Isaiah, one of the greatest of the prophets, appeared at a critical moment in Israel’s history. The Northern Kingdom collapsed, under the hammerlike blows of Assyria, in 722/721 B.C., and in 701 Jerusalem itself saw the army of Sennacherib drawn up before its walls. In the year that Uzziah, king of Judah, died (742), Isaiah received his call to the prophetic office in the Temple of Jerusalem. Close attention should be given to chap. 6, where this divine summons to be the ambassador of the Most High is circumstantially described.
The vision of the Lord enthroned in glory stamps an indelible character on Isaiah’s ministry and provides a key to the understanding of his message. The majesty, holiness and glory of the Lord took possession of his spirit and, at the same time, he gained a new awareness of human pettiness and sinfulness. The enormous abyss between God’s sovereign holiness and human sinfulness overwhelmed the prophet. Only the purifying coal of the seraphim could cleanse his lips and prepare him for acceptance of the call: “Here I am, send me!”
The ministry of Isaiah extended from the death of Uzziah in 742 B.C. to Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C., and it may have continued even longer, until after the death of Hezekiah in 687 B.C. Later legend (the Martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah) claims that Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh, executed Isaiah by having him sawed in two; cf. Heb 11:37. During this long ministry, the prophet returned again and again to the same themes, and there are indications that he may have sometimes re-edited his older prophecies to fit new occasions. There is no evidence that the present arrangement of the oracles in the book reflects a chronological order. Indeed, it appears that there were originally separate smaller collections of oracles (note especially chaps. 6–12), each with its own logic for ordering, that were preserved fairly intact as blocks when the material was finally put together as a single literary work.
Isaiah’s oracles cluster around several key historical events of the late eighth century: the Syro-Ephraimite War (735–732 B.C.), the accession of Hezekiah (715 B.C.), the revolt of Ashdod (714–711 B.C.), the death of Sargon (705 B.C.), and the revolt against Sennacherib (705–701 B.C.). In 738 B.C., with the Assyrian defeat of Calno/Calneh (Is 10:9; Am 6:2), the anti-Assyrian league, of which Judah may have been the ringleader, collapsed, and both Israel and the Arameans of Damascus paid tribute to Assyria. By 735 B.C., however, Rezin of Damascus had created a new anti-Assyrian league, and when Ahaz refused to join, the league attempted to remove Ahaz from the throne of Judah. The resulting Syro-Ephraimite War was the original occasion for many of Isaiah’s oracles (cf. chaps. 7–8), in which he tried to reassure Ahaz of God’s protection and dissuade him from seeking protection by an alliance with Assyria. Ahaz refused Isaiah’s message, however.
When Hezekiah came to the throne in 715 B.C., Isaiah appears to have put great hopes in this new scion of David, and he undoubtedly supported the religious reform that Hezekiah undertook. But the old intrigues began again, and the king was sorely tempted to join with neighboring states in an alliance sponsored by Egypt against Assyria. Isaiah succeeded in keeping Hezekiah out of Ashdod’s abortive revolt against Assyria, but when Sargon died in 705 B.C., with both Egypt and Babylon encouraging revolt, Hezekiah was won over to the pro-Egyptian party. Isaiah denounced this “covenant with death” (28:15, 18), and again summoned Judah to faith in the Lord as the only hope. But it was too late; the revolt had already begun. Assyria acted quickly and its army, after ravaging Judah, laid siege to Jerusalem (701). “I shut up Hezekiah like a bird in his cage,” boasts the famous inscription of Sennacherib. The city was spared but at the cost of paying a huge indemnity to Assyria. Isaiah may have lived and prophesied for another dozen years after 701. There is material in the book that may plausibly be associated with Sennacherib’s campaign against Babylon and its Arabian allies in 694–689 B.C.
For Isaiah, the vision of God’s majesty was so overwhelming that military and political power faded into insignificance. He constantly called his people back to a reliance on God’s promises and away from vain attempts to find security in human plans and intrigues. This vision also led him to insist on the ethical behavior that was required of human beings who wished to live in the presence of such a holy God. Isaiah couched this message in oracles of singular poetic beauty and power, oracles in which surprising shifts in syntax, audacious puns, and double- or triple-entendre are a constant feature.
The complete Book of Isaiah is an anthology of poems composed chiefly by the great prophet, but also by disciples, some of whom came many years after Isaiah. In 1–39 most of the oracles come from Isaiah and reflect the situation in eighth-century Judah. Sections such as the Apocalypse of Isaiah (24–27), the oracles against Babylon (13–14), and probably the poems of 34–35 were written by followers deeply influenced by the prophet, in some cases reusing earlier Isaianic material; cf., e.g., 27:2–8 with 5:1–7.
Chapters 40–55 (Second Isaiah, or Deutero-Isaiah) are generally attributed to an anonymous poet who prophesied toward the end of the Babylonian exile. From this section come the great oracles known as the Servant Songs, which are reflected in the New Testament understanding of the passion and glorification of Christ. Chapters 56–66 (Third Isaiah, or Trito-Isaiah) contain oracles from the postexilic period and were composed by writers imbued with the spirit of Isaiah who continued his work.
The principal divisions of the Book of Isaiah are the following:
1* The vision which Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
2* Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth,
for the LORD speaks:
Sons have I raised and reared,
but they have rebelled against me!a
3An ox knows its owner,
and an ass,* its master’s manger;
But Israel does not know,
my people has not understood.b
4Ah!* Sinful nation, people laden with wickedness,
evil offspring, corrupt children!
They have forsaken the LORD,
spurned the Holy One of Israel,
5Why* would you yet be struck,
that you continue to rebel?
The whole head is sick,
the whole heart faint.
6From the sole of the foot to the head
there is no sound spot in it;
Just bruise and welt and oozing wound,
not drained, or bandaged,
or eased with salve.
7Your country is waste,
your cities burnt with fire;
Your land—before your eyes
strangers devour it,
a waste, like the devastation of Sodom.* d
8And daughter Zion* is left
like a hut in a vineyard,
Like a shed in a melon patch,
like a city blockaded.
9If the LORD of hosts* had not
left us a small remnant,
We would have become as Sodom,
would have resembled Gomorrah.e
10* Hear the word of the LORD,
princes of Sodom!
Listen to the instruction of our God,
people of Gomorrah!
11What do I care for the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the LORD.
I have had enough of whole-burnt rams
and fat of fatlings;
In the blood of calves, lambs, and goats
I find no pleasure.f
12When you come to appear before me,
who asks these things of you?
13Trample my courts no more!
To bring offerings is useless;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath, calling assemblies—
festive convocations with wickedness—
these I cannot bear.g
14Your new moons and festivals I detest;h
they weigh me down, I tire of the load.
15When you spread out your hands,
I will close my eyes to you;
Though you pray the more,
I will not listen.
Your hands are full of blood!* i
16Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil;
17learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.j
18Come now, let us set things right,*
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be red like crimson,
they may become white as wool.k
19If you are willing, and obey,
you shall eat the good things of the land;
20But if you refuse and resist,
you shall be eaten by the sword:
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken!
21How she has become a prostitute,
the faithful city,* so upright!
Justice used to lodge within her,
but now, murderers.l
22Your silver is turned to dross,
your wine is mixed with water.
23Your princes are rebels
and comrades of thieves;
Each one of them loves a bribe
and looks for gifts.
The fatherless they do not defend,
the widow’s plea does not reach them.m
24Now, therefore, says the Lord,
the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel:
Ah! I will take vengeance on my foes
and fully repay my enemies!n
25I will turn my hand against you,
and refine your dross in the furnace,
removing all your alloy.
26I will restore your judges* as at first,
and your counselors as in the beginning;
After that you shall be called
city of justice, faithful city.o
27* Zion shall be redeemed by justice,
and her repentant ones by righteousness.
28Rebels and sinners together shall be crushed,
those who desert the LORD shall be consumed.
29* You shall be ashamed of the terebinths which you desired,
and blush on account of the gardens which you chose.
30You shall become like a terebinth whose leaves wither,
like a garden that has no water.
31The strong tree shall turn to tinder,
and the one who tends it shall become a spark;
Both of them shall burn together,
and there shall be none to quench them.
* [1:1] The title, or inscription, of the book is an editorial addition to identify the prophet and the circumstances of his ministry. Isaiah: meaning “the salvation of the Lord,” or “the Lord is salvation.” Amoz: not Amos the prophet. Judah: the Southern Kingdom of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Uzziah: also called Azariah; cf. 2 Kgs 15:1; 2 Chr 26:1.
* [1:2–31] This chapter is widely considered to be a collection of oracles from various periods in Isaiah’s ministry, chosen by the editor as a compendium of his most characteristic teachings.
* [1:3] Ox…ass: Isaiah uses animals proverbial for their stupidity and stubbornness to underline Israel’s failure to respond to God. Israel: a term Isaiah (and other prophets) frequently applies to Judah, especially after the fall of the Northern Kingdom (which Isaiah normally calls Ephraim, as in 7:2, 9, 17; 9:8), but sometimes applies to the entire chosen people, as in 8:14.
* [1:4] Ah: see note on 5:8–24. Holy One of Israel: a title used frequently in the Book of Isaiah, rarely elsewhere in the Old Testament (see 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11, 12, 15; 31:1; 37:23; 41:14, 16, 20; 43:3, 14; 45:11; 47:4; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9, 14).
* [1:5–6] The Hebrew expression translated “Why?” may also be translated “Where?” The ambiguity is probably intentional: “Why, O Israel, would you still be beaten, and where on your bruised body do you want the next blow?” The bruised body is a metaphor for the historical disaster that has overtaken Israel (see v. 7) because of its sins.
* [1:7] Sodom: Sodom and Gomorrah (see vv. 9–10; cf. Gn 19) were proverbial as wicked cities completely overthrown and destroyed by God. Judah, more fortunate, survives at least as a remnant. The devastation of the land and the isolation of Jerusalem suggest the time of Sennacherib’s invasion of 701.
* [1:8] Daughter Zion: Jerusalem, as isolated as a little hut erected in a field for the shelter of watchmen and laborers.
* [1:9] LORD of hosts: God, who is the Creator and Ruler of the armies of Israel, the angels, stars, etc.
* [1:10–17] A powerful indictment of the religious hypocrisy of rulers and others who neglect just judgment and oppress the weaker members, yet believe they can please God with sacrifices and other external forms of worship. The long list of observances suggests the Lord’s tedium with such attempts. Sodom…Gomorrah: the names are picked up from v. 9, but now to emphasize their wickedness rather than the good fortune of escaping total destruction.
* [1:15–16] Hands…blood: oppression of the poor is likened to violence that bloodies the hands, which explains why the hands spread out in prayer (v. 15) are not regarded by the Lord. This climax of the accusations is followed by positive admonitions for reversing the evil situation.
* [1:18–20] Let us set things right: the Hebrew word refers to the arbitration of legal disputes (Jb 23:7). God offers to settle his case with Israel on the basis of the change of behavior demanded above. For Israel it is a life or death choice; life in conformity with God’s will or death for continued disobedience.
* [1:21–28] Faithful city: the phrase, found in v. 21 and v. 28, forms an inclusio which marks off the passage and also suggests three chronological periods: the city’s former ideal state, its present wicked condition (described in vv. 21b–23), and the future ideal conditions intended by God. This will be brought about by a purging judgment directed primarily against the leaders (“judges…counselors”).
* [1:26] Judges: the reference must be to royal judges appointed by David and his successors, not to the tribal judges of the Book of Judges, since the “beginning” of Jerusalem as an Israelite city dates only to the time of David. The Davidic era is idealized here; obtaining justice in the historical Jerusalem of David’s time was more problematic (see 2 Sm 15:1–6).
* [1:27–28] These verses expand the oracle that originally ended at v. 26. The expansion correctly interprets the preceding text as proclaiming a purifying judgment on Zion in which the righteous are saved while the wicked perish. The meaning of “by justice” and “by righteousness” is ambiguous. Do these terms refer to God’s judgment or to the justice and righteousness of Zion’s surviving inhabitants? Is 33:14–16 suggests the latter interpretation.
* [1:29–31] These verses were secondarily inserted here on the catch word principle; like v. 28 they pronounce judgment on certain parties “together” (v. 31). The terebinths and gardens refer to the sacred groves or asherahs that functioned as idolatrous cultic symbols at the popular shrines or high places (1 Kgs 14:23; 2 Kgs 17:10). Hezekiah cut down these groves during his reform (2 Kgs 18:4); they were a religious issue during Isaiah’s ministry (cf. Is 17:7–11). Isaiah threatens those who cultivate these symbols with the same fate that befalls trees when deprived of water.
a. [1:2] Dt 32:1, 5–6, 18.
b. [1:3] Jer 8:7; Lk 2:12.
c. [1:4] Is 5:24; Dt 32:15.
d. [1:7] Is 13:19; Dt 29:22; Jer 49:18; 50:40; Am 4:11.
e. [1:9] Rom 9:29.
f. [1:11] Ps 50:8–13; Sir 34:23; Mi 6:7.
g. [1:13] Prv 15:8; Jer 6:20.
h. [1:14] Am 5:21–24.
i. [1:15] Prv 1:28; Sir 34:25–31.
j. [1:17] Ex 23:6; Dt 24:17; Sir 4:9–10; Jer 22:3; Ez 22:7; Am 5:14–15; Zec 7:9–10.
k. [1:18] Ps 51:9.
l. [1:21] Jer 3:8; Hos 2:7.
m. [1:23] Ex 23:8; Dt 16:19.
n. [1:24] Dt 32:41.
o. [1:26] Jer 33:7–11; Zec 8:8.
1* This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2* In days to come,
The mountain of the LORD’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it.a
3Many peoples shall come and say:
“Come, let us go up to the LORD’s mountain,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
That he may instruct us in his ways,
and we may walk in his paths.”b
For from Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
4* He shall judge between the nations,
and set terms for many peoples.
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;c
One nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.d
5* House of Jacob, come,
let us walk in the light of the LORD!
6You have abandoned your people,
the house of Jacob!
Because they are filled with diviners,
and soothsayers, like the Philistines;
with foreigners they clasp hands.e
7Their land is full of silver and gold,
there is no end to their treasures;
Their land is full of horses,
there is no end to their chariots.
8Their land is full of idols;
they bow down to the works of their hands,
what their fingers have made.f
9So all shall be abased,
each one brought low.*
Do not pardon them!
10Get behind the rocks,
hide in the dust,
From the terror of the LORD
and the splendor of his majesty!
11The eyes of human pride shall be lowered,
the arrogance of mortals shall be abased,
and the LORD alone will be exalted, on that day.*
12For the LORD of hosts will have his day
against all that is proud and arrogant,
against all that is high, and it will be brought low;
13Yes, against all the cedars of Lebanon*
and against all the oaks of Bashan,
14Against all the lofty mountains
and all the high hills,
15Against every lofty tower
and every fortified wall,
16Against all the ships of Tarshish
and all stately vessels.
17Then human pride shall be abased,
the arrogance of mortals brought low,
And the LORD alone will be exalted on that day.
18The idols will vanish completely.
19People will go into caves in the rocks
and into holes in the earth,
At the terror of the LORD
and the splendor of his majesty,
as he rises to overawe the earth.
20On that day people shall throw to moles and bats
their idols of silver and their idols of gold
which they made for themselves to worship.
21And they shall go into caverns in the rocks
and into crevices in the cliffs,
At the terror of the LORD
and the splendor of his majesty,
as he rises to overawe the earth.
22* As for you, stop worrying about mortals,
in whose nostrils is but a breath;
for of what worth are they?
* [2:1] This editorial heading probably introduced the collection of chaps. 2–12, to which chap. 1 with its introduction was added later (see note on 1:2–31).
* [2:2–22] These verses contain two very important oracles, one on the pilgrimage of nations to Mount Zion (vv. 2–4—completed with an invitation to the “house of Jacob,” v. 5), the other on the day of the Lord (see note on Am 5:18), which was probably composed from at least two earlier pieces. Whereas vv. 6–8 indict Judah for trust in superstitious practices and human resources rather than in the Lord, the following verses are directed against humankind in general and emphasize the effect of the “day of the Lord,” the humbling of human pride. This may be taken as a precondition for the glorious vision of vv. 2–4. This vision of Zion’s glorious future, which is also found in a slightly variant form in Mi 4:1–4, is rooted in the early Zion tradition, cultivated in the royal cult in Jerusalem. It celebrated God’s choice of Jerusalem as the divine dwelling place, along with God’s choice of the Davidic dynasty (Ps 68:16–17; 78:67–72; 132:13–18). Highest mountain: the Zion tradition followed earlier mythological conceptions that associate the abode of deities with very high mountains (Ps 48:2–3). The lifting of Mount Zion is a metaphor for universal recognition of the Lord’s authority.
* [2:4] Once the nations acknowledge God as sovereign, they go up to Jerusalem to settle their disputes, rather than having recourse to war.
* [2:5] This verse is added as a conclusion to vv. 2–4; cf. Mi 4:4–5, where a quite different conclusion is provided for the parallel version of this oracle.
* [2:9] Bowing down to idols will not bring deliverance to Israel, but rather total abasement. Do not pardon them: this line is so abrupt that it is almost certainly an intrusion in the text.
* [2:11] That day: i.e., the day of the Lord; cf. note on Am 5:18.
* [2:13] Lebanon: Mount Lebanon in Syria, famed for its cedars. Bashan: the fertile uplands east of the Sea of Galilee.
* [2:22] The meaning of this verse, certainly a later addition, is not clear. It is not addressed to God but to a plural subject.
a. [2:2–4] Mi 4:1–4.
b. [2:3] Is 56:7; 2 Kgs 17:26–28; Jer 31:6–14; Zec 8:20–23.
c. [2:4] Jl 4:10.
d. [2:4] Is 9:7; 11:4; Ps 46:10; Zec 9:10.
e. [2:6] Is 10:32.
f. [2:8] Is 17:7–8; 31:1–3.
1* The Lord, the LORD of hosts,
will take away from Jerusalem and from Judah
Support and staff—
all support of bread,
all support of water:a
2Hero and warrior,
judge and prophet, diviner and elder,
3The captain of fifty and the nobleman,
counselor, skilled magician, and expert charmer.
4I will place boys as their princes;
the fickle will govern them,b
5And the people will oppress one another,
yes, each one the neighbor.
The child will be insolent toward the elder,
and the base toward the honorable.c
6When anyone seizes a brother
in their father’s house, saying,
“You have clothes! Be our ruler,
and take in hand this ruin!”—
7He will cry out in that day:
“I cannot be a healer,d
when there is neither bread nor clothing in my own house!
You will not make me a ruler of the people!”
8Jerusalem has stumbled, Judah has fallen;
for their speech and deeds affront the LORD,
a provocation in the sight of his majesty.
9Their very look bears witness against them;e
they boast of their sin like Sodom,f
They do not hide it.
Woe to them!
They deal out evil to themselves.
10Happy the just, for it will go well with them,
the fruit of their works they will eat.
11Woe to the wicked! It will go ill with them,
with the work of their hands they will be repaid.
12My people—infants oppress them,
women rule over them!
My people, your leaders deceive you,g
they confuse the paths you should follow.
13* The LORD rises to accuse,
stands to try his people.
14The Lord enters into judgment
with the people’s elders and princes:
You, you who have devoured the vineyard;
the loot wrested from the poor is in your houses.
15What do you mean by crushing my people,
and grinding down the faces of the poor?
says the Lord, the GOD of hosts.
16The LORD said:h
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty,
and walk with necks outstretched,
Ogling and mincing as they go,
their anklets tinkling with every step,
17The Lord shall cover the scalps of Zion’s daughters with scabs,
and the LORD shall lay bare their heads.* i
18* On that day the LORD will do away with the finery of the anklets, sunbursts, and crescents; 19the pendants, bracelets, and veils; 20the headdresses, bangles, cinctures, perfume boxes, and amulets; 21the signet rings, and the nose rings; 22the court dresses, wraps, cloaks, and purses; 23the lace gowns, linen tunics, turbans, and shawls.
24Instead of perfume there will be stench,
instead of a girdle, a rope,
And instead of elaborate coiffure, baldness;
instead of a rich gown, a sackcloth skirt.
Then, instead of beauty, shame.
25Your men will fall by the sword,
and your champions,* in war;j
26Her gates will lament and mourn,
as the city sits desolate on the ground.k
* [3:1–12] These verses suggest deportation, with resulting social upheaval, and thus may date to sometime after Ahaz submitted as vassal to Assyria. The deportation practiced by Assyria, as later by Babylon, exiled the leading elements of society, such as those named in vv. 2–3; cf. 2 Kgs 24:12, 14–16 for a similar list of those exiled by the Babylonians. Denuding society of its leaders opens the way to near anarchy and a situation in which leadership is seized by or thrust upon those unqualified for it (vv. 5–7). The situation has been provoked by sinfully inept leadership (vv. 4, 8–9, 12). Some suggest that vv. 4 and 12 refer to Ahaz, who may have come to the throne at an early age. Verses 10–11 form a wisdom couplet that was inserted later.
* [3:13–15] The princes and the elders, here accused of despoiling the poor, are the very ones who should be their defenders. Loot: by the Hebrew term (gazela) Isaiah conveys the idea of violent seizure, though 10:1–4 suggests the poor could be plundered by legal means.
* [3:16–4:1] Here and again in 32:9–14 Isaiah condemns the women of the ruling class for their part in Jerusalem’s plight.
* [3:17] A shaven head is a mark of social disgrace; cf. Nm 5:18.
* [3:18–23] The long list of women’s apparel in these verses suggests luxury and vanity; it contains a number of rare words, and the precise meaning of many of the terms is uncertain.
* [3:25] Your men…your champions: the second person feminine singular pronoun here shows that the prophet has shifted his attention from the women of Zion to the personified city of Zion.
a. [3:1] Lv 26:26; Ez 4:16.
b. [3:4] Eccl 10:16.
c. [3:5] Mi 7:5–6.
d. [3:7] Is 1:6.
e. [3:9] Jer 3:3.
f. [3:9] Is 1:10.
g. [3:12] Mi 3:5.
h. [3:16] Is 32:9–14; Ez 16:50; Am 4:1–3.
i. [3:17] Jer 13:26; Ez 16:37.
j. [3:25] Hos 14:1.
k. [3:26] Is 47:1; Lam 2:10.
1Seven women will take hold of one man*
on that day, saying:
“We will eat our own food
and wear our own clothing;
Only let your name be given us,
put an end to our disgrace!”
2* On that day,
The branch* of the LORD will be beauty and glory,
and the fruit of the land will be honor and splendor
for the survivors of Israel.
3Everyone who remains in Zion,
everyone left in Jerusalem
Will be called holy:
everyone inscribed for life* in Jerusalem.a
4When the Lord washes away
the filth of the daughters of Zion,
And purges Jerusalem’s blood from her midst
with a blast of judgment, a searing blast,b
5Then will the LORD create,
over the whole site of Mount Zion
and over her place of assembly,
A smoking cloud by day
and a light of flaming fire by night.c
6For over all, his glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,
refuge and cover from storm and rain.d
* [4:1] Seven women…one man: deportation (cf. note on 3:1–12) would result in a disproportion of the sexes and leave the female population without enough male partners. The women are willing to marry, not for support, but to avoid disgrace.
* [4:2–6] Usually judged a later addition to the oracles of Isaiah. It relieves the threatening tone of the surrounding chaps. 3 and 5.
* [4:2] Branch: the term (Heb. semah) that is sometimes used of the ideal Davidic king of the future (cf. Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zec 3:8; 6:12). However, the parallel “fruit of the land” does not favor that usage here.
* [4:3] Inscribed for life: in God’s list of the elect; cf. Ex 32:32.
a. [4:3] Is 6:13; Ob 17; Mal 3:16.
b. [4:4] Is 1:21–28.
c. [4:5] Ex 13:21.
d. [4:6] Is 32:1–2.
1Now let me sing of my friend,
my beloved’s song about his vineyard.
My friend had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside;
2He spaded it, cleared it of stones,
and planted the choicest vines;
Within it he built a watchtower,
and hewed out a wine press.
Then he waited for the crop of grapes,
but it yielded rotten grapes.a
3Now, inhabitants of Jerusalem, people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard:
4What more could be done for my vineyard
that I did not do?b
Why, when I waited for the crop of grapes,
did it yield rotten grapes?
5Now, I will let you know
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
Take away its hedge, give it to grazing,
break through its wall, let it be trampled!*
6Yes, I will make it a ruin:
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
but will be overgrown with thorns and briers;
I will command the clouds
not to rain upon it.
7The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel,
the people of Judah, his cherished plant;
He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed!
for justice, but hark, the outcry!*
8* Ah! Those who join house to house,
who connect field with field,
Until no space remains, and you alone dwell
in the midst of the land!c
9In my hearing the LORD of hosts has sworn:d
Many houses shall be in ruins,
houses large and fine, with nobody living there.e
10Ten acres of vineyard
shall yield but one bath,*
And a homer of seed
shall yield but an ephah.
11* Ah! Those who rise early in the morning
in pursuit of strong drink,
inflamed by wine,
12Banqueting on wine with harp and lyre,
timbrel and flute,f
But the deed of the LORD they do not regard,
the work of his hands they do not see!g
13Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of understanding,h
Its nobles starving,
its masses parched with thirst.
14Therefore Sheol enlarges its throat
and opens its mouth beyond measure;i
Down into it go nobility and masses,
tumult and revelry.
15All shall be abased, each one brought low,
and the eyes of the haughty lowered,j
16But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted by judgment,
by justice the Holy God shown holy.k
17Lambs shall graze as at pasture,
young goats shall eat in the ruins of the rich.
18Ah! Those who tug at guilt with cords of perversity,
and at sin as if with cart ropes!
19* Who say, “Let him make haste,
let him speed his work, that we may see it;
On with the plan of the Holy One of Israel!
let it come to pass, that we may know it!”l
20Ah! Those who call evil good, and good evil,
who change darkness to light, and light into darkness,
who change bitter to sweet, and sweet into bitter!m
21Ah! Those who are wise in their own eyes,
prudent in their own view!n
22Ah! Those who are champions at drinking wine,
masters at mixing drink!
23Those who acquit the guilty for bribes,
and deprive the innocent of justice!o
24Therefore, as the tongue of fire licks up stubble,
as dry grass shrivels in the flame,
Their root shall rot
and their blossom scatter like dust;
For they have rejected the instruction of the LORD of hosts,
and scorned the word of the Holy One of Israel.
25* Therefore the wrath of the LORD blazes against his people,
he stretches out his hand to strike them;
The mountains quake,p
their corpses shall be like refuse in the streets.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
his hand is still outstretched.
26He will raise a signal to a far-off nation,
and whistle for it from the ends of the earth.q
Then speedily and promptly they will come.
27None among them is weary, none stumbles,
none will slumber, none will sleep.
None with waist belt loose,
none with sandal thong broken.
28Their arrows are sharp,
and all their bows are bent,
The hooves of their horses like flint,
and their chariot wheels like the whirlwind.
29They roar like the lion,
like young lions, they roar;
They growl and seize the prey,
they carry it off and none can rescue.
30They will growl over it, on that day,
like the growling of the sea,
Look to the land—
darkness closing in,
the light dark with clouds!r
* [5:1–7] Vineyard: although the term is sometimes used in an erotic context (Sg 1:6; 8:12), “vineyard” or “vine” is used more frequently as a metaphor for God’s people (27:2; Ps 80:9, 14, 15; Jer 2:21; 12:10; Ez 17:7; Hos 10:1; Na 2:2). The terms translated “friend” (yadid) and “beloved” (dod) suggest the Lord’s favor (Dt 33:12; 2 Sm 12:25; Ps 127:2) and familial background rather than introducing the piece as a “love song,” as is sometimes suggested. The prophet disguises the real theme (the people’s infidelity) so that the hearers will participate in the unfavorable judgment called for (vv. 3–4). Cf. the reversal of this parable in 27:2–6.
* [5:5–6] Trampled…thorns and briers: this judgment is echoed in the description of the devastated land in 7:23–25.
* [5:7] Judgment…bloodshed…justice…outcry: in Hebrew there is an impressive play on words: mishpat parallels mispah, sedaqah parallels se‘aqah. See also the threefold “waited for” in vv. 2, 4, 7.
* [5:8–24] These verses contain a series of short oracles introduced by the Hebrew particle hoy (“Ah!”), an emphatic exclamation, sometimes translated “Woe!”
* [5:8–10] An oracle against land-grabbers (v. 8); they will be impoverished instead of enriched (vv. 9–10).
* [5:10] Ten acres: a field with ten times the surface area a yoke of oxen could plow in one day. Bath: a liquid measure equal to about twelve gallons. Homer: a dry measure equal to what a donkey can carry, calculated to be about ten bushels. Ephah: a dry measure of about one bushel. So small a harvest is the fruit of the land-grabbers’ greed.
* [5:11–13] An oracle against debauchery and indifference. Strong drink: the Hebrew word shekar means either beer or a type of wine, perhaps date wine, not distilled liquor.
* [5:19] An indication that some, presumably of the ruling class, scoff at Isaiah’s teaching on the Lord’s “plan” and “work” (cf. v. 12; 14:26–27; 28:9–14; 30:10–11).
* [5:25–30] These verses do not suit their present context. Apparently v. 25 was originally the conclusion of the poem of 9:7–20 directed against the Northern Kingdom; cf. the refrain that occurs here and in 9:11, 16, and 20. Verses 26–30 look to an invasion by Assyria and might originally have come immediately after the poem of 9:1–20 plus 5:25. The insertion of chaps. 6–8 may have occasioned the dislocation, as well as that of 10:1–4a, which may have originally belonged with the “reproach” oracles of 5:8–23.
* [5:26–30] This oracle threatens a future judgment, an invasion of the Assyrian army, God’s instrument for punishing Judah (10:5, 15).
a. [5:2] Dt 32:32.
b. [5:4] Mi 6:3–5.
c. [5:8] Mi 2:1–3.
d. [5:9] Is 22:14.
e. [5:9] Is 6:12.
f. [5:12] Is 5:22; Am 6:1–7.
g. [5:12] Is 5:19; 10:12; 14:24–27; 19:12, 17; 23:9; 28:21; 30:1.
h. [5:13] Hos 4:6.
i. [5:14] Hb 2:5.
j. [5:15] Is 2:9, 11, 17.
k. [5:16] Is 1:27.
l. [5:19] Jer 17:15; 2 Pt 3:3–4.
m. [5:20] Is 32:4–5.
n. [5:21] Prv 3:7; 26:12; Rom 11:25; 12:16.
o. [5:23] Ex 23:8; Prv 17:15.
p. [5:25] Am 1:1; Zec 14:5; cf. Is 9:18a.
q. [5:26] Is 7:18; 11:12; Jer 4:6; 50:2.
r. [5:30] Is 8:22.
The Sending of Isaiah. 1In the year King Uzziah died,* I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne,a with the train of his garment filling the temple. 2Seraphim* were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they hovered.b 3One cried out to the other:
“Holy, holy, holy* is the LORD of hosts!
All the earth is filled with his glory!”
4At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke.* c
5Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed!* For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips,d and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar.
7He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips,* your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.”e
8Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” 9* And he replied: Go and say to this people:
Listen carefully, but do not understand!
Look intently, but do not perceive!f
10Make the heart of this people sluggish,
dull their ears and close their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears,
and their heart understand,
and they turn and be healed.g
11“How long, O Lord?” I asked. And he replied:
* Until the cities are desolate,
Houses, without people,
and the land is a desolate waste.
12Until the LORD sends the people far away,
and great is the desolation in the midst of the land.
13If there remain a tenth part in it,
then this in turn shall be laid waste;
As with a terebinth or an oak
whose trunk remains when its leaves have fallen.* h
Holy offspring is the trunk.
* [6:1] In the year King Uzziah died: probably 742 B.C., although the chronology of this period is disputed. A high and lofty throne: within the holy of holies of the Jerusalem Temple stood two cherubim, or winged sphinxes, whose outstretched wings served as the divine throne (1 Kgs 6:23–28; Ez 1:4–28; 10:1, 20). The ark of the covenant was God’s footstool (Ps 132:7–8; 1 Chr 28:2), placed under the cherubim (1 Kgs 8:6–7). Temple: the holy place, just in front of the holy of holies.
* [6:2] Seraphim: the plural of saraph (“to burn”), a term used to designate the “fiery” serpents of the wilderness (Nm 21:8; Dt 8:15), and to refer to “winged” serpents (Is 14:29; 30:6). Here, however, it is used adjectivally of the cherubim, who are not serpent-like, as seen in the fact that they have faces and sexual parts (“feet”). See the adaptation of these figures by Ezekiel (Ez 1:10–12; 10:4–15).
* [6:3] Holy, holy, holy: these words have been used in Christian liturgy from the earliest times.
* [6:4] Smoke: reminiscent of the clouds which indicated God’s presence at Mount Sinai (Ex 19:16–19; Dt 4:11) and which filled the tabernacle (Ex 40:34–38) and the Temple (1 Kgs 8:10–11) at their dedication.
* [6:5] Doomed: there are two roots from which the verb here could be derived; one means “to perish, be doomed,” the other “to become silent,” and given Isaiah’s delight in puns and double entendre, he probably intended to sound both notes. “I am doomed!” is suggested by the popular belief that to see God would lead to one’s death; cf. Gn 32:31; Ex 33:20; Jgs 13:22. “I am struck silent!” is suggested by the emphasis on the lips in vv. 5–6, and such silence is attested elsewhere as the appropriate response to the vision of the Lord in the Temple (Hb 2:20).
* [6:7] Touched your lips: Isaiah is thus symbolically purified of sin in preparation for his mission as God’s prophet.
* [6:9–10] Isaiah’s words give evidence that he attempted in every way, through admonition, threat, and promise, to bring the people to conversion (cf. 1:18–20), so it is unlikely that this charge to “harden” is to be understood as Isaiah’s task; more probably it reflects the refusal of the people, more particularly the leaders, who were supposed to “see,” “hear,” and “understand,” a refusal which would then lead to a disastrous outcome (vv. 11–12).
* [6:11–12] The desolation described would be the result of the sort of deportation practiced by the Assyrians and later by the Babylonians. Isaiah seems to expect this as an eventual consequence of Judah’s submission as vassal to the Assyrians; cf. 3:1–3; 5:13.
