49:8 As in 42:6 the servant has entered into a covenant for the people, and as there the reference is to the Abrahamic covenant. However, while the emphasis in chap. 42 is on the promise that the nations will be blessed through Abraham, here the emphasis is on the promise of the land. God will restore his people to the land he gave them and which they forfeited. Paul quotes this verse in 2Co 6:2.
49:8 a time of favor. This time stands in contrast to the day of vengeance (12:2; 34:8 and notes; cf. 35:4; 59:17, 18; 61:2; 63:4; 2 Cor. 6:2).
49:8 a time of favor The arrival of the promised salvation is partially fulfilled in the return from exile but described in idealistic terms that reflect the future rule of the Messiah. Second Corinthians 6:2 quotes this passage in announcing that the gospel of Christ has brought about the promised day of salvation.
a covenant of the people Israel was commissioned to be a covenant for the people and a light for the nations. Compare Isa 42:6. Based on the reassignment of the “light for the nations” role to the individual servant in v. 6, the Servant may be the one addressed here—He is the agent of Yahweh’s salvation.
49:8 Now, subsequent to Christ’s resurrection, is the time of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2).
49:8 favorable time … day of salvation. Messiah is represented as asking for the grace of God to be given to sinners. God gives His favorable answer in a time of grace (cf. 61:1) when salvation’s day comes to the world (cf. Gal 4:4, 5; Heb 4:7). At His appointed time in the future, the Lord will, by His Servant, accomplish the final deliverance of Israel. Paul applied these words to his ministry of proclaiming the gospel of God’s grace to all people (2Co 6:2). a covenant of the people. See note on 42:6. When the Lord saves and regathers Israel, they will return to the Land, to which Joshua brought their ancestors after their exit from Egypt, now restored and glorious (44:26; Jos 13:1–8).
49:8 In an acceptable time, in contrast to the day of vengeance (34:8; 61:1; 2 Cor. 6:2), the Lord will hear the Servant’s complaint that His mission toward Israel was in vain (v. 4). The Lord will crown His Servant as King to restore blessing on the famished earth (45:8). The pronoun them refers to Israel.
8 The first part of this verse is quoted by Paul in 2 Cor. 6:2 as a saying now fulfilled (cf. our Lord’s use of Is. 61:1–2 in Lk. 4:18–21). On the expression a covenant for the people see on 42:6. 9–13 The captives flocking home in vs 8–13 are visualized as the dispersed of Israel throughout the world, not merely at Babylon (cf. v 12 with v 22); but the allusion to v 10 in Rev. 7:17 shows that we may rightly see also the Gentiles leaving for their new homeland (cf. 44:5). 12 ‘Sinim’ (see the niv mg.) was clearly a puzzle to ancient scribes and translators, who suggested e.g. Persia, the South, or Aswan. Some reputable scholars have argued for China (cf. our term ‘sinologist’ from the Greek for Chinese), but the most we can safely say is that v 12 foresees converts drawn from far distant lands, of which Sinim was evidently a notable example.
8. In a time of good pleasure. From this verse we again learn more clearly what we explained at the beginning of this chapter, that the Prophet, while he addresses the whole body of the Church, begins with Christ, who is the Head. I have said that this ought to be carefully observed; for commentators have not attended to it, and yet there is no other way in which this chapter can be consistently expounded. This is clearly shewn by Paul, who applies this statement to the whole Church. (2 Cor. 6:2.) And yet what the Prophet adds, I will give thee to be a covenant, is applicable to no other than Christ.
How shall we reconcile these statements? By considering that Christ is not so much his own as ours; for he neither came, nor died, nor rose again for himself. He was sent for the salvation of the Church, and seeks nothing as his own; for he has no want of anything. Accordingly, God makes promises to the whole body of the Church. Christ, who occupies the place of Mediator, receives these promises, and does not plead on behalf of himself as an individual, but of the whole Church, for whose salvation he was sent. On this account he does not address Christ separately, but so far as he is joined and continually united to his body. It is an inconceivable honour which our Heavenly Father bestows upon us, when he listens to his Son on our account, and when he even directs the discourse to the Son, while the matter relates to our salvation. Hence we see how close is the connection between us and Christ. He stands in our room, and has nothing separate from us; and the Father listens to our cause.
By the word “good pleasure,” the Prophet lays a bridle on believers, so to speak, that they may not be too eager in their desires, but may wait patiently till the time appointed by God has arrived; and in this sense Paul gives to the coming of Christ the appellation of “the time of fulness.” (Gal. 4:4.) He means, therefore, that they depend on God’s disposal, and ought therefore to endure his wrath with meekness and composure. But although the intention of the Prophet is to exhort the godly to patience, that they may learn to place their feelings in subordination to God, yet at the same time he shows that our salvation proceeds from God’s undeserved kindness. רצון, (rātzōn,) which the Greeks translate εὐδοκία, that is, the good-will of God is the foundation of our salvation; and salvation is the effect of that grace. We are saved, because we please God, not through our worthiness or merits, but by his free grace. Secondly, he shows, at the same time, that our salvation is certain, when we have a clear proof of the grace of the Lord. All doubt ought to be removed, when the Lord testified of his “good pleasure.” This passage tends to the commendation of the word, beyond which we ought not to inquire about salvation; as Paul declares that the good pleasure of God is clearly manifested in the preaching of the Gospel, and that thus is fulfilled what is contained in this passage about “the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2.)
