Isaiah 42 - The Suffering of the Jews Comes from Their Sins
"But I shall support My servant, My chosen one whom I desire. I have placed My spirit upon him and he shall pass judgment upon the nations. He will not shout, nor will he accept, nor let his voice be heard outside." - Isaiah 42:1-2
In contrast to the nations and their idols, who are naught, the Messiah will be supported by G-d - he is G-d's chosen one. The spirit of G-d will rest upon him and he will teach Jew and Gentile alike, exacting G-d's justice where due. He will not raise his voice to impress others, but will influence with soft spoken words. And to maintain his influence, he will accept no pay for teaching, so that he will not be beholden to people. And he will transmit his wisdom in his own home, not "outside," so that his influence will be more effective.
"Thus says the Lord, G-d, Who creates the heavens and stretches them out, Who spreads out the earth and (brings out) its produce; Who gives a soul to the people upon it and a spirit to those who walk on it." - Isaiah 42:5
Because the Messianic miracles will be so astounding, only G-d the Creator can do them - G-d Who not only created the world, but creates it anew every moment. At that time, a new soul will be granted to all people equally, but the holy spirit only to those who truly walk before Him.
"I, G-d, have called you in righteousness and will take hold of your hand. I shall watch over you, having appointed you over the Covenantal people and a light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to release prisoners from jail and dwellers in darkness from the dungeon." - Isaiah 42:6-7
It is G-d Who has called the Messiah to his great mission of returning the Jewish people to the Covenant. To this end, G-d will strengthen him, "hold his hand," and watch over him from all harm. But his mission is not just to the Jewish people, but also to all the nations - for them, too, will he serve as a light. He will enlighten, "open the eyes of," those who previously could not see G-d's truth. But the Jewish people were also "blind" throughout the exile and G-d will release them from their spiritual "prisons."
"I am the Lord, that is My Name, and I shall not give My honor to others, nor My praise to the idols." - Isaiah 42:8
Although the idols are called "gods" as I am called G-d, only I can be called the Lord, because only I am the Lord of the world. So although during the exile, My name was dishonored because the nations ruled over My people, when Redemption will come, all will then praise Me, and not the idols, as they had previously done.
"The first things have already come and now I shall tell you new things - I shall inform you before they happen." - Isaiah 42:9
Just as the "first" prophecies regarding Sancheiriv came true to the detail, says Isaiah, so shall the "new" prophecies regarding the Messiah come true to the detail. Isaiah now begins.
"Sing a new song to G-d, His praise from the earth's end, you mariners and all marine life, the islands and their inhabitants! Let the desert and its cities raise (their voices), the open towns inhabited by Kedar; let the mountain dwellers sing, let them shout from the top of the hills. Let them give glory to G-d and tell His praise in the islands." - Isaiah 42:10-12
Let all nations sing to G-d for His opening their eyes, even those who had been farthest from him - the island dwellers. Let even animals sing, "all marine life," and even inanimate creatures - the very "islands" themselves. The primitive people who live in the deserts and mountains - let them also praise and sing to Him. Let His praise be said on the far islands and not just be sent to Jerusalem from the end of the earth.
"I have kept quiet for a long time, silent and restraining Myself. But I shall scream like a birthing woman, desolating them and swallowing them together. I shall destroy mountains and hills, desiccating all grass, I shall desiccate all their grass. I shall turn their rivers into islands and desiccate their ponds." - Isaiah 42:14-15
I have kept quiet throughout Jewish exile, says G-d, and silently watched as My children suffered. I silently heard how Pharaoh in Egypt blasphemed Me and quietly heard how Ravshakeh did the same, but I have seen and heard it all. Certainly, this cannot continue forever and the time will come to redeem My people, just as the time comes for an expectant mother to give birth. Just as she suffers in silence throughout pregnancy, only to scream during birth because she cannot control herself anymore, so shall I, so to speak, scream during the rebirth of My people, swallowing those who would have destroyed them. I shall desolate their kingdoms, their "mountains and hills," and divest them of all worldly goods, "desiccate their grass and ponds."
