Isaiah 10

Those who enact unjust policies are as good as dead,
Heb “Woe [to] those who decree evil decrees.” On הוֹי (hoy, “woe, ah”) see the note on the first phrase of 1:4.

those who are always instituting unfair regulations,
Heb “[to] the writers who write out harm.” The participle and verb are in the Piel, suggesting repetitive action.

to keep the poor from getting fair treatment,
and to deprive
Or “rob” (ASV, NASB, NCV, NRSV); KJV “take away the right from the poor.”
the oppressed among my people of justice,
so they can steal what widows own,
and loot what belongs to orphans.
Heb “so that widows are their plunder, and they can loot orphans.”
On the socio-economic background of vv. 1–2, see the note at 1:23.

What will you do on judgment day,
Heb “the day of visitation” (so KJV, ASV), that is, the day when God arrives to execute justice on the oppressors.

when destruction arrives from a distant place?
To whom will you run for help?
Where will you leave your wealth?
You will have no place to go, except to kneel with the prisoners,
or to fall among those who have been killed.
Heb “except one kneels in the place of the prisoner, and in the place of the slain [who] fall.” On the force of בִּלְתִּי (bilti, “except”) and its logical connection to what precedes, see BDB 116 s.v. בֵלֶת. On the force of תַּחַת (takhat, “in the place of”) here, see J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:258, n. 6.

Despite all this, his anger does not subside,
and his hand is ready to strike again.
Heb “in all this his anger was not turned, and still his hand was outstretched”; KJV, ASV, NRSV “his had is stretched out still.”
See the note at 9:12.

The Lord Turns on Arrogant Assyria

Assyria, the club I use to vent my anger, is as good as dead,
Heb “Woe [to] Assyria, the club of my anger.” On הוֹי (hoy, “woe, ah”) see the note on the first phrase of 1:4.

a cudgel with which I angrily punish.
Heb “a cudgel is he, in their hand is my anger.” It seems likely that the final mem (ם) on בְיָדָם (beyadam) is not a pronominal suffix (“in their hand”), but an enclitic mem. If so, one can translate literally, “a cudgel is he in the hand of my anger.”

I sent him
Throughout this section singular forms are used to refer to Assyria; perhaps the king of Assyria is in view (see v. 12).
against a godless
Or “defiled”; cf. ASV “profane”; NAB “impious”; NCV “separated from God.”
I ordered him to attack the people with whom I was angry,
Heb “and against the people of my anger I ordered him.”

to take plunder and to carry away loot,
to trample them down
Heb “to make it [i.e., the people] a trampled place.”
like dirt in the streets.
But he does not agree with this,
his mind does not reason this way,
Heb “but he, not so does he intend, and his heart, not so does it think.”

for his goal is to destroy,
and to eliminate many nations.
Heb “for to destroy [is] in his heart, and to cut off nations, not a few.”

Or “For” (KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV).
he says:
“Are not my officials all kings?
Is not Calneh like Carchemish?
Hamath like Arpad?
Samaria like Damascus?
Calneh … Carchemish … Hamath … Arpad … Samaria … Damascus. The city states listed here were conquered by the Assyrians between 740–717 b.c. The point of the rhetorical questions is that no one can stand before Assyria’s might. On the geographical, rather than chronological arrangement of the cities, see J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:264, n. 4.

10  I overpowered kingdoms ruled by idols,
Heb “Just as my hand found the kingdoms of the idol[s].” The comparison is expanded in v. 11a (note “as”) and completed in v. 11b (note “so”).

whose carved images were more impressive than Jerusalem’s
For the location of Jerusalem see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; Journey of Paul map 1-F4; Journey of Paul map 2-F4; Journey of Paul map 3-F4; Journey of Paul map 4-F4.
or Samaria’s.
11  As I have done to Samaria and its idols,
so I will do to Jerusalem and its idols.”
The statement is constructed as a rhetorical question in the Hebrew text: “Is it not [true that] just as I have done to Samaria and its idols, so I will do to Jerusalem and its idols?”
This statement indicates that the prophecy dates sometime between 722–701 b.c.