* [6:13] When its leaves have fallen: the meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain, and the text may be corrupt. Holy offspring: part of the phrase is missing from the Septuagint and may be a later addition; it provides a basis for hope for the future.
a. [6:1] 1 Kgs 22:19–23; Jn 12:41.
b. [6:2] Rev 4:8.
c. [6:4] Rev 15:8.
d. [6:5] Is 29:13; Mt 15:1–11; Mk 7:1–13; Col 2:20–23.
e. [6:7] Jer 1:9; Dn 10:16.
f. [6:9] Mt 13:10–17; Mk 4:10–12; Lk 8:9–10; Acts 28:25–28.
g. [6:10] Jer 5:21; Jn 12:40.
h. [6:13] Is 10:22.
Crisis in Judah. 1In the days of Ahaz,* king of Judah, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, Rezin, king of Aram, and Pekah, king of Israel, son of Remaliah, went up to attack Jerusalem, but they were not able to conquer it.a 2When word came to the house of David that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, the heart of the king and heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.
3Then the LORD said to Isaiah: Go out to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub,* at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller’s field, 4and say to him: Take care you remain calm and do not fear; do not let your courage fail before these two stumps of smoldering brands,b the blazing anger of Rezin and the Arameans and of the son of Remaliah— 5because Aram, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has planned* evil against you. They say, 6“Let us go up against Judah, tear it apart, make it our own by force, and appoint the son of Tabeel* king there.”
7Thus says the Lord GOD:
It shall not stand, it shall not be!c
8* The head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is Rezin;
9The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.
Within sixty-five years,
Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation.
Unless your faith is firm,
you shall not be firm!d
Emmanuel. 10Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: 11Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as Sheol, or high as the sky!* 12But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”* 13Then he said: Listen, house of David! Is it not enough that you weary human beings? Must you also weary my God? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign;* the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel. 15Curds and honey* he will eat so that he may learn to reject evil and choose good; 16for before the child learns to reject evil and choose good, the land of those two kings whom you dread shall be deserted.
17The LORD shall bring upon you and your people and your father’s house such days as have not come since Ephraim seceded* from Judah (the king of Assyria). 18On that day
The LORD shall whistle
for the fly in the farthest streams of Egypt,
and for the bee in the land of Assyria.e
19All of them shall come and settle
in the steep ravines and in the rocky clefts,
on all thornbushes and in all pastures.
20* On that day the Lord shall shave with the razor hired from across the River (the king of Assyria) the head, and the hair of the feet; it shall also shave off the beard.f
21On that day a man shall keep alive a young cow or a couple of sheep, 22and from their abundant yield of milk he shall eat curds; curds and honey shall be the food of all who are left in the land. 23* On that day every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand pieces of silver shall become briers and thorns. 24One shall have to go there with bow and arrows, for all the country shall be briers and thorns.g 25But as for all the hills which were hoed with a mattock, for fear of briers and thorns you will not go there; they shall become a place for cattle to roam and sheep to trample.h
* [7:1–8:18] These verses (often termed Isaiah’s “Memoirs”) contain a series of oracles and narratives (some in first person), all closely related to the Syro-Ephraimite war of 735–732 B.C. Several passages feature three children whose symbolic names refer to the Lord’s purposes: Shear-jashub (7:3), Emmanuel (7:10–17; 8:8–10), and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (8:1–4). Judah and its Davidic dynasty should trust God’s promises and not fear the combined armies of Israel and Syria; within a very short time these two enemy states will be destroyed, and David’s dynasty will continue.
* [7:1] Days of Ahaz: who ruled from 735 to 715 B.C. This attack against Jerusalem by the kings of Aram (Syria) and Israel in 735 B.C. was occasioned by the refusal of Ahaz to enter with them into an anti-Assyrian alliance; cf. 2 Kgs 16.
* [7:3] Shear-jashub: this name means “a remnant will return” (cf. 10:20–22).
* [7:5] Planned: the plans of those who plot against Ahaz shall not be accomplished (v. 7). What the Lord plans will unfailingly come to pass, whereas human plans contrary to those of the Lord are doomed to frustration; cf. 8:10; 14:24–27; 19:11–14; 29:15; 30:1. See further the note on 14:24–27.
* [7:6] Son of Tabeel: a puppet of Jerusalem’s enemies. His appointment would interrupt the lawful succession from David.
* [7:8–9] God had chosen and made a commitment to David’s dynasty and his capital city Jerusalem, not to Rezin and his capital Damascus, nor to the son of Remaliah and his capital Samaria (2 Sm 7:12–16; Ps 2:6; 78:68–72; 132:11–18). Within sixty-five years…nation: this text occurs at the end of v. 8 in the Hebrew. Ahaz would not have been reassured by so distant a promise; the phrase is probably a later addition.
* [7:11] Deep…sky: an extraordinary or miraculous sign that would prove God’s firm will to save the royal house of David from its oppressors.
* [7:12] Tempt the LORD: Ahaz prefers to depend upon the might of Assyria rather than the might of God.
* [7:14] Isaiah’s sign seeks to reassure Ahaz that he need not fear the invading armies of Syria and Israel in the light of God’s promise to David (2 Sm 7:12–16). The oracle follows a traditional announcement formula by which the birth and sometimes naming of a child is promised to particular individuals (Gn 16:11; Jgs 13:3). The young woman: Hebrew ‘almah designates a young woman of marriageable age without specific reference to virginity. The Septuagint translated the Hebrew term as parthenos, which normally does mean virgin, and this translation underlies Mt 1:23. Emmanuel: the name means “with us is God.” Since for the Christian the incarnation is the ultimate expression of God’s willingness to “be with us,” it is understandable that this text was interpreted to refer to the birth of Christ.
* [7:15–16] Curds and honey: the only diet available to those who are left after the devastation of the land; cf. vv. 21–25.
* [7:17] Such days as have not come since Ephraim seceded: the days of the kingdom prior to the secession of Ephraim and the other northern tribes (1 Kgs 12). The king of Assyria: the final comment appears to be a later editorial gloss indicating days worse than any since the secession.
* [7:20] God will use the Assyrians from across the River (the Euphrates) as his instrument (“razor”) to inflict disgrace and suffering upon his people. Ahaz paid tribute to the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III, who decimated Syria and Israel in his campaigns of 734–732 B.C. (cf. 2 Kgs 16:7–9). The feet: euphemism for sexual parts; cf. Is 6:2.
* [7:23–25] Cf. note on 5:5–6.
a. [7:1] 2 Kgs 16:5; 2 Chr 28:5–15.
b. [7:4] Is 8:12; 30:15.
c. [7:7] Is 8:10; Ps 33:10.
d. [7:9] 2 Chr 20:20.
e. [7:18] Is 5:26.
f. [7:20] Is 3:24; 2 Sm 10:4–6; Ez 5:1.
g. [7:24] Is 32:13.
h. [7:25] Is 5:5; 32:14.
A Son of Isaiah. 1The LORD said to me: Take a large tablet, and inscribe on it with an ordinary stylus,* “belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz,”a 2and call reliable witnesses* for me, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah, son of Jeberechiah.
3Then I went to the prophetess and she conceived and bore a son. The LORD said to me: Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz, 4for before the child learns to say, “My father, my mother,” the wealth of Damascus and the spoils of Samaria shall be carried off by the king of Assyria.
The Choice: The Lord or Assyria. 5Again the LORD spoke to me:
6Because this people* has rejected
the waters of Shiloah that flow gently,
And melts with fear at the display of Rezin and Remaliah’s son,
7Therefore the Lord is bringing up against them
the waters of the River, great and mighty,
the king of Assyria and all his glory.
It shall rise above all its channels,
and overflow all its banks.
8It shall roll on into Judah,
it shall rage and pass on—
up to the neck it shall reach.b
But his outspread wings will fill
the width of your land, Emmanuel!
9Band together, O peoples, but be shattered!
Give ear, all you distant lands!
Arm yourselves, but be shattered! Arm yourselves, but be shattered!
10Form a plan, it shall be thwarted;
make a resolve, it shall not be carried out,
for “With us is God!”* c
Disciples of Isaiah. 11For thus said the LORD—his hand strong upon me—warning me not to walk in the way of this people:
12* Do not call conspiracy what this people calls conspiracy,
nor fear what they fear, nor feel dread.
13But conspire with the LORD of hosts;
he shall be your fear, he shall be your dread.d
14He shall be a snare,
a stone for injury,
A rock for stumbling
to both the houses of Israel,
A trap and a snare
to those who dwell in Jerusalem;e
15And many among them shall stumble;
fallen and broken;
snared and captured.f
16Bind up my testimony, seal the instruction with my disciples.* 17I will trust in the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob; yes, I will wait for him. 18Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me: we are signs* and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.g
19And when they say to you, “Inquire of ghosts and soothsayers who chirp and mutter;* h should not a people inquire of their gods, consulting the dead on behalf of the living, 20for instruction and testimony?” Surely, those who speak like this are the ones for whom there is no dawn.*
21He will pass through it hard-pressed and hungry,
and when hungry, shall become enraged,
and curse king and gods.
He will look upward,
22and will gaze at the earth,
But will see only distress and darkness,
murky, without light.*
The Promise of Salvation Under a New Davidic King.* 23There is no gloom where there had been distress. Where once he degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, now he has glorified the way of the Sea, the land across the Jordan, Galilee of the Nations.*
* [8:1] Ordinary stylus: lit., “stylus of men.” Maher-shalal-hash-baz: a symbolic name to be given to another son of Isaiah (v. 3); it means “quick spoils; speedy plunder,” and describes what the Assyrians will do to Syria and Israel.
* [8:2] Reliable witnesses: who would testify that Isaiah had indeed prophesied the future destruction. Uriah the priest: cf. 2 Kgs 16:10.
* [8:6–8] This people: Judah. Waters of Shiloah: the stream that flows from the Gihon spring into the pool of Shiloah in Jerusalem and provides a sure supply in time of siege; here it symbolizes the divine protection which Judah has rejected by seeking Assyrian support, symbolized by “the River” (i.e., the Euphrates). Ultimately Assyrian power will devastate Judah. His outspread wings: the Lord’s wings, a recurring symbol for divine protection (Ps 17:8; 36:8; 57:2; 61:5; 91:4; Ru 2:12). Some understand the image to refer to the sides of the flooding river, but this use of the Hebrew word for “wings” is unparalleled elsewhere in classical Hebrew.
* [8:10] The plan of Israel’s enemies will be thwarted because, as the name “Emmanuel” signifies, “with us is God.”
* [8:12–14] Because Isaiah and his followers resisted the official policy of seeking help from Assyria they were labeled “conspirators”; Isaiah uses the term to express what is really the case, cooperating with the Lord.
* [8:16] Bind…seal…with my disciples: because the prophet’s message was not well received at the time, he wanted to preserve it until the future had vindicated him as God’s true prophet (cf. 30:8–9).
* [8:18] Signs: in the meantime, while awaiting the vindication of his message, Isaiah and his children with their symbolic names stood as a reminder of God’s message to Israel.
* [8:19] Chirp and mutter: a mocking reference to necromancers.
* [8:20] Surely…no dawn: reliance on necromancy brings futility.
* [8:22] Oppressive gloom…without light: the meaning of the Hebrew here is quite uncertain.
* [8:23–9:6] The meaning of 8:23 is somewhat uncertain, for example, whether the expressions translated “once” and “now” refer to times or to individuals, and also whether the verbs speak of degrading and glorifying the territories. If this traditional translation is correct, the passage would seem to promise the former Northern Kingdom of Israel deliverance from the Assyrians and might relate to Hezekiah’s program of trying to reincorporate the northern territories into the kingdom of Judah and thus restore the boundaries of the country as it was under David.
* [8:23] The territories mentioned in this verse are those which the Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III took from Israel and incorporated into the Assyrian provincial system as a result of the Syro-Ephraimite War of 735–732 B.C. (2 Kgs 15:29). Zebulun…Naphtali: regions of the former Northern Kingdom of Israel. The way of the Sea: the area along the Mediterranean coast south of Mount Carmel which became the Assyrian province of Dor. Land across the Jordan: the province of Gilead east of the Jordan. Galilee of the Nations: the territory north of Mount Carmel which was incorporated in the Assyrian province of Megiddo. Galilee apparently had a large non-Israelite population. Mt 4:15–16 cites this verse in the context of the beginning of Jesus’ public mission in Galilee.
a. [8:1] Is 10:6.
b. [8:8] Is 30:28.
c. [8:10] Is 7:7; 17:12–14.
d. [8:13] Is 29:23; 1 Pt 3:14–15.
e. [8:14] Lk 2:34; Rom 9:32–33; 1 Pt 2:7–8.
f. [8:15] Mt 21:44.
g. [8:18] Is 2:2–5; 4:5; 11:9; 14:32; 28:16; 31:9; 33:5.
h. [8:19] Is 29:4.
1The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone.a
2You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing;
They rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest,
as they exult when dividing the spoils.
3For the yoke that burdened them,
the pole on their shoulder,
The rod of their taskmaster,
you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.* b
4For every boot that tramped in battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
will be burned as fuel for fire.c
5For a child* is born to us, a son is given to us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,d
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
6His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
Upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
By judgment and justice,
both now and forever.e
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!
7The Lord has sent a word against Jacob,
and it falls upon Israel;
8And all the people know it—
Ephraim and those who dwell in Samaria—
those who say in arrogance and pride of heart,
9“Bricks have fallen,
but we will rebuild with cut stone;
Sycamores have been felled,
but we will replace them with cedars.”f
10So the LORD raises up their foes against them
and stirs up their enemies to action—
11Aram* from the east and the Philistines from the west—
they devour Israel with open mouth.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
and his hand is still outstretched!
12The people do not turn back to the one who struck them,
nor do they seek the LORD of hosts.
13So the LORD cuts off from Israel head and tail,
palm branch and reed in one day.g
14(The elder and the noble are the head,
the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail.)h
15Those who lead this people lead them astray,
and those who are led are swallowed up.i
16That is why the Lord does not spare their young men,
and their orphans and widows he does not pity;
For they are totally impious and wicked,
and every mouth speaks folly.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
his hand is still outstretched!
17For wickedness burns like fire,
devouring brier and thorn;
It kindles the forest thickets,
which go up in columns of smoke.j
18At the wrath of the LORD of hosts the land quakes,
and the people are like fuel for fire;
no one spares his brother.k
19They hack on the right, but remain hungry;
they devour on the left, but are not filled.
Each devours the flesh of the neighbor;
20Manasseh devours Ephraim,* and Ephraim Manasseh,
together they turn on Judah.
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
his hand is still outstretched!
* [9:3] Day of Midian: when God used the judge Gideon to deliver these northern territories from Midianite oppression (Jgs 6–7).
* [9:5] A child: perhaps to be identified with the Emmanuel of 7:14 and 8:8; cf. 11:1–2, 9. This verse may reflect a coronation rather than a birth. Upon his shoulder: the reference may be to a particular act in the ritual in which a symbol of the king’s authority was placed on his shoulder (cf. 2 Kgs 11:12; Is 22:22).
* [9:7–20 + 5:25–30] These verses describe a series of judgments God sent against the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of its sins. Despite the judgments, however, Israel continued to rebel, and God’s anger remained unabated, as the recurring refrain emphasizes (9:11, 16, 20). The refrain ties Is 9:7–20 together as a unit, but 9:20 is far too abrupt to be the original conclusion to the oracle. With its series of past judgments and repeated refrain, the oracle resembles Am 4:6–12; by analogy with that model one expects a conclusion in which the prophet turns from the narration of past judgments to the announcement of a future judgment. Is 5:25–30 fits the pattern found in 9:7–20 and provides a suitable and possibly original conclusion for the whole oracle.
* [9:11] Aram: the Syrian kingdom, with its capital at Damascus.
* [9:20] Manasseh…Ephraim: two of the leading tribes of the Northern Kingdom. The reference is to the civil wars that marked the final decades of the Northern Kingdom (2 Kgs 15:10, 14–16, 25; cf. Hos 7:3–7).
a. [9:1] Mt 4:15–16.
b. [9:3] Is 10:26; Jgs 7:22–25.
c. [9:4] Ps 46:10.
d. [9:5] Is 10:21.
e. [9:6] Jer 23:5; Lk 1:32–33.
f. [9:9] Mal 1:4.
g. [9:13] Is 19:15; Dt 28:13, 44.
h. [9:14] Is 28:7.
i. [9:15] Is 3:12.
j. [9:17] Is 5:24; 33:11–12.
k. [9:18] Is 3:5.
1* Ah! Those who enact unjust statutes,
who write oppressive decrees,a
2Depriving the needy of judgment,
robbing my people’s poor of justice,
Making widows their plunder,
and orphans their prey!b
3What will you do on the day of punishment,
when the storm comes from afar?
To whom will you flee for help?
Where will you leave your wealth,
4Lest it sink beneath the captive
or fall beneath the slain?
For all this, his wrath is not turned back,
his hand is still outstretched!*
5* Ah! Assyria, the rod of my wrath,
the staff I wield in anger.c
6Against an impious nation* I send him,
and against a people under my wrath I order him
To seize plunder, carry off loot,
and to trample them like the mud of the street.
7But this is not what he intends,
nor does he have this in mind;
Rather, it is in his heart to destroy,
to make an end of not a few nations.
8For he says, “Are not my commanders all kings?”
9* “Is not Calno like Carchemish,
Or Hamath like Arpad,
or Samaria like Damascus?
10Just as my hand reached out to idolatrous kingdoms
that had more images than Jerusalem and Samaria—
11Just as I treated Samaria and her idols,
shall I not do to Jerusalem and her graven images?”
12But when the LORD has brought to an end all his work on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
I will punish the utterance
of the king of Assyria’s proud heart,
and the boastfulness of his haughty eyes.
13For he says:
“By my own power I have done it,
and by my wisdom, for I am shrewd.
I have moved the boundaries of peoples,
their treasures I have pillaged,
and, like a mighty one, I have brought down the enthroned.
14My hand has seized, like a nest,
the wealth of nations.
As one takes eggs left alone,
so I took in all the earth;
No one fluttered a wing,
or opened a mouth, or chirped!”
15Will the ax boast against the one who hews with it?
Will the saw exalt itself above the one who wields it?
As if a rod could sway the one who lifts it,
or a staff could lift the one who is not wood!
16Therefore the Lord, the LORD of hosts,
will send leanness among his fat ones,*
And under his glory there will be a kindling
like the kindling of fire.d
17The Light of Israel will become a fire,
the Holy One, a flame,
That burns and consumes its briers
and its thorns in a single day.e
18And the glory of its forests and orchards
will be consumed, soul and body,
and it will be like a sick man who wastes away.
19And the remnant of the trees in his forest
will be so few,
that any child can record them.
20On that day
The remnant of Israel,
the survivors of the house of Jacob,
will no more lean upon the one who struck them;
But they will lean upon the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel, in truth.
21A remnant will return,* the remnant of Jacob,
to the mighty God.
22Though your people, O Israel,
were like the sand of the sea,f
Only a remnant of them will return;
their destruction is decreed,
as overflowing justice demands.g
23For the Lord, the GOD of hosts, is about to carry out the destruction decreed in the midst of the whole land.h
24* Therefore thus says the Lord, the GOD of hosts: My people, who dwell in Zion, do not fear the Assyrian, though he strikes you with a rod, and raises his staff against you as did the Egyptians. 25For just a brief moment more, and my wrath shall be over, and my anger shall be set for their destruction. 26Then the LORD of hosts will raise against them a scourge such as struck Midian at the rock of Oreb;i and he will raise his staff over the sea as he did in Egypt.j 27On that day,
His burden shall be taken from your shoulder,
and his yoke shattered from your neck.k
He has come up from Rimmon,
28he has reached Aiath, passed through Migron,
at Michmash he has stored his supplies.
29He has crossed the ravine,
at Geba he has camped for the night.
Gibeah of Saul has fled.
30Cry and shriek, Bath-Gallim!
Hearken, Laishah! Answer her, Anathoth!
31Madmenah is in flight,
the inhabitants of Gebim seek refuge.
32Even today he will halt at Nob,
he will shake his fist at the mount of daughter Zion,
the hill of Jerusalem!
33* Now the Lord, the LORD of hosts,
is about to lop off the boughs with terrible violence;
The tall of stature shall be felled,
and the lofty ones shall be brought low;
34He shall hack down the forest thickets with an ax,
and Lebanon in its splendor shall fall.
* [10:1–4] This is another hoy-oracle; cf. note on 5:8–24. It may originally have been part of the collection at 5:8–24.
* [10:4] For all this…outstretched!: this refrain appears to be out of place here; cf. 9:11, 16, 20.
* [10:5–34] These verses contain a series of oracles directed against Assyria. Verses 5–15 portray Assyria as simply the rod God uses to punish Israel, though Assyria does not realize this. The original conclusion to this unit may be the judgment found in vv. 24–27a, which continues the imagery and motifs found in vv. 5–15. Verses 16–23, because of the quite different imagery and motifs, may originally have been an insertion directed against Aram and Israel at the time of the Syro-Ephraimite War.
* [10:6] Impious nation: Judah. It was God’s intention to use Assyria merely to punish, not to destroy, the nation.
* [10:9–10] The cities mentioned were all cities captured, some more than once, by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C. Verse 9 suggests a certain historical order in the fall of these cities, and v. 10 suggests that all of them had fallen before Samaria (cf. Am 6:2). That implies that one should think primarily of events during the reign of Tiglath-pileser III (745–727).
* [10:16] His fat ones: the strong men of the enemy army.
* [10:21] A remnant will return: in Hebrew, shear-jashub, an allusion to the name of Isaiah’s son, Shear-jashub; cf. 7:3.
* [10:24] This verse with its reference to Assyria’s rod may introduce the original conclusion to vv. 5–15.
* [10:27b–32] A poetic description of the march of an enemy army from the north, advancing south to the very gates of Jerusalem, where the enemy waves his hand in a gesture of derision against the city. Though Sennacherib’s troops took a different route, advancing down the coast and then approaching Jerusalem from the southeast, the arrogant attitude toward God’s chosen city was the same. Aiath: the Ai of Jos 7:22–8:29. Migron: modern Makrun north of Michmash. The ravine: the deep valley between Michmash and Geba (cf. 1 Sm 14:1–5). Ramah…Gibeah…Bath-Gallim…Laishah…Anathoth…Madmenah…Gebim: cities north of Jerusalem threatened by the sudden appearance of this enemy army. Nob: probably to be identified with the present Mount Scopus from where one has a clear view of Jerusalem.
* [10:33–34] Just when the enemy is about to capture Jerusalem, God intervenes and destroys the hostile army. Cf. 29:1–8; 31:4–9.
a. [10:1] Jer 8:8.
b. [10:2] Is 1:23; 3:14–15.
c. [10:5] Jer 51:20–23.
d. [10:16] Is 17:4.
e. [10:17] Is 9:17–18; 30:27–33; 31:9; 33:14.
f. [10:22] Hos 2:1; Rom 9:27–28.
g. [10:22] Is 28:16–18.
h. [10:23] Is 28:22.
i. [10:26] Is 9:3; Jgs 7:25.
j. [10:26] Ex 14:16.
k. [10:27] Is 9:3.
1But a shoot shall sprout from the stump* of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.a
2* The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:b
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
A spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
3and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
4But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide fairly for the land’s afflicted.c
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.d
5Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.e
6* Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat;
The calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.f
7The cow and the bear shall graze,
together their young shall lie down;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.g
8The baby shall play by the viper’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
9They shall not harm or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
10On that day,
The root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the peoples—
Him the nations will seek out;
his dwelling shall be glorious.h
11On that day,
The Lord shall again take it in hand
to reclaim the remnant of his people
that is left from Assyria and Egypt,
Pathros, Ethiopia, and Elam,
Shinar, Hamath, and the isles of the sea.i
12He shall raise a signal to the nationsj
and gather the outcasts of Israel;
The dispersed of Judah he shall assemble
from the four corners of the earth.
13The envy of Ephraim shall pass away,
and those hostile to Judah shall be cut off;
Ephraim shall not envy Judah,
and Judah shall not be hostile to Ephraim;
14But they shall swoop down on the foothills
of the Philistines to the west,
together they shall plunder the people of the east;*
Edom and Moab shall be their possessions,
and the Ammonites their subjects.
15The LORD shall dry up the tongue* of the Sea of Egypt,
and wave his hand over the Euphrates with his fierce wind,
And divide it into seven streamlets,
so that it can be crossed in sandals.k
16There shall be a highway for the remnant of his people
that is left from Assyria,
As there was for Israel
when it came up from the land of Egypt.l
* [11:1–16] Isaiah 11 contains a prophecy of the rise of a new Davidic king who will embody the ancient ideal of Davidic kingship (vv. 1–9), an elaboration of that prophecy in a further description of that king’s rule (v. 10), and a prophecy of God’s deliverance of the chosen people from exile and cessation of enmities (vv. 11–16).
* [11:1–9 (10)] Here Isaiah looks forward to a new Davidide who will realize the ancient ideals (see Ps 72). The oracle does not seem to have a particular historical person in mind.
* [11:1] Shoot…stump: the imagery suggests the bankruptcy of the monarchy as embodied in the historical kings, along with the need for a new beginning, to spring from the very origin from which David and his dynasty arose. Jesse: David’s father (cf. 1 Sm 16:1–13).
* [11:2–3] The source of the traditional names of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Septuagint and the Vulgate read “piety” for “fear of the Lord” in its first occurrence, thus listing seven gifts.
* [11:6–9] This picture of the idyllic harmony of paradise is a dramatic symbol of universal peace and justice under the rule of the new Davidic king. The peace and harmony even among carnivores and their natural prey in this description suggest a paradisiac aspect of the reign of the new king.
* [11:10–16] This passage, with its reference to God’s people in widely scattered lands, is probably from a much later period. God will restore them to their own land. The reconciliation of Ephraim (i.e., the Northern Kingdom) and Judah reverses what Isaiah saw as a disastrous event of the past (cf. 7:17). God’s action is likened to a new exodus, analogous to the time God first acquired Israel in bringing them out of the land of Egypt. Pathros: upper Egypt. Elam: east of Babylonia. Shinar: Babylonia. Hamath: on the Orontes River in Syria. Isles: or coastlands, in the Mediterranean.
* [11:14] People of the east: tribes in the Arabian Desert (cf. Jgs 6:3, 33; 7:12).
* [11:15] Tongue: perhaps to be identified with the Gulf of Suez.
a. [11:1] Is 4:2; 53:2; Jer 23:5–6; 33:14–16; Zec 3:8; 6:12; Rev 22:16.
b. [11:2] Is 42:1; 1 Sm 16:13; Mt 3:16; Mk 1:10; Jn 1:32.
c. [11:4] Ps 72:2, 4; 98:9.
d. [11:4] 2 Thes 2:8; Rev 2:16.
e. [11:5] Eph 6:14.
f. [11:6] Hos 2:20.
g. [11:7] Is 65:25.
h. [11:10] Is 2:2–4; Rom 15:12.
i. [11:11] Ex 3:20; Jer 23:7–8; 31:1–22; Zec 10:10.
j. [11:12] Is 18:3.
k. [11:15] Zec 10:11; Rev 16:12.
l. [11:16] Is 51:10; Ex 14:29.
1On that day, you will say:
I give you thanks, O LORD;
though you have been angry with me,
your anger has abated, and you have consoled me.
2God indeed is my salvation;
I am confident and unafraid.
For the LORD is my strength and my might,
and he has been my salvation.a
3With joy you will draw water
from the fountains of salvation,b
4And you will say on that day:
give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
Among the nations make known his deeds,
proclaim how exalted is his name.c
5Sing praise to the LORD for he has done glorious things;
let this be known throughout all the earth.d
6Shout with exultation, City of Zion,
for great in your midst
is the Holy One of Israel!e
* [12:1–6] Israel’s thanksgiving to the Lord, expressed in language like that of the Psalms.
a. [12:2] Ex 15:2; Ps 118:14.
b. [12:3] Jgs 5:11; Jer 2:13; Jn 4:10, 14.
c. [12:4] Ps 105:1; 148:13.
d. [12:5] Is 11:9; Ex 15:1.
e. [12:6] Is 52:8–9; 54:1; Zep 3:14–15.
Babylon.* 1An oracle* concerning Babylon; a vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz.
2Upon the bare mountains set up a signal;
cry out to them,*
Beckon for them to enter
the gates of the nobles.a
3I have commanded my consecrated ones,*
I have summoned my warriors,
eager and bold to carry out my anger.b
4Listen! the rumble on the mountains:
that of an immense throng!
Listen! the noise of kingdoms, nations assembled!
The LORD of hosts is mustering
an army for battle.c
5They come from a far-off country,
and from the end of the heavens,
The LORD and the instruments of his wrath,
to destroy all the land.
6Howl, for the day of the LORD* is near;
as destruction from the Almighty it comes.d
7Therefore all hands fall helpless,e
every human heart melts,
8and they are terrified,
Pangs and sorrows take hold of them,
like a woman in labor they writhe;
They look aghast at each other,
their faces aflame.f
9Indeed, the day of the LORD comes,
cruel, with wrath and burning anger;
To lay waste the land
and destroy the sinners within it!g
10The stars of the heavens and their constellations
will send forth no light;
The sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not give its light.h
11Thus I will punish the world for its evil
and the wicked for their guilt.
I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant,
the insolence of tyrants I will humble.i
12I will make mortals more rare than pure gold,
human beings, than the gold of Ophir.* j
13For this I will make the heavens tremble
and the earth shall be shaken from its place,
At the wrath of the LORD of hosts
on the day of his burning anger.k
14Like a hunted gazelle,
or a flock that no one gathers,
They shall turn each to their own people
and flee each to their own land.l
15Everyone who is taken shall be run through;
and everyone who is caught shall fall by the sword.
16Their infants shall be dashed to pieces in their sight;
their houses shall be plundered
and their wives ravished.m
17I am stirring up against them the Medes,
who think nothing of silver
and take no delight in gold.n
18With their bows they shall shatter the young men,
And the fruit of the womb they shall not spare,
nor shall their eye take pity on children.
19And Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
the glory and pride of the Chaldeans,
Shall become like Sodom and Gomorrah,
overthrown by God.o
20It shall never be inhabited,
nor dwelt in, from age to age;
Arabians shall not pitch their tents there,
nor shepherds rest their flocks there.p
21But desert demons shall rest there
and owls shall fill the houses;
There ostriches shall dwell,
and satyrs* shall dance.q
22Wild dogs shall dwell in its castles,
and jackals in its luxurious palaces.
Its time is near at hand
and its days shall not be prolonged.r
* [13:1–23:18] These chapters, which probably existed at one time as an independent collection, consist primarily of oracles from various sources against foreign nations. While some of the material is Isaianic, in many cases it has been reworked by later editors or writers.
* [13:1–22] Although attributed to Isaiah (v. 1), this oracle does not reflect conditions of Isaiah’s time. Babylon did not achieve imperial status until a century later, after its victory over Assyria in 609 B.C. The mention of the Medes (v. 17) rather than Persia suggests a date prior to 550 B.C., when the Median empire of Astyages fell to Cyrus the Persian. Tension is created in that the attackers are not named until v. 17 and the foe to be attacked until v. 19.
* [13:1] Oracle: Heb. massa’; used eight more times in this collection.
* [13:2] To them: the Medes (v. 17), who are being summoned to destroy Babylon. Gates of the nobles: the reference is apparently to the gates of Babylon and involves a wordplay on the city name (Babylon = bab ilani, “gate of the gods”).
* [13:3] Consecrated ones: in the sense that they will wage a “holy war” and carry out God’s plan.
* [13:6–8] Day of the LORD: described often in prophetic writings, it generally signified the coming of the Lord in power and majesty to destroy his enemies. The figures used convey the idea of horror and destruction (Am 5:18–20). The Almighty: Heb. shaddai; there is a play on words between destruction (shod) and Shaddai, a title for God traditionally rendered as “the Almighty” (cf. Gn 17:1; Ex 6:3).
* [13:12] Ophir: cf. note on Ps 45:10.
* [13:21] Satyrs: in the popular mind, demons of goatlike form dwelling in ruins, symbols of immorality; cf. Lv 17:7; Is 34:14.
a. [13:2] Is 5:26; Jer 50:2.
b. [13:3] Jl 4:9.
c. [13:4] Jer 50:9.
d. [13:6] Is 2:12–21; Jer 46:10; Am 5:18–20; Jl 1:15; Zep 1:7; Rev 6:17.
e. [13:7] Jer 6:24; Ez 7:17.
f. [13:8] Is 21:3; Ps 48:7; Mi 4:9.
g. [13:9] Jer 4:7; 18:16; Mal 3:19.
h. [13:10] Is 24:23; Jer 4:23; Zep 1:15; Mt 24:29.
i. [13:11] Is 2:17; Jer 50:32.
j. [13:12] 1 Kgs 9:28; Jb 22:24.
k. [13:13] Hg 2:6; Lam 1:12.
l. [13:14] 1 Kgs 22:17; Jer 50:16; 51:9.
m. [13:16] 2 Kgs 8:12; Ps 137:9; Na 3:10.
n. [13:17] Is 21:2; Jer 51:11, 28.
o. [13:19] Dt 29:22; Is 1:7; Jer 49:18; 50:40; Am 4:11.
p. [13:20] Jer 51:62.
q. [13:21] Is 34:13–14; 35:7.
r. [13:22] Ez 32:23.
Restoration of Israel. 1But the LORD will take pity on Jacob and again choose Israel, and will settle them on their own land; foreigners will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob.a 2The nations will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them* as male and female slaves on the Lord’s land; they will take captive their captors and rule over their oppressors.b
Downfall of the King of Babylon. 3On the day when the LORD gives you rest from your sorrow and turmoil, from the hard service with which you served,c 4you will take up this taunt-song* against the king of Babylon:d
How the oppressor has come to an end!
how the turmoil has ended!
