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Deeper Commentary


Isaiah 49:1 Listen, islands, to me; and listen, you peoples, from far: Yahweh has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has He made mention of my name- The previous chapter has concluded with a lament over the Jewish exiles' refusal of the Gospel of the reestablished Kingdom in Judah. Now, "the servant" addresses the Gentiles. Cyrus had failed to "know Yahweh". And so the invitation to participate in the Kingdom is made to "your peoples", "the Gentiles" (LXX). The servant now takes on a different identity; it is "Israel" (:3), but this is clearly a title for a Messianic figure, ultimately the Lord Jesus. His personal preexistence is clearly ruled out here: "Before I was born, the LORD chose me and appointed me to be his servant" (GNB).

But all those of the new Israel who are "in" Israel-the-Messiah also have the words of the servant songs relevant to them. For all true of Him becomes true of us. And so there are a number of instances of where these Old Testament Messianic Scriptures are applied to Paul in the context of his preaching Christ. The servant known from birth (Is. 49:1,5)=  Gal. 1:15,16 [choice from birth, calling, ministry to the Gentiles]; “I have laboured in vain…” (Is. 49:3) = “That I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Phil. 2:16; 1 Cor. 15:58);  “Yet surely my judgment is with the Lord” (Is. 49:4) = “He that judgeth me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:4);  “Him whom man despiseth” (Is. 49:7) = “We are despised” (1 Cor. 4:9,10; 2 Cor. 4:9,10); “The Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you” (Is. 49:7 RSV) = “A chosen vessel” (Acts 9:15);  Is. 52:15 = Rom. 15:21 [here Paul appropriates a prophecy of how the news of the crucified Christ would spread to those who had never heard it. He didn’t just read those verses as prophecy; he saw in them an imperative to fulfill them. This is an example of where prophecy depends to some extent upon us to fulfill it. The 19th century brethren understood the prophecies of Israel’s return to the land like this- they collected funds to enable it; Is. 49:8 “In an acceptable time have I heard thee” = 2 Cor. 6:2;  Is. 53:1 = Rom. 10:16; Is. 49:6 = Acts 13:47; Is. 43:5 = Acts 18:9,10.

At times, the prophets are paralleled with Israel- Jeremiah was a “prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5), and yet this was Israel’s role, as stated here in Is. 49:1. Both the prophets and Israel are described as “the servant of the Lord”. But God and Israel were in the process of divorce, as they knew. The prophets were both on God’s side, and Israel’s. They were torn men. Just as God Himself was. He appeared “like a man confused” (Jer. 14:9).

Isaiah 49:2 And He has made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand has He hidden me: and He has made me a polished shaft; in His quiver has He kept me close-
Is. 51:16 uses the same language about an individual who would restore Zion. Whatever primary application this may have had to Cyrus, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah etc., they clearly failed. And so the words are reapplied to the Lord Jesus. It would appear from these statements that the Lord Jesus was protected and specially guided by the Angel in the first thirty years of his life: "In the shadow of His hand (an Angelic phrase) hath He hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in His quiver hath He hid me". The word 'quiver' comes from the word for an astrologer, in the sense of being something that conceals knowledge. Thus the Angel hid the true identity of Jesus, so that "flesh and blood" alone could not recognize that He was God's Son (Mt. 16:13-17). "The Lord" that passed by Moses and hid him with his hand in the cleft of the rock was an Angel.

But as explained on :1, the Messianic Servant, ultimately the Lord Jesus, includes all who are "in" Him. Thus Paul’s description of each of us as the warrior of the Gospel in Ephesians 6 composites together various descriptions of Messiah’s clothing in the servant songs (Is. 11:5 = “loins girded with truth”; Is. 49:2 “mouth like a sharp sword”; Is. 52:7 “bring good tidings / publish salvation” = “the preparation of the Gospel of peace”; Is. 59:17 “breastplate of righteousness”; Is. 59:17 “helmet of salvation”). We are to be Christ to the world.


