Good News: New Age! | Isaiah 61:1 Meditation

Isaiah 61:1 Verse of the Day Commentary

In this familiar passage, the foretold Anointed Messiah-Servant-King announces the Good News of the inauguration of a New Age — the just and righteous Reign of God.

Jesus reads these very words at the inauguration of His ministry, identifying Himself as the the Anointed One who will usher in the Kingdom of God.

  1. Text
  2. C4C Translation | What Does It Mean To Be “Poor” / “Humbled”?
  3. Commentary
    1. Who Is Speaking?
    2. Good News: New Age!
    3. The Good News of Jesus
  4. Memorization (Tutorial Video)

Text

61 1 ר֛וּחַ אֲדֹנָ֥י יְהוִ֖ה עָלָ֑י יַ֡עַן מָשַׁח֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֹתִ֜י לְבַשֵּׂ֣ר עֲנָוִ֗ים שְׁלָחַ֨נִי֙ לַחֲבֹ֣שׁ לְנִשְׁבְּרֵי־לֵ֔ב לִקְרֹ֤א לִשְׁבוּיִם֙ דְּר֔וֹר וְלַאֲסוּרִ֖ים פְּקַח־קֽוֹחַ׃1

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,2





Translation

The Spirit of the LORD God is on me,

because The LORD has anointed me

to proclaim good news to the humbled

He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted

to proclaim liberty for the captives

And the release from darkness of the imprisoned

What Does It Mean To Be “Poor” / “Humbled”?

Many translations opt for “the poor” (Is 61:1, NIV; Is 61:1, ESV, Is 61:1, HCSB; Is 61:1, NLT) as opposed to “the oppressed” (Is 61:1, NRSV), “the afflicted” (Is 61:1, NASB), or “the meek” (Is 61:1, KJV). I think “the poor” may be a poor choice.

There are two related adjectives that stem from the same verbal root, עָנָה (ʿānâ), which means to “afflict, oppress, humble.”3

One of these words, עָנִי (ʿānî), means “poor, afflicted” and denotes a person with some sort of disability or in some sort of distress.4 The other ,עָנָו (ʿānāw),  means “humble, meek”5

Sometimes, it seems as if these Hebrew words are used interchangeably. Moreover, the plural forms of these adjectives are very similar, which could have led to scribal confusion.6

Poor

In Isaiah, there are strong words against those who oppress the “poor” (ʿānî) (e.g., Is 3:14, 10:2) socioeconomically.8 However, the poor are not necessarily always nor only in socioeconomic poverty.9

For poor (ʿānî) also can mean lowly. It is the adjective used to describe the Messiah who rides lowly on a donkey (Zech 9:9; cf. Mt 21:5). It is also the adjective to describe those who are lowly and contrite in spirit — to whom the LORD shows favor (Is 66:2).10

In any case, this is not the word used in this verse.

Humbled

The most humble (ʿānāw) person we read about in the Old Testament is Moses (Num 12:3). This humility entails his “absolute dependence on God.” 11 That position (the word essentially means bent over) is the proper and encouraged (dis)position of followers of God.12

More precisely then, the humility or meekness (ʿānāw) described here “stresses the moral and spiritual condition of the godly…”13

All in all, this verse “announces his messianic charter as one anointed by the Spirit of God to bring good news to the meek (עֲנָוִים)[plural of ʿānāw], the faithful Israelites.14 These may even be the same lowly people spoken of  earlier in Isaiah (Is 57:1-2, 15).15

Not all scholars believe the humble are to be limited to a righteous minority, but, regardless, this lowliness is “not restricted to financial or material conditions.16

“The reason why they are broken-hearted is unknown, but physical, social, or spiritual problems might cause this condition.”17

The reason I opt for “humbled” is that the word can be understood to refer to both being humbled by unfortunate circumstances and humbling oneself before God.

Commentary

The Anointed Messiah-Servant-King

Who Is Speaking?

Apparently Isaiah is quoting someone on whom one would find the Spirit of the LORD God (Is 61:1, NRSV) or Sovereign LORD (Is 61:1, NIV).

The LORD God title harkens back to previous prophecies of the Servant of the LORD (Is 50:5, 7, 9)18— on whom God’s Spirit would rest (Is 42:1 cf. Is 11:2, 48:16).19

As scholars note, the Messiah spoken of in Isaiah 1-35 and the Servant sung of in Isaiah 40-55 should be identified as “one and the same person.”20

The Spirit of the LORD

In the Old Testament, having the Spirit of the LORD afforded on “supernatural wisdom and capacity” (Gen. 41:38; Exod. 31:3; Num. 11:17, 29, etc.).21

In Isaiah, more specifically, the Spirit of the LORD is associated with the capacity to enact justice and righteousness here on earth (Is 11:2; 32:15–16; 42:1; 44:3; 48:16; 59:21).22 This Spirit-enabled capacity entails both the power (Is 9:6; 11:4; 42:4; 49:5; 50:9) and counsel (Is 9:6; 11:2; 40:13–14; 50:4) of God.23

Messiah-Servant-King

Moreover, the only other times that anointing and The Spirit of the LORD are found in the same context are in contexts of kingship. We find this first with King Saul (1 Sam. 10:1, 6–7), and later with King David (1 Sam. 16:13, 2 Sam. 23:1-7)24 — from whose lineage the Messiah would descend (Is 11:1f. cf. Mt. 1:1f., Lk 3)

With so many parallels between the Servant and the Messiah,25 it seems awfully reasonable to conclude that the one speaking is the foretold Messiah-Servant-King of the LORD.26

Good News, New Age!