5The LORD has broken the rod of the wicked,
the staff of the tyrantse
6That struck the peoples in wrath
with relentless blows;
That ruled the nations in anger,
with boundless persecution.f
7The whole earth rests peacefully,
song breaks forth;
8The very cypresses rejoice over you,
the cedars of Lebanon:
“Now that you are laid to rest,
no one comes to cut us down.”g
9Below, Sheol is all astir
preparing for your coming;
Awakening the shades to greet you,
all the leaders of the earth;
Making all the kings of the nations
rise from their thrones.
10All of them speak out
and say to you,
“You too have become weak like us,
you are just like us!
11Down to Sheol your pomp is brought,
the sound of your harps.
Maggots are the couch beneath you,
worms your blanket.”h
12How you have fallen from the heavens,
O Morning Star,* son of the dawn!
How you have been cut down to the earth,
you who conquered nations!i
13In your heart you said:
“I will scale the heavens;
Above the stars of God*
I will set up my throne;
I will take my seat on the Mount of Assembly,
on the heights of Zaphon.j
14I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will be like the Most High!”k
15No! Down to Sheol you will be brought
to the depths of the pit!l
16When they see you they will stare,
pondering over you:
“Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
who shook kingdoms?
17Who made the world a wilderness,
razed its cities,
and gave captives no release?”
18All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
each in his own tomb;m
19But you are cast forth without burial,
like loathsome carrion,
Covered with the slain, with those struck by the sword,
a trampled corpse,
Going down to the very stones of the pit.n
20You will never be together with them in the grave,
For you have ruined your land,
you have slain your people!
Let him never be named,
that offshoot of evil!
21Make ready to slaughter his sons
for the guilt of their fathers;o
Lest they rise and possess the earth,
and fill the breadth of the world with cities.*
22I will rise up against them, says the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon name and remnant, progeny and offspring, says the LORD.p 23I will make it a haunt of hoot owls and a marshland; I will sweep it with the broom of destruction, oracle of the LORD of hosts.
24The LORD of hosts has sworn:
As I have resolved,
so shall it be;
As I have planned,
so shall it stand:
25To break the Assyrian in my land
and trample him on my mountains;
Then his yoke shall be removed from them,
and his burden from their shoulder.q
26This is the plan proposed for the whole earth,
and this the hand outstretched over all the nations.*
27The LORD of hosts has planned;
who can thwart him?
His hand is stretched out;
who can turn it back?r
Philistia.* 28In the year that King Ahaz died,* there came this oracle:
29* Do not rejoice, Philistia, not one of you,
that the rod which struck you is broken;
For out of the serpent’s root shall come an adder,
its offspring shall be a flying saraph.
30In my pastures the poor shall graze,
and the needy lie down in safety;
But I will kill your root with famine
that shall slay even your remnant.
31Howl, O gate; cry out, O city!
Philistia, all of you melts away!
For there comes a smoke from the north,*
without a straggler in its ranks.
32What will one answer the messengers of the nations?*
“The LORD has established Zion,
and in her the afflicted of his people find refuge.”
* [14:2] Possess them: Israel will make slaves of the nations who escort it back to its land.
* [14:4–21] This taunt-song, a satirical funeral lament, is a beautiful example of classical Hebrew poetry. According to the prose introduction and the prosaic conclusion (vv. 22–23), it is directed against the king of Babylon, though Babylon is mentioned nowhere in the song itself. If the reference to Babylon is accurate, the piece was composed long after the time of Isaiah, for Babylon was not a threat to Judah in the eighth century. Some have argued that Isaiah wrote it at the death of an Assyrian king and the references to Babylon were made by a later editor, but this is far from certain.
* [14:12] Morning Star: term addressed to the king of Babylon. The Vulgate translates as “Lucifer,” a name applied by the church Fathers to Satan. Son of the dawn: Heb., ben shahar, may reflect the name of a pagan deity.
* [14:13–15] God: not Elohim, the common word for God, but El, the name of the head of the pantheon in Canaanite mythology, a god who was early identified with the Lord in Israelite thought. Mount of Assembly: mountain where the council of the gods met, according to Canaanite mythology. Zaphon: the sacred mountain of Baal, originally the Jebel el-Aqra north of Ugarit, but other mountains have been identified with it, including Mount Zion in Jerusalem (Ps 48:3). The attempt to usurp the place of God (v. 14), coupled with the dramatic reversal (“above the stars of God” to “the depths of the pit”) occasioned the interpretation that saw here the rebellion and fall of Satan.
* [14:21] Cities: if the text is correct, it presumably refers to cities as expressions of human pride, authority, and oppression (cf. Gn 11:1–9; Na 3:1–4).
* [14:24–27] The motif of God’s plan or work is a recurring thread running through Isaiah’s oracles. The plans of Judah’s enemies will not come to pass (7:5–7; 8:9–10; 10:7), but God’s plan for his work of disciplining his own people (5:12, 19; 28:21), and then for punishing the foreign agents God used to administer that discipline (10:12) will come to pass.
* [14:26] Hand outstretched over all the nations: as it was once outstretched over Israel (9:11, 16, 20; 5:25).
* [14:28–31] This oracle seems to reflect the political situation soon after the death of Ahaz in 715 B.C., when Ashdod and the other Philistine cities were trying to create a united front to rebel against Assyria. Ahaz had refused to join the rebels in 735 B.C. and remained loyal to Assyria during the rest of his reign, but the Philistines may have had higher hopes for his son Hezekiah. Judah, however, did not join in Ashdod’s disastrous revolt in 713–711 B.C. (cf. 20:1).
* [14:28] The year that King Ahaz died: 715 B.C.
* [14:29] The occasion for this oracle is usually taken to be the death of an Assyrian king; the Philistines were vassals of Assyria, whereas no victories of Ahaz over the Philistines are recorded. The chronological notice (in the year that King Ahaz died) may be incorrect, for no Assyrian king died around 715, the date usually assigned for the death of Ahaz. Flying saraph: a winged cobra, often portrayed in Egyptian art and on Israelite seals. The Hebrew saraph means “to burn” and perhaps is applied to the cobra because of the burning sensation of its bite.
* [14:31] Smoke from the north: the dust raised from the approach of the Assyrian army.
* [14:32] Messengers of the nations: envoys from Philistia, and from Egypt and Ethiopia, the real powers behind the Philistine revolt (20:1–6; cf. 18:1–2).
a. [14:1] Is 56:3; 60:4; Ps 102:14; Jer 24:6; Zec 1:17.
b. [14:2] Is 49:22–23; 60:14; 66:20.
c. [14:3] Ex 33:14; Jos 1:13; Jer 30:10.
d. [14:4] Hb 2:6.
e. [14:5] Is 10:24–27.
f. [14:6] Is 10:5–7.
g. [14:8] Is 37:24; 44:23; 55:12; Ez 31:16.
h. [14:11] Sir 10:11.
i. [14:12] Jb 14:10.
j. [14:13] Jer 51:53; Am 9:2.
k. [14:14] Ez 28:2; Zep 2:15; 2 Thes 2:4.
l. [14:15] Ez 28:8–9; 32:23; Mt 11:23; Acts 12:23.
m. [14:18] Jb 3:14–15.
n. [14:19] Is 66:24.
o. [14:21] Ex 20:5; Mt 23:35.
p. [14:22] Jer 51:62; Jb 18:19.
q. [14:25] Is 9:3; 10:27a.
r. [14:27] Is 23:8–9; Jb 40:8; Jer 4:28.
1Oracle on Moab:
Laid waste in a night,
Ar of Moab is destroyed;
Laid waste in a night,
Kir of Moab is destroyed.
2Daughter Dibon has gone up
to the high places to weep;
Over Nebo and over Medeba
Moab is wailing.
Every head is shaved,
every beard sheared off.* a
3In the streets they wear sackcloth,
and on the rooftops;
In the squares
everyone wails, streaming with tears.b
4Heshbon and Elealeh cry out,
they are heard as far as Jahaz.
At this the loins of Moab tremble,
his soul quivers within him;c
5My heart cries out for Moab,
his fugitives reach Zoar,
The ascent of Luhith
they ascend weeping;
On the way to Horonaim
they utter rending cries;d
6The waters of Nimrim
have become a waste,
The grass is withered,
new growth is gone,
nothing is green.
7So now whatever they have acquired or stored away
they carry across the Wadi of the Poplars.
8The cry has gone round
the territory of Moab;
As far as Eglaim his wailing,
even at Beer-elim his wailing.
9* The waters of Dimon are filled with blood,
but I will bring still more upon Dimon:
Lions for those who are fleeing from Moab
and for those who remain in the land!
* [15:1–16:14] Both the historical situation reflected in this oracle against Moab and the date of composition are uncertain. Variants of the same poem are found in Jer 48, and there are connections with Nm 21:27–30 as well.
* [15:2] Shaved…sheared off: traditional signs of grief.
* [15:9] There is a play on words between “Dimon” and dam, the Hebrew word for blood.
a. [15:2] Jer 48:37; Ez 7:18; Am 8:10.
b. [15:3] Is 22:12; Jer 48:38.
c. [15:4] Jer 48:34.
d. [15:5] Jer 48:5, 34.
1Send them forth,* hugging the earth like reptiles,
from Sela across the desert,
to the mount of daughter Zion.
2Like flushed birds,
like scattered nestlings,
Are the daughters of Moab
at the fords of the Arnon.* a
3* Offer counsel, take their part;
at high noon make your shade like the night;
Hide the outcasts,
do not betray the fugitives.
4Let the outcasts of Moab live with you,
be their shelter from the destroyer.
When there is an end to the oppressor,
when destruction has ceased,
and the marauders have vanished from the land,
5A throne shall be set up in mercy,
and on it shall sit in fidelity,
in David’s tent,
A judge upholding right,
prompt to do justice.b
6We have heard of the pride of Moab,
how very proud he is,
Of his haughtiness, pride, and arrogance
that his empty words do not match.c
7* Therefore let Moab wail,
let everyone wail for Moab;
For the raisin cakes* of Kir-hareseth
let them sigh, stricken with grief.
8The terraced slopes of Heshbon languish,
the vines of Sibmah,
Whose clusters once overpowered
the lords of nations,
Reaching as far as Jazer
winding through the wilderness,*
Whose branches spread forth,
crossing over the sea.
9Therefore I weep with Jazer
for the vines of Sibmah;
I drench you with my tears,
Heshbon and Elealeh;
For on your summer fruits and harvests
the battle cry* has fallen.d
10From the orchards are taken away
joy and gladness,
In the vineyards there is no singing,
no shout of joy;
In the wine presses no one treads grapes,
the vintage shout is stilled.e
11Therefore for Moab
my heart moans like a lyre,
my inmost being for Kir-hareseth.f
12* When Moab wears himself out on the high places,
and enters his sanctuary to pray,
it shall avail him nothing.g
13* That is the word the LORD spoke against Moab in times past. 14But now the LORD speaks: In three years, like the years of a hired laborer, the glory of Moab shall be empty despite all its great multitude; and the remnant shall be very small and weak.h
* [16:1] Send them forth: the Hebrew text is disturbed; it could also be understood to refer to tribute (a lamb) sent from Moab to Zion, presumably to encourage the king to receive the Moabite refugees.
* [16:2] The Arnon: principal river of Moab.
* [16:3–5] Directed to Jerusalem, which should receive the suffering Moabites with mercy, as befits the city of David’s family, who were partly descended from Ruth the Moabite; and cf. 1 Sm 22:3–4. This would be a gracious act on Judah’s part, since its relations with Moab were strained at best.
* [16:7–14] Moab had been prosperous; now it has become a desert.
* [16:7] Raisin cakes: masses of dried compressed grapes used as food (cf. 2 Sm 6:19; 1 Chr 16:3; Sg 2:5), and also in the worship of other gods (Hos 3:1).
* [16:8] Wilderness: i.e., eastward. Sea: i.e., westward.
* [16:9–10] Battle cry…shout of joy: the same Hebrew word (hedad), which normally refers to the joyful shout of those treading the grapes (cf. Jer 25:30), here is used both for the triumphant shout of the enemy (v. 9) and for the vintagers’ shout, which has ceased.
* [16:12] In vain do the Moabites appeal to their god Chemosh.
* [16:13–14] A prose application of the preceding poetic oracle against Moab (15:1–16:12); cf. Jer 4:8. Like the years of a hired laborer: the fixed period of time for which the hired laborer contracted his services; cf. Is 21:16.
a. [16:2] Nm 21:13.
b. [16:5] Is 9:6; 11:3–4; 32:1; Jer 23:5; Ps 89:14; Prv 20:28.
c. [16:6] Jer 48:29–30.
d. [16:9] Is 15:5; Jer 48:32.
e. [16:10] Is 24:8.
f. [16:11] Is 15:5; Jer 48:36.
g. [16:12] Jer 48:13.
h. [16:14] Dt 15:18.
1Oracle on Damascus:*
See, Damascus shall cease to be a city
and become a pile of ruins;a
2Her cities shall be forever abandoned,
for flocks to lie in undisturbed.
3The fortress shall vanish from Ephraim*
and dominion from Damascus;
The remnant of Aram shall become like the glory
of the Israelites—
oracle of the LORD of hosts.
4On that day
The glory of Jacob shall fade,
and his full body shall grow thin.b
5Like the reaper’s mere armful of stalks,
when he gathers the standing grain;
Or as when one gleans the ears
in the Valley of Rephaim.*
6* Only gleanings shall be left in it,
as when an olive tree has been beaten—
Two or three olives at the very top,
four or five on its most fruitful branches—
oracle of the LORD, the God of Israel.c
7On that day people shall turn to their maker,
their eyes shall look to the Holy One of Israel.d
8They shall not turn to the altars, the work of their hands,
nor shall they look to what their fingers have made:
the asherahs* or the incense stands.
9On that day his strong cities shall be
like those abandoned by the Hivites and Amorites
When faced with the Israelites;
and there shall be desolation.e
10Truly, you have forgotten the God who saves you,
the Rock, your refuge, you have not remembered.f
Therefore, though you plant plants for the Pleasant One,*
and set out cuttings for a foreign one,g
11Though you make them grow the day you plant them
and make them blossom the morning you set them out,
The harvest shall disappear on a day of sickness
and incurable pain.
12Ah! the roaring of many peoples—*
a roar like the roar of the seas!
The thundering of nations—
thunder like the thundering of mighty waters!h
13* But God shall rebuke them,
and they shall flee far away,
Driven like chaff on the mountains before a wind,
like tumbleweed before a storm.i
14At evening, there is terror,
but before morning, they are gone!
Such is the portion of those who despoil us,
the lot of those who plunder us.j
* [17:1] Damascus: capital of Aram or Syria, conquered by Tiglath-pileser III at the end of the Syro-Ephraimite War in 732 B.C.
* [17:3] Ephraim: Israel, leagued with Aram against Judah in the Syro-Ephraimite War. Assyria ravaged and captured most of Israelite territory in 734–733 B.C. Like the glory of the Israelites: the remnant of Aram will be no more impressive than the pitiful remnant of the Northern Kingdom.
* [17:5] Valley of Rephaim: a fertile plain just to the southwest of Jerusalem (cf. Jos 15:8; 2 Sm 5:18). Since it was near a large population center, the fields there would be thoroughly gleaned by the poor after the harvest, leaving very few ears of grain.
* [17:6] Olives not easily picked by hand were knocked from the tree by means of a long stick; cf. 24:13.
* [17:8] Asherahs: see note on Ex 34:13. Incense stands: small altars on which incense was burned; cf. Is 27:9; Lv 26:30.
* [17:10] The Pleasant One: an epithet for a foreign god of fertility, probably Adonis, in whose honor saplings were planted.
* [17:12] Many peoples: the hordes that accompanied the invading Assyrians, whom God repels just as he vanquished the primeval waters of chaos; see notes on Jb 3:8; 7:12; Ps 89:11.
* [17:13–14] The passage seems to evoke the motif of invincibility, part of the early Zion tradition that Jerusalem could not be conquered because God protected it (Ps 48:1–8).
a. [17:1] 2 Kgs 16:9; Jer 49:23; Am 1:3; Zec 9:1.
b. [17:4] Is 10:16.
c. [17:6] Is 24:13.
d. [17:7] Is 5:12.
e. [17:9] Is 27:10.
f. [17:10] Ps 106:13, 21; Jer 2:32; Hos 8:14.
g. [17:10] Is 1:29–31.
h. [17:12] Ps 46:3–7; 93:3–4.
i. [17:13] Ps 76:7; 83:14.
j. [17:14] Is 29:8.
1Ah! Land of buzzing insects,*
beyond the rivers of Ethiopia,a
2Sending ambassadors by sea,
in papyrus boats on the waters!
Go, swift messengers,
to a nation tall and bronzed,
To a people dreaded near and far,
a nation strong and conquering,
whose land is washed by rivers.b
3* All you who inhabit the world,
who dwell on earth,
When the signal is raised on the mountain, look!
When the trumpet blows, listen!
4For thus says the LORD to me:
I will be quiet, looking on from where I dwell,c
Like the shimmering heat in sunshine,
like a cloud of dew at harvest time.
5Before the vintage, when the flowering has ended,
and the blooms are succeeded by ripening grapes,
Then comes the cutting of branches with pruning hooks,
and the discarding of the lopped-off shoots.
6They shall all be left to the mountain vultures
and to the beasts of the earth;
The vultures shall summer on them,
all the beasts of the earth shall winter on them.
7Then will gifts be brought to the LORD of hosts—to the place of the name of the LORD of hosts, Mount Zion—from a people tall and bronzed, from a people dreaded near and far, a nation strong and conquering, whose land is washed by rivers.d
* [18:1–2] Land of buzzing insects: the region of the Upper Nile where these multiplied with great rapidity. Ethiopia: in Hebrew, Kush. The center of this ancient kingdom corresponds geographically to the modern Sudan, Roman Nubia. Papyrus boats: light and serviceable vessels made of bundles of papyrus stalks and sealed with pitch. Egypt, ruled by a dynasty from Ethiopia, had invited Judah to join a coalition against Assyria, but Isaiah told the ambassadors to return to their own people.
* [18:3–6] A more general address but probably relating to the same topic. The Lord will not act at once, but later there will be a “harvest” of terrible destruction, probably directed against Assyria (cf. 14:24–27).
a. [18:1] Zep 3:10.
b. [18:2] Is 18:7.
c. [18:4] Is 8:18; 18:7; 2 Chr 6:30; Ps 33:14.
d. [18:7] Is 45:14; Ps 68:30; Zep 3:10; Mal 1:11.
1Oracle on Egypt:
See, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud
on his way to Egypt;
The idols of Egypt tremble before him,
the hearts of the Egyptians melt within them.a
2I will stir up Egypt against Egypt:
brother will war against brother,
Neighbor against neighbor,
city against city, kingdom against kingdom.
3The courage of the Egyptians shall ebb away within them,
and I will bring their counsel to nought;
They shall consult idols and charmers, ghosts and clairvoyants.b
4I will deliver Egypt
into the power of a cruel master,
A harsh king* who shall rule over them—
oracle of the Lord, the LORD of hosts.c
5The waters shall be drained from the sea,
the river shall parch and dry up;d
6Its streams shall become foul,
and the canals of Egypt shall dwindle and parch.e
Reeds and rushes shall wither away,
7and bulrushes on the bank of the Nile;f
All the sown land along the Nile
shall dry up and blow away, and be no more.
8The fishermen shall mourn and lament,
all who cast hook in the Nile;
Those who spread their nets in the water
shall pine away.
9The linen-workers shall be disappointed,
the combers and weavers shall turn pale;g
10The spinners shall be crushed,
all the hired laborers shall be despondent.
11Utter fools are the princes of Zoan!*
the wisest of Pharaoh’s advisers give stupid counsel.
How can you say to Pharaoh,
“I am a descendant of wise men, of ancient kings”?
12Where then are your wise men?
Let them tell you and make known
What the LORD of hosts has planned
13The princes of Zoan have become fools,
the princes of Memphis have been deceived.
The chiefs of its tribes
have led Egypt astray.i
14The LORD has prepared among them
a spirit of dizziness,
And they have made Egypt stagger in whatever she does,
as a drunkard staggers in his vomit.j
15Egypt shall accomplish nothing—
neither head nor tail, palm branch nor reed,* shall accomplish anything.
16On that day the Egyptians shall be like women, trembling with fear, because of the LORD of hosts shaking his fist at them.k 17And the land of Judah shall be a terror to the Egyptians. Every time they think of Judah, they shall stand in dread because of the plan the LORD of hosts has in mind for them.
18On that day there shall be five cities* in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear by the LORD of hosts; one shall be called “City of the Sun.”
19On that day there shall be an altar to the LORD at the center of Egypt, and a sacred pillar to the LORD near its boundary. 20This will be a sign and witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt, so that when they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior to defend and deliver them.l 21The LORD shall make himself known to Egypt, and the Egyptians shall know the LORD in that day; they shall offer sacrifices and oblations, make vows to the LORD and fulfill them.m 22Although the LORD shall smite Egypt severely, he shall heal them; they shall turn to the LORD and he shall be moved by their entreaty and heal them.n
23On that day there shall be a highway from Egypt to Assyria; the Assyrians shall enter Egypt, and the Egyptians enter Assyria, and the Egyptians shall worship with the Assyrians.
24On that day Israel shall be a third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth,o 25when the LORD of hosts gives this blessing: “Blessed be my people Egypt, and the work of my hands Assyria, and my heritage, Israel.”
* [19:4] Cruel master…harsh king: possibly the Nubian (Ethiopian) Shabaka who gained control of all of Egypt around 712 B.C.
* [19:11, 13] Zoan, later known as Tanis, and Memphis (Hebrew Noph) were key cities in the Nile Delta.
* [19:15] Head…reed: the leaders and the people; cf. 9:13–14.
* [19:18] Five cities: colonies of Jews living together and speaking their native language; cf. Jer 43. City of the Sun: the meaning is uncertain, but the reference seems to be to the city known later as Heliopolis.
a. [19:1] Is 13:7.
b. [19:3] Is 8:19; 44:25; Lv 19:31.
c. [19:4] Ez 29:19; 30:10.
d. [19:5] Jer 51:36; Ez 30:12; 32:2.
e. [19:6] 2 Kgs 19:24.
f. [19:7] Jb 8:11.
g. [19:9] Ez 27:7.
h. [19:12] Is 14:26; 41:22–23.
i. [19:13] Jer 2:16; Hos 9:6.
j. [19:14] Is 28:7; Jer 48:26.
k. [19:16] Na 3:13.
l. [19:20] Ex 2:23; Jgs 2:18.
m. [19:21] Zec 14:16, 18.
n. [19:22] Hos 6:1.
o. [19:24] Gn 12:2; Zec 8:13.
Isaiah’s Warning Against Trust in Egypt and Ethiopia. 1In the year the general sent by Sargon, king of Assyria, came to Ashdod,* fought against it, and captured it— 2* at that time the LORD had spoken through Isaiah, the son of Amoz: Go and take off the sackcloth from your waist, and remove the sandals from your feet. This he did, walking naked and barefoot.a 3Then the LORD said: Just as my servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and portent against Egypt and Ethiopia,b 4so shall the king of Assyria lead away captives from Egypt, and exiles from Ethiopia, young and old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the shame of Egypt.c 5They shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Ethiopia, their hope, and because of Egypt, their boast.d 6The inhabitants of this coastland shall say on that day, “See what has happened to those we hoped in, to whom we fled for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! What escape is there for us now?”e
* [20:1] Ashdod: a city of Philistia. In 713 B.C., Azuri, the king of Ashdod was deposed by Sargon for plotting rebellion, but the citizens of Ashdod rejected the ruler installed by the Assyrian king and followed a certain Yamani, who in 712 B.C., with the protection of Egypt, attempted to draw Edom, Moab, and Judah into a coalition against Assyria. In 711 B.C., Sargon’s general marched against Ashdod, and Yamani fled to Ethiopia. Ashdod was captured, and a short time later Ethiopia handed Yamani over to the Assyrians for punishment.
* [20:2–6] Isaiah’s nakedness is a symbolic act to convey the message that Assyria would lead the Egyptians and Ethiopians away as captives. The Judeans and their allies would then realize the folly of having trusted in them. The purpose of the oracle was to dissuade Hezekiah, the Judean king, from being drawn into Ashdod’s anti-Assyrian coalition (14:28–32).
a. [20:2] 1 Sm 19:24.
b. [20:3] Is 8:18.
c. [20:4] 2 Sm 10:4.
d. [20:5] Is 30:3, 5.
e. [20:6] Is 31:3; 36:6.
1Oracle on the wastelands by the sea:*
Like whirlwinds sweeping through the Negeb,
it comes from the desert,
from the fearful land.a
2A harsh vision has been announced to me:
“The traitor betrays,
the despoiler spoils.b
Go up, O Elam; besiege, O Media;*
put an end to all its groaning!”c
3Therefore my loins are filled with anguish,
pangs have seized me like those of a woman in labor;
I am too bewildered to hear,
too dismayed to look.d
4My mind reels,
shuddering assails me;
The twilight I yearned for
he has turned into dread.e
5They set the table,
spread out the rugs;
they eat, they drink.* f
Rise up, O princes,
oil the shield!
6For thus my Lord said to me:
Go, station a watchman,
let him tell what he sees.
7If he sees a chariot,
a pair of horses,
Someone riding a donkey,
someone riding a camel,
Then let him pay heed,
very close heed.
8Then the watchman cried,
“On the watchtower, my Lord,
I stand constantly by day;
And I stay at my post
through all the watches of the night.g
9Here he comes—
a single chariot,
a pair of horses—
He calls out and says,
‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon!
All the images of her gods
are smashed to the ground!’”h
10To you, who have been threshed,
beaten on my threshing floor,
What I have heard
from the LORD of hosts,
The God of Israel,
I have announced to you.i
11Oracle on Dumah:*
They call to me from Seir,
“Watchman, how much longer the night?
Watchman, how much longer the night?”
12The watchman replies,
“Morning has come, and again night.
If you will ask, ask; come back again.”
13Oracle: in the steppe:*
In the thicket in the steppe you will spend the night,
caravans of Dedanites.
14Meet the thirsty, bring them water,
inhabitants of the land of Tema,
greet the fugitives with bread.j
15For they have fled from the sword,
from the drawn sword;
From the taut bow,
from the thick of battle.
16For thus the Lord has said to me: In another year, like the years of a hired laborer,* all the glory of Kedar shall come to an end. 17Few of Kedar’s stalwart archers shall remain, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.
* [21:1–10] This oracle against Babylon is probably to be dated to the period just before the fall of Babylon to the Persians in 539 B.C. (v. 9).
* [21:1] Wastelands by the sea: Babylonia. Negeb: the wilderness south of Judah.
* [21:2] Elam…Media: nations which, under the leadership of Cyrus, captured Babylon in 539 B.C. End to all its groaning: those who were captive of Babylon will be freed.
* [21:5] Babylon is destroyed while its leaders are feasting; cf. Dn 5. Oil the shield: shields were oiled and greased so as to divert blows more easily; cf. 2 Sm 1:21.
* [21:11–12] Dumah: an oasis in north Arabia (cf. Gn 25:14 and 1 Chr 1:30), may be identified with the north Arabian Adummatu mentioned in Assyrian records of Sennacherib’s campaign against north Arabia. Seir: a site in Edom. The Edomites ask the prophet how much longer they must suffer (“the night” of suffering); he answers ambiguously: “Liberation (“morning”) and further suffering (“night”),” but perhaps they will later receive a more encouraging answer (“ask; come back again”).
* [21:13–14] In the steppe: the north Arabian steppe where the oases referred to were located. Dedanites: a north Arabian tribe associated with the oasis of Tema; cf. Gn 10:7; 25:3; Jer 25:23.
* [21:16] Year…of a hired laborer: see note on 16:13–14. Kedar: a nomadic tribe in Arabia; cf. 42:11; 60:7; Ps 120:5.
a. [21:1] Is 30:6; Dt 1:19; Jer 2:6.
b. [21:2] Is 24:16; 33:1.
c. [21:2] Is 13:17; Jer 49:34.
d. [21:3] Is 16:11; Ps 38:8.
e. [21:4] Dt 28:67.
f. [21:5] Dn 5:5.
g. [21:8] Hb 2:1.
h. [21:9] Is 46:1; Jer 50:2; 51:8; Rev 14:8; 18:2.
i. [21:10] Is 51:23; Jer 51:33; Mi 4:13; Hb 3:12.
j. [21:14] Jb 6:19.
1Oracle on the Valley of Vision:* a
What is the matter with you now, that you have gone up,
all of you, to the housetops,
2* You who were full of noise,
Your slain are not slain with the sword,
nor killed in battle.
3All your leaders fled away together,
they were captured without use of bow;
All who were found were captured together,
though they had fled afar off.
4That is why I say: Turn away from me,
let me weep bitterly;
Do not try to comfort me
for the ruin of the daughter of my people.c
5It is a day of panic, rout and confusion,
from the Lord, the GOD of hosts, in the Valley of Vision*
a cry for help to the mountains.
6Elam takes up the quiver,
Aram mounts the horses
and Kir* uncovers the shields.
7Your choice valleys are filled with chariots,
horses are posted at the gates—
8and shelter over Judah is removed.*
On that day you looked to the weapons in the House of the Forest; 9* you saw that the breaches in the City of David were many; you collected the water of the lower pool. 10You numbered the houses of Jerusalem, tearing some down to strengthen the wall; 11you made a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the old pool. But you did not look to the city’s Maker, nor consider the one who fashioned it long ago.
12On that day the Lord,
the GOD of hosts, called
For weeping and mourning,
for shaving the head and wearing sackcloth.
13But look! instead, there was celebration and joy,
slaughtering cattle and butchering sheep,
Eating meat and drinking wine:
“Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”d
14This message was revealed in my hearing from the LORD of hosts:
This iniquity will not be forgiven you until you die,
says the Lord, the GOD of hosts.
15Thus says the Lord, the GOD of hosts:
Up, go to that official,
Shebna,* master of the palace,
16* “What have you here? Whom have you here,
that you have hewn for yourself a tomb here,
Hewing a tomb on high,
carving a resting place in the rock?”
17The LORD shall hurl you down headlong, mortal man!
He shall grip you firmly,
18And roll you up and toss you like a ball
into a broad land.
There you will die, there with the chariots you glory in,
you disgrace to your master’s house!
19I will thrust you from your office
and pull you down from your station.
20On that day I will summon my servant
Eliakim,* son of Hilkiah;e
21I will clothe him with your robe,
gird him with your sash,
confer on him your authority.
He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
and to the house of Judah.f
22I will place the key* of the House of David on his shoulder;
what he opens, no one will shut,
what he shuts, no one will open.g
23I will fix him as a peg in a firm place,
a seat of honor for his ancestral house;
24On him shall hang all the glory of his ancestral house:*
descendants and offspring,
all the little dishes, from bowls to jugs.
25On that day, says the LORD of hosts, the peg fixed in a firm place shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with; for the LORD has spoken.
* [22:1–14] The title “oracle on the valley of vision,” like the other oracle headings in chaps. 13–23, was supplied by an editor and is taken from v. 5. In all probability it relates to the events of 701, the lifting of Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem. The death of the Assyrian king Sargon II in 705 occasioned the revolt of many of the vassal nations subject to Assyria, a revolt in which Hezekiah joined, over Isaiah’s bitter opposition. The biblical and other data concerning the outcome of this adventure are conflicting and confusing. While 2 Kgs 19 (Is 37) tells of a miraculous deliverance of the city after the siege had been renewed, Assyrian documents and 2 Kgs 18:13–16 report that Sennacherib, Sargon II’s successor, devastated Judah (the destruction of 46 cities is mentioned in Assyrian records); Hezekiah had to surrender and paid Sennacherib a heavy indemnity, taken from the Temple treasury and adornments. The inhabitants of Jerusalem apparently took the lifting of the siege as occasion for great rejoicing, a response that Isaiah condemns. They should be mourning the dead and learning that their confidence in allies rather than in the Lord leads to disaster.
* [22:2–3] The retreat of Judah’s soldiers is a further reason that rejoicing is not in order.
* [22:5] Valley of Vision: frequently identified as the Hinnom Valley, west of Jerusalem.
* [22:6] Elam…Kir: the Assyrian forces presumably included auxiliary troops from various places.
* [22:8] Shelter over Judah is removed: the reference is obscure; it has been suggested that Judah’s protection was Jerusalem itself, and with the fall of the city the country was exposed. House of the Forest: an armory built by Solomon; its columns of wood suggested the trees of a forest; cf. 1 Kgs 7:2; 10:17.
* [22:9–11] Frenetic efforts made to fortify the city before the impending siege; cf. 2 Kgs 20:20; 2 Chr 32:3–4, 30. Some suggest that the description of these preparations comes from the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s assault on Jerusalem in 588. You did not look to the city’s Maker: Isaiah here makes the crucial point. Jerusalem’s safety lay not in military forces nor in alliances with other nations nor in playing power politics but in the Lord, here presented as the creator and founder of the city. Isaiah may be alluding to the belief that the city was inviolable.
* [22:15] Shebna: by the time of the siege of Jerusalem in 36:3, Shebna, the scribe, no longer held the office of master of the palace.
* [22:16] What is probably Shebna’s inscribed tomb has been discovered in the village of Silwan on the eastern slope of Jerusalem.
* [22:20] Eliakim: by the time of the events described in 36:3, Eliakim had replaced Shebna as master of the palace.
* [22:22] Key: symbol of authority; cf. Mt 16:19; Rev 3:7.
* [22:24–25] Apparently Eliakim proved to be a disappointment, so an oracle of judgment was added to the originally positive oracle to Eliakim.
a. [22:1] Is 21:2.
b. [22:2] Is 32:13.
c. [22:4] Jer 6:26; 9:1; 14:17.
d. [22:13] Is 56:12; Wis 2:6; 1 Cor 15:32.
e. [22:20] 2 Kgs 18:18, 37.
f. [22:21] Jb 29:16.
g. [22:22] Rev 3:7.
1* Oracle on Tyre:
Wail, ships of Tarshish,
for your port is destroyed;
From the land of the Kittim*
the news reaches them.a
2Silence! you who dwell on the coast,
you merchants of Sidon,
Whose messengers crossed the sea
3over the deep waters,
Whose revenue was the grain of Shihor,* the harvest of the Nile,
you who were the merchant among the nations.b
4Be ashamed, Sidon, fortress on the sea,
for the sea* has spoken,
“I have not been in labor, nor given birth,
nor raised young men,
nor reared young women.”