The idea of Messiah being "hidden" connects with other similar prophecies. The restoration prophecies continually refer to an individual called "the righteous one"- the references are somewhat masked in the English translations which speak simply of "righteousness", but it is evidently 'the righteous one' who is being addressed rather than abstract righteousness. Consider the statements of intent about this Person: The righteous one would be prepared and kept hidden by Yahweh (Is. 42:6); he was to be raised up to rebuild Zion and release the captives from Babylon (Is. 45:13); he is pictured as near / approaching (Is. 51:5), called to Yahweh's footstool in Zion (Is. 41:2); he was to be "brought in" to the temple at the end of the 70 weeks prophecy (Dan. 9:24); then, Jerusalem would be known as the habitation of the righteous one (Jer. 50:7 and often- AV "habitation of justice"), the intention of Ez. 48:35 would be fulfilled, in that Jerusalem would be known as the city where Yahweh dwells; the righteous one of Yahweh would then "go out" in blessing to the surrounding nations. Hence Jer. 33:16; 23:6 etc. outline God's intention that after the restoration, the rebuilt Zion would be named "The Lord our righteous one" because Jerusalem would be the habitation of the righteous one (Jer. 31:23; 50:7). This is similar language to the restoration prophecies of Isaiah- the surrounding Gentile world would see / perceive / believe in "the righteous one" who would reign in the rebuilt Zion (Is. 62:2). The impression seems inescapable that at the time of the restoration, God had prepared a Messiah-figure, hidden (as it were) in Yahweh's quiver (Is. 49:2), not revealed to Israel, who could have restored Judah, rebuilt Zion and converted the surrounding Gentiles. It could be that this person was Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah or some other known historical figure. Or it could be that this person was prepared, waited in the wings, but was never used by God. He could have been revealed to Judah by the anonymous messenger of Isaiah 40. But all these prophecies had to be reapplied- to the Lord Jesus, with John the Baptist and later the latter day Elijah as the announcing messenger.


Isaiah 49:3 And He said to me, You are My servant; Israel, in whom I will be glorified-
As noted on :1, the servant is now no longer Cyrus, who had failed to "know Yahweh" and live up to his potential. And Israel had refused the potentials of responding to the Gospel. So now Yahweh was to be glorified in an individual servant, in whom "Israel" could be comprehended if they became in Him. It all looks forward to the entrance into the Lord Jesus of all baptized into Him, thereby becoming the true Israel of God and Abraham's seed (Gal. 3:27-29).

Isaiah 49:4 But I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity-
The LXX makes the allusion to idolatry clearer: "I have given my strength for vanity and for nothing". The Messiah, "Israel", was totally representative of His people, even in their sinfulness. This representative identification with them was to be the basis of their ultimate salvation.

Yet surely the justice due to me is with Yahweh, and my reward with my God- The idea may be "my work should be my recompence". Even if we feel our work for God has not been successful, we were the ones rewarded by doing it, it was itself our blessing. "My reward is with my God" recalls the feelings of Nehemiah, who perhaps could have been this Messianic figure in an initial sense: "Remember me, O my God, for good" (Neh. 13:31; "my God" is a common theme in Ezra and Nehemiah). Is. 49:4-6 seems to foresee how the returnees would be discouraged in their work of rebuilding, and at the fact that not all God’s people had been gathered back. And yet even then, provided they had the right spirit, the Kingdom blessings could still come. Isaiah 49 goes on to comfort the servant that the remainder of Israel would be regathered, and that the broken down walls of Zion were continually before Yahweh (Is. 49:16).

Isaiah 49:5 Now says Yahweh who formed me from the womb to be His servant-
The application of these words to the Lord Jesus precludes any idea of His personal preexistence. Is. 49:5,6 contains a prophecy concerning Christ as the light of the world, which he fulfilled (Jn. 8:12). He is described as meditating on “the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant”. Christ was therefore “formed” by God in Mary’s womb, through the power of His Holy Spirit. Mary’s womb was evidently the place of Christ’s physical origin.

Both as individuals and collectively, the whole biography and even genetic prehistory of God's people has been prepared by God in their formation, so that they might encounter God's salvation at an optimal point for them to give the maximum glory to Him (Is. 43:21). "Formed" is the word for the potter working on clay, used of how God fashions human hearts or psychologies, working on the deeply internal fabric of the human being (Ps. 33:15). The 'forming' in view is not only "in the womb" (Is. 44:2,24) but throughout their whole psychological and genetic formation. It is possible to strive with our former or "maker" (Is. 45:9), to be unresponsive to His touch of us the clay. The Messiah figure, ultimately the Lord Jesus, was the ultimate case of being "formed" by Yahweh's hand (Is. 49:5 s.w.), implying He too was clay, of human and not Divine nature.