One reads much about good news in Isaiah (e.g., Is 40:9; 41:27; 52:7; 60:6).27 If the content of the good news here is similar to that of Is 40:9 and 52:7, then what we have here is a proclamation of a new age — in which “God reigns!” (cf. Is 52:7).28

That is, the Servant-Messiah-King announces the inauguration of the eschatological (end-time) kingdom of God. This is good news because when the kingdom/reign of God is fully consummated, all that plagues the aforementioned faithful humble will be come to an end.29 For there will be perfect justice and righteousness, (Is 11:3–5; cf. Is 1:27).30 in addition to perfect peace and harmony (Is 11:6-9).

Bind Up

The Servant-Messiah-King has also been sent to “bind up” (i.e. bandage) the brokenhearted (cf. Ps 147:3) — “a word covering any and every human breakdown, emotional prostration, conviction of sin…”31

Bind up (חָבַשׁ | ḥābaš ) is the same term used in the first chapter when speaking of the wounds, welts, and open sores the LORD’s people endured due to their rebellion (i.e., sin) (Is 1:6).32

Liberty

The term liberty or freedom (דְּרוֹר | dĕrôr) is the technical term used to describe the freeing of Hebrew slaves (more like indentured servants than more modern notions of slavery) and the release of property that was to take place every 50 years in the year of Jubilee (cf. Lev 25:10, which can be found on the Liberty Bell).33

It was called the ‘Year of Jubilee’, literally ‘Year of the Ram’s Horn’, because of the horn trumpet which was blown to announce its arrival…

The preaching of the Servant-Messiah is like the blast of the ram’s horn which ushered in the Year of Jubilee; it proclaims the arrival of a time of grace, a time of release.34

However, once again, it is probably wrong to confine the bondage implied here as purely socioeconomic, ignoring spiritual enslavement.35

Release from Darkness

The word translated “release from darkness” in the NIV more literally means “opening of the eyes.” (פְּקַח־קוַֹח | pĕqaḥ-qôaḥ).36

Though opening one’s eyes can have deeper, theological significance elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Gen 3:5, perhaps even Is 42:6-7), as scholars note, this seems to be a figurative way of describing release from a dark prison.38

The Good News of Jesus

Famously, this is the passage Jesus recites in the synagogue at the inauguration of His ministry (Lk 4:16-21). After rolling up the scroll of Isaiah he says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).

In doing so, Jesus identifies Himself with the Messiah-Servant-King foretold in Isaiah. He would be the Suffering Servant who…

was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed (Is 53:5).

As scholars note:

By reading from this passage in the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus assumed the mantle of the anointed preacher of Isaiah’s vision and announced that the final great era of grace had dawned.39

Jesus announced the Good News: that a New Age had dawned. And, this age that began with His First Coming will be fully consummated with His Second Coming.

“Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).

Memorization

Memorize Isaiah 61:1 after watching a brief video tutorial demonstrating the How to Memorize Any Bible Verse in Less Than Five Minutes method below:

 

Sources

  1. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Is 61.
  2. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Is 61:1.
  3. Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 682.
  4. “The ʿānî is primarily a person suffering some kind of disability or distress.”

    Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 683.

  5. Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 682.
  6. Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 682.
  7. 7Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 683.
  8. the application of the [two] terms to the emerging remnant entity in Israel emptied them of any necessary economic thrust (particularly in the case of עָנִי)[ʿānî].” 

    Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 455.

  9. Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 682.
  10. Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 682–683.
  11. “Throughout the rest of scripture such an attitude and position is lauded as blessed and to be desired.”

    Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 682–683.

  12. Leonard J. Coppes, “1652 עָנָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 682.
  13. Though Oswalt may disagree. Emphasis added. Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 458.
  14. Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66, vol. 15B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009), 634.
  15. John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 564.
  16. Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66, vol. 15B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009), 634.
  17. J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 426.
  18. Barry Webb, The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 233–234.
  19. Barry Webb, The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 233–234.
  20. John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 564.
  21. John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 564.
  22. John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 564.
  23. John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 564.
  24. “Essentially, his responsibilities overlap with and echo several of the tasks assigned to the Servant (42:7; 49:9–10; 50:4).”

    Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66, vol. 15B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009), 633.

  25. “This is the Messiah, and he is being consciously associated with the Servant by showing that the Messiah does the Servant’s work.”

    John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 564.

  26. John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 564.
  27. Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66, vol. 15B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009), 634–635.
  28. Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66, vol. 15B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009), 635.
  29. John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 565.
  30. J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 20, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 426.
  31. John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 565.
  32. “Slaves were allowed to return to their families, and land that had been leased due to poverty was restored to its original owners.”

    Herbert Wolf, “454 דרר,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 198.

  33. Barry Webb, The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 234.
  34. Gary Smith, Isaiah 40-66, vol. 15B, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2009), 635.
  35. Victor P. Hamilton, “1803 פָּקַח,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 732.
  36. “fig. of freeing fr. dark prison.”

    Richard Whitaker et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament: From A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs, Based on the Lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius (Boston; New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906).

    Or, more literally, this could refer to the way in which one opens one’s eyes after being released from a dark prison. Either way, it seems that it being used synonymously with liberty (דְּרוֹר | dĕrôr).37David J. A. Clines, ed., The Dictionary of Classical Hebrew (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 1993–2011), 749.

  37. Barry Webb, The Message of Isaiah: On Eagles’ Wings, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1996), 235–236.
About @DannyScottonJr 130 Articles
Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student