5When the report reaches Egypt
they shall be in anguish at the report about Tyre.
6Pass over to Tarshish,*
wail, you who dwell on the coast!
7Is this your exultant city,
whose origin is from old,
Whose feet have taken her
to dwell in distant lands?
8Who has planned such a thing
against Tyre, the bestower of crowns,
Whose merchants are princes,
whose traders are the earth’s honored men?
9The LORD of hosts has planned it,
to disgrace the height of all beauty,
to degrade all the honored of the earth.c
10Cross to your own land,
ship of Tarshish;
the harbor is no more.
11His hand he stretches out over the sea,
he shakes kingdoms;
The LORD commanded the destruction
of Canaan’s strongholds:* d
12Crushed, you shall exult no more,
virgin daughter Sidon.
Arise, pass over to the Kittim,
even there you shall find no rest.e
13* Look at the land of the Chaldeans,
the people that has ceased to be.
Assyria founded it for ships,
raised its towers,
Only to tear down its palaces,
and turn it into a ruin.f
14Lament, ships of Tarshish,
for your stronghold is destroyed.
15On that day, Tyre shall be forgotten for seventy years,* the lifetime of one king. At the end of seventy years, the song about the prostitute will be Tyre’s song:
16Take a harp, go about the city,
Pluck the strings skillfully, sing many songs,
that you may be remembered.
17At the end of the seventy years the LORD shall visit Tyre. She shall return to her hire and serve as prostitute* with all the world’s kingdoms on the face of the earth.g 18But her merchandise and her hire shall be sacred to the LORD. It shall not be stored up or laid away; instead, her merchandise shall belong to those who dwell before the LORD, to eat their fill and clothe themselves in choice attire.
* [23:1–17] This oracle, a satire directed against the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, is perhaps to be situated at the time of Sennacherib’s campaign against the Phoenican cities in 701 B.C, following his subjugation of their Babylonian allies in 703 B.C.
* [23:1] Kittim: Cyprus. The Hebrew word is derived from the term for the well-known city of Cyprus, Kition. In later centuries the term Kittim is used for the Greeks, the Romans, and other distant peoples.
* [23:3] Shihor: a synonym for the Nile.
* [23:4] The sea: here personified, it brings to distant coasts the news that Sidon must disown her children; her people are dispersed.
* [23:6–7] Tarshish: perhaps Tartessus in Spain. Distant lands: the reference is to the far-flung colonies established by the Phoenicians throughout the Mediterranean, including North Africa, Spain, and Sardinia. Oceangoing vessels were therefore called Tarshish ships.
* [23:11] Canaan’s strongholds: the fortresses of Phoenicia.
* [23:13] The reference here seems to be to Assyria’s subjugation of Babylon in 703 B.C., which left the coastal cities of Phoenicia as well as Judah open to Sennacherib’s invasion in 701 B.C. Founded it…its palaces…turn it: the city of Babylon.
* [23:15] Seventy years: a conventional expression for a long period of time; cf. Jer 25:11 and 29:10.
* [23:17–18] Her hire…prostitute: the international trade engaged in by Tyre will become a source of wealth to God’s people (cf. 45:14; 60:4–14; Zec 14:14).
a. [23:1] Jer 25:22; Ez 26; Am 1:9; Zec 9:2, 4.
b. [23:3] Ez 27:3.
c. [23:9] Is 14:24–27; 22:11; Ez 28:7.
d. [23:11] Is 14:27; Ps 65:8.
e. [23:12] Ez 28:21–22.
f. [23:13] Is 13:21; 34:14; Jer 50:39.
g. [23:17] Rev 17:5; 18:3, 11, 13.
1See! The LORD is about to empty the earth and lay it waste;
he will twist its surface,
and scatter its inhabitants:a
2People and priest shall fare alike:
servant and master,
Maid and mistress,
buyer and seller,
Lender and borrower,
creditor and debtor.b
3The earth shall be utterly laid waste, utterly stripped,
for the LORD has decreed this word.
4The earth mourns and fades,
the world languishes and fades;
both heaven and earth languish.c
5The earth is polluted because of its inhabitants,
for they have transgressed laws, violated statutes,
broken the ancient covenant.* d
6Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants pay for their guilt;
Therefore they who dwell on earth have dwindled,
and only a few are left.e
7The new wine mourns, the vine languishes,
all the merry-hearted groan.f
8Stilled are the cheerful timbrels,
ended the shouts of the jubilant,
stilled the cheerful harp.g
9They no longer drink wine and sing;
strong brew is bitter to those who drink it.h
10Broken down is the city of chaos,*
every house is shut against entry.i
11In the streets they cry out for lack of wine;
all joy has grown dim,
cheer is exiled from the land.j
12In the city nothing remains but desolation,
gates battered into ruins.
13For thus it shall be in the midst of the earth,
among the peoples,
As when an olive tree has been beaten,
as with a gleaning when the vintage is done.k
14These* shall lift up their voice,
they shall sing for joy in the majesty of the LORD,
they shall shout from the western sea:
15“Therefore, in the east
give glory to the LORD!
In the coastlands of the sea,
to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel!”l
16From the end of the earth we hear songs:
“Splendor to the Just One!”
But I said, “I am wasted, wasted away.
Woe is me! The traitors betray;
with treachery have the traitors betrayed!m
17Terror, pit, and trap
for you, inhabitant of the earth!n
18One who flees at the sound of terror
will fall into the pit;
One who climbs out of the pit
will be caught in the trap.
For the windows on high are open
and the foundations of the earth shake.o
19The earth will burst asunder,
the earth will be shaken apart,
the earth will be convulsed.
20The earth will reel like a drunkard,
sway like a hut;
Its rebellion will weigh it down;
it will fall, never to rise again.”p
21On that day the LORD will punish
the host of the heavens* in the heavens,
and the kings of the earth on the earth.
22They will be gathered together
like prisoners into a pit;
They will be shut up in a dungeon,
and after many days they will be punished.q
23Then the moon will blush
and the sun be ashamed,r
For the LORD of hosts will reign
on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem,
glorious in the sight of the elders.* s
* [24:1–27:13] Although it has become traditional to call these chapters “Apocalypse of Isaiah,” and although they do contain some apocalyptic traits, many others are lacking, so that the title is imprecise as a designation. These chapters are not a unified composition and their growth into their present form was a long, complicated process. They echo many themes from chaps. 13–23, “Oracles Against the Foreign Nations,” as well as from earlier parts of Isaiah (e.g., the reversal of the “vineyard song,” 5:1–7, in 27:2–5). Of particular interest is an unnamed city (24:10–13; 25:2; 26:5–6; 27:10–11), a wicked city, doomed to destruction; to the extent that it is identifiable, it may be Babylon, but more generally it symbolizes all forces hostile to God. And it stands in contrast to another city, also unnamed but no doubt to be identified with Jerusalem (26:1–2).
* [24:1–23] The world is about to be shaken by a devastating judgment that will overthrow both the human and divine enemies of the Lord, who will then reign in glory over his people on Mount Zion.
* [24:5] Ancient covenant: God’s commandments to all humankind (cf. Gn 9:4–6).
* [24:10] City of chaos: a godless city which appears several times in chaps. 24–27; see note on 24:1–27:13.
* [24:14] These: the saved.
* [24:21] Host of the heavens: the stars, which were often regarded as gods; cf. Dt 4:19; Jer 8:2.
* [24:23] The elders: the tradition in Ex 24:9–11 suggests that this refers to the people of God who are to share in the banquet on Mount Zion (Is 25:6–8).
a. [24:1] Is 13:9; Na 2:3, 11.
b. [24:2] Hos 4:9.
c. [24:4] Is 33:9.
d. [24:5] Nm 35:33; Hos 4:2–3.
e. [24:6] Lv 26:15–16.
f. [24:7] Jl 1:10–12.
g. [24:8] Jer 7:34; Hos 2:13.
h. [24:9] Am 6:5–7.
i. [24:10] Is 25:2.
j. [24:11] Jer 48:33; Lam 5:14–15.
k. [24:13] Is 17:6; Mi 7:1.
l. [24:15] Is 42:10, 12; Zep 2:11.
m. [24:16] Is 21:2; 33:1.
n. [24:17] Jer 48:43.
o. [24:18] Gn 7:11; Am 5:19.
p. [24:20] Am 5:2.
q. [24:22] 2 Pt 2:4; Jude 6.
r. [24:23] Is 13:10; Jl 3:3–4; 4:15.
s. [24:23] Is 4:5; 60:1–3; Ex 24:9–11; Mi 4:7; Rev 19:4–6.
1O LORD, you are my God,
I extol you, I praise your name;
For you have carried out your wonderful plans of old,
faithful and true.a
2For you have made the city a heap,
the fortified city a ruin,
The castle of the insolent, a city no more,
not ever to be rebuilt.b
3Therefore a strong people will honor you,
ruthless nations will fear you.
4For you have been a refuge to the poor,
a refuge to the needy in their distress;
Shelter from the rain,
shade from the heat.c
When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rain,
5the roar of strangers like heat in the desert,
You subdued the heat with the shade of a cloud,
the rain of the tyrants was vanquished.
6On this mountain* the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.
7On this mountain he will destroy
the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations.
8He will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.d
9On that day it will be said:
“Indeed, this is our God; we looked to him, and he saved us!
This is the LORD to whom we looked;
let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!”e
10For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain,
but Moab will be trodden down
as straw is trodden down in the mire.f
11He will spread out his hands in its midst,
as a swimmer spreads out his hands to swim;
His pride will be brought low
despite his strokes.g
12The high-walled fortress he will raze,
bringing it low, leveling it to the ground, to the very dust.h
* [25:1–9] These verses praise God for carrying out his plan to destroy the enemy and to save the poor of his people in Zion (14:32), and they announce the victory banquet to be celebrated in the Lord’s city.
* [25:6] This mountain: i.e., Jerusalem’s mountain, Zion.
* [25:10–12] Moab: one of Israel’s bitterest enemies.
a. [25:1] Is 12:1, 4; 22:11; 28:29; 37:26.
b. [25:2] Is 17:1; Jer 51:37.
c. [25:4] Is 14:32; 32:2; Na 1:7.
d. [25:8] Is 60:1, 3; 1 Cor 15:53–55; Rev 7:17; 21:4.
e. [25:9] Is 30:18–19.
f. [25:10] Zep 2:9–10.
g. [25:11] Is 16:6–7, 14.
h. [25:12] Is 26:5.
Judah’s Praise and Prayer for Deliverance.* 1On that day this song shall be sung in the land of Judah:
“A strong city* have we;
he sets up victory as our walls and ramparts.a
2Open up the gates
that a righteous nation may enter,
one that keeps faith.b
3With firm purpose you maintain peace;
in peace, because of our trust in you.”c
4Trust in the LORD forever!
For the LORD is an eternal Rock.d
5He humbles those who dwell on high,
the lofty city he brings down,
Brings it down to the ground,
levels it to the dust.e
6The feet of the needy trample on it—
the feet of the poor.
7The way of the just is smooth;
the path of the just you make level.f
8The course of your judgments, LORD, we await;
your name and your memory are the desire of our souls.
9My soul yearns for you at night,
yes, my spirit within me seeks you at dawn;
When your judgment comes upon the earth,
the world’s inhabitants learn justice.g
10The wicked, when spared, do not learn justice;
in an upright land they act perversely,
and do not see the majesty of the LORD.h
11LORD, your hand is raised high,
but they do not perceive it;
Let them be put to shame when they see your zeal for your people:
let the fire prepared for your enemies consume them.i
12LORD, you will decree peace for us,
for you have accomplished all we have done.j
13LORD, our God, lords other than you have ruled us;
only because of you can we call upon your name.
14Dead they are, they cannot live,
shades that cannot rise;
Indeed, you have punished and destroyed them,
and wiped out all memory of them.
15You have increased the nation, LORD,
you have increased the nation, have added to your glory,
you have extended far all the boundaries of the land.k
16LORD, oppressed by your punishment,
we cried out in anguish under your discipline.l
17As a woman about to give birth
writhes and cries out in pain,
so were we before you, LORD.m
18We conceived and writhed in pain,
giving birth only to wind;
Salvation we have not achieved for the earth,
no inhabitants for the world were born.n
19* But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise!
Awake and sing, you who lie in the dust!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and you cause the land of shades to give birth.o
20Go, my people, enter your chambers,
and close the doors behind you;
Hide yourselves for a brief moment,
until the wrath is past.p
21See, the LORD goes forth from his place,
to punish the wickedness of the earth’s inhabitants;
The earth will reveal the blood shed upon it,
and no longer conceal the slain.q
* [26:1–19] This text is a mixture of praise for the salvation that will take place, a confession of Judah’s inability to achieve deliverance on its own, and earnest prayer that God may quickly bring about the longed-for salvation.
* [26:1] Strong city: Jerusalem, the antithesis of the “city of chaos” (24:10); see note on 24:1–27:13.
* [26:19] This verse refers not to resurrection of the dead, but to the restoration of the people; cf. Ez 37. The population of Judah was radically reduced by the slaughter and deportations that the historical disasters of the late eighth and seventh centuries B.C. brought upon the country. In this context, a major concern for the future was for an increase in the population, a rebirth of the nation’s life.
* [26:20–21] The time of wrath for Judah would soon be over, and the just punishment of its enemies would begin (cf. Hb 2:1–3).
a. [26:1] Is 60:18.
b. [26:2] Ps 118:19–20.
c. [26:3] Is 32:17–18; Ps 112:7.
d. [26:4] Is 17:10; 30:29; Ps 62:8.
e. [26:5] Is 25:11–12; 32:19.
f. [26:7] Ps 23:3–4; Prv 11:3, 5.
g. [26:9] Ps 63:2.
h. [26:10] Is 5:12; Eccl 8:11.
i. [26:11] Is 9:6; 30:27; 37:32.
j. [26:12] Jer 29:11; Phil 2:13.
k. [26:15] Is 54:2–3.
l. [26:16] Hos 5:15.
m. [26:17] Mi 4:10.
n. [26:18] Is 37:3.
o. [26:19] Ez 37:5–14; Dn 12:2; Hos 6:2.
p. [26:20] Is 10:25.
q. [26:21] Gn 4:10; Jb 16:18; Ps 106:38; Mi 1:3.
1On that day,
The LORD will punish with his sword
that is cruel, great, and strong,
Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
Leviathan the coiled serpent;
he will slay the dragon* in the sea.a
2* On that day—
The pleasant vineyard, sing about it!b
3I, the LORD, am its keeper,
I water it every moment;
Lest anyone harm it,
night and day I guard it.c
4I am not angry.
But if I were to find briers and thorns,
In battle I would march against it;
I would burn it all.d
5But if it holds fast to my refuge,
it shall have peace with me;e
it shall have peace with me.
6In days to come Jacob shall take root,
Israel shall sprout and blossom,
covering all the world with fruit.f
7* Was he smitten as his smiter was smitten?
Was he slain as his slayer was slain?
8Driving out and expelling, he struggled against it,
carrying it off with his cruel wind on a day of storm.g
9This, then, shall be the expiation of Jacob’s guilt,
this the result of removing his sin:
He shall pulverize all the stones of the altars
like pieces of chalk;
no asherahs or incense altars shall stand.
10For the fortified city shall be desolate,
an abandoned pasture, a forsaken wilderness;
There calves shall graze, there they shall lie down,
and consume its branches.
11When its boughs wither, they shall be broken off;
and women shall come to kindle fires with them.
For this is not an understanding people;
therefore their maker shall not spare them;
their creator shall not be gracious to them.h
12On that day,
The LORD shall beat out grain
from the channel of the Euphrates to the Wadi of Egypt,
and you shall be gleaned* one by one, children of Israel.
13On that day,*
A great trumpet shall blow,
and the lost in the land of Assyria
and the outcasts in the land of Egypt
Shall come and worship the LORD
on the holy mountain, in Jerusalem.i
* [27:1] Leviathan…dragon: the description of Leviathan is almost identical to a passage from a much earlier Ugaritic text. The sea dragon became a symbol of the forces of evil which God vanquishes even as he overcame primeval chaos; cf. notes on 30:7; 51:9–10; Jb 3:8; 7:12; no power can challenge God. Leviathan is even spoken of playfully in Ps 104:26.
* [27:2–5] This passage mitigates the harsh words on Israel as the Lord’s vineyard in 5:1–7; here is given the rain there withheld, though Israel’s welfare is still made dependent on fidelity.
* [27:7–9] Israel was not treated as sternly as were its enemies whom God used to punish it. God did, however, drive Israel from its land, and if it wants to make peace with God, it must change its former cultic practices, destroying its altars and sacred groves (cf. 17:7–11).
* [27:12] Gleaned: God will harvest his people who have been scattered from Assyria to Egypt. Note the same language of gleaning to describe the remnant of the Northern Kingdom in 17:5–6.
* [27:13] The remnant of Israel will return to Jerusalem for worship; cf. 11:10–16.
a. [27:1] Jb 40:25–32; Ps 74:12–14; Ez 32:2.
b. [27:2] Is 5:1; Am 5:11.
c. [27:3] Is 5:2–7.
d. [27:4] Is 10:17.
e. [27:5] Jb 22:21.
f. [27:6] Is 37:31–32; Hos 14:5–6.
g. [27:8] Jer 18:17.
h. [27:11] Is 1:3; 5:13; Jer 4:22.
i. [27:13] Is 11:11–16.
1Ah! majestic garland
of the drunkards of Ephraim,*
Fading blooms of his glorious beauty,
at the head of the fertile valley,
upon those stupified with wine.a
2See, the LORD has a strong one, a mighty one,*
who, like an onslaught of hail, a destructive storm,
Like a flood of water, great and overflowing,
levels to the ground with violence;b
3With feet that will trample
the majestic garland of the drunkards of Ephraim.
4The fading blooms of his glorious beauty
at the head of the fertile valley
Will be like an early fig before summer:
whoever sees it,
swallows it as soon as it is in hand.c
5On that day the LORD of hosts
will be a glorious crown
And a brilliant diadem
for the remnant of his people,
6A spirit of judgment
for the one who sits in judgment,
And strength for those
who turn back the battle at the gate.
7But these also stagger from wine
and stumble from strong drink:
Priest and prophet stagger from strong drink,
overpowered by wine;
They are confused by strong drink,
they stagger in their visions,
they totter when giving judgment.d
8Yes, all the tables
are covered with vomit,
with filth, and no place left clean.
9* “To whom would he impart knowledge?
To whom would he convey the message?
To those just weaned from milk,
those weaned from the breast?
10For he says,
‘Command on command, command on command,
rule on rule, rule on rule,
here a little, there a little!’”
11* Yes, with stammering lips and in a strange language
he will speak to this people,e
12to whom he said:
“This is the resting place,
give rest to the weary;
And this is the place of repose”—
but they refused to hear.f
13So for them the word of the LORD shall be:
“Command on command, command on command,
Rule on rule, rule on rule,
here a little, there a little!”
So that when they walk, they shall stumble backward,
broken, ensnared, and captured.g
14Therefore, hear the word of the LORD, you scoffers,
who rule* this people in Jerusalem:h
15You have declared, “We have made a covenant with death,
with Sheol* we have made a pact;
When the raging flood passes through,
it will not reach us;
For we have made lies our refuge,
and in falsehood we have found a hiding place,”—i
16Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD:
See, I am laying a stone in Zion,*
a stone that has been tested,
A precious cornerstone as a sure foundation;
whoever puts faith in it will not waver.j
17I will make judgment a measuring line,
and justice a level.—*
Hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies,
and waters shall flood the hiding place.
18Your covenant with death shall be canceled
and your pact with Sheol shall not stand.
When the raging flood passes through,
you shall be beaten down by it.k
19Whenever it passes, it shall sieze you;
morning after morning it shall pass,
by day and by night.
to impart the message!
20For the bed shall be too short to stretch out in,
and the cover too narrow to wrap in.
21For the LORD shall rise up as on Mount Perazim,
bestir himself as in the Valley of Gibeon,*
To carry out his work—strange his work!
to perform his deed—alien his deed!
22Now, cease scoffing,
lest your bonds be tightened,
For I have heard a decree of destruction
from the Lord, the GOD of hosts,
for the whole land.l
23* Give ear and hear my voice,
pay attention and hear my word:
24Is the plowman forever plowing in order to sow,
always loosening and harrowing the field?
25When he has leveled the surface,
does he not scatter caraway and sow cumin,*
Put in wheat and barley,
with spelt as its border?
26His God has taught him this rule,
he has instructed him.
27For caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
nor does a cartwheel roll over cumin.
But caraway is beaten out with a staff,
and cumin with a rod.
28Grain is crushed for bread, but not forever;
though he thresh it thoroughly,
and drive his cartwheel and horses over it,
he does not pulverize it.
29This too comes from the LORD of hosts;
wonderful is his counsel and great his wisdom.m
* [28:1–6] These verses once constituted an independent oracle against the Northern Kingdom, probably originally spoken during the time between its overthrow by Assyria in 732 and its destruction in 722/721. Isaiah has reused them as an introduction to his oracle against Judah (vv. 7–22), because the leaders of Judah were guilty of the same excesses that had once marked Ephraim’s leadership.
* [28:1] Ephraim: the Northern Kingdom. Its capital, Samaria, was built upon a hill, suggestive of a majestic garland adorning a human head. The characterization of the leadership of Ephraim as drunken underscores its inattention to justice and good government (cf. 5:11–13; Am 6:1–6).
* [28:2] A strong one, a mighty one: Assyria (cf. 8:7–8).
* [28:9–10] The words of those who ridicule Isaiah. The Hebrew of v. 10, by its very sound, conveys the idea of mocking imitation of what the prophet says, as though he spoke like a stammering child: “sau lasau, sau lasau, kau lakau, kau lakau, ze’er sham, ze’er sham.” But in v. 13 God repeats these words in deadly earnest, putting them in the mouth of the victorious Assyrian army.
* [28:11] God will answer the mockers and defend Isaiah. Strange language: spoken by the invading army.
* [28:14] Who rule: there is a play on words; the same expression could also mean, “Proverb makers,” that is, scoffers of this people.
* [28:15, 18] A covenant with death, with Sheol: an alliance with foreign powers, such as Egypt and Babylon. Have made lies…a hiding place: this confidence in human aid will prove to be false and deceitful, incapable of averting the dreaded disaster. Raging flood: the Assyrian invasion; cf. 8:7–8.
* [28:16] A stone in Zion: the true and sure foundation of salvation, i.e., the presence of God, who had chosen and founded Zion as his city (Ps 78:68–69; Is 14:32) and had chosen the Davidic dynasty to rule over his people (Ps 78:70–72; Is 9:1–6; 11:1–10). Cornerstone: the assurance of salvation, rejected by the people of Judah in the prophet’s time, is picked up in Ps 118:22 and later applied to Christ; cf. Mt 21:42; Lk 20:17; Acts 4:11; Rom 9:33; 1 Pt 2:7. Chapters 28–31 alternate between threats of the danger of rebelling against Assyria (with implied trust in Egypt) with assurances of the power and protection of the Lord.
* [28:17] Line…level: instruments used in constructing a building, to keep it true. They are used metaphorically here to refer to the qualities that Zion, the city of God, must manifest, judgment and justice, not bloodshed (Mi 3:10), nor deceit and violence, which would result in a bulging unstable wall doomed to destruction (Is 30:12–14). Cf. 1 Cor 3:10–17.
* [28:21] Mount Perazim…Valley of Gibeon: where David defeated the Philistines; cf. 2 Sm 5:20, 25; 1 Chr 14:11, 16. God’s new work will be strange, because instead of fighting for Judah as the Lord did in David’s time, God will now fight against Jerusalem (see 29:1–4).
* [28:23–29] The practical variation of the farmer’s work reflects the way God deals with his people, wisely adapted to circumstances; he does not altogether crush them in their weakness.
* [28:25] Caraway…cumin: herbs used in seasoning food. Spelt: a variety of wheat.
a. [28:1] Hos 7:5; Am 6:1–6.
b. [28:2] Is 25:4–5; 28:17–18; 30:30.
c. [28:4] Is 17:6; Na 3:12.
d. [28:7] Is 5:11–12; Mi 2:11.
e. [28:11] Jer 5:15; 1 Cor 14:21; Dt 28:49; Bar 4:15.
f. [28:12] Is 30:9.
g. [28:13] Is 8:15.
h. [28:14] Is 3:1–4; 5:18–21.
i. [28:15] Wis 1:16; Jer 5:12.
j. [28:16] Ps 118:22; Mt 21:42; Acts 4:11; Rom 9:33; 1 Pt 2:6.
k. [28:18] Is 28:2–3.
l. [28:22] Is 5:18–19; 10:23.
m. [28:29] Rom 11:33.
1Ah! Ariel, Ariel,*
city where David encamped!
Let year follow year,
and feast follow feast,a
2But I will bring distress upon Ariel,
and there will be mourning and moaning.
You shall be to me like Ariel:b
3I will encamp like David against you;
I will circle you with outposts
and set up siege works against you.c
4You shall speak from beneath the earth,
and from the dust below, your words shall come.
Your voice shall be that of a ghost from the earth,
and your words shall whisper from the dust.d
5The horde of your arrogant shall be like fine dust,
a horde of tyrants like flying chaff.e
Then suddenly, in an instant,
6you shall be visited by the LORD of hosts,
With thunder, earthquake, and great noise,
whirlwind, storm, and the flame of consuming fire.f
7* Then like a dream,
a vision of the night,
Shall be the horde of all the nations
who make war against Ariel:
All the outposts, the siege works against it,
all who distress it.
8As when a hungry man dreams he is eating
and awakens with an empty stomach,
Or when a thirsty man dreams he is drinking
and awakens faint, his throat parched,
So shall the horde of all the nations be,
who make war against Mount Zion.
9* Stupefy yourselves and stay stupid;
blind yourselves and stay blind!
You who are drunk, but not from wine,
who stagger, but not from strong drink!g
10For the LORD has poured out on you
a spirit of deep sleep.
He has shut your eyes (the prophets)
and covered your heads (the seers).* h
11For you the vision of all this has become like the words of a sealed scroll. When it is handed to one who can read, with the request, “Read this,” the reply is, “I cannot, because it is sealed.” 12When the scroll is handed to one who cannot read, with the request, “Read this,” the reply is, “I cannot read.”
13The Lord said:
Since this people draws near with words only
and honors me with their lips alone,
though their hearts are far from me,
And fear of me has become
mere precept of human teaching,i
14Therefore I will again deal with this people
in surprising and wondrous fashion:
The wisdom of the wise shall perish,
the prudence of the prudent shall vanish.j
15Ah! You who would hide a plan
too deep for the LORD!
Who work in the dark, saying,
“Who sees us, who knows us?”k
16Your perversity is as though the potter
were taken to be the clay:
As though what is made should say of its maker,
“He did not make me!”
Or the vessel should say of the potter,
“He does not understand.”l
17Surely, in a very little while,
Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard,
and the orchard be considered a forest!m
18On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a scroll;
And out of gloom and darkness,
the eyes of the blind shall see.n
19The lowly shall again find joy in the LORD,
the poorest rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.o
20For the tyrant shall be no more,
the scoffer shall cease to be;
All who are ready for evil shall be cut off,p
21those who condemn with a mere word,
Who ensnare the defender at the gate,
and leave the just with an empty claim.q
22Therefore thus says the LORD,
the God of the house of Jacob,
who redeemed Abraham:*
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
no longer shall his face grow pale.r
23For when his children see
the work of my hands in his midst,
They shall sanctify my name;
they shall sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
be in awe of the God of Israel.s
24Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding,
those who find fault shall receive instruction.
* [29:1–2] Ariel: a poetic name for Jerusalem. It has been variously interpreted to mean “lion of God,” “altar hearth of God” (Ez 43:15–16), “city of God,” or “foundation of God.” In v. 2 the term refers to “altar hearth,” i.e., a place of burning for its people (cf. 30:33; 31:9). God will attack Jerusalem, as David did long ago.
* [29:7–8] Just when the attackers think their capture of Jerusalem is certain, the Lord will snatch victory from their hands and save the city. The sudden shift from the Lord’s attack on the city to its deliverance by him is surprising and unexplained; it may reflect the account related in 37:36.
* [29:9–16] Despite their show of piety, Judah’s leaders refused to accept the prophet’s words of assurance. They rejected prophetic advice (cf. 30:10–11), did not consult the prophetic oracle in forming their political plans (30:1–2; 31:1), and tried to hide their plans even from God’s prophet (v. 15), who, they thought, simply did not understand military and political reality.
* [29:10] Prophets…seers: interpretive glosses.
* [29:17–24] The prophet presents the positive aspects of God’s plan in terms of a series of reversals: an end to pride, ignorance, and injustice. Cf. 32:3–5.
* [29:22] Who redeemed Abraham: perhaps by revealing himself and delivering Abraham from idolatrous worship; cf. Gn 12:1–3; 17:1; Jos 24:2–3.
a. [29:1] 2 Sm 5:6–9.
b. [29:2] Is 33:7.
c. [29:3] 2 Kgs 25:1; Ez 4:2.
d. [29:4] Is 8:19; 1 Sm 28:14.
e. [29:5] Is 17:13; Ps 18:43; Jb 21:18.
f. [29:6] Is 30:27, 30.
g. [29:9] Is 19:14; 28:7–8.
h. [29:10] Is 6:10; Rom 11:8.
i. [29:13] Ez 33:31; Mt 15:8–9; Mk 7:6–7.
j. [29:14] Jer 49:7; 1 Cor 1:19.
k. [29:15] Is 30:1–2; 31:1; Ez 8:12; Jn 3:19–20.
l. [29:16] Is 45:9; Jer 18:6; Rom 9:20.
m. [29:17] Is 32:15.
n. [29:18] Is 35:5; 42:6–7.
o. [29:19] Is 61:1–2.
p. [29:20] Is 28:22.
q. [29:21] Is 5:23; 10:1–2; Am 5:10, 12.
r. [29:22] Is 45:17.
s. [29:23] Is 8:12–13.
1Ah! Rebellious children,
oracle of the LORD,
Who carry out a plan that is not mine,
who make an alliance* I did not inspire,
thus adding sin upon sin;a
2They go down to Egypt,
without asking my counsel,*
To seek strength in Pharaoh’s protection
and take refuge in Egypt’s shadow.b
3Pharaoh’s protection shall become your shame,
refuge in Egypt’s shadow your disgrace.c
4When his princes are at Zoan
and his messengers reach Hanes,d
5All shall be ashamed
of a people that gain them nothing,
Neither help nor benefit,
but only shame and reproach.e
6Oracle on the Beasts of the Negeb.
Through the distressed and troubled land*
of the lioness and roaring lion,
of the viper and flying saraph,
They carry their riches on the backs of donkeys
and their treasures on the humps of camels
To a people good for nothing,
7to Egypt whose help is futile and vain.
Therefore I call her
8* Now come, write it on a tablet they can keep,
inscribe it on a scroll;
That in time to come it may be
an eternal witness.f
9For this is a rebellious people,
Children who refuse
to listen to the instruction of the LORD;g
10Who say to the seers, “Do not see”;
to the prophets,* “Do not prophesy truth for us;
speak smooth things to us, see visions that deceive!h
11Turn aside from the way! Get out of the path!
Let us hear no more
of the Holy One of Israel!”i
12Therefore, thus says the Holy One of Israel:
Because you reject this word,
And put your trust in oppression and deceit,
and depend on them,j
13This iniquity of yours shall be
like a descending rift
Bulging out in a high wall
whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant,k
14Crashing like a potter’s jar
smashed beyond rescue,
And among its fragments cannot be found
a sherd to scoop fire from the hearth
or dip water from the cistern.l
15For thus said the Lord GOD,
the Holy One of Israel:
By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,
in quiet and in trust shall be your strength.
But this you did not will.m
16“No,” you said,
“Upon horses we will flee.”
Very well, you shall flee!
“Upon swift steeds we will ride.”
Very well, swift shall be your pursuers!n
17A thousand shall tremble at the threat of one—
if five threaten, you shall flee.
You will then be left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
like a flag on a hill.o
18Truly, the LORD is waiting to be gracious to you,
truly, he shall rise to show you mercy;
For the LORD is a God of justice:
happy are all who wait for him!p
19Yes, people of Zion, dwelling in Jerusalem,
you shall no longer weep;
He will be most gracious to you when you cry out;
as soon as he hears he will answer you.q
20The Lord will give you bread in adversity
and water in affliction.
No longer will your Teacher* hide himself,
but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher,r
21And your ears shall hear a word behind you:
“This is the way; walk in it,”
when you would turn to the right or the left.
22You shall defile your silver-plated idols
and your gold-covered images;
You shall throw them away like filthy rags,
you shall say, “Get out!”s
23He will give rain for the seed
you sow in the ground,
And the bread that the soil produces
will be rich and abundant.
On that day your cattle will graze
in broad meadows;t
24The oxen and the donkeys that till the ground
will eat silage tossed to them
with shovel and pitchfork.
25Upon every high mountain and lofty hill
there will be streams of running water.
On the day of the great slaughter,
when the towers fall,
26The light of the moon will be like the light of the sun,
and the light of the sun will be seven times greater,
like the light of seven days,
On the day the LORD binds up the wounds of his people
and heals the bruises left by his blows.u
27See, the name of the LORD is coming from afar,
burning with anger, heavy with threat,
His lips filled with fury,
tongue like a consuming fire,v
28Breath like an overflowing torrent
that reaches up to the neck!
He will winnow the nations with a destructive winnowing
and bridle the jaws of the peoples to send them astray.w
29For you, there will be singing
as on a night when a feast is observed,
And joy of heart
as when one marches along with a flute
Going to the mountain of the LORD,
to the Rock of Israel.
30The LORD will make his glorious voice heard,
and reveal his arm coming down
In raging fury and flame of consuming fire,
in tempest, and rainstorm, and hail.x
31For at the voice of the LORD, Assyria will be shattered,
as he strikes with the rod;
32And every sweep of the rod of his punishment,
which the LORD will bring down on him,
Will be accompanied by timbrels and lyres,
while he wages war against him.y
33For his tophet* has long been ready,
truly it is prepared for the king;
His firepit made both deep and wide,
with fire and firewood in abundance,
And the breath of the LORD, like a stream of sulfur,
setting it afire.z
* [30:1–17] Several independent oracles against making an alliance with Egypt have been strung together in this chapter: vv. 1–5, vv. 6–7, and vv. 8–17. That these were originally separate oracles is indicated by the fact that the oracle in vv. 6–7 is still introduced by its own heading: Oracle on the Beasts of the Negeb.