To bring Jacob again to Him, and that Israel be gathered to Him (for I am honourable in the eyes of Yahweh, and my God has become my strength)- LXX "I shall be gathered and glorified before the Lord". Israel had refused to be regathered to the land, they had not obeyed the command to be gathered (s.w. Is. 43:9; Joel 2:16); but this individual servant would be, and thereby the true Israel "in Him" would be regathered. The verb for “gather” can be used in two senses, either “to gather in” or “to take away,” “gather off” (e.g. Ez. 4:29). Response to the Messiah figure would lead to one of these two gatherings- to salvation, or condemnation.  



Isaiah 49:6 Yes, He says, It is too light a thing that you should be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel-
This could have come true at the restoration. Is. 49:6 speaks of the reestablishment of the tribes of Israel and the ‘establishing’ of the land (Is. 49:8). The intended boundaries of the tribal cantons are given in Ezekiel 48. There was perhaps a renewed awareness of which tribe each captive was from, after the genealogical records were burnt at the fall of Jerusalem. Note the references to Judah (Ezra 10:23), Benjamin (Neh. 3:23), Manasseh Ezra 10:33) and Joseph (Ezra 10:42; Neh. 12:14). But the land wasn’t laid out again according to tribal boundaries as envisaged in the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel. The few who returned were content with their little farms, and didn’t rise up to a wider vision. And how much potential achievement for us as a community is disabled by our parochial, selfish, self-satisficing attitudes…?

The servant was encouraged that although His mission was primarily to Israel and they had refused His work (:5), He was not to be discouraged because the project of salvation was to be extended to the Gentiles. The idea seems to suggest that the extent of this purpose had to be revealed to the Lord Jesus in order to save Him from disappointment with His mission to Israel, as if His conception of His work had to be enlarged. This would be appropriate for someone with human nature.


I will also give you for a light to the nations, that you may be My salvation to the end of the earth- The Lord was to save the Gentiles, even "the ends of the earth / land" promised to Abraham, where the exiles were located. And yet He died to save Israel rather than everyone in the Gentile world (Is. 49:5; 53:8; Gal. 4:4,5), He was “a servant to the circumcised" (Rom. 15:8),  "the consolation of Israel", unto them was born a saviour (Lk. 2:11,25), and therefore He had to be exactly representative of them. For this reason it was theologically necessary for Jesus to be Jewish in order to achieve the work He did. We are only saved by reason of becoming in Christ and therefore part of the Israel of God (Gal. 3:27-29). The Jewish basis of salvation is absolutely fundamental to a correct understanding of the Gospel.

I explained earlier in this chapter that the Messiah as "Israel" was an individual in whom the true Israel of God would be found, through mutual identification of Him with them and they with Him. And so Paul takes this prophecy concerning how Christ personally would be the light of the whole world, and applies it to himself in explanation of why he was devoted to being a light to the whole world himself (Acts 13:47- although Acts 26:23 applies it to Jesus personally). Paul even says that this prophecy of Christ as the light of the world was a commandment to him; all that is true of the Lord Jesus likewise becomes binding upon us, because we are in Him. Note that Paul says that God has commanded us to witness; it wasn’t that Paul was a special case, and God especially applied Isaiah’s words concerning Christ as light of the Gentiles to Paul. They apply to us , to all who are in Christ.

Isaiah 49:7 Thus says Yahweh, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One-
As Hosea ‘redeemed’ Gomer in His attempt to force through His fantasy for her (Hos. 3:1), so Yahweh is repeatedly described in Isaiah as Israel’s go’el , redeemer (Is. 41:14; Is. 43:14; Is. 44:6,24; Is. 47:4; Is. 48:17; Is. 49:7,26; Is. 54:5,8). The redeemer could redeem a close relative from slavery or repurchase property lost during hard times (Lev. 25:25,26, 47-55; Ruth 2:20; Ruth 3:9,12). The redeemer was also the avenger of blood (Num. 35:9-28; Josh. 20:3,9). All these ideas were relevant to Yahweh’s relationship to Judah in captivity. But the promised freedom didn’t come- even under Nehemiah, Judah was still a province within the Persian empire. And those who returned complained: “We are slaves this day in the land you gave…” (Neh. 9:36). The wonderful prophecies of freedom and redemption from slavery weren’t realized in practice, because of the selfishness of the more wealthy Jews. And how often is it that the freedom potentially enabled for those redeemed in Christ is in practice denied them by their autocratic and abusive brethren.


