6. I Jehovah have called thee in righteousness. He again repeats the name of God, in which we ought to supply what he stated in the former verse about his power. It is generally thought that this points out the end of Christ’s calling, that he was sent by the Father to establish “justice” among men, who are destitute of it so long as they have not Christ, and, being given up to all the corruptions of crimes and vices, are held captive under the tyranny of Satan. But because the word “righteousness” has a more extensive signification, I pass by that ingenious distinction; for it is not even said that he shall be called “to righteousness,” but this phraseology ought to be viewed as equivalent to the adverbial expression, “righteously,” or “in a holy manner.” I rather suppose the meaning to be, that Christ was “called in righteousness,” because his calling is lawful, and therefore shall be firm and secure. We know that what is not done in a proper and regular manner cannot be of long duration. Or perhaps it will be thought preferable to view it thus, that God, in appointing Christ to restore the Church, seeks no reason but from himself and his own righteousness; but it is certain that this word denotes stability, as if he had said, “faithfully.”
And will hold thee by thy hand. By “the holding of the hand” he means the immediate assistance of God; as if he had said, “I will direct and establish thee in the calling to which I have appointed thee. In a word, as thy calling is righteous, so I will defend and uphold thee, as if by taking hold of thy hand I were thy leader.”
I will keep thee. This word “keep” plainly shews what is the meaning of holding by the hand, namely, that Christ will be directed by the Father in such a manner that he shall have him as his protector and guardian, shall enjoy his assistance, and, in short, shall feel his presence in all things.
And will place thee for a covenant. He now states the reason why God promises that he will be a guardian to Christ. Besides, the Prophet spoke of the Jews and the Gentiles separately; not that they differ by nature, or that the one is more excellent than the other, (for all need the grace of God, (Rom. 3:23,) and Christ has brought salvation to all indiscriminately,) but because the Lord assigned the first rank to the Jews, (Matt. 10:6,) it was therefore proper that they should be distinguished from the others. Accordingly, before “the partition-wall” (Eph. 2:14) was thrown down, they excelled, not by their merit, but by the favour of God, because with them in the first instance the covenant of grace was made.
It may be objected, “Why is Christ appointed to a covenant which was ratified long before? for, more than two thousand years before, God had adopted Abraham, and thus the origin of the distinction was long previous to the coming of Christ.” I reply, the covenant which was made with Abraham and his posterity had its foundation in Christ; for the words of the covenant are these, “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18.) And the covenant was ratified in no other manner than in the seed of Abraham, that is, in Christ, by whose coming, though it had been previously made, it was confirmed and actually sanctioned. Hence also Paul says, “that the promises of God are yea and amen in Christ,” (2 Cor. 1:20,) and in another passage calls Christ “the minister of circumcision, to fulfil the promises which were given to the fathers.” (Rom. 15:8.) Still more clearly does he declare that Christ is “the peace” of all, so that they who were formerly separated are united in him, and both they who were far off and they who were near are thus reconciled to God. (Eph. 2:17.) Hence also it is evident that Christ was promised, not only to the Jews, but to the whole world.
For a light of the Gentiles. We have here another clear proof of the calling of the Gentiles, since he expressly states that Christ was appointed to be “a light” to them. He calls him a light, because the Gentiles were plunged in the deepest and thickest darkness, at the time when the Lord illuminated none but the Jews. Now, then, the blame lies solely with ourselves, if we do not become partakers of this salvation; for he calls all men to himself, without a single exception, and gives Christ to all, that we may be illuminated by him. Let us only open our eyes, he alone will dispel the darkness, and illuminate our minds by the “light” of truth.
Verse 6 with its reference to a “covenant for the people” makes us aware of the fact that the servant cannot be simply identified with Israel. He at least represents a group within it, perhaps the faithful remnant (see comments on 4:2), if not an individual. Thus the reader is being gradually educated as to the identity of the true Servant of God, and it should not be missed that this first Servant Song occurs immediately after a passage in which the ability of Israel’s God to predict is strongly asserted. The phrase “covenant for the people” implies a structured relationship between God and those already possessing his revelation, while “a light for the Gentiles” suggests the widening of the scope of this revelation. The covenantal reference may be to the new covenant, the special blessings of which are later spelled out in Jeremiah 31:31–34. If it is, it may be viewed as confirming the Abrahamic covenant, for that covenant too spoke of a blessing for the nations (cf. Ge 12:1–3, et al.).