* [30:1] Make an alliance: lit., “pour out a libation,” namely, as part of the ritual of treaty making.
* [30:2] Without asking my counsel: it was a practice to consult God through the prophets or through the priestly oracle before making a major political decision (1 Sm 23:1–12; 1 Kgs 22:5), but Judah’s leadership, in its concern for security, was apparently trying to keep its plan for a treaty with Egypt secret even from the prophets, thus implicitly from God (29:15).
* [30:6] Distressed…land: the wilderness between Judah and Egypt, through which Judahite messengers had to pass, carrying their tribute to Egypt to buy assistance in the struggle against Assyria. Flying saraph: see notes on 6:2; 14:29.
* [30:7] Here as elsewhere (cf. Ps 87:4) Egypt is compared to Rahab, the raging, destructive sea monster (cf. Is 51:9; Jb 26:12; Ps 89:11); yet Egypt, when asked for aid by Judah, becomes silent and “sits still.”
* [30:8] Isaiah will write down his condemnation of the foolish policy pursued so that the truth of his warning of its dire consequences (vv. 12–17) may afterward be recognized.
* [30:10] Seers…prophets: the two terms are synonyms for prophetic figures such as Isaiah (1:1; 2:1; 6:1, 5). There is wordplay between the nouns and their cognate verbs, both of which mean “to see.” The authorities are depicted as forbidding prophets to contradict their secret political and military policies.
* [30:20] Teacher: God, who in the past made the people blind and deaf through the prophetic message (6:9–10) and who in his anger hid his face from the house of Jacob (8:17), shall in the future help them to understand his teaching clearly (cf. Jer 31:34).
* [30:27–33] God’s punishment of Assyria. The name of the LORD: here, God himself; cf. Ps 20:2.
* [30:33] Tophet: a site, near Jerusalem, where children were sacrificed by fire to Molech (2 Kgs 23:10), and where, probably, Ahaz sacrificed his son (2 Kgs 16:3). Here, Isaiah speaks of “his tophet,” the site prepared for burning up the king of Assyria. King: there seems to be a play on words between the Heb. word for king (melek) and the name Molech. This defeat of Assyria becomes the occasion for Israel’s festal rejoicing (v. 32).
a. [30:1] Is 1:4; 5:21; 28:15; 29:15.
b. [30:2] Is 31:1; 36:6.
c. [30:3] Is 20:5; Jer 2:36–37.
d. [30:4] Is 19:11.
e. [30:5] Is 36:6.
f. [30:8] Is 8:1, 16; Jer 36:2; Hb 2:2.
g. [30:9] Is 1:4; 28:12; Jer 7:28.
h. [30:10] Is 29:10; Jer 5:31; 11:21; Am 2:12.
i. [30:11] Jb 21:14–15.
j. [30:12] Is 28:15; Ps 62:11.
k. [30:13] Is 28:17; Ez 13:14.
l. [30:14] Jer 19:11.
m. [30:15] Is 7:4; 8:6; 28:12.
n. [30:16] Is 31:3.
o. [30:17] Is 11:10; Dt 32:30.
p. [30:18] Ex 34:6; Ps 34:9; Jer 17:7.
q. [30:19] Is 25:8; 58:9; 65:24.
r. [30:20] Is 6:9–10; 8:17; 29:18.
s. [30:22] Is 2:20; 27:9; 31:7.
t. [30:23] Lv 26:3–5.
u. [30:26] Is 1:6; Jer 30:17; Hos 6:1.
v. [30:27] Is 10:17; 29:6.
w. [30:28] Is 8:7–8; 37:29.
x. [30:30] Is 10:17; 28:2; 29:6.
y. [30:32] Is 10:24–26; 14:24–27.
z. [30:33] Gn 19:24; Ez 38:22.
1Ah! Those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses;
Who put their trust in chariots because of their number,
and in horsemen because of their combined power,
But look not to the Holy One of Israel
nor seek the LORD!* a
2Yet he too is wise and will bring disaster;
he will not turn from his threats.
He will rise up against the house of the wicked
and against those who help evildoers.b
3The Egyptians are human beings, not God,
their horses flesh, not spirit;
When the LORD stretches forth his hand,
the helper shall stumble, the one helped shall fall,
and both of them shall perish together.c
4For thus says the LORD to me:
As a lion or its young
growling over the prey,
With a band of shepherds
assembled against it,
Is neither dismayed by their shouts
nor cowed by their noise,
So shall the LORD of hosts come down
to wage war upon Mount Zion, upon its height.d
5Like hovering birds, so the LORD of hosts
shall shield Jerusalem,
To shield and deliver,
to spare and rescue.e
6Return, O Israelites, to him whom you have utterly deserted.f 7On that day each one of you shall reject his idols of silver and gold, which your hands have made.g
8Assyria shall fall by a sword, not wielded by human being,
no mortal sword shall devour him;
He shall flee before the sword,
and his young men shall be impressed as laborers.h
9He shall rush past his crag* in panic,
and his princes desert the standard in terror,
Says the LORD who has a fire in Zion
and a furnace in Jerusalem.i
* [31:1] Seek the LORD: a technical expression for seeking a prophetic or priestly oracle, similar to the expression “asking my counsel” in 30:2. The prophet complains that Judah has decided on its policy of alliance with Egypt without first consulting the Lord.
* [31:9] Crag: the king as the rallying point of the princes. Panic: terror is an element of Israel’s holy war tradition, in which defeat of the enemy is accomplished by the Lord rather than by human means (cf. v. 8).
a. [31:1] Is 5:12, 24; 18:2; 22:11; 29:15; 30:2; 36:6.
b. [31:2] Is 28:21.
c. [31:3] Ps 146:3–5.
d. [31:4] Hos 5:14; Am 1:2; 3:8, 12.
e. [31:5] Is 37:35; Dt 32:11; Ps 91:4.
f. [31:6] Is 1:2–4; Jer 3:12.
g. [31:7] Is 2:20; 30:22.
h. [31:8] Is 27:1; 34:5–6; 37:36.
i. [31:9] Is 30:17, 33.
1See, a king will reign justly
and princes will rule rightly.a
2Each of them will be like a shelter from the wind,
a refuge from the rain.
They will be like streams of water in a dry country,
like the shade of a great rock in a parched land.b
3The eyes of those who see will not be closed;
the ears of those who hear will be attentive.c
4The hasty of heart shall take thought to know,
and tongues of stutterers shall speak readily and clearly.
5No more will the fool be called noble,
nor the deceiver be considered honorable.d
6For the fool speaks folly,
his heart plans evil:
perverse speech against the LORD,
Letting the hungry go empty
and the thirsty without drink.e
7The deceits of the deceiver are evil,
he plans devious schemes:
To ruin the poor with lies,
and the needy when they plead their case.f
8But the noble plan noble deeds,
and in noble deeds they persist.
9You women so complacent, rise up and hear my voice,
daughters so confident, give heed to my words.g
10In a little more than a year
your confidence will be shaken;
For the vintage will fail,
no fruit harvest will come in.h
11Tremble, you who are so complacent!
Shudder, you who are so confident!
Strip yourselves bare,
with only a loincloth for cover.i
12Beat your breasts
for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vine;j
13For the soil of my people,
overgrown with thorns and briers;
For all the joyful houses,
the exultant city.k
14The castle* will be forsaken,
the noisy city deserted;
Citadel and tower will become wasteland forever,
the joy of wild donkeys, the pasture of flocks;l
15* Until the spirit from on high
is poured out on us.
And the wilderness becomes a garden land
and the garden land seems as common as forest.m
16Then judgment will dwell in the wilderness
and justice abide in the garden land.
17The work of justice will be peace;
the effect of justice, calm and security forever.n
18My people will live in peaceful country,
in secure dwellings and quiet resting places.o
19And the forest will come down completely,
the city will be utterly laid low.* p
20Happy are you who sow beside every stream,
and let the ox and the donkey go freely!q
* [32:14] The castle: the fortified royal palace in Jerusalem. Citadel: Ophel, the fortified hill, with its stronghold called “the great projecting tower” (Neh 3:27).
* [32:15–18, 20] Extraordinary peace and prosperity will come to Israel under just rulers.
* [32:19] Probably from a different context, perhaps after v. 14a.
a. [32:1] Is 9:6; 11:4; 16:5; Ps 72:1–4; Jer 23:5–6.
b. [32:2] Is 4:6; 16:4; 25:4.
c. [32:3] Is 6:10; 29:18; 35:5.
d. [32:5] Is 5:20.
e. [32:6] Prv 15:2.
f. [32:7] Is 29:20–21; Mi 2:1.
g. [32:9] Is 3:16–24; Am 6:1.
h. [32:10] Zep 1:13.
i. [32:11] Is 20:2; Jer 4:8; Mi 1:8.
j. [32:12] Is 16:9.
k. [32:13] Is 5:6; 7:23–25; 22:2; 34:13.
l. [32:14] Is 7:25; 24:10–11.
m. [32:15] Is 44:3; Ps 104:30; Ez 37:9–10; Jl 3:1–2.
n. [32:17] Is 9:6; 30:15; 33:15–16; Ps 72:2–3, 7; Jas 3:18.
o. [32:18] Jer 23:6; Mi 4:4.
p. [32:19] Is 10:33–34; 26:5.
q. [32:20] Is 7:25; 30:18, 23.
1Ah! You destroyer never destroyed,
betrayer never betrayed!
When you have finished destroying, you will be destroyed;
when you have stopped betraying, you will be betrayed.a
2LORD, be gracious to us; for you we wait.
Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of trouble!b
3At the roaring sound, peoples flee;
when you rise in your majesty, nations are scattered.c
4Spoil is gathered up as caterpillars gather,
an onrush like the rush of locusts.d
5The LORD is exalted, enthroned on high;
he fills Zion with right and justice.e
6That which makes her seasons certain,
her wealth, salvation, wisdom, and knowledge,
is the fear of the LORD, her treasure.f
7See, the men of Ariel cry out in the streets,
the messengers of Shalem* weep bitterly.
8The highways are desolate,
travelers have quit the paths,
Covenants are broken, witnesses spurned;
yet no one gives it a thought.g
9The country languishes in mourning,
Lebanon withers with shame;
Sharon* is like the Arabah,
Bashan and Carmel are stripped bare.h
10Now I will rise up, says the LORD,
now exalt myself,
now lift myself up.i
11You conceive dry grass, bring forth stubble;
my spirit shall consume you like fire.
12The peoples shall be burned to lime,
thorns cut down to burn in fire.j
13Hear, you who are far off, what I have done;
you who are near, acknowledge my might.
14In Zion sinners are in dread,
trembling grips the impious:
“Who of us can live with consuming fire?
who of us can live with everlasting flames?”k
15Whoever walks righteously and speaks honestly,
who spurns what is gained by oppression,
Who waves off contact with a bribe,
who stops his ears so as not to hear of bloodshed,
who closes his eyes so as not to look on evil—l
16That one shall dwell on the heights,
with fortresses of rock for stronghold,
food and drink in steady supply.
17Your eyes will see a king* in his splendor,
they will look upon a vast land.m
18Your mind will dwell on the terror:
“Where is the one who counted, where the one who weighed?
Where the one who counted the towers?”n
19You shall no longer see a defiant people,
a people of speech too obscure to comprehend,
stammering in a tongue not understood.o
20Look to Zion, the city of our festivals;
your eyes shall see Jerusalem
as a quiet abode, a tent not to be struck,
Whose pegs will never be pulled up,
nor any of its ropes severed.p
21Indeed the LORD in majesty will be there for us
a place of rivers and wide streams
on which no galley may go,
where no majestic ship* may pass.q
22For the LORD is our judge,
the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
he it is who will save us.
23The rigging hangs slack;
it cannot hold the mast in place,
nor keep the sail spread out.
Then the blind will divide great spoils
and the lame will carry off the loot.r
24No one who dwells there will say, “I am sick”;
the people who live there will be forgiven their guilt.s
* [33:1–24] After an introductory address to Assyria (v. 1), there follows a prayer on behalf of Jerusalem which recalls what God had done in the past (vv. 2–6) and a description of the present situation (vv. 7–9). In response, the Lord announces a judgment on Assyria (vv. 10–12) that will lead to the purification of Jerusalem’s inhabitants (vv. 13–16). The text ends with an idealized portrait of the redeemed Jerusalem of the future (vv. 17–24).
* [33:7] Ariel…Shalem: Jerusalem; cf. 29:1; Gn 14:18; Ps 76:3. There is a play on words between “Shalem,” the city name, and shalom, Heb. for “peace.”
* [33:9] Sharon: the fertile plain near the Mediterranean.
* [33:17] King: either the ideal Davidic king or God; cf. v. 22.
* [33:21–23] Galley…majestic ship: of a foreign oppressor. Though the broad streams of the future Jerusalem will make it accessible by boat, no foreign invader will succeed in a naval attack on the city, for the Lord will protect it, the enemy fleet will be disabled, and even the weakest inhabitants will gather much plunder from the defeated enemy.
a. [33:1] Is 10:12; 16:4; 21:2; 24:16.
b. [33:2] Is 25:9; 30:18–19.
c. [33:3] Is 17:13; Nm 10:35; Ps 68:2.
d. [33:4] Is 9:2; 33:23.
e. [33:5] Is 1:26–27; 2:11, 17; 32:1; 33:16.
f. [33:6] Is 11:2; 13:22; 60:22.
g. [33:8] Is 24:5; Jgs 5:6.
h. [33:9] Na 1:4.
i. [33:10] Ps 12:6; Zep 3:8.
j. [33:12] Is 10:17.
k. [33:14] Is 30:27, 30, 32; 31:9.
l. [33:15] Ps 15:2–6; 24:4–5.
m. [33:17] Is 26:15.
n. [33:18] Ps 48:13–14.
o. [33:19] Is 28:11.
p. [33:20] Is 32:18; Ps 46:6; 122:1–4.
q. [33:21] Ez 47:1–12; Ps 46:5; 48:7.
r. [33:23] 2 Sm 8:6–7.
s. [33:24] Mi 7:18–19.
1Come near, nations, and listen;
be attentive, you peoples!
Let the earth and what fills it listen,
the world and all it produces.a
2The LORD is angry with all the nations,
enraged against all their host;
He has placed them under the ban,
given them up to slaughter.b
3Their slain shall be cast out,
their corpses shall send up a stench;
the mountains shall run with their blood,c
4All the host of heaven shall rot;
the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll.
All their host shall wither away,
as the leaf wilts on the vine,
or as the fig withers on the tree.d
5When my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens,
it shall come down upon Edom for judgment,
upon a people under my ban.e
6The LORD has a sword sated with blood,
greasy with fat,
With the blood of lambs and goats,
with the fat of rams’ kidneys;
For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
a great slaughter in the land of Edom.f
7Wild oxen shall be struck down with fatlings,
and bullocks with bulls;
Their land shall be soaked with blood,
and their soil greasy with fat.
8* For the LORD has a day of vengeance,
a year of requital for the cause of Zion.g
9Edom’s streams shall be changed into pitch,
its soil into sulfur,
and its land shall become burning pitch;
10Night and day it shall not be quenched,
its smoke shall rise forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste,
never again shall anyone pass through it.h
11But the desert owl and hoot owl shall possess it,
the screech owl and raven shall dwell in it.
The LORD will stretch over it the measuring line of chaos,
the plumb line of confusion.* i
12Its nobles shall be no more,
nor shall kings be proclaimed there;
all its princes are gone.j
13Its castles shall be overgrown with thorns,
its fortresses with thistles and briers.
It shall become an abode for jackals,
a haunt for ostriches.k
14Wildcats shall meet with desert beasts,
satyrs* shall call to one another;
There shall the lilith repose,
and find for herself a place to rest.
15There the hoot owl shall nest and lay eggs,
hatch them out and gather them in her shadow;
There shall the kites assemble,
each with its mate.
16Search through the book of the LORD* and read:
not one of these shall be lacking,
For the mouth of the LORD has ordered it,
and his spirit gathers them there.
17It is he who casts the lot for them;
his hand measures off* their portions;
They shall possess it forever,
and dwell in it from generation to generation.l
* [34:1–35:10] These two chapters form a small collection which looks forward to the vindication of Zion, first by defeat of its enemies (chap. 34), then by its restoration (chap. 35). They are generally judged to be later than the time of Isaiah (eighth century), perhaps during the Babylonian exile or thereafter; they are strongly influenced by Deutero-Isaiah (sixth century). In places they reflect themes from other parts of the Isaian collection.
* [34:8–17] The extreme hostility against Edom in this passage is reflected in a number of other prophetic texts from the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. (cf. e.g., 63:1–6; Jer 49:7–22; Ez 25:12–14). The animus was probably prompted by Edomite infiltration of the southern territories of Judah, especially after the Babylonian conquest of Judah.
* [34:11] Chaos…confusion: tohu…bohu in Hebrew, the terms used to describe the primeval chaos in Gn 1:2.
* [34:14] Satyrs: see note on 13:21. The lilith: a female demon thought to roam about the desert.
* [34:16] Book of the LORD: a list of God’s creatures; cf. Ex 32:32–33; Ps 69:29, “the book of the living”; Ps 139:16, “your book.”
* [34:17] Casts the lot…measures off: an ironic reference to how land might be distributed to new possessors (cf. Jos 14–21; Mi 2:5).
a. [34:1] Mi 1:2.
b. [34:2] Is 24:21.
c. [34:3] Ez 32:4, 6.
d. [34:4] Is 13:10; 24:23; Ez 32:7; Jl 3:3–4; Mt 24:29; 2 Pt 3:10; Rev 6:12–14.
e. [34:5] Jer 46:10.
f. [34:6] Is 63:1; Lv 3:4; 2 Sm 1:22; Jer 49:12–13; Zep 1:7.
g. [34:8] Is 13:9; 63:4.
h. [34:10] Mal 1:4; Rev 14:11; 18:18.
i. [34:11] Is 14:23; 28:17; 2 Kgs 21:13; Zep 2:14.
j. [34:12] Ob 18.
k. [34:13] Is 13:21; Hos 9:6.
l. [34:17] Jos 18:10; Ps 78:55.
1The wilderness and the parched land will exult;
the Arabah will rejoice and bloom;a
2Like the crocus it shall bloom abundantly,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.b
3Strengthen hands that are feeble,
make firm knees that are weak,c
4Say to the fearful of heart:
Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.d
5Then the eyes of the blind shall see,
and the ears of the deaf be opened;e
6Then the lame shall leap like a stag,
and the mute tongue sing for joy.
For waters will burst forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the Arabah.f
7The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals crouch
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
8A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
but it will be for his people;
no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray on it.g
9No lion shall be there,
nor any beast of prey approach,
nor be found.
But there the redeemed shall walk,h
10And the ransomed of the LORD shall return,
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning flee away.i
* [35:1–10] This chapter contains a number of themes similar to those in Deutero-Isaiah (chaps. 40–55), for example, the blossoming of the wilderness (vv. 1–2; cf. 41:18–19), which is now well-irrigated (v. 7; cf. 43:19–20); sight to the blind (vv. 5–6; cf. 42:7, 16); a highway in the wilderness (v. 8; cf. 41:3); and the return of the redeemed/ransomed to Zion (vv. 9–10; cf. 51:11). Nevertheless, it forms a unit with chap. 34 (see note on 34:1–35:10) and reflects, along with that chapter, themes found in chaps. 1–33.
a. [35:1] Is 41:18–19; 55:12–13.
b. [35:2] Is 40:5; 60:13.
c. [35:3] Is 40:29–30; Jb 4:3–4; Heb 12:12.
d. [35:4] Is 41:10; Zec 8:13.
e. [35:5] Is 29:18; 32:3.
f. [35:6] Is 32:3–4; 41:18; 43:19–20; 44:3; Mt 11:5.
g. [35:8] Is 11:16; 43:19; 49:11.
h. [35:9] Is 62:10; Lv 26:6.
i. [35:10] Is 51:11.
Invasion of Sennacherib. 1In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib, king of Assyria, went up against all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.* a 2From Lachish the king of Assyria sent his commander with a great army to King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. When he stopped at the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway of the fuller’s field, 3there came out to him the master of the palace, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, and Shebna the scribe, and the chancellor, Joah, son of Asaph. 4The commander said to them, “Tell Hezekiah: Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria: On what do you base this trust of yours? 5Do you think mere words substitute for strategy and might in war? In whom, then, do you place your trust, that you rebel against me? 6Do you trust in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff which pierces the hand of anyone who leans on it? That is what Pharaoh, king of Egypt, is to all who trust in him.b 7Or do you say to me: It is in the LORD, our God, we trust? Is it not he whose high places and altars Hezekiah has removed,* commanding Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Worship before this altar’?c
8“Now, make a wager with my lord, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able to put riders on them. 9How then can you turn back even a captain, one of the least servants of my lord, trusting, as you do, in Egypt for chariots and horses? 10Did I come up to destroy this land without the LORD? The LORD himself said to me, Go up and destroy that land!”d
11Then Eliakim and Shebna and Joah said to the commander, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic; we understand it. Do not speak to us in the language of Judah within earshot of the people who are on the wall.”*
12But the commander replied, “Was it to your lord and to you that my lord sent me to speak these words? Was it not rather to those sitting on the wall, who, with you, will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” 13Then the commander stepped forward and cried out in a loud voice in the language of Judah, “Listen to the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. 14Thus says the king: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he cannot rescue you. 15And do not let Hezekiah induce you to trust in the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD will surely rescue us, and this city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’ 16Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria:
Make peace with me
and surrender to me!
Eat, each of you, from your vine,
each from your own fig tree.
Drink water, each from your own well,e
17until I arrive and take you
to a land like your own,
A land of grain and wine,
a land of bread and vineyards.
18Do not let Hezekiah seduce you by saying, ‘The LORD will rescue us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations rescued his land from the power of the king of Assyria?f 19Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Where are the gods of Samaria? Have they saved Samaria from my power?g 20Who among all the gods of these lands ever rescued their land from my power, that the LORD should save Jerusalem from my power?” 21But they remained silent and did not answer at all, for the king’s command was, “Do not answer him.”
22Then the master of the palace, Eliakim, son of Hilkiah, Shebna the scribe, and the chancellor Joah, son of Asaph, came to Hezekiah with their garments torn, and reported to him the words of the commander.
* [36:1–39:8] Except for 38:9–20 (Hezekiah’s prayer of thanksgiving), this historical appendix describing the siege, etc., is paralleled in 2 Kgs 18:13–20:19, which, however, has certain details proper to itself. The events are also reflected in the cuneiform inscriptions of Sennacherib.
* [36:1] The occasion for this Assyrian attack was Hezekiah’s attempt to reject Judah’s status as vassal to Assyria, relying on help from Egypt, a course of action condemned by Isaiah (see notes on 28:15, 18; 28:16; 29:7–8; 30:1–17; etc.). 2 Kgs 19:14–16 reports that Hezekiah surrendered to the Assyrians and paid the tribute imposed on him—a report omitted in the Isaiah text.
* [36:7] The Assyrians assert that Hezekiah’s removal of the high places and altars (unofficial sanctuaries) was taken by the Lord as an insult. They declare to Jerusalem’s emissaries that the city therefore no longer has a right to the Lord’s protection and that they are the ones who truly carry out his will (cf. v. 10).
* [36:11] The emissaries of King Hezekiah ask that the conversation be carried on in Aramaic, not in Hebrew, for they fear the effect of the Assyrian claims upon the morale of the people.
a. [36:1] 2 Kgs 18:13; 2 Chr 32:1.
b. [36:6] Is 30:2–3, 7.
c. [36:7] 2 Kgs 18:4.
d. [36:10] Is 10:5–6.
e. [36:16] 1 Kgs 5:5; Zec 3:10.
f. [36:18] Is 37:11.
g. [36:19] Is 10:9; 37:13.
1* When King Hezekiah heard this, he tore his garments, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the LORD. 2He sent Eliakim, the master of the palace, and Shebna the scribe, and the elders of the priests, covered with sackcloth, to tell the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz,
3“Thus says Hezekiah:
A day of distress and rebuke,
a day of disgrace is this day!
Children are due to come forth,
but the strength to give birth is lacking.* a
4Perhaps the LORD, your God, will hear the words of the commander, whom his lord, the king of Assyria, sent to taunt the living God, and will rebuke him for the words which the LORD, your God, has heard. So lift up a prayer for the remnant that is here.”
5When the servants of King Hezekiah had come to Isaiah, 6he said to them: “Tell this to your lord: Thus says the LORD: Do not be frightened by the words you have heard, by which the deputies of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.b
7I am putting in him such a spirit
that when he hears a report
he will return to his land.
I will make him fall by the sword in his land.”
8When the commander, on his return, heard that the king of Assyria had withdrawn from Lachish, he found him besieging Libnah. 9The king of Assyria heard a report: “Tirhakah,* king of Ethiopia, has come out to fight against you.” Again he sent messengers to Hezekiah to say: 10“Thus shall you say to Hezekiah, king of Judah: Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by saying, ‘Jerusalem will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.’c 11You, certainly, have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands: they put them under the ban! And are you to be delivered? 12Did the gods of the nations whom my fathers destroyed deliver them—Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the Edenites in Telassar? 13Where are the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, or a king of the cities Sepharvaim, Hena or Ivvah?”
14Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then he went up to the house of the LORD, and spreading it out before the LORD, 15Hezekiah prayed to the LORD:
16“LORD of hosts, God of Israel,
enthroned on the cherubim!
You alone are God
over all the kingdoms of the earth.
It is you who made
the heavens and the earth.*
17Incline your ear, LORD, and listen!
open your eyes, LORD, and see!
Hear all the words Sennacherib has sent
to taunt the living God.
18Truly, O LORD,
the kings of Assyria have laid waste
the nations and their lands.
19They gave their gods to the fire
—they were not gods at all,
but the work of human hands—
Wood and stone, they destroyed them.d
20Therefore, LORD, our God,
save us from this man’s power,
That all the kingdoms of the earth may know
that you alone, LORD, are God.”
21* Then Isaiah, son of Amoz, sent this message to Hezekiah: “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, to whom you have prayed concerning Sennacherib, king of Assyria: I have listened! 22This is the word the LORD has spoken concerning him:e
She despises you, laughs you to scorn,
the virgin daughter Zion;
Behind you she wags her head,
23Whom have you insulted and blasphemed,
at whom have you raised your voice
And lifted up your eyes on high?
At the Holy One of Israel!f
24Through the mouths of your messengers
you have insulted the Lord when you said:
‘With my many chariots I went up
to the tops of the peaks,
to the recesses of Lebanon,
To cut down its lofty cedars,
its choice cypresses;
I reached the farthest shelter,
the forest ranges.
25I myself dug wells
and drank foreign water;
Drying up all the rivers of Egypt
beneath the soles of my feet.’
26Have you not heard?
A long time ago I prepared it,
from days of old I planned it,
Now I have brought it about:
You are here to reduce
fortified cities to heaps of ruins,g
27Their people powerless,
dismayed and distraught,
They are plants of the field,
thatch on the rooftops,
Grain scorched by the east wind.
28I know when you stand or sit,
when you come or go,
and how you rage against me.
29Because you rage against me
and your smugness has reached my ears,
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
And make you leave by the way you came.h
30This shall be a sign* for you:
This year you shall eat the aftergrowth,
next year, what grows of itself;
But in the third year, sow and reap,
plant vineyards and eat their fruit!
31The remaining survivors of the house of Judah
shall again strike root below
and bear fruit above.i
32For out of Jerusalem shall come a remnant,
and from Mount Zion, survivors.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this.j
33Therefore, thus says the LORD about the king of Assyria:
He shall not come as far as this city,
nor shoot there an arrow,
nor confront it with a shield,
Nor cast up a siege-work against it.
34By the way he came he shall leave,
never coming as far as this city,
oracle of the LORD.
35I will shield and save this city
for my own sake and the sake of David my servant.”k
36Then the angel of the LORD went forth and struck down one hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. Early the next morning, there they were, all those corpses, dead!* l 37So Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, broke camp, departed, returned home, and stayed in Nineveh.
38When he was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch, his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword and fled into the land of Ararat.* His son Esarhaddon reigned in his place.
* [37:1–35] There appear to be parallel accounts of Hezekiah’s appeal and the response received (vv. 1–7 and vv. 14–35): in each, Hezekiah goes to the Temple, refers to the Assyrian boasts (found in 36:15–20; 37:10–14), and receives a favorable response from Isaiah.
* [37:3] A proverbial expression. In the Bible the pangs of childbirth often typify extreme anguish; cf. 13:8; Jer 6:24; Mi 4:9–10. In this instance there is reference to the desperate situation of Hezekiah from which he would scarcely be able to free himself.
* [37:9] Tirhakah: may have been general of the Egyptian army in 701 B.C.; later he became pharaoh, one of the Ethiopian dynasty of Egyptian kings (ca. 690–664 B.C.). Many consider that this account in Isaiah combines features of two originally distinct sieges of Jerusalem by Sennacherib.
* [37:16] In contrast to the empty boasting of the Assyrians, Hezekiah proclaims the Lord as “God over all the kingdoms of the earth.”
* [37:21–37] The reversal of Isaiah’s attitude toward Hezekiah’s revolt (see note on 36:1) and a wonderful deliverance after Hezekiah had already submitted and paid tribute raise questions difficult to answer. See note on 22:1–14. Some have postulated that chaps. 36–37 combine accounts of two different Assyrian invasions.
* [37:30] A sign: sets a time limit. After two years the normal conditions of life will be resumed. See the similar use of time limits as signs in 7:15–16; 8:4; 16:14; and 21:16. You: Hezekiah.
* [37:36] The destruction of Sennacherib’s army is also recorded by Herodotus, a Greek historian of the fifth century B.C. It was possibly owing to a plague, which the author interprets as God’s activity.
* [37:38] The violent death of Sennacherib (681 B.C.) is also mentioned in non-biblical sources. It occurred twenty years after his invasion of Judah. Ararat: the land of Urartu in the mountains north of Assyria.
a. [37:3] Is 26:18.
b. [37:6] Is 7:4; 10:24.
c. [37:10] Is 36:14.
d. [37:19] Jer 16:20.
e. [37:22] 2 Kgs 19:21.
f. [37:23] Is 10:12.
g. [37:26] Is 10:6, 15.
h. [37:29] Is 30:28.
i. [37:31] Is 27:6.
j. [37:32] Is 9:6.
k. [37:35] Is 31:5; 1 Kgs 15:4.
l. [37:36] Is 10:12; 17:14.
Sickness and Recovery of Hezekiah. 1* In those days,* when Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him: “Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.”a 2Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD:
3“Ah, LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was good in your sight!” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.b
4Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5Go, tell Hezekiah:* Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. Now I will add fifteen years to your life. 6I will rescue you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; I will be a shield to this city.c
7This will be the sign for you from the LORD that the LORD will carry out the word he has spoken: 8See, I will make the shadow cast by the sun on the stairway to the terrace of Ahaz* go back the ten steps it has advanced. So the sun came back the ten steps it had advanced.d
Hezekiah’s Hymn of Thanksgiving. 9The song of Hezekiah, king of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his illness:
10In the noontime of life* I said,
I must depart!
To the gates of Sheol I have been consigned
for the rest of my years.e
11I said, I shall see the LORD* no more
in the land of the living.
Nor look on any mortals
among those who dwell in the world.
12My dwelling, like a shepherd’s tent,
is struck down and borne away from me;
You have folded up my life, like a weaver
who severs me from the last thread.* f
From morning to night you make an end of me;
13I cry out even until the dawn.
Like a lion he breaks all my bones;
from morning to night you make an end of me.g
14Like a swallow I chirp;
I moan like a dove.
My eyes grow weary looking heavenward:
Lord, I am overwhelmed; go security for me!
15* What am I to say or tell him?
He is the one who has done it!
All my sleep has fled,
because of the bitterness of my soul.
16Those live whom the LORD protects;
yours is the life of my spirit.
You have given me health and restored my life!
17Peace in place of bitterness!
You have preserved my life
from the pit of destruction;
Behind your back
you cast all my sins.*
18* For it is not Sheol that gives you thanks,
nor death that praises you;
Neither do those who go down into the pit
await your kindness.h
19The living, the living give you thanks,
as I do today.
Parents declare to their children,
O God, your faithfulness.
20The LORD is there to save us.
We shall play our music
In the house of the LORD
all the days of our life.
21* Then Isaiah said, “Bring a poultice of figs and apply it to the boil for his recovery.” 22Hezekiah asked, “What is the sign that I shall go up to the house of the LORD?”
* [38:1–39:8] The events of this section—sickness and recovery of Hezekiah, embassy of Merodach-baladan—anticipate the rise of Babylon (chaps. 40–66). They occurred prior to the events of 36:1–37:38, which point back to Assyria (1:1–35:10).
* [38:1] In those days: before the siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C.
* [38:5] Since Hezekiah died in 687 B.C., his sickness may have occurred in 702 B.C., that is, fifteen years before.
* [38:8] Stairway to the terrace of Ahaz: this interpretation is based on a reading of the Hebrew text revised according to the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah; cf. 2 Kgs 23:12. Many translate the phrase as “steps of Ahaz” and understand this as referring to a sundial.
* [38:10] In the noontime of life: long before the end of a full span of life; cf. Ps 55:24; 102:25.
* [38:11] See the LORD: go to the Temple and take part in its service.
* [38:12] These two metaphors emphasize the suddenness and finality of death.
* [38:15–16] The Hebrew text is very problematic and its meaning uncertain.
* [38:17] Behind your back you cast all my sins: figurative language to express the divine forgiveness of sins, as if God no longer saw or cared about them.
* [38:18–19] See note on Ps 6:6.