To him whom man despises, to him whom the nation abhors, to a servant of rulers- LXX "Sanctify him that despises his life, him that is abhorred by the nations that are the servants of princes". This Messianic servant would sacrifice His life and be abhorred by the nations; so that the nations would come to worship Him. This is exactly what was and shall be achieved through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall worship; because of Yahweh who is faithful, even the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you- The leadership who had despised the suffering Servant would arise from their thrones and bow in homage before Him.  

Isaiah 49:8 Thus says Yahweh, In an acceptable time have I answered you, and in a day of salvation have I helped you; and I will preserve you, and give you for a covenant of the people, to raise up the land, to make them inherit the desolate heritage-
"The people" is "the nations", the Gentiles. Gentile salvation is however connected with restoring the land (of Israel; Is. 49:6), and allotting (Dt. 21:16) the desolate heritages. The latter chapters of Ezekiel stress how Israel were to “inherit” the land; yet the same word is used in other restoration prophecies, about Messiah causing Israel to “inherit” the land again after their return from “the north country” (Zech. 2:12; 8:12; Is. 49:8; Jer. 3:18). When Judah returned from the “north country”, then Jerusalem would be the universally recognized “throne of the Lord” (Jer. 3:17,18). The Kingdom could have come when Judah returned from Babylon. It was therefore potentially possible for the returning exiles to inherit all the land outlined in Ez. 47:13-21 and share it out between the 12 tribes. But they grabbed every man for himself, his own farmstead, his own mini-Kingdom. They had no interest in the wider vision, nor in subduing extra land; and the majority of the Jews didn’t even want to inherit it; they preferred the soft life of Babylon, the Kingdom of men rather than the Kingdom of God. And thus the Kingdom made possible was never actually fulfilled at that time.

 The vision is of a multiethnic people of God; the restoration of the Kingdom in Israel is connected with the salvation of Gentiles. The 'help' and 'preservation' of the Servant was ultimately through the strengthening and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. But all that is true of the Messianic Servant is true of those in Him; hence His Name is "Israel". And so this verse is quoted about us in 2 Cor. 6:2 in the context of our being preachers, labouring with God. This is the language of the Lord’s preaching, which freed men from the prison house (Is. 61:1,2). Yet because we are in Him, we too have His ministry; our words too can make men inherit the Kingdom, and free men from their bondage. “We are witnesses [through being] in him” (Acts 5:32 RVmg.). As the Lord in Isaiah’s servant songs was the suffering, saving, atoning servant, lifted up to give salvation world-wide- so are we. For we are in Him.


Isaiah 49:9 Saying to those who are bound, ‘Come out!’- T
his is the same word as in Is. 48:20 "Go forth of Babylon". But they chose to remain there.

To those who are in darkness, ‘Show yourselves!’- They could have had a deliverance similar to that of Israel from the darkness of Egypt (Ps. 107:10,14), but they preferred darkness to light. Just as they did before the captivity, they put darkness for light (Is. 5:20). Thus they refused the work of the saving Servant, who wanted to bring them out of that darkness (Is. 42:7), and preferred to remain in the darkness of condemnation (Is. 47:5).

And so these things have been reapplied to the work of the Lord Jesus. Those who are thankfully redeemed in Christ, now lovingly reconciled to Him, are described as blind, starving prisoners, bound in the darkness, awaiting execution (Ps. 107:14; Is. 42:7; 49:9; 61:1; Zech. 9:11). Our prayers should be like those of a man on death row in a dark dungeon, waiting to die, but groaning for salvation (Ps. 102:17,20).  This is the extent of our desperation. We are “the poor” (Gk. ‘the crouchers’), cringing in utter spiritual destitution (Mt. 5:3). The Lord in the Sermon on the Mount clearly understood this deliverance of the prisoners to refer to His work with a new Israel; since the Jews in Babylon had preferred to stay in their comfortable prison of exile, and didn't perceive it as a place of spiritual darkness.