12  But when
The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
the sovereign master
The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here and in vv. 16, 23, 24, 33 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).
finishes judging
Heb “his work on/against.” Cf. NAB, NASB, NRSV “on”; NIV “against.”
Mount Zion and Jerusalem, then I
The Lord is speaking here, as in vv. 5–6a.
will punish the king of Assyria for what he has proudly planned and for the arrogant attitude he displays.
Heb “I will visit [judgment] on the fruit of the greatness of the heart of the king of Assyria, and on the glory of the height of his eyes.” The proud Assyrian king is likened to a large, beautiful fruit tree.
13 For he says:

“By my strong hand I have accomplished this,
by my strategy that I devised.
I invaded the territory of nations,
Heb “removed the borders of nations”; cf. NAB, NIV, NRSV “boundaries.”

and looted their storehouses.
Like a mighty conqueror,
The consonantal text (Kethib) has כְּאַבִּיר (keabir, “like a strong one”); the marginal reading (Qere) is כַּבִיר (kavir, “mighty one”).
I brought down rulers.
Heb “and I brought down, like a strong one, ones sitting [or “living”].” The participle יוֹשְׁבִים (yoshevim, “ones sitting”) could refer to the inhabitants of the nations, but the translation assumes that it refers to those who sit on thrones, i.e., rulers. See BDB 442 s.v. יָשַׁב and HALOT 444 s.v. ישׁב.

14  My hand discovered the wealth of the nations, as if it were in a nest,
as one gathers up abandoned eggs,
I gathered up the whole earth.
There was no wing flapping,
or open mouth chirping.”
The Assyrians’ conquests were relatively unopposed, like robbing a bird’s nest of its eggs when the mother bird is absent.

15  Does an ax exalt itself over the one who wields it,
or a saw magnify itself over the one who cuts with it?
Heb “the one who pushes it back and forth”; KJV “him that shaketh it”; ASV “him that wieldeth it.”

As if a scepter should brandish the one who raises it,
or a staff should lift up what is not made of wood!
16  For this reason
The irrational arrogance of the Assyrians (v. 15) will prompt the judgment about to be described.
the sovereign master, the Lord who commands armies, will make his healthy ones emaciated.
Heb “will send leanness against his healthy ones”; NASB, NIV “will send a wasting disease.”
His majestic glory will go up in smoke.
Heb “and in the place of his glory burning will burn, like the burning of fire.” The highly repetitive text (יֵקַד יְקֹד כִּיקוֹד אֵשׁ, yeqad yiqod kiqod esh) may be dittographic; if the second consonantal sequence יקד is omitted, the text would read “and in the place of his glory, it will burn like the burning of fire.”

17  The light of Israel
In this context the “Light of Israel” is a divine title (note the parallel title “his holy one”). The title points to God’s royal splendor, which overshadows and, when transformed into fire, destroys the “majestic glory” of the king of Assyria (v. 16b).
will become a fire,
their Holy One
See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.
will become a flame;
it will burn and consume the Assyrian king’s
Heb “his.” In vv. 17–19 the Assyrian king and his empire is compared to a great forest and orchard that are destroyed by fire (symbolic of the Lord).
and his thorns in one day.
18  The splendor of his forest and his orchard
will be completely destroyed,
Heb “from breath to flesh it will destroy.” The expression “from breath to flesh” refers to the two basic components of a person, the immaterial (life’s breath) and the material (flesh). Here the phrase is used idiomatically to indicate totality.

as when a sick man’s life ebbs away.
The precise meaning of this line is uncertain. מָסַס (masas), which is used elsewhere of substances dissolving or melting, may here mean “waste away” or “despair.” נָסַס (nasas), which appears only here, may mean “be sick” or “stagger, despair.” See BDB 651 s.v. I נָסַס and HALOT 703 s.v. I נסס. One might translate the line literally, “like the wasting away of one who is sick” (cf. NRSV “as when an invalid wastes away”).

19  There will be so few trees left in his forest,
a child will be able to count them.
Heb “and the rest of the trees of his forest will be counted, and a child will record them.”