Thirdly, the Prophet intended to remind us, that God gives us an undoubted pledge of his favour when he sends the Gospel to us; because it is evident that he has compassion upon us, when he gently invites us to himself, that we may not look around in every direction to seek this light, which ought to be expected only from God’s gracious pleasure, or be tortured by doubt, from which God frees us. But let us remember that all this depends on God’s free purpose. When therefore the question is put, why the Lord enlightened us at this time rather than at an earlier period, the reason which ought to be assigned is this: because thus it pleased God, thus it seemed good in his sight. Such is the conclusion to which Paul comes in the passage which we quoted, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2.)
This passage may greatly aid us in ascertaining Isaiah’s meaning, that we may learn to connect our salvation with God’s good pleasure; a proof of which is given to us in the preaching of the Gospel. It ought also to be observed, that these predictions should not be limited to a certain age, since they belong to the whole Church in all ages. For if we begin with the deliverance from Babylon, we must go on to the redemption of Christ, of which it might be regarded as the commencement and the forerunner; and since there are still found among us many remnants of slavery, we must proceed forward to the last day, when everything shall be restored.
I have appointed thee to be a covenant. This makes it still more evident, that all that had formerly been said was promised to Christ, not for the sake of his personal advantage, but on our behalf; for he has been appointed to be the Mediator of the covenant, because the Jews by their sins had revolted from God, who had made an everlasting covenant with them. The renewal of that covenant, therefore, which had been broken or dissolved, is ascribed to Christ. Yet we must likewise keep in view the saying of Paul, that “Christ is our peace, to reconcile both them that are far off, and them that are near.” (Eph. 2:14, 17.) But Isaiah had directly in view that lamentable ruin, the remedy for which could be expected from Christ alone. Besides, it is proper to apply this grace to ourselves, because, as compared to the Jews, before the Gospel was preached, we were enemies and aliens from God, and could not in any other way be reconciled to him. Christ was therefore “given to be a covenant of the people,” because there was no other way to God but by him. At that time the Jews were a people; but in consequence of the partition-wall having been broken down, all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, have been united in one body.
That thou mayest raise up the earth, which at that time was waste and desolate; for the return of the people was, as we have elsewhere seen, a kind of new creation. Such is also the design of the words of the Prophet, that we may know that there is nothing in the world but ruin and desolation. Christ is sent in order to restore what was fallen down and decayed. If we had not been in a fallen condition, there would have been no reason why Christ should be sent to us. We ought therefore to weigh well our condition; for we are aliens from God, destitute of life, and shut out from all hope of salvation. But by Christ we are fully restored and reconciled to our Heavenly Father. Isaiah likewise adds the benefits which we obtain through Christ, after having been reconciled to God.
Ver. 8.—In an acceptable time; literally, in a time of good pleasure; i.e. the time fixed by my good pleasure from the creation of the world. Heard thee … helped thee. The Father “heard” and “helped” the only begotten Son through the whole period of his earthly ministry (Luke 2:40, 52; John 3:2; 8:28; 12:28; 14:10, etc.). I will give thee for a Covenant of the people (comp. ch. 42:6, and the comment, ad loc.). To establish the earth; rather, as in ver. 6, to raise up the earth, to lift it out of its existing condition of meanness and degradation. To cause to inherit the desolate heritages; i.e. to cause the desolate heritages of the earth—the places devoid of true religion—to be possessed, and as it were “inherited,” by those who would introduce into them the true knowledge of God. As Israel inherited Canaan (Deut. 3:28; Josh. 1:6), so would Christian nations inherit many “desolate heritages,” where ignorance and sin prevailed, with the result that light would penetrate into the dark regions, and, ultimately, all flesh see the salvation of God.
8 This verse continues (from v. 7) the response of the Lord to the Servant’s troubled cry in v. 4. The Lord promises that in the hour when he moves to save the world, he will answer and help his Servant. answer here has the sense of respond to with support, as the parallel help shows. In a time of favor reflects the idea of the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:8ff.), that time when the captives were freed, and inheritances restored to the rightful tenants under God’s ownership (see also Isa. 62:2). It also holds out the promise of the reversal of the bleak words of 27:11: “He that formed them will show them no favor.”
In that hour of salvation God will appoint (nātan) the Servant for a series of tasks (all indicated by a preceding lamed). Above all, he is to be (represent) God’s covenant to the people. The word translated “people” (Heb. ʿām) is regularly (though not exclusively) used to designate Israel (cf. 11:10–16; 22:4; 25:8; 44:7; 51:4; 52:9, etc). They have broken God’s covenant again and again, so that legally speaking it is null and void. Yet God still understands himself as bound by it and intends to offer it in a new form (Jer. 31:31). Somehow the Servant in himself will be the embodiment of God’s covenant with his people. If the author does not here spell out the details of that embodiment, it is nonetheless clear that this is the Servant’s role. It is interesting that “a light to the nations,” the parallel colon to “a covenant of the people” in 42:6 and 49:6, does not appear here. Is this absence to signal that all people are to have an opportunity to become part of “the people” in the new covenant?
As the embodiment of the covenant, the Servant will do several things: restore the land, apportion desolate heritages, and call forth the prisoners (v. 9). As mentioned above, this is the language of Jubilee. It also involves the reestablishment of Joshua’s work, a fact that has two implications according to Cheyne: we are talking about something more than the restoration of Judah from Babylon, and we are talking about a historical figure. Paul’s use of this verse (2 Cor. 6:2) shows that he clearly understood it to apply to the messianic age (which had come with Jesus).
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1023). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 49:8). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Kidner, F. D. (1994). Isaiah. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 661). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.