* [38:21–22] These verses are clearly out of place. Logically they should come after v. 6, as they do in the parallel account in 2 Kgs 20, but the two accounts are not identical, and it appears that the version in Isaiah is abbreviated from that in Kings. If that is so, Is 38:21–22 would be a secondary addition from Kings, inserted by a later reader who thought the account incomplete.
a. [38:1] 2 Kgs 20:1.
b. [38:3] 2 Kgs 18:5–6.
c. [38:6] Is 37:35.
d. [38:8] 2 Kgs 20:9–11.
e. [38:10] Jb 17:11–13; Ps 102:25.
f. [38:12] Jb 7:6.
g. [38:13] Jb 23:14.
h. [38:18] Ps 6:6; 88:11–13.
Embassy from Merodach-baladan. 1At that time Merodach-baladan,* son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and gifts to Hezekiah, when he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.a 2Hezekiah was pleased at their coming, and then showed the messengers his treasury, the silver and gold, the spices and perfumed oil, his whole armory, and everything in his storerooms; there was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.b
3Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah and asked him, “What did these men say to you? Where did they come from?” Hezekiah replied, “They came to me from a distant land, from Babylon.” 4He asked, “What did they see in your house?” Hezekiah answered, “They saw everything in my house. There is nothing in my storerooms that I did not show them.” 5Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6The time is coming when all that is in your house, everything that your ancestors have stored up until this day, shall be carried off to Babylon;* nothing shall be left, says the LORD.c 7Some of your own descendants, your progeny, shall be taken and made attendants in the palace of the king of Babylon.”d 8Hezekiah replied to Isaiah, “The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good.”* For he thought, “There will be peace and stability in my lifetime.”
* [39:1] Merodach-baladan: twice king of Babylon, probably from 721 to 710 B.C., and again for nine months, in 704–703. This visit of his messengers, certainly before 701, was in reality a political one. Babylon hoped to lead an anti-Assyrian confederation composed of neighboring states and wanted Judah to join.
* [39:6] Because Judah preferred to follow a pro-Babylonian policy, instead of trusting in the Lord, it would later be exiled to Babylon.
* [39:8] Hezekiah was relieved that the disaster would not occur in his lifetime.
a. [39:1] 2 Kgs 20:12.
b. [39:2] 2 Chr 32:25–31.
c. [39:6] 2 Kgs 24:13; 25:13–17.
d. [39:7] Dn 1:3–19.
1* Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
2Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service* has ended,
that her guilt is expiated,
That she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.a
3A voice proclaims:*
In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!b
4Every valley shall be lifted up,
every mountain and hill made low;
The rugged land shall be a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
5Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
6A voice says, “Proclaim!”
I answer, “What shall I proclaim?”
“All flesh is grass,
and all their loyalty like the flower of the field.c
7The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.”
“Yes, the people is grass!
8The grass withers, the flower wilts,
but the word of our God stands forever.”
9Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of good news!*
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Cry out, do not fear!
Say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
10Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
11Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
leading the ewes with care.d
12Who has measured with his palm the waters,
marked off the heavens with a span,
held in his fingers the dust of the earth,
weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?*
13Who has directed the spirit of the LORD,
or instructed him as his counselor?e
14Whom did he consult to gain knowledge?
Who taught him the path of judgment,
or showed him the way of understanding?
15See, the nations count as a drop in the bucket,
as a wisp of cloud on the scales;
the coastlands weigh no more than a speck.*
16Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,*
nor its animals be enough for burnt offerings.
17Before him all the nations are as nought,
as nothing and void he counts them.
18To whom can you liken God?f
With what likeness can you confront him?
19An idol? An artisan casts it,
the smith plates it with gold,
fits it with silver chains.* g
20Is mulberry wood the offering?
A skilled artisan picks out
a wood that will not rot,
Seeks to set up for himself
an idol that will not totter.h
21Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Was it not told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the founding of the earth?
22The one who is enthroned above the vault of the earth,
its inhabitants like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a veil
and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in,i
23Who brings princes to nought
and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.
24Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely their stem rooted in the earth,
When he breathes upon them and they wither,
and the stormwind carries them away like straw.
25To whom can you liken me as an equal?
says the Holy One.
26Lift up your eyes on high
and see who created* these:
He leads out their army and numbers them,
calling them all by name.
By his great might and the strength of his power
not one of them is missing!j
27Why, O Jacob, do you say,*
and declare, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is God from of old,
creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary,
and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny.
29He gives power to the faint,
abundant strength to the weak.
30Though young men faint and grow weary,
and youths stagger and fall,
31They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength,
they will soar on eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary,
walk and not grow faint.
* [40:1–55:13] Chapters 40–55 are usually designated Second Isaiah (or Deutero-Isaiah) and are believed to have been written by an anonymous prophet toward the end of the Babylonian exile. Isaiah, who is named frequently in chaps. 1–39, does not appear here; the Assyrians, the great threat during the eighth century, hardly appear; the Judeans are in Babylon, having been taken there by the victorious Babylonians; Cyrus, the Persian king, is named; he will defeat Babylon and release the captives. Second Isaiah, who sees this not as a happy circumstance but as part of God’s age-old plan, exhorts the Judeans to resist the temptations of Babylonian religion and stirs up hopes of an imminent return to Judah, where the Lord will again be acknowledged as King (52:7). Because the prophet proclaimed the triumph of Persia over Babylon, his message would have been considered seditious, and it is very likely for this reason that the collection would have circulated anonymously. At some point it was appended to Is 1–39 and consequently was long considered the work of Isaiah of Jerusalem of the eighth century. But the fact that it is addressed to Judean exiles in Babylon indicates a sixth-century date. Nevertheless, this eloquent prophet in many ways works within the tradition of Isaiah and develops themes found in the earlier chapters, such as the holiness of the Lord (cf. note on 1:4) and his lordship of history. Second Isaiah also develops other Old Testament themes, such as the Lord as Israel’s redeemer or deliverer (cf. Ex 3:8; 6:6; 15:13; 18:8).
* [40:1] The “voices” of vv. 3, 6 are members of the heavenly court addressing the prophet; then v. 1 can be understood as the Lord addressing them. It is also possible to translate, with the Vulgate, “Comfort, give comfort, O my people” (i.e., the exiles are called to comfort Jerusalem). The juxtaposition of “my people” and “your God” recalls the covenant formulary.
* [40:2] Service: servitude (cf. Jb 7:1) and exile.
* [40:3–5] A description of the return of the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem (Zion). The language used here figuratively describes the way the exiles will take. The Lord leads them, so their way lies straight across the wilderness rather than along the well-watered routes usually followed from Mesopotamia to Israel. Mt 3:3 and gospel parallels adapt these verses to the witness of John the Baptizer to Jesus.
* [40:9] Herald of good news: i.e., of the imminent restoration of the people to their land. This theme of the proclamation of the good news occurs elsewhere in Second Isaiah; cf. also 41:27; 52:7.
* [40:12] The implicit answer is “the hand of the LORD” (v. 2). Waters…heavens…earth: together form the universe; cf. Gn 1:1–2. Span: the distance between the extended little finger and the thumb. Fingers: lit., “three fingers” (i.e., thumb, index, and middle).
* [40:15] Drop…wisp of cloud…a speck: the smallest constituent parts of the cosmic waters, heavens, and earth mentioned in v. 12.
* [40:16] Lebanon…fuel: the famed cedars would not be enough to keep the fires of sacrifice burning.
* [40:19] Chains: needed to hold the idol steady when carried in processions; cf. v. 20; Jer 10:4.
* [40:26] Created: see note on Gn 1:1–2:3. By name: for he is their Creator.
* [40:27–28] The exiles, here called Jacob-Israel (Gn 32:29), must not give way to discouragement: their Lord is the eternal God.
a. [40:2] Is 50:21.
b. [40:3] Mt 3:3; Mk 1:3; Lk 2:27; Jn 1:23.
c. [40:6] Jb 8:12; 14:2; Ps 37:2; Sir 14:18; Jas 1:10; 1 Pt 1:24.
d. [40:11] Is 49:9–10; 63:11; Ez 34:23; 37:24; Jn 10:11.
e. [40:13] Wis 9:13; Rom 11:34; 1 Cor 2:16; Jb 38:1–11.
f. [40:18–19] Acts 17:29.
g. [40:19] Ps 115:4–7; Jer 10:4.
h. [40:20] Is 44:13.
i. [40:22] Ps 104:2.
j. [40:26] Ps 147:4–5.
1Keep silence before me, O coastlands;*
let the nations renew their strength.
Let them draw near and speak;
let us come together for judgment.
2Who has stirred up from the East the champion of justice,
and summoned him to be his attendant?
To him he delivers nations
and subdues kings;
With his sword he reduces them to dust,
with his bow, to driven straw.
3He pursues them, passing on without loss,
by a path his feet scarcely touch.
4Who has performed these deeds?
Who has called forth the generations from the beginning?a
I, the LORD, am the first,
and at the last* I am he.
5The coastlands see, and fear;
the ends of the earth tremble:
they approach, they come on.
6Each one helps his neighbor,
one says to the other, “Courage!”
7The woodworker encourages the goldsmith,
the one who beats with the hammer, him who strikes on the anvil,
Saying of the soldering, “It is good!”
then fastening it with nails so it will not totter.
8But you, Israel, my servant,b
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
offspring of Abraham my friend—
9You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth
and summoned from its far-off places,
To whom I have said, You are my servant;
I chose you, I have not rejected you—
10Do not fear: I am with you;
do not be anxious: I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
11Yes, all shall be put to shame and disgrace
who vent their anger against you;
Those shall be as nothing and perish
who offer resistance.
12You shall seek but not find
those who strive against you;
They shall be as nothing at all
who do battle with you.
13For I am the LORD, your God,
who grasp your right hand;
It is I who say to you, Do not fear,
I will help you.
14Do not fear, you worm Jacob,
you maggot Israel;
I will help you—oracle of the LORD;
the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer.*
15I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, full of teeth,
To thresh the mountains and crush them,
to make the hills like chaff.
16When you winnow them, the wind shall carry them off,
the storm shall scatter them.
But you shall rejoice in the LORD;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
17The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain,
their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the LORD, will answer them;
I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18I will open up rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the broad valleys;
I will turn the wilderness into a marshland,
and the dry ground into springs of water.
19In the wilderness I will plant the cedar,
acacia, myrtle, and olive;
In the wasteland I will set the cypress,
together with the plane tree and the pine,
20That all may see and know,
observe and understand,
That the hand of the LORD has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.
21Present your case, says the LORD;*
bring forward your arguments, says the King of Jacob.
22Let them draw near and foretell to us
what it is that shall happen!
What are the things of long ago?
Tell us, that we may reflect on them
and know their outcome;
Or declare to us the things to come,*
23tell what is to be in the future,
that we may know that you are gods!
Do something, good or evil,
that will put us in awe and in fear.
24Why, you are nothing
and your work is nought;
to choose you is an abomination!
25I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes;
from the east I summon him* by name;
He shall trample the rulers down like mud,
like a potter treading clay.
26Who announced this from the beginning, that we might know;
beforehand, that we might say, “True”?
Not one of you foretold it, not one spoke;
not one heard you say,
27“The first news for Zion: here they come,”
or, “I will give Jerusalem a herald of good news.”
28When I look, there is not one,
not one of them to give counsel,
to make an answer when I question them.
29Ah, all of them are nothing,
their works are nought,
their idols, empty wind!
* [41:1–4] Earlier prophets had spoken of the Assyrians and Babylonians as the Lord’s instruments for the punishment of Israel’s sins; here the Lord is described as raising up and giving victory to a foreign ruler in order to deliver Israel from the Babylonian exile. The ruler is Cyrus (44:28; 45:1), king of Anshan in Persia, a vassal of the Babylonians. He rebelled against the Babylonian overlords in 556 B.C., and after a series of victories, entered Babylon as victor in 539; the following year he issued a decree which allowed the Jewish captives to return to their homeland (2 Chr 36:22–23; Ezr 1:1–4). For Second Isaiah, the meteoric success of Cyrus was the work of the Lord to accomplish the deliverance promised by earlier prophets.
* [41:4] The first…the last: God as the beginning and end encompasses all reality. The same designation is used in 44:6 and 48:12.
* [41:14] Redeemer: in Hebrew, go’el, one who frees others from slavery and avenges their sufferings; cf. Lv 25:48; Dt 19:6, 12. Cf. note on Ru 2:20.
* [41:21–29] This indictment of Babylonian gods is patterned on a legal trial, in which they are challenged to prove power over events of history and so justify their status as gods (vv. 21–24). Israel’s God, on the other hand, has foretold and now brings to pass Israel’s deliverance (vv. 25–27). The accused are unable to respond (vv. 28–29). By such polemics (see also 43:12) the prophet declares that all gods other than the Lord are nonexistent; this implicit claim of monotheism later becomes explicit (see 43:10–11; 45:5–7, 14, 18, 21–22; 46:9; and note on 44:6).
* [41:22] Things of long ago…things to come: there are no predictions attributed to idols that have since been fulfilled. Second Isaiah makes frequent reference to “things of long ago,” sometimes in conjunction with “things to come” or “new things” in connection with the Lord’s activity (cf. 42:9; 43:9, 18; 46:9–10; 48:3–8); both the old things (e.g., creation, exodus) and the new things (release from exile) God brings to pass (cf. 51:9–11), which is why he can declare them beforehand.
* [41:25] I summon him: Cyrus.
a. [41:4] Is 44:7; 46:10.
b. [41:8–9] Is 44:1–2, 21; 45:4.
1Here is my servant* whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am pleased.
Upon him I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice to the nations.a
2He will not cry out, nor shout,
nor make his voice heard in the street.
3A bruised reed* he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench.
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
4He will not grow dim or be bruised
until he establishes justice on the earth;
the coastlands* will wait for his teaching.
5Thus says God, the LORD,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and its produce,
Who gives breath to its people
and spirit to those who walk on it:
6I, the LORD, have called you for justice,
I have grasped you by the hand;
I formed you, and set you
as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,b
7To open the eyes of the blind,
to bring out prisoners from confinement,
and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.
8I am the LORD, LORD is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
9See, the earlier things have come to pass,
new ones I now declare;
Before they spring forth
I announce them to you.
10Sing to the LORD a new song,
his praise from the ends of the earth:
Let the sea and what fills it resound,
the coastlands, and those who dwell in them.
11Let the wilderness and its cities cry out,
the villages where Kedar* dwells;
Let the inhabitants of Sela exult,
and shout from the top of the mountains.
12Let them give glory to the LORD,
and utter his praise in the coastlands.
13The LORD goes forth like a warrior,
like a man of war he stirs up his fury;
He shouts out his battle cry,
against his enemies he shows his might:c
14For a long time I have kept silent,
I have said nothing, holding myself back;
Now I cry out like a woman in labor,
gasping and panting.
15* I will lay waste mountains and hills,
all their undergrowth I will dry up;
I will turn the rivers into marshes,
and the marshes I will dry up.d
16I will lead the blind on a way they do not know;
by paths they do not know I will guide them.
I will turn darkness into light before them,
and make crooked ways straight.
These are my promises:
I made them, I will not forsake them.e
17They shall be turned back in utter shame
who trust in idols;
Who say to molten images,
“You are our gods.”
18You deaf ones, listen,*
you blind ones, look and see!
19Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf like the messenger I send?
Who is blind like the one I restore,
blind like the servant of the LORD?
20You see many things but do not observe;
ears open, but do not hear.
21It was the LORD’s will for the sake of his justice
to make his teaching great and glorious.
22This is a people* plundered and despoiled,
all of them trapped in holes,
hidden away in prisons.
They are taken as plunder, with no one to rescue them,
as spoil, with no one to say, “Give back!”
23Who among you will give ear to this,
listen and pay attention from now on?
24Who was it that gave Jacob to be despoiled,
Israel to the plunderers?*
Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned?
In his ways they refused to walk,
his teaching they would not heed.
25So he poured out wrath upon them,
his anger, and the fury of battle;
It blazed all around them, yet they did not realize,
it burned them, but they did not take it to heart.
* [42:1–4] Servant: three other passages have been popularly called “servant of the Lord” poems: 49:1–7; 50:4–11; 52:13–53:12. Whether the servant is an individual or a collectivity is not clear (e.g., contrast 49:3 with 49:5). More important is the description of the mission of the servant. In the early Church and throughout Christian tradition, these poems have been applied to Christ; cf. Mt 12:18–21.
* [42:3] Bruised reed…: images to express the gentle manner of the servant’s mission.
* [42:4] Coastlands: for Israel, the world to the west: the islands and coastal nations of the Mediterranean.
* [42:11] Kedar: cf. note on 21:16. Sela: Petra, the capital of Edom.
* [42:15–16] Active once more, God will remove the obstacles that hinder the exiles’ return, and will lead them by new roads to Jerusalem; cf. 40:3–4.
* [42:18–20] The Lord rebukes his people for their failures, but their role and their mission endure: they remain his servant, his messenger to the nations.
* [42:22] A people: Israel in exile.
* [42:24] Plunderers: the Assyrians and Babylonians. We…they: the switch from first- to third-person speech, though puzzling, does not obscure the fact that “the people” is meant.
a. [42:1] Is 45:6; 49:6.
b. [42:6] Is 45:13.
c. [42:13] Ex 14:3.
d. [42:15] Ex 9:25; 10:15; 14:21; Ps 105:33–35.
e. [42:16] Ex 13:21.
1But now, thus says the LORD,
who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name: you are mine.
2When you pass through waters, I will be with you;
through rivers, you shall not be swept away.
When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned,
nor will flames consume you.
3For I, the LORD, am your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your savior.
I give Egypt as ransom for you,
Ethiopia and Seba* in exchange for you.
4Because you are precious in my eyes
and honored, and I love you,
I give people in return for you
and nations in exchange for your life.a
5Fear not, for I am with you;
from the east I will bring back your offspring,
from the west I will gather you.
6I will say to the north: Give them up!
and to the south: Do not hold them!
Bring back my sons from afar,
and my daughters from the ends of the earth:b
7All who are called by my name
I created for my glory;
I formed them, made them.
8Lead out the people, blind though they have eyes,
deaf though they have ears.
9Let all the nations gather together,
let the peoples assemble!
Who among them could have declared this,
or announced to us the earlier things?*
Let them produce witnesses to prove themselves right,
that one may hear and say, “It is true!”
10You are my witnesses*—oracle of the LORD—
my servant whom I have chosen
To know and believe in me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
and after me there shall be none.
11I, I am the LORD;
there is no savior but me.
12It is I who declared, who saved,
who announced, not some strange god among you;
You are my witnesses—oracle of the LORD.
I am God,
13yes, from eternity I am he;
There is none who can deliver from my hand:
I act and who can cancel it?c
14Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,*
the Holy One of Israel:
For your sake I send to Babylon;
I will bring down all her defenses,
and the Chaldeans shall cry out in lamentation.
15I am the LORD, your Holy One,
the creator of Israel, your King.
16Thus says the LORD,
who opens a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,d
17Who leads out chariots and horsemen,
a powerful army,
Till they lie prostrate together, never to rise,
snuffed out, quenched like a wick.e
18Remember not* the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
19See, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the wilderness I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
20Wild beasts honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
For I put water in the wilderness
and rivers in the wasteland
for my chosen people to drink,
21The people whom I formed for myself,
that they might recount my praise.
22Yet you did not call upon me, Jacob,*
for you grew weary of me, Israel.
23You did not bring me sheep for your burnt offerings,
nor honor me with your sacrifices.
I did not exact from you the service of offerings,
nor weary you for frankincense.f
24You did not buy me sweet cane,*
nor did you fill me with the fat of your sacrifices;
Instead, you burdened me with your sins,
wearied me with your crimes.
25It is I, I, who wipe out,
for my own sake, your offenses;
your sins I remember no more.
26Would you have me remember, have us come to trial?
Speak up, prove your innocence!
27Your first father* sinned;
your spokesmen rebelled against me
28Till I repudiated the holy princes,
put Jacob under the ban,
exposed Israel to scorn.
* [43:3–4] Egypt…Ethiopia and Seba: countries which God permitted the Persians to conquer in return for having given Israel its freedom.
* [43:9] Who among them…?: God, and only God, can foretell the future because it is he who brings it to pass. The argument from prediction is an important theme in Second Isaiah and occurs also in 41:22; 43:10; 44:7–8, 26.
* [43:10] You are my witnesses: Israel’s role as chosen people now takes a new turn as they are given the active role of bearing witness before humankind to the Lord’s role in history by proclaiming events beforehand and bringing them to pass; see also 44:8. The false gods, on the other hand, cannot produce such witnesses (v. 9; cf. 44:9). I am he: this formula of self-identification, repeated in vv. 13 and 25, is used here to support the assertion that the Lord alone is God; see also 41:4; 46:4; 48:12; 51:12; 52:6. This expression in part may be behind the self-identification formula used by Jesus in John’s gospel (cf. Jn 8:58). Before…after: another example of the same assertion, that the Lord alone is God; see also note on 44:6.
* [43:14–17] The destruction of Babylon is described in language that recalls the drowning of the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Ex 14–15).
* [43:18] Remember not: God’s new act of delivering Israel from the Babylonian captivity is presented as so great a marvel as to eclipse even the memory of the exodus from Egypt. This comparison of the return from Babylon to the exodus from Egypt recurs throughout Second Isaiah (cf. 41:17–20; 43:18–21; 48:20–21; 49:8–13; 51:9–11).
* [43:22–28] The reason for the liberation of the Israelites is not their constancy but rather God’s faithfulness to his promise (cf. 40:6–8).
* [43:24] Sweet cane: a fragrant substance used in making incense and the sacred anointing oil; cf. Ex 30:23; Jer 6:20.
* [43:27] First father: Jacob. Spokesmen: leaders, priests, prophets.
a. [43:4] Dt 4:37; Hos 11:1.
b. [43:6] Is 49:22; Ez 16:20.
c. [43:13] Is 41:4.
d. [43:16] Is 51:10–11; Ex 14:21.
e. [43:17] Ex 15:4.
f. [43:23] Jer 6:20.
1Hear then, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
2Thus says the LORD who made you,
your help, who formed you from the womb:
Do not fear, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun,* whom I have chosen.
3I will pour out water upon the thirsty ground,
streams upon the dry land;
I will pour out my spirit upon your offspring,
my blessing upon your descendants.
4They shall spring forth amid grass
like poplars beside flowing waters.a
5One shall say, “I am the LORD’s,”
another shall be named after Jacob,
And this one shall write on his hand,* “The LORD’s,”
and receive the name Israel.b
6* Thus says the LORD, Israel’s king,
its redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
I am the first, I am the last;
there is no God but me.* c
7Who is like me? Let him stand up and declare,
make it evident, and confront me with it.
Who of old announced future events?
Let them foretell to us the things to come.
8Do not fear or be troubled.
Did I not announce it to you long ago?
I declared it, and you are my witnesses.
Is there any God but me?
There is no other Rock,* I know of none!d
9* Those who fashion idols are all nothing;
their precious works are of no avail.
They are their witnesses:*
they see nothing, know nothing,
and so they are put to shame.e
10Who would fashion a god or cast an idol,
that is of no use?
11Look, all its company will be shamed;
they are artisans, mere human beings!
They all assemble and stand there,
only to cower in shame.
12The ironsmith fashions a likeness,
he works it over the coals,
Shaping it with hammers,
working it with his strong arm.
With hunger his strength wanes,
without water, he grows faint.f
13The woodworker stretches a line,
and marks out a shape with a stylus.
He shapes it with scraping tools,
with a compass measures it off,
Making it the copy of a man,*
human display, enthroned in a shrine.
14He goes out to cut down cedars,
takes a holm tree or an oak.
He picks out for himself trees of the forest,
plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow.
15It is used for fuel:
with some of the wood he warms himself,
makes a fire and bakes bread.
Yet he makes a god and worships it,
turns it into an idol and adores it!
16Half of it he burns in the fire,
on its embers he roasts meat;
he eats the roast and is full.
He warms himself and says, “Ah!
I am warm! I see the flames!”
17The rest of it he makes into a god,
an image to worship and adore.
He prays to it and says,
“Help me! You are my god!”
18They do not know, do not understand;
their eyes are too clouded to see,
their minds, to perceive.
19He does not think clearly;
he lacks the wit and knowledge to say,
“Half the wood I burned in the fire,
on its embers I baked bread,
I roasted meat and ate.
Shall I turn the rest into an abomination?
Shall I worship a block of wood?”
20He is chasing ashes!*
A deluded mind has led him astray;
He cannot save himself,
does not say, “This thing in my right hand—is it not a fraud?”
21Remember these things, Jacob,
Israel, for you are my servant!
I formed you, a servant to me;
Israel, you shall never be forgotten by me:
22I have brushed away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like a mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
23Raise a glad cry, you heavens—the LORD has acted!
Shout, you depths of the earth.
Break forth, mountains, into song,
forest, with all your trees.
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
shows his glory through Israel.
24Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
I spread out the earth by myself.g
25I bring to nought the omens of babblers,
make fools of diviners,
Turn back the wise
and make their knowledge foolish.
26I confirm the words of my servant,
carry out the plan my messengers announce.
I say to Jerusalem, Be inhabited!
To the cities of Judah, Be rebuilt!
I will raise up their ruins.
27I say to the deep, Be dry!
I will dry up your rivers.h
28I say of Cyrus,* My shepherd!
He carries out my every wish,
Saying of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Lay its foundations.”i
* [44:2] Jeshurun: see note on Dt 32:15; cf. also Dt 33:5, 26.
* [44:5] Write on his hand: an allusion to the Babylonian custom of tattooing the owner’s name on the hand of his slave.
* [44:6–8] Prediction and fulfillment are here seen as the hallmarks of true divinity. See note on 43:9.
* [44:6] No god but me: with Second Isaiah, Israel’s faith is declared to be explicitly monotheistic. However implicit it may have been, earlier formulas did not exclude the existence of other gods, not even that of the first commandment: “You shall not have other gods besides me” (Ex 20:3). Cf. also note on 41:21–29.
* [44:8] Rock: place of refuge, a title here used of God; cf., e.g., Dt 32:4, 18; 1 Sm 2:2; Ps 18:3.
* [44:9–20] A satire on the makers and worshipers of idols.
* [44:9] Their witnesses: Israel has been called to bear witness to the awesome power of God (cf. 43:10, 12; 44:8), but idol makers cannot testify in support of their creations, for idols cannot act (Dt 4:28; Ps 135:15–18).
* [44:13] Copy of a man: in the biblical view human beings are made in the image of God; here gods are made in the image of human beings.
* [44:20] Chasing ashes: an exercise in futility.
* [44:28] Cyrus: king of Persia (559–529 B.C.); cf. note on 41:1–4.
a. [44:4] Is 54:1–3.
b. [44:5] Is 43:7; 45:14.
c. [44:6] Is 41:4; 43:15; 45:21; 48:3, 12; 51:15; 54:5.
d. [44:8] Is 43:10, 12; Dt 32:4.
e. [44:9] Is 48:5, 7.
f. [44:12] Wis 13:11–16.
g. [44:24] Is 40:22; Jb 9:8.
h. [44:27] Is 42:15; 51:10.
i. [44:28] Jer 3:15; Ez 34:23.
1Thus says the LORD to his anointed,* Cyrus,
whose right hand I grasp,
Subduing nations before him,
stripping kings of their strength,
Opening doors before him,
leaving the gates unbarred:
2I will go before you
and level the mountains;
Bronze doors* I will shatter,
iron bars I will snap.a
3I will give you treasures of darkness,
riches hidden away,
That you may know I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who calls you by name.
4For the sake of Jacob, my servant,
of Israel my chosen one,
I have called you by name,
giving you a title, though you do not know me.b
5I am the LORD, there is no other,
there is no God besides me.
It is I who arm you, though you do not know me,
6so that all may know, from the rising of the sun
to its setting, that there is none besides me.*
I am the LORD, there is no other.
7I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make weal and create woe;*
I, the LORD, do all these things.
8Let justice descend, you heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the clouds drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let righteousness spring up with them!*
I, the LORD, have created this.c
9Woe to anyone who contends with their Maker;d
a potsherd among potsherds of the earth!*
Shall the clay say to the potter, “What are you doing?”
or, “What you are making has no handles”?
10Woe to anyone who asks a father, “What are you begetting?”
or a woman, “What are you giving birth to?”
11Thus says the LORD,
the Holy One of Israel, his maker:
Do you question me about my children,
tell me how to treat the work of my hands?
12It was I who made the earth
and created the people upon it;
It was my hands that stretched out the heavens;
I gave the order to all their host.
13It was I who stirred him* up for justice;
all his ways I make level.
He shall rebuild my city
and let my exiles go free
Without price or payment,
says the LORD of hosts.
14Thus says the LORD:
The earnings of Egypt, the gain of Ethiopia,
and the Sabeans,* tall of stature,
Shall come over to you and belong to you;
they shall follow you, coming in chains.
Before you they shall bow down,
saying in prayer:
“With you alone is God; and there is none other,
no other god!e
15Truly with you God is hidden,*
the God of Israel, the savior!f
16They are put to shame and disgrace, all of them;
they go in disgrace who carve images.
17Israel has been saved by the LORD,
You shall never be put to shame or disgrace
in any future age.”
18For thus says the LORD,
The creator of the heavens,
who is God,
The designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
Not as an empty waste* did he create it,
but designing it to be lived in:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
19I have not spoken in secret
from some place in the land of darkness,
I have not said to the descendants of Jacob,
“Look for me in an empty waste.”
I, the LORD, promise justice,
I declare what is right.
20Come and assemble, gather together,
you fugitives from among the nations!
They are without knowledge who bear wooden idols*
and pray to gods that cannot save.
21Come close and declare;
let them take counsel together:
Who announced this from the beginning,
declared it from of old?
Was it not I, the LORD,
besides whom there is no other God?
There is no just and saving God but me.
22Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth,
for I am God; there is no other!
23By myself I swear,
uttering my just decree,
a word that will not return:
To me every knee shall bend;
by me every tongue shall swear,g
24Saying, “Only in the LORD
are just deeds and power.
Before him in shame shall come
all who vent their anger against him.
25In the LORD all the descendants of Israel
shall have vindication and glory.”
* [45:1] Anointed: in Hebrew, mashiah, from which the word “Messiah” is derived; from its Greek translation, Christos, we have the title “Christ.” Applied to kings, “anointed” originally referred only to those of Israel, but it is here given to Cyrus because he is the agent of the Lord.
* [45:2] Bronze doors: those defending the city gates of Babylon.
* [45:6] The nations will come to know that Israel’s God is the only God; cf. also vv. 20–25.
* [45:7] Create woe: God created and controls all aspects of creation (light and darkness, order and chaos).
* [45:8] The Vulgate rendering gave a messianic sense to this verse, using “just one” and “savior” in place of “justice” and “salvation,” phraseology taken over in the Advent liturgy, e.g., the “Rorate coeli.”
* [45:9] No one may challenge God’s freedom of action, exemplified here by the selection of Cyrus as his anointed.
* [45:13] Him: Cyrus, called by God for the deliverance and restoration of Israel. Justice: the Hebrew word (sedeq) has multiple connotations; here it relates to the saving victory that the Lord will give to Cyrus for the deliverance of his people Israel. This word and others from the same root frequently have this connotation in Second Isaiah, occurring as a parallel term with “deliverance,” “salvation,” etc. Cf. its use in 41:10 (rendered “victorious”) and 51:5 (rendered “victory”).
* [45:14] Egypt…Ethiopia…Sabeans: the Egyptians and their allies who, when conquered by Cyrus, are seen as acknowledging the God of Israel; cf. 43:3.
* [45:15] God is hidden: i.e., the one known only to Israel, who cannot be represented by wooden or molten images. The concept of the “Deus absconditus,” “the hidden God,” becomes an important theme in later theology.
* [45:18] Empty waste: an allusion to Gn 1:2, where the earth is waste and void; the same Hebrew word, tohu, is used in both passages. Here it points to devastated Judah and Jerusalem, where God wishes to resettle the returning exiles.
* [45:20] Who bear wooden idols: in their religious processions. Such gods have feet but cannot walk; cf. Ps 115:7; Bar 6:25.
a. [45:2] Ps 107:16.
b. [45:4] Is 40:26; 44:5.
c. [45:8] Ps 72:6; 85:11.
d. [45:9] Jer 18:6; Rom 9:20.
e. [45:14] Is 43:3.
f. [45:15] Is 55:8; Prv 25:2.
g. [45:23] Rom 14:11; Phil 2:10.
1Bel bows down, Nebo* stoops,
their idols set upon beasts and cattle;
They must be borne upon shoulders,
a load for weary animals.
2They stoop and bow down together;
unable to deliver those who bear them,
they too go into captivity.
3Hear me, O house of Jacob,
all the remnant of the house of Israel,
My burden from the womb,
whom I have carried since birth.a
4Even to your old age I am he,
even when your hair is gray I will carry you;
I have done this, and I will lift you up,
I will carry you to safety.
5To whom would you liken me as an equal,
compare me, as though we were alike?
6There are those who pour out gold from a purse
and weigh out silver on the scales;
They hire a goldsmith to make it into a god
before which they bow down in worship.
7They lift it to their shoulders to carry;
when they set it down, it stays,
and does not move from the place.
They cry out to it, but it cannot answer;
it delivers no one from distress.
8Remember this and be firm,
take it to heart, you rebels;
9remember the former things, those long ago:
I am God, there is no other;
I am God, there is none like me.
10At the beginning I declare the outcome;
from of old, things not yet done.
I say that my plan shall stand,
I accomplish my every desire.
11I summon from the east a bird of prey,*
from a distant land, one to carry out my plan.
Yes, I have spoken, I will accomplish it;
I have planned it, and I will do it.
12Listen to me, you fainthearted,
far from the victory of justice:
13I am bringing on that victory, it is not far off,
my salvation shall not tarry;
I will put salvation within Zion,
give to Israel my glory.
* [46:1–4] Bel…Nebo: gods of Babylon; their complete helplessness is here contrasted with God’s omnipotence; whereas they must be carried about, the Lord carries Israel as a parent does a child.
* [46:11] From the east a bird of prey: Cyrus; cf. 41:2–4.
a. [46:3] Is 44:2.
1Come down, sit in the dust,
virgin daughter Babylon;
Sit on the ground, dethroned,
daughter of the Chaldeans.
