This text is very similar to the servant songs of Second Isaiah and has sometimes been included among them. The speaker here seems to be the prophet himself, telling about his own commission. He has been sent, he says, to bring good news, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn, and to give them a garland--using seven infinitives in the Hebrew text, no doubt as a symbolic number of completeness. God will do everything to comfort and liberate the people who have been distressed in exile.
The "year of the LORD's favor" refers to the Jubilee Year (Leviticus 25:8-17)--the fiftieth year, when all land was restored to the original owners and all slaves set free. All will be made new, says the prophet; all will be restored. The status quo is overturned; the poor and the oppressed are given a new beginning.
This text becomes the basis for Jesus' inaugural sermon in Luke 4:16-21. Jesus understands his own ministry to be the continuation and fulfillment of the work announced and begun here in Isaiah.
61The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the broken-hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lords favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to provide for those who mourn in Zion
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011