They shall feed in the ways, and on all bare heights shall be their pasture- The idea is that there would be abundant provision for them, with pasture even on the beaten paths and bare heights where usually there wouldn't be. The idea here and in :10 was and is that absolutely all their needs would be abundantly provided for on the physical and spiritual journey to the restored Kingdom.

Isaiah 49:10 They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun strike them: for He who has mercy on them will lead them, even by springs of water He will guide them-
It was the responsibility of the priests and religious leaders to "gently lead" the exiles back to their God and their land, but they failed in this (Is. 51:18 s.w.); and so because their was none to guide / gently lead (s.w.), God Himself had to intervene and do this through His Son (Is. 40:11; 49:10).

This repeats the assurance of Is. 48:21. Just as everything had been provided for them when they left Egypt, so they need not worry about the logistics or "the way" of returning to Judah. The practical issues which loom in the minds of those confronted with the Gospel of the Kingdom will all likewise be dealt with by the God who desperately wants us to say "yes". These words are repeated about the faithful of the new Israel in Rev. 7:16.

Isaiah 49:11 I will make all My mountains a way, and My highways shall be exalted-
This repeats the message of the highway to the restored Zion being prepared in Is. 40:4.

Isaiah 49:12 Behold, these shall come from far; and behold, these from the north and from the west; and these from the land of Sinim-
"Sinim" my simply refer to the uttermost border of the eretz promised to Abraham, "Sin" being on the southern border with Egypt (cp. Gen. 10:17). LXX "And others from the land of the Persians", GNB "and from Aswan in the south". The tragedy of the book of Esther is that at its conclusion, the Jews were established in Persia in prosperity. They refused to use all this potential. The refusal of the exiles to respond led to the reapplication of this to the worldwide gathering in of Gentiles from all over the globe.


Isaiah 49:13 Sing, heavens; and be joyful, earth; and break forth into singing, mountains: for Yahweh has comforted His people, and will have compassion on His afflicted-
The ‘singing’ of the heavens refers to Judah’s intended joy at the restoration (cp. Is. 48:20). See on Is. 54:2. As the whole creation would share the joy of Hosea and Gomer’s remarriage (see on Is. 1:26), so Is. 44:23 and Is. 49:13 use similar terms to describe how all creation could have rejoiced in the reuniting of Yahweh with His people on their return from Babylon.

The temple still lay “waste” (Hag. 1:4,9) just as it had lain “desolate” [s.w. Jer. 33:10,12] after the Babylonian destruction. The ‘restoration’ was in fact not really a restoration at all, in God’s eyes. Thus Ezra sat down desolate [AV “astonied”] at the news of Judah’s apostasy in marrying the surrounding women; using the very same word as frequently used to describe the ‘desolate’ Jerusalem that was to be rebuilt (Ezra 9:3 cp. Is. 49:8,19; 54:3; 61:4). He tore his priestly garment (Ezra 9:3), as if he realized that all Ezekiel’s prophesies about those priestly garments now couldn’t come true (s.w. Ez. 42:14; 44:17,19). Is. 58:12,13 prophesied that the acceptable rebuilding of Zion was dependent upon Judah keeping the Sabbath acceptably; and yet Nehemiah’s record makes clear their tragic abuse of the Sabbath at the time of the restoration; and this therefore meant that the rebuilding of the temple and city were not going to fulfill the Messianic prophecies about them which existed.

Comfort and compassion from God can be given by Him, and yet refused. And again we have an abiding warning to us, as the new Israel, not to waste or disregard all the potential comfort there is from God, not least in our day through the ministry of "the comforter, which is the Holy Spirit".

Isaiah 49:14 But Zion said, Yahweh has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me-
See on :25. AV "my Lord", as if referring to Yahweh as her husband (Is. 50:1; 54:6 cp. Gen. 18:12). But as explained on :13, Yahweh had not forsaken them; it was they who refused to avail themselves of the comfort of His love.

