Translation commentary on Isaiah 42:7

In this verse Yahweh specifies two more functions for his servant: he will heal those who are blind and free those who are in prison. Verse 7 continues the sentence begun in the previous verse, but translators may begin a new sentence here, as in Good News Translation and Bible en français courant (see also the second example below).

To open the eyes that are blind is most likely a figurative expression. The servant will help those who are spiritually blind to see the light of God’s teaching (compare 29.18; 35.5). However, it is also possible that this line refers to those who are physically blind. The servant will heal them. Since real blind people may be in view here, translators should render this line fairly literally. They can give the possible figurative sense in a footnote. The word blind is a keyword in this chapter. It also appears in verses 16, 18, and 19 (three times).

To bring out the prisoners from the dungeon is most likely another figurative expression. If so, it may mean he will help the Israelites to return from Babylonian exile, or he will free those imprisoned by sin. However, this line may refer to the release of actual prisoners, so translators should render it fairly literally. Bring out may be rendered “set free.” The Hebrew word for dungeon is rendered “prison” in 24.22 (see the comments there).

From the prison those who sit in darkness is parallel and synonymous with the previous line. It also can have a figurative or literal meaning. The verb bring out is implied here.

Translation examples for this verse are:

• … in order to open the eyes of those who are blind,
to set prisoners free from dungeons,
to release from prison those who sit in darkness.

• You will give sight to those who are blind,
and release prisoners from their dungeons,
freeing them from the darkness in which they live.

• … to make blind people see,
to free prisoners from jail,
to bring them out of the darkness in which they live.

Quoted with permission from Ogden, Graham S. and Sterk, Jan. A Handbook on Isaiah. (UBS Helps for Translators). New York: UBS, 2011. For this and other handbooks for translators see here .