No longer shall you be called
dainty and delicate.a
2Take the millstone and grind flour,
remove your veil;
Strip off your skirt, bare your legs,
cross through the streams.
3Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
and your shame be seen;
I will take vengeance,
I will yield to no entreaty,
says 4our redeemer,
Whose name is the LORD of hosts,
the Holy One of Israel.
5Go into darkness and sit in silence,
daughter of the Chaldeans,
No longer shall you be called
sovereign mistress of kingdoms.
6Angry at my people,
I profaned my heritage
And gave them into your power;
but you showed them no mercy;
Upon the aged
you laid a very heavy yoke.
7You said, “I shall remain always,
a sovereign mistress forever!”
You did not take these things to heart,
but disregarded their outcome.b
8Now hear this, voluptuous one,
Saying in your heart,
“I, and no one else!*
I shall never be a widow,
bereft of my children”—c
9Both these things shall come to you
suddenly, in a single day:
Complete bereavement and widowhood
shall come upon you
Despite your many sorceries
and the full power of your spells;*
10Secure in your wickedness,
you said, “No one sees me.”
Your wisdom and your knowledge
led you astray,
And you said in your heart,
“I, and no one else!”
11But upon you shall come an evil
you will not be able to charm away;
Upon you shall fall a disaster
you cannot ward off.
Upon you shall suddenly come
a ruin you cannot imagine.
12Keep on with your spells
and your many sorceries,
at which you toiled from your youth.
Perhaps you can prevail,
perhaps you can strike terror!
13You wore yourself out with so many consultations!
Let the astrologers stand forth to save you,
The stargazers who forecast at each new moon
what would happen to you.
14See, they are like stubble,
fire consumes them;
They cannot deliver themselves
from the spreading flames.
This is no warming ember,
no fire to sit before!
15Thus do your wizards serve you
with whom you have toiled from your youth;
They wander their separate ways,
with none to save you.
* [47:1–15] A taunt-song, mocking Babylon, once queen of the nations, now a mere slave.
* [47:8, 10] I, and no one else: Babylon is mockingly presented as making the same claim as the Lord (cf. 45:6, 14, 22; 46:9), a claim that events will soon prove to be false and foolish (v. 11).
* [47:9–13, 15] Babylon was known for its sorcery and astrology.
a. [47:1] Dt 28:56.
b. [47:7] Is 14:13–14.
c. [47:8] Zep 2:15; Rev 18:7.
1Hear this, house of Jacob
called by the name Israel,
sprung from the stock of Judah,
You who swear by the name of the LORD
and invoke the God of Israel
without sincerity, without justice,
2Though you are named after the holy city
and rely on the God of Israel,
whose name is the LORD of hosts.
3Things of the past I declared long ago,
they went forth from my mouth, I announced them;
then suddenly I took action and they came to be.
4Because I know that you are stubborn
and that your neck is an iron sinew
and your forehead bronze,
5I declared them to you of old;
before they took place I informed you,
That you might not say, “My idol did them,
my statue, my molten image commanded them.”
6Now that you have heard, look at all this;
must you not admit it?a
From now on I announce new things to you,
hidden events you never knew.
7Now, not from of old, they are created,
before today you did not hear of them,
so that you cannot claim, “I have known them.”
8You never heard, you never knew,
they never reached your ears beforehand.
Yes, I know you are utterly treacherous,
a rebel you were named from the womb.b
9For the sake of my name I restrain my anger,
for the sake of my renown I hold it back from you,
lest I destroy you.
10See, I refined you, but not like silver;
I tested you in the furnace of affliction.c
11For my sake, for my own sake, I do this;
why should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.
12Listen to me, Jacob,
Israel, whom I called!
I, it is I who am the first,
and am I the last.d
13Yes, my hand laid the foundations of the earth;
my right hand spread out the heavens.
When I summon them,
they stand forth at once.e
14All of you assemble and listen:
Who among you declared these things?
The one the LORD loves* shall do his will
against Babylon and the offspring of Chaldea.
15I myself have spoken, I have summoned him,
I have brought him, and his way succeeds!
16Come near to me and hear this!
From the beginning I did not speak in secret;
At the time it happens, I am there:
“Now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his spirit.”*
17Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel:
I am the LORD, your God,
teaching you how to prevail,
leading you on the way you should go.
18If only you would attend to my commandments,
your peace would be like a river,
your vindication like the waves of the sea,
19Your descendants like the sand,
the offspring of your loins like its grains,
Their name never cut off
or blotted out from my presence.
20Go forth from Babylon, flee from Chaldea!
With shouts of joy declare this, announce it;
Make it known to the ends of the earth,
Say: “The LORD has redeemed his servant Jacob.
21They did not thirst
when he led them through dry lands;
Water from the rock he set flowing for them;
he cleft the rock, and waters welled forth.”f
22There is no peace* for the wicked,
says the LORD.
* [48:14] The one the LORD loves: the reference is no doubt to Cyrus, who does the Lord’s will by overcoming Babylon and releasing Israel from captivity.
* [48:16] “Now the Lord…spirit”: said by Cyrus; cf. v. 14.
* [48:22] No peace: while the good news proclaimed by the prophet is directed to the people as a whole, “peace,” which can represent the fullness of God’s blessings and which would here include deliverance from exile, is not extended to all regardless of disposition.
a. [48:6] Is 42:9.
b. [48:8] Is 43:22–24.
c. [48:10] Is 1:25; Jer 6:29–30; Zec 13:9; Mal 3:2.
d. [48:12] Is 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev 1:8, 17.
e. [48:13] Is 40:22, 26; 45:12, 18.
f. [48:21] Ex 17:6; Nm 20:11.
1Hear me, coastlands,
listen, distant peoples.a
Before birth the LORD called me,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name.*
2He made my mouth like a sharp-edged sword,
concealed me, shielded by his hand.
He made me a sharpened arrow,
in his quiver he hid me.
3He said to me, You are my servant,
in you, Israel,* I show my glory.
4Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
for nothing and for naught spent my strength,
Yet my right is with the LORD,
my recompense is with my God.b
5For now the LORD has spoken
who formed me as his servant from the womb,
That Jacob may be brought back to him
and Israel gathered to him;
I am honored in the sight of the LORD,
and my God is now my strength!
6It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant,
to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and restore the survivors of Israel;c
I will make you a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.*
7Thus says the LORD,
the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,
To the one despised, abhorred by the nations,
the slave of rulers:
When kings see you, they shall stand up,
and princes shall bow down
Because of the LORD who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.d
8Thus says the LORD:
In a time of favor I answer you,*
on the day of salvation I help you;
I form you and set you
as a covenant for the people,
To restore the land
and allot the devastated heritages,e
9To say to the prisoners: Come out!
To those in darkness: Show yourselves!
Along the roadways they shall find pasture,
on every barren height shall their pastures be.f
10They shall not hunger or thirst;
nor shall scorching wind or sun strike them;
For he who pities them leads them
and guides them beside springs of water.g
11I will turn all my mountains into roadway,
and make my highways level.h
12See, these shall come from afar:
some from the north and the west,
others from the land of Syene.*
13Sing out, heavens, and rejoice, earth,
break forth into song, you mountains,
For the LORD comforts his people
and shows mercy to his afflicted.
14But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me.”i
15Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget,
I will never forget you.j
16See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you;*
your walls are ever before me.
17Your children hasten—
your levelers, your destroyers
go forth from you;
18Look about and see,
they are all gathering and coming to you.
As I live—oracle of the LORD—
you shall don them as jewels,
bedeck yourself like a bride.
19Though you were waste and desolate,
a land of ruins,
Now you shall be too narrow for your inhabitants,
while those who swallowed you up will be far away.
20The children of whom you were bereft
shall yet say in your hearing,
“This place is too narrow for me,
make room for me to live in.”
21You shall ask yourself:
“Who has borne me these,
when I was bereft and barren?
Exiled and repudiated,
who has reared them?
I was left all alone;
where then do these come from?”k
22Thus says the Lord GOD:
See, I will lift up my hand to the nations,
and to the peoples raise my signal;
They shall bring your sons in their arms,
your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.l
23Kings shall be your guardians,
their princesses your nursemaids;
Face to the ground, they shall bow down before you
and lick the dust at your feet.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
none who hope in me shall be ashamed.
24Can plunder be taken from a warrior,
or captives rescued from a tyrant?
25Thus says the LORD:
Yes, captives can be taken from a warrior,
and plunder rescued from a tyrant;
Those who oppose you I will oppose,
and your sons I will save.
26I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they shall be drunk with their own blood
as though with new wine.
All flesh shall know
that I, the LORD, am your savior,
your redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.m
* [49:1–7] The second of the four “servant of the Lord” oracles (cf. note on 42:1–4).
* [49:1] Gave me my name: designated me for a special task or mission (cf. Jer 1:5).
* [49:3] Israel: the servant is identified with the people of Israel as their ideal representative; however, vv. 5–6 seem to distinguish the servant from Israel.
* [49:6] The servant’s vocation extends beyond the restoration of Israel in order to bring the knowledge of Israel’s God to the rest of the earth; cf. Lk 2:32.
* [49:8] You: the individual is not named; perhaps Cyrus or the prophet.
* [49:12] Syene: now called Aswan, at the first cataract of the Nile in southern Egypt.
* [49:16] Upon the palms…you: for continual remembrance; cf. Ex 13:9, 16; Dt 6:6–9.
a. [49:1] Is 41:9; 43:1; 44:2, 24; 46:3.
b. [49:4] Is 40:27.
c. [49:6] Is 42:1–6; 44:5; 45:14; Lk 2:32; Acts 13:46–47.
d. [49:7] Is 49:23; 55:5.
e. [49:8] 2 Cor 6:2.
f. [49:9] Is 42:7, 18–20.
g. [49:10] Is 51:14; Rev 7:16.
h. [49:11] Is 40:3–4.
i. [49:14] Is 40:27.
j. [49:15] Is 43:4; 44:21; 46:3–4.
k. [49:21] Is 54:1–3.
l. [49:22] Is 5:26; 13:2.
m. [49:26] Is 19:2; Ez 38:21; Zec 14:13.
1Thus says the LORD:
Where is the bill of divorce
with which I dismissed your mother?*
Or to which of my creditors
have I sold you?
It was for your sins you were sold,
for your rebellions your mother was dismissed.a
2Why was no one there when I came?
Why did no one answer when I called?*
Is my hand too short to ransom?
Have I not the strength to deliver?
See, with my rebuke I dry up the sea,
I turn rivers into wilderness;
Their fish rot for lack of water,
and die of thirst.b
3I clothe the heavens in black,
and make sackcloth their covering.
4* The Lord GOD has given me
a well-trained tongue,
That I might know how to answer the weary
a word that will waken them.
Morning after morning
he wakens my ear to hear as disciples do;
5The Lord GOD opened my ear;
I did not refuse,
did not turn away.*
6I gave my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who tore out my beard;*
My face I did not hide
from insults and spitting.c
7The Lord GOD is my help,
therefore I am not disgraced;
Therefore I have set my face like flint,
knowing that I shall not be put to shame.d
8He who declares my innocence is near.
Who will oppose me?
Let us appear together.
Who will dispute my right?
Let them confront me.
9See, the Lord GOD is my help;
who will declare me guilty?
See, they will all wear out like a garment,
consumed by moths.e
10Who among you fears the LORD,*
heeds his servant’s voice?
Whoever walk in darkness,
without any light,
Yet trust in the name of the LORD
and rely upon their God!f
11All you who kindle flames
and set flares alight,
Walk by the light of your own fire
and by the flares you have burnt!
This is your fate from my hand:
you shall lie down in a place of torment.
* [50:1] Responding to the people’s complaint of utter abandonment by God, the prophet asserts that their sins were responsible for their banishment. Since there was no bill of divorce, the bond between the Lord and his people still exists and he has the power to deliver them (v. 2).
* [50:2] Israel’s faith in God is weak; the people do not answer God’s call, nor believe promises of deliverance.
* [50:4–11] The third of the four “servant of the Lord” oracles (cf. note on 42:1–4); in vv. 4–9 the servant speaks; in vv. 10–11 God addresses the people directly.
* [50:5] The servant, like a well-trained disciple, does not refuse the divine vocation.
* [50:6] He willingly submits to insults and beatings. Tore out my beard: a grave and painful insult.
* [50:10–11] The Lord offers a choice to those who walk in darkness: either trust in the true light (v. 10), or walk in their false light and suffer the consequences.
a. [50:1] Is 54:6–8; Dt 24:1–4; Mt 19:3; Mk 10:2–4.
b. [50:2] Ex 7:18; Ps 105:29.
c. [50:6] 2 Sm 10:4–6; Mt 26:67; 27:30.
d. [50:7] Ez 3:9.
e. [50:9] Is 51:6–8; Ps 102:27.
f. [50:10] Is 43:1–2; 44:1–2.
1Listen to me, you who pursue justice,
who seek the LORD;
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
to the quarry* from which you were taken;a
2Look to Abraham, your father,
and to Sarah, who gave you birth;
Though he was but one when I called him,
I blessed him and made him many.b
3Yes, the LORD shall comfort Zion,
shall comfort all her ruins;
Her wilderness he shall make like Eden,
her wasteland like the garden of the LORD;
Joy and gladness shall be found in her,
thanksgiving and the sound of song.
4Be attentive to me, my people;*
my nation, give ear to me.
For teaching shall go forth from me,
and my judgment, as light to the peoples.c
5I will make my victory come swiftly;
my salvation shall go forth
and my arm shall judge the nations;
In me the coastlands shall hope,
and my arm they shall await.
6Raise your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth below;
Though the heavens vanish like smoke,
the earth wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies,
My salvation shall remain forever
and my victory shall always be firm.*
7Hear me, you who know justice,
you people who have my teaching at heart:
Do not fear the reproach of others;
remain firm at their revilings.
8They shall be like a garment eaten by moths,
like wool consumed by grubs;
But my victory shall remain forever,
my salvation, for all generations.d
9Awake, awake, put on strength,
arm of the LORD!
Awake as in the days of old,
in ages long ago!
Was it not you who crushed Rahab,*
you who pierced the dragon?e
10Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,*
You who made the depths of the sea into a way
for the redeemed to pass through?
11Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.
12I, it is I who comfort you.
Can you then fear mortals who die,
human beings who are just grass,
13And forget the LORD, your maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of earth?
All the day you are in constant dread
of the fury of the oppressor
When he prepares himself to destroy;
but where is the oppressor’s fury?
14The captives shall soon be released;
they shall not die and go down into the pit,
nor shall they want for bread.
15For I am the LORD, your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
the LORD of hosts by name.f
16I have put my words into your mouth,
I covered you, shielded by my hand,
Stretching out the heavens,
laying the foundations of the earth,
saying to Zion: You are my people.
17Wake up, wake up!
You who drank at the LORD’s hand
the cup of his wrath;
Who drained to the dregs
the bowl of staggering!g
18She has no one to guide her
of all the children she bore;
She has no one to take her by the hand,
of all the children she reared!—
19Your misfortunes are double;
who is there to grieve with you?
Desolation and destruction, famine and sword!
Who is there to comfort you?
20Your children lie helpless
at every street corner
like antelopes in a net.
They are filled with the wrath of the LORD,
the rebuke of your God.
21But now, hear this, afflicted one,
drunk, but not with wine,h
22Thus says the LORD, your Master,
your God, who defends his people:
See, I am taking from your hand
the cup of staggering;
The bowl of my wrath
you shall no longer drink.
23I will put it into the hands of your tormentors,
those who said to you,
“Bow down, that we may walk over you.”
So you offered your back like the ground,
like the street for them to walk on.
* [51:1] Rock…quarry: your glorious ancestry.
* [51:4–5] The conversion of the nations.
* [51:6] While the heavens and the earth appear eternal and changeless, they are not so firm and lasting as God’s saving will for Israel.
* [51:9] Rahab: see note on 30:7. The dragon: see notes on 27:1; Ps 74:12–17.
* [51:10] Great deep: a reference to the primeval chaos (cf. Gn 1:2; 7:11; 49:25; Jb 28:14; Ps 36:7; Jon 2:4).
a. [51:1] Rom 9:30–31.
b. [51:2] Ez 33:24; Gn 12:2–4; 22:17.
c. [51:4] Is 2:3.
d. [51:8] Is 50:9.
e. [51:9] Ex 15:16; Jb 9:13; 26:12; Ps 74:13; 89:11.
f. [51:15] Jer 31:35.
g. [51:17] Jer 25:15–17; Ez 23:32–34.
h. [51:21] Is 29:9.
Put on your strength, Zion;
Put on your glorious garments,
Jerusalem, holy city.
Never again shall the uncircumcised
or the unclean enter you.
2Arise, shake off the dust,
sit enthroned, Jerusalem;
Loose the bonds from your neck,
captive daughter Zion!
3For thus says the LORD:
For nothing you were sold,
without money you shall be redeemed.
4For thus says the Lord GOD:
To Egypt long ago my people went down,
to sojourn there;
Assyria, too, oppressed them for nought.
5But now, what am I to do here?
—oracle of the LORD.
My people have been taken away for nothing;
their rulers mock, oracle of the LORD;
constantly, every day, my name is reviled.
6Therefore my people shall know my name
on that day, that it is I who speaks: Here I am!
7How beautiful upon the mountains*
are the feet of the one bringing good news,
Announcing peace, bearing good news,
announcing salvation, saying to Zion,
“Your God is King!”a
8Listen! Your sentinels raise a cry,
together they shout for joy,
For they see directly, before their eyes,
the LORD’s return to Zion.b
9Break out together in song,
O ruins of Jerusalem!
For the LORD has comforted his people,
has redeemed Jerusalem.
10The LORD has bared his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations;
All the ends of the earth can see
the salvation of our God.
11Depart, depart, go out from there,
touch nothing unclean!
Out from there!* Purify yourselves,
you who carry the vessels of the LORD.
12But not in hurried flight will you go out,
nor leave in headlong haste,
For the LORD goes before you,
and your rear guard is the God of Israel.c
13See, my servant shall prosper,
he shall be raised high and greatly exalted.
14Even as many were amazed at him—
so marred were his features,
beyond that of mortals
his appearance, beyond that of human beings—d
15So shall he startle many nations,
kings shall stand speechless;
For those who have not been told shall see,
those who have not heard shall ponder it.e
* [52:7–10] God leads the people back from Babylon to Zion, from whose ruined walls sentinels greet the returning exiles.
* [52:11] From there: from Babylon. Vessels of the LORD: taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, now carried back by the exiles returning in procession to Zion; cf. Ezr 1:7.
* [52:13–53:12] The last of the “servant of the Lord” oracles (see note on 42:1–4). Taken together, these oracles depict a figure of one called by God for a vocation to Israel and the nations (42:4; 49:5–6); the servant’s exaltation both opens and closes the passage (52:13; 53:12). The servant responded in fidelity but has suffered opposition (50:4–6). In this fourth oracle the servant is characterized as “a man of suffering” (53:3) and appears to be unjustly put to death (53:8–9). Those who have witnessed his career somehow recognize that he is innocent, has undergone suffering for their sins (53:4–6), and his death is referred to as a reparation offering (see note on 53:10–11). The servant is described in ways that identify him with Israel (which is frequently referred to as “servant” in the context of Second Isaiah—e.g., 41:8, 9; 44:2, 21; 43:4) and is designated as “Israel” in 49:3; yet Israel outside the “servant of the Lord” oracles is not presented as sinless, but rather in exile because of sin (40:2; 42:21–25) and even as servant as deaf and blind (42:18–19). The servant is thus both identified with Israel and distinguished from it. As with the previous servant poems, this chapter helped the followers of Jesus to interpret his suffering, death, and resurrection; see especially the passion narratives.
a. [52:7] Is 40:9; Rom 10:15.
b. [52:8] Is 62:6.
c. [52:12] Ex 12:11.
d. [52:14] Ps 69:8.
e. [52:15] Mi 7:16.
1Who would believe what we have heard?*
To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?a
2He grew up like a sapling before him,b
like a shoot from the parched earth;
He had no majestic bearing to catch our eye,
no beauty to draw us to him.
3He was spurned and avoided by men,
a man of suffering, knowing pain,
Like one from whom you turn your face,
spurned, and we held him in no esteem.c
4Yet it was our pain that he bore,
our sufferings he endured.
We thought of him as stricken,
struck down by God* and afflicted,d
5But he was pierced for our sins,
crushed for our iniquity.
He bore the punishment that makes us whole,
by his wounds we were healed.e
6We had all gone astray like sheep,
all following our own way;
But the LORD laid upon him*
the guilt of us all.f
7Though harshly treated, he submitted
and did not open his mouth;
Like a lamb led to slaughter
or a sheep silent before shearers,
he did not open his mouth.g
8Seized and condemned, he was taken away.
Who would have thought any more of his destiny?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
struck for the sins of his people.
9He was given a grave among the wicked,
a burial place with evildoers,
Though he had done no wrong,
nor was deceit found in his mouth.h
10But it was the LORD’s will to crush him with pain.
By making his life as a reparation offering,*
he shall see his offspring, shall lengthen his days,
and the LORD’s will shall be accomplished through him.
11Because of his anguish he shall see the light;
because of his knowledge he shall be content;
My servant, the just one, shall justify the many,
their iniquity he shall bear.
12Therefore I will give him his portion among the many,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
Because he surrendered himself to death,
was counted among the transgressors,
Bore the sins of many,
and interceded for the transgressors.i
* [53:1–10] What we have heard: this fourth servant oracle is introduced by words of the Lord (52:13–15) but is now continued by speakers who are not identified, perhaps those referred to in 52:15, perhaps Israel (cf. “struck for the sins of his people”—v. 8). The Lord is again the speaker in vv. 11–13.
* [53:4] Struck down by God: the Bible often sees suffering as a punishment for sin (e.g., Ps 6:2; 32:1–5), yet sin sometimes appears to go unpunished and the innocent often suffer (cf. Ps 73; the Book of Job). In the case of the servant, the onlookers initially judge him guilty because of his suffering but, in some way not explained, they come to understand that his sufferings are for the sins of others. One notes the element of surprise, for such vicarious suffering, in the form described here, is without parallel in the Old Testament.
* [53:6] The LORD laid upon him: the servant’s suffering is no accidental or casual matter, but part of God’s plan; see also v. 10. The bystanders’ speculation of v. 4 is verified, but not in the sense intended by them.
* [53:10–11] Reparation offering: the Hebrew term ’asham is used of a particular kind of sacrifice, one that is intended as compensation for that which is due because of guilt. See Lv 5:14–26 and note. Justify: the verb means “to be acquitted,” “declared innocent,” but since the servant bears “their iniquity,” an effective rather than simply legal action is suggested.
a. [53:1] Is 52:10; Jn 12:38; Rom 10:16.
b. [53:2] Is 11:1.
c. [53:3] Jb 19:18; Ps 31:11–13; Mk 9:11.
d. [53:4] Jer 10:19; Mt 8:17.
e. [53:5] 1 Cor 15:3; 1 Pt 2:24.
f. [53:6] Lv 16:21–22.
g. [53:7] Mt 26:63; Acts 8:32.
h. [53:9] 1 Pt 2:22–23; 1 Jn 3:5.
i. [53:12] Mk 15:28; Lk 22:37.
1Raise a glad cry, you barren one* who never bore a child,
break forth in jubilant song, you who have never been in labor,
For more numerous are the children of the deserted wife
than the children of her who has a husband,
says the LORD.a
2Enlarge the space for your tent,
spread out your tent cloths unsparingly;
lengthen your ropes and make firm your pegs.b
3For you shall spread abroad to the right and left;
your descendants shall dispossess the nations
and shall people the deserted cities.*
4* Do not fear, you shall not be put to shame;
do not be discouraged, you shall not be disgraced.
For the shame of your youth you shall forget,
the reproach of your widowhood no longer remember.
5For your husband is your Maker;
the LORD of hosts is his name,
Your redeemer,* the Holy One of Israel,
called God of all the earth.
6The LORD calls you back,
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
A wife married in youth and then cast off,
says your God.c
7For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great tenderness I will take you back.
8In an outburst of wrath, for a moment
I hid my face from you;
But with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer.
9This is for me like the days of Noah:
As I swore then that the waters of Noah
should never again flood the earth,
So I have sworn now not to be angry with you,
or to rebuke you.d
10Though the mountains fall away
and the hills be shaken,
My love shall never fall away from you
nor my covenant of peace* be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you.e
11O afflicted one,* storm-battered and unconsoled,
I lay your pavements in carnelians,
your foundations in sapphires;f
12I will make your battlements of rubies,
your gates of jewels,
and all your walls of precious stones.
13All your children shall be taught by the LORD;
great shall be the peace of your children.
14In justice shall you be established,
far from oppression, you shall not fear,
from destruction, it cannot come near.
15If there be an attack, it is not my doing;
whoever attacks shall fall before you.
16See, I have created the smith
who blows on the burning coals
and forges weapons as his work;
It is I also who have created
the destroyer to work havoc.
17Every weapon fashioned against you shall fail;
every tongue that brings you to trial
you shall prove false.
This is the lot of the servants of the LORD,
their vindication from me—oracle of the LORD.
* [54:1] Jerusalem, pictured as a wife who had been barren and deserted, now suddenly finds herself with innumerable children (the returning exiles); cf. Gal 4:27 for an application to a new context.
* [54:3] Those who had taken advantage of the exile to encroach on Jerusalem’s territory will be driven out, and the returning exiles will repopulate the cities of Judah.
* [54:4–8] As with some other Old Testament themes, Second Isaiah uses that of Israel as the Lord’s bride in a new manner. Whereas Hosea and Jeremiah had depicted Israel as the Lord’s spouse to emphasize both Israel’s infidelity and the Lord’s continued love (Hos 1–3; Jer 2:2; 3:1–15) and Ezekiel to accuse Israel unsparingly (Ez 16; 23), Second Isaiah speaks only of the love with which the Lord restores the people, speaking tender words with no hint of reproach.
* [54:5] Redeemer: cf. note on 41:14.
* [54:10] Covenant of peace: this whole section, vv. 9–17, is given to various assurances of God’s love for Israel and of safety from various possible threats; the phrase sums up both the positive aspects of shalom, which implies a fullness of blessing, and protection from all that might harm. Cf. also 55:3; Nm 25:12; Ez 34:25; 37:26; Mal 2:5.
* [54:11] Afflicted one: Jerusalem.
a. [54:1] Gal 4:27.
b. [54:2] Is 49:20.
c. [54:6] Mal 2:14–15.
d. [54:9] Gn 9:15.
e. [54:10] Ps 46:3; 76:5.
f. [54:11] Rev 21:18–21.
1All you who are thirsty,*
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, buy grain and eat;
Come, buy grain without money,
wine and milk without cost!a
2Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what does not satisfy?
Only listen to me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
3Pay attention and come to me;
listen, that you may have life.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
the steadfast loyalty promised to David.b
4As I made him a witness to peoples,
a leader and commander of peoples,
5So shall you summon a nation you knew not,
and a nation* that knew you not shall run to you,
Because of the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, who has glorified you.c
6* Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near.
7Let the wicked forsake their way,
and sinners their thoughts;
Let them turn to the LORD to find mercy;
to our God, who is generous in forgiving.
8For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD.
9For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
10* Yet just as from the heavens
the rain and snow come down
And do not return there
till they have watered the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
Giving seed to the one who sows
and bread to the one who eats,
11So shall my word be
that goes forth from my mouth;
It shall not return to me empty,
but shall do what pleases me,
achieving the end for which I sent it.
12Yes, in joy you shall go forth,
in peace you shall be brought home;
Mountains and hills shall break out in song before you,
all trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13In place of the thornbush, the cypress shall grow,
instead of nettles,* the myrtle.
This shall be to the LORD’s renown,
as an everlasting sign that shall not fail.
* [55:1–3] The prophet invites all to return, under the figure of a banquet; cf. the covenant banquet in Ex 24:9–11 and wisdom’s banquet in Prv 9:1–6. The Lord’s covenant with David (2 Sm 7) is now to be extended beyond his dynasty.
* [55:5] The “nation” is Persia under Cyrus, but the perspective is worldwide.
* [55:6–9] The invitation to seek the Lord is motivated by the mercy of a God whose “ways” are completely mysterious.
* [55:10–11] The efficacy of the word of God recalls 40:5, 8.
* [55:13] Thornbush…nettles: suggestive of the desert and therefore symbolic of suffering and hardship; cypress…myrtle: suggestive of fertile land and therefore symbolic of joy and strength. To the LORD’s renown: lit., “to the name of the Lord.”
a. [55:1] Jn 4:10–15; 6:35; 7:37–39; Rev 21:6; 22:17.
b. [55:3] 2 Sm 7:12–16.
c. [55:5] Acts 13:34.
1* Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just,
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.a
2Happy is the one who does this,
whoever holds fast to it:
Keeping the sabbath without profaning it,
keeping one’s hand from doing any evil.b
3* The foreigner joined to the LORD should not say,
“The LORD will surely exclude me from his people”;
Nor should the eunuch say,
“See, I am a dry tree.”c
4For thus says the LORD:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose what pleases me,
and who hold fast to my covenant,d
5I will give them, in my house
and within my walls, a monument and a name*
Better than sons and daughters;
an eternal name, which shall not be cut off, will I give them.
6And foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
to minister to him,
To love the name of the LORD,
to become his servants—
All who keep the sabbath without profaning it
and hold fast to my covenant,
7* Them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
For my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.e
8* Oracle of the Lord GOD,
who gathers the dispersed of Israel—
Others will I gather to them
besides those already gathered.f
9All you beasts of the field,*
come to devour,
all you beasts in the forest!g
10* All the sentinels of Israel are blind,
they are without knowledge;
They are all mute dogs,
unable to bark;
loving their sleep.
11Yes, the dogs have a ravenous appetite;
they never know satiety,
Shepherds who have no understanding;
all have turned their own way,
each one covetous for gain:
12“Come, let me bring wine;
let us fill ourselves with strong drink,
And tomorrow will be like today,
or even greater.”h
* [56:1–8] This poem inaugurates the final section of the Book of Isaiah, often referred to as Third or Trito-Isaiah. While Second or Deutero-Isaiah (Is 40–55) gave numerous references to the hopes of the community of Israel during the Babylonian exile (ca. 587–538 B.C.), Third Isaiah witnesses to the struggles and hoped-for blessings of the postexilic community now back in the homeland of Israel. In this opening poem, the references to “keeping the sabbath” (vv. 2, 4, 6), “holding fast to the covenant” (vv. 4, 6) and “God’s holy mountain” as a house of prayer (v. 7), all tell of the postexilic community that was establishing itself again in the land according to the pattern of God’s word given through the prophet. The poem can be classified as a “prophetic exhortation” in which the prophet gives instruction for those who wish to live according to God’s word and covenant. What is important to note are the conditions placed upon the people of God; while Is 40–55 show an unconditional promise of redemption, these final chapters delineate clear expectations for receiving God’s salvific promises. Both the expectations and the great promises of God will unfold in the succeeding chapters of Third Isaiah.
* [56:1] This opening verse echoes themes that are well known throughout the Book of Isaiah: justice and right judgment (1:27; 5:7, 16; 9:6; 16:5; 26:9; 28:17; 32:1, 16; 33:5; 42:1, 4, 6; 45:8, 13, 19), salvation and deliverance (12:3; 26:18; 33:2; 45:8, 21; 46:13; 51:5, 6, 8). These themes will be developed also throughout Third Isaiah.
* [56:3] Eunuchs had originally been excluded from the community of the Lord; cf. Dt 23:2; Neh 13:1–3; Wis 3:14.
* [56:5] A monument and a name: literally in Hebrew, “a hand and a name”; a memorial inscription to prevent oblivion for one who had no children; cf. 2 Sm 18:18; Neh 7:5; 13:14.
* [56:7] This verse continues the theme of universalism found in Is 49:6. As Israel was to be “a light to the nations” so that God’s “salvation may reach to the ends of the earth,” so now does that come to pass as foreigners, faithful to the divine commands, are brought to the Temple by God and joined to the covenant community of Israel.
* [56:8] For the gathering of the dispersed people of Israel, cf. Jer 23:3; 31:8–9; Ez 11:17. Here the Lord not only gathers the displaced of Israel, but also unites other peoples to them. Cf. Is 60:3–10; 66:18–21.
* [56:9–57:21] This section is made up of two pronouncements of judgment (56:9–57:2; 57:3–13) and an oracle of salvation (57:14–21), each of which ends with a reversal of imagery and language. While there are harsh indictments against the corrupt leaders of Israel (56:9–12), a promise of peace is offered to those who are just (57:1–2). Then the judgment and its subsequent punishment for idolaters (57:3–13a) change to an announcement of reward for those who place their trust in God (57:13c). And the promises of salvation (57:14–19) then shift to a word of warning to the wicked (57:20–21).
* [56:9] Beasts of the field: foreign nations, which are invited to come and ravage Israel.
* [56:10–11] These shepherds of Israel are without “knowledge,” a theme developed earlier in the Isaian corpus; cf. 1:3; 6:9–10. Ezekiel 34 has similar condemnatory words against the unfaithful shepherds of Israel.
a. [56:1] Is 59:9, 14, 19–20.
b. [56:2] Is 1:13; 58:13–14; Ex 23:12.
c. [56:3] Dt 23:3–5; Neh 13:1–3.
d. [56:4] Wis 3:14.
e. [56:7] 1 Kgs 8:29–30, 41; Mt 21:13.
f. [56:8] Ps 147:2.
g. [56:9] Jer 12:9–10; Ez 34:5.
h. [56:12] Is 22:13; 28:7; Wis 2:7.
1The just have perished,
but no one takes it to heart;
The steadfast are swept away,
while no one understands.
Yet the just are taken away from the presence of evil,
2* and enter into peace;
They rest upon their couches,
the sincere, who walk in integrity.a
3But you, draw near,
you children of a sorceress,
offspring of an adulterer and a prostitute!*
4Against whom do you make sport,
against whom do you open wide your mouth,
and stick out your tongue?
Are you not rebellious children,
5You who burn with lust among the oaks,
under every green tree;
You who immolate children in the wadies,
among the clefts of the rocks?* b
6Among the smooth stones* of the wadi is your portion,
they, they are your allotment;
Indeed, you poured out a drink offering to them,
and brought up grain offerings.
