Isa. 42:3

John Ronning ronning at
Fri Dec 15 08:10:34 EST 2000


In looking for the significance of the Servant not breaking
a bruised reed, etc., I think it's helpful to look at the
numerous and detailed parallels between Cyrus and the
Servant in this section of Isaiah.  In chapters 41-48, Cyrus
is prominent, but after 48 Cyrus disappears and the Servant
and his work become prominent.  Comparison of the two makes
it evident that the Servant is what we might call a
spiritual Cyrus, i.e. he is a world conquorer who delivers
God's people from spiritual bondage.  The first Servant song
(Isaiah 42:1-9) "intrudes" into the Cyrus section as if to
make this point in the beginning.  Note the following:

Impact upon the nations:
	Cyrus - God delivers up nations before him (41:2)
	Servant - He will bring forth justice to the nations (42:1)
	[note - mishpat perhaps in the general sense of justice
(elsewhere part of the messianic work), but in context, the
verdict of the preceeding courtroom proceedings, namely, the
verdict that the God speaking through Isaiah is the one true

Similarly, the coastlands:
	Cyrus - The coastlands have seen and are afraid (41:5)
	Servant - the coastlands will wait expectantly for his
	teaching (42:4)
	[here also a contrast between the military conqueror and
	the spiritual conqueror]

Called in righteousness:
	Cyrus - whom God calls in righteousness to his feet 
	(i.e. as his personal servant) (41:2)
	Servant - I have called you in righteousness (42:6)

Taken by the hand:
	Cyrus - Whom I have taken by the right hand (45:1)
	Servant - I will also hold you by the hand (42:6)

Mission - freedom for God's people:
	Cyrus - He will ... let my exiles go free (45:13)
	Servant - To bring out prisoners from the dungeon; 
	to those who dwell in darkness from the prison (42:7)

In this connection I think Isa 42:2-3 serves to emphasize
that the Servant is not simply like Cyrus, the military
conqueror who rolls over nations (41:2 he turns the nations
to dust with his sword, to windblown chaff with his bow). 
In contrast to what Cyrus does to the best armies the
nations can throw against him, the Servant does not even
attack the most defenseless (does not break the already
bruised reed, or extinguish the already smoldering wick). 
In his first coming, his is a spiritual conquest.  The
citation in Matthew serves to refute the expectation that
the Messiah was going to come and simply provide military
victory and relief from physical suffering.

Quite a story Isaiah predicts - that through the work of the
Spirit of God (42:1) an obscure Jewish preacher would make
known to the whole world the one true God, who in his time
is only known in a tiny patch of land surrounded by hostile
powers. All this after being abhored, mistreated, even
killed by his own people.  Who would imagine it?  Who would
believe it?


John Ronning

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