"I shall guide the blind on a path they knew not and walk them along an unknown way. I shall transform their darkness before them to light and crooked paths into straight ways. These are the things I shall accomplish without fail." - Isaiah 42:16
I shall guide My people back to their Land, continues G-d, along paths they had not known. I shall open their eyes to see the deeper meaning of My Teachings, to which they had previously been blind. I have done such things in the past and shall continue to do them in the future.
"Those who trust in idols and who say to the molten image, "You are our god," shall be turned back and put to shame." - Isaiah 42:17
Then, when G-d redeems His people and destroys those who would have destroyed them, they who trusted in their man-made idols will be so ashamed that they will turn away to hide their faces. They will be shamed because they trusted in such futility, because they believed in such an obvious falsehood. But the Jewish people, also, will bear their share of shame for having worshiped idols as the gentiles did.
"Deaf ones, hear! Blind ones, look and see!" - Isaiah 42:18
And why will G-d look on silently as the Jewish people suffer? - because they have deafened their ears from hearing His prophets' rebuke and closed their eyes from seeing their own shortcomings. Open your eyes and ears to see and hear these things now and cease being so self righteous in your own eyes. Open your eyes and ears now to listen to G-d's word and see the great thing which He will now bring about for you.
"Who is as blind as My servant and as deaf as My Sent messenger? Who is as blind as the perfect one and as blind as the servant of G-d?" - Isaiah 42:19
The Jewish people may claim that it is the prophets who are blind, those who were really the "perfect ones," but G-d answers, in the same words, that no, it is they who are the blind ones. They who had been His servants and His messengers on earth had turned a blind eye to the will of G-d and deafened the voice of their own conscience, seeing themselves as spiritually "perfect."
"You see many things but pay no attention, your ears are open, but do not hear." - Isaiah 42:20
They Jewish people are "blind" because they pay no attention to themselves - they see no connection between their suffering and their inner lives. They pay no attention to their behavior and deeds to correct what needs to be changed. Even when G-d "opens their ears" to the rebuke of His prophets, they turn a deaf ear to their words.
"G-d desires to vindicate them, so He magnifies and glorifies His Teachings." - Isaiah 42:21
But despite that G-d's people are presently blind, G-d will open their eyes in the Future. This He will do not because of their merit, but because He desires to vindicate them. And He will do it by magnifying His Teachings in their eyes, so that they serve Him out of love and not for ulterior motives.
"But they are a plundered and trampled people, all trapped in holes and hidden in prisons. They are looted and no one comes to the rescue, trampled upon and no one to say, "Give it back!" - Isaiah 42:22
And despite all their suffering during their exile, they did not search for the cause. Why is it that one nation is so hounded by all nations and so helpless to help themselves? Even when concealed in the holes of caves, the enemies would trap them and stow them away in prison. It is only the hand of G-d.
"Who among you will listen to this, who will pay attention and hear of the past?" - Isaiah 42:23
So if you ask, "Why did G-d do this?" you must be ready to listen to the answer. Pay attention to all the great things which G-d did for you in the past, things He did for no other nation. Then you will know that the suffering which He gives you is the fruit of your own sinful deeds. Listen now to the rebukes which He sent you in the past, so that at least from now on you will not be punished.
"Who gave Jacob over to be trampled upon and Israel to plunderers, if not G-d? This was our sinning to Him, not wanting to walk in His ways nor listen to His Teachings." - Isaiah 42:24
This was what they did not hear, and to which they were blind. All of their suffering was only G-d's doing and only because of their sins. In fact, this very questioning, "Who gave Jacob over to be trampled upon," was itself also a sin.
"He poured out His wrath upon them with the fierceness of war, it raged around them, but they paid no attention. It burned them, but they did not take it to heart." - Isaiah 42:25
Commentary by Meam Loez