With these things, should I be appeased?
7Upon a towering and lofty mountain
you set up your bed,
and there you went up to offer sacrifice.c
8Behind the door and the doorpost
you set up your symbol.
Yes, deserting me, you carried up your bedding;
and spread it wide.
You entered an agreement with them,
you loved their couch, you gazed upon nakedness.*
9You approached the king* with oil,
and multiplied your perfumes;
You sent your ambassadors far away,
down even to deepest Sheol.
10Though worn out with the length of your journey,
you never said, “It is hopeless”;
You found your strength revived,
and so you did not weaken.
11Whom did you dread and fear,
that you told lies,
And me you did not remember
nor take to heart?
Am I to keep silent and conceal,
while you show no fear of me?
12I will proclaim your justice*
and your works;
but they shall not help you.
13* When you cry out,
let your collection of idols save you.
All these the wind shall carry off,
a mere breath shall bear them away;
But whoever takes refuge in me shall inherit the land,
and possess my holy mountain.
14And I say:
Build up, build up, prepare the way,
remove every obstacle from my people’s way.* d
15* For thus says the high and lofty One,
the One who dwells forever, whose name is holy:
I dwell in a high and holy place,
but also with the contrite and lowly of spirit,
To revive the spirit of the lowly,
to revive the heart of the crushed.
16For I will not accuse forever,
nor always be angry;
For without me their spirit fails,
the life breath that I have given.e
17Because of their wicked avarice I grew angry;
I struck them, hiding myself from them in wrath.
But they turned back, following the way
of their own heart.f
18I saw their ways,
but I will heal them.
I will lead them and restore full comfort to them
and to those who mourn for them,g
19creating words of comfort.*
Peace! Peace to those who are far and near,
says the LORD; and I will heal them.
20But the wicked are like the tossing sea
which cannot be still,
Its waters cast up mire and mud.h
21There is no peace for the wicked!
says my God.i
* [57:2] Despite their sad fate, the just will ultimately attain peace (most likely in this world); cf. v. 13.
* [57:3–13] In this courtroom imagery, the idolaters are summoned before the judge (v. 3), their crimes are graphically described (vv. 4–11), their guilt is established, and condemnation is carried out (vv. 12–13b). In contrast to this, v. 13c describes the inheritance of God’s land and holy mountain given to those who place their confidence in God instead of in idols.
* [57:3] Language of sexual infidelity is often used in a figurative way to describe idolatry. Cf. Ez 16:15–22; Hos 2:4–7; Col 3:5.
* [57:5] Child sacrifice is also attested in 2 Kgs 23:10; Jer 7:31; Ez 16:20; 20:28, 31; 23:37–39.
* [57:6] Smooth stones: the Hebrew word for this expression has the same consonants as the word for “portion”; instead of making the Lord their portion (cf. Ps 16:5), the people adored slabs of stone which they took from the streambeds in valleys and set up as idols; cf. Jer 3:9. Therefore, it is implied, they will be swept away as by a sudden torrent of waters carrying them down the rocky-bottomed gorge to destruction and death without burial.
* [57:8] Nakedness: literally in Hebrew, “hand.” In this context, it may euphemistically refer to a phallus.
* [57:9] The king: in Hebrew, the word for king is melek, similar in sound to the Canaanite god Molech, to whom children were offered as a sacrifice in pagan ritual. The expression “your ambassadors” could be a figurative expression for the children whose death served as an offering to this deity.
* [57:12] Justice: here used sarcastically. The activity described in these verses is far from the justice which God demands of those who are aligned with the covenant (cf. 56:1, 4, 6). In the larger context of Third Isaiah and the whole of the Isaian tradition, justice is a key theological motif. The justice to which God calls Israel will eventually come to its fulfillment in an act of divine intervention (cf. 60:21; 61:3c). Until then, the people of God must strive to live in the ways of justice and right judgment (56:1).
* [57:13] In v. 6, the smooth stones of the valley are the portion which the unfaithful will receive as their due reward (cf. note on v. 6); while in v. 13c, an inheritance of the land and possession of God’s holy mountain will be the portion of the upright.
* [57:14] The way…my people’s way: the language and imagery are reminiscent of 40:1–2, but in this context, when the people have already returned, the physical road through the desert is replaced by the spiritual way that leads to redemption.
* [57:15] The God of Israel is presented in both a transcendent and an immanent manner. God’s holiness is the transcendent quality; the immanence is shown in the choice of dwelling among the downtrodden and humble.
* [57:19] Creating words of comfort: lit., “fruit of the lips,” perhaps referring to praise and thanksgiving for the divine healing; cf. Hos 14:3.
a. [57:2] Wis 3:1–3.
b. [57:5] Dt 12:2; 2 Kgs 17:10; Jer 7:31; 19:5; Ez 20:28, 31.
c. [57:7] Jer 2:20; Ez 6:13; Hos 4:13.
d. [57:14] Is 40:3–4.
e. [57:16] Gn 2:7.
f. [57:17] Is 56:11.
g. [57:18] Is 61:2.
h. [57:20] Jon 2:3–7.
i. [57:21] Is 48:22.
1Cry out full-throated and unsparingly,
lift up your voice like a trumpet blast;
Proclaim to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.a
2They seek me day after day,
and desire to know my ways,
Like a nation that has done what is just
and not abandoned the judgment of their God;
They ask of me just judgments,
they desire to draw near to God.
3“Why do we fast, but you do not see it?
afflict ourselves, but you take no note?”
See, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits,
and drive all your laborers.b
4See, you fast only to quarrel and fight
and to strike with a wicked fist!
Do not fast as you do today
to make your voice heard on high!
5Is this the manner of fasting I would choose,
a day to afflict oneself?
To bow one’s head like a reed,
and lie upon sackcloth and ashes?
Is this what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?c
6Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?d
7Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?e
8Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
9Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: “Here I am!”
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the accusing finger, and malicious speech;f
10If you lavish your food on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then your light shall rise in the darkness,
and your gloom shall become like midday;
11Then the LORD will guide you always
and satisfy your thirst in parched places,
will give strength to your bones
And you shall be like a watered garden,
like a flowing spring whose waters never fail.g
12Your people shall rebuild the ancient ruins;
the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined dwellings.”h
13If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
from following your own pursuits on my holy day;
If you call the sabbath a delight,
the LORD’s holy day glorious;
If you glorify it by not following your ways,
seeking your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs—
14Then you shall delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will nourish you with the heritage of Jacob, your father,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.i
* [58:1–5] The prophet is commanded to condemn the formalism of the people, specifically their hypocritical fasting.
* [58:6–12] Fasting is not genuine without reforming one’s way of life. A true social morality will ensure prosperity.
* [58:13–14] Sabbath observance becomes a cornerstone of postexilic piety; cf. 56:2, 4, 6.
a. [58:1] Lv 25:9.
b. [58:3] 1 Sm 7:6; 1 Kgs 21:12; 1 Mc 3:47; Jl 1:1–2:17.
c. [58:5] Zec 7:5.
d. [58:6] Is 35:5–6.
e. [58:7] Ez 18:7, 16; Mt 25:35.
f. [58:9] Am 5:7.
g. [58:11] Is 51:3; Ps 24.
h. [58:12] Is 61:4.
i. [58:14] Hb 3:19.
1* No, the hand of the LORD is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear.a
2Rather, it is your crimes
that separate you from your God,
It is your sins that make him hide his face
so that he does not hear you.
3For your hands are defiled with blood,
and your fingers with crime;
Your lips speak falsehood,
and your tongue utters deceit.b
4No one brings suit justly,
no one pleads truthfully;
They trust an empty plea and tell lies;
they conceive mischief and bring forth malice.
5* They hatch adders’ eggs,
and weave spiders’ webs:
Whoever eats the eggs will die,
if one of them is crushed, it will hatch a viper;c
6Their webs cannot serve as clothing,
nor can they cover themselves with their works.
Their works are evil works,
and deeds of violence are in their hands.
7Their feet run to evil,
and they hasten to shed innocent blood;
Their thoughts are thoughts of wickedness,
violence and destruction are on their highways.d
8The way of peace they know not,
and there is no justice on their paths;
Their roads they have made crooked,
no one who walks in them knows peace.
9* That is why judgment is far from us
and justice does not reach us.
We look for light, but there is darkness;
for brightness, and we walk in gloom!e
10Like those who are blind we grope along the wall,
like people without eyes we feel our way.
We stumble at midday as if at twilight,
among the vigorous, we are like the dead.
11Like bears we all growl,
like doves we moan without ceasing.
We cry out for justice, but it is not there;
for salvation, but it is far from us.f
12For our transgressions before you are many,
our sins bear witness against us.
Our transgressions are present to us,
and our crimes we acknowledge:
13Transgressing, and denying the LORD,
turning back from following our God,
Planning fraud and treachery,
uttering lying words conceived in the heart.
14Judgment is turned away,
and justice stands far off;
For truth stumbles in the public square,
and uprightness cannot enter.g
15Fidelity is lacking,
and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.
The LORD saw this, and was aggrieved
that there was no justice.
16He saw that there was no one,
was appalled that there was none to intervene;
Then his own arm brought about the victory,
and his justice sustained him.
17He put on justice as his breastplate,
victory as a helmet on his head;
He clothed himself with garments of vengeance,
wrapped himself in a mantle of zeal.h
18According to their deeds he repays his enemies
and requites his foes with wrath;
to the coastlands he renders recompense.
19Those in the west shall fear the name of the LORD,
and those in the east, his glory,
Coming like a pent-up stream
driven on by the breath of the LORD.
20Then for Zion shall come a redeemer,
to those in Jacob who turn from transgression—oracle of the LORD.i
21* This is my covenant with them,
which I myself have made, says the LORD:
My spirit which is upon you
and my words that I have put in your mouth
Shall not depart from your mouth,
nor from the mouths of your children
Nor the mouths of your children’s children
from this time forth and forever, says the LORD.j
* [59:1–20] This poem brings together a lament of the postexilic community and a harsh word of judgment from the prophet. After the opening rhetorical question, each of the stanzas begins with a reference to the justice and right judgment which are lacking among the people (vv. 4, 9, 14). Toward the end of the poem, God is depicted as a Divine Warrior (vv. 16–20) who is the only one who can intervene in order to bring redemption. This same Divine Warrior imagery is repeated in a similar fashion in 63:1–6.
* [59:5–6] The eggs signify evil works, doing positive harm; the webs are devices that serve no useful purpose.
* [59:9–15] The turning point in the poem comes when the people acknowledge their transgressions and describe the horror of their present state. Light is a metaphor for salvation (cf. 9:1; 42:16; 60:1–3, 19–20) and darkness represents sin and disaster.
* [59:21] This verse makes the transition from chaps. 56–59 to chaps. 60–62. Oracles of judgment yield to oracles about God’s redemptive action.
a. [59:1] Is 50:2; Nm 11:23.
b. [59:3] Is 1:15.
c. [59:5] Jb 20:12–16.
d. [59:7] Prv 1:15, 19; 2:8–9, 12–13, 15, 18–19; Rom 3:15.
e. [59:9] Am 5:18–19.
f. [59:11] Is 38:14.
g. [59:14] Jb 28:28.
h. [59:17] Wis 5:17–20; Eph 6:14–16; 1 Thes 5:8.
i. [59:20] Is 35:4; Rom 11:26–27.
j. [59:21] Is 1:27.
1* Arise! Shine, for your light has come,
the glory of the LORD has dawned upon you.a
2Though darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds, the peoples,
Upon you the LORD will dawn,
and over you his glory will be seen.
3Nations shall walk by your light,
kings by the radiance of your dawning.b
4Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you—
Your sons from afar,
your daughters in the arms of their nurses.c
5Then you shall see and be radiant,
your heart shall throb and overflow.
For the riches of the sea shall be poured out before you,
the wealth of nations shall come to you.
6Caravans of camels shall cover you,
dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
All from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and heralding the praises of the LORD.
7All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered for you,
the rams of Nebaioth shall serve your needs;
They will be acceptable offerings on my altar,
and I will glorify my glorious house.
8Who are these that fly along like a cloud,
like doves to their cotes?
9The vessels of the coastlands are gathering,
with the ships of Tarshish in the lead,
To bring your children from afar,
their silver and gold with them—
For the name of the LORD, your God,
for the Holy One of Israel who has glorified you.
10Foreigners shall rebuild your walls,
their kings shall minister to you;
Though in my wrath I struck you,
yet in my good will I have shown you mercy.d
11Your gates shall stand open constantly;
day and night they shall not be closed
So that they may bring you the wealth of nations,
with their kings in the vanguard.e
12For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you shall perish;
such nations shall be utterly destroyed!f
13The glory of Lebanon shall come to you—
the juniper, the fir, and the cypress all together—
To bring beauty to my sanctuary,
and glory to the place where I stand.g
14The children of your oppressors shall come,
bowing before you;
All those who despised you,
shall bow low at your feet.
They shall call you “City of the LORD,”
“Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”
15No longer forsaken and hated,
with no one passing through,
Now I will make you the pride of the ages,
a joy from generation to generation.
16You shall suck the milk of nations,
and be nursed at royal breasts;
And you shall know that I, the LORD, am your savior,
your redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.
17Instead of bronze I will bring gold,
instead of iron I will bring silver;
Instead of wood, bronze;
instead of stones, iron.
I will appoint peace your governor,
and justice your ruler.h
18No longer shall violence be heard of in your land,
or plunder and ruin within your borders.
You shall call your walls “Salvation”
and your gates “Praise.”
19* No longer shall the sun
be your light by day,
Nor shall the brightness of the moon
give you light by night;
Rather, the LORD will be your light forever,
your God will be your glory.i
20No longer will your sun set,
or your moon wane;
For the LORD will be your light forever,
and the days of your grieving will be over.
21Your people will all be just;
for all time they will possess the land;
They are the shoot that I planted,
the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.j
22The least one shall become a clan,
the smallest, a mighty nation;
I, the LORD, will swiftly accomplish
these things when the time comes.k
* [60:1–9] The light the prophet proclaims to Zion symbolizes the blessing to come to her: the glory of the Lord, the return of her children, the wealth of nations who themselves will walk by her light. The passage is famous from its use in the Latin liturgy for the feast of Epiphany.
* [60:10–18] The glorious promises for the future continue: the wealth of the nations (vv. 5, 10), tribute from kings, glorification of the Temple, peace and justice (cf. Ps 85:11).
* [60:19–20] The theme of light is taken up again, but in an apocalyptic vein: the Lord’s radiant presence replaces physical light.
a. [60:1] Is 40:5; 49:14–26; 51:17–23.
b. [60:3] Is 42:6; 45:14; 49:6.
c. [60:4] Is 49:18.
d. [60:10] Is 54:11–12.
e. [60:11] Rev 21:25.
f. [60:12] Is 61:2.
g. [60:13] Is 35:2; 66:1.
h. [60:17] Ps 85:11.
i. [60:19] Is 2:5; Rev 21:23; 22:5.
j. [60:21] Is 57:13c.
k. [60:22] Gn 12:2; 17:6.
1* The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
release to the prisoners,a
2To announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God;
To comfort all who mourn;b
3to place on those who mourn in Zion
a diadem instead of ashes,
To give them oil of gladness instead of mourning,
a glorious mantle instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of justice,
the planting of the LORD to show his glory.
4They shall rebuild the ancient ruins,
the former wastes they shall raise up
And restore the desolate cities,
devastations of generation upon generation.c
5Strangers shall stand ready to pasture your flocks,
foreigners shall be your farmers and vinedressers.
6* You yourselves shall be called “Priests of the LORD,”
“Ministers of our God” you shall be called.
You shall eat the wealth of the nations
and in their riches you will boast.d
7Because their shame was twofold*
and disgrace was proclaimed their portion,
They will possess twofold in their own land;
everlasting joy shall be theirs.e
8For I, the LORD, love justice,
I hate robbery and wrongdoing;
I will faithfully give them their recompense,
an everlasting covenant I will make with them.f
9Their offspring shall be renowned among the nations,
and their descendants in the midst of the peoples;
All who see them shall acknowledge them:
“They are offspring the LORD has blessed.”
10* I will rejoice heartily in the LORD,
my being exults in my God;
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation,
and wrapped me in a robe of justice,
Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.g
11As the earth brings forth its shoots,
and a garden makes its seeds spring up,
So will the Lord GOD make justice spring up,
and praise before all the nations.
* [61:1–2] The prophet proclaims that he has been anointed by the Lord to bring good news (cf. 40:9) to the afflicted and to comfort Zion. The background to the “year of favor” is the jubilee year of release from debts (Lv 25:10–11; Is 49:8).
* [61:6] The bestowal of a new name suggests a new identity and mission. The whole people will be priests (cf. Ex 19:6), even ministering to nations who will serve God’s people.
* [61:7] Twofold: Israel was punished double for infidelity (40:2); the blessings of its restoration will also be double.
* [61:10–11] The new life of the restored Zion is expressed in nuptial (cf. also 62:5) and agricultural (cf. v. 3; 60:21) imagery.
a. [61:1] Is 40:9; 42:1; 48:16; 52:7; 58:7; Lk 4:18–19.
b. [61:2] Mt 5:4.
c. [61:4] Is 58:12.
d. [61:6] Ex 19:6; 1 Pt 2:9.
e. [61:7] Is 40:2.
f. [61:8] Is 55:3; 54:9–10; 59:21.
g. [61:10] 1 Sm 2:1; Ps 138:1–2.
1* For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep still,
Until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her salvation like a burning torch.a
2Nations shall behold your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
You shall be called by a new name
bestowed by the mouth of the LORD.b
3You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4No more shall you be called “Forsaken,”
nor your land called “Desolate,”
But you shall be called “My Delight is in her,”
and your land “Espoused.”
For the LORD delights in you,
and your land shall be espoused.c
5For as a young man marries a virgin,
your Builder shall marry you;
And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.
6Upon your walls, Jerusalem,
I have stationed sentinels;
By day and by night,
they shall never be silent.
You who are to remind the LORD,
take no rest,
7And give him no rest,
until he re-establishes Jerusalem
And makes it the praise of the earth.
8* The LORD has sworn by his right hand
and by his mighty arm:
No more will I give your grain
as food to your enemies;
Nor shall foreigners drink the wine,
for which you toiled.d
9But those who harvest shall eat,
and praise the LORD;
Those who gather shall drink
in my holy courts.e
10* Pass through, pass through the gates,
prepare a way for the people;f
Build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones,
raise up a standard over the nations.
11The LORD has proclaimed
to the ends of the earth:
Say to daughter Zion,
“See, your savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
his recompense before him.”g
12They shall be called “The Holy People,”
“The Redeemed of the LORD.”
And you shall be called “Cared For,”
“A City Not Forsaken.”h
* [62:1–12] As in chap. 60, the prophet addresses Zion, announcing the reversal of her fortune. Several motifs reappear: light and glory (60:1–3, 19–20), tribute of nations (60:11), and especially the marriage (61:10; cf. also 54:5–8).
* [62:8–9] Peace and prosperity are indicated by the absence of invaders who would live off the land.
* [62:10–11] The gates of Babylon are to be opened for the exiles to return, led by the Lord, as in 40:3–5, 10.
a. [62:1] Is 42:14; 64:22.
b. [62:2] Rev 2:17; 3:12.
c. [62:4] Is 49:15–16; 54:7–8.
d. [62:8] Is 52:10.
e. [62:9] Dt 12:17–18; 14:23.
f. [62:10] Is 58:14.
g. [62:11] Is 40:10.
h. [62:12] Is 62:4.
1Who is this that comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments, from Bozrah?
Who is this, glorious in his apparel,
striding in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, I who announce vindication,
mighty to save.”a
2Why is your apparel red,
and your garments like one who treads the wine press?b
3“The wine press I have trodden alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me.
I trod them in my anger,
and trampled them down in my wrath;
Their blood spurted on my garments,
all my apparel I stained.
4For a day of vindication was in my heart,
my year for redeeming had come.c
5I looked about, but there was no one to help,
I was appalled that there was no one to lend support;
So my own arm brought me victory
and my own wrath lent me support.d
6I trampled down the peoples in my anger,
I made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their blood upon the ground.”
7* The loving deeds of the LORD I will recall,
the glorious acts of the LORD,
Because of all the LORD has done for us,
the immense goodness to the house of Israel,
Which he has granted according to his mercy
and his many loving deeds.e
8He said: “They are indeed my people,
children who are not disloyal.”
So he became their savior
9in their every affliction.
It was not an envoy or a messenger,
but his presence that saved them.
Because of his love and pity
the LORD redeemed them,
Lifting them up and carrying them
all the days of old.f
10But they rebelled
and grieved his holy spirit;
So he turned to become their enemy,
and warred against them.g
11Then they remembered the days of old, of Moses, his servant:
Where is the one who brought up out of the sea
the shepherd of his flock?
Where is the one who placed in their midst
his holy spirit,h
12Who guided Moses by the hand,
with his glorious arm?
Where is the one who divided the waters before them—
winning for himself an everlasting renown—
13Who guided them through the depths,
like horses in open country?
14As cattle going down into the valley,
they did not stumble.
The spirit of the LORD guided them.
Thus you led your people,
to make for yourself a glorious name.
15Look down from heaven and regard us
from your holy and glorious palace!
Where is your zealous care and your might,
your surge of pity?i
Your mercy hold not back!
16For you are our father.
Were Abraham not to know us,
nor Israel to acknowledge us,
You, LORD, are our father,
our redeemer you are named from of old.
17Why do you make us wander, LORD, from your ways,
and harden our hearts so that we do not fear you?*
Return for the sake of your servants,
the tribes of your heritage.
18Why have the wicked invaded your holy place,
why have our enemies trampled your sanctuary?
19* Too long have we been like those you do not rule,
on whom your name is not invoked.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,j
* [63:1–6] Two questions are raised at the approach of a majestic figure coming from Edom. It is the Lord, his garments red with the blood from the judgment battle. Edom (its capital Bozrah) plundered Judah after the fall of Jerusalem; cf. 34:5–17. Wine press: here a symbol of a bloody judgment; cf. Lam 1:15; Jl 4:13.
* [63:7–64:11] This lament of the exilic community recalls God’s protection, and especially the memories of the exodus (vv. 7–14), before begging the Lord to come once more to their aid (63:15–64:3), as they confess their sins (64:4–11). The prayer is marked by God’s “holy spirit” (63:10–11, 14) and fatherhood (63:8, 9, 16; 64:7).
* [63:17] The hardening of the heart (Ex 4:21; 7:3) serves to explain Israel’s sins—a motif to induce the Lord to relent.
* [63:19–64:3] A new theophany, like Sinai of old, is invoked so that Israel’s enemies will be humbled by God’s intervention.
a. [63:1] Is 34:6; 49:19.
b. [63:2] Rev 19:13.
c. [63:4] Is 34:8; 61:2.
d. [63:5] Is 59:16.
e. [63:7] Is 26:15.
f. [63:9] Dt 4:37–40.
g. [63:10] Dt 32:15; Ps 51:12.
h. [63:11] Heb 13:20.
i. [63:15] Dt 26:15; Bar 2:16.
j. [63:19] Ps 144:5; Mk 1:10.
1As when brushwood is set ablaze,
or fire makes the water boil!
Then your name would be made known to your enemies
and the nations would tremble before you,
2While you worked awesome deeds we could not hope for,*
3such as had not been heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen,
any God but you
working such deeds for those who wait for him.a
4Would that you might meet us doing right,
that we might be mindful of you in our ways!
Indeed, you are angry; we have sinned,
we have acted wickedly.
5We have all become like something unclean,
all our just deeds are like polluted rags;
We have all withered like leaves,
and our crimes carry us away like the wind.b
6There are none who call upon your name,
none who rouse themselves to take hold of you;
For you have hidden your face from us
and have delivered us up to our crimes.
7* Yet, LORD, you are our father;
we are the clay and you our potter:
we are all the work of your hand.
8Do not be so very angry, LORD,
do not remember our crimes forever;
look upon us, who are all your people!
9Your holy cities have become a wilderness;
Zion has become wilderness, Jerusalem desolation!c
10Our holy and glorious house
in which our ancestors praised you
Has been burned with fire;
all that was dear to us is laid waste.
11Can you hold back, LORD, after all this?
Can you remain silent, and afflict us so severely?
* [64:2] The translation here omits some words repeated in the Hebrew from 63:19 (“would that you would come down, with the mountains trembling before you”).
* [64:7–11] The motifs of father (63:16) and creator (clay and potter, 29:16; 45:9) are adduced to move the Lord to action in view of the damage done to his “holy cities” and “glorious house.”
a. [64:3] 1 Cor 2:9.
b. [64:5] Is 1:30; 34:4.
c. [64:9] Ps 79:1; Lam 1.
1* I was ready to respond to those who did not ask,
to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said: Here I am! Here I am!
To a nation that did not invoke my name.a
2I have stretched out my hands all day
to a rebellious people,
Who walk in a way that is not good,
following their own designs;b
3A people who provoke me
continually to my face,
Offering sacrifices in gardens
and burning incense on bricks,
4Sitting in tombs
and spending the night in caves,
Eating the flesh of pigs,
with broth of unclean meat in their dishes;
5Crying out, “Hold back,
do not come near me, lest I render you holy!”*
These things are smoke in my nostrils,
a fire that burns all the day.
6See, it stands written before me;
I will not remain quiet until I have repaid in full
7Your crimes and the crimes of your ancestors as well,
says the LORD.
Since they burned incense on the mountains,
and insulted me on the hills,
I will at once pour out in full measure
their recompense into their laps.
8* Thus says the LORD:
As when the juice is pressed from a cluster,
and someone says, “Do not destroy it,
for there is still good in it,”
So will I do for the sake of my servants:
I will not destroy them all.
9From Jacob I will bring forth offspring,
from Judah, those who are to possess my mountains;
My chosen ones shall possess the land,
my servants shall dwell there.
10Sharon shall become a pasture for the flocks,
the Valley of Achor a resting place for the cattle,
for my people who have sought me.c
11But you who forsake the LORD,
who forget my holy mountain,
Who spread a table for Fortune
and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny,*
12You I will destine for the sword;
you shall all bow down for slaughter;
Because I called and you did not answer,
I spoke and you did not listen,
But did what is evil in my sight
and things I do not delight in, you chose,d
13therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
My servants shall eat,
but you shall go hungry;
My servants shall drink,
but you shall be thirsty;
My servants shall rejoice,
but you shall be put to shame;
14My servants shall shout
for joy of heart,
But you shall cry out for grief of heart,
and howl for anguish of spirit.
15You will leave your name for a curse to my chosen ones
when the Lord GOD slays you,
and calls his servants by another name.
16Whoever invokes a blessing in the land
shall bless by the God of truth;*
Whoever takes an oath in the land
shall swear by the God of truth;
For the hardships of the past shall be forgotten
and hidden from my eyes.
17* See, I am creating new heavens
and a new earth;
The former things shall not be remembered
nor come to mind.e
18Instead, shout for joy and be glad forever
in what I am creating.
Indeed, I am creating Jerusalem to be a joy
and its people to be a delight;
19I will rejoice in Jerusalem
and exult in my people.
No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there,
or the sound of crying;
20No longer shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
nor anyone who does not live a full lifetime;
One who dies at a hundred years shall be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred shall be thought accursed.f
21They shall build houses and live in them,
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit;
22They shall not build and others live there;
they shall not plant and others eat.
As the years of a tree, so the years of my people;
and my chosen ones shall long enjoy
the work of their hands.
23They shall not toil in vain,
nor beget children for sudden destruction;
For they shall be a people blessed by the LORD
and their descendants with them.
24Before they call, I will answer;
while they are yet speaking, I will hear.
25* The wolf and the lamb shall pasture together,
and the lion shall eat hay like the ox—
but the serpent’s food shall be dust.g
None shall harm or destroy
on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.
* [65:1–7] These verses serve as a response to the preceding questions about God’s inaction (64:6, 11). It is not God who has been absent, but the people who have walked away from God by idolatrous acts and rituals (vv. 3–4). That is the reason for their punishment (vv. 6–7).
* [65:5] Render you holy: unclean food is what these people claim has made them sacred! The prophet ridicules them. Sacredness was understood as something communicable (cf. Ex 19:9–15).
* [65:8] This verse reflects the remnant theology found elsewhere in the Book of Isaiah: 1:8–9; 4:3; 6:11–13; etc.
* [65:11–12] Destiny: the play on words is found in the Hebrew, in which “destiny” and “destine” are menî and manîthî.
* [65:16] God of truth: lit., “God of Amen,” i.e., the one who keeps his word.
* [65:17–18] The new creation (cf. 66:22) is described with apocalyptic exuberance: long life, material prosperity, and so forth. As the former events in 43:18 are to be forgotten, so also the new creation wipes out memory of the first creation.
* [65:25] The imagery reflects the ideal era described in 11:6–9; see note there.
a. [65:1] Rom 10:20.
b. [65:2] Rom 10:21.
c. [65:10] Hos 2:17.
d. [65:12] Is 66:4; Prv 1:24; Jer 7:13.
e. [65:17] Is 66:22; Rev 21:1.
f. [65:20] Dt 4:40.
g. [65:25] Is 11:6–9.
1* Thus says the LORD:
The heavens are my throne,
the earth, my footstool.
What house can you build for me?
Where is the place of my rest?a
2My hand made all these things
when all of them came to be—oracle of the LORD.
This is the one whom I approve:
the afflicted one, crushed in spirit,
who trembles at my word.b
3* The one slaughtering an ox, striking a man,
sacrificing a lamb, breaking a dog’s neck,
Making an offering of pig’s blood,
burning incense, honoring an idol—
These have chosen their own ways,
and taken pleasure in their own abominations.c
4I in turn will choose affliction for them
and bring upon them what they fear.
Because when I called, no one answered,
when I spoke, no one listened.
Because they did what was evil in my sight,
and things I do not delight in they chose,d
5Hear the word of the LORD,
you who tremble at his word!
Your kin who hate you
and cast you out because of my name say,
“May the LORD show his glory,
that we may see your joy”;
but they shall be put to shame.
6A voice roaring from the city,
a voice from the temple;
The voice of the LORD
rendering recompense to his enemies!e
7* Before she is in labor,
she gives birth;f
Before her pangs come upon her,
she delivers a male child.
8Who ever heard of such a thing,
or who ever saw the like?
Can a land be brought forth in one day,
or a nation be born in a single moment?
Yet Zion was scarcely in labor
when she bore her children.
9Shall I bring a mother to the point of birth,
and yet not let her child be born? says the LORD.
Or shall I who bring to birth
yet close her womb? says your God.
10* Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad because of her,
all you who love her;
Rejoice with her in her joy,
all you who mourn over her—g
11So that you may nurse and be satisfied
from her consoling breast;
That you may drink with delight
at her abundant breasts!
12For thus says the LORD:
I will spread prosperity over her like a river,
like an overflowing torrent,
the wealth of nations.
You shall nurse, carried in her arms,
cradled upon her knees;
13As a mother comforts her child,
so I will comfort you;
in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.h
14You will see and your heart shall exult,
and your bodies shall flourish like the grass;
The LORD’s power shall be revealed to his servants,
but to his enemies, his wrath.
15For see, the LORD will come in fire,
his chariots like the stormwind;
To wreak his anger in burning rage
and his rebuke in fiery flames.
16For with fire the LORD shall enter into judgment,
and, with his sword, against all flesh;
Those slain by the LORD shall be many.i
17* Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go into the gardens, following one who stands within, eating pig’s flesh, abominable things, and mice, shall all together come to an end, with their deeds and purposes—oracle of the LORD.
God Gathers the Nations. 18* I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; they shall come and see my glory.j 19I will place a sign among them; from them I will send survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands which have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations. 20They shall bring all your kin from all the nations as an offering to the LORD, on horses and in chariots, in carts, upon mules and dromedaries, to Jerusalem, my holy mountain, says the LORD, just as the Israelites bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD. 21Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD.
22Just as the new heavens and the new earth
which I am making
Shall endure before me—oracle of the LORD—
so shall your descendants and your name endure.k
23From new moon to new moon,
and from sabbath to sabbath,
All flesh shall come to worship
before me, says the LORD.l
24* They shall go out and see the corpsesm
of the people who rebelled against me;
For their worm shall not die,
their fire shall not be extinguished;
and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.
* [66:1–2] The Lord rejects the abuses associated with Temple worship in order to emphasize his concern for the sincere worshiper.
* [66:3–6] The sacrificial abuses listed will only merit punishment. The true worshipers, the downtrodden, are those who “tremble” (vv. 2, 5) at God’s word. Although they are ridiculed by those who reject them (v. 5), the latter will be afflicted with divine punishment; their “choice” will be met by the Lord’s choice (v. 4).
* [66:7–9] The renewal of Zion is pictured in terms of a miraculous, instantaneous birth, facilitated by God’s intervention.
* [66:10–16] The poet addresses the children born of Jerusalem, their mother. In v. 13 the metaphor switches to the Lord as mother (cf. 49:15), comforting her charges but destroying the enemies.
* [66:17] This verse seems to have some connection with 65:2–3.
* [66:18–21] God summons the neighboring nations to Zion and from among them will send some to far distant lands to proclaim the divine glory. All your kin: Jews in exile. The “gathering of the people and the nations” is an eschatological motif common in the prophetic tradition; cf. 56:8.
* [66:24] God’s enemies lie dead outside the walls of the New Jerusalem; just as in the past, corpses, filth and refuse lay in the Valley of Hinnom (Gehenna) outside the city; cf. 34:1–4; 2 Kgs 23:10.
a. [66:1] 2 Sm 7:4–7; 1 Kgs 8:27; Acts 7:49; 17:24.
b. [66:2] Ps 24:1–2.
c. [66:3] Lv 11:7.
d. [66:4] Is 65:12; Prv 1:24; Jer 7:13.
e. [66:6] Jl 4:16; Am 1:2.
f. [66:7–9] Is 49:18–21; 54:1.
g. [66:10] Tb 13:14.
h. [66:13] Is 40:1; 49:13.
i. [66:16] Lv 11:29.
j. [66:18] Is 56:1, 8; 59:20.
k. [66:22] Is 65:17; Rev 21:1.
l. [66:23] Is 1:13.
m. [66:24] Is 1:27–28; Mk 9:45.