־יְהוָה֩ גֹּאֵ֨ל יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל קְדוֹשׁ֗וֹ לִבְזֹה־נֶ֜פֶשׁ לִמְתָ֤עֵֽב גּוֹי֙ לְעֶ֣בֶד מֹשְׁלִ֔ים מְלָכִים֙ יִרְא֣וּ וָקָ֔מוּ שָׂרִ֖ים וְיִֽשְׁתַּחֲוּ֑וּ לְמַ֤עַן יְהוָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר נֶאֱמָ֔ן קְדֹ֥שׁ יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל וַיִּבְחָרֶֽךָּ׃

8 כֹּ֣ה׀ אָמַ֣ר יְהוָ֗ה בְּעֵ֤ת רָצוֹן֙ עֲנִיתִ֔יךָ וּבְי֥וֹם יְשׁוּעָ֖ה עֲזַרְתִּ֑יךָ וְאֶצָּרְךָ֗ וְאֶתֶּנְךָ֙ לִבְרִ֣ית עָ֔ם לְהָקִ֣ים אֶ֔רֶץ לְהַנְחִ֖יל נְחָל֥וֹת שֹׁמֵמֽוֹת׃

9 לֵאמֹ֤ר לַֽאֲסוּרִים֙ צֵ֔אוּ לַאֲשֶׁ֥ר בַּחֹ֖שֶׁךְ הִגָּל֑וּ עַל־דְּרָכִ֣ים יִרְע֔וּ וּבְכָל־שְׁפָיִ֖ים מַרְעִיתָֽם׃

For the most part, Isaiah 49:7-9 is a benevolent declaration to the mistreated Messiah. The passage starts by acknowledging the suffering that the Messiah faced. It continues with how The Messiah will be respected by Kings and Princes.

Let's divide Isaiah 49:8 verse marked with alphabetic lettering:

a. Thus says the Lord,
b. “In a favorable time I have answered You,
c. And in a day of salvation I have helped You;
d. And I will keep You and give You for a covenant of the people,
e. To restore the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritages;

Isaiah 49:8 parts (d) and (e) describe the relationship between the Messiah & his ethnoreligious people group, the Jews.

To elaborate, Isaiah 49:8 parts (d) and (e) states that The Messiah will be a covenant with the Israelite nation to:

  • Restore the land
  • Make the Israelites inherit the desolate heritages

To recap, Isaiah 49:7-9 is mostly a benevolent declaration, But the last part of Isaiah 49:8 (e) sounds discouraging because it essentially states that the covenantal promise of The Messiah will consequentially make the Israelites inherit the desolate heritages.

Could someone please provide a deeper understanding as to why Isaiah 49:8 (e) takes a turn by sounding discouraging?

2 Answers 2

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The OP says "Isaiah 49:7-9 is a benevolent declaration to the mistreated Messiah." But - without denying this interpretation as a dual fulfillment - another way of looking at this prophecy is that Isaiah is calling God's people to return to Judea from exile in Babylon.

Isaiah 40

1 Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. 2 Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service has ended, that her guilt is expiated... 3 A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord! Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.

Looking at Isaiah 49 from the perspective of Isaiah 40, the prophet is not speaking to a distant future Messiah or to the nation of Israel many centuries hence. Rather, he is speaking to the people of Israel at the time that Cyrus of Persia released them from bondage and allowed them to return. At that time, the entire land - even Jerusalem - had become desolate. So "desolate places" applies generally to the land that was in need of restoration, not to particularly undesirable inheritances. Not one tribal inheritance was spared from being conquered militarily, followed by foreign colonization.

This same perspective applies to vs. 9:

Saying to those who are bound, ‘Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves.’ Along the roads they will feed, And their pasture will be on all bare heights.

Those who are bound are those who have been forced into exile. They may now emerge from captivity and show themselves as free people. They will feed along the roads as they return and make their pastures on the hillsides until they are able to reclaim and restore the land. This process is the fulfillment of the prediction of Is. 40 that "The rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley."

Conclusion: the context is best understood as referring to Isaiah's call to the people of Israel to return from exile. This does not preclude the messianic interpretation given in the OP as a dual fulfillment of the prophecy. However, the theme of restoration, combined with desolate inheritances, fits perfectly with the fact of the Jews returning from exile to a land that had been laid waste by foreign armies and settled by colonizers.

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This seems to say that Jesus will restore the desolate land of Israel.

  1. This could refer to the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1947, primarily due to the efforts of President Harry Truman and other Christians. https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-99/i-am-cyrus.html
  2. This could refer to Jesus' return. We don't know if the nation of Israel will be anywhere near as healthy then as it currently is.
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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! Hello, Hall Livingston. Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – agarza
    Commented Apr 29 at 13:59
  • You are, of course, correct. I have added a supporting link. Commented Apr 29 at 22:43

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