Reasoning back from the addresses to the captives in later Isaiah, it appears they thought that Yahweh was a God who just operated in the land of Israel. The captives felt they couldn’t sing the songs of Yahweh in a Gentile land (Ps. 137). They thought that now they were outside His land and far from His temple, they were forgotten by Him (Is. 49:14,15), their cause ignored by Him (Is. 40:27) and they were “cast off” from relationship with Him (Is. 41:9). Hence Isaiah emphasizes that Yahweh is the creator and the God of the whole planet, and His presence is literally planet-wide. Likewise there is much stress in those addresses on the fact that Yahweh’s word of prophecy will come true. Remember that there had been many false prophets of Yahweh just prior to the captivity who predicted victory against Babylon and prosperity (Lam. 2:9,14; Jer. 44:15-19). And the 70 years prophecy of Jeremiah appeared to not be coming true, or at best was delayed or re-scheduled in fulfilment [even Daniel felt this, according to his desperate plea for fulfilment in Daniel 9]. And so there was a crisis of confidence in the concept of prophecy, and Yahweh’s word and prophets generally. Isaiah addressed this by stressing the nature and power of that word, and urging faith in its fulfilment and relevance.

The sufferings of Christ on the cross have connections with the punishments for Israel's sins (e.g. being offered gall to drink = Jer. 8:14; Lam. 3:5). Israel were temporarily forsaken by God because of their sins (Is. 49:14; 54:7), and therefore so was Christ. Christ was chastened with the rod of men "and with the stripes of the children of men", i.e. Israel (Is. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24; Mic. 5:1), in His death on the cross.

Isaiah 49:15 Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, these may forget, yet I will not forget you!-
And yet in anger God said He would destroy Israel’s children and walk away from them and forget them (Hos. 9:12). Unlike the stone faced gods of the Gentiles, Yahweh had emotion and passion, and internal conflicts. And His word reveals them to us. This "compassion" was only to be shown when Israel repented (s.w. Dt. 30:3) and would not be shown if they were impenitent (s.w. Is. 9:17; 27:11; 55:7). But although they had not repented, Yahweh still felt that fatherly "compassion" toward them (Is. 49:15 s.w.). He is unafraid of appearing to contradict His word, such is the passion of His love.

Isaiah 49:16 Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of My hands-
The idea may be that Israel were as the lines graven on a man's palm, with which he was born. Thus from absolute eternity, we were the great "all things" to Almighty God, intimately connected with Him, part of His very own person- He the God of all, all past and future creations. But God's hands are His creative members; on those hands were the walls of Zion, and so all His actions were geared towards the final salvation of Israel. Their rejection of such great Divine passion and interest was and is the tragedy of the cosmos. And the marks in the palms of His Son will apparently remain eternally, He still appears looking like a lamb with the wounds of His slaughter upon Him (Rev. 5:6).   


Your walls are continually before Me- The broken down state of the walls was continually in God's mind throughout the exile, as they were in Nehemiah's mind too. Or perhaps the walls of a restored Zion, those spoken of in Rev. 21, are in view. The ultimate hope of Israel, of their restoration, was ever before God. But at the time of the restoration, very few of His people cared about the state of the walls; such was the distraction of materialism.

Isaiah 49:17 Your children make haste; your destroyers and those who made you waste shall go forth from you-
LXX "And thou shalt soon be built by those by whom thou were destroyed, and they that made thee desolate shall go forth of thee". The idea was that a repentant remnant of Gentiles would return with the repentant exiles and work in the rebuilding of Zion. But this didn't happen. And so it is all given a reapplication to Gentiles building in Zion, the new Jerusalem.

Isaiah 49:18 Lift up your eyes all around, and see: all these gather themselves together, and come to you-
All these prophecies of Isaiah were because when the Gentiles came to Zion after the Assyrians were destroyed, they were supposed to gather together to Judah's God. But Hezekiah became influenced them, and therefore Judah went into captivity in Babylon and only after repentance were to be restored. Now the situation was to be repeated; and the Gentiles would again be gathered to Zion, but now they would permanently join themselves to Israel's God.