20  At that time
Or “in that day.” The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
those left in Israel, those who remain of the family
Heb “house” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
of Jacob, will no longer rely on a foreign leader that abuses them.
Heb “on one who strikes him down.” This individual is the king (“foreign leader”) of the oppressing nation (which NLT specifies as “the Assyrians”).
Instead they will truly
Or “sincerely”; KJV, ASV, NAB, NRSV “in truth.”
rely on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.
See the note on the phrase “the Holy One of Israel” in 1:4.
21 A remnant will come back, a remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
The referent of אֵל גִּבּוֹר (’el gibbor, “mighty God”) is uncertain. The title appears only here and in 9:6, where it is one of the royal titles of the coming ideal Davidic king. (Similar titles appear in Deut 10:17 and Neh 9:32 [“the great, mighty, and awesome God”] and in Jer 32:18 [“the great and mighty God”]. Both titles refer to God.) Though Hos 3:5 pictures Israel someday seeking “David their king,” and provides some support for a messianic interpretation of Isa 10:21, the Davidic king is not mentioned in the immediate context of Isa 10:21 (see Isa 11, however). The preceding verse mentions Israel relying on the Lord, so it is likely that the title refers to God here.
22 For though your people, Israel, are as numerous as
Heb “are like.”
the sand on the seashore, only a remnant will come back.
The twofold appearance of the statement “a remnant will come back” (שְׁאָר יָשׁוּב, shear yashuv) in vv. 21–22 echoes and probably plays off the name of Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub (see 7:3). In its original context the name was meant to encourage Ahaz (see the note at 7:3), but here it has taken on new dimensions. In light of Ahaz’s failure and the judgment it brings down on the land, the name Shear-jashub now foreshadows the destiny of the nation. According to vv. 21–22, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that a remnant of God’s people will return; the bad news is that only a remnant will be preserved and come back. Like the name Immanuel, this name foreshadows both judgment (see the notes at 7:25 and 8:8) and ultimate restoration (see the note at 8:10).
Destruction has been decreed;
Or “predetermined”; cf. ASV, NASB “is determined”; TEV “is in store.”
just punishment
צְדָקָה (tsedaqah) often means “righteousness,” but here it refers to God’s just judgment.
is about to engulf you.
Or “is about to overflow.”
23 The sovereign master, the Lord who commands armies, is certainly ready to carry out the decreed destruction throughout the land.
Heb “Indeed (or perhaps “for”) destruction and what is decreed the sovereign master, the Lord who commands armies, is about to accomplish in the middle of all the land.” The phrase כָלָא וְנֶחֱרָצָה (khala venekheratsah, “destruction and what is decreed”) is a hendiadys; the two terms express one idea, with the second qualifying the first.

24  So
Heb “therefore.” The message that follows is one of encouragement, for it focuses on the eventual destruction of the Assyrians. Consequently “therefore” relates back to vv. 5–21, not to vv. 22–23, which must be viewed as a brief parenthesis in an otherwise positive speech.
here is what the sovereign master, the Lord who commands armies, says: “My people who live in Zion, do not be afraid of Assyria, even though they beat you with a club and lift their cudgel against you as Egypt did.
Heb “in the way [or “manner”] of Egypt.”
25 For very soon my fury
The Hebrew text has simply “fury,” but the pronominal element can be assumed on the basis of what immediately follows (see “my anger” in the clause). It is possible that the suffixed yod (י) has been accidentally dropped by virtual haplography. Note that a vav (ו) is prefixed to the form that immediately follows; yod and vav are very similar in later script phases.
will subside, and my anger will be directed toward their destruction.”
26 The Lord who commands armies is about to beat them
Heb “him” (so KJV, ASV, NASB); the singular refers to the leader or king who stands for the entire nation. This is specified by NCV, CEV as “the Assyrians.”
with a whip, similar to the way he struck down Midian at the rock of Oreb.
According to Judg 7:25, the Ephraimites executed the Midianite general Oreb at a rock which was subsequently named after the executed enemy.
He will use his staff against the sea, lifting it up as he did in Egypt.
The Hebrew text reads literally, “and his staff [will be] against the sea, and he will lift it in the way [or “manner”] of Egypt.” If the text is retained, “the sea” symbolizes Assyria’s hostility, the metaphor being introduced because of the reference to Egypt. The translation above assumes an emendation of עַל הַיָּם (’al hayyam, “against the sea”) to עַלֵיהֶם (’alehem, “against them”). The proposed shift from the third singular pronoun (note “beat him” earlier in the verse) to the plural is not problematic, for the singular is collective. Note that a third plural pronoun is used at the end of v. 25 (“their destruction”). The final phrase, “in the way/manner of Egypt,” probably refers to the way in which God used the staff of Moses to bring judgment down on Egypt.

27  At that time
Or “in that day” (KJV). The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.

the Lord will remove their burden from your shoulders,
Heb “he [i.e., the Lord] will remove his [i.e, Assyria’s] burden from upon your shoulder.”

and their yoke from your neck;
the yoke will be taken off because your neck will be too large.
The meaning of this line is uncertain. The Hebrew text reads literally, “and the yoke will be destroyed (or perhaps, “pulled down”) because of fatness.” Perhaps this is a bizarre picture of an ox growing so fat that it breaks the yoke around its neck or can no longer fit into its yoke. Fatness would symbolize the Lord’s restored blessings; the removal of the yoke would symbolize the cessation of Assyrian oppression. Because of the difficulty of the metaphor, many prefer to emend the text at this point. Some emend וְחֻבַּל (vekhubbal, “and it will be destroyed,” a perfect with prefixed vav), to יִחְבֹּל (yikhbol, “[it] will be destroyed,” an imperfect), and take the verb with what precedes, “and their yoke will be destroyed from your neck.” Proponents of this view (cf. NAB, NRSV) then emend עֹל (’ol, “yoke”) to עָלָה (’alah, “he came up”) and understand this verb as introducing the following description of the Assyrian invasion (vv. 28–32). מִפְּנֵי־שָׁמֶן (mippeney-shamen, “because of fatness”) is then emended to read “from before Rimmon” (NAB, NRSV), “from before Samaria,” or “from before Jeshimon.” Although this line may present difficulties, it appears best to regard the line as a graphic depiction of God’s abundant blessings on his servant nation.