42:6 Called, hold, keep, and give are expressions parallel to the words of v. 1. In contrast to Cyrus, who brought political deliverance (41:2), the Servant in righteousness will deliver Israel from sin. The Servant will institute a new covenant binding Israel to the Lord (49:8). The prophets refer to this new covenant as a “covenant of peace” (54:10; Ezek. 34:25); an “everlasting covenant” (which is also associated with the Davidic covenant; 55:3); a “new covenant” (Jer. 31:31–34); and most often simply as a “covenant.” The people refers to the Gentiles (60:3). Christ is the true light of the world (9:2; 49:6; 60:3; John 8:12; 9:5; Acts 26:17, 18, 23), and Christ’s followers should reflect His light (Matt. 5:14).
42:6 I am the Lord. Beginning with 41:13, the Lord’s self-identification is frequent (41:13; 42:6, 8; 43:3, 11, 15; 45:5, 6, 7, 18; 48:17; 49:23; 51:15). His personal name is the one He explained to Moses as specially symbolic of the unique relationship He bore to Israel (Ex 3:15; 6:3). Here that covenant name guarantees His ministry through the Messiah-Servant. covenant to the people. The Servant is a covenant in that He personifies and provides the blessings of salvation to God’s people Israel. He is the Mediator of a better covenant than the one with Moses, i.e., the New Covenant (Jer 31:31–34; Heb 8:6, 10–12). See note on 49:8. light to the nations. Simeon saw the beginning of this fulfillment at Christ’s first coming (Lk 2:32). He came as the Messiah of Israel, yet the Savior of the world, who revealed Himself to a non-Jewish immoral woman by the well in Samaria (cf. Jn 4:25, 26) and commanded His followers to preach the gospel of salvation to everyone in the world (Mt 28:19, 20). Certainly the church, made up mostly of Gentiles grafted into the trunk of blessing (cf. Ro 9:24–30; 11:11–24), fulfills this promise, as does the future kingdom on earth when the Servant will use Israel to shine and enlighten all the nations of the earth (49:6; cf. 19:24).
42:6 Christ the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5) brings light to the nations (John 12:32; Acts 26:18, 23), fulfilling the promise to Abraham of blessing to the nations (see note on Gen. 12:3).
42:6 I have called you in righteousness The pronoun “you” is singular here, demonstrating that the Servant figure is the light for the nations and the covenant for the people—not the collective nation of Israel.
a covenant of the people, as a light of Compare 49:6–8, which reinforces the identification of the individual Servant as the light for the nations and the covenant for the people. The Servant represents and serves God’s chosen people. In Luke 2:32, this concept is linked to ancient Jewish messianic expectation.
42:6 called … keep. These are expressions parallel to v. 1.
covenant for the people. Jesus Christ, as God’s Servant, brought the new covenant to His people (see 53:4–6; Jer. 31:31–34; Heb. 8:6–13; 9:15). The covenant is also called the “covenant of peace” (54:10), the “everlasting covenant” (55:3; 61:8), and the “new covenant” (Jer. 31:31).
light for the nations. The recipients of God’s light are a new community of light-bearers in a dark world (9:2; 49:6; 51:4; 60:1–3; Luke 2:30–32; Acts 26:17, 18, 23).
42:6 The phrase “a light to the Gentiles” is a reference to the fact that the gospel of Christ extends to every man. Christ died for all (cf. Acts 4:12).
42:6 God had entered into a covenant with Abraham on behalf not only of future Israel, but also of the nations (Gn 12:1–3). But history shows Israel’s miserable failure. Again, God’s purposes were fulfilled in the good news of Jesus Christ whose death and resurrection brought hope (light) to the Gentiles. He was the one who established the new covenant anticipated by Jeremiah (Jr 31:31–34; Lk 22:20).
 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Vol. 3, pp. 293–295). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
 Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 739). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 849–850). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 42:6). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1315). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
 Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 42:6). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1011). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Is 42:6). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Longman, T., III. (2017). Isaiah. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 1102). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.