It is God who gathers His people (Is. 11:12; 40:11; Jer. 31:10; Ez. 34:12), whereas the Gentiles gather themselves to Him (Is. 49:18). His grace therefore appears the greater to His people, somehow forcing through His purpose with obstinate sheep. The 'bringing / coming' and 'drawing near / gathering' of the exiles (s.w. Is. 43:5) would have been primarily fulfilled at the restoration (same words in Neh. 1:9). But most of the exiles remained in the lands of their captivity, just as people resist the Gospel's call today. They had to themselves bring and gather themselves (Is. 45:20; 49:18; 60:4), so that God would confirm this by bringing and gathering them (Is. 43:5; Jer. 31:8; Ez. 34:13; 36:24; 37:21; Zech. 10:10). And so today with all who wish to be in God's Kingdom; our desire to be there and first moves towards it will be confirmed many times over by God's work through His Spirit. 

As I live, says Yahweh, you shall surely clothe yourself with them all as with an ornament, and dress yourself with them, like a bride- As if they were the girdle worn by a bride- which Judah had forgotten to wear, so slack were they in their attitude to their Heavenly husband (Jer. 2:32). The conversion of the Gentiles was to be to the glory of God's people. 

Isaiah 49:19 For, as for your waste and your desolate places, and your land that has been destroyed, surely now you shall be too small for the inhabitants, and those who swallowed you up shall be far away-
This is exactly relevant to the situation in Judah after the first break in the rebuilding; the walls were broken down by the Samaritans, but Nehemiah was raised up to lead more back with him from Babylon and rebuild them. And yet sadly, this too failed, for Judah were still unwilling to completely forsake Babylon. “Thy walls are continually before me [even during the 70 years captivity]… [even while in captivity they were thinking that Yahweh had forgotten them, :14]…thy builders (RVmg.) make haste…thy land that hath been destroyed [by the Babylonian scorched earth policy] shall even now be too narrow by reason of the inhabitants…then shalt thou say, Who hath begotten me these, seeing I am barren, an exile…?” (Is. 49:16,19,21 RV). This all implies there would be a population explosion at the time of the restoration. But there is no evidence this was the case. All this was potentially true; but it didn’t come to pass in reality.

Isaiah 49:20 The children of your bereavement shall yet say in your ears-
LXX "For thy sons whom thou hast lost shall say in thine ears". The idea of receiving back children who had been once slain is clearly alluded to in Job's experience (Job 42:13), who is set up as representative of the Jews in exile.

‘The place is too small for me; give more space to me that I may dwell!’- The implication is that eretz Israel will be too small for the restored people of God; and they will therefore have to go and live with the Gentiles. The implication is that the boundaries of the promised land will expand to encompass the entire planet.

Isaiah 49:21 Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who has conceived these for me, since I have been bereaved of my children, and am solitary, an exile, and wandering back and forth? Who has brought up these? Behold, I was left alone; these, where were they?’
- see on Gen. 33:5. Children born through another were still reckoned as the wife's children (Gen. 16:1; 30:1). The children of Zion were therefore suckled by the Gentiles (Is. 60:16). The implication is that just as the eretz Israel will be expanded to include Gentile territories (see on :20), so ethnic Gentiles will be genuinely considered by the Jews to be their people.

Isaiah 49:22 Thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations, and set up My banner to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders-
This banner or ensign lifted up in Zion is ultimately the pole of the cross of the Lord Jesus. Upon this will be predicated Yahweh's extension of His covenant to the Gentile nations; for to 'lift up the hand' is to enter into solemn covenant.

Isaiah 49:23 Kings shall be your nursing fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers: they shall bow down to you with their faces to the earth, and lick the dust of your feet; and you shall know that I am Yahweh; and those who wait for Me shall not be disappointed-
Or "ashamed". Yahweh had promised support for them if they returned to the land; He would preserve them on the way. Consider Is. 50:10: “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice [s.w. Ezra 1:1 re the proclamation of Cyrus] of his servant [i.e. Cyrus, Is. 45:1], that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God”. Yet Ezra was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers to guard them on the journey only because he had earlier told the king that Yahweh would be with them (Ezra 8:22), as if he really did want the support but was ashamed to ask for it. He disallowed Isaiah’s prophesy that the restored Israel would never be ashamed [s.w. Ezra 8:22; 9:6] nor confounded (Is. 45:17; 49:23; 54:4). Nehemiah accepted such support when he came up from Babylon (Neh. 2:9). And so these things are reapplied to the coming of Gentiles to the hope of Israel in Christ. Former enemies worshipping at the feet of repentant Jews becomes reapplied to all believers in Christ (Rev. 3:9).