Verses 28–31 display a staccato style; the statements are short and disconnected (no conjunctions appear in the Hebrew text). The translation to follow strives for a choppy style that reflects the mood of the speech.
Heb “he,” that is, the Assyrians (as the preceding context suggests). Cf. NCV “The army of Assyria.”
Verses 28–32 describe an invasion of Judah from the north. There is no scholarly consensus on when this particular invasion took place, if at all. J. H. Hayes and S. A. Irvine (Isaiah, 209–10) suggest the text describes the Israelite-Syrian invasion of Judah (ca. 735 b.c.), but this proposal disregards the preceding context, which prophesies the destruction of Assyria. Some suggest that this invasion occurred in conjunction with Sargon’s western campaign of 713–711 b.c., but there is no historical evidence of such an invasion at that time. Many others identify the invasion as Sennacherib’s in 701 b.c., but historical records indicate Sennacherib approached Jerusalem from the southwest. J. N. Oswalt (Isaiah [NICOT], 1:274–75) prefers to see the description as rhetorical and as not corresponding to any particular historical event, but Hayes and Irvine argue that the precise geographical details militate against such a proposal. Perhaps it is best to label the account as rhetorical-prophetic. The prophecy of the invasion was not necessarily intended to be a literal itinerary of the Assyrians’ movements; rather its primary purpose was to create a foreboding mood. Geographical references contribute to this purpose, but they merely reflect how one would expect an Assyrian invasion to proceed, not necessarily how the actual invasion would progress. Despite its rhetorical nature, the prophecy does point to the invasion of 701 b.c., as the announcement of the invaders’ downfall in vv. 33–34 makes clear; it was essentially fulfilled at that time. For further discussion of the problem, see R. E. Clements, Isaiah (NCBC), 117–19. On the geographical details of the account, see Y. Aharoni, Land of the Bible, 393.
Heb “came against,” or “came to.”
moved through Migron,
depositing their supplies at Micmash.
29  They went through the pass,
spent the night at Geba.
Ramah trembled,
Gibeah of Saul ran away.
30  Shout out, daughter of Gallim!
Pay attention, Laishah!
Answer her, Anathoth!
The Hebrew text reads “Poor [is] Anathoth.” The parallelism is tighter if עֲנִיָּה (’aniyyah,“poor”) is emended to עֲנִיהָ (’aniha, “answer her”). Note how the preceding two lines have an imperative followed by a proper name.

31  Madmenah flees,
the residents of Gebim have hidden.
32  This very day, standing in Nob,
they shake their fist at Daughter Zion’s mountain
The consonantal text (Kethib) has “a mountain of a house (בֵּית, bet), Zion,” but the marginal reading (Qere) correctly reads “the mountain of the daughter (בַּת, bat) of Zion.” On the phrase “Daughter Zion,” see the note on the same phrase in 1:8.

at the hill of Jerusalem.
33  Look, the sovereign master, the Lord who commands armies,
is ready to cut off the branches with terrifying power.
The Hebrew text reads “with terrifying power,” or “with a crash.” מַעֲרָצָה (maaratsah, “terrifying power” or “crash”) occurs only here. Several have suggested an emendation to מַעֲצָד (maatsad, “ax”) parallel to “ax” in v. 34; see HALOT 615 s.v. מַעֲצָד and H. Wildberger, Isaiah, 1:448.
As in vv. 12 (see the note there) and 18, the Assyrians are compared to a tree/forest in vv. 33–34.

The tallest trees
Heb “the exalted of the height.” This could refer to the highest branches (cf. TEV) or the tallest trees (cf. NIV, NRSV).
will be cut down,
the loftiest ones will be brought low.
34  The thickets of the forest will be chopped down with an ax,
and mighty Lebanon will fall.
The Hebrew text has, “and Lebanon, by/as [?] a mighty one, will fall.” The translation above takes the preposition בְּ (bet) prefixed to “mighty one” as indicating identity, “Lebanon, as a mighty one, will fall.” In this case “mighty one” describes Lebanon. (In Ezek 17:23 and Zech 11:2 the adjective is used of Lebanon’s cedars.) Another option is to take the preposition as indicating agency and interpret “mighty one” as a divine title (see Isa 33:21). One could then translate, “and Lebanon will fall by [the agency of] the Mighty One.”

An Ideal King Establishes a Kingdom of Peace

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