Isaiah 49:24 Can prey be taken from a warrior? Or can prisoners of a tyrant be rescued?-
LXX "Will any one take spoils from a giant? and if one should take a man captive unjustly, shall he be delivered?". The Lord Jesus alludes here in saying that through His work, the house of the strong man has been taken and his spoils looted (Mk. 3:27).

Or this can be read as the Jews remonstrating against God’s message of deliverance from captivity: “Can prey be taken from a warrior? Or can prisoners of a tyrant be rescued?”. They thought their salvation was too hard even for God. They made the same mistake as all who reason that their situation or personality is too far gone for God to redeem. For the ‘salvation’ of the exiles in Babylon is alluded to in the New Testament as a prototype of our salvation in Christ. The good news of potential deliverance from Babylon is quoted as the good news of salvation from sin (Is. 52:7-10 = Mk. 1:15; Mt. 10:7,8; Rom. 10:15; Eph. 6:15; Is. 61:1,2 = Lk. 4:16-21). Time and again in the restoration prophecies we encounter statements intended to answer the skepticism felt by the exiles about the promises of redemption from Babylon (Is. 40:27-31; Is. 42:22; Is. 43:22; Is. 46:12; Is. 48:4,8; Is. 49:14). Passages like Ezekiel 18 and Is. 59:9 imply a certain bitterness of Israel towards their God, considering that He had dealt with them unfairly, and inappropriately punished them for the sins of their fathers. Despite having enabled their exit from Babylon, they complained: “Vindication remains far removed from us and deliverance does not reach us” (Is. 59:9). This was an awful spurning of the great salvation enabled for them.

Isaiah 49:25 But thus says Yahweh, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered; for I will contend with him who contends with you, and I will save your children-
LXX "If one should take a giant captive, he shall take spoils, and he who takes them from a mighty man shall be delivered". But when Babylon fell, the captives didn't want to leave and preferred prosperity under the Persians, as the book of Esther makes clear. And so these things were reapplied and fulfilled in more abstract, spiritual terms. Thus the Lord Jesus alludes here in saying that through His work, the house of the strong man has been taken and his spoils looted (Mk. 3:27).

Isaiah 49:26 I will feed those who oppress you with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine-
The idea is as in GNB "I will make your oppressors kill each other", which will come true in the last days (Ez. 38:21; Hag. 2:22; Zech. 14:13).

And all flesh shall know that I, Yahweh, am your Saviour, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob- The final triumph of God's project of saving His people will be the parade witness to "all flesh" which finally brings about the spread of His Kingdom worldwide. The lovely story of Ruth speaks of our redemption. Her “kinsman redeemer” [Heb. Go’el] was the “mighty one”, Boaz. We find this word especially used in Isaiah’s prophecies to the Jewish exiles in Babylon, urging them to return from that Gentile land to Judah, and take the Gentiles with them. They had the impression there in Babylon that God had somehow forgotten them. The book of Ruth appears to have been written up [perhaps in Babylon] in order to encourage them to return- after the pattern of Naomi and Ruth returning to the land and being redeemed by their Go’el. But this Go’el is none less than God Himself. So many passages in Isaiah allude to the Ruth story: “I Yahweh am your Saviour and your redeemer [Go’el], the mighty one of Jacob” (Is. 49:26). Judah were urged in Is. 55:6 to call upon God “While He is near”- the same Hebrew word translated “kinsman”. The servant songs go on to explain how Yahweh could become our kinsman through His Son, our representative, of our nature. Judah in captivity were likewise encouraged by Jeremiah to return to the land- with full allusion to Ruth: “Turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities... for the Lord has created a new thing in the earth: a woman shall compass a man” (Jer. 31:21,22). This refers to the way in which Ruth summed up the courage to ‘go after’ Boaz, to present herself to him for marriage- reflecting the spiritual ambition of all those who seek redemption and restoration in Christ.